You’ve starved for long enough. You’ve created a body of work. Your paintings are there, you have thousands of words written, you’ve developed a new product, or your music is mixed and mastered. What are you waiting for?
If you’re like most artists, you want to keep creating. That’s the fun part. You feel you aren’t finished yet and that your best work is still to come. So how will you keep creating, if you are starving?
The answer is that you have to make your work available. Somebody that wants to support your work has to be able to find it, know of its existence and see or hear samples of it, and then they have to be able to buy it. In the frictionless world of the Internet, being “able to buy it” means that your audience has to be able to buy it easily.
Some artists think that taking their work to the people is incidental, but it’s as important as creating it in the first place. This is the stage where you can go from starving to thriving, as an artist. It’s real work and it’s worthwhile, important work. Making your work available can change the lives of many people for the better. Your audience is waiting. Those that love your work have been waiting to be able to participate in your work and to experience your work for the longest time, too. You need to satisfy them.
You might have a blind spot about making money from your work. You might think that it could taint its purity. You’re right. It could. The key to making your work available for money is in carefully choosing what you will and won’t exchange your art for money for. What are the limits and constraints? What are you comfortable with and what don’t you want your art to be used for? You might not have full control over this, but you can exert considerable control, if you get organised about it. It’s your intellectual property, after all. How you license its use is up to you. You present the agreements, terms and conditions attached to your art. The buyers can take or leave it.
There is also the notion that the struggle fuels the art and that’s also true to some extent, but there is no sense in being destroyed by the struggle either. You can blunt your artistic edge by becoming too comfortable, but thriving is very different to opulence and starving to death puts an abrupt end to your creativity, which is what it’s all about in the first place anyway, isn’t it?
So, give yourself permission to make some money from your artistic endeavours. Do what you can to exchange your art for money in ways that are positive and not demeaning to your art, or which you feel overly compromise you as an artist. Exercise stewardship over your intellectual property. Decide how much comfort is permissible to you, before you lose your hunger. Aim to earn more than you need to survive, but not so much that it stifles your creativity.
There is the fear that, in taking your art to the people, the trolls and the nasty haters will return vile insults and criticisms. Sure, they might. Those people are not your customers. They are not the people you have brought your art to. You are addressing the myriad surprising and unexpected people that will like what you do and want to support your work. Those are the people that count. The critics and haters are incidental noise and should be treated as such. Bring your work to the people that want it and ignore those that don’t.
Above all, making your art available involves some self promotion, some social media marketing and some level of online commerce. It’s not reprehensible to make it possible and easy for your audience to appreciate and support your work. In fact, it’s perverse not to. If you think that the promotion and marketing of your work is not a creative act, in itself, you’re not paying attention. You can make the vehicle for your art into a work of art, too.
Sell your work with the same integrity that you put into making it. Try to make your online presence or your other efforts to bring your art to the people as artistic and integral as you can. Don’t be haphazard with it, or think that you can put in less effort to showcase work that you sweated to create. If you have creative control over your showcase, then the act of bringing your work to the people can be as artistically authentic and a great experience for your customers, just like you want your art to be. The showcase is your art, too.
I don’t recommend showcasing your work before it has found its voice. That can only confuse. However, once you have a body of work, whatever it is and you can identify the gems, then going forward with a means to make your work available and obtainable simply provides you with the wherewithal to continue to develop your art, extend your portfolio and grow your body of work.
What’s so bad about that?