So, my last post was kind of a downer, right? I know, because quite a few people read it, and no one commented. It’s a tough one, because people are uncomfortable commenting about other people’s financial or business situations. I get it. I am. We don’t have enough information to give someone else proper advice, so we say nothing. Plus, we have our own problems.
I’m hoping that most of the people who read it did get something out of it—a takeaway that will help them in their own careers or that makes them more aware of how they can support the artists in their lives.
Careers in the arts are always tricky to balance, because it’s not like an artist is in the same category as a restaurant, where it’s like:
I’m going to make this food, and you can pay for it and eat it, and if you like it, you can pay for it and eat it again tomorrow, and the next day, and tell your friends, and I’ll be happy and you’ll be happy, because I have steady income and you have steady food. But if you don’t like it, that’s okay, someone else will be my regular.
For artists like authors, musicians, painters, and more, “regulars” are super important, too, but the process looks more like this:
I’m going to make this thing, which takes a really long time. I’ll talk about the thing while I’m making it, and you will be excited to enjoy it. When the thing is ready, you can pay for it and buy it and enjoy it, and if you like it, you can enjoy it again and again and again, forever. But if I want to get paid again, I must make another thing and invest a bunch more time and money, so please come back next year. Oh, and that thing potentially costs less for you to buy than the coffee you drank while you enjoyed it (depending on what kind of art we’re discussing and the medium it’s consumed in).
Obviously, artists’ business models have to be a lot different than a restaurant’s. And in order to make a living creating, they have to have a much wider customer base to make sure they can sell enough “things” to support them through the process of creating the next one.
One of the ways that artists mitigate this is to have multiple streams of income. The stereotypical version of this (because it works and eating is important!) is to have a full-time day job that pays the bills and the expenses of creating the art until the art starts to support not only itself, but ideally, the artist as well.
In previous eras, nobility and the wealthy would become patrons to artists they liked, seeing it as their social responsibility to support artists so that the artists could create without having to starve, and in return, the artist often created almost exclusively for that patron.
More recently, crowd-funding has filled that role, kind of a combination of the proverbial “tip jar on the piano” and the patronage system, which is what I thought I’d give a try with my Ko-fi page—because I’m stuck in a bit of a hard place in budgeting for my next book right now, I’m gonna be honest.
But the thing is, I also hate having people hand me money for which I give them nothing directly in return. For some reason, try as I might, I’m having a hard time reconciling all the things I do and create for free (for instance, this blog, my monthly inspirational newsletters, my free desktop wallpapers, and the free book you get when you sign up for my newsletter) as enough value to justify it on its own, because those are things I would do anyway, and which also serve the purpose of establishing relationships with my readers, which is so important to me.
So I created a survey to see what other value people would like if they buy me a coffee, including finding out if my neurosis about what I already do not being enough is justified. If you want to vote on that, go here:
But honestly, I would much rather create my own support base for myself, which is how I’ve always done it before this and how I’d prefer to do it going forward. And last week, through casting around for an answer and prayer and the fortuitous merging of events, I found the answer.
I am already doing an activity that would allow me to have full-time work and income and not only support my writing career, but enhance it. It would also allow my long, 55+-hour work week to net our family more than that minimum wage part-time job I was wistfully discussing last post. And that thing is editing.
Editing is something I enjoy, and am good at. I can do all forms of editing, but what I really excel at is as a developmental editor for fiction. I love the aspects of teaching, puzzle-solving, and creativity that are involved. It gives me great satisfaction to help other writers have those “a-ha” moments when they see how some small, consistent changes make their writing come alive and their stories become magical.
Plus, editing is a professional job. Editors don’t work for hopes, smiles, and dreams like many authors do. Editors charge a professional fee, just like I am already doing when I teach piano (my other “day job”). Up until now, I’ve been charging very low rates for my editing to build my portfolio, but recent research has revealed to me that I’m more than qualified to command full rates—and those rates would allow me to work without dreaming of the steady income a job at Tim Hortons would provide…
My dream is still to make a living from my writing alone at some point. But at that point, I will probably still go around teaching other writers for fun, because I love it so much. At this point, I’m going to start editing as a full-time “day job” to support my art, because it’s a job I love and comes with the added satisfaction of helping other writers, one story at a time.
I’m excited about what the future holds, and all the ways I can continue to contribute both to the lives of my readers, and other writers and their readers.
So, all that to say, life looks pretty good right now.