Real Artists Don’t Starve debunks all myths around the starving artist and shows you you can, will and deserve to make a living from your creative work.
One of the many perks of living in the thriving metropolis that is Munich is a plethora of activities and options when it comes to culture, entertainment and education. The Pinakothek der Moderne remains one of my favorites. I take most of my visiting friends there at some point.
I don’t understand art much, but one of the coolest paintings there I get: The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg. It shows a poor, starving poet, lying in his bed, trying to work on his art while in a crappy apartment. There might have been something noble about that in 1839, but in 2017, I don’t want to end up like that.
That’s where Jeff Goins comes in. The prolific blogger and author of The Art of Work makes the case that Real Artists Don’t Starve. He debunks some of the myths surrounding artists’ biggest struggles and delivers a new philosophy for artists who want to thrive not just creatively, but financially too.
Here are my 3 favorite lessons:
- Practice your art in public to improve and build an audience at the same time.
- Never work for free or give up ownership of your art.
- Embrace the modern view of the multi-faceted artist to become your own patron.
Whether you’ve been writing, singing, wake-boarding or making music, it’s time to make your art your living!
Lesson 1: Practice in public.
All artists initially see their art as something sacred. It’s natural to idolize the process and as a consequence, we want it to have nothing to do with money – at first. But the more you practice and enjoy the time you spend creating, the more attractive the thought of making a living from your art becomes.
With that, the problems begin: where money wants to be earned, marketing efforts must be made. What most artists get hung up on is that they treat it like an undesired, necessary activity. Here’s how to to approach marketing your art instead: View it as practice in public.
You don’t have to bombard your audience with ads or half-assed products and services. Just share your work. Put it out there. Benjamin Hardy wrote on Medium to build a fanbase. Russ released a song a week on Soundcloud. Youtubers make videos.
This isn’t just a way to build a platform way before you need it, but it also helps you improve much faster, because you get a crucial component of high performance that’s missing when you’re alone in your room: feedback.
Make yourself comfortable on platform where people can follow you and then continue to do your thing.
Lesson 2: Sell without selling out.
Most art nowadays hands itself to doing freelance work in it. A writer might take a copywriting gig, a musician might play on a birthday party and athletes can work for local sports teams on the side. There are two common pitfalls new artists fall for when taking their first steps in the paid realm:
Not charging at all.
Charging once for giving up lifetime returns.
Whenever someone emails me asking for an article contribution with the promise of “great exposure” and tells me it’s “a good opportunity,” I instantly know it isn’t. Demand hard numbers. How many pairs of eyes are we talking about? Unless it’s an extremely good opportunity, Jeff suggests you never work for free.
A huge part of turning your passion into your paycheck is convincing yourself that your work is worth it. Consistently charging for it is a good first step to accomplish that.
Another spoke the market will try to put in your wheel is to get you to give up the rights to your art. Ghost writing, white label solutions, the rights to a novel or movie script, they all fall into this category. However attractive the lump sum, it’s never enough.
Keep your art in your hand and your money in your pocket. You’ll never regret it from a psychological perspective and rarely from a financial one.
Lesson 3: Revel in the New Renaissance.
All in all, it’s a great time to be an artist. Creators have never had more options to thrive. For example I offer Patreon as an option for fans to contribute however much they want to my work in case they don’t want to buy any of my products, but still show their support. Then, there are affiliate links who generate commissions at no cost to the user, services, one-off products and little side gigs I take up here and there.
The opportunities are endless. We live in an era of huge potential. Jeff even has a name for it: New Renaissance. It’s a modern-day version of the European period from 1300-1400, where art’s status in society was greatly elevated. Patrons funded artists’ work, fans engaged in fruitful dialogue and painters and musicians first made something you could consider a living from their art.
What’s great about this Renaissance-Renaissance is it doesn’t paint you into a corner (pun intended). Being a jack of all trades isn’t a problem any longer. It’s necessary.
Let your artistic intuition take you wherever it leads – and bring your fans with you. Eventually, you’ll be your own, best patron. And there’ll be plenty of food on the table.
My personal take-aways
This is more of a psychological kick in the pants rather than an actionable how-to book. Deep down many artists still hang on to this notion that art doesn’t warrant payment. Which is nuts. But sometimes, a book like this is a great way to tackle such a limiting belief. If you struggle with impostor syndrome or are just getting started in your creative pursuits, this is a good read.