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! ♥

Do You Have a Sexy Relationship with Money? On Artistry, Activism and Abundance

And by sexy I mean respectful, beautiful, celebratory and self-strengthening. Mine is getting there, but for years, it was about as sexy as moldy bread wearing stretched out granny panties. I absolutely have no idea where that came from. *clears throat* Moving on…

[No photo. You’re welcome!]

Pre-wedding panic

Seven years ago, my now husband took me to LA’s jewelry district to shop for wedding rings. While other shoppers’ eyes sparkled like the rows of jewels, I nearly had a panic attack. Palms sweating, heart racing and dizzy, I had to step outside for air. What the hell? 

I had no qualms about our engagement. After my first marriage (if you can call it that), I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to wed again. Then I met Mike. “I’m not getting married to get married this time,” I told a friend. “I want to share my life with him.” Adventure partners. It had to be. We’d planned a simple wedding—the two of us exchanging vows on the doorstep we met on before our pets, parents and the neighbors who’d played a role in our meeting. It seemed perfectly us, and given the chance, I’d have done it pronto. So why I was freaking out?

The money, honey.

Simply asking myself the question revealed the answer: money. One thing I’ve seldom shared about what I now call my pseudo-marriage is how broken we’d become in all ways before parting. Our financial struggles influenced, but more so reflected and derived from our incompatibility and insecurities. Desperate to salvage the union many people felt we’d rushed into and feeling a strong sense of responsibility (“We’re married;have to fix this.”), we hid our issues from loved ones.

But it was bad. At one point we had $15 to spend on groceries each month, which I stretched by purchasing rice and beans from the dollar store, 3 for $1 candy bars from Walgreens and Top Ramen. He’d been laid off but wasn’t receiving unemployment and I was modeling, which one can’t do well without the ability to buy even the simple bikini every casting in Miami seemed to require. For that and other reasons, my confidence level at castings was on the floor, making bookings few and far between; when I’d finally receive a paycheck, it had to last for months. I still had medical bills to pay from my eating disorder treatment, and we both had school loans outstanding. And then there’s that funny little thing called rent.

Even worse than a shoddy motel

One day the kind receptionist at the shoddy, hot pink motel we’d been living in advised us to move out ASAP, as the owners were beginning to deceptively overcharge tenants. “We have nowhere to go…and no savings,” I said, trembling. He offered to let us crash in the courtyard of his tiny studio apartment. Though it wasn’t locked, clean or comfortable, it seemed worlds safer from the actual street. Even so, we were essentially homeless, steps away from a crack house and its shady regulars. At one point I spotted a homeless woman shooting up and wondered if the primary difference between us was that she spent her minimal funds on drugs, instead of noodles.

Desperate for higher ground (no pun intended), I renewed my nutritionist certification and began consulting individuals at a local gym between castings until I was hired as an editorial assistant at a magazine. Once we could afford to pay for a month plus a security deposit in a neighboring studio, we took it. The small place with warped, partly rotted floors, a broken oven and a refrigerator that had been well-used but seemingly never cleaned seemed like a palace. As we dined on rice, beans and veggies using a cardboard box as a table, I shed happy tears.

By that point, I’d wanted to quit modeling, but my agent told me I’d be foolish not to use my stepping stone to acting, aware it was my dream. He was right. As soon as I had $300 to spare, I signed up for my first acting class and never looked back. As my passion for my acting flourished and the reality about our broken marriage grew increasingly obvious (particularly once we were no longer in desperate survival mode), we separated then filed for divorce. Meanwhile, I began booking modeling, and soon acting, jobs with relative ease.

The very freedom and independence I had feared after my solitary battle with an eating disorder brought incredible strength. So desperate to be un-alone, I had married a man I barely knew. And had we even talked about finances? Nope. We were going to follow our dreams and make it happen! (Now there’s a detailed plan…)

Lessons from Broke-ville

Being completely broke changes you, bringing heightened appreciation for shelter, food and basic belongings. How could you take what you previously couldn’t nearly afford for granted? But it’s also easy to feel guilty or overindulgent when spending money on virtually anything. That was the case for me—likely because I still had emotional richness to cultivate. The first time I could afford to buy much-needed clothing, I roamed around Marshall’s for over an hour clutching selected items in my perspiring hands. I set them down and rushed out twice before finally making a purchase.

So much has changed since then, but bits remain. I still often feel guilty spending money on myself, but I’ve also maintained the gratitude. Going from broke to independent and pursuing my passions allowed me to move to Los Angeles, work as an actor, meet and marry an awesome man and recognize what I believe to be my life’s purpose—my writing and activism. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to stay true to myself. I think we all deserve that. So does the world.

Moving forward

I’ve been pondering these experiences lately, as my husband and I purchased (and finally moved into!) our first house, and as I work hard to take all-things-Girl Boner to the next level. I had the pleasure of discussing my goals with Rocco, a man who works for Tony Robbins’ company, recently. I told him that while I feel I’ve come a long way in many life areas, I want to go much further—and in order to do so, I need to cultivate commercial success. He agreed and asked me to expand: “What would that look like?”

When I’d finished answering, Rocco paused and said, “I’m going to have you do something really uncomfortable, okay? We’re going to talk numbers.”

I hadn’t mentioned a single number while describing my financial goals. (What do numbers have to do with money? ;)) In fact, I’d scarcely mentioned finances, consistently referring instead to “commercial success,” and making it ultra-clear that “it’s really not about money for me.” True, but still…  It’s not as though he hadn’t heard me the first time. Obviously, some of my ghost-wounds could use more healing. So now I’m going to share my numbers with you all, because I love being vulnerable like that. 😉 More importantly, I’m sharing to stand strong in authenticity, move past remaining money-related insecurity hold myself accountable. And who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a few others to grow similarly.

Side note: Depending on your experience, the following may seem inspiring, impressive, braggy, nominal, relatable, feasible or depressing. Trust me, it’s all relative.

Welp! NUMBERS!

My writing has brought in around $30,000 a year for the past few years. In my biggest month stats-wise this year, my blog and radio show had upwards of 60,000 reads/views/listens. As far as I know, 14,000 is the most Facebook likes I’ve gotten for an article, and I’m just about to hit 7,000 likes on my Girl Boner Facebook page. Soon, I’ll reach half a million blog hits. Add all that up and what do you get? Honestly, I don’t really know or care—and perhaps therein lies my ginormous problem opportunity for positive change. (Have I mentioned that I’m a work-in-progress?)

I’m glad I’m not a “numbers person,” and that like many creatives, I value art and outreach far more than money or things. If I want to reach as many people as possible using my skills, experience and passion for greater good, though (and what activist doesn’t?) money can’t be an invisibly-inked afterthought. Financial wealth certainly can’t be something I fear or consider bad or “not typically for artists.”

The whole sexy shebang

When I look back on my life, I see a direct correlation between financial upset and insecurity. When my whole darn life feels sexy, I thrive in all ways—and I know I’m not a rare example. I don’t think I’ve ever fully embraced the idea of financial success for myself, adamantly believing that if you follow your heart and pursue your passions, money will follow. I still believe that and have experienced it repeatedly. I’ve never had a conventional job and have always supported myself fairly well—er, minus my stint of homelessness… What I hadn’t realized until recently is the importance of a truly abundant mindset.

Rocco asked me how I would feel about making a million dollars. “Sounds…fancy!” I yelped. Honestly, I couldn’t even fathom it, unless we were talking Monopoly-ese. “What about reaching a million people?” he asked. My heart did the happy hula. What if to reach a million, I have to make a million, he asked, or at least aim a great deal higher and expect more than I have been? What if I could afford to fly across the country today for a speaking opportunity or to help someone who desperately in need? His point shone in neon.

“Is that level of success doable?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, and meant it.

My starter goal is to double my income within the next 12 months through meaningful work, so that I can reach many more people with my message of self and sexual embracement. This will require intense efforts I’ve already started, most of which is of the heart/mind variety. I have to move past my fear of asking people to invest financially in my mission and dream bigger and bolder than ever before. (I totally dig that last part!) Money isn’t the opposite of a giving, loving heart, I’ve realized; it’s as beautiful or useful as we make it.

So you can make your checks out to… JUST KIDDING! I would’ve hired Rocco or another life coach with Tony Robbins’ company—seriously awesome people and philosophies, but I can’t afford it—yet. (The irony!) So I’m taking it upon myself to kick my own butt, which I’m quite fond of doing.

Toward this end (pun embraced!), I’m aiming to:

♣ Join forces with an awesome, sex-positive sponsor for my Girl Boner brand.

♣ Write for more major publications, broadening my journalism reach.

♣ Land a book contract with a major publisher (with the help of my stellar agent, Jill Marr).

♣ Create and sell empowering merchandize.

♣ Meditate routinely and try yoga. If yoga helps, stick with it.

♣ Continue to give my all on Girl Boner Radio and other shows.

♣ Continue to surround myself and have adventures with fabulous, like-minded people.

♣ Spill my guts on all of this in a blog post.(CHECK! :))

♣ Take a bold step toward greater abundance and financial success Every. Darn. Day.

Abundance is a mindset, not a finish line.

Greatness comes when we live authentically, especially when it requires stepping into the uncomfortable. Sometimes doing so allows us to heal wounds that have lingered for years. When I look at my wedding ring now, I’m reminded of the shimmery treasures that materialize when we never stop working on ourselves or our lives. And when I pass a dollar store or a homeless person, I’m reminded that we’re all more alike than we realize. Money doesn’t make us better or different than anyone else, but it can help us help those who need it.

Last week I had the sheer joy of attending Katy Perry’s concert in LA with one of my favorite people, Sheri Fink. The VIP experience was a luxury I never would have considered for myself years back—and while such sparkly pink adventures aren’t likely to happen every day, we can perpetually have glimmers. Just imagine what would happen if we all embraced and nurtured them. We just might illuminate the world.

August McLaughlin_Sheri Fink_Katy Perry LA

 

Do you have a sexy relationship with money? What related goals are you working toward? Have you ever been semi or fully homeless? Do I ask bizarre questions? LOL I love hearing from you! ♥