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How Not to Starve as an Artist

“All artists starve,” is what many open-eyed children and teenagers hear when they tell others that they want to be artists when they grow up. Sometimes, this is a reality for freelance artists, and then they must get a "real job." However, artists do not need to give up their dreams: they can become full-time artists if they start to think about their careers with a business mindset. To create a profitable business, freelance artists should develop a mission statement, time management skills, and a business plan.

Mission statements are the glue that holds a business or a passion together when all else fails. A mission statement is a concise statement that expresses your goal and the objectives to achieve it. According to Tara Parker-Pope, in her article "Creating A New Mission Statement," she states that, "By creating a mission statement people can begin to identify the underlying causes of behaviors, as well as what truly motivates them to make changes." Consequently, a mission statement works as a motivation tactic for people to reach their goals instead of procrastinating on them. Mission statements are beneficial for artists because as an example, if they want to practice more, then their mission statement would help them figure out why they do not practice often and what they can do for practicing becoming a habit. Parker-Pope explains that the way to cultivate a mission statement is through guided reflection questions about values and goals. Before creating a mission statement, the person must critically examine future goals, time, and circumstances. Artists must consider their time, current skill level, and where they see their career heading. Although it is simple to write a mission statement, artists need to figure out how to develop their statement into a routine.

For artists to reach their goals, they also need to implement time management skills into their routines. Time management involves dividing and conquering tasks to reach an end goal. In advice from, they state, "As a small business owner, time management goals may open up new opportunities by helping you streamline your current workload.” Some artists dream of having a low-stress balance between commissions, personal projects, and free time, but this is only possible through creating and following a flexible plan. Self-employed artist Kelsey Rodriguez shares her daily planning process in her newsletter, "How I Make Time For My Art": “With a SINGLE clear objective for the day, I can laser focus in on one task and get that dopamine hit of achieving it to use toward the other things I need to get done.” Time management does not mean creating a schedule for the day that is minute-by-minute, but one that has open-ended goals. Once an artist creates a schedule that works, they can explore more possibilities.

An artist with effective planning abilities can create a plan to keep their business profitable. The starving artist myth discourages prospective artists from perusing full-time work. However, if artists view their work from a business standpoint, they can create a plan to create a stable income for themselves. In Rodriguez’s video, "How to PLAN Your ART CAREER ✿ Art Business Planning in Notion" she explains how she plans out her business in quarters of the year and that she has both long and short-term goals to reach in each quarter. Although all artists do not need to plan out their careers like Rodriguez, if they create goals oriented to their business, such as "completing 5 commissions this month" or "creating 10 reels for Instagram this month," then they will be able to create a stable career. Rodriguez also discusses how she needs to “do a little bit of like internal reflection work and figure out what’s working right now and what isn’t.” While she does not explicitly say that she has a mission statement, the core principle of one is to question your short-term goals and values to manage your long-term ones. Rodriguez is an example of a working artist who utilizes time management and mission statements to earn her income.

Although creating a mission statement, routine, and plan may seem daunting, this is how artists can become successful. I can testify to this because I have used time management skills to create success in the past. For example, I used to consistently post written content on social media and have 1,000 followers. I did this by pre-writing two or three posts for a week. If I had continued to post, I could have earned money just through time management. However, I created a new mission statement, "To live a happier and more satisfying life, I should develop my career as a freelance artist so I will not need to stress about money." To back up this mission, I will create a plan like Rodriguez’s so that I can start my freelancing while still learning and growing as an artist. Artists do not starve when they have a goal and a plan.

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