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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!

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