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15 Little Life Hacks

Why are artists so terrible with money?

109 Comments- Get free updates of new posts here

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When I was a little kid, my mom sent me to lots of extra-curricular activites (as any Indian/Asian mom does).

One of these was art school. After an art session one day, I brought home my drawing of a tree. It was so bad that my normally supportive mom actually said, “Umm…if you’re going to draw a tree, why don’t you make it look like a tree?”

This explains a lot about why I hate artists (and most non-profits).

Not just because I hate art, but because artists are terrible at marketing themselves and constantly adopt worthless beliefs like:

  • “Charging for my art is selling out”
  • “Good art markets itself”
  • “My goal is to get in a gallery”

I wrote about this in detail when I wrote Attention Whiners: Why you STILL aren’t saving money and highlighted that it’s not tactics, but mindset that often separates people who do from people who whine.

So when iwillteachyoutoberich reader Cory Huff read my guidelines for writing a guest post and pitched me on the Myth of the Starving Artist, I jumped at the chance to run it. Yes, he might accidentally teach a lesson to these godforsaken artists, but mostly it’s just a chance to mock these terribly self-destructive beliefs.

Cory, take it away.

* * *

Cory Huff: The Myth of the Starving Artist

Last week I heard a story about an artist who makes handmade buttons at parties. For $3 he will come to your party, do a custom painting on a 1 inch by 1 inch canvas, and then turn it into a button for you.

For $3.

I couldn’t believe it. Neither could everyone around me who heard the story. It seems like everyone there knew that this artist should be charging more. Too bad that artist didn’t.

Compare that to my friend, we’ll call him John. John makes sculptures. They range in size from very small to very large. He has a thriving business where corporations call him and ask him to build something for them, and they pay whatever he asks. $30,000 – $50,000 was his last asking price that I heard.

What’s the difference? It’s a matter of beliefs.

The Starving Artist Myth

Many artists have bought into a romanticized notion that art is somehow more legitimate if it is created by poor people. This notion was popularized in the mid-19th century by the writer Henri Murger, who wrote Scènes de la vie de bohème a famous French novel about a group of poor artists living in the Bohemian quarter of Paris. The book was wildly popular and it became trendy to be a poor artist.

Over the last 150 years, Murger’s ideas became entrenched in popular culture, and artists hold to the notion that art is a product of the financially unsound and morally superior.

The Starving Artist Myth forces artists down a path that isn’t helpful.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she was trying to raise some extra money because she wanted to move to NYC to pursue her dream. I was really excited for her because she’s a tremendously talented artist. I messaged her and offered to help her come up with some good ways to do that (I do a lot of work with artists, especially in teaching them how to sell art online). A week went by without hearing from her, then two. I messaged her again, hoping to use her as a source for this article, but a week later all I had heard from her is that she’s too busy working at her survival job.

Many artists believe that the poverty and suffering that comes from this kind of busyness is conducive to better art – but I disagree. Being in touch with emotion and having strong technique make better art. Poverty and suffering are distractions that pull us away from being able to do the things that we really love doing.

Artists are not the only people to fall into this trap.

It is my opinion, and some will want to lynch me for this, that artists and entrepreneurs come from very similar backgrounds. They have a passion for something that can make a difference in people’s lives. They want to do that passion all the time – some of them just don’t know how to support themselves while doing it.

How to Dispel the Starving Artist Myth

Remember: Normal = Poor. Crazy = Rich. People expect a lot of crazy, creative things from artists and entrepreneurs, and they’re willing to pay for it. Whatever you do, do it with gusto. Look at Ramit. He teaches people how to be rich, and he does it with flair and excitement, and a lot of passion. He makes people some people angry – but he’s making a ton of money doing it. People love him for the passion that he has. If people love someone like Ramit, they’ll love artists even more (sorry, Ramit – as much as you make fun of us, people love artists).

Do something people love, and eventually it will catch on. When I first saw Etsy.com, I thought it was garbage. All I saw was a bunch of home made doilies that weren’t even all that well done. But you know what, people LOVED Etsy. Artists who turned up their nose at the site now sell original works for over $3,000. Etsy has developed a reputation for having high quality, original merchandise that appeals to buyers of all kinds.

Take advantage of the Warhol Economy. Andy Warhol created a movement that revived New York City. City planners took advantage of the burgeoning art scene to create incentives that attracted more businesses to the parts of New York that were dying. There are cities all over the country that are desperately trying to attract artist communities to their cities. You can read more about it in Elizabeth Currid’s PhD dissertation turned book, The Warhol Economy (which, by the way, is a great example of how to turn your god-given talents in to money).

Give yourself permission to make money. This is one that I struggled with early as an artist, and again as a budding entrepreneur. I didn’t believe that it was possible to make the kind of money that I make now. I would sabotage myself by passing on opportunities because I didn’t think they’d really pan out. When something great would happen to me, I would tell myself it was luck and that it probably wouldn’t happen again. Once I flipped that switch, it changed everything for me.

How did I flip that switch? I’ll simply say that it took two things: changing the connection between my self-worth and money; and learning what I needed to do in order to make money.

Protect your vision. When you aim to change your life many people around you will attempt to take you down. Most of the time it won’t be intentional. Your friends and family, as well as coworkers and other acquaintances, will question your decisions, even your motivation. This can be demoralizing and cripple your efforts before you ever get started. Find people who encourage instead of question and support instead of doubt (or, even better, you can call out whiny complainers before they gain any momentum).

“But I don’t know how!” It’s almost impossible to make it as an entrepreneur without some help. Whether you pay someone or find an amazing mentor who will help you for free, you need someone more experienced than you to help out.

Who knows what the future holds for that $3 painter or my actress friend who wants to move to New York City? It could well be that they find their niche and end up fabulously successful – but first they’ll have to make the decision to be ready for more. They’ll have to stop believing in the Myth of the Starving Artist.

* * *

Cory Huff is an actor turned entrepreneur who teaches artists how to sell art online at TheAbundantArtist.com.


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The Amazing Spider-Ads
6 years 6 months ago

Obviously it’s just as true that those that are great at money are terrible at art.

Mike
6 years 6 months ago

Hey cool post.

FYI, the first link to your site is broken: it brings us to ‘the abundant ant artist’. Weird!

I really enjoyed the “normal=poor; crazy=rich” section.

Erin McGuire
6 years 6 months ago
Hey there. I’m an illustrator at an animation studio, and I freelance illustration and children’s books on the side. I don’t know if I’m a great example of the artist-entrepreneur, but I’m making a comfortable living and paying down my debt pretty quickly. I have a few experiences and thoughts I’d like to mention, since this topic only comes up rarely. There is a romantic, bohemian notion of the artist just doing art for art’s sake, but too often the extreme end of the spectrum ruins it for the rest of us. Typically these are “fine artists” and the starving… Read more »
Sophie Oudman
5 months 6 days ago

Hi Erin,

Thanks for your comment! I am a starting illustrator, I graduated one year ago and I’m 25 years old now. I don’t want to waste time and become a well payed artist on a young age. Do you have any tips about where to start?

Thank you!!

Best regards,
Sophie Oudman

Carlos
4 months 25 days ago

Great comment. Art and Design are hard work and like @pye mentions a few comments below, if the artist does not value their work first then there is no way to sell that work for what it’s worth.

There is a supply and demand factor but if you position yourself as a complete solution you can charge what the work is really worth. That comes down to how professional you are as an artist.

Cheers,
Carlos
instagram.com/carlossketches

Carlos
4 months 25 days ago

Sophie,

I hope you’ve found a path. Here is what I would advice you.

It takes showing up to work and being unknown for about 2 years before you might gain some traction, but that does not mean you should be starving during this time. Seanwes has a great video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wghih3H27E

Cheers,
Carlos
instagram.com/carlossketches

Katy
6 years 6 months ago

I agree with Erin 100%. I’m an artist in video games and see the same attitudes when it comes to art that isn’t technically challenging. It’s hard to charge a decent amount of money for art if you aren’t a “big name” even if your work is good. Few people will buy it.

I’d also like to add that I don’t think the bohemian thing is why artists are often poor. Forget bohemian. Artists as a whole have low to no self esteem when it comes to their work.

Carlos
4 months 25 days ago

So true about the low self esteem. I fight against my self doubt on a daily basis. I think we need to take comfort in the great successful artists that have gone before us, then study and follow in their footsteps.

It takes showing up to work and being unknown for about 2 years before you might gain some traction, but that does not mean you should be starving during this time. Seanwes has a great video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wghih3H27E

Cheers,
Carlos
instagram.com/carlossketches

Hani
6 years 6 months ago

I know what you’re talking about Erin. Too many times people want to get your services for a really cheap price or for free. I used to work as an actor and now I produce videos and I find it hard to price shooting/editing videos for clients.

I agree with the article though. I have stuff that I do on my own – and that I do for my own pleasure for free or otherwise. But business is business and I have no qualms charging for that! 🙂

carlos
4 months 25 days ago

Hani,

So true. People will always want to find the cheapest price (including free). It’s up to us to communicate our value. To help the potential customer see that what they are paying for is professional work.

Cheers,
Carlos
instagram.com/carlossketches

Elle
6 years 6 months ago

Growing up, I saw how my father pitch his graphic design skills to businesses. His service was basically turn-key. He positioned himself as the talented artist that gave you stress free service.

My friend is doing that with web design – instead of being the cheapest , he is the complete solution. He charges a premium to businesses looking for that solution. he focuses on what he enjoys and does well with and outsources the rest (I write some of his content). It’s a great way to position yourself.

Alison
Alison
6 years 6 months ago

Great post, and I really appreciate artists getting addressed on a website about wealth. Even though you were willing to write us off, Ramit, I’m glad Cory wasn’t! The psychological block is definitely the toughest one to get over – and the most worthwhile.

cory huff
6 years 6 months ago
Hi everyone! Great comments so far. @Mike – thanks for the heads up on the link. Working on it now. @Erin – at first I thought you were my high school drama teacher. You have the same name. Your illustrations are beautiful! I’ve never had someone explain to me clearly why Thomas Kinkade’s work is so villified. Why does it lack artistic merit? Because he copies it a lot? @Katy – I wasn’t saying that Bohemia was the cause of artists being poor, only the thing that made it popular and chic. @Hani – pricing, selling to clients – that’s… Read more »
Pye
6 years 6 months ago
I find this article to be very truthful. I am a wedding photographer based out of Orange County and have a lot of experience in marketing art and photography. Simply speaking, often times the only thing holding back an artist from making more money is themselves. I have talked to fellow photographers who tell me, “I just don’t feel like my work is good enough to charge $5,000 or $10,000.” The only thing I can think of whenever I hear that statement is, “You are right, if your perception of your own work is that it isn’t worth the money,… Read more »
Yokoso
Yokoso
6 years 6 months ago
Erin your comment was more valuable than the article. The writer of this article might have knowledge about a certain ‘sector’ of art but it does not apply to the broad range of art. In the Contemporary Art world you have to deal with a huge Art industry that is a whole different ball game. Galleries take 50% of your sales(which you will get in no other business!). You have to pay an Art Representative between 10-20% of you sales. Art supply stores have a mark-up of 400%. Some of us also exit art schools with student debt. Self promotion… Read more »
Ramit Sethi
6 years 6 months ago

Btw, we have tons of artists (photographers, designers, etc) in my Earn1k course. I think they’re already more likely to be successful because they’ve realized that they can apply entrepreneurship/marketing principles to their art.

Yokoso, I hope to see you inside next time.

cory huff
6 years 6 months ago
@Yokoso – Thank you for your valuable feedback. I think we’re on the same page in many ways. If you take a look at my site, TheAbundantArtist.com, you’ll see several articles that deal with the gouging of artists by middlemen and how independent artists can get around running the gauntlet of galleries. In fact, that’s a good idea for a series of blog posts – how to get around the galleries. There are a few dozen Contemporary Artists who are doing a smashing job of thinking outside the box. Natasha Wescoat, Hazel Dooney, and Val from Val’s Art Diary are… Read more »
Erin McGuire
6 years 6 months ago
Thanks Cory! When I was in school, we actually talked a lot about Kinkade in our art history class at one point, because good or bad, he is an interesting figure. I think it’s a matter of taste (so no offense if anyone here owns and loves their Kinkade) but, the problem with his work is that it seems to be the lowest common denominator of wall art. His work is intentionally as unchallenging as possible in every way, and just offers nothing but saccharine sweet aesthetic. To me, liking Kinkade is like enjoying elevator music. Sure, elevator music is… Read more »
Ken Siew
6 years 6 months ago
I have friends who are talented but do not recognize that and instead get stuck in a job where they can’t really express their artistic side. It’s unfortunate but it happens to many of us, and I have to admit that it’s tough to strike the balance between making art and paying bills. However, I truly believe you need to flip the switch from making art to making art AND money. We know you want to do whatever you love, but why not learn about business/marketing and then make great art and money? As Cory said, if you can make… Read more »
Austin Gunter
6 years 6 months ago

Love this one. I had a writing prof tell me that he lived in a van until he was 32 and FINALLY starting getting paid for his writing. He then told me that I too could make it, and to never sell out my “fellow artists” for a paycheck.

Thanks for posting this, it’s a breath of fresh air for those of us whose craft involves creating business with our talents.

Steve O
Steve O
6 years 6 months ago

Great post. And I do think it applies to business owners almost as much as artists.

Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years 6 months ago

This is an excellent post. My main takeaway really is that, artist or not, you project or set your own worth. If you think you’re worth minimum wage, that’s what you’re going to get.

Not to say that we should all be entitled even if we do not deliver the goods, but often enough, it seems that our natural inclination is to have lower self-worth… This translates in: Not asking for raises, not asking for promotions, not shooting for a higher position when applying for jobs etc.

Lauren
6 years 6 months ago
I work in marketing for a nonprofit arts organization, and I think that this conversation is missing a little context. @Yokoso up there gets into it a little bit. Here’s the real problem in the marketplace: both individual arts and artists suffer from a ridiculously-proportioned supply and demand problem. Consider this, from Americans for the Arts annual Arts Index report: “Nonprofit arts organizations…grew in number from 73,000 to 104,000 [from 1998 to 2008.] That one out of three failed to achieve a balanced budget even during the strongest economic years of this decade suggests that sustaining this capacity is a… Read more »
cory huff
6 years 6 months ago

@Lauren – you’ve really hit the nail on the head. It’s tough to give a complete context of how the art world operates in a post like this, so I’m glad that you and Yokoso dropped some comments to fill that in.

Your three choices there at the end are what it really comes down to. Converting your skills into the ability to make money and produce things people actually want is a separate activity from making things that are personally fulfilling that may not ever sell.

Some art is just not marketable. Love it.

Kelly
6 years 6 months ago
One problem for artists / entrepreneurs is that people around them say people would never pay $XX for your product, but really that person would never pay at all. It is easy to think you just need to find the right price, but really you need to find the right customers. The real question is what will someone pay who is actually planning to buy it. Every piece of art will only appeal to a certain number of people and of those people only a certain number will be willing to buy. Of all the people who read this blog… Read more »
Glendon Cameron
6 years 6 months ago
This post hit the nail right on the head! I am a artist and I never let that “struggling artist crap penetrate. Life is what you make of it and you should ASK for what you are worth. I recently wrote a book about my old business and in the world of books the price is high $50.00 and I can’t keep up with the demand! It was suggested that I sell my book between 12.50-19.99 to make it competitive! People will actually shy away from some things if they are too cheap! I know a lot of very talented… Read more »
Yokoso
Yokoso
6 years 6 months ago
@ Lauren (comment #18) Very wise words based in reality. To add to what you said: When Picasso was born the world population was 978 million, and lets say for argument sake the artist per capita was one out of 30. Today our population is 6.7 billion, so one out of 30 becomes a big exponential number (I leave the math for a brain out there). Somehow the art buyer did not grow the same way. There is just so many objects the world and its collections can swallow up on top of the already existing art/objects from the previous… Read more »
Kathy Mitro
1 year 1 month ago
Yokoso You are so right . i think in order for new art to become valuable enough to compete with the valuable patina age bestows on old masterpieces it must be cutting age new and original. if you are merely reworking art that has been done for centuries old is going to win out every time, and there are so many van goghs still available to collectors . This is why artists like Koons and Hirst push the envelope and win big time. Whether people like or hate their art it literally screams out from the crowd and is modern… Read more »
Mneiae
Mneiae
6 years 6 months ago

There is an opposition between artists and business people. According to Holland codes, they are diametrically opposed. Both deal in ideas, but conservatives (the first inclination of most businesspeople) like really concrete ideas while artists like abstract ideas. This is why they clash.

Me? I’m a conservative artistic 🙂 Go figure.

I don’t think that artists necessarily must be poor, but I do believe that there needs to be some suffering. It spurs art. Look at Guernica.

Kahlil Ashanti - GigSmacked.com
As a successful actor who started off on the road to excuses I really appreciate Cory’s insight here. I lived in my truck for months while I wrote my one person show and the demand is insane. Wasn’t a choice, it was a means to an end. I’m more on the same page of Glendon Cameron too. I think success as an artist comes from being world class at what you do (read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) and hopefully that one thing is in demand. There is no template you can apply to artists from every genre when it comes… Read more »
Rebecca
Rebecca
6 years 6 months ago
I believe people will pay for art if it speaks to THEM. I was an art/art history major in school and I grew so tired of the long winded-ness of the Artist’s statement and how the *artist* felt or what the *artist* was trying to communicate. I wanted to learn how to make things (like bronze sculptures), not carry on about why I drew that line there. But that’s not the norm for Academia. I felt like they actually taught us to be self-obsessed which is the complete opposite of good marketing. I think it was the obsession with everything… Read more »
Kathleen
6 years 6 months ago
There is certainly a strange psychological balancing act that goes on in some areas of art (and writing): the quality of creative output is very subjective and to improve it is often necessary to cultivate dissatisfaction, to never be entirely happy with your work but to keep striving to improve it. Together, these can make it easy for some artists to undervalue. I’m learning that you need to look more at time/experience in pricing art than at the art itself (which some people will love and some people will hate, however good or awful it is). I’ve also heard that… Read more »
Jeff Tong
6 years 6 months ago

I too was a victim of this myth. I had been continuously feed the “starving artist” myth. I remember once at a Black Tie event, the photographers had lowered their prices so much that they were barely surviving off their hard work. They told me… “Oh, you know, it’s because of the starving artists thing…”

I truly agree that flipping that “switch” to self-worth is what’s most important sometimes. I see great work, but it’s sad to see such dedicated artists working so hard just to belittle themselves to $3 products.

Thanks for the enlightening advice.

Glendon Cameron
6 years 6 months ago
Kahlil-I was an art student ( sculpting and water color) I think part of the problem is as referenced before there is a certain nobility of being a starving artist ( total crap) I was also the dude that blew up more pieces in the kiln than anyone else ( I take risks) in a competitive world and art is very competitive because from the toddler in kindergarten to the whacked out uncle everyone is making art, now how much of it is is good is very subjective. However that is not the problem, the biggest problem is the lack… Read more »
Noadi
6 years 6 months ago
As an artist who is good with her money and making a nice income I’ll just say if I wrote what I really think of your post it would probably set off some sort of profanity filter. There are plenty of artists making a good living off their art and who manage their money well. However those stories don’t make for the right stereotype and if we don’t conform to this stereotype we must not exist right? Most artists who undercharge aren’t making their art a business, It’s a fun hobby and they sell their work because if they didn’t… Read more »
Chris Horner
6 years 6 months ago
I think it’s mostly a matter of confidence, as has been mentioned repeatedly above. IMO, people are afraid to ask for real and reasonable money for their work, and that drags overall prices down when someone basically gives away their services for free. They’re uncomfortable with asking for money and don’t do a good job educating people as to why their price is justified. In other words, it’s sales 101. Personally, I’m a photographer who is enrolled in Ramit’s Earn1k class, and I’m learning a lot about analyzing my offerings to my market to make sure it’s marketable. That goes… Read more »
Kevin Khachatryan
6 years 6 months ago
Living very close to the North Hollywood arts district, I have met numerous artists, from both ends of the spectrum. I know one artist, he has a 2 million dollar house in Hollywood Hills and enjoys a comfortable life as a painter and an activist. I also know numerous art school graduates who are jobless. I believe the single most important difference between the successful and ‘starving’ artists is their self-confidence and how much they feel their work is NEEDED. The unemployed artists always feel like art is not that important and turn to other careers while their talents falter,… Read more »
Justin's Advice
6 years 6 months ago

Wow Ramit- seems like you’ve struck a nerve here :-p

I’m still pretty new to the marketing scene, but one thing I’ve heard lots of places is that expensive stuff SELLS. Just because its expensive people think its much higher quality.

Theres countless stories of struggling stores who would double the price of their merchandise and sell out in no time, because people think price = quality.

I’ll keep this post in mind next time I run across a buddy (or myself!) trying to market great products for less than they’re worth!

Evan
Evan
6 years 6 months ago

@ramit’s mom
Trees already look like trees.

@Ramit
Worst advice you never took.
Saving money will always be about spending less than you make and trees will always have bark and leaves. An artist will add what no one else can. Their personal view of the world.

I hope you don’t really hate yourself.

Jules
6 years 6 months ago
The main reason I haven’t tried to make money off my art (photography and painting) is that I have no idea how to start. I’ve worked as a scientist–and a damn good one–for my entire adult life, and while I entertain notions of doing photography as a full-time job, the idea is so fraught with uncertainty that, frankly, I’m happy to leave it as a hobby. Let me put it this way: it’s not that I have any qualms about selling the stuff I do at a price that will sustain me. It’s that I have no idea how to… Read more »
Jackie
6 years 6 months ago
Fascinating post and comments! Really appreciate your writing, Cory. I’m a classical musician and I hear this stuff all. the. time. Last week, a potential client came over — shocked, stunned, and frankly suspicious– to find a musician lived in a nice place instead of subsisting in a decrepit hovel. (I smiled sweetly as I mentally calculated his rate increase.) My observations: *There is a strain of Puritanism within our culture: If you are doing something you love, a “fun job,” then you have already received your reward. You better not think of charging a worthy price for it. This… Read more »
cory huff
6 years 6 months ago

@Noadi – there are a lot of artists who struggle to get by. Good ones, bad ones, and in-between. Dichotomies like you are setting up don’t service anyone. The truth is that there are a lot of artists, and a lot of entrepreneurs, who self-sabotage. I’ve done it. Ramit’s done it. I would be you’ve done it too. There’s no shame in it, as long as you break the pattern and keep growing.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion.

Question: if you recognize the starving artist in yourself, what are you going to do about it?

Evan
Evan
6 years 6 months ago
@ramit I was going to just leave it open for interpretation but the last thing I want to do is insult you. In all honesty the hair went up on the back of my neck when I read that you “…hate artists.” I actually read the entire post 3 times before I realized the term artist is used way too loosely. Given enough time, practice, and now technology anyone can render objects realistically. The symbol we all recognize as tree is static just like the concept of saving. We all see the world differently but share a common language in… Read more »
Evan
Evan
6 years 6 months ago

How rude of me. Thanks for the post Cory.

Chris Horner
6 years 6 months ago

@ Cory already recognized it in myself about a year ago. So I revamped my offerings, made the final production of much higher quality than it originally was, and hiked my prices accordingly. Even as a relative ‘beginner’, just having a more professional approach and product has things moving in the right direction, and this year I want to get a full head of steam behind that momentum and keep it moving.

Phil Johnson
6 years 6 months ago
Very interesting post and lots of great comments that I’d like to read closer when I’m not so tired. 🙂 I make a reasonable living with my art (comedy and music), but I know plenty that don’t. And I think a big part of it is that 1. We don’t know when it’s good and 2. We’re conditioned to not think it’s good. Certainly most veteran comics will tell you that you don’t even start to get good until you’d been doing it 10 years. And when public acceptance is spotty, you don’t know if what you’re doing is good… Read more »
John
John
6 years 6 months ago

Anyone else really disappointed with this blog lately? I find myself reading / visiting this site less and less. I’m not sure why though.

Maybe it’s because we’ve strayed away from common Joe Shmoe problems / solutions and are now more into niche business people advice. Your losing your touch, Ramit.

cocco
6 years 6 months ago
If you don’t like the blog, why read it? There’s so much to read out there, I can’t imagine that you can’t find something you like. The conversation here is interesting and hits at many different interesting points. Psychology is a huge part an artist’s income, and an artist must have thick skins to succeed. We say in photography, if you aren’t being rejected, you aren’t trying hard enough. Yet a thick skin in some way opposes the need for an artist to be sensitive, open and creative. You have to have huge respect for yourself and your creations so… Read more »
Alison
Alison
6 years 6 months ago
@Cory – I think the psychological block is part parents freaking out about how their children will make a living (I come from first-and-second-generation immigrant families), part glorification of sports over art in school (sports make money and are exciting to watch), and part plain reality: It IS hard to make money in a pursuit that is so highly subjective. I also think there is that whole dangerous bohemian culture thing, where if you’re not living on ramen in an apartment where the bathtub is in the kitchen, you’re not a SERIOUS artist. Which is the other problem: If you’re… Read more »
idrawgirls
6 years 6 months ago
Well, well,…I read your blog often and it’s really informative. I have to DISAGREE with this post. 🙂 Those artists you are talking about are probably just a wanna be or a self proclaim artists with no clients, with all do respect. If you are good and make it into the real world of professional, then you will make good living. I work in a professional art field for video games and movies, and none of them that I know are starving and most of them are pretty badass artists. I just think that some people are just lazy and… Read more »
dora
6 years 6 months ago
Some artists undervalue their work out of fear. In fact, fear is responsible for many issues including being blocked creatively, fear of failure, and fear of success. A few books worth reading are The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron,The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and I’d Rather Be in the Studio, by Alysson Stanfield. Each has info on many artist’s issues. I also have a shop on Etsy with original art and other items. It’s not as easy to sell art there as it is little junky items, believe me. The artists on Etsy are very talented, but the… Read more »
Fern Alix LaRocca CFP®
6 years 6 months ago

I have had a lot of starving artist clients and they are warm, wonderful people but just don’t know how to play business.

That’s the thing about the corporate types -they know how to present themselves- brand themselves,-package it up – but a big shiny bow on themselves and make everyone pay the big bucks to get to them and their work.

Somehow artists never develop that.

TZ
TZ
9 months 8 days ago

Because it already takes SO MUCH energy just creating the art in the first place. Very little hard drive space to do anything else, at least for me.

Lenny
Lenny
6 years 5 months ago

The only part of this great article I question is whether starvation foments creativity. Recall the old Chinese cliche, ‘pain makes man think’. When a great artist finally figures out how to make money he/she is said to have ‘sold out’. This may in fact be true in many cases but I dont think it has to be that way. The sold out are burnt out that have turned their heads to profit. There are great artists who know how to make money and who value themselves. Case in point – Ramit.

geri
6 years 5 months ago

@Ramit – It’s good to hear there are some artists in your Earn 1k course. Am still not earning enough to do it, but hopefully will in the future. Also I’m glad that you’ve lead us to Cory, despite the fact you hate artists 🙂 Thanks!

Jonny | thelifething.com
6 years 5 months ago

Granted but it is also worth bearing in mind that you need to create things of value, preferably lasting value also.

Evan
Evan
6 years 5 months ago
Here’s a strategy for any budding “starving artist.” Get a job at a restaurant. Isn’t it ironic? No, in fact it makes perfect sense. As long as you choose a restaurant with the central control within the restaurant (ie. no chains) I have living proof sitting right next to me. Promotional illustrator by day and waitress by night. Here’s how it works: She approached the owner and identified herself as a freelance illustrator. The owner sensing the advantage of having such talent in house asked to see an example. She mocked up a promo card for some specials and gave… Read more »
Lori Duprey
6 years 5 months ago
This is an outstanding entry! The post itself was flawed, but the comments more than made up for that. I learned a lot by reading the comments on this post! One point someone made earlier is huge: the amount of artists in the world has grown exponentially, but the art buyers have not kept up in the same proportions. With the economy the way it is, many people are losing their day jobs, and trying to give it a go with their “hobby” of photography. Some people should have made the switch years ago, as they are very talented and… Read more »
cory huff
6 years 5 months ago

Lori, I love your comment. There are indeed many artists who are more than willing to charge more, who are not working as starving artists – but several of the comments on this very post actually prove the point I was trying to make.

Look the through the comments and see some of the excuses. Artists using their lack of connections, lack of skill, lack of confidence, lack of whatever as an excuse to not succeed.

dora
6 years 5 months ago

It’s ridiculous to call artist’s lazy or that they lack skills and confidence or connections. Artist’s just need help becoming business people, thinking in business terms rather than from emotions where art lives. Please do not suggest we lack. We just need guidance and direction to overcome resistance (fear) and think with the other side of our brain. Most of the artists I know have no problem pricing their art very well. The buyers are the ones who go to “Starving Artists” hotel sales to find something that fits their couch for nothing.

Lex
Lex
6 years 5 months ago

You are so far off the mark with this post. Get off your soap box.

sara
sara
6 years 5 months ago

I agree 100% with Erin’s post (#3), and Yokoso (#10) as well.

It takes everything I have to produce quality work: and if that’s what I’m doing, my focus is there. Of course, I could take more time to become expert at marketing and administration it would take away from the time it takes (me) to create.

This is not attitude; it’s reality, and the trap many of us find outselves in. I would love to see these issues addressed in a post someday…

Evan
Evan
6 years 5 months ago
@Yokoso & @Sara You may find this article inspiring. @Sara I totally empathize with you but…. You already have all the talent, tools, and passion you’ll ever need (I know this without even looking at your work). The answers to all your questions are already inside you. The answers are metaphorically locked in a box and the key is sitting right next to your keyboard (or did you leave it on the nightstand?) Before you unlock the box think about why you’ve been staring at it for so long. Are you fearful of something? What are the consequences of opening… Read more »
Christian Cabuay
6 years 5 months ago

Great article and it really hit home. I do art part-time and make a good 2nd income compared to part-time artists (I think).

I 1st started doing my art for FREE then charged a small fee and doubled the price a year later. Interest and income has continued to increase.

It’s probably because my artwork is very niche and I’m probably less than 10 artists that specialize in the Filipino writing script (Baybayin).

anon
anon
6 years 5 months ago

Can you spot the cultural assumption in this post?

mmeetoilenoir lurktastique
mmeetoilenoir lurktastique
6 years 5 months ago
@anon – When someone has nothing of significance to contribute, they instantly go for the insults. Ramit is pretty much expected to say something self-deprecating during each of his posts. Yes, it’s not PC. Laugh, or take that teachable moment mess to Jezebel 😛 On-topic: I wish you guys would put some sense into my father’s head. He’s one of the best jazz guitarists in the world, has recorded over a dozen records and used to tour (he’s still an active performer…kinda). However, he’s completely eaten up by the “starving artist” thing, so he won’t market himself to any people… Read more »
mmeetoilenoir lurktastique
mmeetoilenoir lurktastique
6 years 5 months ago

Anon – Ah. I see what you did there. My apologies.

Forex Manager
6 years 5 months ago

I guess it’s a right side VS left side of the brain thing.

Silvia
6 years 5 months ago
Hi Ramit and Cory, it’s the first time I leave a comment to a blog post, but I felt compelled to do so, as what both you guys wrote was quite enlightening! I don’t agree 100% on what you wrote Cory ( i think that Yokoso had one or two points, contemporary art world is a jungle ) but the whole concept of ” swichting your relationship between your self-worth and money”… whoa… I couldn’t have been more with you on this! I’m setting up my first exhibition with other two budding curators and in these days we are struggling… Read more »
Mary
Mary
6 years 5 months ago
What a great post! I’ve gotten fairly annoyed at Ramit’s comments about artists lately, so this is wonderful. The reason I’ve gotten annoyed is because everyday, I see examples of artists who are not starving, who are making responsible financial decisions. Yes, there are a lot who aren’t doing as well, but it was frustrating to see the generalization over and over again. Anyways. I feel that, from a young age, people who want to make a living out of their art are discouraged from asking for money. There’s the myth of Bohemia. Like some commentators above said, it’s turned… Read more »
Brian
Brian
6 years 5 months ago
I originally studied art. As a painter, I am very innovative and creative. I get very personal in my art, and whenever I had a show, I could tell that my work inspired a lot of deep, introspective thought. None of that is what people wanted. They wanted the kitchy, crappy stuff that was mass produced, or something that matched their sofa. The reality is that some art, although being very thought provoking and possibly world changing, might not be marketable. Some stuff is too deep for people to want to have to look at every day. Amistad and Schindler’s… Read more »
The Rich Blog
6 years 5 months ago

Why are artists so terrible with money? left brain vs. right brain..

Dave
Dave
6 years 5 months ago

Anybody can make a painting. It takes a real artist to sell it.

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[…] If money-making is an art, shouldn’t all artists be rich? I Will Teach You to Be Rich talks about why it seems that artists are bad with money. […]

Sierra Rein
6 years 5 months ago
My thoughts as a musical theater/cabaret singer currently in New York: The draw of performing, working with other artists, growing as an individual creative entity often “feels” like payment on the emotional level, therefore some artists feel unable to charge a certain amount per performance, rehearsal, “gig.” The thought of “oh they want to work with me and like my talent, how could I ask for anything more?” gets in the way. It also often seems like you can’t place a price on one’s talent, and we’re often supposed to be “humble” as performers. We often need agents, managers, someone… Read more »
Na
Na
6 years 5 months ago
I agree with many of the er, disagreements about this post. (Lauren, Yosoko) Half the struggle with artwork is convincing the general public that your price – which covers your costs fairly and reasonably – is worth it. Most people assume that artwork is cheap, and don’t want to spend much on it. I work in puppetry, and most people think that because they can make a puppet out of a sock and some buttons, that you can produce something looking like a Henson muppet for the same cost. The general public need to be as educated as the artist… Read more »
Michael Lobban
6 years 5 months ago
“I hate art [and] artists (and most non-profits).” Ramit this can’t possibly be true. You might consider injecting one or two adjectives into that statement to attribute some clarification, such as “I hate lousy art [and] clueless artists (and most superfluous non-profits).” I’m trying to imagine what Thomas Krens or Tobias Meyer or even Warren Buffet, three individuals part of an esteemed community that oversee and influence a billion-dollar global industry annually, would say in response to just that statement (in context) — which may be nothing beyond a frown and, in Meyer’s case, a few glamorous eye rolls. As… Read more »
Evan
Evan
6 years 5 months ago
If this post proves anything it’s that dictionaries are friggin’ useless. Webster says that art describes something produced as an artistic effort or for decorative purposes and I won’t even go into its usage as a noun. it’s pretty clear that no one really cares what the dictionary says and the meaning of art is unique to all of us. This makes it pointless to continue posting comments. Most of us are defending what art means to us individually to people that don’t care. Not because they are insensitive but because they don’t need anyone to tell them what art… Read more »
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[…] up is from Ramit’s blog : I will teach you to be rich which is a great mindset article which although focuses on why Artists Don’t Make Money, […]

Mneiae
Mneiae
6 years 5 months ago

Ramit, I think that you should get tested by Johnson O’Connor. I think that it would be really interesting to see what kind of natural aptitudes you have. Dexterity with tools that create art would probably not be one of them 🙂 As you do talk about career/life choices here, it would be an interesting topic and one that would spark some interest. Most people who go through testing recommend it to others.

trackback
6 years 5 months ago

[…] Berkshire pick is rocking! First the Alexa Rankings and Then The World by My Journey to Millions. The Myth of the Starving Artist at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Fire your bank with the Switch Bank Accounts Checklist from […]

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[…] really isn’t an excuse. When I did a guest post on IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, there were several artists who opined in the comments section that I was putting artists down, […]

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[…] was around this point I came across Cory’s guest post on IWTYTBR and that theme of ‘The Starving Artist is a Myth’ chimed with everything I had been […]

dwebwalker
10 months 1 day ago

I am an artist, well I can’t say am comfortable, but I can say am, OK, well how can I contact you..

Shannon
Shannon
9 months 22 days ago

I love this…I look at these stories all the time to try and answer my own questions….I have painted for forever now and I would love to be able to do my art for a living….I agree with needing a mentor of some sort..i feel like that would help me with alot of the trouble that I have

Brian
Brian
9 months 17 days ago
I kind of stuff in that position myself, the phase of turning it into an income is not easy, I take any advertising I’ll get, I get a fairly decent amount, but still don’t make anywhere near a livable income, I don’t think I am that talents but I think I could make a living off of it in time. I do mostly graphic design, and digital illustration’s which can take hours to even do something simple, yet my biggest irritation is people asking for free work or for deals. I already do work for next to nothing yet people… Read more »
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9 months 10 days ago

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fuck you paki
fuck you paki
7 months 3 days ago

go back to fucking india or pakistan or whereever you came from, you’re a sandnigger parasite

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[…] came across The Myth of the Starving Artist a while back and recently re-read it. I was struck by the introduction, and my historian’s […]

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[…] It’s all a scam I can break all stereotypes – I will prove that writing does not have to be hard. I will prove that writers do not starve. […]

Josiah Windex
Josiah Windex
4 months 29 days ago

Please change your bio to read: “Cory Hugg couldn’t make money or be successful as an actor.”

andrew
andrew
4 months 27 days ago

Any of you people start out as working class, and have to keep a roof over your head and not have to rely on your husbands/partners, or welfare/benefit system while you try to build up a business? Now I want to hear from that person what their advice would be.

Melissa Yi/Yuan-Innes
3 months 21 days ago

I have a friend who did this. She became a financial planner while doing art on the side.

Hani
3 months 30 days ago

thanks a lot, thats great http://goo.gl/tfeKBm

Melissa Yi/Yuan-Innes
3 months 21 days ago

I find myself in the mid-zone, as I suspect a lot of people do. I value myself and my creative work (writing rather than visual art, in my case). I know I have no interest in starving to death. But I’m trying to figure out the recipe for how to make money from my writing and still feel inspired. One of the things I’m doing is writing non-fiction as well as fiction, because non-fiction is easier to sell, but still making time and energy for the fiction. Thanks for the tips, Cory and Ramit.

bupe
3 months 18 days ago
Urgent! wow!!! your post has amazing info.. thanks for sharing your points ate exactly my thoughts.. my art is drawing and poetry.. and basically anything that involves genius type writings..lol so I’m 20 and this year I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to share my art with the world!! I started a blog where I incorporate both my passions!! I write poetry and sometimes attach drawing that I’ve done! my problem is so far IT’S been a month but I’ve only reached 555 views in total.. I’ve also launched a Facebook page and u share my art… Read more »
showflipper
3 months 9 days ago

Great post, and I really appreciate artists getting addressed on a website about wealth

Angel
Angel
3 months 2 days ago

Hi, I just have to say that there may have been a time when the sculptor would have been happy getting paid cash for a party event. It’s WAY more difficult to sell a large sculpture until you’ve made it. Selling button paintings at $3.00 a pop is food and shelter. Sometimes we need to do what we can on a daily basis. Be grateful if you’re never in that boat.

leo negrete
leo negrete
1 month 21 days ago

Amen brother….stay up

William Moore
William Moore
2 months 29 days ago

I always like to point out to people that say Poor People are better artists that most of the great artists in history where actually from wealthy families… That’s how they afforded to spend there time learning art.

Or they where Nobility… Which is the same thing.

Leonardo Da Vinci used his talents as a artist and inventor to make a pretty good living.

Dan
2 months 19 days ago
Wow! Not sure why Ramit is being such a d… harsh on artists. You hate them? Really? And you want to mock and laugh at those who haven’t yet learned something? That seems needlessly cruel/like the craziest prejudice I have heard. With all the artists in the comments who have not mentioned the above, just shows how many people must skip over the introductions. Of course the article is of value, but I am perplexed as to why you would hold such bitterness toward artists or people who hold self-destructive beliefs, let alone express it. I bet Cory wasn’t expecting… Read more »
leo negrete
leo negrete
1 month 21 days ago
I find it hard to take this opinion seriously…..you first state that you lack skill of art ,then go on by saying you dislike art….but you have an opinion on how artist should live….. Its like me posting an article on my opinion on how people should post articles and yet i do not in fact post articles….. I do understand your point …..only i have walked the streets and posted at events and shows and it makes money but to make honest living i would say not…..i would advice people who love art to teach it and spread the… Read more »
leo negrete
leo negrete
1 month 21 days ago

Also …..dont put all your eggs in one basket…my dad always said….its not that artist are bad with money….in fact we can make something out of almost nothing…..the problem is we make close to nothing for that something

Nicole
Nicole
1 month 13 days ago

Wow that article felt like it was really going somewhere, right up until the moment when you summarized the entire point of the article with, “The secret is changing the connection between my self-worth and money; and learning what I needed to do in order to make money!”

This article dropped so fast you’d think it had a sudden heart attack.

Blabla
Blabla
3 days 17 hours ago

I totally agree with you!

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