Do you consider yourselves starving artists? If you’re a graphic designer, the answer is probably yes. It’s not your fault, though. The industry is full of clichés, and it’s tough to break out of them. But it’s important to do so if you want to make more money for your creative work. In this article, I’ll share some tips on how to crush the cliché and earn more for your graphic design skills.
Starving Artists in Graphic Design
Maybe you clicked on this article because you’re broke and you’re tired of being broke. If you’re a graphic designer, I understand that pain. For many years, I was broke and for a lot of different reasons. I see a lot of entrepreneurs, and a lot of creatives specifically, really struggle because of various different reasons in their life. So today’s going to be one of my probably most important articles I’ve ever done. I’m going to share some really practical things and talk about why creatives really struggle.
Now, you may be a creative that’s just burnt out and ready to go get another job. That’s the end of your rope, and I don’t want you to be at the end of your rope at all. I want you to be excited and pumped up and just ready to have the best career you could possibly imagine, because being an artist, being a graphic designer is super rewarding if you’re getting paid well, if you’re taking care of yourself. So today, we’re going to jump into that. I’m going to share some really important things that I think are very important to me and through my journey. I’ll share a little bit of that, and I wore the shirt you see in the video for a specific reason. Now, I’m not sponsored by BetterHelp, but this article is going to tie back to them and why I’m wearing that shirt.
You Don’t Have to Suffer for Your Art
Today is a very sentimental and very important article for me because I’m going to get a little bit vulnerable and that vulnerability just talks about some of my shortcomings. I’ve been through a lot of my life, from being a homeless kid to struggling throughout my career to having ups and downs. A lot of people know what it’s like to struggle, and especially creatives they call it the starving artists. There’s a reason why we’ve been given that name.
I grew up in a household with parents that were very strict, very strong but also not always there. I had one step parent and I had one dad. You know it just was very rocky upbringing and we were the kind of household that didn’t do counseling, they didn’t do therapy, they didn’t do coaching – it was all about figuring stuff out, no crying, quit your sniffling. All that was about being tough and pushing through it. And it made me into a resilient person but at the same time, I started to bury a lot of those insecurities, a lot of those fears, a lot of those pains. I buried those things.
Starving Artists Often Share Three Traits
Eventually, like sweeping things under the rug, those are eventually going to come back up and they’re going to affect other areas of your life. This is why I’m saying this: I know that there are areas and things that have happened from your childhood to adulthood and into wherever you are now that are affecting your life and your career as a graphic designer. One of the quotes that I really love, by one of my mentors and former business partners, is from tag talks. His name is Raul Lopez, and he says: “90% of your business problems are personal problems.”
I need to say it one more time: 90% of your business problems are personal problems in disguise. So if you don’t really understand that, you need to take a minute to think about it because it’s really important you understand that. The breakthrough you need inside of your career is going to happen when you solve these personal problems. So the first step to solving your personal problems is accepting that you are not a perfect person. You are a flawed person. We are all fundamentally flawed in some way. No one lives a perfect life. We all experience challenges in our life, and those are what make us unique but also can hold us back. When I’ve dealt with this, there’s three main areas that I want you to understand that you may not even realize. And this is where your breakthrough “Aha!” moment is going to be.
Starving Artists Have Limiting Beliefs about Money
First, one should eliminate limiting beliefs around money. Money isn’t everything, money doesn’t grow on trees, and money is not the root of all evil. These are all sayings that have been implanted in us subconsciously because they’ve been repeated so many times. Money is a tool. It’s not evil. It can be used for good. It doesn’t grow on trees, but it’s printed on paper, which grows on trees, which is kind of ridiculous. Many of these quotes are cliches and tautologies; they don’t even really mean anything, but a lot of starving artists take them to heart and they think that money is a bad thing.
“Oh, you know I’m not greedy.” I’m not this, I’m not that. Money either makes you more of what you already are or it doesn’t. It doesn’t change you into a different person. So, an example of that. If you get a bunch of money, you’re either going to become greedier or you’re going to become more giving. So, if you’re a good person and you think that money is going to turn you bad, well maybe that’s something that you need to work on. Money is the first thing limiting beliefs around money.
Starving Artists Struggle with Setting Boundaries
The second one is a really big one: setting boundaries. I think this is the area that I needed to learn the most about and this is what helped me in my business the most. We are really bad as creatives sometimes of setting boundaries especially if you’re an introvert, if you’re not setting boundaries with people and setting the expectations the right way from the very beginning, that relationship is going to be doomed from the very beginning.
Setting a boundary is not about being limited or limiting others. It’s an opportunity to be more free and discover yourself fully. Setting boundaries what you’re okay with and what you’re not okay with as well as being open to saying no is something I’ve worked hard on, being willing to say no and walk away from transactions that aren’t a good fit for me because of the money again linking back to a restricting belief regarding money but boundaries are very essential.
Starving Artists Lack Confidence
The third most common area that I see creatives and entrepreneurs in general struggle with is a lack of confidence when it comes to sales, delegating to their team, or running the company finances. If there’s an area where you’re lacking confidence, this is where you need to invest energy, time, and effort. Your confidence as an entrepreneur and creative is key in order to succeed.
If you’re dealing with people or if you’re dealing with people on a team, and you’re trying to build something real and get out of the poor house, this is something you’re going to have to spend time and money on. This is an area that I didn’t lack in sales but I lacked it in other areas, and I still lack in some ways but I’m working on those things. I’m aggressively and mindfully working on these areas that I’m not confident in, and finances has been one of those that I’ve been learning about. I’ve been paying into, I’ve been investing into, and I’m getting better and better at that.
How to Transform from Starving Artists to Thriving Creatives
So those are the three areas where money and limiting beliefs around money, boundaries and actually how to set those, and confidence come into play – whether it’s around sales, delegation, or whatever. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you understand that we all have limiting beliefs, we all have challenges, and we all have areas that we need to improve on – there’s a whole other laundry list I could come up with for that. All starving artists have to do work on themselves in order to change their circumstances.
The next piece of this is building a support system for yourself. Once you have the understanding or have the awareness, now you need to actually do something. And what I want you to do is to build a support system for yourself so I have four strategies that I’m going to share with the starving artists right now that are going to help you start to build that support system.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
The first step is to take advantage of the situation and invest in something like improved assistance or a local psychotherapist to deal with any trauma-related problems, pains, habits, or hang-ups you may have. If you’re financially strapped, there’s a reason for it.
If you take that to a counselor or therapist, they’re going to help you work through that problem and help you work through those limiting beliefs. Now, you have to be careful; maybe they have limiting beliefs too. Just because they’re counselors and therapists, they may not have good mindsets around money. A little extra gold nugget for you: The richest man in Babylon is a very good book for you guys to read. It will help you get rid of some of those limiting beliefs around money.
Hire a Personal Coach
All right, the second one. This is a good one too. This is one of the first areas that I started off with in about 2010. You need to hire a personal coach. Hire a personal coach or find a mentor. A personal coach is going to help you work through your problems by asking you good questions, now that can be very similar to a therapist or counselor. But if you were to hire a personal coach, somebody like my former business partner, Raul Lopez, he’s going to take you through your business, your personal life and he’s going to ask you questions and get to the root of why you’re struggling financially and what your pain points are.
Maybe you’re not struggling financially, but you’re burnt out and you’re ready for a career change. You’re just tired of it and the money isn’t worth it to you anymore. You want to get out of your job and go work for yourself. This is an area where you should go hire a personal coach to help you put a plan into place. By asking you questions and giving you clarity, hiring a personal coach is a really good step. That’s why I put it on this list.
Hire a Business Consultant
The third thing is for my fellow business owners, entrepreneurs, or creators who are already out there making things happen. This is something I would have done a lot sooner if I had known about it. I did do this a little bit, but I didn’t do it to the level I’ve been doing it in the last few years. That is, hiring a business coach or business consultant to come into your company and look at what you’ve been doing, look at what you’ve not been doing, what processes and systems and people do you have involved, to help you get really clear. Because maybe you’re spreading yourself too thin.
There are a lot of different reasons why you might not be prospecting enough, or keeping track of your finances. There are all kinds of reasons that you just can’t see because you don’t have the objectivity to make the investment when you make the investment into yourself. It’s going to pay huge dividends, I’m going to keep saying that throughout this whole video. You need to hire outside experts who are highly skilled in areas where you are not.
The other beauty of that and hiring any of these people so far before I get to number four is the accountability of getting a community involved. What is accountability? Accountability is having somebody in your life holding you accountable for your abilities, not for your inabilities. My mentor Nicholas Bayerle says that all the time: you are being held in account for your abilities, not your inability. So make sure that when you have a coach, you have a counselor, you have a therapist. They’re not coming down on you, but they’re encouraging you to follow through and be accountable for the abilities that you already have – not the things that you don’t have.
Get Involved with a Community
That all being said, I brought up Nicholas Bayerle. That’s the perfect segue for number four. And number four is to get involved in your community. That could be the Instagraphics Pro Network. Since we help so many starving artists, it’s free, and it won’t cost you a dime. We’ve got almost 600 amazing fellow creatives in there that you can do life with, be creative and get inspired by. I’m actively pushing to post more and more stuff in there; I’m working on some really big things behind the scenes that I was supposed to release last week but I didn’t. But it is coming hopefully this week. But I would love to see you guys in this community. And if the Instagram Pro Network isn’t enough for you, and you want to take another step, you can do one-on-ones with me or group coaching with me.
There are a lot of different opportunities out there. You can join mastermind groups, coaching groups, and local meetup groups. There’s no excuse unless you’re just not going to take action. There’s no excuse for you not to surround yourself with like-minded people who are going to hold you accountable. Putting yourself in a community is one of the best ways to do that to help you level up because, like my dad said when I was young, hang out with four millionaires and you’ll become the fifth. So that’s some really good advice I want to leave you guys with.
Starving Artists Undervalue Their Work
So I have a quick story I wanted to share with you guys. I really struggled and I think that my journey took three times, maybe two or three times longer than it could have if I had applied some of the things that I’ve already told you in this article into my life. And when I actually went and found somebody and started putting myself around other creatives, like myself – other agency owners, who I thought were starving artists like myself.
I actually bumped into a guy and we had a conversation about money and what we pay ourselves, and when he told me what he paid himself, he’d only been in for a couple years doing what I was doing, but I had been in for almost a decade at that point. I was ready to fall out of my chair when I saw that he was paying himself six figures a year, while I wasn’t even paying myself half of that. It was really frustrating to see how little I valued myself and my beliefs around money and what my personal worth was. And it was that conversation that changed everything for me, setting the standards for what I paid myself from then on. That year, my company’s income doubled.
Just one conversation doubled the income of my company because I saw that if this guy values himself and sees himself as being worth this much, what am I saying about myself? I just put myself to his level instead of languishing in the starving artists cliche. Okay, that’s great, but if I’m way more experienced, way more talented, and have a lot better of a repertoire and client base, I should be paying myself even more. You help more people, you change more lives; you should be paid adequately for doing so. This is an important money belief that I had to change that really kept me held me back for many years of my life and extended the timeline.
Three Things Starving Artists Can Do Differently
If I were to do everything over again and start from scratch, my whole career would probably take half the time or even one third of the time that it did last time. I’ve been on this journey for 15 years, and I could probably build everything from scratch literally from zero in less than five years – maybe even three years. This would help you out a lot too if you were starting all over. There are actually three things that I would definitely do differently if I were to start again. I want to share these with you guys to close this article out.
Prioritize Your Health
The first thing I would advise is to take care of your health. I was a workaholic, working 16, 18, 20 hour days, and my health really suffered because of it. This is something whether it’s your sleep or diet. I was eating terrible food late at night – junk food and energy drinks. That’s one piece of advice I’ll give you right now: if you’re drinking energy drinks, red bull, rock stars, monsters, throw that stuff in the garbage. It’s trash. Don’t put that stuff in your body.
Now don’t get me wrong: I still consume some caffeine. These zevias are really good but they don’t have any harsh chemicals. They’re all organic and non-gmo. If you need caffeine still, I understand that. But, change what you’re putting in your body. If you’re eating McDonald’s, get rid of that from your diet. Stop eating McDonald’s and prepare food from home. Get the blue ribbon or blue apron, or whatever they order meals online. There are so many different resources for you. Make sure you get enough sleep. Buy yourself a good mattress. Do workouts make sure you’re moving every day, and make sure you’re stretching every day.
Take care of yourself – I cannot stress this enough. A lot of artists and creatives sacrifice so much of their health in order to achieve and follow their passions as designers or artists. This is a really bad combination, and it’s going to catch up to you. It caught up to me, and I could have moved a lot quicker if I had taken better care of myself. But I’m glad I’m doing it now; I’ve changed now. So I want you to start as young as possible because this is an investment in your health – which is truly greater – and is the greatest form of wealth that you have.
Know Your Limits
The second thing I would do differently if I had to start all over again is not spreading myself too thin. I’m a visionary campaigner type personality, so I constantly have new ideas – new fun, and a lot of my ideas are really great. Not all of them are great, but a lot of them are great, and I think a lot of them could be significant money-generating businesses. But are they in line with what my vision, my mission, and my purpose is?
Do not spread yourself too thin. Do not do too many projects. Do not take on too many businesses. This is an area where you’re going to diffuse your focus. You’re going to lose momentum. Stay focused. Get to where you want to set some milestones for yourself in your business and say, “Hey, if I do this then I’m going to do this.” Complete one project first before moving on.
I have a book, I have courses, I have all kinds of stuff that I’m working on, and none of them are finished. How does that serve you guys? And I’m seeing counselors and therapists on a weekly basis. Yes, betterhelp.com helps me through a lot of different areas of my life: relationships, business, personal family. They can help you with stuff that you didn’t even know you were struggling with. So make sure you go ahead and do that!
Patience Is a Virtue
The third one is another area that I really feel like I struggle with. I jumped at things too quickly, and that was because I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough. Which is just foolish, and that’s not rushing and understanding that you have enough time there’s plenty of time to get to where you want to if you rush and you jump to things too quickly, you’re going to make harsh and rash decisions. They’re going to end up blowing back and costing you money.
I did that when I moved my printing shop from down from citrus heights, California to downtown Sacramento, California. And when I did that, I lost a significant amount of my business. I didn’t think it through enough; I was rushing and just wanted to get to a bigger location. But I didn’t think the consequences through enough, and I didn’t have a business coach or a personal coach or a therapist at that time. If I did, I know I wouldn’t have made that decision. I would have kept that location and opened up a new one because then I would have added 30 to my revenue, which would have been great.
Final Thoughts on Breaking the Starving Artists Cliche
So, this is just something I want you to think about. These are important gold nuggets. If you need to read this article through again, I want to encourage you to do that because I did share a lot. But this is it for today. I hope you got some really good nuggets out of it. If you’re ready to level up your career, you’re ready for the Instagraphics Pro Network on Facebook. I’ll see you guys there, and make sure you fill out all the questions or I will hit deny. I promise you won’t get in if you don’t fill out all the questions. And I’ll see you guys there. Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you on the next video, and make sure you share this content. Until then, keep looking up!