Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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10/03/2004: "How do you become a full-time artist? Answer: one step at a time!"

One of my life long goals has been to work full-time as an artist. I've read just about every self-help book for artists available (in English), and I’ve been working hard but the goal has always seemed like a long ways off.

Then last weekend while stuck in Anchorage due to Juneau's infamous bad weather, I happened to pick up the book Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams (It got a 5-star rating out of 91 votes!, almost every subject line says something like "life changing book") at an airport bookstore.

The reason I’m mentioning it here is because I have a feeling that this book is going to change my life as an artist, and if you read it too, it could change yours as well (the advice is applicable to both men and women equally). Why? Because no matter how much we want to admit it, our personal finances affect the choices available to us. This book tells you *exactly* what you can do, starting today, to change your financial future and accomplish your wildest dreams in the process...whatever they may be.

One exercise I did was to write down my top 5 personal goals in a way that is specific and measurable…then it had me list things I could do within the next 48 hours to start towards each goal, as well as obstacles facing its completion, and strategies for facing each obstacle. My number 3 goal (after "get out of credit card debt" and "start a Roth IRA for retirement") was the one to "Make my living as a fulltime artist in the next ten years".

I wrote down in specific terms, how I could make this happen. I started by figuring out what income level I would need for basic living expenses as well as contributing towards my retirement and purchasing my own heath insurance etc.

Next I divided that figure by 12 months, and then calculated how many paintings I would have to sell (based on an average selling price) each month, consistently, in order to maintain that standard of living. At first it was really depressing because it seemed impossible.

So then I started thinking that I probably couldn’t do it from the sale of originals alone. I recalculated factoring in the sell of a certain number of art prints each month. That made it seem more within the realm of possibility. But I knew I could never sell that many prints in Juneau alone, which made me realize that like it or not, I’d have to try and find some galleries outside Juneau (and Alaska) to sell prints of my work.

To make the goal even more specific and measurable, I decided that within the next 6 months I would find at least one gallery to sell my prints. This means putting together a brochure and researching galleries and sending out packets…and before all that, I have to figure out my overhead and what percentage the gallery will take, and what the ultimate price of each print will be, as well as the edition size etc. But, these are things I can do, and must do if I expect to accomplish my goal in ten years. And let's face it, just hoping to be a fulltime artist isn't going to make it a reality.

And this is just one example goal the book is helping me break down to make it a reality. The things I’m going to do to get out of credit card debt is going to save me hundreds of dollars a month, I can finally see a light at the end of that tunnel, but it took a whole lot of soul searching and the writing out of very specific steps I need to take to get to that point.

Also, the charts it has showing the joys of compound interest and the amount of money you’ll need to invest each month to retire a millionaire (and how those numbers increase exponentially every year you wait) are enough to get anyone to give up their morning latte (his “latte factor” is great, showing it only takes an extra couple of dollars a day to retire a millionaire!).

Anyway, it was my sister Jenny’s birthday yesterday and I bought her a copy of it…actually I bought her Smart Couples Finish Rich by the same author, as she and her husband have money problems like all of us, plus have a new baby on the way…my sister Kelly’s birthday is on Oct. 10th, and I’m getting that book for her and her husband. I’m going to see if there is a version on tape for my dad for Christmas (if not, I’ll make him an on tape version if I have to read it out loud myself)…My two older sisters already seem to be pretty financially savvy but I’m going to recommend it to them as well, and I’m also going to get a copy for all of my close friends who can't afford to buy copies for themselves.

I *never* do this. I’m not a huge fan of self-help books…but this book, damn, what you don’t know really can and will hurt you! And I for one feel practically high at the possibilities I see as becoming a reality. BUY THIS BOOK or better yet, check it out from your local library. Read it, follow the advice.
I have a strong feeling that you'll be glad you did!

Replies: 2 Comments

on Tuesday, October 5th, RR said

Think I need a copy of that book. I'm not a great fan of the self-help books either ( I think I find too many I'd like to follow and believe everything despite picking up many which totally contradict each other.) However, I think you've sold this one to me. Let us know how you get on.

on Tuesday, October 5th, Elise said

The only things that might not be that helpful for you, is it's geared towards the tax system in the US. I'm not sure how different or applicable some of it would be for people from the UK...but some things I am sure would be helpful not matter what country you live in, like setting up specific goals and alining vaules with spending etc.

I'll keep you posted on how I do.