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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Pursuing your work as art, but also making money

Pursuing your work as art, but also making money

October 17th, 2010

Career Opportunities podcast logoI just finished reading Seth Godin’s latest books, Linchpin, and there is much to recommend there. He clearly describes and analyzes the dramatic shifts in the work world where being “good enough” simply isn’t enough anymore, especially when such work can easily be outsourced to thousands of others all over the world. If you want to have a successful career, you need to treat your work as art, and yourself as an artist, regardless of what you do.

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While the book rings true to my own experience in almost every way, it also fails to address one of the deepest burning issues I live with every day — how to make money pursuing your art. There are the typical assurances that doing your best work will attract money, which I believe, but it doesn’t address the day-to-day realities of putting cash into our pockets so we can buy groceries and pay the rent. I can’t fault Godin with being unable to answer this question. It is indeed one of those problems that seems to defy solution. That said, reading the book got me thinking (which I believe is the clearest sign of a good book) and I have developed a few ideas of my own.

Working as an independent computer and New Media consultant over the last 15+ years has shown me the great need of assembling income from a variety of sources. Some weeks I book several computer calls. On others, it is made up of New Media and podcasting consulting. Other weeks leave me without much income at all. It is the nature of the freelancing beast to have both feast and famine. One thing I am not very good at is the typical, tried and true method of sales. I address this in a number of ways and I think it provides a rubric for those of you who are starting to pursue your work as art.

One comment I often hear from my friends and my peers is “Wow, you really do a lot!” Yes, I do do a lot, in a wide variety of topic areas, but it never really seems like a lot to me. The fact is, everything I do is integrated into my life. When I am at an event, I usually capture some photos or a bit of video that I can then use later in my blogs and podcasts. I am going to be at the event anyway, why wouldn’t I take a few moments to collect that content? This means that I don’t have to constantly feel I am “working” to feed my blogs. It all blends into one.

I believe that in order to create your art, whatever it might be, you need to think the same way about generating income from your art. You have to integrate monetization into the process and not think of it as something you do after the work is created. I see now that I need to do this even more myself. Despite the fact that I intuitively understood the need for integrating my work into my life, I had never really thought of doing the same with monetization. This clearly shows the blinders we can all wear at times and also how a good book can help you to remove those blinders.

So, how do you integrate monetization into your life without feeling you are constantly engaged in the hard sell? One of the first ways to start making money from your work is to setup and use affiliate marketing opportunities to sell those products you love and use most. I am a member of Amazon Affiliates which allows me to gain a small percentage of each item I recommend and sell. This doesn’t mean that I bombard people with affiliate links and advertising. Rather, it allows me to integrate a small bit of monetization into my daily work. When I mention a book, video or other product in my blogs and writing, I am able to link people directly to a great source of reviews and information while also, perhaps, making some money if the reader decides to buy the product. Linking to Amazon provides value to the reader and also provides a value to me, simply as part of the process of creating the content. There are literally thousands of different affiliate programs out there. Look for opportunities to gain a little by integrating them into your work where possible and appropriate.

Next, start adding a column, a checkbox, a todo item to every project you begin. Along with planning and creating the content, think of ways that allow you to monetize the project from the very beginning. What affiliate links can you include? Can you sell an expanded version of the content? Can you sell it as audio or video? Can you develop a speaking engagement or class around the content? Is this blog post a chapter in a larger book?

By thinking about these opportunities at the beginning of a project it begins to integrate into your work. Instead of having to look for opportunities for making money later, you keep that thought in mind as you create each piece. This doesn’t mean you abandon those projects that don’t immediately have a clear way to make money. You may only discover their money-making potential after you create them, or after you discover that they are a part of a larger product. The important thing is to keep the thought in mind as you go through your day so you naturally discover money-making opportunities as you go..

I am a firm believer that you can pursue your art while still supporting yourself and your family. In fact, I think that this is one of the biggest changes occurring in the world today. It will fundamentally change the way that most of us make our living and affect our children even more. It is not easy living on the cutting edge, but by integrating early thoughts of monetization into your work, your art and your life, I think you will find a way to thrive in this new work world.

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