The Creative’s Blog

Pay Yourself to Create

If you want to be the person who supports yourself with your creative career, then it’s time to take a good look at money and how you are going to harness the inherent power of your creative work via your financial habits.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t made a cent for your creative work thus far. How you start looking at money now is going to determine how soon creative paychecks start rolling in.

Creatives tell me, “I don’t want anything to do with the money part. I just want to create and leave money to my agent/manager/team/anyone else but me.”

This is a common sentiment for an Uninitiated Creative. I said the same thing back when I took over as managing editor of a magazine. My one caveat to accepting the role was, “I’ll do it, but I want nothing to do with the money.”

A combination of issues make us hesitant to deal with the financial part of our creative career.

  • The deeply internalized acceptance of the starving artist myth.
  • The belief that accepting money for our art compromises our status as real artists and makes us sell-outs.
  • The conditioning that writers are bad with money and therefore must rely on other people to manage it.
  • The overwhelm at the thought of learning money management skills.
  • The personal money baggage that has to do with how you grew up and saw money being used around you.

Delegating your financial responsibilities puts your ability to support yourself through your creative work in other peoples’ hands. This delegation allows others the opportunity to profit from and exploit your talents and body of creative work.

By saying “I don’t want to deal with my money,” you are saying, “I don’t want to deal with the power and freedom that comes with the money I can earn from my creativity.

When you turn a blind eye to money, you are turning a blind eye to your power. And, when you avoid money from the start of your career, you impede your ability to call the shots in every other aspect of your life.

Let me repeat for those of you who have been force-fed the myth of the starving artist. YOU CAN EARN MONEY LIVING A CREATIVE LIFE.

Financially successful creatives do not sell one great masterpiece and live off that windfall for the rest of their life. Creativity is not a lottery ticket, but rather a building block of a long-term sustainable business. You build financial independence one baby-step at a time—the exact same way you build your writing portfolio.

Today is the day you start building financial habits to acknowledge and validate the inherent monetary worth of your creations. To become the creative who has money in the bank for their creative work, here’s how you start:

  1. Get out a pen and paper, or your phone with the notes/voice-memo  app. As you read the next four steps, note every immediate reaction you have to the following instructions. Note both physical and intellectual reactions. i.e., clenched jaw and  This author is out of her mind, etc.
  2. Set up a SAVINGS Account specifically for your creative income. Make sure there are NO fees or minimum balance requirements.
  3. Log in to your online banking and go to settings.
    • Rename the account. I recommend names that remind you that your creative career is fueling this balance. Titles like:  $ MY ART MADE or MY BOOKS PAY BILLS or CREATIVE CASH.
    • Go to the visibility setting and turn it off. Make the account invisible, so you don’t see it on the main screen when you log in to the bank. 
  4. Decide how much and how often you’re going to pay yourself.   Start with what you can afford:
    • 1¢ for each finished blog post
    • 50¢ for each new recipe
    • $1 for a recorded song
    • $2/hour of practice/studio/writing time, paid every Friday.
  5. Pay yourself according to the wage and timeline you set for yourself.

What physical reactions did you have? Stomach knot? Tension in the neck? Balled fists? Note those personal physical indicators you are expanding beyond your comfort zone. Your body wants to keep you safe and you’re moving into unknown territory which makes your body anxious. Take a deep breath and roll out your shoulders. Tell your body, out loud, “We’re safe. This is a healthy, safe, new space we’re entering. I’ve got you. Thank you for keeping us safe.”

Physical symptoms are the first indicator that you are experiencing mental dissonance as you level up your identity from Uninitiated to Initiated Creative.  By addressing your physical safety first your mind is more receptive to exploring new ideas and identities.

What intellectual reactions did you have? “You want me to pay myself? That’s cheating. Plus, I’m broke. I haven’t even shared my stuff publicly. Bank accounts are for REAL writers. Besides what good will 30¢ for thirty whole blog posts do me?! I can’t live on that.” What other opinions do you have about opening a savings account and paying yourself every time you create?

Add those to the list and buckle up, because those excuses are places for you to dig into the money mindset issues that keep you from accepting payment for your work. Variations will pop up continuously throughout your creative career.

Identify, acknowledge, dismantle, and act upon your money mindset issues now, so you have the confidence to ask for your full worth when the opportunity presents itself. 

By completing steps 2-5 you quiet those dream assassins.  Here’s how acting starts an energetic tsunami in the transition from unpaid to paid creative, .

  • Setting up that savings account establishes the intention that you will make and retain money from your creative work.
  • Turning off visibility jump-starts relying solely on your internalized self-trust and self-worth. You are establishing the identity of a creative who has money in the bank as a result of their creative efforts. (Hiding it also lessens the likelihood you will spend the money. Banks want to give you money when you have money. You are setting up a financial power reserve to fuel and sustain you.)
  • You are telling yourself my creative time, effort, and products have inherent worth. I deserve to be paid. You are practicing: setting prices, expecting compensation, and being a good steward of your money. (For those of you still balking at the idea, remember founders of multi-billion-dollar company’s pay themselves a salary.)
  • Every time you pay yourself you reinforce the habits of billing for completed projects and accepting payment for your work. You are building the identity of “I am a PAID creative.”

Now open a new browser, go to your bank’s website, and fill out the form for your new savings account. Pay yourself. You’ve earned it.


This is an excerpt from Jessica Conoley’s current work-in-progress, The Oddest Little Business Book: for Creatives.

Read additional excerpts released in real time by joining our TCA Insiders Patreon membership. In addition to TOLBB you receive access to co-working sessions 3x/week, invites to pilot workshops, access to videos of archived classes, and more.

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