Ask Anthem: How Do I Pay Myself for Creative Work?

Last week, I received this letter in response to my recent post: How to Balance Your Personal and Professional Life.

Just read what you posted about scheduling every part of your life–it really resonated with me, and something I wanted to add into the discussion, (I don’t know if you have already talked about this, but if you have please point me in that direction!) is that as a young artist, I’ve realized that it would be a whole lot easier to focus on my “real” i.e. creative work if I could figure out a system of payment for myself.
It’s so easy to treat my day job as my “real” job and my writing and other creative pursuits as my “side” job–when I’m paid for the time I spend doing work I am not interested in, it takes priority because it’s very easy to confuse “real” work with work that pays my bills. As I have not had much financial success with the creative work I have done, in part because I do not make as much time for it as I do for my paid job, I struggle with maintaining a set schedule for myself, or a set time frame, to do the work that I actually need to be doing to fulfill my soul.
I realized at one point that if I figured out how to “pay” myself for the time spent doing creative work, I would be far more likely to sit myself down and put in the hours. But how? And what does that payment look like?
Is this something that people are struggling with out there, or am I just a freak? I’d love to hear your insight about this. Because I really have no idea what this Art of Hustle is about, but it’s damn cool.

First, no, you’re not a freak. This is THE number one question I get from emerging artists. The main issues at play here are time and money. Let’s talk about them.

TIME

Again as I mentioned in the How To Balance post, when it comes to time, one must really have respect for and mastery of one’s calendar. Take the average New Yorker for instance who, not surprisingly, may have a day gig at a retail store, a night gig at a bar, and still has time for friends at happy hour, and some passion project at odd hours and on weekends. Scarcity of time is seldom the issue; As Gary Vaynerchuk has said, “Everybody has time. Stop watching f_cking ‘Lost’!” Rather, it is how one directs time, or worse, how one is subservient to other people’s time that is the real matter.

Now, take the story of Debbie Macomber (one real-life protagonist that appears in Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles) who wrote on a rented typewriter every morning before sending the kids to school and every night after the kids went to bed. She maintained this routine for five years before her first book ever sold. This is a real testament to the importance of perseverance and discipline. And what happened after her books made The New York Times bestseller list? Even more perseverance and more discipline. Reportedly, she gets up at 4:30 in the morning to write in her journal, then exercises at 6:00, returns mail at 7:30, and writes the whole day from 10:00 AM till 4:00 PM.

So here is the question: For any given Monday, can we wake up to an alarm, arrive to work on time, focus on some repetitious tasks and a little bit of problem-solving through noon, have lunch, then get back to the job, giving our attention to someone else’s dream right up until clocking out at the start of the evening? Yes. And many of us do.

Then why not have the same honor and commitment for something we love? A personal undertaking, a business idea, or our art? First thing in the morning or everyday before going to bed at night? Or on, say, a full Saturday or Sunday? The best part is, we already know what’s required. We just need to do it. Set the alarm, have that cup of coffee, and then set right to work – on your own aspirations and passion projects.

MONEY

I have to admit, as it’s addressed in the letter, that it does help a lot to make your money on your art or at least within the art field. It keeps a person from having to identity- and code-switch too often. And this is something I examine in more detail in the Finding A Winning Job post, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. In it, I talk about cultivating an art network through your choices in employment and I also invite you to utilize the new Art Of Hustle job board.

Post Script:
In the next post, we’re going to look again at this reader’s questions which I know are on the minds of many other folks: “How do I pay myself for the time spent doing creative work? And what does that payment look like?” We’ll examine the life of the multi-freelancer and multi-entrepreneur in closer detail, and hopefully inspire you to take a bold and different look at your own skill sets and your ability to diversify your income. This conversation is just starting to cook. Tune back in!

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