How Artists Build Wealth

Basic principles for artists to earn their financial freedom

👋 Artizen is the largest marketplace for artist grants. Our newsletter shares open calls for grants, fellowships, residencies, and retreats as well as short essays to help artists earn their financial freedom. Whether you’re a filmmaker, painter, or creative coder, being an artist is crazy hard. Get the resources you need to quit your job and make a living from your art.

How do artists earn their financial freedom?

Time is our scarcest resource. Yet most of us are forced to sell our time just to pay bills. And for artists, just paying our bills is a major achievement. In fact, making money as an artist is so insanely difficult we forget that money is not the goal. The goal - economically speaking - is wealth. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Owning equity - a piece of something that generates income and/or appreciates in value - is the only way to earn your financial freedom.

In this essay I share basic principles to build wealth and earn your financial freedom as an artist. These maxims are pulled from my lived experience growing up in a family of artists and draw heavily on Naval Ravikant’s well known tweetstorm How to Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky). In future essays I will explore each of these principles in greater depth.

Artists earn financial freedom when their body of work generates enough passive income to cover living expenses. You’ve reached financial freedom if you no longer need to work for money.

To start, reduce your expenses to a minimum. Live simply. Remove material distractions. Focus on your craft. The less money you spend, the easier it will be to reach financial freedom.

Become the best in the world at what YOU do. Keep honing your skills and narrowing your focus until this is true. Pursue your passions, especially if they are unfashionable. Eventually your art will make an impact.

Share your art with the world, but maintain as much ownership as possible. Too often artists fail to capture the value they create. Act as though your work has value and one day it will.

Make art that impacts culture. The bigger the impact, the greater the returns. Measure your impact by the number of people who truly love or hate your work. Indifference is the enemy.

Build wealth by generating passive income from your art. Avoid trading your time for money or selling one-off creations. Instead, leverage technology to sell access to your art at scale via subscriptions, paid downloads, licensing, royalties, NFTs, etc.

Working artists make money in direct proportion to their efforts. If you stop working, you stop making money. Wealthy artists earn while they sleep. Instead of selling your time to actualize the dreams of other people, build wealth and create your own dreams.

Thanks to Selena Pinnell and Elliot Cole for reading drafts of this.

René 👋

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