How to Make Money as An Artist
The topic of how to make money as an artist is a hot one. The myth of the starving artist has been exposed. With the onset of incredible access to your audience online through social media and your website you CAN build a strong creative career!
But how do you do that? How can you make money as an artist now??? Particularly as we continue to contend with a continued global pandemic?
We must accept things have permanently changed. Things were already changing before the shutdowns and quarantines, and they continue to change rapidly. You need to have a strong online presence. This has never been more important than it is right now. And it will continue to be that way.
The 4 Action Steps
There are four basic action steps you must take first to make money as an artist. First you must have a healthy mindset, how you think about yourself, your career and God affect everything you do. Next you must always be creating. You have to have something to sell right? Then you must have and manage your OWN website. It’s your stake in the ground to be seen and gather your audience. And finally you must explode your marketing. Great marketing gets eyeballs to your work so you can make money as an artist.
1) Healthy Mindset
I work with many artists and creative professionals whose Achilles heel is mindset. They wrestle internally with lies that paralyze and hold them back in their careers. These lies they believe also extend to their understanding of God and themselves. As I mentor artists in the Catalyst program, I see the same pattern of crippling beliefs over and over again and I don’t want you to fall into the same traps.
Here’s some typical lies artists believe about themselves and their careers (and for each one I have provided a link to a helpful article to help you overcome that mindset obstacle):
a) Worthiness: Many artists feel unworthy to pursue serious success. They are either afraid of success or afraid of failure. Many feel unworthy to spend time and money on their creative life. Sound familiar? Are these struggles you or your colleagues face? Read THIS to get freedom from your unworthiness.
b) Location: Other artists believe if they only lived in a major market then they could be successful. Do you feel this way too? Read THIS to get freedom.
c) Age: Many artists, particularly performing artists wrestle with this lie- If only I was the right age, then I would be successful. Now truth be told some performing jobs are age specific, but in this day and age when you can create your own opportunities, age is no longer a restraint on the success of your career. Read THIS to be free of the lie of ageism.
d) Money: This is a big one. And guess what? Money is NOT the solution to your problems. This lie is tempting because money can empower us to do things we never imagined. It can enable us to overcome hurdles, and give us traction. But the illusion is this—that money fixes all our problems. The reality is money is often only a band-aid, a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Read THIS to be free of the lie that money fixes everything.
e) Overnight Success: I can’t begin to tell you how many young and new artists expect to pop out of art school, come to the “big” city and become an overnight success. This idea is an attractive, but deceptive idea. And what is even worse? The reality most visual and performing art schools don’t teach their students the business side of the art or entertainment industries. Yet the more you get to know successful artists the more you realize overnight success is a myth. Read THIS to overcome this myth.
f) Starving Artist: The myth of the starving artist is one of the most resilient lies artists believe. It is as attractive as it is deceptive. It is embedded in plays, movies, books and music – from the famous opera, La Bohème to the life of Van Gogh. But, God never called artists to live lives of obscurity, doomed to poverty for the sake of their art. Scripture shows us that talent opens doors, and artists are important and essential at the heart of God’s design for cultures and people groups. Read more about THIS myth.
Next here’s some typical lies artists believe about how God views them as artists and how God views their career (and for each one I have provided a link to a helpful article to help you overcome that mindset obstacle):
g) God Doesn’t Care About Art or Entertainment/ Being An Artist Isn’t a Real Job:
Ever hear this from your family? Your pastor? Did they freak out when you said you were going to be an artist? If not, that’s awesome! But I know many artists haunted by the diminishment of their art and work by their family or pastor telling them to get a “real” job. Thank goodness God doesn’t feel this way! God thinks being an artist is amazing and essential to His world! You are essential to his plan to redeem the world. Art is essential! Don’t even accept the lie that God doesn’t care about art. He was the first artist. And the first artist he filled with the spirit of God was an artist!
Here’s some excellent resources you MUST check out:
Does God Care About Art?
Bezalel: First Artist Filled with the Spirit of God
How Pastors Can Inspire Artists
h) God Isn’t For Me, I’m Alone:
This goes back to the unworthiness lie. And the idea that you have to be perfect or perform well to receive God’s love, attention and support. Guess what? Jesus died for you- you can’t DO anything to get God’s love. His love is a gift from Him. Jesus died to make you right with God. He sees you through the lens of Christ. Your failures and successes do not change His love for you!!!
And as far as being alone. The evil one wants you to feel alone. Many artists who are Christians feel alone, partly because they really are one of the few Christians in their area in their industry. That’s one of the reasons we started this ministry— we don’t want you to be alone or feel alone. (So join our community HERE). And know You are NEVER actually alone- God is always with you! If you feel particularly alone today, call out to him and to us! And here are some verses to lift you up and direct you to Christ, be sure to check them out:
Matt 28:20, Isaiah 41:10, Deut 4:31, John 14:27, Romans 8:31, Jeremiah 29:11
As you can see there are many mindset obstacles to overcome. Having a healthy mindset may take some wrestling through with a mentor or pastor. (Pssst that’s what we do with artists and creatives- we walk with them through their mindset blocks, difficulties in their spiritual walk and their career, so join our community HERE).
Next let’s deal with the next action step to make money as an artist, you MUST be constantly creating/producing work.
2) Always Be Creating
Don’t get stuck in your head. Don’t let life’s challenges stop you. Go create. Regardless of what type of artist or creative you are. The obvious is true— to make money you must create the work you want to sell or perform the service you want to be paid for. Now. Right Now. Don’t Wait. Artists and creatives create, produce and will not be stopped from doing so. They MUST create. So don’t wait for an invitation, listen to the Nike slogan and “JUST DO IT”.
If you are a painter— paint, a writer— write, a producer— produce something, and so on. Truly it is in the work— both doing the work and sharing the work that you will hone, not just your creative skills but your marketing skills as well. You will also get to know your audience. You need to have work to sell, to put online or in a gallery or a film to screen online, or in the theaters or a book/play/screenplay to sell or show to potential buyers. Never stop creating new work.
“To the artist, art is a verb.”
– David Bayles & Ted Orlund, Art & Fear
So you have crushed those mindset lies, you are creating or producing work or services to sell. Now what? Build and manage a website.
3) Manage Your Website
Every artist or creative NEEDS a website. This is not optional. A website is the digital real estate YOU own. It is your “storefront”, or “gallery” or “office” so your buyers, collaborators, investors, and fans can find you, see what you are creating/producing and buy your work or your services.
What is so amazing about the time we are living in is the incredible access we have to the global community. We have an opportunity to reach our fans DIRECTLY, without gatekeepers interfering. I know many industries have gatekeepers still, but guess what? Those gatekeepers go online to find artists and creatives they want to work with or represent. And you need to have a destination to send them to. A website is critical to your success in making money as an artist. Your website needs to be created on a domain YOU own, so YOU have the control over your art business. And just to make this crystal clear, I’m not a fan of building your website from a free vendor.
a. You need total control over the appearance and design.
b. You need to have a great website name, (which may be your name), NOT yourname.freeservice.com.
c. You need to optimize your website so that it ranks highly in Google.
d. You need your work to be celebrated, not lost in the crowd.
e. You need to control how you make money from your website.
f. You need to measure the number of visitors to your website and other important statistics.
g. You need the ability to build an email list.
h. You need to be able to easily move your website files from one location to another.
i. 100% of the website must belong to you.
j. ALL social media needs to direct traffic to your website.
Now this leads us to the next action step to make money as an artist— explode your marketing.
4) Explode Your Marketing
Yes marketing is key to you knowing how to make money as an artist. Like I said earlier, you have more opportunities to get out there and show your work or services than ever before. The days of only creating your art and doing nothing else, don’t really exist anymore for the vast majority of successful artists and creatives. Living here in Los Angeles, I am constantly reminded of the many actors who created production companies so THEY could star in movies, and secure their careers- Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, Mel Gibson and SOOOO many more. They all wanted longevity in their careers. And they realized quickly they had to secure their longevity because no one else would.
Being in the driver’s seat of your marketing gives your marketing the upper hand. You know what you do best, you know what you want your audience to see, so especially when starting out and even into your mid-career you need to be more hands on with your marketing. I see successful veteran artists still hands on with their marketing. They want their fans and audiences to have the right perception of them and see their BEST work often.
One of the worst mistakes I see artists making today, is relying on whatever their social media platform is to host the majority of the photos of their work and not their website. The danger with this approach is the ever-changing algorithm burying your work. I tell all my Catalyst artists to use social media well by viewing it as an embassy directing buyers to your website. Meaning your social media posts send folks to your website to buy and get them to sign up for your email newsletter. That way if the platform’s algorithm changes you haven’t lost your fans and audiences, they have signed up for your email and you can ALWAYS reach them, algorithm change or not!
To explode your marketing efforts, your concentration needs to be on your audiences. Did you hear that right? Audiences, plural? I’ve been writing that throughout the blog because that’s one of my distinctives as an artist business coach. Many other artist business programs say you need to market to your audience, singular, and they group the many types of audiences you have together. This is their fatal flaw and why many artists crash and burn in their marketing efforts.
Each audience you have must be identified and marketed to specifically. You must identify ALL your audiences and ask these questions: Who are they? What do they want to buy? How do you add value to their lives? These are the important questions you must answer to market to them well.
Wrapping It Up
There you have it, the four action steps for how to make money as an artist. These four steps are the building blocks for your creative career but alas you and I both know there is so much more to take a creative career to the next level!
The good news? I got you friend- I created a whole course to take both emerging and veteran artists through a 12 week live, and in person career building and mentoring program, where we dive deep into these topics and so much more to take your career to the next level. AND I just opened my FREE Art & Entrepreneurship Summit to share my 3 career transforming principles and open the enrollment to my upcoming 12-week Catalyst Online Course.
I’d love to have you join me and other like minded artists of faith. You can register HERE for the FREE Summit. Hope to see you there.
Let us know your thoughts, comments and ask questions in the comments below, we look forward to hearing from you!
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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