Artists are some of the most forward-thinking people I know, but when it comes to their career, it’s a different story. They convince themselves they can’t make any money at it, or, God forbid, make a living at it. This idea is false. Whether you only want to make a couple of extra bucks a month or you want to support yourself, you CAN make money from your art.
Art does pay. It is important for artists to get paid for their work, not only for their own self-worth, but for other artists, as well. Because every time an artist charges for his art, it makes it easer for the rest of us to charge, too.
Most artists suffer from poverty mentality. I know in improv and theater, I have done years of shows for free and felt lucky just to get stage time. Yes, when you’re starting out, doing shows for free is part of the learning curve. As Malcom Gladwell says in his book, The Tipping Point, if you want to master something you have to put in 10,000 hours. He never said you couldn’t get paid for some of those hours.
The whole “starving artist” stereotype is a myth. All artists, including actors and improvisers, can make a money from their art, and you can even make a living at it. All it takes is believing that it’s possible.
And you don’t have to change your personality or even have a positive mental attitude all the time to make it happen. I should know. I am one of the most negative people I know, and it has worked for me.
My guess is if you are still reading this blog, it’s because things haven’t been going that great in in your career and you are ready to try something differently.
If so, one of the first things you can do to turn your art into a career or at least earn some extra income from your art is to have a goal of where you want your career to go. Because once you know where you want to go, you can start taking steps to get there.
And to do that, you need to start by creating a vision for yourself.
Creating a Vision
Sit down with a notebook and start writing about what you would really like your career to look like.
- Do you want to write a screenplay?
- Create your own musical?
- Have your own talk show?
- Get cast on a sitcom?
Don’t hold back. Let yourself really dream big.
Next, find some people you can talk to about your vision. Ask two people you trust — who see your worth and talent, even when you can’t see in yourself — to sit down with you for an hour as you talk about your vision. Go into as much detail as humanly possible.
This is where most artists get stuck. Their heads begin swimming in negatives messages like “Oh, I don’t need to ask two people. I can do it myself,” or “I don’t want to be a bother” or “what if they say no?” or even worse, “what if they say yes?”
So, let’s take the worst-case scenario and you get your two friends and they say yes. You may have intense feelings come up before you even meet – like happiness and excitement or even unexpected feelings like anger or even sadness.
WARNING: This is a huge step, and it may take you a lot of time, like weeks or months, to get the courage up to ask two people you trust to help you out. Have patience with yourself. If you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable you are on the right path. (You can hate me for saying that.)
Once you get your two people together, have them ask you this question: “If time and money was no object what you like to do in your career?”
Encourage your friends to ask you follow-up questions to flesh out the details. For example, if your vision is to be a screenwriter, your friends could ask you questions like:
- How much money do you want to make a year?
- Where are you going to write your scripts?
- Do you want to have your own office or studio?
- Do you want to have a second home in Los Angeles?
If you aren’t sure about the answers to these questions, just make them up. Don’t think small! It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it or you feel stupid, just try it, because by at least articulating your vision, you are beginning to put it into motion.
ANOTHER WARNING: The committee in your head is going to want to slam the brakes on this and tell you, “You can’t have this! This is silly! You are unrealistic!”
And the bigger and more specific your vision becomes, the louder those voices in your head will get, trying to shout you down. They’re going to be saying to you: “Who do you think you are?”
Hold firm. Stay calm. You are not alone. That is why you asked two friends to help you in the first place, so you can take on the committee in your head. Today is the day you have re-enforcements, you have bodyguards who are ready to kick the committee’s ass for you.
For some artists this “exercise” is as painful as having major surgery, but it’s a matter of life and death to keep your creativity and career alive.
Towards the end of your vision meeting, ask your two friends to give you attainable action steps to help you move toward your vision. When I have helped people out with their visions, this is my favorite part. It’s important to keep the steps gentle and simple.
Here is an example.
Let’s say your vision is to write a memoir. Your friends may give you action steps like:
- Write for 10 minutes a day
- Call that woman in your yoga class who wrote a memoir
- Research online classes on writing a memoir
A FINAL WARNING : After you do this, you’re probably going to have some intense feelings. The first time I did one, I woke up the next day filled with rage. At the time, I told my two friends that I wanted to act on TV shows and be in big studio movies and live in Chicago part of the year and LA the rest of the year. When I was finished they didn’t shoot down my ideas or laugh at me, but instead actually supported me and gave me doable actions steps. And the experience of being supported in my vision was so different from how I was raised that I almost couldn’t believe it.
Once you try this, let me know how it goes. I would love to know how you feel!