By Michelle Green,
The notion of a “starving artist” is certainly not a new one. We've all heard stories of famous Renaissance painters dying penniless, stories of art school graduates who cannot find jobs and stories of people who simply closed their creative businesses because they could not make a living. Where these stories become battles are where the artists themselves say, “I feel bad asking for money,” or “I'm really only in it for the love,” instead of pricing their work correctly. It's as though they feel obligated to choose between their talent or their survival.
My question is, when did it become dishonourable to make a living from working creatively?
I don't believe we have to choose between art or money, because there is enormous value in choosing both. Here's what creative entrepreneurs don't understand about money: money gives you freedom. The freedom to creatively produce work for the world to enjoy, minus the stress and worry of how you're going to pay for those paints, that icing, that glue. Money gives you the freedom to actually thrive as an artist as opposed to forcing you to abandon your art and find “a real job,” or struggle on and starve.
Here's the big fat obvious part: “working” implies an exchange of money for labour of some kind. If you're wanting to be a “working” artist, the implication is that you would get paid for your (creative) efforts. So why then must you work..only for the love, love which you can't use to pay for anything? Here's another reason why you must learn to charge properly for your work – money makes you able to become better at what you do, and thus give your clients a better experience. With money you can make MORE things. You can improve your skills through education, purchase more ingredients, get better tools and invest in things which give your clients a better experience and product overall.
In other words, making money from your business is as much about giving value to your clients as it is about you. Your artistic, creative, wonderful business must be about the money on some level so that you can keep owning that artistic, creative, wonderful business. The very definition of business is the exchange of money or goods for other money or goods – so to be “in business”, money has to come into the equation somewhere, otherwise you're merely enjoying an expensive hobby. The world needs and deserves your gifts and talent, but not when the personal cost of those gifts renders you unable to produce them in the first place. Perhaps you're reading this and thinking, “But I don't want to be rich. I don't really care about money.” Funnily enough, nowhere in this article did I say that you need to make enough money to drive Ferraris and pour Bollinger on your cereal for breakfast.
You define success for yourself, and that includes defining how much money you need to make in order to be content and able to continue on with your work. Perhaps all you really want is to be able to pay your rent and bills, with a bit left over for some new tools or courses. Perhaps you just want to not be out of pocket every time you create something for a client. The absolute number of dollars is defined by your own definitions of success and need, but make no mistake - the dollars must be there in the first place. You are probably running your own creative business for many reasons. Your reasons might include lifestyle choices, artistic expression, your love of the craft, passion for the industry you're in, it feeds your soul, and so on. If one of your reasons is not money, you have no business being IN business in the first place. The battle here is not between money and art, the battle is between your head and your heart. Understand that money isn't only about being rich, it's about giving you the freedom to live a rich life. Those two things do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Michelle Green is the sole author of the Business of Baking blog. As a pastry chef, she owned a kick ass cake company for over ten years before deciding to sell it so she could write a blog full time and mentor other business owners. She works as a consultant to a number of small hospitality businesses and as a writer for the food/business industry. She has been featured or written for a number of publications and websites including Family Circle, candyaddict.com,cake! magazine, Sweet magazine,allrecipes.com.au, The Baking Sheet and Cakes Decore. In 2015 Michelle will be teaching baking business courses all over the world. You can reach Michelle here:
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org