How To Make Money As An Artist

How To Make Money As An Artist: 11+ Proven Strategies (+ tips)

Money should not rule our lives but be a tool to help us reach our long-term goals. 

Wouldn’t you agree? Many artists would. 

They’d rather spend their time honing their skills instead of wondering how to make money as an artist. 

But cash is king. Its popular to assume that making money with art doesn’t always assure financial stability. But if you’ve heard of artists making more than millions, then you know there is enough money for everyone out there. 

Making money as an artist would require you to go beyond just selling your art. At this point, you should be branching out and creating multiple streams of income for yourself. 

And the following ideas will help you do just that.

Adopt a success mindset (You don’t have to be a starving artist!)

It’s time you start considering yourself a business owner. Act like one

Bill Gates, the billionaire, recommends a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Succes, basically re-iterating the idea, ‘When you look at things differently, the things you look at change.’

It’ll be in your best interest to research and come up with the best business ideas to run yours. Discard the notion that marketing or selling your art isn’t appropriate for artists. 

At the end of the day, every artist needs exposure to get recognized. And it wont happen unless you put yourself out there. 

Making money as an artist could be a struggle unless you have someone experienced to advise you. That’s why we called up Antrese Wood for some advice. 

She’s the host of The Savvy Painter and has worked both as an art director for a major video game company and as a professional artist who has sold hundreds of paintings. She sheds some light on the struggles artists face and ways one can make money as an artist.

Starving artist syndrome is a very ingrained thing in the art world, Wood explains. Some artists think its sleazy if someone even considers marketing themselves or trying to sell their art.

This screams hypocrisy!

Wood further adds, Artists are very conflicted by it. Were being told through the artistic community and culture that selling your art is dirty. And yet, at the same time, what artists want most is to be recognized. They want people to see their work and get it. The only way that happens though is when people are able to buy it.

Its frustrating to hear sometimes. You spend all of your time complaining about how nobody wants to buy your work and yet at the same time you’re talking about selling your work as if its the most debasing, horrible thing in the world.

You need to understand you’re building a business. And like any other business, a lot of the work you put into it wont be sexy and it wont be romantic.

She continues, That includes marketing yourself, putting yourself out there, and generally doing all the boring stuff that doesn’t happen magically. Its not dirty. And its not beneath you.

So how does one market their art? First, figure out what is it that you can offer. 

Find your artistic niche

What are you the best at?  And what else can you offer besides making good art? An individual can possess multiple talents. If you are a painter, you are most likely capable of creating wall art. Perhaps, you could be a good photographer or a master of Adobe illustrator. Lets touch on a few areas you can pursue:

Fine art

Fine art includes art pieces that hold profound meaning and aesthetic beauty.  Fine art includes:

  • Paintings
  • Mosaics
  • Architecture
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Conceptual art

Wood says, The fine artists are artists who are more in the luxury business, so to speak. They set out to create paintings, sculptures, and other works of art for patrons, and typically work with galleries and aspire to be in museums. 

If you want to go into fine art, you should already have an idea of what your medium is, whether its painting, sculpting, or photography.

No matter which you choose only good work will get good jobs, good opportunities, and good money.

It might seem obvious but people sometimes forget this when they jump into a creative pursuit. It seems so obvious but you have to spend time developing your craft and creating work that you’re proud of, she says. 

“You need to be super proud of it. You cant just put crap out into the world and expect people to like it.

Its great for the mindset too, she says. If you’re doing work you’re excited about, you’re going to be motivated to keep on doing it.

Want to build a business that enables you to live YOUR Rich Life? Get my FREE guide on finding your first profitable idea.

Commercial art

It’s an art that’s specifically created for media, advertisements, or entertainment. Commercial art is used for promoting and selling products, services, and entertainment. Basically, it’s art sold for commercial purposes. 

A commercial artist is someone who works for hire, Wood explains. That can mean anybody from people who provide storyboards for the entertainment industry to people who do illustrations for magazines or books, to people who design t-shirts for example.

Check out what all you can do as a commercial artist:

Advertisement art

This type of art is used for the purpose of marketing and promotion of products and services. Paintings, posters, billboards, designs, illustrations, sketches, or memes can be used in various advertisements. Your art can be used to promote movies, shows, albums, plays, musicals as well.

Decorative art

Decorative designs are painted on ceramics, glassware, furniture. Floral prints are used in the production of rugs and carpets, tapestry. Jewelry art and decorative pieces can also be included under decorative art. If you are an artist that is good with floral or exotic designs, you can excel in decorative art.

Fashion art

Fashion art includes designing clothes and fabrics to making trendy visual art for T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. If fashion interests you, this is something you should look into.

Animation and illustrations 

Animation companies are always in need of good artists. Possess the talent of a cartoonist? Take this up.

Game art

Similar to animations, the gaming industry thrives on artists and animators. Character designs, scenery, and creating other elements for a game could be your next gig.

Wall art or grafitti

There is a high demand for interior wall designs or graffiti in hip places or restaurants and cafes with a modern touch and even homes. There are high chances of making a good income with such gigs.

Graphic design

By creating logos, choosing fonts, selecting specific colors that represent everything a brand stands for. Graphic designs are used for creating:

  • Posters
  • Banners
  • Brochures
  • Merchandise design
  • Customized imagery
  • Infographics
  • Magazine ads

You can help brands create their visual identity. Graphic designing is surely one of the best ways an artist can start making good money in a small amount of time.

Find paying customers

Everyone you come across can be a potential buyer or know someone looking for artists just like you. Word spreads faster than you think. And people tend to remember frequent faces. Finding clients can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.

Go to the shows, she says. Show your face. Be memorable. Leverage the social skills you need in any business to help you network. Find ways to stand out and be helpful.

[Something] you don’t do is that you never EVER go to an art opening and try to approach the gallery with your own work, she says. You’ll just look like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet.

Another important tip is: Make use of social media to connect with people in the creative field. Don’t just send them a friend request or a follow. Make sure to strike up a conversation and compliment them on their art. Keep the conversations going.

To find some clients, you can always check Craigslist. Or head on over to industry-specific job boards online. These will definitely help you find clients that are looking for your services.

For freelancers, here are a few with an arts and media focus that can help you get started:

  • An awesome job board for finding media-specific jobs.
  • 99designs.comGood for finding graphic design or illustration work. The site has paid out over $200 million to its community of designers.
  • Allows you to place your work on its marketplace where potential clients can find and pay you for your work.
  • Another great site with a comprehensive job board for graphic designers and illustrators.
  • DesignerNews.comA massive community of designers with plenty of opportunities to find freelance gigs.

Decide your rate

When it comes to deciding your prices, it may get confusing. You might want to listen to what Wood has to say:

I think artists who are just starting out and aren’t familiar with the market yet tend to either price their pieces too low or too high, she says.

The simplest way to do it is to be brutally honest with yourself and evaluate your own work, she says. For me, I know who paints like I do, who has a similar skill set, where they’re showing, what kind of galleries they’re in, and then you go and look where they’re showing their work and how much they’re selling it for.

If your skillset is close to that person but they’re in the top gallery in New York and they’ve had six solo shows and you haven’t, you cant price your work the same as theirs, she explains.

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Work for art galleries and magazines 

Try to get an art job at the galleries or marketplaces. Enquire if they are looking for people to curate, sell or promote their art. 


Volunteer for internships or traineeships.

The Museums Association (MA) website offers information on volunteering and internships. There are contact details of over Two-thousand institutions in their museums and galleries yearbook.

Working at galleries you not only gain experience but also, money. You get to meet new people in the industry and expand your market knowledge, attracting new opportunities at the same time.

If you happen to be good at writing or photography, working for an art magazine would be a good side hustle. Working at such places will be a good way to familiarize yourself with people in the industry and also promote yourself to the right crowd. Start submitting your art to various art magazines and send cold pitches to their editors.  

Do not quit your day job (just yet) 

As an artist, working a desk job would be the most soul-sucking experience. Its tempting to hand in your resignation. But are you sure you’d want to do that just yet?

When they start selling their work, it is tempting to quit. They think If I can sell X with a full-time job, I could 10X that if I just had more time to paint. I need to quit my job. 

Makes sense? 

What they don’t understand is what happens in their heads when they no longer have a steady paycheck. 

Even if they were smart and put cushion money aside, the mindset inevitably shifts from Ill create the best painting I can, if it doesn’t sell right away, it doesn’t really matter to I worked hard for that savings and every day I don’t sell, I’m a day closer to losing it all. This painting HAS to sell.

Keep your job, she says. Take a pay cut and live only off the profits from your art. Can you pay all your bills? Are you comfortable? In the meantime, set your regular paycheck to automatic deposit into a savings account. 100% of it. 

When you can live off the sales of your art for three months without dipping into that savings account, you can quit your job. And congratulations, you have an extra three months of savings!

How to make money as an artist without selling artwork

Create an online course or an Ebook

Might take you a while and a lot of dedication to create a whole course or even write an Ebook. But its a great source of generating passive income. Promoting courses and Ebooks online is easier and the right people will find your work. You can use platforms like Skillshare or How Now to publish your course.

Make a youtube channel 

Making videos describing your art or even sharing your creative process while working on a piece can result in a huge fan following. 

Aesthetic videos online get all the hype. By making creative and alluring videos you create a fan base, you make money and you get the perfect exposure. 

You could also start teaching your viewers everything you know about art. Making video courses, tutorials and publishing them on online platforms also is a great way to generate huge amounts of passive income.

Create a blog and a portfolio

Creating a portfolio and a blog takes your credibility higher. It makes you look more professional and makes it easier for people to find you and your artwork across search engines. 

Its a great way of letting clients find you, check out your work, and remember you for further business.

Use social media

Never underestimate the power of social media. Because once your art gains even a bit of traction online, you start getting sponsorships and work from various brands and companies. There are various artists that gained success using social media platforms. Some pointers: 

  • Post high quality attractive and trendy posts
  • Stick to a daily uploading schedule
  • Interact with your audience
  • Use paid promotion 

Email marketing

Another great way to make money online is to reach out to potential clients yourself. Research and make a list of all prospects. Find out their email id, and send an introductory email their way:


I saw your post on X and visited your website. I noticed that you’ve been looking for a video editor.

I’ve been doing video editing for three years and Id like to offer to help you edit your videos and get them optimized for the web.

That would make them look more professional and load faster, which is important for your readers. And you’d free up time that you could use to create new content.

We can discuss the details, of course, but first I wanted to see if this is something you might be interested in.

If so, would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how to help?



This is a GREAT introductory email script because its simple, direct, and sells the clients on the benefits of working with you.

Of course, you’re going to want to mold it for your specific hustle.

And for a more comprehensive summary of how you can start a successful freelance hustle, be sure to check out these two articles on the topic:

How to make extra money on the side

6 ways to get your first client

How to make a living as an artist

Its not a walk in the park to make a living as an artist, you know that by now. But what you are is a business owner, so you need to embody that. No businesses start out great, the profits come in after months and months of hard work and patience. And when they finally arrive you’ll be thanking yourself forever. 

To summarize, you can make good money by taking up art jobs, working at galleries, and art magazines. Also by networking efficiently and working hard to find clients. You own a business so learn how to run your business.  Adding to all that, the online world offers numerous opportunities for artists to thrive. 

It’s safe to say it has never been easier for artists to get a following, get clients, build a fanbase, attain fame and make money. With the strategic use of online platforms,  earning and sustaining wealth becomes a reality. Of course, all of this only comes with effort and patience.

Want to build a business that enables you to live YOUR Rich Life? Get my FREE guide on finding your first profitable idea.


  • The Amazing Spider-Ads

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

  • Mike

    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

    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 act is more about the image than about their skill. If I'm a journalist, they are a poet, if you want an analogy. I'm not starving, and neither are most of my artist and designer friends. The trouble is, we have to answer questions about if we "really make money doing this" pretty much forever. The art industry as a whole faces a lack respect that makes it hard to charge fair prices. Unless the skill is extremely on the technical end (Computer animation, Visual Effects, compositing) people don't understand why we should earn what our work is worth. A logo shouldn't cost $50. A children's book shouldn't be illustrated for $500. Americans love art and hate artists. What is more tragic, is that kids with a genuine passion and talent for a creative field are often discouraged by close-minded parents or family members, and many people go into careers they don't care about to please someone else. Lots of students at my art school were older people switching careers after years of struggling to be happy in a field they never wanted to be a part of. So, hey, if your kid likes the arts, take a step back and realize they're willing to work really hard to do what they love. That's more drive than most people have. Art and design is hard work, and very good-paying work if you are determined and skilled. The notion of "selling out" isn't opposition to selling work for money; it is opposition to success through doing something like what Thomas Kinkade does. He is probably the highest earning artist alive right now, by all financial standards he is "successful," but to the artistic community and (depending on your taste) all of society, he hasn't really contributed much. One more thought, pretty much everything you own for aesthetic reasons- your car, computer, clothes, the packages you buy, the magazines, the video games, movies, book covers, etc, were all designed by humans. These companies all had art departments. Art is nothing you need to live, but you sure do need it to feel alive.

    • Sophie Oudman

      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

      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

    • Carlos

      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: Cheers, Carlos

  • Katy

    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

      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: Cheers, Carlos

  • Hani

    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

      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

  • Elle

    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

    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

    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 exactly what I help artists with. Building up a reputation and making yourself different from the competition. That's how I roll! @Elle - yay for positioning! Like I just wrote, how your present yourself is the whole basis for your business. @Alison (and others) - where do you think this psychological block comes from? Why is it such a cliche among artists?

  • Pye

    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, then it isn't." How can you possibly sell someone a $10,000 photography package when you don't believe yourself that it is worth that much? Instead, we focus on delivering a product and experience that others are not, and if you are offering something truly unique, then it is worth whatever you say it's worth. As artists, we will always hear this line, "Well, I really love your work, but I just can't afford it given my budget." You need to hold your ground, and help educate people, that if they want a truly unique high quality piece of art, that they need to be willing to pay for it. Stop shooting yourselves in the foot. Great job Cory, I hope to see many more articles from you on this site.

  • Yokoso

    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 also comes with a price tag. So as a Fine Artist you are starting your career at a crippling disadvantage with a next to none profit margin. That is the big elephant in the room that does not get acknowledge in solving the financial problems of Fine Artists and not because “we did not give ourself permission” to make money. With what I agree and disagree with this article: *)The so called "myth of the starving artist" is what people want to think artists think about themselves, it is offensive. If they are starving it is because they do not know how to fight and/or ride the existing system and they do not get the right advice. Every time I do meet an “artist” that buys into the “starving artist” nonsense is because they are ‘wannabes’ or they are looking for a way out. *)I do agree with the writer that the future of the art-world will be online. Just as the music and movie industry have been shaken up the art industry will be as well. *)I agree passion is good to have as an artist, but ‘Crazy=rich’ is another cliche, every one expect artists to be weirdos, it is called Crazy=fake. The serious artist today is about being yourself and being very professional and articulate. I have learn that passion does not sell art, but value does. (I read this blog for value provided not the passion) *)Just because people love your art does not mean they are going to buy it. Once again it is love in combination with value. Defining your market as a Fine Artist takes pinpoint precision because value is subjective, and this can sometimes take many years to master which can mean losing money until you figured it out. *)Yes, I need someone with more experience than me to help. I would love to read an article written by an acclaimed artist with an extensive resume that can give me numbers and how to create loopholes in the current industry not this outdated "19th-century-artists-want-to-be-starving" cliche. The entrepreneurial artist today that makes or want to make money is the ones that cheat the system and think outside the box, now if I can only find an article about that.

  • Ramit Sethi

    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

    @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,, 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 a few off the top of my head. I like what you are saying about the Starving Artist thing being offensive - I agree. The artists I want to reach are the ones who agree. I want to meet the artists who think they can be wealthy and successful, they just need a little help to do it.

  • Erin McGuire

    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 pleasant, but who has elevator music on their iPod? Thanks again for the post though, I'm glad someone brought these issues to light.

  • Ken Siew

    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 enough money then you can live comfortably and focus on doing what you love, instead of worrying about when your creditors will chase after you. The 2nd last paragraph actually reminds me of the movie "the Pursuit of Happyness" by Will Smith, which is a great inspiration. He said, "Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something. You got a dream, you gotta protect it." Here's the link: Thanks for the great post!

  • Austin Gunter

    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

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

  • Jennifer

    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

    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 growing challenge." Basically: There's a glut of people who want to make art (visual and performing) and a scarcity of people who want to buy it. The availability of foundation money has allowed us arts organizations to get a little soft about whether or not the art that we are producing and/or presenting is relevant to the audiences that we seek. The art-making process for many artists - though clearly not some of the savvy artist/entrepreneurs commenting here - completely disregards audience. "Following your passion" and "doing what you love" as an artist will not necessarily turn you into a superstar or pay your bills - not unless other people actually find what you produce to be meaningful. Not all artists are lacking marketing skills. Some are just not marketable. Harsh, right? Well, artists and arts organizations need to apply some harsh reality to their decision making. "Why isn't anyone buying my work?" is a valid question. If the answer is that no one knows about it, then yes, first you might have a marketing problem. If the answer is that no one cares about it, or no one thinks it's worth buying, however, you've got some tougher decisions to make. Please note that this question isn't about whether or not you should make art - ANYONE should make art if they wish to. It's about whether you should expect others to lay out their hard-earned cash for your personal expression. Artists who wish to make a living working their craft have three options, as I see it: 1. Convert art-making skills and mindsets into money-making services, as many of the commenters here appear to have done successfully. 2. Purposefully pander to the masses like Thomas Kinkade - who is a schlock-producing bajillionaire - or Broadway producers, who won't invest unless they think they can sell many hundreds of thousands of tickets. 3. Hope and pray that what they produce as personal expressions are appealing to other people - so appealing that they will buy a piece or buy a ticket, over and over again, and hopefully even cross the line into philanthropy - just giving you money so you'll keep doing it.

  • cory huff

    @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

    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 probably less than 1% will every pay for anything. Despite that Ramit makes a lot of money.

    • Ramit Sethi

      "It is easy to think you just need to find the right price, but really you need to find the right customers." Exactly, Kelly. See my catalogue of freeloaders for examples of people who will use every excuse in the book -- "I would pay IF you charged 90% less" or "$20/month just seems like too much" -- as an excuse not to pay. Those people will never pay. It's critically important to find a market that will pay. And to surround yourself with people who can help you identify those people. Some really good comments on this post.

  • Glendon Cameron

    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 artist and many of them are LAZY, yes i said LAZY they only want to make art when the feeling hits them! Hard to get anywhere in life by virtue of mood! The reason it is hard for artist to get decent coin for their work is one they are not good business people, two so many are so freakin happy to have someone make an offer they wet their pants in anticipation of a sale without really thinking it through! If more artist respected their time and their craft this pricing issue would go away overnight! Damn good post!

  • Yokoso

    @ 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 centuries. A piece of art is not like the couch you bought that you will eventually throw out when it is old. Art accumulate and are taken over by the next generation.There are to many artists and their objects for the demand out there. I think it takes more work, hustle and initiative for today's Picassos to make a mark than ever before. The upside is that the art world and artist are up for a redefinition of marketing, value, object and substance that will directly influence their finances. You can ask what has this got to do with artists making money? I think a good businessman knows the numbers, understands reality, can see the future, be proactive and capitalize on it.

    • Kathy Mitro

      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 modern modern. I have addressed this matter in my blog post Old Paintings Like Old Books May Be Classics but We Need New Blood

  • Mneiae

    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 -

    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 to how to make money unless you remember that it's a business first, and a solid business model will always provide solid results. Thanks again for a great post, we'll be re-posting it on our blog Here's to success! Kahlil (at) gigsmacked (dot) com

  • Rebecca

    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 having meaning, instead of just studying the craft, that has kept me from doing art since graduation. It might be interesting to apply what I'm learning about marketing to some art and see how it goes now.

  • Kathleen

    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 art should be priced at "as much as the market will bear". These both take the artist's subjective judgement out of the picture.

  • Jeff Tong

    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

    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 of self promotion. Great marketing sells everything good or bad. Remember the Pet Rock? This is not just endemic of artists many people in all business have this fear of putting their self out there as if it was a bad thing! You have got to produce and spend MORE time telling people about YOU or get someone else to do it for your ( say a Maven) Kelly- If you are selling on price you are a commodity and really a dead duck from jump street. The big part of finding the right customers is knowing who they are before you produce your work, that takes research , beta, testing and asking a ton of question. I have not found this to be untrue of any product I have ever sold. Kathleen-" 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." I get the statement to a degree and it is true you can never think of your creative offspring as perfect or your work will never grow. It is almost as if you need two brains to process the various elements of one's creative process and the hard cold facts of business. Market research helps tremendously in that regard.

  • Noadi

    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 their house would get too full and you can only give away so much to your friends and family. The rest who undercharge, some buy into the starving artist myth but a lot just aren't very good and use it to make excuses for why people don't buy their work.

  • Chris Horner

    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 back to the thought above - converting your skills to something that makes money may not necessarily be what fulfills you. But I would argue figure out what makes you money, and that gives you the freedom to work on the things that you do find fulfilling. Some awesome discussion here.

  • Kevin Khachatryan

    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, while the richer ones know that art is pivotal is advertising, marketing campaigns, and more.

  • Justin's Advice

    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

    @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.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Evan, I can't figure out if your comment is insulting or praising me. So...I am just going to assume you are praising me. Thanks man!

  • Jules

    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 go about doing the selling. So I will keep my day job--which I am very good at, and which I like.

  • Jackie

    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 is a crippling and false belief. :( Additionally, there is the low esteem already mentioned. Did you know that classical musicians have a lower "career self esteem" than JANITORS? My viola coach told me about this study, as I was preparing for an audition. (Thanks, Brian!) Yet I know awesome artists who value their time and work so highly, that they put a premium on it. Your beliefs are really reflected in what you do and accept. *I agree: Entrepreneurs and artists are coming from a very similar, highly creative, self-directed place. The difference is measuring results: ent's are objectively quantifiable ($) and artists are more subjective, as others noted. *The subjective part of art makes it easier for posers and dilettantes to try to sneak into the ranks. I once knew a self-styled "artist" who was in a band, but had a curious aversion to practicing. And if you didn't appreciate his art, you were a total philistine. Strangely, this combination did not result in success. *Ramit, what the hey? You hate art? Do you hate movies, videos, music, too? Because there is a ton of art direction in all of them. Without art we'd be living in a very boring place.

  • cory huff

    @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

    @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 order to communicate efficiently. An artist is able to look past these symbols and communicate their view of the world through a chosen medium. Unless you believe in telepathy there's no other way to access this information which is why popular art draws such a high price. It's the inner "Purple Cow" in all of us. This is why the IWTYTBR/Ramit Sethi brand represents much more than a blog about personal finance. This is why you hate the symbol representing the starving artist and also why you are an artist yourself. Had you taken your mom's advice things might have turned out differently.

  • Evan

    How rude of me. Thanks for the post Cory.

  • Chris Horner

    @ 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

    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 in the eyes of others yet. So you have to completely rely on self-confidence to get your through the early stages. A big part of an artistic career is having to deal with loads of rejection on a daily basis. When people run your work down, it's hard to see it as valuable and some artists succumb to that way of thinking. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received is that your current project (painting, CD, film, photo, whatever) is a snap shot of where you are as an artist right now. It's the best you can be right now, so go sell it to people. Engage those people and take them along on the ride as you discover your own talents. And I have no problem monetizing my art. I introduced a new closing song to my set this evening called "Buy My S**t". And they did. :)

  • John

    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.

    • Ramit Sethi

      John, I'm always open to suggestions for things you'd like to read about. And you can always submit your own guest post. Right now, I'm running my Earn1k course and am spending a lot of time with my students there.

  • cocco

    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 that you can put yourself out in the world and tolerate the rejection of your heartfelt work. The issue of artists and the market is also interesting, because artists need to sell to an audience who values them, in every sense of the word. Often markets demand that artists compromise, and this manipulates the art. As an artist, it can feel gross. I grew tired of changing my art for the market, because it drained my energy toward my own work. I chose to shift into another field so that I can do my art as I like it, and sell it to those who appreciate that. The internet has facilitated this, and I'm excited to see what much-needed changes this will bring to the art world. I was once offered $10 to reuse a photo. Pardon!? That doesn't even cover my time to make the invoice. I said $400 or don't use it again. They said they didn't have the budget and didn't run it. The problem is, some people are so desperate to see themselves in print, they will take $10, and this lowers the value of photog for everyone. Bottom line--value yourself and people will value you. How to learn to value yourself, well, that is a different conversation altogether. Thanks for the great post and great comments. Best to all! ps Ramit, you write, and fairly well, I might add. How are you not an artist? You see a world and communicate it in a way others understand and appreciate. How is that not art? (I think that's what evan was saying with the i hope you don't hate yourself bit.)

  • Alison

    @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 are doing well, the other artists accuse you of selling out. You're screwed either way, at least as far as getting support. So rule #1 is true: Expect no support, anywhere. You're doing this because you must, so keep doing it. I think most people who do art are used to not making money and have no training in marketing themselves. Look in cafes - much of the art there got the sweet spot because the artist walked in and said, "Hey, will you show my stuff?" NOT because it is the best art you'll see. Finally, at least with writing, I see a lot of resistance to supporting oneself through more "corporate" gigs, to make the money while you're working on your "creative" stuff. It's the selling-out issue. Me, I think it's practical. Sure, it cuts down on time, and you have to be careful not to get complacent (I've been guilty of this). But when I attended a seminar from a writer who's doing quite well doing both corporate gigs and publishing a nonfiction book of her own, it felt like the hugest, most awesome news ever.

  • idrawgirls

    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 have no idea what they really want to of the easiest way out is let's be an artist, then start throwing paint around with no training or discipline. They might as well just call themselves hippies or free spirit wanderer instead of artist. (kinda like college kids who takes liberal art because they have no idea what they in college for just yet.) If you are really really good and in high demand those game companies or movies studio will give you whatever number you ask for (six to seven figures salary is achievable, not many people know that great professional artists in demand of current market would make that kind of figures). Though I have to admit, the industry for professional concept artists, matte painters, 3D artist, etc. are really small, but when you stand out, people notice. Even a lot of great fine artists that I know make some serious money painting oil. You can look up (Google) Jeremy Lipkings, Richard Schmid, and Alex Kanevsky. Great artists always going to make money no matter where they are if they take it seriously and professionally. Only those who are discipline and study will prosper, artist is just like any other profession.... You take it seriously, then you will prosper doing what you love. It's a blessing. ;)

  • dora

    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 site has not made it very conducive to finding the art a buyer might be looking for. All the social networking sites are very helpful for artists to get their work out there, too. Hanging in there non-the-less. Thanks for an informative post.

  • Fern Alix LaRocca CFP®

    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

      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

    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

    @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 |

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

  • Evan

    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 it to the owner. The owner was amazed at her talent and asked if he could use it for the months specials. "How much do I owe you?" "That will be $200." "That's outrageous! I have artist friends in the city(Manhattan) that will do it for much less!" "No problem" After a week the owner never heard back from his artist friends and after realizing how much those "glossy club" style cards go far he agreed to pay here $175 per card. That's about 1.5 hours of labor for a promo card featuring 2 illustrations and some custom text. All hand drawn. After a few months and some excellent feedback he installed chalkboard panels and asked her to post the specials here as well. "That will be $350 per theme." -back and forth- They finally agreed at $275 per theme plus 5 meals a week. Now each month she gets an extra $450 in cash plus salary plus tips plus 20 meals which I estimate at about $160 at cost for a total savings of $610! Oh did I mention that 3 other owners in the area have approached her based on the chalk themes? So much for starving.

  • Lori Duprey

    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 will go far. For others, I just want to tell them to go work at McDonald's because it is a tough market out there for photographers. One thing I have learned, is how good you are is never the first qualification. First it is who you know, second is if they like your personality, THEN they might take a look at your portfolio. At that point they will usually ask for price, but they have probably already made up their mind if you are the right choice or not. Being an artist is not about living out of a shoe box to prove your worthiness: it is having the confidence in yourself, believing in your talent and what you do, and having strong enough passion to convince others that you love and respect your own art. I have often struggled with pricing my work: I know there are better artists than me, and I sympathize with people that have small budgets, but since I have gone full time artist, the necessity that I make money has allowed me to charge more without feeling guilty about it. This is how I make my living. This is my 9-5. This is my talent, my education, my creativity, and it is worth a lot.

  • cory huff

    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

    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

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

  • sara

    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

    @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 the box? Also, consider the consequences of not opening the box. While you're contemplating these things keep this in mind. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Scary thought right? Well it's one of two things all 6.7 billion of us have in common and for most it's a strong motivator. The other thing we share is that we're all unique. You are the only you out of 6.7 billion people which gives you an incredible competitive advantage when it comes to an abstract thing such as art. If you want to sell this you're going to have to let people know you're here. That's where the marketing comes in. You said yourself you "could" devote more time to marketing. Well if you know you can then why aren't you? Start today trying to figure this out and the rest will fall right into place. I promise!

  • Christian Cabuay

    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

    Can you spot the cultural assumption in this post?

  • mmeetoilenoir lurktastique

    @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 :P 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 of note, won't drop his crappy label and won't get a manager. He gets no money because he doesn't demand it. What a fool! My father could be a millionaire, with his work impacting and inspiring so many others, and he chooses to flush it down the drain for a subsistence living. Please...if you're an artist, give your work a chance. I've seen so many people piss their talent down the drain for the sake of supposed comfort, and it never works. I'm a writer, so I'm fighting this mindset, too. I still haven't won...but, I will.

  • mmeetoilenoir lurktastique

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

  • Forex Manager

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

  • Silvia

    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 with sponsorships and budgets, tough job, and I've started noticing how much they way we present ourselves ( and not only our job) influences sponsors decisions... Definitively I'm going to print and hang this post on the wall as a remember! Thanks Cory! Thanks to you Ramit as well, for having hosted Cory's post and in general for the though-breaking posts, I like when you use a bad-cop attittude to shake us reader, to encourage us to take personal responsability of our successes/ failures ( as in the Shrug-effect)!!! Please carry on with the good job guys!

  • Mary

    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 into this romantic notion. Once a young person decides they want to do art full time (whether it's visual art, music, dance, etc), parents often ask if they will have "something to fall back on." There's an inherent assumption of potential failure, that you won't be able to support yourself financially. The concept of "selling out" has been discussed a lot above, but that's of course a big factor too. I work in theatre, both in my day job and as a freelancer on the side. I'm in Southern California, so that's where most of my observations come from. Personally, I think one of the biggest problems in theatre here is that artists undervalue themselves. While there are a ridiculous amount of actors in my area, there is a clear demand for theatre. Sadly, there are many theatres who cut costs by paying actors (and other staff) a very low wage/stipend. Actors don't challenge this. Thanks, Cory, for taking the time to write about this. I realize this post is about really niche audience, but I think there are lots of great points to be taken by non-artists.

  • Brian

    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 List were amazing, life-changing movies, but I don't want to watch them everyday. Sometimes, I want to watch a National Lampoon's movie. I know I'm about to sound a little snobbish or elitest, but animators, illustrators, graphic artists, jingle writers, Thomas Kincade, wedding photographers, comedians, and sit-com writers you have made your art from the perspective of making it marketable. Yes, you sold out- that was your intention from the start! However, I don't fault you for that. If you're enjoying yourself, and make a comfortable living, then you at least can say that you're not starving, but yes, you have had to sacrifice some of your creativity to do it. That doesn't mean stop (with the exception of Thomas Kincade). Yes, there are some people who do the "starving artist" thing- these are the same untalented douche bags that pull out their guitars just to try to get laid. If they actually are talented, they think they are suffering for their art- or whatever. They need the pep talk. To those who say that it's JUST about confidence- no you're morons. I had plenty of talent, plenty of confidence, plenty of thought, and I would advertise/market myself in new and creative ways, but people just didn't want to buy my stuff. My work was too deep and dark for daily life, so I did some re-evaluation and I'm changing my career direction. I had too much self- respect to do the starving artist thing, I couldn't see myself altering so much of myself to sell-out on a consistent basis (I've done some freelance graphics work from time to time just for some extra money), so the way to be most true to myself was actually to head in a different career path, something else that I also enjoy. And to be perfectly honest, those of you that think that you made it through your hard work and confidence, you actually forgot one of the most important factors in your success- LUCK!

  • The Rich Blog

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

  • Dave

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

  • Sierra Rein

    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 to name a price and/or haggle for the price of our talent, and if we don't have those team members to speak for us, we're often at a loss. There's also the myth of "paying your dues" and working pro bono until you have a "name" for yourself, and thus can start charging any amount of money for your time, talent and effort. We as actor-singers get bitter at the thought of someone auditioning for the very first time and getting a high-paying role without "doing the time" by working for free for many years. But that bitterness comes from comparing ourselves to that "lucky" person, and does not come from any perspective of power. Another thought is on the Education side: for the most part, in High School, College, and in any number of Acting classes (speaking only of my Los Angeles and New York experiences), it's often the Business and Financial sides of acting/singing which are overlooked. Those who take even Business 101 or Marketing in college are more likely to understand how to incorporate the thoughts of being a mini-Corporation or self-managed business. I'm an intelligent artist, can follow instructions, plans and outlined rational thoughts, and even I'm sometimes caught frozen when thinking of setting my own price for a performance. But after looking at the thousands of dollars I've spent over the years on voice lessons, classes, training, travel, etc...I've learned that being humble about my talent, my work ethic, and my sense of self worth is just not a good business sense. And I thank blog entries like this for filling in that semester or two of Business 101 that I didn't get at UCLA...thanks for writing it and for the great comments!

  • Na

    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 is, otherwise the artist (without realising it) lowers their costs to suit what they think their market will pay. And then they undercut themselves, all the while thinking it's to their own benefit. I may be a 'struggling artist', but I'm also an entrepeneur, and most of those I work with don't at all believe in the myth of selling out, actually encourage correct pricing, chose to work in their field (and get swamped with projects - that's the REAL trap), and don't wait around for others to hand work to them. It also depends entirely upon what COUNTRY you are in, as different countries have different market sizes in different fields. You can easily exhaust your money-making options touring your professional acting troupe to Australia for instance. Which is why so many Aussie actors end up overseas; which further reduces the opportunities for those who stay in their country. I would say that the main reason artists fail in business is because most OTHER businesses also fail. It's just that artists have less of an interest in doing the 'boring' stuff (ie. book keeping) and more of an interest in actually doing their art. Which is why so many smart and successful artists outsource their bookkeeping stuff... Glendon hints at another thing: most new artists are also so keen to get their name out there that they don't fully invest time in assessing the project. The number of times I've wasted money, effort, etc in chasing projects that fell through; people who were dodgy; projects that I ended up hating because it wasn't right for me... etc. Artists need to learn to be choosy too. As someone currently unemployed but spending every waking minute on my art and barely seeing any money on it, I think it's also insulting to say it's all about laziness. For most of us, I believe it's all about finding the right path for US, and not SOMEONE ELSE, because there's no guide to success for every single artist in their particular style and method of working (as much as the OP can try to convince us otherwise).

  • Michael Lobban

    "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 a tech-evangelist and business marketeer, consider the important historical relationships Mark C. Taylor explores between art, technology, and finance in his book "Confidence Games", that trending in most economies and market forces grow in deep relation to the cultural mediums they're designed to reflect; so much that the art of the times becomes indicative of the strength of its currency and vice versa. I'd venture to say that if Adam Smith took a long, hard look at our financial system today he'd point out the function of it's aesthetics and then quickly ask to speak with the world's most powerful art figures, dealers, and scholars. I'm sure you'd agree that to edge understanding forward you need both. It's clear by the entry that you, with Cory's help, meant to provide some aide to the confused, bewildered, and pugnacious sort -- those altogether still as mystified as they were in grade school about what it really means to make enlightened contributions to society, its nature/artifice -- but overall I'd hate to be dispelled by the general notion that, despite everything, the author of one of my favorite new books feels nothing but contempt in the presence of Picasso or Arpita Singh.

  • Evan

    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 means to them. So if the word originated in the 13th century like the dictionary suggests we've all been beating a dead horse for 700 years. That horse isn't getting any deader and it sure isn't coming back to life. Ramit hates art as he defines it but not as you define it. Cory then goes on to warn you that this is quite common and it shouldn't influence your attitude about your own work. Stop excepting labels from other people and start making your own.

  • Mneiae

    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.

  • dwebwalker

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

  • Shannon

    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

    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 forget that it takes hours to finish before they see it. And sometimes It honest gets me to a point I think about giving up, I spend 5+hours on something for a guy to say do I really have to pay, thay didn't take you that long. And yet every tiem I end up saying the same thing, yeah it might not be hard but when was the last time you came into work on Saturday without pay? I'm self taught but I work and practice litterally any time I'm not at work, and right now I'm out of work so there are days when I do it 18 hours a day or more, and I'm not complaining I enjoy it, I just don't enjoy arguing over pricing, when I'm already making less than I would make at minimum wage on average. How could I better go about this? I am going to have to work for the rest of my life why not making it the thing I enjoy doing, but the pay doesn't seem to follow, I have close to 50 messages in my email asking about my work or for something done, yet when I mention payment most don't reply or ask for a discount.

  • fuck you paki

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

  • Josiah Windex

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

  • andrew

    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.

  • Hani

    thanks a lot, thats great

  • Melissa Yi/Yuan-Innes

    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

    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 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 on twitter, Facebook, Google+.. I've been trying to find ways to make money but most people I know( I'm African) don't read..most of my views are international which is good..but how I do u make money like that? pliz help!! I'm all out of ideas.

  • showflipper

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

  • Angel

    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.

  • William Moore

    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

    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 that introduction. Perhaps the introduction was in jest? Without non-verbal cues there is nothing to hint that it is.

  • leo negrete

    I find it hard to take this opinion 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 love for it.....cause you not only teach what you love but also pass on your views and experience......its a tuff industry period.....people are cheapskates amd those who arent want what is popular not uncommon and unknown and arent willing to pay unless thats the case.....

    • leo negrete

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

  • Nicole

    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.

  • Lala Mcnerney

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  • April MacLean

    Man...I am so late to this party but take so much comfort in these observations, although it leaves me with more questions. I am a dancer and choreographer, and the dance world is maddening. It's present only in the moment, so sales are a whole different beast, as there is no tangible item. You either sell to an audience watching you, or teach classes-- both come with major issues. Dance is the most under consumed art form (statistically speaking). I suspect, as someone touched on above, there is a puritan element that contributes to this. However, more than anything, I find that contemporary and modern choreogaphers are often completely self-indulgent. They create kooky things and you either get it or dont, but they cannot be bothered either way. Ok, cool, but you're going to keep getting your mom, sister, and three other weird friends in the audience, and no one else. I am trying to translate these concepts to that of a performing artist, and I am seriously struggling to do so. I think the key lies in the word "relevant"? Maybe?

  • reza kj

    Thank you so much

  • v_champagne

    I do not agree Friendly, Vesta

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