Release Your Guilt

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You’re reading an excerpt from Art For Money, by Michael Ardelean. This small but powerful book helps every creative freelancer know their value and scale their business. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Release Your Guilt

You have a right to your labor, but not to the fruits of your labor.Krishna

Making art and commanding high prices for your art are two different things. This book assumes that you’ve already confirmed your identity as an artist. In doing so, you’ve surrendered to Krishna’s statement.

You make art, period. New sentence. You receive money. That’s an art in itself, which we will explore here.

In this book when we refer to art, we are talking about anything that you produce because you feel a divine need to produce it. Building software, writing words, painting colors, taking photos, art direction, fashion designing, landscaping, manscaping, roasting coffee (or “turning hot water brown” as coffee guru Tyler Wells reverently refers to his craft). Whatever.

We are all creative. It’s part of our identity as humans. Some suppress their creativity in exchange for a steady paycheck doing a mechanical job. Some produce creativity in a confined scope as someone else’s employee. Some squeeze their creativity in on weekends.

Still others, and this includes you, create simply because they must.

You were born to do it. It comes through you, not from you. This, not money, is the reason you do what you do. Money is a byproduct. As such, money must be commanded in a way that does not diminish your ability to create, but also does not foster resentment.

You must emotionally detach your money from your art. This way, you let art come through you and money come to you.

The biggest threat to your art is the conflict that rises from negatively associating it with money.

If you sell the things you create in exchange for sums of money, and those sums are not substantial and appropriate, your art could suffer. Resentment will build, whether from inaction (telling yourself that’s just how it is), or improper action (bulldozing clients with your resentment, or passive aggressively muttering about how nobody respects your worth).

Once you’ve decided that selling your art will be your exclusive income, you should make peace with the fact that art, although still art, is your job. Its value to others is not reduced because you enjoy making it, or because making it came naturally to you.

There is no shame in creating because you need to express yourself, and working because you need to pay bills. Those things could remain separate forever. But if you have chosen to combine these two things, this book is for you.

If you have any remaining guilt associated with accepting the maximum possible amount of money in exchange for your art, I recommend that you shed it right now.

From this point forward I’ll assume that all of us intend to live indoors, eat good food, and stack money for the future.

Now, for a moment, set aside your own opinion of your work. What do your clients and peers say about you?

Do you deliver on time? Do you deliver early? Do you provide a value in excess of the price you charge? Are you a pleasure to speak with?

If you’re a photographer, what environment do you create on set?

If you’re a designer, how organized is your calendar of deliverables?

If you’re a creative director, how do you package your services?

Are you impeccable with your word?

If an independent party surveyed all of your previous clients about you, would you post the results on Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn?

If you’re good at the thing you do, you are 20% of the way to making proper money as a freelancer. By the end of this book, you’ll be well on your way to answering these questions with confidence—and any guilt you associate with collecting money will soon be behind you.

The Benefits of Freelancing

Freedom is the top of luxury. When I went back to couture [at Chanel], I went back with the idea of freedom. You cannot buy me, but you can rent me! I’m a hired gun but I know how to handle guns. It’s the only thing I want!Karl Lagerfeld

I once managed 28 people at a medium-sized company. They were mostly creatives. About a third of them were freelancers. Most of those freelancers (except for the highest performers, ironically) were constantly asking me when they could become full-time employees. Why? They wanted “benefits.”

I broke it down for them. The “benefits” of becoming an official employee of the company?

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