Not So Starving Artists: 4 tricks
Trick One: Stop “Big Break” Thinking.
For a while I checked my email before bed expecting to see a letter asking if Faith Hill could buy a few of my songs. Truthfully, sudden income is hard to gain and extremely easy to lose (spend!); i.e., people who win the lottery can end up bankrupt in a year. Getting “discovered” doesn’t guarantee financial stability. The “ARTrepreneur” calls this “money myth 1.” Financial Planning is the key to maintaining some stability regardless of the flux.
Financial Planning is trickier for artists than most people. From my own experience, even creating a spending plan for a month ahead can be confusing as my income varies greatly from month to month, and last minute artistic invitations come up or are cancelled. But my financial plan includes putting away any unexpected income. Half of it goes into a special checking account I can use when times are rough. The other half goes into a long-term savings account.
Trick two: Have at least one almost “regular” form of income.
No, I don’t mean a nine-to-five job if you don’t want one. I truly have seen that art has a much better chance of taking off if you put most of yourself into it and not a draining occupation. What I’m talking about is something that either doesn’t take up too much time, will be busy for your body but will give you time to mentally create (like cleaning houses) and/or with an extremely flexible schedule, so you can hang out with the Muse when she comes around (real estate?). Your monetary gain from these activities should cover all of your food and at least half of your modest rent until your art can fully support you.
In an ideal world, you will eventually (and maybe by getting some training) find a more steady income which will actually stimulate your creativity or help others with theirs. My example is that I’m a life coach. I create my own schedule based on when I know my best creative times are. This kind of work, is by no means as steady as my old preschool teacher gig, but I have ongoing clients. In any case, I suggest not making this “regular job” one with which you wind up bringing home your occupational worries to your artistic time.
If you have a nine-to five occupation, when should you quit it? It’s pretty simple. A) If you do not have any energy for art during the work week, but you create like a bunny on the weekends and B) you’ve saved at least enough money to support yourself fully for three months without any income while you build art and strategy. C) You have an accomplished artistic friend, mentor or coach for help, for accountability and help.
Trick Three: Hold Tight to Your Values
As a “starving artist,” when things are slow and look dire, we have a tendency to panic. This panic leads to selling out by doing quickly getting the closest horrible job, and doing things out of alignment with our values. Some sell drugs, some reluctantly do telemarketing. As you may have read, I used to do stints as a stripper.
Any job you don’t feel good about will thwart your growth as an artist and actually prohibit the flow of money to you. Why? Well, because you don’t actually believe that artists should have to do these things to make money. You believe that art is worth much more than our society allows. You smite your own self-worth by doing things which are not aligned with your core values. If you do not value your art and the time you need for it, neither will your buyers.
Trick Four: Charge What You’re Worth!
Pick up a used copy of Money Management for the Creative Person. One of my favorite quotes from it is, “Maybe you aren’t aware of the importance of money in your life as an artist. That’s the problem right there. Maybe you aren’t motivated by dollars and sense- (oops, I mean cents) but it’s exactly that thinking that kills so many creative people’s careers.”
Research how much the best people in your field and city are getting for their art or performance. Calculate your art’s worth based on your time. Not just the time painting or giving a concert. Include the time it takes to do anything you need which helps you cultivate your muse, including walks at the cemetery, cups of tea and bed romps with your lover. When I do this with music, I factor in the cost of viewing one other performer a week which helps me get ideas and diversify my art.
*Extra Hints* Stop being afraid to court people who have the disposable income to buy art or see performance. You should absolutely want rich people to think you’re brilliant. Also, play up your queerness or other niche! Queers support performance created by other queers! Nice websites are important as are professional photos of you no matter what your art. People want to put a face to the creative mind.