Your “Get Out of Jail Free” Pass for “Starving Artist Mode”
You may not be on the curb groveling with a paper cup for coins, but that is what starving artist mode can feel like for many creative professionals. Chances are you’ve been there a few times.
For many creative professionals, moments come and go when we feel like the traditional starving artist. Maybe we are not pulling in as much money as we’d like, or we know we should be charging more. Perhaps we take jobs we otherwise wouldn’t accept out of fear or the feeling that we don’t deserve much better—or because we are desperate for money. Or we’re working so hard and not reaping the benefits we believe that we deserve.
Those fleeting moments are one thing, but when it turns into a daily rut, you may be in what I call “starving artist mode”.
It’s something that you cannot exactly snap out of. You have to identify why you feel like a starving artist, then detect things you can control in order to shift the mindset. For example, I sometimes feel like opportunities are drying up or I will never find another great client—that’s pretty normal after a gig ends or work is slow. For me, the key is to take action in order to generate new opportunities and try to find awesome people I want to work with (and to remember that I can be selective because turning down one gig isn’t going to destroy my business!)
Know Your Truth, Create Your Reality
When I have found myself feeling like a penniless writer, I have to remember the truth: Those are just feelings. I dig out articles I have written for national publications or glance at my portfolio to see some of the clients I have worked with in the past. That helps me remember the truth: my business is strong and sustainable, I am a talented writer and it is normal not to feel like a wordsmith who has it all together all the time. Sometimes, you don’t have it all together…and that is okay!
Sometimes, you don’t have it all together…and that is okay!
We are allowed to take in how we feel, just hang on to the truth when you do it. This may involve looking at your past and remembering slow times when you have pulled through, or reawakening your knack for creating opportunity.
Whether you want better-paying clients or need money ASAP, focus on ways you can do that instead of just wishing for it. Cultivate your ability to generate business by looking at what you have done in the past to do so. This action is the very thing that pulls you out of starving artist mode. (To go with my Monopoly analogy in the title, it’s like rolling doubles in the game and moving your pawn—finally—out of jail!)
In the case of a creative professional that wants to raise rates, do so gradually. Be practical when you’re in starving mode, even though you may want to take on the lowest-paying gig ever just to keep money flowing in.
Over time, you hopefully will not have many desperate crunch times—if you do, it’s time to examine your marketing, business development and lead generation strategies. The goal is to never let yourself feel that desperate so you can be selective about your jobs, still take in top pay and be happy in what you’re doing.
When I feel like I could be securing better clients or earning more pay, I always go back to marketing. Starving artist mode tends to come on when work is slow; during those times I try to put my energies on marketing. Not only is it something we all must do to ensure a solid pipeline of work, but it keeps me busy until work picks up again and I notice that I don’t feel much like a starving artist at all anymore.
What puts you in starving artist mode—and how do you bust out of it?