You Don't Have To Be a Starving Artist (and here's why!)

I want to share with you something I've been struggling with for a long time. And that's this idea that you can only do the work you love if you're willing to be a starving artist. I come from the non profit world and I also have an activist background. So it'll come as no surprise that I have issues when it comes to making money.

What do I mean by issues?

I grew up believing, and still believe, that money, too much of it and lack of it causes problems and creates great inequality. I've done a lot of anti-poverty campaigning and I know enough about world politics to know that things are pretty fucked up for a lot of people often because of the few.

And I really struggled with the idea of being paid in a non profit for the work I was doing. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt, and felt that every penny that was going towards my wages had to be used in the best possible way, even if that led to be me being completely burned out and unable to do the work. Which it did. I've also seen far more beauacracy and wastage in that world than I care to admit.

So when I left that world and started working for myself, I was bringing a LOT of baggage with me. I still don't agree with charging your worth (because who goes around with a dollar charge above their head? We're not in The Sims) and I've really struggled with the idea that I can be paid for the things I love and that I'm good at.

But I'm starting to turn a corner.

But before I share that journey with you, I want to really explore how as mission driven creatives, we glorify this idea of being a starving artist until it becomes this kind of badge of honour.

It doesn't make sense.

I've been the starving artist. And believe me, as romantic as the notion sounds (we've all seen Moulin Rouge, right? Lying in bed naked with your lover, entwined reading poetry all day), I can tell you first hand that the reality of being a starving artist is not romantic. Unless you find late night walks to supermarket reduced aisles, arguing over reduced minced meat romantic. I personally don't.

I found that as my concern for how I was going to pay the bills grew every month, my creativity dwindled completely. As I struggled to make ends see each other, let alone meet, my dreams felt ridiculous. I mean my dreams would never make me money, so why bother, right? And as my brain started being over-run by the frantic possibilities of what could happen if we didn't make the money we needed to live on, there was no room left to be inspired, use my skills and strengths and see anything clearly.

But I'm starting to turn a corner.

People shouting shit about making six figures, or sell any old shit is never going to work for me. My values are completely different. And I think it's the same for you.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't a way for it to work for me or for you.

starving artist
starving artist

Because we all need some sense of financial security and stability in order to show up in the world as we're meant to and bring our own creativity into the world.

I think we hold ourselves back so much, partly because the art of money-making doesn't always align with our values. Especially if a lot of our values centre around creativity, community and making the world a better place.

But I think there might be a way to do work that does pay while keeping to our values.

I've come across a term recently used by Tad Hargrave of Marketing for Hippies, and that's Radical Business.

It's this idea that actually, having a profitable business can help change the world. If you are mission driven and you value making the world a brighter place, then having a business which provides an income works on two levels:

1. You make enough money to be able to focus and create the things you love that need to be in the world. And in having that income, you can make the purchasing decisions you would like to. Like choosing to give money to causes you believe in, buying fair trade or buying from independent businesses.

2. You give people an alternative. And that alternative is embedded in their values, your values and provides a viable way to start shifting the profits from big companies who don't necessarily always put good shit in the world, and instead have those profits invested in making the world a brighter place.

I don't know about you, but that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

I would love to be able to buy from more independent businesses, support causes I believe in and have more options. But when you're scared and broke, there are very little other alternatives than to line the pockets of the companies whose values don't sit right with you.

If I ever employ anyone, I want to make sure I'm paying a living wage, something that makes someone feel valued as an employee instead of the lowest salary I can get away with.

And I want to be in a position where I feel I can make more choices. More choices that align with who I am and the world I want to live in.

So, over the next year, I'm going to be working to find a way to make That Hummingbird Life into a sustainable business model. A business that I feed and it feeds me, while upholding my values and working to make the world a much brighter place.

I don't know what that's going to look like. But I do know that it's going to be completely in alignment with my own value. Prices for any products or services are going to be accessible and I want to still putting content like this the podcast out there.

I have lots of exciting ideas and things I want to try out, but I don't have a clear plan right now.

But what I do know is this work is needed, and doing the work 'full-time' is going to give me the space to bring my crazy ideas to life and ultimately help to achieve my biggest goal which is spreading more courage and helping more unconventional women just like me and you believe that they matter.

I think we can hold ourselves back so much because we find the idea of making profits and making money as a bit of an icky subject.

But it can stop us from taking our plans seriously, and instead encourage both a martyr complex and also demean the value of how we view what we're doing. And both of those options suck.

And sometimes, it can stop our dreams in their tracks full stop.

And that's just plain shitty.

So join me in imagining a new way of looking at our work. One that validates our dreams but also validates our very human need to be able to pay the bills, feed ourselves and MORE at the same time.

Have you struggled in a similar way? Does this all sound familiar to you? Do you have a completely different perspective? Let me know in the comments!