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doing our own work

Kelly-for-FB-postEyes on your own paper. Feet on your own mat. Hands in your own studio. It’s all about finding your path, your way and doing your own work, expressing your own ideas, using your own voice.

This quote is from the very first issue of Mabel which focused on Beginnings, and Kelly Barton was our featured artist for the column Living In . . .  She lives in The Middle, and this issue has been sold out for almost a year, but we’ve made it available again. You can get your copy here.



YodaHere we are beginning a new year and there’s a buzz in the air — you hear it? People are planning and dreaming and scheduling and refining and making changes and looking forward to all the things their year will be.

We wanted to send out a Mabel public service announcement: it’s all about the do, whatever the outcome, remember, it’s all about the doing.

What are you doing to start this year off for your business, your life, your dreams?


money talks with Ira Marlowe

Ira Marlowe Money TalksWelcome back to Money Talks, an ongoing conversation with artists and entrepreneurs from all walks of life about their thoughts on money and the creative life.

This week we get to hear from Ira Marlowe, whom I met more than twenty years ago in a writing workshop. I’ve followed Ira’s music career all this time and have been inspired by his constant dedication to his art. In the time that I’ve known him, Ira has produced many different genres of music and has found a lot of unique ways to perform/sell his music. (This guy’s got a wealth of ideas and energy!)

Read on to learn about his latest project, which is an amazingly creative way to share his music and also increase his income. Personally, I’m cheering him on and hope that this idea nets him lots of moola and new followers. But even if it doesn’t, I suspect that Ira will simply continue to write/perform songs and find other news ways to grow his career. I admire his stick-to-itiveness.  He says, “If you really have a passion for your work, you love it so much that ultimately, on some level, you don’t really care what follows.”

As always, I invite you to share in the conversation by posting in the comments below! We’ll be back on the 4th Friday of the month with the next Money Talks installment.

Ira-Marlowe-bioIra Marlowe
Berkeley, CA

Ira Marlowe is a singer/songwriter. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his two terriers. iramarlowe.com + themonkeyhouse.org

1. Are you earning what you’re worth? Someone big on market economics would insist that everyone is naturally paid what they’re worth—if the demand is there the money will follow. Yes, there are plenty of songwriters no more talented or accessible than myself who are getting a lot more attention and earning a lot more money. So I guess the way to be “worth more” would be to create more demand. But many artists have little love for all the self-promotion required to build that demand. And we’re unable or unwilling to change our work to fit the current style. At some point we make a choice to focus mostly on doing good work, trusting that something positive will follow, even if it’s only artistic satisfaction.

2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you? I think the idea of the “starving artist” is perpetuated by people who’ve made conservative choices in their lives and spend much of their time doing work they don’t really enjoy. When they see people whose lives are devoted to singing, painting, or acting, they comfort themselves that these people live in squalor. Most of the working artists I know live in relative comfort, in an environment that supports their needs and drives.

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? My parents were hardly thrilled with my choice to be a musician. (I believe the job description I used was “rock star”…) Their fear was that I would fail and be left with no skills, working minimum wage jobs. Or worse, living at home!

4. What’s your biggest money story currently? My money goals work on two levels.  On a day-to-day basis I support myself through The Monkey House (my live/work performance space) and also from writing songs for the SF Mime Troupe, playing shows, selling CDs, teaching, producing artists in the Monkey House studio, even taking on graphic design jobs. But simultaneously, I’m always working on projects aimed at larger success. I recently wrote a musical screenplay I’m very excited about, and I’m now working with an agent to pitch some my songs to major artists. Another project is to enlist 1000+ subscribers for my 2016 “song-a-week” campaign. Each week, subscribers receive a weekly link to a newly recorded song. If they like it, they can buy it for a buck. They’ll get to offer feedback as well as suggest titles, moods and topics for new songs. Should be challenging and fun. And potentially fairly lucrative.

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?)  That expression is a great way to sell self-help books. I think one thing that distinguishes artists from people with ordinary day jobs is a greater willingness to embrace uncertainty. If you really have a passion for your work, you love it so much that ultimately, on some level, you don’t really care what follows.  Sure, do what you love and the money may follow — given the right circumstances and perhaps a little luck.  But what is likely to follow is happiness, or at least a general sense that you’re doing what you’re here to do. There’s a great quote from Joan Didion, who said that what she loves about writing is it’s the only time she ever feels she’s not supposed to be doing something else.

Money Talks with Sherry Belul appears here on the Mabel blog every 2nd and 4th Friday of the the month, meet us here!


the other side

George-AddairWe’ve made our way through the holidays. The year has turned over, and here we are “on the other side”.  If you’ve chosen a word or phrase for 2016, or if you’ve done a review of 2015 to see what worked and what didn’t, and if you’re making plans, and looking at creating “everything you’ve ever wanted”, here we are on the other side . . .  Let’s go for it. Let’s feel the fear and do it anyway. Let’s go for all the things we’ve ever wanted. Ready. Set. Go!


money talks with Melissa Dinwiddie

Melissa-Dinwiddie-Money-TalksWelcome back to Money Talks! We’re here every 2nd + 4th Friday of the month with all kinds of juicy thoughts from artists/entrepreneurs who are making a living and living a creative life.

Today we feature Melissa Dinwiddie who knows all about living a creative life. After all, she’s a creativity coach and most definitely  practices what she preaches. (Melissa is one of those people who oozes creativity!)

Melissa has a lot of thought-provoking things to say about the business of art. One of the things she pointed to that seems important to me is that often times our old money stories can get in the way of what we know to be true. For instance, in her own story there was the childhood belief that “you can either do good, or make money, but not both.” I suspect this may be one of the stories lots of folks carry around. (I know I do!)

I also found myself nodding my head in agreement when I read, “Of course I know all of these stories are untrue, but they’re still hard to shake!”

One of my hopes for this Money Talks column is that the more we talk about these old stories + embedded beliefs, the easier it will be to shake off the old ones and step into a new money story. (Unless you love your current money story, in which case, don’t change a thing! And also, let’s get you interviewed here so you can share your wisdom with us!)

Be sure and comment below to join our conversation! Happy everything-you-celebrate! May 2016 be full of lots of happy money stories for us all. :-)


Melissa-DinwiddieMelissa Dinwiddie
Artist / Happiness Catalyst / Creativity Instigator (aka Creativity Coach & Consultant) Mountain View, California

 Melissa helps people turn their creative taps to the “on” position, so they can stop living life in black, white and grey, and start living life in full-color. An artist in multiple forms, Melissa models living a full-color life and shares her writings, artwork, and music on her blog, Living A Creative Life, where you can also find her podcast, Live Creative Now! melissadinwiddie.com

1. Are you earning what you’re worth? My first response to this question is to laugh hysterically.

My second response is to ask all sorts of questions about what it means to earn what I’m worth, and if anyone’s assessment of my value in terms of dollars has any meaning anyway.

And yet, we assess value in terms of dollars all the time.

I run a business, and put a price tag on everything I sell, whether it’s a painting, a workshop, an online course, a one-on-one coaching package, a consulting session, a live performance, a music CD, or a keynote speech.

So. This is obviously a complicated question!

In the general scheme of things, I am not yet earning the income that I aspire to, and which would reflect what I consider to be the value of what I put out into the world.

But one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure, as they say, and the people who see value in what I do are happy to pay me, and sometimes pay me very well for it. Those who don’t see the value—whether it’s simply not of interest to them, or I haven’t done an effective job in communicating the value—don’t buy.

Over my almost 20 years of being in business, I have been paid what I considered very well for certain individual projects, particularly when I was still accepting private commissions for my art. On the other hand, I can also point to dozens of projects over the years where I was paid nowhere near what I felt my efforts were worth.

That led to a lot of resentment, I can tell you!

I’m grateful for that resentment, however, because it made me realize that whenever I feel resentful, it’s time to raise my prices!

Meanwhile, though I still have much area for improvement, I’m continually getting better at communicating the value in what I offer, and commanding prices that feel good to me.

2. What does the expression “starving artist” bring up for you? Mostly it makes me angry. I’m angry that so many artists are starving, or at least underpaid for the value they create.

And I’m angry that a big part of this is due to mindset, and to the cultural idea that artists must be starving, that nobody could ever make a good living as an artist, and even that artists shouldn’t make money from their art — that making money equals selling out, that wanting to make money means you’re greedy or bad, or less “pure” than the alternative.


Making money is what provides you the resources to do your art and change the world! There is nothing bad or greedy about wanting to earn a good living.

So many people embrace the label “starving artist” as a badge of honor, which does not serve them, or anyone. It’s a victim move, absolving yourself of responsibility.

Personally, I’d like to wipe the term “starving artist” from our vocabulary.

Artists who don’t want to fit the “starving artist” stereotype would do well to take their circumstances into their own hands. This means:

  • Stop waiting to be discovered, and grow your own audience of customers and clients.
  • Get over the idea that business and marketing are scary, horrible, impossible things that artists can’t do.

In fact, marketing can be one of your most creative acts.

It can be fun, too! For example, writing this article is marketing for me, because some people who read it may want to learn more about me, and some of those people may visit my website, join my audience, and eventually decide to purchase my products, adopt one of my paintings, or work with me in some way.

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? The money stories I have from childhood are, first, that men are the real earners, but only if they stick to a proven path.

My dad had thought about becoming an actor when he was a young man, but he was dating my mom at the time, and she made it crystal clear that she wasn’t marrying an actor! So he pursued mechanical engineering instead, and later worked in high-tech as a consultant, bringing in the bulk of the family income.

My mom taught nursery school for 25+ years, and used to joke ruefully that she earned enough to pay my dad’s taxes. I’m sure the fact that the main woman in my life never saw herself as an earner influenced my money story that I didn’t have the moneymaking gene.

The other money story from childhood is that you can either do good, or make money, but not both.

When my mom retired from teaching nursery school, she started her own freelance business, teaching and facilitating trainings for parents and teachers of young children. Her specialty was social problem-solving and conflict resolution, so she did truly important, world-changing work, and she would often justify her low income by saying that she was making a difference.

The unspoken story there was that making a lot of money and making a difference are mutually exclusive, and I still hear this message from my mom in various ways to this day.

Of course I know all of these stories are untrue, but they’re still hard to shake!

My favorite money story, though, isn’t a false belief, but a true story from my life as an earner and an artist.

When I was just getting started with art in my late 20s, my best friend, Amy, asked if I’d make a piece for her to give as a gift to a family she babysat for. She knew I had a dream of turning my art into a business, so she wanted to pay me, but when she asked how much I would charge I told her I’d do it pro bono. I had no idea how much I would charge for the kind of piece we were talking about, but I knew it would be way more than her budget as a graduate student in theater would allow!

Well, she absolutely insisted that she wanted to pay me, so I finally relented and asked what she would spend if she were to go to a store and buy a present.

“Oh, probably about $25,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, “You pay me $25, plus $10 for shipping, and I’ll make you a piece.”

I ended up spending 40 hours on that piece (which comes to about 62 ½ cents per hour for my time), and after I shipped it off to her, I received in the mail a check for $34, and a crisp, new dollar bill with “Melissa’s first artistic sale” written on the front.

That dollar bill holds a special place in my home, and always will. Amy’s championing me in that way really boosted me up as I launched into the scary unknown of starting a business as an artist!

4. What’s your biggest money story currently? The money story I’m working on deprogramming is that old story that I was in the wrong line when they handed out the moneymaking gene.

I’d love to earn enough to be able to “retire” my husband from his job, so that he could pursue his passion and write full-time, instead of only on the weekends, but I have a nagging fear that I’ll never manage to achieve the financial success I desire.

I can crunch the numbers that show that the income I desire is merely a matter of time, but until I prove that fear wrong, I suspect part of me will continue to believe it!

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? On its own, no, I don’t think it’s accurate. In fact, I think it does people a disservice.

A more accurate—and helpful—expression would be, “Find the intersection between what you love, and what people will happily pay for, and learn to effectively market what you offer in that intersection, to the right people, and the money will follow.”

This is, in fact, exactly what I’m working on doing!


yesterday and today

Native-American-ProverbRegrets. Wishes. Looking back. We all do it: “oh I wish I had…” begins far too many a thought.

So, we’d like to ask you: How do you stay planted in today, looking forward, holding on to the lessons of yesterday and not looking over your shoulder?


steering by the stars

Barbara-SherSometimes on the way to where we’re going we realize that we need to recalculate our journey, or make a quick left turn, or even admit to ourselves that the destination is no longer valid and we need to go back and start again.

Left turns and new destinations are important mile markers along the way but beating ourselves up about these course corrections are not mandatory.

We’d love it if you have a story to share about the course you’re currently steering and how you are dealing with changes in a positive way.

The latest issue of Mabel Magazine is available now in the shop — it’s all about What’s Next.


money talks with Maya Stein

Maya-Stein-Money-TalksWhat I love so much about Maya Stein’s musings on this week’s Money Talks, is that reading her words felt like looking at a wide, blue sky. It felt like diving deep underneath the sea and bumping elbows with colorful, exotic fish.  I could feel myself breathing more deeply and looking around with new eyes. I slowed down. I paused often to think, “What do I see about this for myself?”

Many of us who are reading this column know Maya’s work as a poet. And if you do, you might agree with me that there is a kind of poetry to what she says about money. See for yourself (read on, read on!) but here’s what I think it is: I think one of Maya’s strengths as a writer is to gently point out some places that we could travel to upend some of our staid, stale beliefs. Maya’s always all about helping us notice what more we could see. One of the places that she does this so well is in this line: “I don’t tend to rely on the dollar amount I’m making as being indicative of my worth. In fact, I vehemently don’t let it do that, because I notice that when I do, I lose the connection to that deeper value I’m seeking.”

There are so many more lines I could highlight. But I am going to stop right there and give us all a bit of time to think about what deeper value we are seeking. Yes, we all want to make a good living and be paid fairly for our work. But beyond that, what drives the creative work we are doing? What is that deeper value? Are we connected to that value, even as we head to the bank?

I’d love to hear what you think. If you read something here that sparks you somehow, please comment below. Join the conversation.

See ya next time. Remember, Money Talks posts on the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month.  Thank you, Mabel!

Maya-Stein-bio-3Maya Stein
Ninja Poet / Writing Guide / Creative Adventuress
Nutley, New Jersey

Maya Stein is a Ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress. Among her latest escapades are a 1,200-mile bicycle journey with a typewriter, a launch of a French crepe stand at a Massachusetts farmers market, a relocation from San Francisco to suburban New Jersey, a collaboration —“Food for the Soul Train” — with her partner, turning a vintage trailer into a mobile creative workshop space, and, most recently, marriage and step-motherhood. Currently living in Northern New Jersey, she can also be found wandering the back roads by tandem bicycle, writing poetry for strangers on index cards, and online at mayastein.com or food4thesoultrain.com

1. Are you earning what you’re worth? What I love about this question is that it reminds me to look beyond the superficial and into the metaphorical. It’s impossible to answer otherwise — there are so many variables regarding the dollar amounts I assign to the things I create — what I am able to earn for something in San Francisco isn’t the same as what I can expect to earn for it in suburban New Jersey. It just isn’t. The market is different. The audience is different. And the offerings, I think, must vary accordingly. That’s the part where I put my focus on, and where I also can have the most control — creating classes, experiences, retreats, and merchandise that correspond to the financial bandwidth of each distinct audience.

But back to the metaphor part. To me, “earning” is really about what the “return” is, which goes way beyond what appears on my bank statements. The return is about engagement with and impact on the individuals and community I work with. The return is, ultimately, about being and feeling of service. It’s about soul nourishment. It’s about the total quality of life, not merely the numbers. It’s about knowing that I’ve done something that matters, that has meaning. And right now, I can say that I am definitely earning what I’m worth. It doesn’t mean I don’t think money is important or that I don’t stress about earning it. I absolutely do. But I don’t tend to rely on the dollar amount I’m making as being indicative of my worth. In fact, I vehemently don’t let it do that, because I notice that when I do, I lose the connection to that deeper value I’m seeking.

2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you?  My sister suggested to me once years ago that if I wasn’t doing everything I could in the name of my art (or writing, as the case was), then I couldn’t really call myself an artist. I see now that it’s possible that I may have misinterpreted what she was saying (and I’m pretty sure that she has since changed her tune), but what I remember is the feeling I had in response to her words. I fundamentally didn’t agree. My stance was — and continues to be — that we don’t always have the luxury of devoting ourselves to our art-making 100% of the time. We don’t live in the world of patrons, although there are certainly changes afoot happening in that direction. But regardless of that, I don’t buy into the concept of the starving artist. I think it’s a tidy and misguided romantic ideal that someone who’s at the very beginning of life as an artist carries as a way of either rebelling against responsibility or justifying their frustration that they haven’t been successful in the way they’d hoped.

What I can say, however, is that there have been times when I’ve been starving for art. When I’ve been so focused on strategic pursuits that there’s been an emptiness of creativity and open space to just….muse. And I believe that if your life needs that kind of nourishment (and hey, whose doesn’t?), then our mechanisms for that spaciousness inside of ourselves required for creative fulfillment can certainly get rusty…and hungry.

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love?  When I was 11, our family moved from the central coast of California to rural New Hampshire. We had moved before, and to equally disparate places, so I kind of knew that I needed to gird myself emotionally for the change. But what was different this time was that I had a spontaneous burst of entrepreneurial energy — I wanted to have some spending money for the trip.

So I put these handwritten flyers in our neighborhood offering car washes. “Maya’s Car Wash Crew” they read, even though I was only a crew of one (my sister didn’t want in, and my brother was too young to help). I charged $2.50 per wash. I remember feeling very proud of myself when I got the first call, and washing that car with incredible earnestness and focus. I don’t remember how many cars I washed before the move itself, but seeing myself move from the germ of an idea through to its execution was wildly inspirational. That’s something that has absolutely followed me to this day. It reminds me a little of that line from “Field of Dreams” — “If you build it, they will come.” It’s really about trusting that your inner resources and capacities are enough — more than enough, in fact — to accompany you on that uncertain journey from thought to action.

4. What’s your biggest money story currently? My partner, Amy Tingle, and I co-founded a mobile creativity business called “Food for the Soul Train” in late 2012. We design and facilitate creative experiences for children and adults and frequently travel with our vintage caravan to deliver them. I was doing our taxes this past April when I discovered that the IRS considers businesses that report a loss for three years in a row to be considered “hobbies.” While I get the idea behind that in theory, in practice it can be really hard to get a business off the ground — much less turning a profit — in a relatively short amount of time, especially when you factor in the life expenses that we incur as a couple and as a family (Amy’s got two teenage boys from a previous marriage, and they live with us.) But the thought of downgrading our business into a “hobby” felt so wrong to both of us that it’s spurred us into action to make sure this doesn’t happen.

So in the past couple of months, we’ve devoted a lot of energy to doing this, including clarifying our mission, streamlining our offerings, changing our fee structure, overhauling our website, hiring a business coach, seriously considering a name change, and more.

In retrospect, I think we leapt into our business with our passions leading the way — not a bad thing at all — while a few crucial underpinnings (like having a business plan) were left pretty loose, and in some cases untended altogether. As two right-brained people, I’m certainly not surprised that we sort of side-stepped the more businessy aspects of our business, and in some ways, because of this we were able to offer so much up front without reservation as to whether or not it made “sense” for our success.

So now, we are doing some adjusting — some of it minor, and some of it structurally significant — and I think these refinements and changes are going to go a long way toward improving our future, both to the IRS and for ourselves.

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?)  Frankly, I could do without the second half of that sentence, mostly because the emphasis on it feels inaccurate. It suggests that there’s a symbiotic relationship between love and economic success, and they are — in my mind —a bit like those proverbial apples and oranges.

The irony of being a creative entrepreneur is that the words “creative” and “entrepreneur” don’t always play together very well. That phrase can mostly feel like an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp.” It’s hard to keeps tabs on the money part and at the same time engage fully in the “love” part.

For me, there are periods of dreaming things up, and then there are periods of executing those things. Ideation followed by action. And honestly, it’s rare that they are in equal parts. The expression “Do what you love and the money will follow” presumes a cause-and-effect scenario — if this, then this — but my experience is that it’s a much more stilted, staggered process. Three steps love, one step money. Half-step love, four steps money.

But over time, I’ve just gotten used to that a-syncopated rhythm. I don’t expect that doing what I love will lead to more money. And, conversely, I don’t expect more money to diminish or disrupt what I love. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about what I earn, or that I don’t want what I do to be successful. My definition of success simply isn’t dependent on a dollar amount. So unless the larger culture of economics assigns a consistent dollar value to creativity, I don’t expect it to.

Money Talks with Sherry Belul appears here on the Mabel blog every 2nd and 4th Friday of the the month, meet us here!


money talks with Terri Belford

Money-talks-column-headerHappy day-after-Thanksgiving, folks. I hope you’re feeling connected to people you love and grateful for the amazing creativity and joy in your life. As I write this, I’m appreciating Mabel Magazine for offering us all a place to gather together and learn from one another. The magazine itself is so beautiful, inspiring, and wise. But additionally, this community is a gift.

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Terri, who works with artists and entrepreneurs to help them create sustainable businesses from their passions. Terri bring us a unique vantage point since she has direct experience with folks who want to make more money from their creative endeavors.

I greatly appreciate what Terri says about mindset and about taking our work seriously. “If you hang out with artists who don’t believe in the value of their work and don’t invest in the business of their art, it’s natural that you become rooted in the same perceptions,” she says.

The words “business of their art” jumped out at me. Sure, we need to be passionate about what we do. But we also need to remember that to make money doing what we love, we must create a business and invest in that business.  In previous conversations folks have highlighted this, as well. (Barb Skoog and Laurie Wagner are coming to mind.)

Terri’s got some great ideas about approaching our work as a business. Read on!  (I hope you’ll take the time to comment and let us know what you think. You are a welcome part of this conversation!)

Terry-BelfordTerri Belford
Artist + Artists’ Rep/Consultant/Trainer
Cambria, CA & Cincinnati, OH


Terri Belford has been a working artist, artists’ rep, and gallery owner. She now facilitates workshops for and consults with artists, crafts people, freedom seekers, and entrepreneurs to help them design a livelihood that creates more meaning and more money. You can find Terri at inspiredlivelihood.com and craftbizblog.com

1. Are you earning what you’re worth?  “Worth” is difficult to define in terms of earnings vs. value offered. I’ve always found it easier to put a price on a tangible object than a service and yet when I look at how a client’s income soars when they follow my advice, I recognize the enormous value. But do I earn what I am worth? I’ve been told I over-deliver and clients have told me that I don’t charge enough for my services.

When a client hires me to help them start a gallery or shop, I charge appropriately and they are happy to pay me very well because they know that starting out right will save them so much in the long run. They believe in the business of selling art or craft so they recognize the value in paying for a consultant.

On the flip side, I know I undercharge for coaching with an individual artist or crafts person and I attribute that to the myth of the starving artist.

2. What does the expression, “starving artist,” bring up for you?  I know that believing in that myth makes it a reality and keeps so many artists from making the investment in themselves and their art, an investment that would ultimately feed their pocketbooks and their soul. There’s so much emotional stuff around charging for your creative work and of course on top of that, all the negative messages we receive about wealth.

The belief that you can’t make a living making art is highly contagious so if you hang out with artists who don’t believe in the value of their work and don’t invest in the business of their art, it’s natural that you become rooted in the same perceptions. I’ve noticed that at art shows, craft fairs, and trade shows, the successful artists have a group of other successful artists that they spend time with. They all believe in their art and treat it as a business and the result is a group of well-fed artists.

Artist who believe they can’t afford a business coach or consultant are setting themselves up to be starving artists. The right brainers who earn their living in the arts almost without exception have either a partner who handles the business/marketing side or they’ve hired a coach or consultant to guide them.

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? I do. When I was in elementary school, my sister and I organized a carnival with neighborhood friends and raised money for Unicef. I still recall thinking, “wow-all we had to do was plan this fun day and people paid us for it.” We got to be on a local television show. That reinforced the idea that raising money was a positive thing. I also remember thinking how cool it was that the more money I make, the more I can make a difference. I think that’s a good reminder for someone who feels uneasy about putting a price on her work. Creating wealth enables you to create more art and to help more people.

I also grew up knowing that my dad came from poverty and pedaled fruit to support his family so the idea of creating my own livelihood was an acceptable, if not obvious choice.

4. What’s your biggest money story currently? 

I have this crazy discomfort around charging friends for my services. When a friend asks for help, I frequently don’t invoice them and I know I need to change that. It’s not that they can’t afford or don’t want to pay me. It’s just my own weird thing. I also know that some friends are reluctant to ask for my help because they know I feel funny about charging them. That’s setting a terrible example for my clients who I’m encouraging to charge for their own work.

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?) I do not believe that if you just do what you love, you’ll earn money. Lots of artists do amazing work that never gets out of their studios. I do believe if you approach your art as a full-time occupation, take it seriously, and market it (or hire someone to help you market it), the money will follow. You can’t just put up an Etsy site and expect people to find you. You can’t just open a yoga studio and wait for walk-ins but if you take your passion and treat it like a viable business, it will become one.

Money Talks appears here on the Mabel blog every 2nd and 4th Friday of the the month, meet us here!


money talks with Laurie Wagner

Laurie-Wagner-Money-TalksHappy November. This month’s first column features Laurie Wagner.

Laurie is another one of our no-nonsense artist/entrepreneurs. She’s all grit and go-go-go. What you’ll find in her responses are practical thoughts on earning a living  and being an artist. No magical thinking for this girl. And lots of effort-ful working!

I particularly love this line from Laurie: “Why suffer? You can make art AND make money.”

If you’re like me, you read along with these columns and continually look over your shoulder at your own life to see how your money history is similar or different than each of the featured responders.

We also get the chance to turn and look forward. I often read these and think, “How could I implement what has been working for this person?” Every person’s wisdom is such a gift.

I hope you’ll read what Laurie has shared and then post in the comments what impacted you the most about her responses.

See ya back here after Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for these conversations — and you!

Laurie-Wagner-2Laurie Wagner
Alameda, CA


Laurie Wagner has been publishing books and essays, and teaching writing for the last 25 years. Her Wild Writing classes are the corner stone of her live work. 27powers.org

1. Are you earning what you’re worth?   That’s a really interesting question. I remember working with someone who was helping me price my Wild Writing classes, and she suggested that I charge $1000 for a 12-week session. I currently charge $525. She said that Wild Writing was life changing for people, like a kind of therapy – and because they paid hundreds of dollars each month for their therapy, I should charge accordingly. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt like too much money to ask people to spend.

I’m always trying to find that sweet spot between what I want to make for my time and what I feel is reasonable for others. I try to make a certain amount of money an hour – no matter what I’m doing. I’m probably worth more than I charge, but I’m happy to take something close to $125 an hour or more for my work – no matter what I’m doing. So I don’t ask, “What I’m worth,” as much as I ask, “what I want.” If I’m getting what I want, I feel good.

2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you?

I don’t like it. I don’t relate to it.

It’s such negative, limiting language. It’s true that the world doesn’t recognize the artist the way it recognizes the lawyer or the hedge fund guy, but I don’t think you have to starve either.

I’m a very practical person. When I was starting out as a writer, writing journalism or essays or even writing books, I always had a straight job on the side. I would never expect my art to cover all of my expenses, and I would certainly not complain about it. The people I admire the most figure out a way to pay the bills AND make art. I know that means work, but that just makes sense to me.

Up until recently I was doing things that I didn’t completely love because of the money. I’ve got two kids, I live in California — that just feels realistic to me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. Why suffer? You can make art AND make money. Doesn’t that sound nice? And one day, if you’re lucky, you can make money entirely from your art. But that you don’t get to do that for a while, isn’t a sad thing in my mind.

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? When I was in my 20’s I worked in bookstores and I also free-lanced journalism articles on the side. I finally got a job with Simon and Schuster, the big publisher, and my parents were thrilled. I was thrilled. This is what I felt was expected of me – not only from my parents, but from myself and the world I came from in Los Angeles. My job was to rise, to aim higher, to grow and to evolve personally as well as professionally. I worked for Simon for three and a half years and I loved it – I learned a lot about books and the publishing industry, and ultimately about myself as a writer.

I realized that I didn’t want to sell books, I wanted to write books. But when I told my dad that, he freaked. “Why leave Simon?” he said. Simon had prestige, not to mention the money and benefits. It was a fancy job in publishing and I was a fool to walk away.

I did quit, and a few months later my first piece was published in a little book. I was out to dinner with my parents and reading the piece aloud to them, and my dad – who was a very sweet guy — kept interrupting my reading to tell us what was on the menu. After the interruption I’d look at my mom and begin reading again, and then he’d interrupt again, “chicken wings!” he shouted. It was funny, and sad and weird.

The truth was, my dad was terrified. He wasn’t a risk taker. He stayed at his job in real estate for his entire life and I know he didn’t love it. Leaving Simon because I wanted to become a writer agitated the hell out of him. Of course, when my first book came out, he couldn’t contain his pride. The second book I wrote sent him to the moon.

I was doing what I loved – but it wasn’t something he taught me – if anything, maybe I showed him what was possible.

4. What’s your biggest money story currently? My money story is that I have to work and work and work and work and… well, you get the idea. No rest for the wicked. I am doing well, but I hustle.

I have taken some breaks, but my money story is that I have to always be on top of it, I have to keep hustling or else the work, the money, it’s all going to go bye-bye.

I think it’s a true story. I take that back. I think when you work for yourself you do have to hustle. But there’s a way in which I approach my work that could probably benefit from being a little more light hearted.

You’d think I was working in the coalmines the way I screw my head on and march into each day. I’m sure I could relax a little more.

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?) On my 40th birthday, this palm reader told me that I would make a really great actress or coach. “But I’m 40,” I said, “it’s too late.”

“Cream rises to the top,” he replied. And what he meant was that if you were good at something, and you did that something a lot — because you loved doing it – you might get somewhere with it.

So here’s what I’d say, and I think it’s true: Do what you love, do it as much as you can, learn as much as you can from it, become a little baby expert at this thing you love, and there’s a fair chance it’ll take you on a good ride.

Money Talks appears here on the Mabel blog every 2nd and 4th Friday of the the month, meet us here!

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