Revisited: 12 Ways to Kick Your Starving Artist to the Curb

As the one year anniversary of All Creativelike approaches, I’m revisiting some early content. This is THE most popular post I've ever written. Just a few weeks after launching this went viral. To date it's had almost 7,000 views, and has been shared by folks all around the world! Picture 16A dear friend visited me this week and the first thing we did, after securing our cozy corner table at the café, was launch into a conversation about her new boyfriend. (Yes, we are a cliché.) My friend mentioned that her new BF, a super talented artist, was having a lot of money problems, but had recently approached a buddy about going into business together. They were going to split all the profits 50/50 down the middle. When my friend pointed out to her new guy that he personally owned all $50,000 worth of gear they'd be using in this business and perhaps he should take a much larger percentage than his friend, he balked at her and replied, "That's not the way it is with artists."

OUCH. (interjection. See also: Ugh.)

You feel that punch in the heart? Yeah, me too. Because he's RIGHT. That isn't the way it is with artists, at least most of them. Most artists feel icky around money, especially when it comes to transactions with friends. Who am I kidding? Most artists feel icky about financial transactions with just about anybody, am I right? (That was rhetorical. We know I'm right.) Then we all sit around and wonder why we're always so broke and tired. Duh.

Here's the thing: we've been brainwashed, friends. Money is not the enemy. The enemy is LACK. Struggling to make ends meet is not helping your creativity in the long run, believe me. I speak from experience. Years upon years of financial struggle brought fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety, ovarian cysts, broken relationships, and resulted in LESS creative work being made overall.

The great joke perpetrated on artists and creative people over the centuries is that money is evil and has no place in an artist's life. (Unless, of course, a Glamorously Wealthy & Eccentric Patron appears out of thin air, recognizes your unparalleled brilliance, and wants to fund your lifestyle. Um, good luck with that.) The cultural ideology that allows artists to feel noble in their poverty, while disrespecting the actual work they produce is, quite frankly, a bunch of bullshit. It's a scam, a sham and a fraud. The icon of the starving artist is an outdated model designed to keep us relegated to the margins. Imagine a world where artist and visionaries have true wealth. You can bet your butt this planet would be a lot different, a lot better, than the one we're living in.

Which is why I want you to make some money. No, not just "some money" actually, A LOT of money. Because you'll do good stuff with it.

Trust me, I know it's not easy to live in a society that devalues art. It's heartbreaking to have friends and family think what you do is frivolous. And it's disheartening to want more money, but have no idea how to make it. Even with all that junk and negativity, there are things we can do - that we NEED to do - to tip the scales in the other direction, the direction of money in your pocket.

So, without further ado, here are 12 ways you can change your mind about money and kick your starving artist to the curb.

1) Get better boundaries around money. Until you become financially solvent, stop giving your time, energy and skills away - to your friends especially. At the very, very least, set up a barter or trade. If you need to, tell your friends you're working on raising your wealth consciousness and need to decline collaborating with them until you get yourself in a better place. True friends will get it. When somebody approaches you about working together, ask them what the terms of the agreement are then practice this response, "It sounds good. Let me think about it and get back to you in the next couple of days." If, after a few days, it doesn't sound like something that's going to put money in your pocket, come back with a counter offer or politely decline. (I know, it sounds simple, but it's hard. Remember, practice makes perfect.)

2) Stop saying you "hate money." You really don't hate money. You hate greed. You hate conflict. You hate struggle. You hate manipulation. You hate racial and class divides. You hate worrying about money. Money is only paper that represents a trade of goods or services. Money is neutral. Changing the way you think about money is truly the first step in getting more of it.

3) Look to other artists who are doing it bigger and better. Can't figure out how to make ends meet? Find an artist you admire who does and study their behavior like a hawk. Look at their website, marketing materials, Twitter feed, daily habits, press and publicity, attitude, etc. Use them as a mentor and role model to help you live into a bigger, better vision of yourself.

4) Value yourself. Many people who are wiser than I have said it - there's a direct correlation between your bank account and your self-esteem. You have value. I don't mean that to be a sweet sentiment, I mean it literally. You have value, as in "monetary worth." Know it, believe it, practice it. And, no matter what anyone tells you, valuing yourself does not de-value others. It simply allows you to do what you came here to do - be a rock star creator who changes the planet for the better. Right?

5) Invest in yourself. This is like a zen riddle. "How can I invest in myself when I have no money?" The key is in understanding how investment works. It took me years to really get that true investment is not money that goes out into the world and doesn't come back like, say, the electric bill. True investment pays off beyond the original sum of money, and in a timely manner. When you, for example, enroll in a Photoshop class to hone your skills knowing it will get you more clients, that's a true investment. When you have a great idea for another short film, but lack an understanding of how that will further your creative career, that's not a true investment. It's an expense. (That one is taken straight from my personal history books. Ahem.) My largest financial pay-offs have followed investments I've made in getting more visible and more skilled in what I do, AND knowing that those investments would pay themselves back. It's about 1) taking the plunge even when you know you don't have the money right now, and 2) choosing wisely so the investment you make both takes you to the next level and expands your financial well-being.

6) Charge more for your work. If this blog post is resonating with you, chances are you're charging way less than what you should be. The trick is to know that about yourself. Here's an exercise: come up with the amount of money you're going to charge for your next book, or your next speaking engagement, or your new graphic design service and now raise it. Raise it until it's just outside your comfort zone, the place where you think to yourself, "I don't know, will people pay that??" The answer is yes. They will. Perhaps not your current clients, but certainly future ones, the ones you'd rather be working with anyway since they know the value of your work. (Hurrah!) Trust me, you will find people to pay you what you're worth. Once you raise your prices and see that people keep paying, you've successfully expanded your wealth consciousness. And by doing that you've helped pave the way to more income. Experiment with raising those numbers on a regular basis as your work gets more mature and your skill set grows. Employees at traditional businesses get raises every one to two years. Remember that you deserve one too.

7) Get clear about how much money you want. How much money do you want to make in the next year? If you don't know, find out! Start by figuring out your monthly expenses, multiply it by 12 to get your yearly expenses (include extra for unforeseen emergencies like car issues, computer failure, etc.) Then figure out the things you want this year, everything from more money for groceries to a painting trip to Italy. Add those two numbers together then divide by 12 to get your desired monthly income. Once you have that number, write out a plan as to how much artwork you have to sell, or performances you have to give, or services you have to offer every month to achieve that goal.

8) Cultivate faith. Even for people who have a spiritual belief system, faith can be hard to come by. The very act of doing it seems counterintuitive. "You want me to do something terrifying like spend money I don't have then pretend like it will all work out? Wha?" In my own personal experience, when I've acted on faith - that is to say, when I've moved forward in the direction of my dreams knowing that I would be taken care of even though I couldn't see how - it all worked out. Faith requires actively letting go of control and a constant commitment to trust. It's hard, nail-biting work. But, I've experienced faith as a state of being (beyond one's religious belief) that brings forth alignment, whether that be alignment with a new client, gallery owner or music gig. "Act as if" is the mantra to bear in mind when practicing faith. Give it a go, especially when you have nothing to lose.

9) Visualize having it. Again, wiser folks (such as Wayne Dyer, Shakti Gawain and, even, Albert Einstein), have more clearly articulated the whys and hows of visualizing. The gist is that picturing yourself, or your creative work, where you want it to be (instead of where it actually is) helps you in getting to that place. It's the practice of repatterning your thoughts to believe in possibility instead of lack. At the very least, this practice will make you feel good in your body. I love nothing more than waking up and thinking about my ideal writing studio. The sunlight, the white walls, the big windows, the bookshelves, the plants, and more. Instead of depressing me with a vision of what I don't have, it actually energizes me, and allows me to clarify the direction I'm heading in.

10) Remain active. Passivity and, even worse, resignation is the kiss of death. Stay active in your life. Don't have any money this week? Go into the basement and figure out what you can sell on Craigslist. Feeling terrified about looking at your credit card statement? Take a deep breath and open it. Write out a plan to pay it down. Do a Google search on "venues for potters" or "how to record your own album." Get out of the house and go to an artists happy hour or networking event. Keep living into possibility while you educate yourself. Whatever you do, don't sit around thinking money will fall from the sky or a knight in shining armor will save you. YOU are your own savior, and you have what it takes to get what you need. C'mon, be creative! If anything, you know how to do that.

11) Stop doing what you don't want to do. I'm not talking about the little things, like tackling that pile of dishes. I'm talking about those part-time jobs and financial obligations you took on "because you had to" or "because the money was too good to pass up." Those things you resent having to do, the things you loathe. Trust me when I say: it's not worth it. It's not worth what it does to your heart, mind and soul. Even if it is lining your pocket a little. There are other, better, ways to make money. FIND THEM. And quit that damn silly gig once and for all.

12) Know your big picture vision and make every decision with it in mind. This one took me years to get. I was so busy in my day-to-day struggles trying to make ends meet that I never stopped to think about what I really wanted in the big picture. What kind of lifestyle, what kind of artistic venues, what kind of spaces I wanted to live and work in, what kind of family I wanted to have, how I wanted my body to look and feel, who I wanted to spend time with in community. I'm talking about those things that add up to a satisfying creative life. When you take the time to get really clear about who you want to be and where, what, who you want to do it with, it will help you clarify every decision you're making right now. Because everything you're doing now informs who you are becoming and will be in the future. Go forth making bold decisions with Future You in mind.

So, how can you implement these ideas? I recommend getting a journal and using it daily to visualize, plan, activate and create more financial abundance in your life. I also recommend getting a creative buddy who's in the same position as you - broke, but dreaming of a better place - and scheduling a weekly check-in or meet-up with them. Working on any one of these things will help break the spell that's been cast on us, the one that has us believing poverty is romantic and real artists reject money. The truth is, real artists create great stuff no matter what their bank accounts look like. It's just that the ones who aren't desperate for cash all the time are having a MUCH better time.

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