Coming Tomorrow: The Secret Connection* Between Art and Money


Let’s be clear: there’s no real secret. I subscribe to the 10,000 hours theory. When I wrote about it six months before Outliers came out, I called it the 14,600 hours to virtuosity.

Then Gladwell’s great book arrived, everyone started talking about 10k hours, and I thought, “Awesome. Now we can all save 4,600 hours!”

Anyway, the secret connection between art and money involves working hard on the same thing for a long time.

There you go! Get to work. By the time evening rolls around, only 9,992 hours will remain.


The other secret is that you can waste a lot of time doing ineffective things. Nothing can replace hard work, but it’s good to know that you’re working hard on the things that work. With that in mind, I started working on a project a couple months ago that would clearly show the right kind of work that artists can do to make more money.

Yes, money. I’ve noticed that some artists have a hard time talking about money. What’s up with that?

I know that not every artist wants to support themselves from their work, and that’s totally cool. The problem is that many do, but don’t know where to begin. It’s kind of like real jobs – not all real jobs suck, but many of them do. I’m interested in helping the people who want to escape, not those who already have a great job that they love.

When it comes to artists, I’m interested in helping those who want to get paid for the great work they do. Working with a great coauthor, I recruited a number of successful, working artists and asked them to share what they do and how they make it work.

Several of them gave specific numbers about how much money they make and how they make it. Others talked about etsy, ebay, and all of the other web sites you can sell your work on, which ones are worth your time and which ones will get you nowhere.

Almost all of them talked about social networking and building a community to support their artwork – whether it’s painting, drawing, crafting, writing, or something else.

More about that tomorrow, but for now, my big thanks to the artists who participated in this project. I’ve listed most of them below (a couple of them requested witness-protection-program anonymity). Check out their sites, follow them on Twitter, watch what they’re doing. If you’re an artist, you’ll learn from them.

Karen Walrond (USA via Trinidad and Tobago)

Twitter: @chookooloonks

Michael Nobbs (Wales)

Twitter: @michaelnobbs

Leah Piken Kolidas (USA)

Twitter: @leah_art

Hazel Dooney (Australia)

Twitter: @DooneyStudio

Dan Duhrkoop (USA)

Twitter: @emptyeasel

Sandra Miller (USA)

Twitter: @pandarazzi

Soniei (Canada)

Twitter: @soniei

Shannon Okey (USA)

Twitter: @knitgrrl

Joseph Szymanski (USA)



The Coauthor:


To provide balance, I like to work with fun people who don’t have ADD and don’t fly off to random places all the time. In this case, I found a perfect collaborator in Zoë Westhof.

Zoë is from the U.S., but lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has her own community of writing and the arts at Essential Prose. She’s also on Twitter as – what else – zoëwesthof. Zoë conducted the interviews and wrote most of the accompanying manual. It’s a good thing, because if you were waiting for me, you’d be waiting a long time.


So, about the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money. It’s actually more than a guide. It’s 51 pages of text and 200 minutes of audio. You’ll also get an additional 50 pages of transcripts from the interviews, just in case you’d rather read.

It’s a clear value, one low price for a “Starving Artist” version and another for the “Picasso” version. I had a big pricing complex over this one, but in the end I decided to keep with the same budget pricing I’ve been using for my other products. I reserve the right to increase it in the future, but I’ll let you know before that happens.

Like everything I produce, this isn’t for everyone. I’ve tried to be clear about that, but I also like to overcommunicate. Here’s how I see the target market –

Who It’s For: Artists of all kinds who want to achieve greater independence through relationship-based sales.

Who It’s Not For: Non-artists, anyone who doesn’t like the internet, or anyone looking for the “real” secret with no hard work.

Also, this product won’t make anyone a better artist, technically speaking. It will help artists build a community and connect with people interested in supporting their work. For technical training, look elsewhere, since I don’t even know how to hold a paintbrush.

Fair enough?

Art and Money will launch Thursday morning, 12pm EST / 9am PST. Check in tomorrow and you’ll see it here.

Thanks again to the cool artists who helped Zoë and me make this great. I really appreciate their willingness to share what they know.


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    • Alan says:

      Been looking forward to this guide as soon as you had mentioned it! If it’s as comprehensive and digestible as your others, it’s bound to do well. Best of luck.


    • John says:

      Wow, this is incredible stuff. I’ve always wondered about how artists can get some sort of revenue, but I guess it’s just like blogging for a living. I plan on getting this guide in the near future. Maybe it could help my writing get out there.

    • Lisa Firke says:

      Looking forward!

      On the hours-to-mastery debate, I had a high school English teacher who believed in a million-word threshold. Once you crossed it, *then* you were a writer.

    • Nicole says:

      I read about this ages ago too. In order to become the best though, one would need to devote their time to the hardest, most difficult parts that need improvement. Not only would someone need to devote a lot of time but most of it would have to be strenuous to be advantageous.

      Not impossible, but it does explain why many are mediocre.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks, guys!


      One million words, interesting. I don’t think I’ve crossed that point yet, so that means I have more work to do. (If only I could count emails!)


      I completely agree; mediocrity is definitely an easier choice to make.

    • Diana says:

      “…etsy, ebay, and all of the other web sites you can sell your work on, which ones are worth your time and which ones will get you nowhere.

      Almost all of them talked about social networking and building a community to support their artwork – whether it’s painting, drawing, crafting, writing, or something else.”

      I hope, Chris, you’ll let those of us who already have been doing the Etsy, ebay, social networking circuit for quite a while (and those of us who were professional corporate artists) whether or not this product will offer us somethings we haven’t thought of yet? (or whether this is mainly for beginners) Thanks!

    • Lake says:

      You continue to be a model of inspiration and I’m looking forward to the product. Like most writers, I am content to spend obscene hours of time at my laptop creating. Story ideas and words come easy. The business aspects of writing and relationship building, however, are something of a challenge for a solitary soul like me. That said, what I’m most looking forward to is hearing other people’s thoughts on the business part of being an artistic-driven individual. See You Tomorrow, Chris.

    • Linnea says:

      I’m excited. Thanks for putting this guide out into the world; I’m sure it’ll be incredibly useful.


    • Danielly says:

      Hi Chris,

      I work with artists and am a musician myself and I have been doing research on business and creativity for a few years. This is a tricky subject as I have found that most artists are very affraid of doing the business-money talk. I think that a lot of artists feel they have to compromise their ‘creativity’ for the sake of ‘money’ however I think that if you want to make a living from your art, you need to get smart about business. It doesn’t mean you need to know everything about business but you should at least know how to put a price on your work and understand who your clients/customers are. You can always hire someone to do accounting and PR, etc. and I would actually suggest that you leave numbers to the pros.

      If you haven’t yet you should check out two fabulous people who research this topic in depth: Hans Abbing – author of the book ‘Why are artists poor?’ and also David Parrish who wrote ‘T-shirts and Suits’.

    • MagsMac says:

      Awesome!! I love Karen Walrond. She is from my hometown (Houston) and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I was lucky to be on the planning committee for the Mom 2.0 Summit and witness her wrangling Guy Kawasaki during the keynote.

      Thank you for introducing us to Zoe. Essential Prose is great!

    • Steve Averill says:

      Great topic. Look forward to it!

    • Wyman says:

      I am more for less than more when it comes to writing. I don’t have time to read one million words on any subject. Paul Myers (talk Biz, free newsletter) writes of “Mrs. Wombat” and the grammar zombies. She would be 128 years old and still doing another revision of her book that still isn’t ready to publish yet.

      Good enough and send updates later is fine with me. I want my info. now while I’m young enough (71) to use it.

    • Colin Wright says:

      Definitely looking forward to seeing what you two came up with! I think 1 + 1 will equal 3 in this case.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’ll definitely order this from you tomorrow. My career’s going better than I thought possible, but I’d like to support your efforts, particularly this one. And your collaborator too (I’m pleased to work w/her via the Location Independent Creatives).

    • mr-crash says:

      Hours to mastery is a deceptive notion in my opinion. Maybe not a bad rough benchmark, but I think people can – with the right amount of effort and a routine for efficient practice of tasks – proceed at a significantly more optimum pace.

      I remember in a psychology lecture, learning to juggle (just three balls, nothing fancy) and the lecturer pointing out what factors hindered or helped your performance of new tasks. Cross modal teaching, examples by people who have already performed at the standard you require and systems for breaking down a large task into smaller more discrete tasks all have at least some neurological basis for being useful in us learning even very complex tasks.

      But still, peoples ideas around this sort of thing interest me and i’m feeling pretty tempted to learn a new instrument or language while documenting my progress online as a bit of an experiment. I want to think about it some more though, so I can sort out something that would be sufficiently perceived as “virtuosity” rather than just a good performance.

      I’m *really* excited about this guide, looking forward to reading it! It’s already been great food for thought 🙂

    • Evangeline Crockett says:

      This sounds kool, I’ve always felt that the way my success has come through has been by working when I want to, when I don’t want to and having to pull in old fashioned discipline when I wanted to run away from it all. I have to say some of my best stuff has come through when I thought I wasn’t inspired but just hung in there.

    • Tyler says:

      Is this specifically for artists, or are you using artist in the more general sense? For instance, I write and create short films. Is this for me?

    • Franis Engel says:

      Mastery is a fertile subject, one I’ve studied for decades too via Alexander Technique. Yes, you must be careful what you allow yourself to repeat, because repetition creates and installs a habitual routine. Whatever you allow yourself to practice, you’ll become better at doing – so be careful!

      On my website you’ll be able to find some fascinating stuff on these topics – mostly under the Alexander Technique part. You can learn to juggle there too.

      The most inspirational person I’ve ever known who totally changed my attitude about selling was a salesman named Chuck Lewis. He eventually wrote a book called “You’re Gonna Love It!” in the eighties. Thought of it as a book about selling for artists.

      Art was my first livelihood. Now when I make art, I get paid from $50 – $100. an hour. Obviously, Chuck Lewis transformed my ideas about being paid for my art.

      I’m really excited to hear what you have to say about this – thanks for this work!

    • Chris says:

      Hello all, thanks for the notes and questions. The question from @Tyler is especially good – I’ll try to answer that and a few others on Sunday so that more people will see it.

    • Sandra Miller says:

      Zoe, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview you did with me. It was a pleasure to work with someone so professional and at the same time extremely personable. You made the interview so relaxing to do….just like talking to another artist friend.

      The best of luck with the ebook and I am anxious to hear the other interviews now too.

      Sandra Miller
      Graffiti Jewelry

    • glennis says:

      Hours to mastery, definitely. 10,000 hours, varies, maybe more-maybe less. I think the big idea to take away here is that if you want to succeed at making a living with your art, craft, writing, music etc., you better plan on doing an awful lot of it. Really enjoying what you do makes that much easier. And doing a lot of it, you learn how to do things more efficiently (increasing your profit) as well as perhaps correctly so that you can continue to do it throughout your life (and not suffer health issues as a result). But I would agree, you can also find yourself in a situation of having to unlearn some very bad habits. They teach the Alexander Technique to the music students at many universities.
      I am a self-supporting artist-type living with a self-supporting musician with two musician type kids in college who want to do the same.
      Thanks for all the info- looking for more.

    • painter in houston tx says:

      This is a topic which is near to my heart… Best wishes!
      Where are your contact details though?

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