Five women personal finance bloggers — all of whom have worked in creative professions — have joined to write this series about being an artist and making money. Please see the end of this post for links to other posts in the series.
When I was a theater major in college, one of my teachers begged us “If you can do anything else with your life, then do that…life in the arts is difficult and not very lucrative.”
It was a stern warning for us and a reminder that in school we were in a safe bubble and that the “real world” was going to be tough.
As any artist or creative person knows, it’s not that you choose it, but it chooses you. It’s something you can’t avoid, something you can’t imagine living without.
Though I didn’t become the next Meryl Streep or Whitney Houston as my childhood self had imagined, I couldn’t shake theater completely. So I went into arts education as an administrator and later teacher.
Though I’m not teaching now, writing fills my creative void (yes, even if it’s about money). It helps me think about things differently. It gives me an outlet for my thoughts. There are so many ways to tell a story. And surprisingly, through my creativity I’ve been able to double my income and break free from the ‘broke’ trap that I thought I was destined for.
I used to think that as an artist you had to struggle. Being broke was part of the deal and there was really no way out. I thought that money was evil because it was the great divide between rich and poor.
Over the years, my thoughts about money and being an artist have changed. I now realize that you don’t have to struggle to make a living based on your creativity. I’ve also learned that being a creative person can actually help you make more money and make you better equipped at being your own boss. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.
When I was younger, I used to worry how I would make a living (and I think my parents did, too). But I always figured it out. I made it work.
Now, more than ever, I can see that my creativity is my greatest asset. Being a writer means having to pitch new ideas week in and week out. It means coming up with a new angle or saying something differently than others. As a business owner, it means venturing out and doing other things that I think are awesome, like hosting unique events.
So, what am I saying with all of this? What I wish I knew earlier was how valuable my creativity is. How marketable it could be. How much you can leverage your skills into doing something else.
When I was a teacher, I told all my students that everyone is creative, because I genuinely think everyone is. Not in the same way, but we all have something we are good at — where we can express our ideas and flourish.
Whether you consider yourself an “artist” or not (because let’s face it, that term comes with a lot of baggage), you are a creative person.
You are unique. No one has your story. No one has your voice. So cultivate it. Don’t be shy. Don’t let others silence the parts of you that speak the loudest. Don’t be afraid to walk alone on a path — it means you are brave.
When it comes to creativity and money, I think the two are intertwined. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It doesn’t have to be “selling out” if you’re an artist and make money. It doesn’t make you greedy or selfish to want to make money either.
These are the things I wish I knew before. But now that I know, I feel empowered to use my creativity, my voice, and my ideas to create, help others, and build wealth.
What else should young artists know about money? Check out the other posts in this series: