Starving Artist, Meet Web 2.0

Image by Garry Knight, available under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Starving Artist, Meet Web 2.0

Written by Emilie

Topics: Art

I was at a party last night and my friend’s boyfriend, a very talented guitarist, began telling us about his hunt for a job:

“At this point, I’m willing to take any job that I don’t completely hate and I’ll just play music on the side.”

He looked away as he spoke these words. But I caught it, the look of anguish in his eyes.

And who could blame him for feeling this way? I mean, it sounds pretty awful doesn’t it? All you want is to make art, and instead here you are running around, trying to get the corporate world’s attention, tweaking résumés, shouting “pick me! pick me!” to faceless corporations who see you as nothing more than an interchangeable cog in the machine. That sense of powerlessness is enough to make anyone feel bitter and worthless.

It would be great to make a living playing music, but that’s unrealistic, isn’t it? Doesn’t that require selling out? And has the life of an artist not always been marked by the romantic notion of struggle, famine, and hardship?

The Death of Gatekeepers

Okay look, I don’t mean to be harsh, but Starving Artist, would you please get with the times?!

You may have had to “sell out or starve” in the past, but a lot has changed in recent years. For example:

  • No more are the days when you must carry around slides of your paintings from gallery to gallery in order to get a public viewing.
  • No more must you send your manuscript from publisher to publisher in order to get your novel into the hands of the public.
  • No more do record labels decide which music gets heard and which doesn’t.

The gatekeepers have toppled over, and guess what? You no longer need anyone’s permission to “make it”. Thanks to widespread access to the internet and new, affordable technology, the power that these exclusive gatekeepers once had – that is, the power of distribution – is now yours.

How it’s Done

In stupidly simplistic terms, here are some things you can do to make use of this wondrous new power of distribution that we’ve all been granted:

  1. Start a blog-based business. Write, draw, speak, sing, or make videos regularly about your art, the creative process, your struggles, the meaning of life, whatever.
  2. Build a loyal community of followers who relate to you and your work. Help your community out by providing them with valuable content that they ask for: drawing tutorials, ukulele lessons, information on how to organize a film shoot or tour inexpensively.
  3. Display your art or publish your own book and sell it off your blog, using inexpensive tools like PayPal, E-junkie, Ebookling, or Etsy.
  4. Use a service like Kickstarter or Kapipal and let your community help fund your projects. This will allow them to pay you back for all that valuable advice and the sense of belonging you provided for them.
  5. Offer lessons over Skype. Suddenly your student base isn’t limited to people in your geographic area!
  6. Create how-to guides or video tape yourself giving lessons and sell those off your blog. Voila! A nice passive stream of income. You create it once, upload it, and leave it alone as the cash rolls in.
  7. Get gigs through your blog! Shows, freelancing work, and collaborative projects can all be acquired by using a blog as a calling card.

But Isn’t this Time I Should be Spending on My Art?

Look, you can either work a shitty job and help somebody else’s business make money or you can build something of your own, something long-lasting, that’s related to your art and your passion.

Outsourcing the Boring Bits

As a final point, if you’d rather not spend time learning how to set up a blog or promote your blog posts across social media, scheduling lessons, uploading videos to YouTube, and so on, you can always outsource.

Hiring a virtual assistant through Elance or Odesk is incredibly cheap (think $5-10/hour). My friend Mark Powers is a musician who hires a VA to do all the programming/upkeep that he doesn’t enjoy. Outsourcing will free up your time so that you can focus on your art.

Some Examples

Here are some lovely artists who have harnessed the power of web 2.0 and appear to be neither starving nor working jobs that they hate:

Don’t Wait for Someone to Pick You. Pick Yourself.

Here’s the thing about self-employment: nobody will force you to create anything. Nobody’s going to appoint you and say “Go, start your business now! There’s no “right time”, and there never will be.

Permission isn’t granted, it’s claimed— by you alone.

Your Turn

How have you used the web to make money with your art? If you haven’t jumped on the 2.0 train yet, what’s holding you back?

Let me know and I’ll try to address your concerns/questions in the comments and in future posts.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make money as an artist the 2.0 way, I highly recommend Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Art and Money. I own it myself and think it’s great. I know you’re starving and all, but this guide is quite reasonably priced, and if it helps you make a living with your art, isn’t it worth the upfront investment?


  1. Annie says:

    Wow–again, how the heck do you know me, Emilie? Lol!

    I’ve been considering turning my art into a business recently, and all of this stuff has been going through my head–actually, I’ve been thinking of creating an “art business coaching” service.

    I already know all this stuff–that artists shouldn’t be dirt poor, and don’t have to be. It’s a matter of teaching the hungry here.

    As my mentor (the amazing Lachlan Cotter, who referred me to Puttylike a few weeks back) once reminded me, actors were once laughed at for their profession… and now they’re multimillionaires, making passive income from one commercial they did years back or making steady money from sitcoms and movies.

    Why can’t it be the same for the visual arts, too? No reason; it can.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Annie,

      You should go for it! I’ve heard of a few other art business coaches out there, but not many. It’s definitely something that’s very much needed.

      The thing that deters would-be coaches I think is they worry that artists won’t be able to afford to hire them. You could take a pay-what-you-can approach to get around that. I’ve seen that done. But if it’s something you really passionately yearn to do, then do it. Seriously, just go for it. (And let me know when you launch! :)

      • I know I’m late to the party, but…

        I whole-heartedly agree. The arts community is massively valuable and woefully under-served and misunderstood, in my experience.

        My site is all about Art & Success-Consciousness, if you want some ideas.

  2. hahaha I’m in the same boat as Annie. I recently turned my craft into a business! I can totally relate to the guy you spoke of in the beginning of this article. I’ve mumbled to very same words before. These are great tips on how it’s done. Thanks for this!

  3. I agree with what you say here. People often give priority to the short term and forever put off their long term goals. If you know what you want then there’s no reason to go and do what you don’t want just for the sake of it.

    I fee as though many people make decisions to go into the corporate world because they are afraid , and they don’t know what to do.

    I say its all about conquering fear and knowing that rome was not bult in a day!

    Great post!

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, I agree. Fear is incredibly powerful. It’s definitely the main reason that people (all people, not just artists) don’t pursue self-employment. Most of the things we fear never manifest though, and the stakes are never as high as we believe them to be.

      Thanks for sharing David.

  4. Best post yet. You put everything I had been dealing with into perspective. Because everything is truly simple. All we have to do is just do it. Stop procrastinating and create. Thanks …i needed that!!!!!

  5. Seth says:

    Hey Emilie, another good one. Even though these tools have been around for a few years, I think people of our generation are still getting used to the fact that they own the means of production.

    Practically anyone who went through the (at least in the US) public school meat grinder was trained from day one to do things in order to ‘get that good job.’

    How many times have you heard “do this because it will look good on a resume.’ Ugh.

    Why not do something because it’s a) awesome b) and will look atrocious on a resume (for example, visiting every country in the world ala Chris G.).

    We now have this great opportunity for ownership, but but only a few people are taking advantage of it.

    Why? I dunno, but I suspect because it’s freaking scary to take full responsibility for the distribution and overall success of your own work.

    Once again, nice post!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Seth,

      In complete agreement over here! :)

      I think these tools seem obvious to those of us who are familiar with the life design movement, Chris G.’s stuff, Tim Ferris, etc. But it’s easy to forget that all that stuff is still really foreign to most people.

      I hope more people start embracing the web 2.0 possibilities. I think we’ll see it happen more and more over the next few years.

  6. Julie says:

    Right on Emilie! What a great post! Kick-a?? and useful. Thank you.

  7. Emilie, this is an awesome post! I sent it to my brother who has been dealing with the same kind of struggles. He’s an amazing musician but fearing the pressure of joining the ‘real world’ soon. Luckily he is already sold on the idea of self publishing and has a CD on iTunes for sale, but this post will definitely be another piece of motivation!

  8. Abe says:

    Whoa, you took it to a ‘ho nutha level (HNL) with this post Emilie!

    I have these conversations with artists in my life way too often. Many times they don’t believe me even after they see the proof and case studies like you share here. It’s like they only allow themselves to be creative in making their art, not sharing and selling their art. Multipotentialites have one-up in that our eyes move to the fringes and intersections of art and business easier (if that’s what we’re passionate about) so we have no excuses!

    Looking forward to sharing our musician interviews on the UFL podcast after this.

    • Emilie says:

      An HNL, huh? haha weird Cali boy… ;)

      Yes, multipotentialites definitely have a huge advantage here! If you’re both an artist and a scanner, you’re set. The whole thing ends up being a fun super-challenge!

      Glad this issue is a big one for both of us. We’ll definitely do more on the topic in future eps.

      • Abe, you hit it on the head. Artists are actually very well positioned to succeed in business, IF they approach their business as a creative act too! Too often we limit our creativity to making the art, not sharing and selling.

        Sometimes that’s from a lack of innate interest, sometimes from fear or an assumption that we just *can’t* learn to succeed in that arena.

        And I think you’re right that multipotentialites have an advantage, because we already have an interest in more than one thing.

        • Abe says:

          I agree with everything you mention here Melissa. It’s unfortunate most of us shove creativity and art into little boxes labeled “artist”, and all the traditional imagery we associate with artists.

          It’s been a little while, but Seth Godin’s Linchpin was pivotal in redefining art for me. Science is an art. So is healthcare. And business. When looking at the world through this lens (or watching a TED talk or two), I am amazed and inspired by how art can be used as a catalyst for good, as long as we keep it outside the box.

  9. Hey Emilie, thanks for the shout-out! :) AND for the links to so many cool folks out there! I’m so excited to make new connections!

    As you said, I did figure out how to make a living from my art, though I made a helluva lot of mistakes along the way. Can you say “burn out”? This past year has been one of reinventing myself, to get back in alignment with who and what I really want to be.

    Bliss EVOLVES, as I like to say. The goal is to keep following it. Grooves can so easily get worn down into full-fledged ruts. And you’re the only one who can pull yourself out!

    Anyway, I am passionate about artists learning to deprogram themsel- er… OURselves of the ‘starving artist’ mentality. So much of really thriving comes down, ultimately, to mindset. (If you go around thinking you’re a victim of the mean system, guess what? You’ll keep being one.)

    Really, what it means to thrive is going to be different for everyone. For some people, having a day job that supports them to make their art is the best answer — don’t diss that option! For others, it’s figuring out the various (usually multiple) streams of income that we can bring in from our talents and gifts.

    For my Thriving Artists Project I interview artists and creatives of all kinds who are making a living from their creative thing, and I have yet to find someone who doesn’t have more than one income source.

    And for ALL of us, it’s incumbent upon us to educate ourselves on money and business, rather than walking around in denial, which a lot of artists do.

    I won’t say it’s easy, but it is definitely doable, IF you commit to it, take responsibility, and be open to ongoing learning and change.

    It’s a brave new world, and artists really can take it by storm if we want.

    But now, I’m off to take a NAP! ;)

    • Holli says:

      I really like your input to this awesome post. Like Seth also pointed out, it’s really hard to rewire yourself from an education system and social pressure.

      Learning to change, willingness to fail and get back up and make your dreams a priority are crucial. I am speaking for myself, and the artists I know in real life.

      These are the things I’m still battling, but have at least gotten this far to read perspective changing work by Chris Gillibeau, Tim Ferris, Ramit Sethi and now Emilie on Puttylike:)

      • Emilie says:

        Aw shucks… Lumping me in with those super stars… *blush*

        It’s definitely a process, changing your mindset. It certainly took me a while, and I still question myself from time to time. But the more you surround yourself with like-minded people, the easier it gets.

        I’ve found the online community really amazing and supportive. Next step involves taking what I have online and building a real life version of that community! (plans for this may just be in the works)…

        Thanks for the comment Holli. :)

        • Holli says:

          Those guys really have helped shape my current perspective. But, they felt a little bit distant, making me wonder how to get there. The exception being Ramit who really provided solid steps to follow.

          You fit a real need: being a few dozen steps ahead of us (or me) and showing some real life examples of how others are doing it + providing relevant and timely resources.

          Thank you for cultivating this community:)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Melissa,

      I agree, mindset has a lot to do with it! It’s so deeply ingrained in us though, the starving artist mentality. Definitely takes some time and work to break out of. I also think it’s appealing on some level as a romantic notion and can be used as a way to relieve ourselves of responsibility, which isn’t helpful.

      There does seem to be a general lack of education with regard to new business models and the arts though. I think it’s great that people like you are taking the lead on this and teaching artists what’s possible.

      I didn’t mean to knock employment altogether. You’re right, sometimes the “good enough job” is, well, good enough. And some people actually enjoy their day jobs! I guess I was just thinking in terms of my guitarist friend, who did not seem happy about his hunt for employment…

  10. Annie says:

    Thanks for the thumbs-up, Emilie–it’s definitely something I’m seriously considering, and I’m already gathering, you could say, my “first three clients” as they famously say.

    I think Melissa hit the nail on the head–it’s really a matter of making the business work the way you work. And if you’re an artist, that’s usually a creative venture for you.

  11. Hi back, Emilie!

    You’re right, that damned mindset is SO deeply ingrained — NOT an easy thing to shake. And the whole romantic “poor artist in his garret” thing (and it traditionally *was* “he,” of course) is not helpful!

    The lack of education thing is infuriating. I’ve interviewed more than one artist who was told by professors in art school that if they want to make a living from their art, they’re “selling out.”

    [insert speechless rage moment here]

    Thank goodness for the internet! There are so many people out there now, teaching artists what’s possible. I certainly don’t have all the answers — still learning myself — but it makes me feel good to be able to empower other people by sharing what I do know.

    And btw, I didn’t mean to imply that you were knocking employment! Just to validate that there are lots of ways to thrive as an artist, and that’s going to look different for everyone. Personally, I make a lousy employee, but for some people it’s a good way to go (though employment does, in fact, get knocked a LOT by the blog world!)

    • Emilie says:

      Oh man, that making money = selling out garbage makes me SO angry too!!! Especially when it comes from teachers… Outrageous!

      And I make a lousy employee too, Melissa. :)

  12. Mat D says:

    Prophetic words, thanks for posting. I strongly believe that we need to see a new wave of arts entrepreneurs, and that once instantiated these kind of ideas can help lead to an unprecedented era of self sustaining creatives.

    I’m actually trying to put two projects together about this at the moment if anyone is interested!

  13. WOW! You read my mind! I have been talking about this to people a lot lately! I 100% agree. We are so lucky we live in a time where people can litterally make a career happen through the internet. Social media & blogging is a powerful tool.

    That being said, I think sometimes people need to change their attitude towards having a “real” job. I work my shitty, boring 9 to 5er because it allows me the funds to pursue my art, although it does take away time from it. I’m hoping to tour through Europe next year and for me, this is the easiest way to save towards that goal. It means a tonne of sacrifice and less time for what I love but it’s only temporary so for me that’s worth it. Less happiness now for more later.

    And to be honest, the only reason I’m not getting further in my career in performing right now is because I’m lazy. I know I don’t work hard enough and that’s something I acknowlege and am currently trying to change. Being an artist can be a damn slog!

    I hate the term selling out with an absolute passion. When you are an artist, it’s still a job. The idea of a job is that you generally make a living. I doubt someone would accuse an engineering student of selling out if they got a well paid job doing what they had studied.

    Thanks for wwriting this. It’s the kick up the bum I needed this week to get focused again.

  14. Emilie says:

    Hey Clara,

    I’m a huge fan of the “side hustle”, meaning you do what you need to do to support yourself for now (such as a 9-5 job) while building up something on the side. I always think back to this Problogger article:

    Also on the topic of laziness, for me I sometimes find that what I perceive as laziness is actually an inner fear or resistance. I think all artists have that lizard brain problem from time to time… You know, that force that wants us to not take any creative risks or put ourselves out there.

    Thanks for the comment!

  15. “I doubt someone would accuse an engineering student of selling out if they got a well paid job doing what they had studied.”

    Amen Clara!

    And the reality is, even the Fine Art world (capital F, capital A) is *commercial.*

  16. Ruby says:

    I think in how the web is liberating (the gatekeepers are gone), it is also very scary (we have nobody to blame but ourselves). There is a wealth of information at our fingertips. I don’t have to go to a college to learn about marketing, writing, SEO, etc…but it’s up to me to get on the net and guide my own learning, then it is also up to me to apply my learning.

    I think that’s the scariest part of what I face now- facing myself. I realize there is a world out there that is yet to be discovered and tapped into, but there is one gatekeeper left- myself. How in the world will I overcome the obstacles I set up for myself….I’m working on answering that, and I shall keep reading! ;)

    • Emilie says:

      Yes, with great power comes great responsibility… It’s definitely scary taking your future into your own hands and there’s no one “curriculum” out there, just a whole lot of information. It can definitely get overwhelming, especially for us scanners, who love devouring new info!

      You hit on something else that’s very true: nobody will ever get in our way more than we ourselves will. That’s the biggest challenge of all, getting out of our own way. It helps going through it with others though, I will say that. :)

  17. Chase Night says:

    Whoa! I don’t know how I missed this! Look at all those RTs! Seems like you really struck a nerve with this one. Definitely didn’t need us to get the comment ball rolling!

    You know, I started my blog with the dream of making money, but I quickly got scared to put anything with a price out there. I keep making excuses about not having enough readers to bother yet or blah blah blah. But this + Tessa’s poetry post today really inspired me to get my ass in gear and create something valuable so I can be a well-fed artist! Thanks!

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah! This was definitely my most viral post. I had no idea when I was writing it either just how crazy things would get (funny how you can never tell which posts will go viral). But I guess it was stuff that needed to be said.

      Anyway, I’m glad you’ve decided to create something Chase! I think you’re a really talented writer. I’m also believing more and more each day that the money IS where the passion is. It sounds sort of cheesy, but I think it’s true. Do your best work and value it at what it’s worth. Charging for your art is the best contribution you could make to the world.

  18. Emilie says:

    I wanted to add this:

    A 6 year old figured out how to monetize his art (and change the world).

  19. Morgan says:

    I was let go recently from a job that I didn’t necessarily hate, but it did take me away from my one true passion: voice acting.

    It’s a competitive field, but I’ve used the last 7 years or so to build up my business on the side, and now that I’ve been let go from a full time job that took up all my time during the day, I have more time to focus on my voice over career.

    It’s SCARY, for sure! And the money isn’t always steady. But I would take this life over being stuck in an 8-5 job doing something for someone else’s passion.

    Kudos to you and all that you do, Emilie! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Morgan,

      You’ve done a great job of working the 2.0. I noticed that the first time I went to your site!

      I’ve heard from many people who got laid off and said that it was the best thing that could have happened to them. Funny how that works… I guess sometimes we need a kick in the pants to take that leap.

      Thanks Morgan. :)

  20. Drew Jacob says:

    Emilie, thanks for writing this the way you did. There is a lot of sentiment like this out there but it’s rarely phrased so bluntly. I wish more artists would hear about the potential tools they have available for free.

    My own niche is writing and I am looking to launch my first ebook in the near future. So far I have not turned a profit at it and admittedly I’m nervous. But I’m working steadily away at it and hope that one day this will be my source of income.

    Thank you again for a great article!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Drew!

      That’s very cool. I love the idea of self-publishing for writers. Do you know my friend Chase Night? (He posted a comment above, but you can also find him at Chase just started a where people pay a small monthly fee and he emails them portions of his novel as he writes it. (Did I get that right, Chase?)

      Anyway, it’s a really cool model. And he’s a really cool guy. You might want to get in touch. :)

      • Drew Jacob says:

        Chase and I have tweeted a bit, he seems like an interesting guy. I am definitely considering letterly in the near future. I think I want to finish my first ebook before I add another writing project to my weekly plate :)

        Also, I have to admit I’m considering holding out for letterling to be launched at ebookling. If you haven’t seen I would check it out, it’s a terrific pro-authorpreneur site.

  21. Dan says:

    Hi Emilie

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months, and recently decided to leave my job as a web designer, and go to an art school to study my true passion.

    In the meantime I have set up my own business combining my technical skills with my love of art. I will be building websites for all kinds of visual artists –

    When I read this post it really struck a chord with me. I’ve been feeling this way for a long time, but only recently had the inspiration to do anything about it.

    Now I can focus on studying art, while using my skills to help other artists!

    • This is fantastic Dan! What a great idea to combine your skills + passions. I know a lot of artists who could benefit from this!

      • Dan says:

        Thanks Jason. I hope to hear from them!!

        • I just sent one your link, her names Tori Mongrain and her stuff is over at – Brilliant, moving, city-changing stuff. Her latest tribute to Soul-Musicians is awesome!

          • Dan says:

            Quick update. As Emilie knows, after reading Renaissance Business, I soon decided that I needed to focus on art myself, rather than web design, so I have now launched Right Brain Rockstar, which is a blog for people who want to make a living from their creativity. I’m also studying classical art online to improve my skills and confidence. It’s all part of the journey!

  22. Love. This. Article.

    Talk about resonating with me. I coach people on this ALL THE TIME. So great to see it put into words, and gives me an idea for an article of my own :D

    Thanks Emilie!

  23. Rick Wolff says:

    This is my first reply on your blog. I find your youthful enthusiasm very endearing, and your surety that what you recommend will work every time it’s tried a romantic notion.
    I’m what I call a serial wage-slave. I was a steadily employed graphic designer from January 1982 till November 2008, when I quit because the job literally threatened my health (a Gannett newspaper. Talk about freefall). I’ve been living off my wife since then, which is humiliating. I think I net maybe 1/10 of my previous income freelancing. I’ve looked for jobs since then; there aren’t any more for chronically unemployed people like me. I would LOVE the opportunity to “sell out”!
    I moved to a cheaper area, which is now giving my wife as difficult a time to find a job as I am (she’s a nurse; we always heard everyone hires nurses). So what I need is exactly what your guitarist says he needs: something that pays the bills, for survival. You want to call it a side hustle? Fine.
    I’m glad everyone here has so few bills that they can simply gallop onto the Internet and sell ebooks. But I’m hitting my credit card pretty hard month after month.
    Nonetheless, I’ll stick with your blog and your followers, and hopefully someday something you say will apply to me. Assuming I don’t have to sell my computer first.

    PS: thanks for steering me clear of designing on Elance and Odesk. I need more than $5/hr.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Rick,

      I hear the pain in your response, and I’m sorry you aren’t finding my work helpful. I can only write about what I’ve experienced or what I’ve seen others around me accomplish. I do know plenty of artists who are making a nice living online, and my general attitude about these things is that if even one person has done it before, then it can be done.

      I don’t think it’ll work right away in every case. I think often these things require hard work, failure, tweaking, more failure, and more tweaking, till you find a model that works.

      But I do believe that anything is possible if you’re willing to put the work in. Call that “youthful idealism” if you will (even though it’s wildly condescending), but criticism, negativity and bitterness I know to be sure-fire ways to NOT achieve your dreams. I don’t see those as useful emotions. I’ll stay idealistic, thank you.

      • Rick Wolff says:

        I was actually trying to hold back some. Rather than being outright contrarian, I came off sarcastic. For that I’m sorry.
        I wouldn’t have commented if I didn’t think I’d feel at home here sometime. And I wouldn’t have checked out your blog if I weren’t in search of some of that “youthful enthusiasm” myself.
        But first, I have to observe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and get something that puts food on my table. Being my own gatekeeper won’t do that. Believe me, I can hardly wait till I’m out of this hole, and I can finance some of the ideas I read about online. Again, sympathizing with the guitarist.

  24. Maureen says:

    In the past three days I came across this website, downloaded “Undeclared for Life,” bought the “Renaissance” ebook, and decided after reading this article that my next goal as an actor/multipod is to make it onto the list of names in this article. I am an actor and have recently become obsessed with the idea of starting my own web-based business as mentioned in this article. I have a miserable, inflexible 9-5 and I want to take control of my own income streams and use my multipod skills to make my own way. Thank you for the ideas from this article. Hopefully soon I can come up with a website idea and get you to list it here sometime soon!

    • Kendal says:

      Hey Maureen! I’m an actor too, looking for a way to earn a living with it without relying on others (agents, casting agents, a crew to make a short film to put into a festival and hold your breath and hope your investment pays off…). I have one idea I’m trying to crystalize, and I hope it works out. How are you doing with your brainstorming? Do you have a website now? :-) Would love to hear what other actors are doing with the power in their own hands. :-)

      • Maureen says:

        Hi Kendal! Fortunately I’m out of the 9 to 5 job now and making progress here and there! Glad to look back on something I wrote almost a year ago and feel that I’m a better place. :) I’d love to chat about acting stuff– it can be so overwhelming and DEFINITELY hard to navigate when you feel like you have to rely on other people. Email me if you want and we can chat/meet-up! maureenchesus[at]

  25. Dave says:

    All great, but any time I try something, it dies. I try blogging, no one reads it. I sell something on Facebook, no one bids on it.
    I try Etsy, it’s a needle in haystack. I try kickstarter, it gets buried and family pledges $1000 which I could have gone around begging for on my own. I post on creative sites and never receive a single response. All of this starts with great hope and no expectations and the resulting silence is deafening.
    The web has done nothing for me.

    • Emilie says:

      The saying “if you build it, they will come” is definitely not applicable when it comes to the internet. Marketing is essential. Social media, partnerships, guest posts, etc. Diligence is another important element. Trying something, seeing what isn’t working and then tweaking your approach and trying again instead of giving up. Also educating yourself. There are people out there making it work. What are they doing different? There are tons of podcasts and blogs that talk about building an audience. Lots of info out there.

      • Persistence, baby. Persistence not only pays, it is the KEY. This is not an “overnight success” game. Sure, you see people who seem to have overnight success, but very, very few of those people didn’t put a helluva lot of time and effort in *before* that so-called “overnight” success.

        If you want to succeed in this game, you gotta keep at it. And, like Emilie says, do due diligence. Tweak. Educate yourself. It’s hard work, but the ones who are persistent are the ones who succeed.

        • Dave says:

          Thanks for the replies and I appreciate it but after 20 years I think it’s time to move on.
          I know persistence is the key and it’s a ton of work being an “overnight success” but this is the longest night I’ve ever lived through. Working 70 hours a week for past 3 years trying literally EVERYTHING form every angle is enough. The marketplace has spoken and I’m done.

          sorry to be downer but as last year’s mad men episode said, “If everyone’s dreams came true, the world would be filled with pretty ballerinas.” What is often overlooked is that hard work is not only no guarantee of success, it is so unbelievably random and out of one’s control that trying beyond two years is not worth it. If you haven’t seen any improvement or movement in two years, move on. I tried 20 and it’s time to move on.
          I wish you all the best.

          • Drew Jacob says:

            Dave, I guess I am confused by your comments. You have been working to sell your work specifically on the internet for twenty years? And no success at all?

            I’m not doubting you – I’m making sure I understand correctly.

            Can you give more detail? E.g., what does lack of results mean to you – were you unable to make a living wage
            *at all*, or just unable to hit superstar status? What kind of creative work do you do and how did you try to market it online?

  26. Dave says:

    I never envisioned superstar status or even living wage. SOMETHING would have been a success: lunch money or recognition would have been nice.
    I bought my first computer for $3,000 in 1996 and while trying to keep up with technology, watched the internet erode every gain I made in the previous ten years to where now what I do can be done in India for pennies.
    I have over 500 contacts on a popular site that helps you link in and I mail regularly and barely receive a response. I hold weekly contests and never receive a response. I FB and it’s met with a general shrug.
    I would sya it IS me but:
    I use to go and try to sell at endless craft fairs every weekend with huge smile on my face and true optimism in my heart. I was amazed by the amount of people, young and old and couples with young kids who were there trying to launch or sell something they had made or created. You know what? They weren’t “making it” either, not in this economy. The “rah-rah” web sites never tell you that 99% of everything amounts to 100% of nothing.

    • Rick Wolff says:

      Just to let you know, Dave, I’m listening to this conversation with interest. What’s happening to you is exactly what I, and everyone who’s yet to really step on the accelerator with something, is afraid will happen.

      • Dave says:

        After working for 84 hours last week (I keep insane track of my time) and finally sleeping last night for more than 6 hours, I think I can clarify a bit more what I’m trying to say:

        – The experts say don’t just listen to well-meaning family and friends. Show your work/product/whatever to industry professionals and get their feedback. Well, I did that to some harden, battle-weary experts and guess what? Bless them, they were too nice too! I’m mean it and I’m not mad about it. Given my level of enthusiasm, they hated to be realistic about my chances. Most humans are nice and hate to be the one to pop your bubble.

        Give something a try, but after two years, if total strangers whom you’ve never met aren’t responding, something is wrong.

        • Rick Wolff says:

          I know myself, and I have a capacity for optimism. I am getting a sense of how long I can last in an enterprise with zero reinforcement, and realize I have to welcome even the slightest twitch of the needle as an occasion to party. I can keep going on a lean mixture of positive feedback. And I respect and honor those who can run on no positive feedback at all. I am just not one of them. My results will vary from yours, because I’m probably not doing what you were doing. But I know, going in, that there might be a point where this idea I have is indistinguishable from a crappy idea, and I will then abandon it.

        • Kendal says:

          I hear ya, I’ve been through the same sort of thing. I haven’t hit 20 years yet (it’s just been about 12) so I’m not quitting, because I think I’m just in the middle of figuring it out. I moved to L.A. to become an actress and I just became a needle in the haystack there. I got cast in non-paying gigs, I did background work to pay the bills, but I didn’t do anything to stand out. When I burned out on being an extra, I did other things. I sold things on ebay, which wasn’t bad (I had an inflow of brand new, free CDs, so that helps) but was exhausting and boring. I made jewelry for someone else, then left to make my own. I made contacts at a couple stores in Southern California and sold several pieces (oh the mark-up on jewelry is amazing…) but as the stores closed, so did my little business. I was terrible at marketing myself, at going into stores and getting them to buy my things. I tried to get someone else to do it for me, but with no money, who can you hire? I didn’t manage to sell any on etsy, because again – needle in a haystack! You have to be unique there, and now I’m learning, you have to network, get on people’s favourites lists, get on the front page, be seen…. I’m trying etsy again with a new little craft, and this time I’ll do it right (but it’s not my main focus, I just felt like making something sparkly). I know you said you were linked with people on a site, but I’ve done that too, and realized some sites, everyone is getting linked just trying to sell their own things and not caring what anyone else is selling. Those aren’t the sites you need! I think sites like Facebook and Twitter are good to get followers on. I pay attention to “advertisements” there, because they’re people I follow because I’m interested in. Anyway, lots of info out there on this…

          What I was always missing throughout the years was networking. Growing out of my shyness was hard work, and realizing how much relationships influence business is like a revelation. I have a new business idea now, and this time I will not neglect the networking. I admit, I’m still kind of bad at it at times, especially in person when there are so many people to keep in touch with – and you keep adding more! But I know it’s the key. Having a good product, being unique, and being first on everyone’s mind when they need what you offer. OK, so maybe I’ve got some youthful enthusiasm too, but all I know is that I’ve found ways to go 12 years without a regular job (except those few months at data entry before a welcome stand-in job) and rarely panic for money. I’m a little panicky at the moment, but after 12 years of this, the saying “this too shall pass” comes to mind.

          I’ve been reading Emilie’s book, and researching a lot about business online, and I’m finding it really helpful in making a plan. I’ve always been bad with making a plan – I just jump right in and make those crafts and put them on etsy and then sit and wait…. but I think a good plan can go a long way. Maybe even some coaching.

          Right now I feel like I’m putting 12 years of “education” behind me and starting again, using what I learned the “slow way” with what I’m learning now about buckling down and making a plan and getting focused.

          I really hope you find a job soon, or find success with your own business! God bless!

  27. Keith Kehrer says:

    I had a good blog going before and it was making a little money, but I was not making enough to keep it going. I have a lot of financial overhead with my wife and her family that most money goes there. I needed to be able to source my project and site with money that wasn’t going into the upkeep of this expensive family. I am back at it again being inspired by this site and others and actually found a couple of free web hosting companies. Since my day job is web developer, I should have no trouble ramping up again. Here’s the question. How can I make on-going residual income or fund this passion?

  28. Keith Kehrer says:

    That’s what I knew you’d say. ;) Working on that.


  29. Christina says:

    Great article and all concepts I’ve realized as true.. might sound silly but I just don’t know where to begin.. I’d like to have my own website but how do I do that? it seems like a big task. IDK what’s the cheapest route… there are free blogging sites snd things where I can create my own pages like through Googld and Facebook… but what do I know about actually setting up my own site? I barely know how to use those other free sites heh.. And I’m working on content.. my art. my confidence, leadership, look, etc… trying to just gain a healthy lifestyle and think more clearly about what my “overarching theme” really is >.< it's exciting to think about and brainstorm… but it's the technical knowledge I lack (I know I can find tutors/read books/etc). maybe it's just scary to start? to tell people? to feel like you'll have to explain all the time? I'm still working on simple disciplines like saving money, working out, eating right, managing time, etc… I feel once I create those habits it'll be easier to add more to my list… like learning about web design/website creation… or picking up a new instrument… lol you know the drill. that multipotentialites brain starts over piloting all the things I plan to commence at some point it another. your posts are very helpful and encouraging. thanks Emilie!

  30. Linda Ursin says:

    I’ve been on the 2.0 train for a while :)

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