Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Don't Wait Until You're "Good Enough" To Get Paid

Over the past several years, I've met a lot of people who wanted to build careers as entertainers. Sometimes they were going it alone, and other times they had collected a group of like-minded creatives who wanted to combine their efforts to build something bigger. Almost universally, though, these seemingly very serious people operated under a faulty belief.

That belief is that, in order to build an audience and a career, they had to provide completely free content with no attempts to make money for a certain period of time.

Because otherwise it's prostitution? Or something?
I'm going to repeat that, just to show that it won't make any more sense a second time through. There is a genuine belief among authors, video creators, bloggers, podcasters, and a whole bunch of others who legitimately want to turn their creativity into a career, that they have to operate for an arbitrary amount of time, or collect an arbitrary amount of followers, before they're allowed to make money. As if there's a magical point where you've proven yourself worthy of trying to earn money from your own efforts.

Let that sink in for a moment, and ask yourself if any other self-employed person would even consider embracing this logic. If someone painted houses, would he print up a bunch of flyers, business cards, and buy all of the necessary tools and equipment, then paint houses for free for a year just to prove he's good enough to be paid for it? Would someone running a landscaping business insist on building up a client list of 50 people before asking to be paid for all the work they were doing? No, because not only is that a great way to burn yourself out and dig yourself into a massive hole of debt, but it's stupid. No one would do that much work for no earning potential.

So why do creative professionals think they have to?

If You're Going to Get Paid, Then Get Paid

It's hard enough making money as an independent creative professional without forcing yourself to do it for nothing in the name of paying your dues, or perfecting your skills, or whatever excuse you're giving. If you're going to make a career out of your art, whatever that art happens to be, you need to be just as serious about your money as you are about the things you're creating.

Money isn't something you play around with. You won't have that much of it.
For starters, most of the ways that you get paid as a creative professional either cost your audience nothing, or are totally voluntary. If you put ads on your blog, or if you are included in the Youtube ad program, then that won't get in the way of most reader's experiences (provided, of course, you avoid tiresome pop-ups and ads that make loud noises). If you set up a Patreon page, then it's up to your readers whether or not they want to fund your efforts (incidentally, if you become a patron for The Literary Mercenary before 2016, there's two ebooks in it for you!). Heck, you can even put a tip jar on your blog (instructions here) so that people can toss you a little green when they feel you've done a good job.

Even if you do all of that, though, it's going to take years for you to build up a big enough following to start realizing a profit. Making a real living practically requires you to be struck by viral lightning.

But People Love Free Stuff!

That's true. However, it takes a colossal amount of work and effort to make people realize that art doesn't just grow on trees in the first place. Now try giving people free art for a year, getting them used to getting all that free art, and then asking to be paid. Some people will support you, either by pledging cash, putting up with your ads, or leaving you tips. Others will scoff at you, demanding to know what makes you think you're so special that you should make money doing this?

Chances are good, though, those people would have reacted the same way if you'd asked up-front.

You made it, and you deserve to be paid for it. You put in the time, and the effort, to create content that your audience is consuming. It has value, but giving it away without asking anything in return creates the illusion that there is no value. And it doesn't matter if you try to make money right off the bat, if you wait six months, or if you hold off until you have a thousand followers, the reactions won't be any different. If anything, they'll be worse, because suddenly you went from an artist who selflessly didn't make any money, to someone who now expects to be paid.

If you're going to try to make money later, start doing it now. Waiting does nothing but empty your stomach, and pour cool water on your fire.

All of that said, thanks for stopping by and listening to yet another of my hopefully helpful rants. If you'd like to get your two free ebooks, then become a Patreon patron today! All it takes is $1 a month to keep great content coming your way. Also, if you want to be sure you don't miss any of my updates, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter!

1 comment:

  1. There’s this recurring myth that writers and other artists don’t mind suffering for their work; that the “starving artist” persona is a lifestyle choice. It’s why screenwriters, for example, have to fight so hard just to get paid X amount or receive certain benefits; even threatening to go on strike to get their point across. Whether it’s fiction writing, non-fiction or business writing, the people who put words into tangible, coherent formats serve a critical purpose in society. And our time and energy are worth more than the struggles we have to endure to be appreciated and recognized.