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The “Starving Artist” Myth Exposed – Make the Write Money


It’s high time that we sat down and talked about this starving artist thing.

Whoever started the idea that true creative people also have to be starving should be taken out back and shot.


If you’ve subconsciously bought into the starving artist syndrome it may be affecting your ability to make money as a writer.

This, is not your fault.

Here’s the deal.

You can make good money writing if you know how.

And you can still be a zen-inspired soulful person.

Hey, there’s a sizable group of people out there  who want to keep believing in the starving artist myth; who choose to believe that being a great artist (writer) and making money do not go hand in hand. That does not need to be you.

We all adopt certain beliefs that surround us – we can’t help it. The starving artist concept has done more damage to many writers than we can even measure.


What You Need to Do to Start Selling Your Words for Good Money

Embracing the idea of the starving artist has led to too many highly creative people feeling bad about charging for their work. We seem to believe that if you actually aim to make money with your writing you are:

  • not truly creative
  • not a real artist
  • going to kill your inspiration
  • a bad bad person

Repeat after me.

One more time.

Listen up. Writers, my friends, make the world go around. (Okay, I’m a little biased on that). Have you ever truly thought about the power of words?

Think about it:

  • Presidents are elected (or not) on the power of words
  • Wars are fought, because of how people express (in words) their differing beliefs
  • Words can inspire
  • Words can destroy
  • and words can MAKE YOU MONEY

This means writing is no small thing so you shouldn’t be paid like it’s a small thing.

This means writing is no small thing so you shouldn’t be paid like it’s a small thing.

“I’m ready to make the write money!” Tweet this

How Your Attitude Makes All the Difference

Money in and of itself is not evil. In fact, if you have money you can do a lot of good in the world. You can make money and still be a soulful person.

Now it’s time: You can decide to be one of those writers who puts their stuff into content factories to make a whopping .25 per article.


You can recognize your own worth as a writer, as an artist, and make people pay you real money for what you do.

Here’s where you have to take control of your money-making power back.

I’ve been exactly where you are. You get online, start a blog, and buy into all the you must “give your content away for free.” Yes, you have to have enough content out there so people know you’re doing what you’re doing.

But, no, you don’t have to give it all away for free. Nor should you. All that does is feed into the starving writer syndrome from which you are now going to set yourself free.

I currently make excellent money on my freelance gigs (I’ve charged from $45 per hour up to $200 per hour and more). But, that wasn’t always so. I used to get palpitations when I thought about charging more than $10 per hour. I’m still spiritual, I still care about people (a lot) and I still go out of my way to help when and where I can – and I can pay my bills.

So, what changed between then and now?

Did I go from being a lousy writer to a good writer? No, I could always write.

The only thing that changed was my attitude. I ignored my heart palpitations and forced myself up to $25 per hour (baby steps). And I did a couple of jobs at that rate. Then I moved up the scale.

Here’s the deal – if you believe you are worth it, they will believe you are worth it.

The 5 Things you Need To Do Right Now to Start Making GOOD Money for Your Writing

1. Write well

This should go without saying but it has to be said. If you are not that skilled yet as a writer spend your initial time on developing those skills. If you’re a little bit lost being a great writer in today’s world, use:

or brush up on your skills with these

2. Swear to yourself

Swear or pinkie promise to yourself and the world that you are going to use your writing passion for good and for money; and commit to yourself that when you charge for your writing you will never ever change less than $25 per hour for your writing. Ever! And frankly, you should aim for a lot higher. (If you meet a writer who works for pennies slap them silly-they bring us all down).

If you need some inspiration for diving into your passion or finding the areas with your writing that excite you read this piece from Leo from Zenhabits:

3. Do free work

What? Aren’t I contradicting myself? Why do I have this here on a post about making money?

Because you need  to understand within yourself that when you charge money, charge well. When you want to do a favor for someone don’t think charge less, think free. I highly recommend you do regular pro bono work as a way of giving back. Good karma and all. (But, this does not mean you can’t ask for them to tweet about you or “like” you or write a testimonial for you).

4. Don’t just call yourself a writer

Remember, perception is important. So don’t just call yourself a writer. Call yourself a content specialist or copy curator or pro copywriter or whatever – elevate how people perceive you by what you call yourself – or elevate how you perceive yourself by what you call yourself in your own head. Use your writing talent to come up with a title that is all yours.

5. Ship it

This step is the one that will divide the girls from the women and the boys from the men. You MUST put your work out there. Start writing and send it out into the world. Get a word-based product together and start charging for it. Monetize your blog and be proud of it. Remember, attitude! Too many writers get stuck in the development stage rather than being brave enough to ship it out the door.

If you keep getting stuck at this stage check out Seth Godin’s:

Write with your heart, aim to make a difference, produce insanely useful words, and make money. What’s not to like? Now, are we together on this? Let’s start a revolution replacing “Starving Artist” with “Lucrative Writer.”

“Lucrative writers rock!” Tweet this


Bottom line: You will never make money from your writing it you don’t ask for money for your writing.

So, which side of the starving artist myth do you fall on? Share your comments below!

Want to learn more about making money with your writing?Subscribe to ZenCopy, the only blog that boosts your creativity and personal growth while teaching you to how to make money for writing that really matters.

About the author: Karen, zencopy creator, is a top 10 bestselling amazon author, creativity coach, and an online content specialist with a masters in psychology and passion for learning and teaching new topics.

6 comments… add one

  • Excellent post, Karen. So many of the writers and creatives that I coach seem to think that they must be a starving artist until the day the gigantic book deal lands in their lap. Ha. We’re lucky to live in a time when there are so many ways to actually earn a living from our creative efforts!
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..It’s My Birthday Week, and I’m Giving Someone a Present

    • Charlotte,
      So sorry for delayed response – somehow this comment slipped by me! You’re so right on how lucky we are. It amazes me to see writers settling on getting paid a few cents for their writing when they are worth so much more! Thank you for your comment.

  • Thanks Karen for chopping at the tree myth of the starving artist. It takes many blows to bring down this myth. I love your section from Seth Godin.
    Al Hanzal recently posted..New Local Search Marketing Strategy Coming Next Week

    • Thanks, Al. I’m thinking the Internet is part of the writers / bloggers ticket to freedom from the myth. And I’m looking forward to seeing more on your local search marketing strategies. Thanks for swinging by.

  • Great Posts…

    Had a thought about why Tangerine Marketing hires Karen to write my online copy instead of doing it myself because “everyone can write”

    How to counteract the thought…everyone can write (or so they think they can) — tout yourself as value-added writing like great SEO-friendly writing or being able to write great copy in 140 character bursts (social media copy) or being able to scan great amounts of information and synthesize it into a couple pages.

    • Great points, Sandra. Think I’ll use your thoughts as a springboard for a future post on how writers can find that one thing they excel at which could be one of the biggest things they can offer a client. We all need ways to stand out. Thanks for the comment!