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Getting Paid Partially in Time
So many of our discussions around Free have gravitated toward money - after all, many, many creative people wish they could make their living making their art.
So often, though, we get caught up in the idea that we need to make lots of money, and if our art can't pay that, then it's not worth leaving the lucrative safety of the corporate world.
It's true that many self-employed artists will earn smaller incomes than people at many corporate jobs. But contrast these two realities for a moment:
The alarm drags you out of sleep, and into the realization that you've got to hurry up and get to the job you hate. Groggy, you drag yourself through the morning routine of washing and dressing and gulping coffee. Then you get in the car and sit in traffic - or, you pack yourself onto a crowded bus - and crawl to work. The closer you get, the deeper the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You'd so much rather be crocheting. Only eight more months until your vacation trip to Hawaii.
You wake up naturally, refreshed and excited to begin your day. It might be early in the morning or maybe you made art until the wee hours and are getting started at midday. It's entirely your choice. You wash up, dress simply, and head to your studio space. You might work on some art, or doodle in your sketchbook, or catch up on email - whichever one is calling to you most. Your day is spent mostly in flow like this - you spend your energies where your mind and body want to go. You may not have the money for a vacation this year, but then again, you may not really need one.
Here's a secret: the first scenario actually requires a lot more money than the second one.
Those large corporate salaries have so many costs built in. You have to buy and maintain a work wardrobe. You have to pay to get yourself to and from the job each day. You might have to pay for day care for your children. You have to pay to feed yourself while you're at work. And more than likely, you'll end up treating yourself to occasional (or frequent) coffee drinks, to help keep you fueled. If it's a job you don't like, then you'll also spend money on decompressing, whether that's with a cold beer or dinner out or a new scarf you buy yourself as a reward for working so hard.
With a comfortable salary, of course, these little expenditures feel justified - even necessary. But I think they can also be insulating in dangerous ways. All of this money-spending consumes time as well. And before you know it, another five years have gone by and you haven't taken any steps toward your dream of creating for a living. Time is always leaving us.
I think so many people deprive themselves of a fulfilling creative career because they fear losing the cushion of that corporate gig. Well, I'll let you in on a secret: when you work for yourself, part of your paycheck is in the form of time.
Time spent focused on your own goals, time spent doing things pretty much when and how you want to, time to exercise more, time to be a night-owl or early-riser - these are meaningful forms of "salary" indeed. And you don't need a large fortune to enjoy them.
I don't want to over-simplify things here. Making a living from your creative work takes a lot of time and effort - far more, in fact, than your average corporate job. It's also true that there are financial uncertainties to making your own living, and sometimes, these aren't for the faint of heart.
Self-employment is exhilarating some days, and terrifying other days. But every day, every hour, you have a choice of how to respond, a creative mission to propel you, and the available hours to make it happen. I may live frugally now, but in many ways, I feel orders of magnitude richer and more alive than I ever felt doing any corporate job. I'll take that in trade for the financial muffler any day.
Am I implying that you don't need any money to be self-employed as an artist? Oh, not at all. But I am saying this: If you have a desire to make your living through your art, one of the most powerful first steps you can take is to look at where you can afford to stop spending money. Cultivate a habit of liberating the time from the cash.
What things do you buy that consume time? Can you jettison, say, the giant cable package that keeps you glued to the tube and re-invest those hours in your art? Can you give up the daily trips to the coffee house in favor of drinking home-brew with your sketchbook on your lap?
It's surprising how, once you start simplifying your lifestyle, you begin gaining more and more resources of time. Paradoxically enough, when you need less money, and have more time, you can generally create more options for yourself.
What do you think? How does your time relate to your money?