Getting Paid for Creativity

gettingpaidYes, it would be nice if making creative things automatically brought income, but it’s just not that easy. So if the stuff we make doesn’t make us a nice income, how can we afford to do it? How do we get paid for our creativity?

The Need to Create

 “The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down the hill.” – W. Somerset Maugham

We have a need to create. We physically have to make music, or art, or write because we can’t keep it in. There is a drive to create. It is primal. And if you are reading this you likely know exactly what I mean.

You fall asleep thinking about creating something new. You come home from work or school excited about it, and likely have been daydreaming about it all day.

Now we’d kind of prefer that our creative pursuits bring us our income to pay our bills, or if the art we make would at least pay for itself. In the world of music, photography, design, painting, and many more disciplines, if we aren’t creating for a client, it’s often not an easy income source.

Getting Paid for Our Art

If we want to sell our art, it often means lots of other work to do too. Selling music means playing gigs, selling paintings means art shows, selling fiction means finding a publisher, and it all demands social media marketing. There’s work we may not want to do to sell this great art we have created.

I know a handful of artists who are working full time as artists, and that means full time. Wake up every day, and create, then sell it. It’s much more work than the average human is used to.

“Entrepreneurs work only half-days—12 hours!”

It’s not easy, and as rewarding as it is to be a full time artist, it’s also exhausting. To be a full time artist means never ceasing work to make sure your art keeps money coming in. It’s a lot of pressure on the art you create to support you, and that pressure can be crushing and numbing. I’ve seen many leave the music business and other creative businesses just because of the unreliability and the strain on marriages, budgets, and life in general.

Creating for Pay

Another answer is to become a creative service for income. Warning (speaking from experience, as this is what I do for a living): This work doesn’t always allow us to create exactly what we want to create.

Your friends will always envy you, saying they wish they had the courage to do what you did. It can indeed be a nice living, but the art you make is usually for the clients’ or your boss’s taste and not always your own. It’s also very easy for your own artistic voice to get lost in that life. You spend so much time all day doing music, or design, or photos, it’s the last thing you want to do in your own time.

So we’re back to…

The Day Gig

 “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” – Oscar Wilde

This is where the day job comes in. Often I have artists and songwriters come in and say they really want to do music for a living. The first thing I ask them is, “Do you hate your job now?” Surprisingly, some of them don’t hate it at all. Sure they’d rather be doing music full-time, but the job is steady and feeds the family.

My first advice is to KEEP THAT JOB. Art as a career, as far as a being an artist who makes artistic things of their own design and desire, is not something that easily brings in steady income. Having a secure day job that provides for your household needs allows you use to your nights and weekends to pursue your creative passions. This can often be enough for some folks, especially those who don’t find the other creative/income paths mentioned above to be palatable.

An added benefit of the day job is that it leaves room for your creative mind to flourish when you are “off” work or even “on” work. Breaks, lunch, time off, or vacations are great times to really free your mind to create and you’ll find it’s actually easier to think about your art since it’s that is where your mind goes when it is not thinking of work.

What will you do to make money to support your creating? Make it your business and be creative for others? Go full tilt and be a full-time working artist? Or let your day gig do the heavy lifting while you do your art in your off time, free of demanding your art support you?

Any answer is correct. If it works for you, it is the right decision.

Have a great week!


Eric Copeland currently works as a creative for dozens of clients monthly. But he also has worked in a cushy day job and did all his creating on breaks (and sometimes not on breaks 😉

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