Every month I’m fortunate enough to get to hear from two amazing artists/entrepreneurs talking about living a creative life and earning a living. If you’re new to reading this column, I encourage you to scroll back and gobble up the creative nuggets of so many wise and wonderful folks. This column runs the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month.
Today we get to hear from Jill Salahub, who is employed full-time and also keeping an eye on the possibility of making the leap to creating a living writing and teaching on her own.
Reading Jill’s responses gave me pause to think about the interplay between our culture’s value on creative endeavors and our own internal valuing of what we do. The line that jumped out at me from Jill’s responses was this: “The worst part . . . is I start to internalize a certain sort of poverty mentality about what I have to offer.”
I can certainly relate to what Jill is saying. It’s easy to find examples of the ways that writers/artists/teachers are underpaid for their invaluable work. I know what it’s like to internalize that and begin to feel as if I can’t possibly ask for what my work is worth. “It’s too much,” the voices inside me argue.
And, at the same time, I know plenty of artists/entrepreneurs who are earning a great living doing creative work they love. What’s their secret?
I’m currently in a Mastermind studying the book, The Science of Getting Rich. It has been fascinating (+ exciting) to see the “miracles” happening for folks when they change their internal thoughts about what is possible. Of course this is coupled with a lot of hard work and action. (Which is why I put the word “miracles” in quotes!) But it does raise the question for me of how much our internal expectations impact our finances. I love that Jill has touched on that question for us and brought it into the conversation.
It seems possible that when we are confident about being paid fairly for our work, then we step out into the world with a kind of abundant energy. We can speak enthusiastically about what we have to offer and we can ask for the price that feels fair to us. Perhaps people respond to that confidence + are happy to pay generously for what’s offered with that kind of joy and excitement?
How much does our internal thought process affect the balance in our bank accounts? What do you think?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.
Jill Salahub writes about the tenderness and the terror, the beauty and the brutality of life, and of her efforts to keep her heart open through it all on her blog, A Thousand Shades of Gray.
1. Are you earning what you’re worth? No. There are two main reasons why. One is that my primary paid work right now is in the field of traditional education, which is notorious for paying much less than the private sector. My job there is also a particular classification with a fairly standardized salary, which means even if I’m doing superior work, I get paid the same as everyone else in my job class.
The second reason I don’t earn what I’m worth is I don’t ask for it. In the cases where I set the price for my offerings, I struggle with what to charge, and end up underselling myself—I’m working on this.
2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you? Irritation, anger, even rage. My primary art is writing and it is famously underpaid, if it’s paid at all. So often “success” for a writing project is that it’s published, and more often than not that comes without any monetary compensation. Other things I teach, like meditation and yoga along with writing, are seen as a service, even spiritual work, so the pay that is offered is very little, like somehow money would sully the process, or that as such a teacher I’m somehow above the worldliness of concerns like money. The worst part of this is I start to internalize a certain sort of poverty mentality about what I have to offer, what it’s worth, what I should expect to earn for doing the work. It’s sad, and it makes me angry.
3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? That idea didn’t exist in my childhood, wasn’t presented as an option. When and where I grew up, you took the work you could get and were grateful—to have work at all, to be able to support your family, to contribute something to the community.
The primary goal wasn’t “work you love” it was “work that allowed you to take care of your family, to help, to be of service.” That being said, I saw a particular joy in this—my family who worked a farm, my dad who had his own auto repair shop, my mom who cared for us and our home, my teachers, etc. There seemed to be a joy, a gratitude, a satisfaction these people found in their work because of the service they did, for their own families and for their community, that wasn’t contingent on loving the work they did but rather loving the people they did it for.
4. What’s your biggest money story currently? Learning to receive in the same measure that I give. Particularly, if I quit my job at CSU, being able to make a living writing and teaching on my own. I’m working my way up to this, making small offerings and trying to figure out how much to ask in return, wondering if there will be enough people who want and can pay for what I have to offer to support such a leap.
5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?) It’s not so much the accuracy I’m interested in, but rather its relevance to what I do. I am reluctant to marry “what you love” with “the money.” I chose to simply do what I love, regardless, even if it means I also have to do other work to earn some money. I don’t think we should never give up what we love because it doesn’t support us financially—what kind of life would that be?
I also don’t want to burden what I love with paying my mortgage. If the money follows what I love, that’s great, but I’m not sure if that should be my goal, or maybe it’s just that I can’t seem to figure out how to make that equation always work so it’s easier to not try so hard, to convince myself that’s not the goal. But always, money or no, the doing of what I love is what matters most, not the result. It’s more about the process, the practice for me.