Navigating the world as an artist or creative can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. On one side, there’s the pure joy of creating, and on the other, the daunting question – what’s the worth of my art? It’s a journey filled with passion, self-doubt, and those little victories that keep the fire burning.
For many of us, especially those still waiting for that big payday, measuring our value in a world that often equates worth with wealth can be tricky. It’s a dance between staying true to our art and wanting the recognition we deserve. So, how do we, as creatives, find our footing and truly understand our worth?
In this post, we’re exploring five down-to-earth and brilliant ways to help you see your value, not just through the eyes of the world but through the lens of your unique, artistic spirit.
Questions arise, such as:
I’ve experienced this personally many times.
On my journey to becoming a full-time creative, I’ve had many moments when I was asked to share my talents for free. I’ve even offered to work for free many times!
While I was fine with this while I still had my “day job”, being paid for my work has taken on new meaning now that I’m a full-time creative entrepreneur. As I’ve gotten better at my craft, I’ve come to realize that my skills are also more valuable than they were when I first started.
So while I still love to help out friends when I can, I’ve grown over the years to more fully value my own time and work.
The Violin Story
One of my favorite stories to illustrate the issue of knowing your worth is the story of a violinist in Washington, DC at a metro station on a cold January morning in 2007.
As described in a Washington Post article that year, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After about four minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that a musician was playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, then hurried on to meet his schedule.
About four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and continued to walk.
At six minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
At 10 minutes, a three-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
At 45 minutes, the musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while.
About 20 gave money but continued to walk past the violinist. The man collected a total of $32.
After one hour, he finished playing, and silence took over. No one noticed, and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
But, the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.
He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth $3.5 million.
Two days before this, Joshua Bell had sold out a theater in Boston, where the seats averaged $100 each to listen to him play the same music.
It was an experiment conducted by the Washington Post that saw him playing incognito in the DC metro station as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people’s priorities.
The article said that this experiment raised several questions about art, talent, and creativity. Namely:
- Do we perceive beauty? If so, do we stop to appreciate it when we do recognize it?
- Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
- How do we assign value to the art that is created?
- What is the true value of your work?
- How do you increase your self-awareness and feel worthy of being paid for your art?
So, in this situation, we’ve got one of the best violinists in the world. And one night, he’s playing at one of the country’s biggest, most respected venues, while the next night, he’s playing the same music on the same instrument, and he receives less than the value of one seat at the theatre from the night before.
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this – if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made… how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
In addition, for us as artists, this brings about questions like…
What is the true value of your work?
How do you assign that value to your work?
And then how do you ensure that you get fair compensation for that work?
As creative people, we need to face each day with this attitude: What I do is create something out of nothing. I create new worlds, new characters, and new visions. These are things that without me, wouldn’t exist.”– Neil Chase
What Does it Mean to Know Your Worth As An Artist?
As an artist, it is easy to doubt your worth. You question whether your work is good enough, whether you are talented enough, and whether you will ever be successful. You base your self-worth on external situations and worry about other people’s approval. But in the end, what does it really mean to know your worth?
To begin with, it means understanding that external events or other people do not determine your self-worth. Your worth as an artist is not dependent on whether your work is praised or criticized, sold or rejected. It is based on who you are and the joy you find in creating art.
It also means recognizing that your work has value, even if the world does not yet recognize it. Every artist has their own unique perspective and voice, and your artwork is an expression of that.
So trust yourself, believe in your vision, and know that you are worthy of success!
How to Set Your Worth as an Artist
It’s important to talk about actual solutions and ways to value your artistic talents and your actual products and services as an artist.
While most artists love their work, they also need to eat and thus need to be paid for their time, skills, and experience!
1. Value Your Time
As an artist, it’s important to know your worth and value your time.
So often, we can get caught up in the creative process and lose track of how much our time is actually worth. It’s important to have self-respect and to know that your time is valuable. If you don’t value your time, then no one else will.
When you’re valuing your time, it means that you’re also valuing your work. You’re saying that what you do has worth, and that’s so important. Remember, as an artist; you have a unique perspective and worldview. Your work is valuable and deserves to be valued!
So value your time, respect yourself, and know your worth as an artist.
Also, don’t forget that experience makes you more valuable. Each step you take in your journey, each time you create something for free at the beginning, each time you practice your craft, you are showing self-love and are taking a step in the right direction.
Know that with experience comes value. As you get better and better at your craft, you will be able to set higher prices and will be paid fairly for your work. Just don’t get stuck at the working-for-free stage!
The story of the plumber is a great way to illustrate valuing your skills and experience.
Imagine that you have a plumbing problem in your home. You’ve been working on it for hours but just can’t seem to figure out how to fix the tap. So, you hire a plumber to come in… and he fixes the problem in just fifteen minutes!
Then, he gives you the bill… $300! You are astounded – how could it possibly cost this much when it only took 15 minutes to fix?
You are not recognizing that it took him 25 years of studying, knowledge, practice, and work to get to the point where he can do it in 15 minutes. You tried all day, and you couldn’t fix it yourself!
It’s a mental shift to recognize and value people’s experience, education, and skills; the arts are a great place to demonstrate that shift.
2. Set Your Own Prices
As an artist, it is important to be aware of your own worth as a human being and as an artist. This means knowing how to set your own prices in order to be compensated fairly for your work. Many artists undervalue their work, which can result in them being underpaid or even taken advantage of by unscrupulous buyers.
In order to avoid this, it is important to have a good understanding of the market value of your work. Once you know how much your work is worth, you can then start setting your own prices accordingly.
You can find other artists in your niche and check their pricing in order to get a ballpark figure for their prices.
Start a spreadsheet, and begin keeping track of the services or products of similar artists, and the prices they set for their work. Keep track of their approximate level of experience as you are noting prices. This can be a good comparison as you look at setting your own prices.
Remember, as an artist, you are the only one who can determine the true value of your work – so never sell yourself short!
3. Build Up Your Own Confidence
Confidence is critical when it comes to being a successful artist. If you don’t believe in your own talent, skills, and abilities, it will be challenging to convince others of your worth.
That’s why it’s so important to work on building up your own confidence! Here are some tips for building your self-esteem as an artist:
- One way to do this is to keep a “success journal.” Every time you have a success, no matter how small, write it down in the journal. This could be a sale, a positive review, or simply completing a new piece of artwork. Over time, looking back at all of your successes will help to boost your confidence and remind you of your worth as an artist.
- Work on setting goals for yourself as an artist! This could involve setting a certain number of pieces you want to complete each week or dedicating a certain amount of time each day to working on your novel. Having specific goals in mind will help to keep you on track and ensure that you’re making steady progress.
- Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your talent. Whether this is a friend, family member, or fellow artist, their support will remind you that you are on the right track and help to build up your confidence.
- Appreciate repeat customers. Recognize that when you have customers who are happy with your work or who keep coming back to you for additional services, you know you’re on the right track and are doing great!
- Develop a strong portfolio. Showcase your best work to highlight your skills and versatility. A well-curated portfolio can reflect your artistic journey, growth, and unique style, helping you and others better understand your worth.
If you’re the type of person who’s won awards for your work or if you’ve been celebrated in any way or if you’ve gotten media attention – if other people are positively talking about you, that can help to elevate your self-worth as well. And then your increased feelings of self-worth can help you set new prices for your work.
So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and remember- you are a fantastic artist with plenty of talent! Just believe in yourself, and the rest will fall into place.
4. Remember that People Pay for What they Value
Especially in light of the past three years of government restrictions and pandemic interruptions, people are recognizing the value of the arts.
Imagine a quarantine time with no TV, no movies, or no books! People need the arts, and society needs artists in order to provide these artistic escapes and diversions.
Let people give you compliments!
Oftentimes, artists are their own worst enemies. We can be self-deprecating and often undervalue ourselves. Be sure to accept compliments, even if you don’t totally believe them! Let people value you and your work, and you will slowly start to believe it too.
If you want to improve your self-worth, stop giving other people the calculator.– Tim Fargo
As an artist, it is essential to know your worth and to remember that people will pay for what they value. Your art reflects your unique perspective and your passion, and it is important to communicate this to potential buyers.
When you are pricing your artwork, be sure to take into consideration the time and effort that you put into it as well as the materials used. If you are confident in the value of your work, buyers will be more likely to see its worth as well. By pricing your artwork fairly, you will not only be more likely to make sales, but you will also build goodwill with your customers.
Remember, people pay for what they value, so make sure that your prices reflect the quality of your work!
5. Maintain a Positive Online Presence
Maintaining a positive online presence is like leaving your artistic footprints in the digital world. This is one way you can make your mark on the world, tell your story, and connect with people who resonate with your work.
Start by showcasing your journey on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or your personal blog. Share the highs, the lows, the late-night coffee runs, and the early morning rays that inspire your creations. Let people in on your creative process, showing them what you’re made of and the passion that drives your art.
Engaging with your audience is a two-way street. Respond to comments, ask for opinions, and join conversations. It’s not just about broadcasting your achievements but also about listening, learning, and growing with your community. Create a space where people feel heard, valued, and connected to your art.
Remember, your online presence is an extension of who you are as an artist. It’s your digital canvas, where you paint your personality, values, and beliefs. Be authentic, be kind, and be open to the endless possibilities of the online world. By doing so, you’re not just building your reputation; you’re also fostering a sense of self-worth and belonging in the creative community.
At the end of the day, a positive online presence is about more than likes and follows. It’s about making meaningful connections, staying true to your art, and embracing the beautiful, ever-evolving journey of being a creative soul.
Final Thoughts: How to Know Your Worth as an Artist
Overall, the people who tend to value themselves and their work are the people who know their power and are most confident in themselves. They are constantly striving to increase their self-worth and feelings of well-being.
Anybody who strives to be a creative professional should be confident in their work, practice their craft diligently, and be ready to up their prices as their work improves and as they find clients happy to pay for their creative services.
My comfort level with charging what I’m worth has increased as my skill level and experience in the field has improved. I’d love to hear in the comments below if you have any other ideas for how to know and be secure in your worth as an artist!
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