How ‘Cosmo’ Staff Writer Anna Breslaw Does Money
Anna Breslaw is 28 years old, lives in NYC, and is transitioning into a freelance career.
So, Anna, tell us a little bit about your finances.
Sure! Well, I’ve been a staff writer at Cosmo for the last … year and a half? Ish? Maybe a little more than that. My finances have been more stable during that time than they’ve ever been, because before that, I was freelancing but had to hu$tle harder.
I think I’m still “New York poor?” I’d be medium-rich in, like … Milwaukee.
(I’ve never been to Milwaukee.)
Well, your dollar would go a little further, but you’d probably earn a little less. Capitalism is really good about adjusting things like that. So what is prompting your career transition?
I just missed freelancing, really! Also, I have a book coming out next winter, which gave me some padding to not be full-time for a second.
Oh, congratulations! Can you share the title so we can promote it on your behalf?
Too superstitious! (Also it might change.) But thank you.
Fair enough. Well, definitely let us know when it gets published!
Will do, 100 percent.
So you were a freelancer, you did the staff writer thing, you’re having a book published, and you’re going back to freelancing. How are you preparing for the financial shift? Do you think you’ll get an equivalent client income pretty quickly, or do you have a buffer saved, or both?
Ha ha, well, I got an accountant! I am gonna do it RIGHT THIS YEAR. That was the first thing I did.
I’m going to be on contract at a few places, Cosmo included, so there’ll be a monthly baseline for, like, living. I do have a buffer saved, although I do pay a lot of rent, like every other person in the city. It’ll be a little scary initially, it always is.
What is your living situation like?
I live alone, downtown in the East Village. It’s a small one-bedroom. What do they call that? A studio/flex one-bedroom?
Oh, very cool. About what percentage of your income goes to rent?
After tax, slightly under half, which is a LOT. But it’s also like… I’ve lived in some shitholes in my day, and the emotional benefits of this are myriad. I feel like quality of life is really important, which I didn’t really used to care about when I was younger, but I’m an old crone now.
HA! Do you have cats?
I had one. I gave her to my mom because my boyfriend’s allergic, but the second we break up, Mothballs will be back in my home.
Mothballs is a great name for a cat!
Ha ha ha, she’s feisty. I don’t think she likes her name. I miss her.
Okay, you may have answered this question in part by mentioning the boyfriend—but since you’re becoming location independent, why not move to Jersey and commute in to Cosmo twice a month?
If you’re freelancing, what are the benefits to staying in NYC?
Well, I grew up in Jersey, and I knew U wanted to move to New York after I graduated, so then I went to NYU and have been living here for… eww, is it like eight years? Nine?
I have friends who live in Hoboken, Jersey City, etc. It’s more financially practical but it’s just not for me, I don’t think.
It’s really never felt like an option to live somewhere else, except, like, when you’re a little drunk and on vacation in Mexico and you’re like I COULD LIVE HERE.
You could be one of those freelancers who lives in Mexico or Thailand and banks all their money. Like The 4-Hour Workweek!
Oh, god. That would be amazing.
I will say I’m one of the few freelancers I know who don’t have partners who are supporting them financially, at least a little.
Yeah, that’s huge. Having a partner who contributes often acts as a bit of a safety net.
I used to be really jealous of writers with banker boyfriends/husbands. I’m less so, now. I think it’s hard to not have money in New York in your early twenties. I had a chip on my shoulder, probably.
Those years are the networking years, in many ways, and money facilitates that. They’re also the friendship and relationship building years, and money facilitates that too.
Yeah, but on the other hand, it’s also like, when you NEED to make money there’s that urgency there. Whereas if you can just coast—I don’t know if i’d have the career I do now if i could just coast, you know? So that’s a blessing in disguise, kind of. I now look back at certain people i went to college with and feel way less jealous.
I agree with you on that point: having to hustle makes you hustle, in a way.
I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t started from a point of NEEDING MONEY NOW.
Right. This also remains sort of a huge thing though, because there’s a certain attitude that stigmatizes the idea of “selling out.” I am pretty sure the idea of selling out was invented by rich people, along with the concept that wanting to make money writing means you have no soul.
I don’t know, I think the concept of selling out was invented by people like those guys from Rent.
Ha ha ha, those guys ruined New York. I’d rather hang out with Patrick Bateman than those guys.
People who think that “creativity” only means one thing, and “work” only means one thing.
They talk about “creativity” and “earning money” as if it’s a binary, when actually there’s a lot of crossover there. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and I knew if I was going to do this for a living I wasn’t gonna burn screenplays to survive in my squatter apartment.
So what are your financial goals for 2015? Do you have a set amount of income that you’d like to earn?
My goal, all said and done, is $80,000, because it’s, like, slightly more than what I make now, but not, like, tryna be greedy.
I think my contract baselines all add up to $60,000 or so, then there is more book money coming, and then hopefully I can freelance enough elsewhere to be comfortable.
Aside from making money, what are your other freelancing career goals? Are you trying to grow your byline in a particular niche? Or get a well-placed column? Or sell Book 2?
Ha ha, well, I mean, I don’t think anybody’s gonna be hiring me to write about ISIS—and that’s a good instinct on their end. I used to want to be a Serious Internet Journalist, but then I was like, wait, I suck at this, and I only want to do this to impress men at parties.
So I think I just want fun, smart assignments that don’t have to be done in a very branded voice, and to be one of those healthy freelancers who juices and goes to yoga mid-day and stuff, and has a calendar with Post-its all over it.
What else do you want to do with your money this year? Pay off debt, retirement fund, savings, buy some sweet boots?
Ugh. Well, what I do NOT want to do is buy dumb luxury stuff, which is my biggest downfall probably, because guilt. I do want savings. I also decided to incorporate myself because my accountant told me to, which seemed like a thing adults do. So I’ll hopefully get more savings than if I didn’t incorporate and got supertaxed.
I also really want a Canada Goose jacket. Isn’t that lame? And I want to cook more and Seamless less.
If I’m gonna spend large amounts of money on anything, I think it should be vacations. That’s my goal. I don’t take enough vacations and instead I buy, like, $200 sweaters every two weeks stupidly. Or, like, $150 sweaters, I’m not an insane person!
Well, there’s an article topic for you: How I Sold My $4,000 Sweater Collection. Pitch The Billfold!
I Went to Buffalo Exchange With 4 Garbage Bags and Got $6.84: It Happened to Me
(It literally did happen to me.)
Okay, last question: What advice do you have for other Billfold readers? What have you learned about managing your money that you don’t think a lot of people know?
PAY YOUR BILLS AND ALSO YOUR TAXES.
I didn’t know!
I mean, cerebrally I knew, but I just shoved it all away.
Oh, and also, if you can’t afford a medical bill, call them, and a lot of the time they’ll just make you pay a fraction of it so you’ll go away. I had, like, a $1,600 bill once because of an insurance misunderstanding and I called the office and they were like, just give us $250. And I was like, A’IGHT.
So, there’s my advice!