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Money: What's Money Got to do with Being a Professional Artist?

Perhaps you are in the fortunate position of not needing to make money from your art. If so, that is terrific - and it's also highly unusual. Most working artists want to at least cover their art expenses and many live from their art income.
Which of the following is true for you?

  • You Make Art for Play, Not for Pay
    There is great value in "playing with art" as a source of relaxation, creative expression or therapeutic catharsis. In this case, art is both the main event and result. If you don't care about making money, that's no problem. As I've said before, there is nothing wrong with making art for personal pleasure.

  • You Want to Cover Your Art Expenses
    Some artists simply want sales to pay the costs of materials and tools. By selling a piece now and then, they are able to make art "for free." The desire to cover your costs is a valid objective and also a good way to develop sound financial habits.

  • You Have Other Employment to Cover Expenses
    There is no shame and much honor in having a "day job" to cover your living and art expenses. Your art life may well feed your job life. Your job life can also inspire your creativity and provide fans and followers. You may use art as your form of escape from the demands or less enjoyable aspects of being employed. Your salary also means that you can take your time building a body of work, an audience and an art business foundation that will provide you with income.

  • Someone Else Covers Your Expenses
    If someone else supports you financially, make sure that the boundaries are clear about what is expected in return. Your "backers" may feel that they are entitled to participate in all decisions about what you create, how much you create, or what you do with finished pieces.

    One emerging artist, whose husband had been supporting her art career, gave her an ultimatum to make $50,000 from her art in the next twelve months or get a "real job." This was unrealistic at her career stage. Her options were to renegotiate the time frame with her husband, get a part-time or full time job and keep working on her art in her personal time.

If you don't need to make money, you may be missing an important stimulant that drives many artists to go the extra mile. All of the professional artists I work with consider making money to be part of the deal.

The reality is that, whether your goal is a steady income, or extreme wealth, it takes years of hard work, along with an astute business mind and a healthy investment of time, money and energy to get there.

The good news? You are doing what you love.

As one of my clients once said, "Being an artist may be hard, but not being an artist would be much harder."

If all goes well, and you are diligent at matching preparation with opportunity, the money will follow.

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Reader Comments (2)

I play, but I also want to cover my expenses, and get paid for the effort and time put into it. I'd like to think my prices are realistic. I just need the right people to see what I do.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Ursin

I have done wonders for my career as a portraitist by presenting a free portrait of Queen Elizabeth to the Town Council to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee. I also joined a community action group as their go to person for posters, banners etc. This has meant I have a good reputation with the better off members of my community and I have never been so busy with paying commissions. But I limit the free portraits to one a year, and the posters are occasional so they are not onerous.

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen Kirby

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