Earning a Living From Your Creative Work

Keep creating, keep writing, and then send your email subscribers updates on what you’ve been doing.

Earning a Living From Your Creative Work
Photo by Estée Janssens / Unsplash

I was on campus tours in Chicago this past weekend with my college-bound daughter. She’s a wonderful student and gifted artist that’s interested in animation as her major. While we were on tour at a university, we came across an animation workshop run by one of the animation professors.

We asked to join at the tail end to listen to the guest speaker, an animation designer in a small Irish studio.

He showed the class how they do vector-based graphic 2D animation for an hour and thirty minutes. My daughter loved every minute of it but the last 10 minutes were the most enlightening.

During the question and answer period, the guest speaker imparted a bit of wisdom to the students. First, he told them that the animation industry will seek to exploit them. They will force them to work long hours for little pay.They will passion exploit them.

Students gasped when they heard that and my daughter squirmed in her chair. While passion exploitation is real and the subject of another post altogether, his second advice resonated with my daughter and me.

He told the students to keep creating. Even if they get a job, they should continue to create their animations. They should continue building their worlds and sharing them with peers and the world. The goal is a body of work over time that’s important because there’s such a huge falloff in creators.

Many creators will stop creating because they have to take jobs in different industries just to survive.

Sadly, that’s a shame, but it begs an important question: can you earn a living from your creative work?

The world, and the Internet for that matter, is littered with all kinds of abandoned creations. Half-written books, unfinished paintings, and half-exposed rolls of film hide in everyone’s closet or on laptops.

I’m guilty of many creative projects that have come to a sudden halt for many reasons and excuses. The biggest reason is time and lack of focus. I get distracted easily by life and suddenly my camera is collecting dust or my blog isn’t updated.

While I call that a reason, I think it’s an excuse. I always make time for the important things in my life, so why shouldn’t I assign the same level of importance to the creative arts?

For the past six months, I did just that. I got up at 4:30 AM and wrote my heart out. I posted on Medium, and both of my blogs, wrote newsletters, and wrote RPG adventures on Ko-fi.

I assigned importance to my writing and creative work and made some money from that hard work. Not enough to live off but it leads me to believe that yes, you can earn a living from your creative work.

The trick is figuring out how to do it.

Right now the Internet is focusing on Web 3 and monetizing the hell out of everything. Coil, which closed its doors, was integrated into writefreely as a way for content creators to make money from their work.

Writers could add the <paid> tag into the body of a post and then readers could unlock the rest of the post by streaming a few pennies to the writer.

Coil-enabled sites and their writers started following the 80/20 rule or 100 + extra rule for content. They then pimped out links to other coil-enabled readers and they all circle-jerked themselves into a few pennies.

Coil failed and will close their doors on March 15, 2023.

While web monetization on the surface is not a bad thing, this web monetization strategy is harder than it looks.

The reality is that no one gives a shit about your work unless you’re famous. No one wants to subscribe to your $ 5-a-month newsletter on Substack because you’re just some guy or gal screaming “look at me” into the Internet void.

The trick I’ve found is to start building an audience.

Audience building is key for any artist, creator, or maker. Yes, you will need to continue to put your stuff out there, just like what the guest speaker said, but you need to build your audience.

You need to be organized and funnel people to your site that you control. You need to run your own writefreely or WordPress instances on your own domain, and you need to build an email list.

I didn’t believe it but it all comes down to an email list. That’s the key to everything. That’s your audience “opting in” to your work, to your words, to your creative endeavors.

The email address is the most important Internet artifact there is. Why do you think Substack, Medium, Twitter, and all the rest want it? They want to market to you and what better way to get a good conversion rate than to send it to your email address if you opted in?

Capture email subscribers everywhere you can. Keep creating, keep writing, and then send your email subscribers updates on what you’ve been doing. Sell signed prints of your latest photos or your book as an offer to your email subscribers.

Use your email list to build a deeper relationship with your audience.The lowly email address is the key to earning a living from your creative work.