Artists Must Embrace an Affordable Lifestyle

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The urge to wastefully spend what one has earned can easily place the artist — or anyone — in a hole.

“Keep your life simple in terms of material things. The working artist must embrace an affordable lifestyle. This is not the time to max out your credit cards. Reduce your worries so that you can focus on the work. Flexibility is your friend!”

The above quote is from an interview I had with artist Ken Steinkamp for The Art Edge. I was glad when he offered this advice. I imagine most of you will agree that it isn’t easy to earn a living as a working artist in today’s world. You should expect to make sacrifices if you wish to get anywhere with your art business. In other words, you had best learn to accept an affordable lifestyle. You will drastically improve your chance of maintaining a successful art business if you cut down on monthly expenses.

I can hear it now:

“Just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I shouldn’t own a (insert pricey gadget here).”

Stop! Think of yourself as a small business owner. Ask any small business entrepreneur about the sacrifices he or she made in order to get his or her business off the ground — they will likely tell you about how they eliminated unnecessary spending. They will tell you how they focused on the business instead of technological bobbles, pricey fashion labels and other popular consumer trends. In a sense, they learned to live without all of those money-eating distractions.

Take a Look at Your Budget

I’ll offer an example: A friend of mine started his own plumbing business after spending years working for other people. He conditioned himself to prepare meals at home instead of dining out regularly as he had always done. He saved nearly $2,000 annually in the process. He used that money as a lifeline whenever he hit a rough patch with his fledgling business. It kept him above water during the first few years. Frankly, his business would have been doomed had he not adapted his lifestyle. He quit smoking as well — which left another $1,000 or so to work with.

He saved nearly $2,000 annually by making meals at home instead of eating out.

The urge to wastefully spend what one has earned can easily place the artist — or anyone — in a hole. I once observed an artist friend after he experienced a sold-out gallery exhibition. My friend ended up broke the following week! He had blown all of the money on video game consoles and other forms of entertainment. He didn’t place a dime in his savings account. You have to spend wisely and save… you must think ahead!

I once read that the average American has less than $1,000 in his or her savings account. The working artist needs more than that just in case he or she hits a rough patch. Think of it this way: the money blown on a big TV could have been enough to keep the artist working in his or her studio during a period of little to no money coming in.

It’s Just a Start

The goal of changing spending habits based on lifestyle factors is just a start. You, dear artist, should strive to cut out as much material/supply expense as possible. For example, you can learn how to frame your own work. You will save an insane amount of money as time progresses. Do you use a pricey art supply brand? If so, see if you can switch to something that is more affordable (as long as it is still of high quality). Try to bargain shop as often as you can.

You, dear artist, should strive to cut out as much material/supply expense as possible.

Are you above adapting your lifestyle as a working artist? If so, you had best rethink your position if you want your art business to thrive. You don’t need a $1,000 TV set. You don’t need a pricey phone plan. You don’t need to wear designer labels. You need your art business to get off the ground! You have to spend money to make money, folks. It is hard to spend money on your art business if you’ve tossed most of it away on products and services that don’t relate to your business needs. Offer your thoughts on The Art Edge.

Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. Sherwin is the Editor of The Art Edge. His articles are often featured on the FineArtViews newsletter — which currently reaches 32,000+ subscribers. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Professional Artist Magazine, Illinois Times, FineArtViews, Myartspace and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, The Consumerist, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art F City. Sherwin graduated from Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois) in 2003 — he studied art and psychology extensively. The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of FASO.