Advice To Give You Hope: Tips from Artists on Making Money and Staying Sane

At the second Find & Follow Your Passion Conference held Saturday, November 10 at Pratt University, following your passion was a theme consistently reiterated by artists from all fields.The panel From Creation to Compensation: Overcoming the “Starving Artist” Stigma took place earlier in the conference, with speakers Sophia Chang (web and graphic design), Shantell Martin (performance artist), John P. Dessereau (painter and illustrator) and Brad Ogbonna (photographer).

Execution Is Key
Despite the variety of mediums represented, each artist had really been where I am: the long nights, the early mornings, the second (and third) jobs, the odd tax situations. Alicia Boone, Coordinator of Adult Programs at the Brooklyn Museum, facilitated the right discussion to cover all the issues young creatives stumble through, from the practical (how are you supposed to put a price on your work?) to the inspirational (be inspired every time someone is interested in your work). The speakers themselves were all proof that the key to success is executing your big ideas. “Anyone can have plans,” Brad Ogbonna said to the audience, “the key is executing them.”

Try Anything And Everything
As a recent graduate, freelance designer and waitress, I found the speakers to not only completely know where I’m coming from, but to relate to my vague, winding journey trying to discover what I want to do day in and day out. Every speaker inspired and embodied the sort of versatility a creative professional needs. They encouraged the use of all social media platforms, networks from all types of work, and all the speakers agreed that if and when you have to take up another job, you can let your creative thoughts develop in many ways with the new perspectives that other types of work offer.

Know Your Worth
The most frank advice they gave us was priceless: “Don’t work for free,” urged Shantell Martin, who happened to grace my arm with some eye-catching designs. “Find out what you don’t want to do, then do the opposite,” insisted John P. Dessereau. Both these bits of advice can help shape a the work I will now accept and what’s more, the work I will seek out in the future, which, until now, has been all over the place. Knowing when and how to price your work and budget your time is a learning process, true, but Shantell and John both had some seriously helpful hints: they say to try categorizing projects into “small”, “medium” and “large” projects based on time, effort, and compensation involved.

Keep On Keepin’ On
These seem like simple concepts, but to a budding creative, they can be completely revolutionary. As Sophia Chang pointed out, the most important thing a young creative can do is attend conferences and meet ups with other creatives. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone involved in this conference walked away with a new idea bubbling away in their heads (and a Tattly tattoo somewhere on their body).The Creative thing to do is keep producing work, and worry about everything else as it comes. The speakers were helpful in that hitting-home kind of way that you can really only get in person, and this panel in particular sent my brain whirring with all the possibilities in front of me, if I will only keep an open mind.

What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind trying to make a career as a creative professional? Let us know in the comments. 

About the Author

Shea is a recent graduate from Hofstra University, who is currently trying to balance a life of freelancing graphic and web design and waiting tables in a french bar in Brooklyn. She loves books, loud music and colors. You can find out more about her on Twitter as @papermashea, or on her website:

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