The Myth of the Starving Artist

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The Quiz

Is the “starving artist” image just a myth?  This 3 minute

quiz will instantly test your Well-fed artist savvy.

Do you have what it takes to be a Six Figure artist?

Quiz: Starving Artist-Myth or Reality?

Myth # 1. The term “Wealthy Artist” is an Oxymoron T or F?

Myth #2. It’s all about who you know. T or F?

Myth #3. Most artists are introverts and aren’t comfortable promoting their

own work. T or F?

Myth #4. I will need a large sum of money upfront if I want someone else

to represent my work. T or F?

Myth #5. Only the most gifted artists make serious money doing their art.

T or F?

Myth #6. You’ll have a much better chance of commanding high prices for

your work if you have a degree in Fine Art, preferably an MFA  from one of

the top academies. T or F

Myth # 7. If you plan to open a gallery, you should have an MBA. T or F

Myth #8. It isn’t valid art if it’s commercial. True artists wouldn’t put a dollar

value on their work. T or F?

Myth # 9 I can’t compete with the importers who claim to be selling

handmade.  T or F?

Myth #10. People don’t buy art in a bad times. T or F?

Myth # 11. Artists don’t have health insurance or retirement programs. If I

do my craft full time, I will have to give up the benefits and security of my

day job. T or F?

Myth # 12. Most creative people don’t have interest or aptitude in the

business side of art and wouldn’t know where to begin to draw up a

business plan. T or F?

Myth #13. Most startups fail for lack of sufficient capital. T or F?

The Truth

Now Let’s See What’s Myth and What’s Reality.

Myth # 1. The term “Wealthy Artist” is an Oxymoron T or F?

Most of us grew up hearing that the arts were fine for hobby but that we’d

never make a living as an artist, writer, musician, dancer or actor.  The

same teachers, parents and guidance counselors warned that if you didn’t

go to college, you’d never make more than minimum wage. When I was in

high school, the technical courses were for those who couldn’t cut it on the

college prep track.  Those were the kids thought of as “least likely to

succeed”. Fast forward a couple of decades and the “technical track”

students frequently out-earn their classmates who went on to earn

advanced degrees. Students were encouraged to take the courses that

would make them desirable candidates for corporate positions. Those of

us who did chose the arts were warned, “If you are going to study art, at

least choose commercial art so that you won’t starve.” And of course the

possibility of an artist being an entrepreneur was not even mentioned.

(although I was fortunate enough to have a different experience, but more

on that later.)  I even recall hearing a teacher say “the only wealthy artist is

a dead artist” and “musicians don’t make any money while they are still

alive.”

The idea of artists only becoming known or popular post-mortem may have

been the case pre-information age, when an artist spent all his time in a

studio and the only people who knew about his work were those he met at

the local pub. That was good networking but he wasn’t reaching the

patrons who had money to purchase art. Now, most successful artists

reach well beyond their own neighborhood to establish a following.  Yes,

we all know talented artists who spend their days in unsatisfying jobs so

that they can afford to do their art on the side, but many painters,

sculptors, jewelers, songwriters and performing artists make impressive

incomes and support themselves solely on their art.  These high earning,

successful artists aren’t any more gifted or skilled at their craft than the

those eating hot dogs in basement apartments or working corporate and

government jobs to pay the bills. The difference is not talent or training, it’s

all about getting your work in front of the audience who will pay well for it.

And getting your work seen by the people who will purchase it isn’t so

difficult once you know the steps to take to make it happen.

Myth #2. It’s all about who you know. T or F?

To some extend, yes it is true that it comes down to “who you know”. But,

again, our audience is no longer limited by geography and most of us have

friends, clients and business associates we’ve never met face to face.

Word about anything spreads so much faster than it did even a year ago.

And you needn’t be a technical whiz or even spend your day online to get

your work out there. There are simple, low cost, specific methods and

vehicles for getting your work to the national or even global market.

Myth #3. Most artists are introverts and aren’t comfortable promoting their

own work. T or F?

True, some artists are introverts, just like some people in every field are

introverts

If you don’t have the “schmoozing” skills, no problem-there are many ways

around that, if you aren’t afraid to delegate. And it won’t break the bank.

Even shy artists can be six figure artists.

Myth #4. I will need a large sum of money upfront if I want someone else

to represent my work. T or F?

False: agents and reps work on a commission basis. You don’t pay

anything until your work is sold. Even if you don’t work with a rep, there are

many other low cost or no cost vehicles for getting your work in front of

people who will pay you well for it.

Myth #5. Only the most gifted artists make serious money doing their art.

T or F?

False again.   Income is not a reflection of talent.  Some of the best selling

artists are not necessarily the most gifted or skilled. Someone with

mediocre talent can have a prosperous career if they know how to put the

right products in front of the right people.

Myth #6. You’ll have a much better chance of  commanding high prices for

your work if you have a degree in Fine Art, preferably an MFA  from one of

the top art academies. T or F

False .. There is no question that you must hone your craft so that what

you put out is a quality product you are proud to stand behind. However,

credentials have no baring on an artist’s earning potential. When a patron

sees your work, it’s most often the emotions it evokes that compel them to

purchase. If a piece speaks to them, they aren’t the least concerned with

where or with whom you trained, or if you finished your degree. What sells

your piece is how they will feel wearing it, living with it, listening to it or

viewing it.

Myth # 7. If you plan to open a gallery, you should have an MBA. T or F

False-Most business programs in colleges prepare you for the corporate

world not entrepreneurship. In fact, I spent time recently at a trade show

with a professor friend who taught business at the university level for 40

years. Now partner in a contemporary craft gallery, he admits that the

curriculum in an MBA program is based on corporate theory and does

nothing to prepare you for opening or running small business. Business

schools do not teach PRACTICAL entrepreneurship.  Your time would be

much better spent working for a year in a gallery and getting practical

experience. Or better yet, apprentice or mentor with a coach or consultant

who can guide you through the entire process from selecting a location to

what work will sell best, how to price, merchandise and display.  Hiring a

gallery consultant upfront will save you tens of thousands in the long run

and a coach who has run a successful gallery will teach you aspects of the

business you don’t get in school.

Myth #8. It isn’t valid art if is commercial. True artists wouldn’t put a dollar

value on their work. T or F?

False- DaVinci, Mozart and Dickens didn’t compromise their integrity just

because they produced art for money. They were commissioned to

produce those classic symphonies, masterpieces and literary gems. It

wasn’t selling out for the masters to recognize the connection between

money and art. They needed to eat and understood the value their art had

to society. If you aren’t willing to charge well for what you produce, you are

saying your work is not as important as that of the plumber or mechanic

you pay to perform his service or skill. Once you know where and how to

get your work in front of people who value it, you will feel great about

charging what you are worth.

Myth # 9 I can’t compete with the imports. T or F?

True- if you were mass producing something in an American factory that is

also produced in China and you were paying your workers fair wages. But

you are not producing a manufactured piece and your client base is made

up of people who are seeking the handmade and want the story behind

who you are and how you came to make your art.  That does not mean

you can’t reproduce your work. Making reproductions of some of your work

is the best way for an artist to make passive income and be able to spend

more time doing what you love-creating more art. There are very specific

steps an artist can take to create a piece once and have it continue to

bring in income while you spend time creating.

.

Myth #10. People don’t buy art in a bad times. T or F?

Absolutely false.

If you think back to the months following the tragic events of September

11, 2001, Americans were angry,  frightened and horrified. There was

mass pessimism. That holiday season, retailers reported that there was a

huge increase in handmade, domestic and “comfort” products. In tough

times, people want to be surrounded by things that make them feel good,

that speak to them and affirm the human connection. When people are

frightened or hurting, they crave music, beautiful objects, handmade

candles and yes, even chocolates to remind them that life is basically

good.  In slow economic times, people may spend less overall but when

they do buy, it is important that it is something different and special.

Reports from the recent wholesale trade shows are that the  most

successful markets were actually the handmade segment. Despite all the

cries of poor retail sales this past holiday season, an article in the New

York Times stated that according to the Craft and Hobby Association,

forty-two million people gave handcrafted gifts last year. That’s a lot of

business for crafters, retailers, show promoters, suppliers of craft

materials, teachers and all related fields, even in a “tough economy.” .

Myth # 11. Artists don’t have health insurance or retirement programs. If I

do my craft full time, I will have to give up the benefits and security of my

day job. T or F?

True, if you believe you are absolutely indispensable, that no one else

could possibly do your job and if private or small group insurance were not

an option. Very few employees are honestly secure in their positions. Even

civil service employees are losing hours and benefits and more jobs are

being outsourced. Self employment is the most secure position you can

hold because no boss has your best interest in mind the way you do. And

as far as health and retirement benefits, self employed people come out

much better at the end of the year purchasing their own insurance and

handling retirement savings on their own. Even solo entrepreneurs can

get good insurance rates by joining up with other self employed people in

trade organizations.   We have lots of resources, options and advise on

all these “security” issues. So, benefits and job security are poor reasons

to keep you from doing what you really love.

Myth # 12. Most creative people don’t have interest or aptitude in the

business side of art and wouldn’t know where to begin to draw up a

business plan. T or F?

True, many creative types do not have any interest in the record keeping

and  financial aspects, which is why there are systems and people who

do it for you and most charge very nominal fees to either set up your

books or do them for you. And you DO NOT need a formal business

plan. Yes, you must plan your business but extremely successful

businesses have been planned on post-it notes, whiteboards or even the

back of restaurant menus.  A formal business plan serves only one

purpose and that is to show financiers or investors how quickly you will

repay their loan.  But you aren’t going to apply for financing because you

are NOT going to take out a loan. Which brings us to the next myth.

Myth #13. Most startups fail for lack of sufficient capital. T or F?

Absolutely false. In fact, less start-up money will force you to be more

creative in your solutions. People who have lots of startup cash tend to

throw more money at their errors rather than having to find creative

solutions.  Remember the famous quote, “insanity is doing the same

thing over and over and expecting different results”.  It must have been

inpsired by watching a highly funded entrepreneur pour more and more

money into a failing business rather than stop and examine what wasn’t

working and make creative changes to turn it around. Taking out a

business loan will not guarantee success. In fact, it could actually

hamper your success. If you must borrow money for anything, put it

towards hiring a knowledgeable consultant or coach who has spent time

in the arts business and can save you from making costly mistakes.

So, now that you know the truth about the myth of the starving artist, are

you ready to start making real money doing the work you love? Work that

feels more like play? That thing you know in your heart you were born to

do but have been waiting until “someday” when you can afford to do what

you love, when you retire? Well, you don’t have to wait until someday

because someday doesn’t always come. My friend Jaycee is a

photojournalist but has spent the last several years in an industry that

was draining and left little time or energy for her creative pursuits, but the

money was great and “someday” when she retired, she would get back

to her writing and photography. Recently, that long awaited retirement

happened a bit earlier than expected because the “financial downturn”

took a tole on her industry. Finally, she and her husband would sell their

house and move to a less expensive area of the country where they

could live on less and she would pursue her passion for photography and

finish the novel she drafted ten years earlier. Great plan. Except that the

house, which is where the majority of their retirement income was to

come from, dropped in value by 40% and the week before they were to

move, she went for a routine eye exam and was diagnosed with a

degenerative disease that will eventually leave her blind. We have all

heard these tragic stories of people who waited for “someday” to follow

their heart and that “someday”, if it came, didn’t work out as planned. But

you needn’t wait to pursue your dreams of spending your day doing what

you love. You can do it now and make as much or more money than you

do at that draining  job that leaves you with no time or energy for

creativity.

So, are you ready to get started making a living at your craft?

Whether you are a skilled craftsperson, fine artist, writer, collector or just

have an appreciation or passion for the arts,  knowing the business side

of the art world will enable you to Turn that Craft into Cash and not only

make enough to support your hobby but actually Make a Serious Living

from your Craft.

If you’re still doubting your ability to make a substantial living with craft,

you’ll be thrilled to learn the “Secrets of Six Figure Artists”. You’ll hear

the success stories of painters, potters, sculptors, writers, songwriters,

singers, dancers and people in all different creative areas who are

supporting themselves and their families doing the work they were born

to do.

And if you’re still not sure which of your talents or passions will make you

money, or like many people, feel you need some guidance through the

process, we have several options of coaching to help you plan your new

journey to living your dream.

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