You Don't Have to Be a Starving Artist

If you want to have success in the arts, think like an entrepreneur.

learn more about Mike Swigunski

By Mike Swigunski


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you are an actor, a singer, a writer or any type of artist at all, you've likely been advised countless times to "keep your day job" or "pick a career that actually pays the bills". Sound familiar?

The truth is, there are ways to pursue your passion and dedicate your energy to your talents without having to live below the poverty line.

Jen Rudolph, CEO of The Actor's Green Room and creator of The 2% Acting Freedom Formula, which helps actors become part of the 2 percent who get called in and booked, has witnessed that transformation hundreds of times with her clients and shares her best practice without sugar-coating it.

Being a starving artist is a choice

The hard truth is that you do NOT need to be a "starving artist." That is a choice.

"The 'starving artist' mentality is a means of disempowering yourself and not taking responsibility for your destiny", says Rudolph. This type of limited belief will actually keep you stuck with the 98% of artists that fail.

Related: 10 Things the Artist and the Entrepreneur Have in Common

This is not a test shot, right? This is your only life. Everyone deserves a real shot to pursue their dreams, and so do you. And it starts with believing in yourself.

If you think your career is a struggle and you will never make it, it is more likely that it will come true. However, if you truly and genuinely believe in yourself, and walk into castings with unbeatable confidence, opportunities will arise.

No one will save you

"The myth of 'being discovered' must be debunked. Nobody is coming. There is no lifeboat. Realize that you are the lighthouse. You can be the greatest actor in the world but if nobody knows about you, it won't matter. This is exactly why creatives must think like small business owners. Which means you're in charge of marketing, branding, production, and PR", says Rudolph.

No one will save you, but mentors and other experts in your field are there to help you on your journey. So rather than waiting for a savior, take responsibility and take your career into your own hands now.

If you aren't getting calls, your product is off

"The market will always tell you what you need to know: if you aren't getting called in or booked, it means your messaging is off and/or your product's impact isn't clear", explains Rudolph.

Related: How to Market Yourself Like an Artist

You are the product. In order to build that confidence that will get you through the door, take the time to investigate and define what makes you unique. Build your personal brand and you will become memorable. With this clarity in mind, you will make it impossible for casting directors, labels, agents, or such not to notice you.

You have to do most of the work.

You went to a great school? Check.

"This does not entitle you to getting called in by casting directors and/or getting signed by an agent and/or a manager. In fact, this couldn't be farther from the truth," Rudolph says. "If you want to evolve from no-name to star, you gotta learn what they don't teach you at school". Get this straight: Get capital to build a proof of concept, or get nowhere.

"After an entrepreneur's pitch on Shark Tank, the first question that the sharks always ask is: 'What are your sales?'" continues Rudolph, who has been on the show herself.

Related: 3 Ways to Innovate Like an Artist

In short, whoever will invest in you wants to see if your product (ie. you) already has success in the marketplace, which lessens the risk to invest in you. So like any business, realize that you need capital to get off the ground between the moment you celebrate your diploma and the moment you can finally live off your dreams.

Focus on your gifts and gain financial freedom!

Mike Swigunski

Founder of, Author of Global Career Book

Mike Swigunski is the founder of the remote job board and author of the best-selling book Global Career: How to Work Anywhere & Travel Forever. Swigunski has worked in and traveled to more than 85 countries over the past decade and loves writing about remote work and entrepreneurship.

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