Defeat the Starving Artist Mindset

Banish the myth of the starving artist – and give yourself permission to be successful.


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A “starving artist” mindset can really set you back. You may feel, consciously or unconsciously, that you don’t really deserve to be successful. Perhaps someone once said, “You can’t make a living as an artist.” Or you feel you should suffer for your art.

If you completely buy into the starving artist myth, it can easily become your reality. You may feel insecure and apologize for your work, and consequently underprice your art or craft. This becomes depressing when you realize you are making virtually nothing for your time – and the idea of being in business as an artist seems futile and unreachable.

One reason artists develop this mindset is that they don’t have a feeling of being in control. They may have a day job which is structured, but when it comes to their own business, they lack the organizational skills to create business systems and become entrepreneurs.

It can be lonely out there, too. When you work in a studio by yourself, you can lose perspective. How good is your work? How much should you charge? How do you compare to others in the marketplace? Will anyone buy your work?

Rather than work in isolation, continuing to harbor doubts about your work and yourself as an artist, engage and connect with others. Arts communities can be welcoming and supportive places to help gain a better perspective. Plus, as artists, we actually need each other (have you ever seen an art or craft show without lots of artists participating?)

Your artistic community will be one source of support for you. Business mentors can be another. Speak to others who have real-life experience about developing your work into a cohesive collection, pricing it for profit, and entering the right market for your work. When this is done, it is easier to get some traction with sales or wholesale orders. Once you break the ice and experience some success, you have received feedback and validation that your work is saleable.

Your work has value, and you have value as an artist. Educate yourself about sound business practices and approach producing and selling art as an entrepreneur, not as a wannabe. Once you have tools to start making a success of your business, you will be able to put the destructive mindset of scarcity behind, and come from a place of abundance.

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