Stop being a starving artist and start being successful
I'm going to get straight to it- if you get anything out of all of this, even if you decide to stop reading after this first paragraph, at least take this away:
You can be creative and still be successful.
You can be successful and live with purpose.
You can live with purpose because you allow yourself to celebrate who you truly are and
fearlessly share that with the world.
Ok. That was the short version. Now for the longer, drill it in your head, I really mean this, you can do it, version.
I'm a creative. I enjoy surrounding myself with other creatives. But lately the reoccurring theme I'm hearing from people is that they don't believe they can live a full, successful, thriving life by doing a job that one would label as "artist." Hell, a lot of people don’t even think they can do a job they love.
They often follow this thought with the assumption that I can relate to them, that this life is hard, it's a financial struggle, money doesn't come easy, and we won't be getting rich any time soon.
This blows my mind.
Listen, I'm not here to brag, gloat, boast, or any other word that means to talk highly of myself. I simply just want to talk realistically so hopefully you can be inspired and encouraged, that you can know this is a long told myth we need to break away from.
And simply put- if I can do it with no business training, college degree, or coaching then you SURELY can too! Nothing stopped me, nothing is stopping you!
Now let me tell you WHY it worked out, after everyone around me told me it wouldn't.
At 17 I wanted to go to college for Art, any art. I was told by society, family, and later even college professors why this was a bad idea, and how limiting it would be.
I enrolled at my local community college for graphic design because it was the closest thing to painting and drawing that seemed reasonable to the rest of the world. Spoiler Alert. I dropped out of college a year and a half later. Why? Well 1- the college forgot to tell me my current enrollment wasn’t for a degree, but just an art program, so I would have to transfer to Flint to get an actual degree which I did not want to do. 2- my professor negatively pushed to me that anything less than a Master’s Degree in Art would get me nowhere.
3- I realized I was spending money on a dream I didn’t even care about and if I quit I could work more and save more.
At 20 I quit school, got a job, and paid for my own health insurance (because that was taken away from me if I wasn’t enrolled in college after 18. Thanks America.) The jobs I had, although at times rewarding and fun, were unfulfilling for me and what truly fueled my soul... cashier, coffee barista, daycare teacher. On my own time, through daily dedication, I studied photography and unofficially started my business (AJBC Photography) in 2010 at the age of 23.
Within 2 years I made more working for myself then I had at any other previous job, and that was with very limited photography knowledge I learned on my own and NO business knowledge. I invested in my business debt free and the first year I pulled a profit, which normally doesn’t happen. I had passion and desire. And even though everything was new and scary, those two things will make you unstoppable.
Fast forward a few years and I was making more than my husband at his cushy union job.
That blew my mind.
I had always limited myself, first as a woman, second as uneducated, and third as an artist.
I sit here telling you now- that's all bullshit.
Those were excuses that made me feel better about not chasing after any dreams, not making the money I wished to make, not having any true commitments.
So here are a few bullet points to keep in mind to get you out of this starving artist rut and into that unstoppable mindset:
1- If you have a will there is a way. Period.
I don't care what it is, if you want something bad enough you WILL figure out how to achieve it. I want to keep this positive but stop blaming the rest of the world, your parents, your friends. PUSH past ALL of that and chase after what you WANT out of life. There is NO WAY that if you put all your energy into something nothing will happen. It may be slow, but it will happen.
2- People don't understand what they don't know.
For YEARS we've been told we must go to college, we must study for our career for 4+ years, we must pick something that will be stable and build our future. We've also been told you might not love your job, you might have to sacrifice dreams to be an adult, you might not get to live now but that's what retirement is for. This is also not true. Do people tell us this because they don't want to see us happy? NO! They may just not know another way- what they don't know scares them, and they want to protect you. You don’t need anyone’s approval, but support is helpful, so how do you get them excited about your plans? See step 3.
3- Don't just make goals, make a road map to those goals.
If you want to be successful and the support of others is important to you EXPLAIN to them what your goals are and how you intend to smash them. This will not only help them better understand how this creative lifestyle can actually support you, it will help you as well. Goals are awesome, but without a realistic game plan on how to achieve them they are just dreams, and they will stay dreams. If you don’t know where to start, but you know where you want to go, start there and work backwards. Break down your goals from BIG to tiny, and chip away at those tiny goals one step at a time.
4- Don't be afraid of money
Money is so weird. It's the thing we get uncomfortable to talk about or ask for. Let me get real- we all need money, right? Taxes, bills, food. And I get money doesn't buy happiness, but again, it does buy me food, shelter, trips, education, and damnit, those things make me happy, some keep me alive, so I'm not afraid to ask for money, or make it. You shouldn't be either. Money is not evil if you don’t have an evil mind set around it. Here’s how you can start to feel better about accepting money- put the highest value and care into what you do so asking the highest value back, in money, won’t make you feel like a robber, it will remind you that this is all an even exchange.
5- Stop guessing everyone's spending budget
Another reason why you might be scraping by as a creative is because you wouldn't dare charge someone $20 for a repurposed garbage find, $150 for a handmade necklace, or $1,000 for custom art for one's home, or $5,000 for a blown glass chandelier. You can't afford that, you can't do that to someone else. You are wrong, again. You aren't buying your own art, and you aren’t asking or making other people buy it either. And guess what, after your friends and family are tired of helping you survive by constantly buying your art, neither are they. Who CAN is people you may not know. People who appreciate one of a kind, uncomparable art. Note I didn't say rich people. Rich is just a fancy word (don't get me started on real money, real debt, real big bluffers...) I said people who APPRECIATE what you can offer to them. And to combat any lies you are STILL telling yourself right now while reading this- If the average people can buy $2,000 tvs, $800 phones, $200 purses, and $5 coffees they can and will buy whatever THEY want. You just have to find the right person who WANTS what you have to offer.
6- Stop treating your talents like a cute hobby and put your business hat on.
Reality check. Being a creative as a career is not all arts and crafts. You WILL have to put on your CEO name tag on on a daily basis and think about things like sales, marketing, quality control, branding, etc. THIS IS SO KEY. THIS is what is going to separate you from the starving artist and the successful, thriving creative. At first it might not seem fun but once it starts working, you start seeing the fruits of your labor, you're making money, and people are poring out love for what you do... you'll find that the business side of things can be a creative outlet as well.
BUT…. what if you find out this business thing just isn’t your thing, onto step 7:
7 Part 1- Know your limits as a creative
If you want to conquer the world as an entrepreneur, onward with your bad self!! But if you find yourself struggling and starting to hate what you once LOVED while trying to survive off of it, don't be afraid to admit having a career as a creative might not be for you. Maybe keeping this side of yourself JUST for yourself isn't a bad idea. Don't ruin ANYTHING that once brought you happiness by putting too much stress on it. Your creative outlet might be better after hours, as sacred time, or the perfect stress reliever. Don't let that fact ruin your creative spark, and know there may be other options...
7 Part 2- Community not Competition
I realize I've mostly talked about working for yourself, getting your own hustle on independently, mostly just because that's the life I know. But it's not the only option and working for yourself isn't for everyone. Don't let THAT stop your creativity either. Join forces with someone else!! Maybe you're amazing at teaching yoga, painting, writing, or coaching people on fitness, but keeping books and getting the word out is a struggle for you. Team up with someone with the opposite strengths. Allow them to market for you, keep the numbers, and you stick to what you know. OR maybe you just want to drop all responsibility and just simply focus on what you can slay. Find an established business or brand that has the same views and goals as you and join their team. Together you can grow, but every night you get to go home without the worry of money, employees, website, or products. You simply just focus on giving your gift to the world through the help of their platform.
8- Don't let the artists on social media get to your head
Let’s be honest- we don’t really KNOW anyone’s story or life unless we truly know them. And even then, it’s sad but true, people will try to be someone they aren’t just to make themselves feel important. Remember this. Every. Time. You Open Social Media. Remember. This. I’m not saying to be judgemental or trust no one, I’m saying be cautious, and realistic. That girl with 80K followers but 100 picture likes, she probably bought those fake friends. That photographer that’s Instagram famous, they may JUST be Instagram famous with a full time Wal Mart job. Those people living large traveling the world, they may spend HOURS inside typing articles instead of exploring... Ok, ok, so that girl may have real followers, and that photographer might be famous, and those travelers might only work 10 hrs a week, but….. also remember… if that’s true... If that girl does have 80K real followers, she probably had to kick a whole lots of ass for a whole lot of time, and that photographer, he probably had to slay for years to get that good, and the world travelers, they more than likely hustled and networked for months to land some paying jobs in the area they are currently staying. My point- you don’t know ANYONE’S story. Don’t assume you do. Don’t assume it’s anything like yours. Don’t assume it’s anything like what you see. Just…. don’t assume…. anything. Just DO YOU. THERE!
9- Always be thinking outside the box
Realize life may not ALWAYS look exactly like what you thought it might. Say you love painting and your goal is to be able to sell your fine art in high end galleries. Are you going to be able to do one painting and become an artist people seek out to collect? No. Not right away. So while you're working towards that goal what else can you do that will still allow you to live your dream, just on a different level, for now... How about selling prints instead of originals online, show at local shops, create custom work for businesses, plan your own showing with other creative friends, teach at galleries, travel and collaborate with different cities, artists, etc. I could go on and on. And you’ll have to be creative in whatever industry YOU’RE in, but you get it. The point is, whatever the end goal is, don't be afraid to try every avenue to get there. The more options available to you the easier it is to live successfully as a creator. Don’t get stuck inside 1 box.
10- Constantly be focused on step 1
There is NO WAY that if you put all you have into something that you won’t get ANYTHING back. Keep pushing, keep problem solving, keep wanting it. Keep fighting for that dream you have.