How Much Money Can You Really Make As an Artist?

“Am I about to eat dog doo?”

I didn’t say it. But I thought it.

30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, I’d peeled back my white plastic tray to reveal several other plastic-looking materials.

Plastic-looking rice. Plastic-looking chicken. Plastic-looking… brown stuff?

With a sigh, I began shoveling it into my mouth with the chintzy plastic fork. I couldn’t help but wonder if my friend Ben, who also happened to be headed on an international flight that weekend, was having an entirely different experience.

Ben’s company flies him around the world in business class. Understand what this means — a person or group of people decided to give Ben $10,000 dollars to travel and do business in other places.

That money probably gets him more than plastic chicken.

Ben uses phrases like “process maturity,” and “value streams” and “Gemba walks.” Millions of dollars is “just money.” Every job can be improved. Whenever asked about his experience at other companies, Ben says

“I grew up in GE.”

GE is General Electric, one of the most “mature” businesses in the US. (“Mature” is another one of those words Ben uses). GE has a program which trains managers to understand and improve a business on massive scale.

The adjective “massive” is critical here. Ben gets flown all over the world because when you are dealing with “massive” and making small tweaks to “massive,” the return on that time also happens to be “massive.” Ben can spend 3 months, implement 2 changes and save the company millions of dollars.

Which means when both of us are in a Boeing 777 to get across the ocean overnight, Ben can sleep comfortably in his stretched out seat while attendants bring him sparkling water. I am crammed in the back, watching a dumb movie and trying not to barf.

“Wait. I’m an artist. You’re talking about business.

I don’t want to be elite in business.”

Excellent. Me neither.

I have no intention nor desire to spend the majority of my time in meetings or calls, living in cold hotel rooms 3,000 miles away from my family.

You were probably led to believe Ben’s way is the only way.

It isn’t true.

“Okay, so how am I supposed to make lots of money with my art?”

This is very important question. So how about an obnoxious answer?

Understand why you do the art you do.

“I _____because I like to _____” is not an acceptable answer here. Why do you like it? Is it the research? The analysis? The time alone? The blank canvas? The visual reorganization? What?

AND THEN: Use those considerations to find a completely new role. Pick a skill. Be specific and find something the market wants RIGHT NOW. You can choose anything you want.

Example 1: Your art is photography. Congratulations, your title is now “location scout.” This is just a fancy name for a person who can visually understand what captures attention. You are probably 90% there. Learn the last 10% and go to market.

Example 2: You like to write books. This assumes you enjoy research, patterns, and working alone. Congratulations, you are now an “Amazon Advertising Expert.” Take 3 months and figure out how to not only sell more books but make all your money back. Wow! You are making more money already! Now, walk in the door of your nearest traditional publisher. Ask if they would like to sell more books. Then sell books for them on Amazon only.

Do you see how this is different than looking for job descriptions, filling out applications, and then hoping you get picked out of 4,123 other people?

“Damn it, Todd, you are still talking about business!”

You are correct, but that is because I am trying to give you easy answers, easy ways to find purpose and money (or vice versa).

The best way I know to make money is to find people or a group of people who HAVE money, find out what they need, and then give it to them.

“Humph. You’re a sellout just like all the others”

22-year old Todd probably would have thought that too, so I’ll share another example.

This person is named Evgeny. Evgeny’s art is used on several of these Lo-Fi Study videos YouTube is crazy about these days — those long mixes which plays in the background while you work. Almost every day, I listen to one of those videos, and am exposed to this person’s art. This exposure lea —

“EXPOSURE DOESN’T PAY THE BILLS”

Okay, first of all, please don’t interrupt me.

Second of all, can all we scorned creatives step off the “I-am-so-damaged-and-taken-advantage-of” soapboxes for a minute? Are all creative people required to blame the system for their poverty as well as their tortured minds?

Yes, greedy business leverage your hard work to grow their platforms. Meanwhile they make a killing off ads while we make pennies. This is today’s world.

So what to do?

Leverage the exposure.

Before I was interrupted, I was about to give you a link to Evgeny’s main site. Click on that. I’ll wait. Now, click on one of the pieces of art. Now, look at the price of an original canvas piece.

If Evgeny sells ONE PAINTING in 365 days, he is set for a year.

Two paintings? He’s skipping McDonalds for a nice sit-down restaurant.

THREE paintings means he’s earning double of most Americans.

Maybe it takes 2,000,000 people watching the video to find 1 buyer.

Maybe that’s all he needs.

No, exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

But let’s all stop pretending it doesn’t matter at all.

And now, to answer your final question:

“How much money can I really make as an artist?”

The answer is — enough.

Much love as always ❤️

— Todd B

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Todd Brison

Todd Brison

On a quest to learn what makes great writing. Join me: https://www.toddbrison.com/