Turning Art Into Money

I spend a lot of time focusing on what I love to do… To a fault, if you ask certain friends or family members. (They don’t complain when I send them new pictures and music, though!)

I focus on things like playing the guitar into a looper pedal with absolutely no idea what to play; letting it happen on its own and recording everything for the next potential In The Branches album, for example. Driving my car through Montana in the summer time, stopping every few miles to take another epic photograph of momma nature. Reviewing and re-editing photos from my years of adventures. That’s what I’m all about, in case you haven’t noticed.

Guatemala, 2015
Clouds over a winding river in Guatemala. January, 2015.

I’m fighting tooth and nail to continue recording sound and light, in a free and nomadic way, and making sure to be able to continue to do so. Against all odds. This lifestyle exists outside the boundaries, expectations, and schedules of the 9-to-5 “Western Civilization McMatrix” that still haunts my dreams. It’s been a wild struggle that keeps reaching new milestones in all the right ways… Though each new test of my integrity seems tougher than the last. Two years into my extreme independence, I’m still here. Alive and well, all things considered. Knock on wood.
All of the success I’m putting together into this “Life 2.0″is the result of removing my old options and leaving my comfort zone… Time and time again. I’ve reset my habits and retrained my mind to stay focused amidst the chaos and doubt of the world around me. As much as possible, at least.

Surviving on Creative Inspiration

Your community may be your success

  1. Travel. A lot. Your network of friends and your view of the world may stagnate if you don’t break the patterns that got you where you are right now. The point is to grow, right? Personal evolution doesn’t stop, and traveling seems to force us to grow.
  2. Rally your friends and family to collaborate in intelligent, randomized, and exciting creative experiments with potential income, using the ingredients and resources you have at hand and absolutely nothing more. If you don’t have it, work without it until you’ve earned your way to that next step. Build your business or project in realistic steps. Dreaming “too big” often results in pipe dreams if Step 1 is too far out of reach.
  3. Keep an analysis of your progress through the experiments (for example, building a website that does exactly what you’d want it to). From there, you’re making adjustments and repeating the process.
  4. Recruiting help can exponentially speeds things up, with a trade-off of multiplying the cost or overhead of the project. If the project has any running start, such as a small amount of revenue streaming in from many sources at rates proportional to the work being put into it, then it has a great shot at going somewhere. If it’s not there yet, get as far as you can on your own before getting others involved. My version of this is selling stock photos and digital music.

Your Identity is Your “Brand”

Modern society is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat with real life sprinkled on top. You can hide from this reality, or you can embrace it. I try to embrace it, especially with Instagram. It’s fun when you spend some time to make it work for you.

If you’re hoping to become an independent filmmaker, but your online profiles say “Shift Manager at Starbucks”, you’re off to a shit start. Any job you’re doing to fill the gaps and pay the bills is NOT your identity, much to the dismay of many bosses out there. Keep that clear to yourself and others by ruthlessly identifying yourself as who and what you want to be. If it feels weird or fake, then you have work to do. Immediately.

Cut out every possible middle-man (and middle-woman, to be fair) who stands between you and your customers’ money — unless you can work out a symbiotic relationship. Bypassing these financial in-betweeners requires creative research and a genuine quest for knowledge, feeding into your specialties and technical skills. I think the new game of success for myself is one of creative and somewhat extreme “minimalism” which allows me maximum mobility and minimal overhead, while I create valuable content like photographs, videos, and niche music.

Analyze Your Work and Progress

If you can see that X amount of hours (even a rough estimate) has created X amount of dollars, then keep track of these numbers over time — even loosely — then you know what to spend much of your time on. The tricky part is that most pursuits must consume you, completely, to go anywhere fast. If you’re half-assing it, you’re joking. Everyone will know it. Don’t do that. We already have that guy.

Learn What Sells — and Interests You

Create content with heart and soul, but also understand the industry standards that surround your passion. Music, videos, photos, art. Make it look and/or sound really f***ing good by understanding technical specifications and norms. I work on digital things because I’m a bit of a tech nerd and am familiar with the rules of the game.

Quick Points to Sum it Up

  • Create things that are impressive by taking your time and following the excitement through to the end.
  • Work on multiple projects if you find yourself getting stuck on one. I enjoy working on at least three projects at a time.
  • Set limits on your own perfectionism. Many agree that 98% completion is about as good as it gets from the artist’s own perspective. To reach 99 or 100% means things have either gotten downright robotic, or the thing will take absolutely forever to finish.
  • Describe it, spell it out, talk it up without lying.
  • Create priced and free content. Use one to promote the other and maximize your number of connections with both paying customers, potentially-paying customers, and people who share your work (that’s as good as money, because it’s real-world marketing when someone genuinely wants to share and/or compliment something you made).
  • Create limited-time promotions that encourage people to “act fast” to get something that seems (or actually is) suddenly limited or scarce.
  • Cross every social media platform possible. Abuse the simplicity of the “Share” buttons that are everywhere. This is why you’d sure as hell better be proud of what you’re peddling. Don’t annoy anyone with half-baked work.
  • Look closely at how you spend your time, at every possible minute of the day. Use it wisely.

There you have it. I hope this rambling helps somebody out there.


2 thoughts on “Turning Art Into Money

  1. Brian Hogan says:

    You are not rambling Shane, you have a very logical perspective on the need to create a sustainable life while still pursuing your dreams . I appreciate your thoughts, and agree wholeheartedly about cutting out the middleman. Keep on aiming high my friend

    1. shane says:

      Thank you, Brian. I’ll certainly find out if I’m on to something in the coming weeks and months. If not, I’m shifting my “career” efforts over to panning for gold in the mountains of Idaho and Montana. Mark my words!

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