ScoreCard Research Sarah Greesonbach - The Penny Hoarder

Friday night is coming up, and all your friends are getting together for dinner and a movie.

The only problem? You just paid off your credit card bill (well done!) and in your excitement you set up a new budget that doesn’t include a $50 evening out.

Before you start to make up an excuse that doesn’t sound as lame as “I’m on a budget,” consider this idea: It is possible to spend less money and still see your friends -- without earning the permanent label of “group cheapskate.”

Hang out with your crew and stick to your savings goals by being sneakily frugal. Here are 10 ways to be cheap on the sly.

Get Creative with Your Socializing

Relationships happen “during” -- during a movie, during a meal at a restaurant, or during a live show. Don’t miss out on those special occasions because of a temporary budget setback.

We’ve covered the basics of eating out for less, like checking out menus online and dining out during happy hour, but here are three more tips for getting creative with your money while you socialize:

1. Buy Low in Restaurants

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When eating out, choose appetizers or desserts as meals to make your social time stretch longer and save 20-50% off the cost of an entree (depending on the restaurant, of course).

Consider your socializing budget in the long run: If you spend $8 per outing, you can go out three times for the cost of a single $25 meal.

2. Drink Like a College Kid

If you’re going out to dance or socialize at a bar, pregame like you’re in college (alcohol is always a mark-up) and order one drink or nothing while you’re out.

Keep the social aspect intact by inviting friends over for a cocktail hour before the main event rather than meeting up at a restaurant.

3. Hit the Big Screen Strategically, If at All

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For cinema nights, bring your own snacks and plan in advance. Buy your ticket online using a discounted gift card from sites like Gift Card Granny and Plastic Jungle or using a survey site like Swagbucks to accumulate points and spend them on tickets.

Even better? Throw a movie night at home, complete with “stadium seating” (bar chairs behind a couch behind a layer of pillow seats) and popcorn.

Screen movies you already own, rented movies or a brand new release -- even at full price, a recently released DVD will cost a fraction of the ticket price for a few friends to hit the theaters.

4. Get Your Kicks as a Volunteer

Instead of paying full price to attend major events and festivals, look into group volunteer opportunities to score a free ticket and goodies.

No matter how expensive the face value of the ticket, it’s very likely that the event management team is looking for volunteers to help with the day-of celebration (and as the event sways towards being a non-profit or community event, the likelihood skyrockets!).

Simply research the event website for a “Volunteers” page or submit a polite inquiry via the online “Contact Us” address. Pitch it to your friends as a great way to work behind the scenes, and they won’t suspect a thing!

Going out with your friends to enjoy fine dining, drinking and entertainment doesn’t have to traumatize your budget. Just plan it out in advance and get creative with your choices and your wallet and reputation will both thank you!

Be Flexible About Clothing and Shopping

Few budgeters can get away with an unlimited shopping hobby, but don’t let that keep you from being stylish. A tight budget doesn’t mean you have to go without the latest styles; it just means you need to be flexible with your choices about when and where you shop.

Here are four ideas for enjoying shopping without needing a less-enjoyable part-time job to pay for it:

5. Explore Your City and Shop Secondhand, Strategically

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If you like to shop as a form of stress release, make it an adventure. Grab a friend and head to the outskirts of the nearest city -- or for more random finds, try the nearest small town.

Investigate flea markets, outlet malls, thrift shops and antique malls to find one-of-a-kind, discount items.

All neighborhoods are not equal when it comes to secondhand shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Take a longer drive to check out a consignment or thrift shop in a more affluent neighborhood where the donated goods are likely to be of higher quality.

Even if you don’t buy anything all day, it’s still an adventure because the focus is on finding the one right item and spending time with your friend, not on spending money!

6.  Stick with basics and trade out accessories

When it comes to stocking your wardrobe, stylish or name-brand accessories are always cheaper than clothing pieces. One sturdy pair of jeans or a simple dress can last a whole season (or years!) if you turn it into several outfits by switching accessories, scarves and shoes.

When your friends want to go shopping, share this philosophy and be on the lookout for lower-priced accessories -- not entire outfit upgrades.

7. Work Within a Color Palette

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This is hard to pull off in bright colors, but buying clothing within one color range -- such as black, white and gray -- means everything you purchase works together.

You’ll need to own fewer items overall, and your possible clothing combinations (even when you wear the same pieces frequently) are exponential.

Give Generously (not Expensively)

Most people feel one extreme or the other about giving: either they love to give and take pride in delivering thoughtful gifts, or they can’t stand having to shop for yet another birthday present. No matter which best describes you, a limited budget won’t make things easier.

8. Use Discounted Gift Cards (again)

Discounted gift cards are good for more than just movies. Shop for your friend with gift cards purchased online from sites like Gift Card Granny and Plastic Jungle. Save up to 50% on a same-as-cash gift card just for planning your gift in advance!

9. Give Experiences

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We’ve all heard that experiences are more important than things. Plan a special (secretly no-spend) day with a friend just to talk and catch up. Window shop, visit a park or just hang out at your home. This almost-free gift will be more valuable than any present you could have purchased.

10. Give Your Time

If you’re well-known for a particular industry or trade, it’s perfectly acceptable to give amounts of your time or skill to close friends. Just make sure it’s a skill or talent that’s useful or that’s recently been mentioned in conversation.

A compliment like “You’re such a good interior decorator!” or “How do you always know what to cook for dinner a month in advance?” can be easily translated into a valuable homemade gift certificate.

Put time and thought into outlining the services and your ideas for the project and it won’t look cheap -- it will look thoughtful and timely.

11. Use What You Have

While you’ll definitely look cheap if you become known as the guy who uses birthdays as an excuse to declutter, if you have valuable, like-new things around your apartment or home that are new or desirable (like a potted plant from your backyard), it’s okay to gift them every once in a while. Do your best to keep each gift as thoughtful and personalized as possible.  

12. Keep It Useful

Speaking of potted plants, traditionally “boring” but useful gifts are underrated -- and often inexpensive.

For less than the cost of a brand-name gift from a mall or department store, you could assemble an entire gift basket of items from Walmart or Target that will surprise your friends with its cleverness and usefulness.

Keep it practical with a seasonally-themed “Cold & Flu Starter Kit” basket (cold medicine, tissues, throat lozenges, and magazines), or room-themed for “Stocking the Kitchen” (broth, bowl, spatula), or “Bathroom Cleaning Day” (cleaning supplies, paper towels, hand towels, scented candle).

No one wants to think of themselves as a cheapskate -- and no one wants to hang out with one, either! Don’t let a limited budget keep you from socializing, shopping, or showing a friend how much she means to you. Use a creative approach to time, value and thoughtfulness to give impressive gifts on a budget.

Your Turn: What’s your best strategy for being sneakily cheap? Have you given (or received) an awesome frugal present?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.

We’ve all heard the saying that we’re only as valuable as our networks. But when it comes down to real nickels and dimes, what does that really mean? How does your personal network equate to an actual income or salary for you? And what can you do to increase the value of your network… and therefore increase your income and salary?

It may surprise you to find out that the size and strength of your network can directly impact your health, happiness and income earning opportunities. But the best surprise of all is that simple, free steps can improve your network -- and your earning power. ‘

Here’s how to make more money by expanding your circle and boosting your network.

The Link Between Your Network And Your Income

Humans are naturally social creatures, and happiness is being socially connected, according to many studies including one by the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. The more connected and respected you feel within your network (and the larger that network is), the more safe, happy and healthy you will feel.

This fact sets the baseline for understanding how your network can help you earn more money: We achieve our peak performance in regards to productivity, engagement and creativity when we a “happiness advantage,” or positive mindset, according to the Harvard Business Review. So the first step in achieving your best income is making sure you build social and professional connections with other people.

Your network can directly affect your income, salary, career mobility and entrepreneurial prospects. Porter Gale, start-up advisor, public speaker, former VP of Marketing at Virgin America, and author of Your Network Is Your Net Worth, once wrote, “I believe that seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests and values will provide a stronger foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.”

It’s this concept of interpersonal security, Gale says, that can replace the financial reality of job security in this economic environment (that is, securing a new job when you get laid off), or help you tap into the sea of internal referrals (where who you know gets you the job). Maintaining strong connections with current co-workers, clients and personal acquaintances will help you be considered for new opportunities and prepared to make the most of them.

How to Increase the Value of Your Network

Fortunately, you don’t have to turn to tacky networking events and uncomfortable hotel conventions to increase your network, the value of your job and the income opportunities available to you. The best way to grow your network is to make a plan based on your comfort level and follow through on it consistently.

Actively Network on LinkedIn

Start with LinkedIn (unless they owe you money). Review your current connections and make note of how you met those people. Do you see them often in real life? Then take a few minutes to write a recommendation for them based on your relationship.

If you’ve never met them before, send a short note to invite them to connect for a coffee or just email a few short questions to get to know them better. You absolutely never know what can happen when you take the time to make a connection -- you may be tapping into a whole new lucrative career.

As a freelance writer, my business skyrocketed once I stepped away from job boards and into my LinkedIn network. Working with referrals from within my network has helped established trust much more quickly than the typical call-and-proposal format, and many top writers have had the same experience.

When you’ve worked through your existing network on LinkedIn, start expanding it. Keep track of who writes the articles you read online and look them up on LinkedIn. Send a connection request and compliment the writer on their article. If possible, include a follow-up question that gets a conversation going.

Then, look through the networks of your connections (your second- and third-degree connections) to see if you’ve forgotten about people you’ve worked with, studied with or met through mutual acquaintances.

Find In-Person Networking Opportunities

When you first start networking in person, don’t feel pressured to move too far out of your comfort zone.

Start with the professional network within your workplace, building and parking lot. Then look to your personal network through your neighborhood, gym and church. Introduce yourself to people you see all the time and explain yourself honestly with a phrase such as, “Hello, My name is X. I see you all the time at X, so I thought I would introduce myself today. How are you?” Very small, regular introductions like this will help you get on your network’s radar and establish baseline relationships that can be mutually beneficial in the future.

When you feel comfortable with the progress you’ve made networking within your immediate environment, think about ways you can be more active. Are there relevant, fun conferences within your industry that you could attend? Do you have any hobbies or interests you could pursue in your off time that might help you meet more people? You don’t need to zero in on business-specific people because business relationships can blossom even in casual, friendly environments. What matters is making genuine connections with people with whom you have things in common.

Are you ready to boost your earning potential (and your happiness and productivity)? Then pledge to spend some time this month actively working on your personal and professional network. You never know how your connections will conspire to help you discover and attempt new opportunities -- but you do know that these opportunities are in direct proportion to the network you actively build.

Your Turn: How has networking helped you increase your productivity and income? Share your strategies in the comments!

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Sarah Greesonbach writes about career, personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.

We all want to make more money, right? Some of us start a side business, like selling used books online, and others use possessions to bring in extra cash, like renting out their backyards.

But you’ll make the most difference to your bottom line by focusing on what’s likely your biggest source of income: your job. How much extra money would you have each month if you could get a raise or land a better-paying position? How could you use that cash to pay off your debt, boost your savings or even pay for a dream vacation?

Before you get too excited about your extra money, you need to make sure you’ve got the skills to back up your request for a raise or your application for a new job.

Here’s a look at three in-demand skills that can help you earn more money, whether it’s at your current job or by transitioning to a new role, plus free or low-cost ways to get the professional development you need.

Ready to build your skills and make more money?

1. Communication

Effective communication helps you earn more money in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. First, better communicators negotiate better salaries. The next time you change jobs or have an annual review, your enhanced communication skills can help you be more comfortable speaking about your skills and goals. You’ll be better able to identify with your audience, and your skills will help you earn a more lucrative salary.

Good communication also helps you build connections with co-workers, clients and acquaintances. These relationships lead to a stronger network, which again leads to a better salary.

Finally, better day-to-day communication simply makes it easier for you and your co-workers to do your jobs, leading to all around increased efficiency and productivity. And, coming full circle, you can point to that improved efficiency when you make your case for a raise or interview for another position.

Free and Low-Cost Resources

You might think you’re already a great communicator, but even the best of us can improve. The only way to get better is to educate yourself and practice. Hit the library and scan these books for communication tips:

Blogs and articles about communication are also great ways to learn for free, but eventually you’re going to need to get out there and practice your new skills.

Toastmasters International provides supportive public speaking groups all over the globe that can help you get more comfortable speaking your mind and crafting your delivery style. But you can just as easily practice using your new skills in any context, from chatting with your neighbor on an airplane to getting a refund on a purchase at the mall.

2. Data Analysis

While a full-time position in data analytics requires a lot of technology skills, the basics of data analysis are novice-friendly.

In fact, you probably already manipulate data in many ways in your daily life. Do you track your car’s MPG and use that to plan your gas budget each month? Do you monitor changes in your health and talk to your doctor about them? If you do, you already understand the basic relationship between collecting data and identifying trends.

Use these skills on the job by becoming an agent of change and improvement. Every job involves some kind of data, whether it’s soft data such as a customer service representative’s number of positive customer interactions or hard data such as a writer’s grammatical errors per piece. Track your data and performance as evidence for growth and improvement worth a raise or bonus.

You could even show initiative by sharing your tracking system with co-workers so they can measure their own performance, or pointing out areas for improvement to your boss or manager.

Free and Low-Cost Resources

You don’t have to go back to school to apply data analytics to your current position. Start with Coursera, which provides free courses from top universities, like several sections of a Data Analysis course from Johns Hopkins University. Or try edX, a partnership between Harvard and MIT that offers a free Foundations of Data Analysis course from the University of Texas.

If full-on courses aren’t for you, you’ll find tons of free articles about data analysis tech websites like Wired, Forbes, Computer World and Fast Company. For more targeted advice, do a quick web search for “Data Analysis + [Your Job Title].” You might be surprised at what comes up!

3. Marketing

Much like communication, marketing skills can have a number of trickle-down effects on your career, your network and your income opportunities.

For starters, understanding the basic principles of marketing will help you position yourself better as a job candidate. When you write a resume and cover letter, interview for a job and negotiate a starting salary, you’re really “marketing” your skills and yourself. And when you’re making your case for a raise after being in your job for a while, you’re marketing your performance and skills.

Learning about marketing can also enhance your communication skills in other ways. As you learn about target markets and developing a pitch that resonates with a particular audience, you’ll become a more effective communicator around the office. For example, you’ll know how to convince your co-workers it’s time to buy a new coffee maker, and what to do differently when you present the same idea to management.

Developing additional skills in digital marketing, like email marketing, social media marketing and content marketing, can also help you take on more responsibilities within your company. You can offer to support your company’s marketing team with their efforts (because believe me, they would welcome help!) and test your skills in real-world situations.

As you continue to learn more about marketing, you might come to a crossroads: you might be interested enough in marketing to move to a full-time role in that discipline, or you may realize that the intersection of marketing and your current job could make a great side business. Use your experience in your current position as a basis for insight to market your company -- or your side business -- more effectively.

For example, if you’re an account executive at a pharmaceutical company, you may realize that you enjoy blogging about best practices for pharmaceutical account executives. You might convince your HR team to start an internal blog or newsletter. You could also consider launching a consulting business for other executives, writing a blog on your own time or taking on content marketing contract work for companies that target account executives or the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. (Though before starting this kind of side business, you’ll want to make sure you’re not violating any terms of your employment contract!)

Free and Low-Cost Resources

Digital marketing has become incredibly popular, making it easy for a novice to catch up on the industry and stay abreast of new developments with a few clicks. Start with HubSpot to learn about the basics, then expand your reading to websites like Search Engine Watch, Mashable and Quick Sprout.

To get hands-on practice, consider starting a blog. You’ll develop your writing, social media and other marketing skills in a niche you enjoy, and you’ll get to connect with others who share your interests.

To learn more about using marketing skills in work situations, try these books:

You don’t have to get a second job or go back to school to make more money. Boosting a few key skills and changing your approach to work can help you maximize your income from your job.

Your Turn: Have you focused on any of these key career skills to make more money?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.

When you’re just getting started as an artist or jewelry designer, it’s hard to stay motivated. You put time, love and hand-crafted goodness into each and every piece, design a first-class website and upload photos of your products, and wait patiently for the first sale (that sometimes doesn’t come).

However, you’re overlooking an important part of the sales process. While it might seem like ecommerce is the only way to sell your art and jewelry, you can make lucrative sales offline as well. You’ll just need to embrace some good old fashioned legwork!

Not sure how to get started? Here are fourthree easy steps for placing your art or jewelry for sale in a local retail store.

1. Identify Local Stores That Fit Your Brand

Don’t make the mistake of bombarding every retail store within a 30-mile radius unless you’ve got a lot of energy (and product) to spare. You’ll get much better results if you carefully target local stores that fit your product brand.

Start by clearly identifying your target customer on paper. Write down everything you can think of that would help you identify where this person likes to shop and what this person likes to buy. Use this information to guide your selection of local stores that might be interested in carrying your products.

For example, if you design beach-themed, large-beaded jewelry, your products might be very attractive to a store owner who caters to upscale, middle aged women interested in nautical and beach clothing or accessories. It may not be the best fit for the local college fashion store that features more trendy, modern jewelry.

If you live in an area full of more big-box brands like Walmart and TJ Maxx than local outlets, you might need to expand your area of focus. Look for nearby small town and downtown areas that tend to offer more local business opportunities. When you’re first trying to place your art or jewelry, the smaller the store, the better.

2. Prepare to Pitch Your Goods

When you’ve identified 10 to 15 local stores, it’s time to prepare your sales pitch and marketing materials to make a connection with each store owner. For this step, you’ll want to write a brief elevator pitch that details your experience and your unique approach to designing your products. Express your passion for your product and highlight what makes your products different than others the store owner might stock.

During this conversation, you should be prepared to hand over a simple one-page press kit or trifold brochure that features examples of your products and notable press mentions. If you can, include details about how your product sells online or in other stores.

Finally, bring along one or two product samples that you can give to the store owner as a gift. Not only will this establish a polished presentation and a sense of goodwill between the two of you, but providing a sample allows the store owner to get a sense of the quality of the product over a long period of time.

3. Place Your Pieces in Person

Take two to three days on your calendar and visit each store at a slow time, such as between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on a weekday. As you walk around the store to take in the products and presentation, start a polite, personal conversation with the salesperson or business owner. Compliment him or her on the product displays and the quality of the items in stock, and use that as a natural segue into your brand’s elevator pitch.

As you end the conversation naturally, don’t try to close the placement or sale the same day. Finish your conversation by asking for permission to follow up with the business owner in a few weeks and then do so.

4. Negotiate a Reasonable Wholesale Rate

When you make your follow-up calls, you will likely have a few store owners who are interested in working with your product line. That means it’s time to establish a wholesale rate for each of your products.

Wholesale rates vary from industry to industry and provide a margin for both you and the store to make money off of your products. It also makes it more attractive for a store to stock up on your goods. When establishing your wholesale rate, you’ll want to take into account all of your expenses and possible profits, like this wholesale pricing formula from Etsy:

Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

For example, if you design custom jewelry, your formula might work out like this: you spend $3 in supplies, work for 30 minutes at $20 per hour, and would like to cover 5% of your monthly business expenses of $150 and earn a profit of $2, then your wholesale cost for each piece is $32 and your retail cost is $64. Using this formula to set a consistent price for each product placement will help you establish a professional brand and secure the profit you deserve for your hard work.

It’s important to have a professional web presence and an ecommerce option for your art and jewelry products, but don’t limit yourself to the digital world. Put in the effort to make connections and place your products in local stores to maximise your profitability in the long run!

Your Turn: Do you sell products in local stores? How did you first connect with retail owners and place your wares in their shops?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.

Many musicians would love to get paid to play music. The same goes for many artists with talents they’d like to monetize, such as crafters, dancers, speakers and artists.

The common thread among all of these creative side hustles? They all rely on marketing and sales press kits to land gigs.

But press kits are not all created equal. A Word document with your contact information and images of your recent art show or performance may get the details across to potential clients. However, it won’t establish authority, credibility or professionalism -- three traits that command a higher rate.

Ready to put your press kit to work helping you earn more money? Here’s what to do.

What to Include in Your Press Kit

As an artist, your press kit is your leading sales and marketing tool. It’s a simple, visual brochure that lets your target audience know more about your craft, whether it’s your prestigious performances, high sales or exciting features in Oprah’s O magazine.

Here’s what you need to have in your press kit to make sure it meets your customer’s needs:

A biography: Introduce yourself! Craft a welcoming “About” story that will introduce you as an artist or a band and provide important details about your experience, education or inspiration.

High-resolution images: Include at least two photos of you performing your work, whether that’s performing in front of screaming fans or selling wares at a low-key craft fair. You’ll also want to feature any relevant branding materials, such as your logo and tagline.

Contact information: If they don’t know how to get ahold of you, they can’t hire you! On a separate page, include your phone number, website, email address and mailing address.

Booking details: To make things easier on potential clients, include information on how to book your services. Include important payment and scheduling details such as whether or not you require a deposit up front and how far in advance you accept bookings.

With the basic elements of your press kit assembled, it’s time to tweak the presentation. Making every part of your press kit presentation more professional increases your appeal for potential clients and establishes your work as a professional. Both of these factors will allow you to charge more money for your skills and portray a more put-together image to your fans.

Here are three insider tips to help you design a press kit that gets you more business:

1. Use a Free Design Program to Create Your Press Kit

Your press kit is the first thing a potential customer or booking agent will see, and it’s often a crucial element in the decision whether to book your services. But if you design your important marketing assets using simple programs like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, the results will be far from professional. Often these programs cut off the edges of your documents when printed, or discolor your design choices based on the quality of the printer!

Fortunately, you don’t have to drop $99 per month on a suite of creative products to create something professional. Use one of the many free design programs like PicMonkey, InkScape or Pixlr to edit your photos and design your press kit.

Most submission guidelines allow for electronic press kits, but if you need to print your kit, make sure you work with a professional printer rather than printing from home. State of the art printers will give you more options for printing (glossy or matte, heavier or textured paper, all according to your preference) and better quality control for each kit. Not only will the final product be more appealing, but establishing a relationship with a printer early on will make it easier to negotiate discounts on future creative projects.

2. Apply Simple Design Principles

You’ll always see better results from hiring a professional graphic designer, but sometimes you just need to DIY. To that end, keep in mind these three design principles to help you create the most attractive product possible:

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds refers to the visual spacing of an image, video or document. For a basic understanding, divide whatever size surface you’re working on into three evenly spaced vertical sections and three evenly spaced horizontal sections. The best presentation will evenly cover the spots where your lines overlap.

Color Palettes

Color is a building block of your brand personality, so unfortunately “your favorite color” is not going to cut it. Use free color sites like ColourLover and ColRD to find or design a palette that suits your industry, genre and target audience. Using professional recommendations will help give potential booking agents and magazine editors confidence in your level of skill and experience.

Font Treatments

It’s tempting to sample several of the millions of available fonts, but using more than two will create a confusing design presentation. To present a creative but balanced design, stick with this formula: choose one stylish, script “designer font” for headings and callouts, and pair it with a basic, “simple font” for the rest of your text on your website and print items.

3. Word Your Fee Structure Carefully

Obviously your goal is to make money with your artistic talents. But sometimes when you’re just starting out, you’re open to performing for free or a reduced fee to build your audience base. So how do you let potential customers know your base price, your discount price and your free policy without leaving money on the table?

The magic is all in the wording. Start by including a phrase such as “Contact for product rates,” or “Performance rates start at $50 per hour.” This indicates that you regularly charge for your services and that there is a process in place for booking your band or ordering your products at wholesale.

Then, include a phrase that indicates you take on charity, review and scholarship projects from time to time depending on your availability. A phrase such as, “From time to time, our band takes on special events and fundraising performances at a free or reduced cost. If you have an event coming up that falls into this category, please contact us to see if it’s a good fit,” will convey professionalism while showing that you are interested in projects of all kinds. Tweak the phrase to reflect your creative work, whether you’re open to donating pieces of art or offering free products for review.

If you want to make money from your artistic talents, don’t stop with a website. Use these tips to put your best foot forward with a professional-looking press kit.

Your Turn: Do you use a press kit for your creative work? How have you helped your kit stand out?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.

Finding ways to make money as a musician can seem like an impossible dream. Either you break into the Top 40 and make millions, or you give up on a paycheck and play for friends and family.

But before you start tuning up your guitar in your living room, you should know that there’s a middle ground!

You don’t have to sign with a label, travel or sell out to make a decent side income as a musician. You just need a good work ethic, family-friendly lyrics and a willingness to not have your name in big lights, and you might be able to make some serious cash.

Here are five secret money-making gigs I’ve discovered as I manage and book shows for the energetic alternative rock singer/songwriter (and my husband), Joshua Wake.

1. Church-Affiliated Events

Churches of all denominations host live events, whether they’re large, multi-church events or small family picnics. With these church events come small planning budgets that are allotted for food, drink … and entertainment. That’s you!

A church typically hosts dozens of events each year. Take that and multiply it by the number of churches in your area, and you will quickly see that there are plenty of opportunities for you to perform in your area without ever booking a concert at a traditional venue.

Look for churches who are hosting festivals, special holiday performances, youth events and retreat experiences, and email the contact person on the flyers and information websites. Share your name, your performance style and a link to your website, and let them know you’re interested in providing family-friendly entertainment at their event. Each of these can be an opportunity for you to earn money and exposure, all while staying in your home town.

2. School Dances and Social Events

Much like churches, schools host several events throughout the year and your style of music may be a perfect fit! You can target a number of different kinds of events, from major dances to smaller events. You could even network your way into school clubs for performances or entertainment, such as guitar club or music club.

First things first: when working with public and private schools, it’s important to follow a protocol and never be on campus when not specifically invited or requested. Contact your local school’s scheduling secretary or Assistant Principal by phone or email and let them know that you would be interested in performing at any such events. Provide a link to your recordings and a short explanation of why your music would resonate with their students.

3. Coffee Shops

Coffee shops frequently host open mic nights and performances. And while they might not start off as paid gigs, there’s nothing quite like developing a relationship with the manager of the shop and, over time, negotiating an hourly rate for your performances.

Check your area to see shops that already have music nights arranged. If they don’t, speak with a manager to suggest that you perform. Be sure to mention the genre of music that you perform.

And here’s a hint: it never hurts to get creative! Propose a night where you will perform music that you know a large number of people in your area would enjoy. For instance, if you are in an area with a significant elderly population, play the classics. If you are in an area with lots of teenagers, play songs from contemporary movies or top 40 hits. You could even select a soundtrack from a popular movie and advertise that you’ll play through the entire thing live on a particular night.

4. Running Races

Running races are the most underappreciated events for live music on this list. Where else can you locate hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of people and force them to listen to your music for three or four minutes?

Running races, especially marathons and half marathons, are a great way to earn exposure and earn a paycheck. Depending on the size of the race and your relationship with the race manager, you can earn $50 to $200 for a one- to five-hour race. And not only do you earn money and exposure, but you become a part of the memory of runners’ fun race experience. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

To get connected, search online for marathons and half marathons in your city or state. Find the contact information of the race organizer and send them an email with your information. Follow up every two weeks until you hear back, and make sure you check in each year to become a staple on the race circuit.

5. Music Shops

Many music shops like to plug into the local music scene that surrounds them. Check to see if your local shops offer music nights. If they don’t, propose that they let you perform. Be sure to mention that you will advertise the event using your social media, website, and flyers.

If they still are not sold, mention that you could share the performance with other local musicians, thereby increasing the likelihood that the attendance would be beneficial to the shop. The possibility for generating an income is widespread: you could charge admission at the door, find local sponsors for the event, or even be sponsored by the music store itself in exchange for free equipment and instruments.

The next time you think there’s no way you can make a side income with your musical talents, stop thinking and get to work! Contact these places and organizations to create performance opportunities for yourself, increasing your exposure and growing your bank account while you perform.

Your Turn: Did we miss a great opportunity for musicians to grow their side income? Let us know in the comments!

We all remember those classic kid fundraisers: fighting dehydration in the Walmart parking lot to sell countless boxes of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, painting huge cardboard signs and dancing on the side of the road at high school sports team car washes, and sandwich-bagging brownie after brownie for the church bake sale.

You might cringe at remembering those times now, but those fundraisers were classic for a reason: they’re moneymakers, and you can use them to make money as an adult, too. The trick is to raise the money without looking tacky for taking a cut -- harder to do than it sounds, but not impossible. (There will be no “$5 cover house parties” here.)

Here are three tasteful moneymakers to help you quickly earn cash, coupled with important planning tips that could have you up and running by this weekend.

1. Homemade Baked Goods

I don’t know about you, but for me, bake sales are always a happy sight. Whether we’re talking cling-wrapped Rice Krispie treats, homemade cheesecake brownies, or just bulk croissants dipped in some fancy chocolate, you can’t go wrong with a well-placed bake sale.

That charm lasts long into adulthood -- just ask Angela Logan, a woman featured in Oprah Magazine for paying off her mortgage with her homemade apple cakes and building a business on the premise.

Get started with a good recipe and solid word of mouth. And it wouldn’t hurt to identify a hard-and-fast goal you’re raising money for: “Homemade Chocolate-Covered Strawberries for College Loans,” and “Medical Bill Marzipan” might not have a smooth marketing ring to them, but they will motivate your network to buy quickly.

2. Set Up an Adult Lemonade Stand

Nope, that doesn’t mean alcoholic (unless you want to fill out the paperwork to meet local liquor laws). But you can put an adult spin on this broken-sign childhood classic by creating a delicious lemonade with high-quality ingredients -- just lemons, sugar and water… no Hi-C here! -- and upscale add-ins that appeal to adults with tons of options, such as lavender, pink cranberry or cucumber basil.

Create and test your delicious lemonade in batches, and then get your product into the right spot: far away from competitors like Whole Foods and Walmart. Check out a local events calendar or your city’s Craigslist listings and make contact with event coordinators.

Introduce yourself by email or phone and arrange to sell your refreshing beverage anywhere people might be hot and looking to try something new: in the parking lot at local baseball tournaments, at indoor and outdoor church functions, at summer festivals and local farmers markets.

3. Host a Community Talent Show

You don’t necessarily need to provide a product to earn money from fundraisers. Instead, capitalize on entertainment value! Start practicing your middle school baton-twirling karaoke routine and partner with a local restaurant or after-hours coffee shop to organize a talent show among your friends and community. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

Here’s how it works: you brainstorm and plan a talent show with an entry fee for a family-friendly night out. Advertise on Craigslist, local websites and with printed flyers in restaurants and stores around town.

Charge a small cover to attend and a small fee to enter the contest. Use half of this income to create a series of prizes: a grand prize for the winner of the talent show, a second prize for second place, and an honorable mention for a unique skill or young participant. Take the remainder as payment for organizing and promoting the event yourself. Then sit back and enjoy the show as your community shows off its hidden talents.

Are you ready to give it a try? Test out one of these ideas and let us know how much money you raise. But keep in mind that success comes at a price: if you make significant income from any of these fundraiser ideas, you need to report that income on your state and federal taxes.

Your Turn: What was your favorite fundraiser as a child? Do you think you could adapt it to earn money as an adult?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.