How to Get Your Gold-Plated Yacht

How to Get Your Gold-Plated Yacht

In my forthcoming book Spendshift, out July 1 on Amazon, I share strategies and tricks I learned as a starving student to stretch my money a long way past where it should have gone. Many of these have continued to be useful well into adulthood, but I’ve also learned that sometimes the best thing you can do to save money is make more of it. To do that, one of the most valuable things you can learn is when and how to invest. As the saying goes, “You gotta spend money to buy a gold-plated yacht.”

Now let’s be clear: I’m not talking playing the stocks when I say investing, nor should you listen to me if I ever do start talking about them. I’m talking about something much more direct – buying the things you need to be successful in your professional and artistic pursuits.

Jump to April 2014.

When I heard the price of the 30-second video, my head felt light. Sure it was the launch of a major part of our overall company image, but we shot videos in-house all the time, and they only cost the price of the team’s wages. The production company was asking $16,000 – the price of a decent sedan – for 30 seconds of footage. I told them I’d have to think about it.

Fortunately someone I was working with put it into perspective. He told me to think of Hollywood. A typical blockbuster these days has a $200M budget for 2 hours of film. If you do the math, that works out to about $1.66M per minute, or $27,000+ a second. That’s a Bugatti Veryon that goes into every minute of film you see in the theatre. Cast, crew, editing, advertising, distribution. All of this stuff costs money, and to do it right, you can’t cheap out. Could you imagine if they tried to save money on script writing or direction for the new Star Wars or Avengers movies? Can you imagine the effect not only on the films but the franchises? By saving hundreds of thousands, you could ultimately lose billions.

You always need to work within a budget, but when too many corners get cut within that budget, the entire production suffers. Think of it like a plant: you want to cut back anything that’s slowing it down, but if you start removing healthy leaves, the organism starts to suffer. Remove too much and, well…

Needless to say, we paid the money for the video and got something worthy of this significant moment in the organization’s history. The launch was a hit. The truth is, these things cost what they cost, and while you can get a deal once in a while, sometimes you just need to fork over.

Okay, so jump back to here and now.

Imagine a scenario where you want to sell your artwork to local galleries – something I’ve been working towards lately. Assuming you’ve got the talent and the drive to produce enough quality material for a show, how do you think a gallery owner would respond if you showed up with a bunch of black-and-white photocopies of your work and asked her to “just imagine” what the pictures would look like when they were properly framed and presented in full colour? Unless they were hypno-photocopies, I’m guessing the response would be a hearty chortle at your expense. That’s because it’s the gallery’s money and the curator’s reputation on the line. It could be the best work in the world, but, to be brutal about it, if it’s not presented properly, it doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

In short, you’d save the dough and lose the show.

Or, on the flip-side: spend with thought, get the gold-plated yacht.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when to spend and when to save on your projects, but generally speaking, it’s better to overspend than underspend when it comes to something that has the potential to become a revenue stream. You can always scale costs back to balance the numbers later, but you need to give your idea the best possible shot when it comes to the public phase of your creative efforts. Otherwise, you risk thinking there’s something wrong with your ability or approach, and that’s just not an option because your dreams matter.

To stack the odds in your favour when it comes to when and where to spend, I’m a big advocate of small-scale testing and revision, which I talk about in Spendshift. Send a note to me at rmelsom[at] and I’ll let you know when pre-orders open!


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