Bye-Bye, Ramen: 5 Ways to Make More Money as an Artist

Have you heard the one about the doctor who ate so much Top Ramen, he turned into a noodle? Probably not because A) that’s not really funny, and B) why would a doc dine on 3-for-$1 noodles?

The notion that artists make extremely little, if any, money is a common and damaging myth. If you read my earlier post, Do You Have a Sexy Relationship with Money?, you know that I’ve been working on financial growth lately. Today, I thought I’d share some of the steps that have helped me support myself as an artist for the last 10 years, and continue to strengthen my efforts toward my newest goals.

wealth quote

While there’s no cookie cutter or linear plan for all artists to ensure financial success (however we define it), I personally believe these steps can help just about all of us.

5 Ways to Make More Money as an Artist

1. Believe you can thrive—and see it. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who never said “don’t” regarding my dreams, which is probably a big reason I’ve been able to largely support myself as a creative. What we believe we can achieve we will, given enough time and effort. Changing our beliefs isn’t easy, but striving to is a powerful first step—followed by visualizing it. What would your daily life be like if you’d already achieved the success you dream of? Use that primo imagination of your to see, feel and taste it.

2. Value abundance. I’ve been working on this. I’ve learned that it’s one thing to say, “I will make money,” another to say, “I’ll make enough to get by,” and yet another to say, “I will cultivate financial abundance” through artistry. Rather than deem financial wealth as somewhat negative—as many folks do on some level—or a perk reserved for other professionals, I’m now viewing it as a strengthening byproduct of an abundant life that allows me to reach more people.

3. Prioritize your dreams. A therapist once suggested that to make money and pursue a writing career, I should tend to all other obligations (which at the time involved auditions, acting classes and nutrition work) then use any remaining time to write. I hated and dismissed that plan. One of my most effective habits has long been tending to my dream-work first—whether that work is profitable yet or not. Doing so cements my beliefs about goals, leads to income more rapidly and prevents misery. (If you’re a night owl, you may want to reserve your dream-work for the wee hours; it’s all about prioritizing and using our mental golden hour well.)

4. Ditch the backup plan. I admire folks who can work a job they dislike and still thrive as artists. I’ve never been one of those people. Regardless, I think it’s vital that if we want our artistry to become our sole careers, a backup plan (such as another career) isn’t a safety net, but a saboteur. Alternate plans to “fall back on” if we don’t succeed take time and energy, and whatever we focus on grows. It can also reflect self-doubt, which is damaging. If you believed with all of your heart that you’d succeed as an artist, would you still have that plan in place? We need to see our success as essential, realistic and probable—not a side gig we only fully indulge in in dreamland.

5. Change your language. What we think and say about ourselves becomes our reality. It’s like dieting. When we continually think and talk about excess pounds we hate, we’re likely to eat poorly, stress more (which can trigger abdominal weight gain due to the stress hormone cortisol), appear less attractive and gain weight. When we embrace and nurture ourselves, focusing on feeling healthy and fabulous, improved weight control happens naturally. The “starving artist” mentality can hurt us similarly. Even if you don’t yet believe you can thrive financially as an artist, start saying that you do; eventually, your beliefs will catch up.

Once our beliefs and values are in place, the action comes easier. We’re creative artists, for goodness’ sake! If there’s one thing we can manage, it’s conjuring up ideas. We start seeing our work through a lens of abundance, which guides us to the best next steps. We also stand taller in our passions and create stronger work.

I’ll share more on the specifics of those action steps, including how I built my freelance writing career, soon. In the meantime, I hope you’re dancing around in happy, hopeful thoughts, believing (or aspiring to believe) that whatever you dream you can achieve. You and your work are worth it!

What are your financial goals? Which tip struck you most? Any suggestions to add? I love hearing from you! ♥

Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. Ah, the subtle hints that my making a living from my writing was a pipe dream; that the only respectable career paths for someone with a BA in English were journalism or teaching. Yeah, well, here I sit with my “day job” fully in tact, used to getting that bi-weekly paycheck; lulled into still believing that I “have” to hold on to the day gig UNTIL the writing starts paying bills. smh…it’s a Ferris Wheel I can’t seem to get off of. I admire those of you who struck out on the artist’s way and never looked back.

    Reply
    • I’m sorry you’ve felt a bit stuck on the Ferris Wheel. For what it’s worth, I don’t think your writing success was or is a pipe dream at all. Whether you choose to hang with it with a plan to work your way out or continue writing on the side, that you continue writing is admirable. So many folks sacrifice their creative aspirations. Rooting for you. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the inspiration and the incentive, August.

    Reply
  3. What you say is all true, at least theoretically. But the biggest problem is making REAL money. Money to pay for your food and shelter, etc. The ideas you eloquently stated never seemed to match up with the realities of survival. At least not for me.

    Reply
    • As naive as it may sound, I really think it’s possible for everyone. That’s not to say it’s easy! I think having total faith in a seldom embraced path and outcome is the toughest and most important part.

      As a side note, you really seem to have woven your professional experience into your novels! That’s hugely admirable and beneficial, IMO.

      Reply
  4. Setting your intention to visualize yourself in the place you want to be is the best way to change the beliefs that are holding you back. Money is everywhere, there is enough for everyone, manifesting abundance is the creation of your destiny!
    Love the blog August!

    Reply
    • Beautifully said, Jill! This seems like a great meditation mantra during times of $ stress: “Money is everywhere, there is enough for everyone.”

      Reply
      • For me, what Jill says, says it all. Intention is critical in changing one’s life. I think it’s where abundance begins for each one of us. In abundance, we don’t wonder about lack. Our whole perspective changes to the infinite possibilities that are available to us. I think that’s what this brilliant post says to each one of us. Thanks, August.
        Karen

  5. I appreciate your post, August. It’s helped make a positive game plan for me. Money is always the tough question. And when you have to work a day job, whether its one you love or hate, that takes energy and can be draining. I think your success came from not accepting anything less. You said yourself you didn’t stick around in jobs that made you unhappy. So many people suffer through it thinking they have to, and then if and when they do make a switch, they doubt themselves so much because a big change is scary. When I first started writing again, I thought everything I wrote was crap and that I’d lost my talent. It’s hard work to build up our own confidence. One thing that helped me with writing and would also help with financial moves would be to record what you do differently or each time you make extra money on a creative project. I needed to look back and read what I’d accomplished to remind myself I was making positive steps forward. That helped.

    Reply
    • Great points, Jess! I think that when we believe need anything to succeed in life, we end up needing it — that that is where the sense of necessity comes from. But I also think we all have different values. We have to decide what we value and fear most and prioritize accordingly. For some folks, a predictable income and other conventional job perks brings comfort, and the notion of the lack thereof brings major fear. I tend to function oppositely — and am lucky in that I have a very low tolerance for dissatisfaction (a blessing and a challenge!). 🙂

      I love that you found ways to reconnect with your confidence and creative strength! I’ve occasionally jotted down the progress I’ve made re: my financial goals, but definitely tend to overlook it. Thanks for inspiring me to change that!

      Reply
  6. My financial goals — to be debt free entirely by 35. That includes my loans. I live simply and don’t spend much, but it’s a pretty high bar for a five year plan.

    Even so, I’m at a place where there have been so many setbacks that I’m finding it really difficult to believe it’s possible for me. I’m pretty discouraged lately. :/

    Reply
    • Big hugs, Emmie. Do you think being debt-free would bring you happiness? I’m just curious — and no need to answer. 🙂 I’ve been learning to tie my financial goals in with goals I’m passionate about (i.e., reaching more people). Really seems to help.

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re BRILLIANT, and capable whatever you set your mind to. You got an agent and publishing contract at the hardest time ever to get either, for gosh’ sake! 🙂

      Reply
      • I think it’ll give me some peace of mind, if nothing else, as well as allowing me more disposable income. Both of which are good things.

        And thanks — it’s been a rough year in a bunch of ways, and I am looking forward to better times ahead. 🙂

      • Yes. Those are awesome things. 🙂 Looking forward to your smoother times, too — you deserve ’em.

  7. Catherine Johnson

     /  October 10, 2014

    Very inspirational, August! Seize the day! Cheers

    Reply
  8. #5 – Yeeessssss. For financial goals and otherwise, this has always been a big one for me. As positive as I may be in the behalf of others, when it comes to myself, I’m not always the biggest cheerleader.

    My goal? To get to a point financially where the full-time day job isn’t necessary for paying the bills so I can spend more time with my two boys and my writing. 🙂

    Reply
  9. I’ve always figured that the way to make a small fortune in writing – or any of the arts – is to start with a large one. I wish I was joking… 🙂 All the things you’ve said make sense – and are the way ahead. The arts demand vision, positivity and a sense of purpose. To me, the financial side comes from treating it as a professional business; and I’ve found that professionalism and an awareness of commercial constraints produces results, particularly in terms of repute with publishers. A while back my editor at Penguin remarked that I was one of the most professional authors he’s dealt with. And that counts, especially in this age of publishing turmoil. Amidst all of that, of course, we have to remember to always be ready to seize the moment – and never lose the sense of joy that our passion for our art (whichever art that may be) brings to us, and which we are bringing to others.

    Reply
  10. I remember working in retail after college. My new boyfriend at the time asked, “Why.” I quit my job and lived on 10 -15 hours a week as an assistant to a botanical illustrator on campus. While working for two months, I received a call from the head of the Medical Media department at the VA hospital looking for my boss to work full time. I applied and got the job! I had unknowingly used The Secret. If I hadn’t been working that day, I wouldn’t have gotten the job!
    I plan to make money with my book, but it is a long process!

    Reply
  11. You’ve accomplished so much, August! I’m so proud of you!

    Reply
  12. Raani York

     /  October 11, 2014

    You are so amazing, August. Thanks for sharing this post!! I love it!!!

    Reply

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