Sometimes you gotta spend money, and sometimes you don't.
I heard once that the majority of money made in photography is the money made on photographers. In other words, the most money made in photography is not in photographers making money, but in others profiting off of photographers in services like classes and the new hot gear.
Kind of sad, I know.
As writers, and artists of all kinds, people will want your money. They'll want you to pay them for classes they teach, new screenwriting software they sell, headshots, connections, contact lists for VIPs, workshops, etc. A lot of these services are worth your while, and sometimes even necessary. But you also don't need to pay for everything.
This past weekend, I hosted a workshop where a script and actors were pre-selected, and we read through the 124 page script over Zoom from start to finish. It was fun, actors got to act, a writer got to hear her script read out loud, and everyone got to be part of a friendly community for 3 hours and learn a little about screenwriting. And I charged everyone $20 to be there.
I thought this was perfectly reasonable (and still do.) I spent hours putting it together, I hosted it on my paid Zoom account (okay sure, it's only $14.99/month) and I gave my expertise in screenwriting and acting to those involved.
But it turns out, not everyone on the planet thought it was reasonable. I received multiple messages on Facebook from actors saying I can't charge for this, and that you have to pay actors to read, or at least invite them to do it for free. Some people were even angry with me. (side note: I sometimes cry when people are angry with me - this is why I don't run for office.)
But I absolutely understand where these actors are coming from. One of the first things I learned when I was an actor in Los Angeles is that you don't pay casting directors to audition for them, and you don't pay your agent to take you on as a client. But at the same time, I learned that you don't skimp on headshot photography or acting classes. Screenwriters must eventually pay for screenwriting software (the free versions are fine while you're learning.) But should screenwriters pay to submit to every festival and competition? (First answer: no, you would go absolutely broke.)
So how do you know what you should spend money on, and what you don't have to? How do you know the ROI ("return on investment") you'll get for that money spent? As someone who literally makes money off of artists, it's not easy for me to write on this subject without sounding completely biased. But not everyone needs my script feedback, my workshops, and my career coaching. Steven Spielberg never took one of my classes, and look where he is!
Don't know how to write a screenplay? Then pay for a class (like mine), buy a book, or watch free videos on YouTube. Have you written a screenplay and you're not sure if it's good enough to send out to agents? Get a group of friends together to read it aloud and give you feedback, or pay a professional script consultant (like me) for detailed notes. The truth is, you get what you pay for. There are some things in this industry that don't need to cost money in order to be satisfactory.
Here's all that in a nutshell:
There are screenwriting books you can buy. Some are really good.
There are free videos on YouTube. Some are actually really good.
There are workshops and private coaching sessions I run, which are also really good.
There are a gazillion screenwriting competitions out there, about 15 are worth spending your money on.
There are some free blogs and websites, which give great advice.
There are popular Facebook groups you can join, and ask for suggestions on all of the above.
Figure out what's most needed for your career and your craft, ask others in your field what they think, prioritize your needs, and take it from there.