I recently had an interesting discussion in a Facebook group I’m a part of. Someone in the group had pulled hourly average incomes for a range of professions, including crafters and artists, and began comparing them to other professions, such as doctors. This resulted in her posing an interesting question – if the average engineer makes around $100k a year, who are we, as artists and makers, to expect to make more?
Of course, I jumped in with some spirited debate, because I believe that what we do is just as valuable as what an engineer does, and we should absolutely expect to be compensated equally.
Yes, engineers serve an important purpose. As this person in my Facebook group pointed out, engineers help airplanes stay up and keep bridges from collapsing. And as someone who is terrified of heights, I am eternally grateful for that.
But I can also honestly say that I’ve never had an emotional experience on an airplane or bridge. (At least, not a positive one.)
Utility is not the only reason someone should be compensated well for what they do.
Art serves many important purposes.
Art provides perspective.
It shows us what’s going on in the world or let’s us escape from it.
Art provides beauty and meaning and experience and emotion.
It lets us cope and cry and mourn and rejoice and celebrate.
Art may not always have an obvious, utilitarian purpose, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it (on both a cultural and personal level).
Because of this, the role we play as artists in extremely valuable.
And when I talk about art, I take a pretty liberal meaning of the word. I prefer the Seth Godin definition of art, which is pretty much anything not made in a factory. (He uses factory not in the literal sense, but to describe any business run on the old industrial model.) And like Seth, I believe that if you have something special to put out into the world, it’s art. Regardless of medium or format or aesthetics.
My point is not that what engineers do isn’t valuable. Rather, it’s that what we do as artists is equally, though differently, valuable. I feel the need to have this argument because I truly believe that art is essential and valuable to the world.
But I also wanted to argue the point because I believe this is a limiting belief that hurts ALL OF US!
If we, as makers and artists, can’t see the value of what we do, how can we expect anyone else to?
And if we can’t see and communicate that value, then we will be forever stuck in that starving artist mindset that causes all of us to undervalue what we do and never earn to our full potential.
I’m so passionate about our need as artists and makers to understand and communicate the value of what we do that today I’m releasing a new ebook – The Purpose of Profit!
Based on a talk I gave at the Society of American Goldsmith’s Conference, I wrote the The Purpose of Profit to help makers and artists understand the role profit plays in creating our best work (because profit makes it so much easier to create our best work) and, just as importantly, to help you understand and articulate why your best work is valuable to the world!
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Don’t worry, I’m still hard at work on my previously mentioned book, Fail Fast or Grow Slow! But I realized how big of a need there was for more makers and artists to hear the message in The Purpose of Profit that I wanted to make it available ASAP!! In fact, I believe in the need for everyone to read (or listen to) this book so much that if you purchase by Monday, December 21st, you can save $10! Click here to get your copy today!!