This has been a perpetual problem of every artist: getting the right balance between money & passion.
Do you find that your life is so full of meaning (and you love it that way) but then when the bills arrive, you totally get a head splitting headache because you’re too broke you can’t even buy Coke? How you wish you can trade “meaning” for cash sometimes. That way, you’d be a millionaire. Ah, such is the life of an artist! No wonder we are all insecure of our life choices. But you probably know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Deep in your heart you know you’re capable of achieving both Money & Passion. Being an artist, after all, is not suicide. Sure we have our calling whether it is to make music, movies, painting, novels, etc, but as humans who spend money every single day it is our duty to find ways to survive. And not just survive, but really live a decent life (the kind where you don’t get splitting headaches on any payment). You see? You don’t have to choose between passion and money. You can achieve balance in both areas, and you can excel in both, too. Maybe your financial security won’t be as fast-tracked as your peers, but you will get there.
But before we make a grand plan on how to achieve a balance between finances and art, here are some hard questions you need to answer:
Are you sure your problem isn’t laziness?
This is a touch question, one that makes me go eooouch because this is me. Sometimes art and the artistic lifestyle are made as lousy excuses for real work. We say we’re just doing part-time jobs because we need time to make our art but most of the time we’re just daydreaming or drinking with other “artists”, and observing the world. I mean, those quite, contemplative moments are necessary for inspiration to come and ideas to bloom and they are great if you indulge in those kinds of retreats every now and then (and you better make sure you have output!), but in the long run, you have to work hard. That means working hard both in both your art and day job even if it means cutting back on sleep and hours spent daydreaming. Here are some things every “lazy” artist should realize.
Are you actually making art (output) or do you just want the artistic life?
Again, look at what you’ve done so far art-wise. Are you convinced that you’ve done enough? You don’t want to start a new business or you don’t want a full-time job because you want to be an artist. Are you really making the right amount and quality of output based on the time you set for making art? It’s okay, most artists don’t. But this is just to prove the point that we tend to focus on minimizing the time we spend on money making yet the time we set for making art has no limit. We should train ourselves to have self-discipline in both areas.
Now that we’ve somehow realized the leeway we’ve always given our artistic selves, it’s time to get the right balance so that we discipline ourselves in how we make art as well as how we make money. Here are some tips on how to achieve this balance:
1. LIVE LIKE A PAUPER. No artist, unless born from a rich clan, should spend like there’s no tomorrow. Try as you can to cut down your expenses. Remember that the money you save is time you can use to make art. If you do this day by day, then you won’t even have to decide between Money & Passion.
2. CHOOSE A DAY JOB THAT’S NOT SO STRAINING. It’s almost impossible for creative thoughts to enter when your mind is so stressed with the challenges of your day job. Refrain from climbing the corporate ladder or doing managerial jobs. If you really believe in your art and your capacity to achieve your dreams, then don’t be scared in keeping it low with other aspects of your life. That means, don’t try to climb up the ranks because you still have art to do.
3. MARRY RICH. For the ladies, and maybe for men, too. This one is silly but even Michael Moore suggests this. It’s not a strategy but if you have the choice to marry someone who’s financially capable of supporting your art, choose it. That will be less financial stress for you.
4. DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. Unless your career is really on the rise and you have no choice but to let go of your day job because you are sure that you will regret it if you won’t take the plunge. Unless you already have an emergency fund. And unless you are confident that the next job is just around the corner.
5. PAY YOUR DEBTS ON TIME. ALWAYS. Every person, and especially artists, should make people feel that they can be relied to financially. Sometimes, people think that we are reckless and irresponsible about money. We should prove them wrong. Always. This way, people will be willing to lend us money and even fund our projects.
6. MARKET YOUR SKILLS. Learn how to sell yourself by marketing your products, your skills, and by learning the ropes of networking. If you want to marry money and art, this is the best way to do it, not #3. Read about marketing, know the right people, ask help, collaborate, be present. Give awesome business cards and marketing materials.
7. FIND A BUSINESS PARTNER. Find a reliable person that can help you earn through your art. At the same time, make sure you learn from them so you can apply it on your own once you decide to separate ways. Also make sure you learn the basics so that you are aware and knowledgeable of their every move. Lastly, put everything in writing. Do your part and make sure they do their part.
These are just basic tips but if you stick to them and really execute 1-7 religiously, you’re likely to have less stress when it comes to the emotional push and pull caused by the ping-pong of Money & Passion. In less than a year, you will realize that it is not that hard to achieve balance, even if you’re following your passion.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.