Last week I had the pleasure of lunching with Ann Rea, successful painter, artist business coach and owner of ArtistsWhoTHRIVE.
Ann went from zero to profitable in one year of painting full time, and has been profiled by none other than Fortune Magazine. I interviewed her awhile back for my Thriving Artists Project, and I already knew she was one sharp cookie, but in person she’s even more impressive.
Ann takes no prisoners. She’s as creative about business and marketing as she is with her art. She thinks outside the box. She coaches other artists on how to make their own art careers financially successful, and of all the things we talked about over lunch, one thing really stood out:
The number one problem most artists have is not setting their goals high enough.
Think about it.
How do you achieve something remarkable? First, you pretty much have to imagine that it’s possible, and set a goal to achieve it.
If you don’t allow yourself to believe that something is even possible, how can you expect to make it happen?
Reality check: guilty as charged
Um, yeah. Confession time.
Case in point: I realized maybe a year or so ago that, without any conscious thought on my part, I had installed a glass ceiling over my earning power for my entire adult life.
In other words, I realized that somehow I was operating under the belief system that I was incapable of earning a lot of money.
I never actually articulated this thought to myself, but that didn’t make it any less powerful. The belief was still there: other people made a lot of money, not me. Making a lot of money just seemed … beyond me.
From a purely logical standpoint this belief is patently ridiculous. I’m intelligent, capable, multi-talented, good with people, driven — surely at least as much if not more than a good chunk of the global population. If other people could make a lot of money, there was no logical reason why I couldn’t, too.
But for whatever reason, the belief was there (no doubt installed very early in life [yay, something else to work on…]) As a result, I set my money-earning goals way, way too low.
How low? “All I want,” I remember thinking during my divorce, “is to make enough money to get by, and to have time to do the things I love to do.”
That’s right, just enough money to get by.
And guess what? I built a business around my art that made just enough money to get by.
In Silicon Valley, granted, which is nothing to sneeze at in the scheme of things, but just enough is not a high enough goal for me anymore — I want to pay off my debt. I want more security. I want the option of taking time off to travel more. I want to be able to buy things I want without agonizing over every purchase.
Call me un-zen, but I want more!
(As for time to do the things I love to do? Well, yes and no. It depends what day you catch me on. I’m still working on that one.)
Time for a reset: the Debt Elimination Project
Building a business around my art was no small accomplishment, and it’s something I’m still proud of. But now it’s time to change the picture, and allow myself to believe that I can make a lot of money. From my art, and other things I love to do.
It’s time to set my goals even higher.
Which brings me back to lunch the other day. Ann suggested that it’s always a good idea to tie a project to a concrete goal. When I mentioned that I have a big goal of paying off my enormous mountain of debt and being debt free again, Ann didn’t skip a beat.
“Then why don’t you make your Thriving Artists Project your Debt Elimination Project?”
But… but… but… my enormous mountain of debt is… well… enormous. Making enough money to pay off my personal debt from one project? — my first big information product? — surely that cannot be done.
My overactive brain went into overdrive, thinking of reasons why eliminating my personal debt with the Thriving Artists Project is impossible.
Enough with the excuses, already
Now, I’m too embarrassed to state an actual number, but when I stopped panicking long enough to think about it a little, I realized that the truth is, if I were to create something really successful, if I put into practice the marketing lessons I’ve been studying hard to learn, it’s not inconceivable that I could make enough money from a single project to pay off my debt.
But my list is tiny, and the idea that my first big project could be that successful is, well, hard to imagine. So I said, sure, great idea — maybe the second or third or fourth information product could be my Debt Elimination Project…
“Hell no!” retorted Ann. “I don’t want to wait around for the next project! It’s this one, or none at all!”
Clearly I could benefit from some regular coaching, because Ann made me realize I was doing it again: not setting my goals high enough.
And so I thought, why not?
Why not make the Thriving Artists’ Project my personal Debt Elimination Project?
Why not set a really big goal, and go for it?
What’s the worst that could happen? Sure, I could fail. (Indeed, I still need to work on allowing myself to believe it’s even possible!)
But here’s the thing: if I seriously make the effort to make the Thriving Artists Project earn enough to eliminate my personal debt, I’ll sure as hell be working hard on it! A helluva lot harder than if I didn’t tie the Thriving Artists Project to the Debt Elimination Project. I’ve got a concrete goal to reach, after all, and a big one at that.
The official unveiling
So it is with a fair amount of trepidation that I unveil for you my Debt Elimination Project.
Bold indeed, especially since I’m still in the process of creating the Thriving Artists Project, and don’t even have a launch date yet.
What I do have, though, is interviews completed, scheduled with, or agreed to by a whole slew of fascinating, creative people, including:
- Aimee Golant, metal artist
- Anna Kuperberg, photographer
- Chris Guillebeau, writer/traveler/fighter of the status quo (and owner of The Art of Non-Conformity)
- Cosy Sheridan, singer/songwriter
- Derick Sebastian, ukulele virtuoso
- Kristin Korb, jazz musician/singer
- Michael Nobbs, artist/blogger
- Phil Johnson, comedian/musician
- Verity Price, singer/songwriter
- Will Edwards, singer/songwriter/web designer
… and the list is growing.
Plus more ammunition in my arsenal (or whatever)
Not that I’m big on military metaphors, but what I also have is some excellent mentorship, inspiration and motivation along the way, including:
– The Third Tribe, an online resource (regular audio seminars and a rockin’ user forum) for internet marketing strategies that work (without being obnoxious)
– Guest Blogging, Jon Morrow’s brand new apprenticeship course in, you guessed it, guest blogging!
– Dave Navarro (The Launch Coach)’s More Buyers Every Month Group Mentorship
– The Empire Building Kit, Chris Guillebeau’s course and longest-autoresponder-in-history, which delivers an email in my box every single day with inspiration and tools to grow my business. (Plus more courses from Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides line: The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money, The Unconventional Guide to Freelancing.)
– Question the Rules, Johnny B. Truant and Lee Stranahan‘s audio course, which I return to again and again for inspiration and reminders that there are lots of ways to be a successful entrepreneur (or in my case, ARTrepreneur).
[Note: many of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you click through and then buy something, I’ll make a commission. I’m always grateful to the anonymous purchasers who buy through my affiliate links, but if you don’t want your purchase to earn me money, just do a Google search on the thing and click through that way.]
Yup. I’m basically in self-paced grad school for using the internet to reach my Debt Elimination Project goal. Watch and learn.
And the wrap-up
So there you have it: the number one problem most artists (including me) have is not setting their goals high enough. Solution? Set higher goals, and work to achieve them.
Here we go!
And as Ann said at lunch the other day, once I’ve eliminated my debt, I can make the next goal my Mortgage Elimination Project.
Um, yeah. One thing at a time…
Kathleen Avins says
Oooh, this is inspiring, and timely — and, of course, terrifying, because here’s one more clue-by-four, saying to me: “Well, why not create something fabulous and sell it to raise the money you need for tuition?” Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Glad this post was inspiring! Sounds like you know exactly what you need to do. I’ll look forward to hearing about it! 🙂
I’m ready to redo my interview when you are!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Excellent! After your trip, I’m assuming…
Mitch Devine says
I’m inspired, too! Now that you’ve put it out there in public, there’s no turning back.
How’s the Third Tribe treating you? I’m enjoying the Guestblogging group. 🙂
Wishing you much success. Love the ARTrepreneur thing!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks Mitch! And yes, now that I’ve put it out there, I’m in a fishbowl with this thing. Scary for sure, but I’m committed!
I love the Third Tribe! The seminars are great, and I’ve been learning a ton and getting great help with my individual issues in the forum.
Heather Claus says
Melissa, I couldn’t agree more.
“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.”
I am living by this right now, and I am so glad Tommy connected us, so I can be inspired by your path! *smiles*
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Hey Heather! Thanks for your comment, and what a great quote from Michelangelo.
I’m glad Tommy connected us too! Love your site, and looking forward to the Launches one.