Having a healthy money mindset as a creative

Uncomfortable. That’s how I feel right now. And why? Because I’m a fashion illustrator writing a piece about money - a theme which is still a bit of a taboo in the creative world.


Talking about money feels uncomfortable. Not only for me, but for most of us. Money is often seen as something dirty, something to shouldn’t necessarily aspire to. But as a freelancer, an uncomfortable relationship with money can seriously effect your - already unsteady - income and therefore your life. So I’ve set my uncomfortable feelings aside and I hope you will too. Let’s talk about money!


Photo by Aline Bouma


We’ll start with some misconceptions that have to some extent shaped our money mindset, wether we want it or not.


Money can’t buy you happiness

Maybe not. But having more money can definitely make life easier and it can buy you things that will create more happiness. Having more financial means often equals less worrying about it. Especially for freelancers. Savings in the bank for when times get tough, money for new art supplies, money to follow a new course or just for a nice dinner with a loved one… there are many ways in which money can actually improve our lives.


The myth of the starving artist

Somehow there’s this idea that when an artist is suffering, living in a small attic with almost nothing to eat, the quality of the art is improved. This artist is really living for his or her art, regardless of his own health, safety and life. He’s almost like a martyr. It’s the image of painters like Van Gogh that has attributed to this idea and I believe it’s toxic. Especially in combination with the opposite image: the extremely successful artist who’s had his breakthrough moment. The idea is that you’re starving, or you’re extremely successful. It’s one or the other. But the truth is - most of us are somewhere in between. And also for most of us success doesn’t happen overnight in one breakthrough moment. Building a successful career takes time and dedication.


But it’s your hobby, right?

When you start selling your illustrations, paintings, ceramics or whatever you make, you’ll doubtlessly meet the buyer that does want your art, but doesn’t really want to pay for it. Because "it's your hobby, and you love making illustrations, right?" Well, that doesn’t change anything. If the patissier loves baking cakes, won't you still pay a fair price for the cake? No one will say to the shop assistant "hey, your boss loves baking cakes so can I take that one for half the price?" It’s a strange misconception that making a living from your hobby would allow people to pay you less than you feel you deserve.

Luckily, my current clients do see the value of my work! But when I started out, this was a returning struggle.


That were some of the most common misconceptions. Being aware of how these might influence you is the first step to a healthy money mindset.

How to embrace making money as something good

Ask yourself what having more money would mean to you. It could for example mean you’ll have the financial means to pay for the piano lessons of your kids or for better medical care. It could mean you can buy better art supplies, get yourself that new dress you’ve been dreaming of or go on an unforgettable vacation with your friends.


For some of you it might help to realise this: having more money could also mean you can spent more time on personal art projects. And I’m sure your art - whatever you make - ads a spark of joy to the life of those who see it. So to have more money and more time, will also mean you can add more sparks to peoples lives trough your art.


And know that you’re not just a creative - you’re also an entrepreneur. You might not feel like one but you are. At the end of the year, we all have to do our taxes. We have to fill in forms stating our earnings, profit margins, etc. The government sees you as an entrepreneur, so why wouldn’t you? We find it normal that entrepreneurs make money and strive for higher profits. Give that a thought…


Everyone’s relationship with money is a bit different. It’s shaped by our upbringing and by the concepts society has taught us. Hopefully this article has been helpful in exposing the twisted thoughts that many of us face when organising the financial side of our business. I’ve listed some more interesting reads below!

Useful resources


Blog: Nikki Grooms blog series 'Money Talks’ - this is the link to episode 1


Blog: What should I earn - an article by the Association of Illustrators


Youtube Video Kendyll Hillegas - Artist Advice: Afraid to Negotiate with Freelance Illustration Clients


Youtube Video Holley Exley - How much money do I make?