The genesis of this entry was a simple question:

“Ten years from now, what will I most regret not having started today?”

In order to live well as an artist, the art itself is one part of a far larger context called “your life”.

What about the distorted positive-thinking mythology of the superhuman “genius” overcoming all odds?

That actually makes life harder. Instead of focusing on the positive (and ignoring the other half of reality), the whole picture will show you how to anticipate problems while reaching for success.

Here is an outline for a creative life that goes farther than starvation-wage “survival jobs” and the “work hard, work harder, become a genius, get lucky and strike it rich” idea that so rarely [if ever] works out in the real world.

A person with an entreprenuerial mindset is always looking for new opportunities.

At the core of this mindset is a practical consideration that’s so obvious, it’s hidden from view — much like the sky being so vast above us that we rarely think about it.

1. The 25% Rule

Never allow any one source to provide more than twenty-five percent (25%) of your income.

Immediately you see the mistake that the typical person makes. The typical worker has one client — called “the boss” — and is perpetually scrambling in fear of being fired by The Boss.

By contrast, the entrepreneur thinks about streams of revenue. It’s needlessly risky to allow any one client to control your ability to eat nutritious food and have a decent place to sleep. If you want to ensure that you can survive the next global “Great Recession” in good shape, make sure that you can lose at least two of your largest clients without causing any undue difficulty.

This means that you keep track of your cash flow — how much is coming in and how much flows out.

2. Live far, far below your means.

Who are you trying to impress?

Hopefully, the answer is “nobody. I live for my art.”
Right?

Well, if that’s not your answer, you may have considerations like young children or old parents or other dependents who need your financial help.

They all need to be factored into the basic amount required per month.

Remember above where the “25% Rule” was introduced? This is where it becomes real.

If you can’t live on fifty percent of your current income, you’re over-spending and under-saving.

Note that this is a ratio, not a law of nature. It’s a place to start from — find four sources of revenue, none of which is individually responsible for more than 25% of your income.

From there, you can find more sources. This means that if you have ten clients who bring in steady monthly revenue, you can afford to lose five clients.

This all depends on first knowing how much money you’ve decided that you “need” in order to finance your lifestyle. Look at the basic needs of life and work — not the “need” for a new phone every six months or the desire for fine dining and an evening at the theatre at least three times per week.

What are your bare essentials? This is what you need to know. Food, housing, transportation, utilities, materials, communications. Start from there. When your total income is at least double what you need to survive, you can weather a tough economic time as long as you save and stick to your financial plans.

3. Basic Financial Intelligence

You do know the difference between “gross” and “net”, right?

If not, you need to learn.

Financial intelligence is a survival skill. If you buy a car or mortgage without realizing that those are liabilities (not assets), you quite likely will regret it later. If you don’t know to never invest your retirement savings in the stock market unless you’re willing to lose the money, then you’ll likely die broke.

The world runs on money. I know, all us artists were fed a fine line of bologna as kids, and as adults. A consumerist society demands that we spend more and buy more, and think very little about anything else. You have to fight the urge to impress your friends and feel like a “winner” because you bought the new shiny toys that will become disposable trash in a few months or years.

Much of this knowledge is not taught in school. Find it and learn it.

4. Sources of Income: Skills, Products, Services

“How do I find _four_ sources of income?”, you ask. “It’s hard enough to find one job. Now I need four?!”

First, remember this shift in thinking: revenue streams, not “jobs”.

This is the M-word comes in: Marketing.

Very briefly, you can think of income revenue streams in terms of three categories.

Skills: do you have four skills that you can use to make at least twenty-five percent (25%) of your income? Are you a writer, musician, illustrator, and graphic designer? You can use each skill to generate revenue by creating products and services.

Products: you can create four products to sell. For example: this can mean different types of art, writing a self-published book about art, or using different media to reach different audiences (galleries, blogs, films, etc.).

Services: services here mean expertise that is intangible. Public speaking is a service. Monthly webinar classes are services. Mentoring is a service.

Figure out how you can help people do what they want to do, and you’ll be on track to creating valuable services.

There can be overlap between products and services as well, for example if you give a talk, record it and then sell that as part of a web series on art.

The key underpinning all of this is to do your homework first.

4. Do Your Homework: Research Your Market

Many artists start with a passion and go from there.

The hard truth is that some forms of art are rarely (if ever) profitable. Writing novels, illustrating comic books, and creating fine-art paintings will generally not provide a liveable income in the early years — if ever.

Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Do your own homework. Research your target market.

You may find that some of your work occupies a profitable niche. If you started out writing erotic short stories, you might find that romance novels are massively profitable compared to mainstream fiction. From there, you can research the structure of the romance novel and take a pseudonym for experimentation in that form.

Or you could find that you art is better pursued in the nights and evenings, at which point your life might need a bit of redesign from “starving artist” to “person with a second job that is an avocation and pays in life satisfaction rather than money — for now.”

Tip: Never think of your art as a “hobby”. Hobbyists end up saying things like “life got in the way” and de-prioritizing what they love to do. After survival, make art your top priority if you truly are passionate for it.

One day, if you work on your craft for at least two hours daily, you will find yourself near the top of your field. Why? Because most people are too disorganized to do _anything_ on a regular basis. This is why the average person needs a Boss to tell them what to do.

If you’ll have to spend at least nine hours of every day working for someone, you might as well work for yourself. Learn the skills and be willing to make mistakes. We’re all going to die, sooner than you might think. Life is too short to wait for retirement before pursuing your passions. Start now with a mindset of practical, flexible resilience, and you’ll never regret a single moment for the rest of your days.

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