How Creatives Perpetuate The Starving Artist Mentality

November 11, 2021

When I first started out in my career I thought would have to work for little to no money, build a portfolio and then one day I would be deemed “skilled” enough to make a living doing it.

That’s bullshit.

From the moment I started charging for my work, I was a professional.

From the moment I started doing work for others, I was a professional.

From the moment I registered my business – the world viewed me as a professional.

So why didn’t I?

Why did I decide I needed to earn an unclear number of stripes or have a huge portfolio in order to take myself seriously?

The stereotype of the “Starving Artist” is prevalent because people don’t understand the value of art until it’s gone.

Think back to the last 9 months of 2020 – where would you be right now without art?

Creatives made the shows we binged.

Creatives made the websites we used.

Creatives made the music we listened to.

Creatives brought joy to our lives when we couldn’t go outside or interact with others.

Without them, we’d be far worse off.

But the thing is?

It’s not society that has created the stereotype of the starving artist – it’s creatives themselves.

By creating stories in their heads that the art is all they need to be fulfilled. That following their passion is the holy grail and they should just be happy they get to do it.

I look at the art created by starving artists throughout time and I wonder – what could they have produced if they didn’t have to decide between supplies and food that day?

If they woke up knowing their personal livelihood – their safety, their security, their comfort – was just as important as what they created?

What if tomorrow every creative took a stand?

What if we all woke up and decided our well-being was important and started to charge accordingly.

Would our worse fears come true?

Would people start to value what we did less because it was more expensive?

Would the place of creativity in this world change?

I don’t think so.

People will still pay for art.

People will stay pay for creative services.

People will come to see the REAL value of the creative services and work they’ve taken advantage of for so long.

Not because they’re bad people.

Not because they don’t value the end results they get from watching an amazing show, or having a fantastic website, or having the right words or design for their business.

But because we’ve conditioned them to pay the minimum amount possible for these things.

We as creatives haven’t properly shown them the value of what they’re buying.

And so we think the starving artist stereotype is true.

That we need to earn our stripes before we “make it”

That being a creative just means we have to survive on the satisfaction of our work alone.

So where do we go from here?

Realize you deserve to make a living wage from what you do.

Realize you don’t have to starve to follow your passion.

Realize the world does value you – you’ve just convinced yourself you’re lacking in something before you get to be a ‘professional.’

Then you can say no to spec work where someone tries to pay in exposure or future opportunities.

Then you don’t have to worry about wether you’ll have enough money to survive this month, or the next.

Then you can claim the title of well-paid creative and not feel guilty for it.

There’s no such thing as selling out when you get to do what you love and make a good living with it.

Because people DO value art and creativity – they’ve just been conditioned by creatives to not notice the parts of their lives enriched by it.

Let’s smash the starving artist mentality and stereotype. Care to join me?

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