If money is the ONLY measure of your success, don’t read any further, please!

In my latest article for Fine Art Views, I shared how taking a risk (what seemed to me a very small risk), brought me many benefits (tangible and intangible) for years.

My intention was to share how even small steps outside our comfort zone can have big results. I wanted to share that what most people see is “luck” ignores what underlies “luck”: Preparation, persistence, and recognizing opportunity. If you don’t recognize the opportunity when it appears, you won’t reap the potential rewards.

What started out as a very small thing (submitting an image of my work for the gallery section of a craft book) resulted in an opportunity to write and publish a book.

Most people applauded that concept. But to my surprise, some people focused only on the money.

Exactly how much work did I do for “free”, and how much did I get paid? (In today’s dollars, it would seem modest, but not ridiculously so.)

Am I telling people to work for free for the “exposure”?? (NO.) I did not “donate” to the gallery sections of the book I was in, like charity auctions so many artists are asked to do. I just submitted a photograph for each.

Exactly what did I gain from that decsion? It’s alllll in the article.

Paid projects. Paid to write a book. Foundation for teaching classes. New product lines down the road, even fifteen years later. A reputation for unique work, and for being a reliable writer.

After my work appeared in several books, people started calling me “famous”. (I’m not, of course, but many, many more people were made aware of my work. And many more people recognized my name.)

During open studios, I always have the two dozen or so books I’m in available to new visitors. It always impresses them. (“Hey, working with half a dozen editors across two dozen books? She must be doing something right!”)

I got paid for each project I created. And as I said in the article, they all turned into new lines of work for me. They also became the basis of classes I offer (and I charge for the classes I offer.) So the project books, and my books, offer validation of my skills.

I received a good advance on the book, enough to make it worth my while.

Did I get rich? No. (Although my advance from that book was more than 10x than I’ve made selling my ebooks.)
Did my reputation benefit? Yes, both as an artist and a writer.
Did I get more opportunities to write for pay? Yes.
Did I enjoy it? Very much!
Did other opportunities follow? Yes! My resume was awesome!

Again, if it’s all about the money, and money is THE ONLY CRITERION for whether this risk was “successful” or not….

I have no idea.

My income has gone up and down over the years, as I constantly sorted out what was working and what wasn’t. So any additional income that was still within my skills and interests range was very welcome. One year, making products for a mail order catalog account kept me afloat during a recession.

If I would do it again? In a heartbeat! I listed the benefits in the article. I believe the most important one is how these “risks” broadened my horizons, and widened my world.

Should everybody do this? Of course not! The stamp carver who produced the little booklet on stamp carving would have loved the money. They just didn’t want to commit to a year-long schedule, the amount of writing, etc. They’d written their booklet, and they were done. She gave me her blessing. (Thank you, Julie Hagan Bloch!) My schedule was more flexible, and I love to write!

Do I work for free all the time? Nope. A couple years ago someone reached out to me to write an article for their online publication. They refused to pay me, though they sort of promised I would get paid when their site went viral. (Uh huh…) They used the usual “but you’ll get such great exposure!” But they also kept increasing their demands on what was expected, so I knew it wouldn’t end well. (I started the article but soon walked away. There are warning signs for projects that won’t work to our advantage.)

Do I get paid for everything I do? Nope. There are times where I do stuff for free. I have my own criteria for assessing that. But I never do it when someone demands I do it for the “exposure”, when I sense those warning signs, or when there is absolutely nothing in for me at all, AND I don’t want to do it, period. Give a presentation or talk to art students? Sure! Donate to a charity auction? Only if I get my wholesale price from the sale. And so on.

We all have our unique boundaries, our individual take on where we draw the line between work-for-hire, work-for-free, and the gray areas in-between.

If we insist on being paid for everything, every time, and that is our ONLY criterion for success, we may overlook opportunities that will work in our favor. That is YOUR choice.

But it’s not mine.

This has been one of the most controversial posts I’ve ever written, which surprises me. I have been asked to defend the premise of this story over and over. I have had my integrity, my life experience, and my veracity challenged. (Usually people complained vigorously about how long my articles are.) (So I’m gonna wrap this up!)

Now….Did you know I don’t get paid to blog? :^D

Yes, I do get paid to write for Fine Art Views weekly. (I have permission to replublish those articles here.) But it’s not nearly what I used to get for ONE article when I wrote for magazines.

So, if I ONLY did things I love when I’m paid for them, you wouldn’t be reading this today. :^)

IF my writing has meant something to you…

If you ever felt like what I wrote has inspired you, enlightened you, educated you, shored you up when you felt the world does not want the work of your heart…

If you love the fact that I’ve openly shared for almost 16 years, what I’ve learned by being an artist, writer, martial artist, dog owner, wall climber, hospice volunteer, teacher, mother, etc….and shared it with you, not only because I have to write…

Because I hope someone, anyone, will find joy, learn, heal, be brave, be heard….at no cost to you….

How would you feel if I’d never started a blog?

Er…You can send me a check in any amount anytime. It will most be appreciated!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

11 thoughts on “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY Except When It’s Not”

  1. Because I have retired from a very social job, nursing, and now spend most of my time working on my polymer art, my social life has faded beyond recognition. Days go by when I don’t talk to a single person. I really look forward to reading your blog. Your writing style is such that I feel like we are having a conversation and it brings a little bit of sanity to my crazy, internal world. Thank you so much for always writing about subjects that really matter to me and for doing it so well. Please keep doing it as long as you are so inspired!


    1. Wow, Nan, that is amazing! I’m truly honored that my writing has helped keep you centered, and I’m grateful you took the time to let me know.
      Re: Social life, I have a little suggestion. I haven’t taught a class in 5 years, since before we moved here. A few months ago, a studio visitor asked me about classes. On impulse, I asked her what she loves about classes. And she replied, “Community.”
      It stopped me in my tracks. I’d really never thought about it that way. It inspired me to get serious about teaching again.
      Perhaps, if it’s something you’d like to try, offering some classes, or even something more informal, like meet-ups with friends while you share some of your polymer skills with them included, could bump up your social life, AND keep you in the studio.
      Of all the things I miss about NH, it’s my friendships there that I miss the most. Don’t lose yours!
      And if this doesn’t resonate with you, it’s okay to ignore it, too. :^)


      1. Great minds etc! I am doing exactly that Luann. I have just been accepted to teach some beginner classes at Michael’s so will hopefully meet some kindred spirits there. I also started a guild for polymer clay artists and we have been going strong for 2 years so that definitely feeds my social needs but we only meet once a month. I’m thinking of organizing some informal clay play days for members and maybe for people in my apartment building who might be interested.Thank for next week’s article about risk and courage. Right on target again!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. WiredNan, I love it all! Good on your for reaching out and creating a community! When we take a step forward, new things cross our path. Courage is rewarded with more choices, and a richer, deeper outlook on life.


  2. Thanks, Luann. I also do hours and hours of “unpaid” work on social media, blogging and so on. However, if an organization (not a school or a charity) requests some unpaid work and the project is likely to make them money, I feel differently about it.


    1. Emma, do you mean the social media you do for you and your business, or for someone else??

      If it’s for you, that’s called marketing, we’ve always had to allocate time for it, and it took substantial amounts of money to do it: Advertising, especially. And it was EXPENSIVE and a crap shoot. The saying goes, “Only half the advertising I pay for does any good, the problem is, I don’t know which half!” :^)

      It also used to be even more time-consuming: Sending press releases to newspapers and magazines, creating ad copy & images, or paying someone else to do that (we MAILED them before email became a “thing”); mailing postcards (ordering postcards was expensive, and that was expensive when it cost 19 cents to mail a postcard!) and printing out labels & applying the stamps & labels to the cards (my mailing list was so big in NH, it took me half a day.)

      If you do this for someone else, is it out of love? Can you still do it for a trade? Someone asked me for help with mastering social media, and that felt overwhelming, but then they offered to help me master some metal-working skills, and that felt wonderful!

      And YES, it’s one thing to OFFER our services, for a cause dear to our hearts. It’s another thing when people ask for something that benefits them, but not you.

      Let me know, maybe this is another article! :^)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. LOL, good on you, Emma!
    Yeah, getting our work there has always been considered the “drudge” part of self-promotion. Fortunately, I like it! It is sooooo much easier with social media, and goes much further, sometimes to places we never could have imagined. I don’t have answers for how to make it more enjoyable, maybe I should do a series about that…. Or a class? Hmmmmmm…..
    Bottom line, write one story with one image, and cross-post it. You can connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts, your Facebook and Twitter accounts, send the same info in an email newsetter. That way, you do one “parcel” and just cut-and-paste it on all your different platforms. Even once-a-month creates a cohesive marketing message!
    You’re doing a GREAT job with your blog, and that’s usually the hardest part for many people. You’ve nailed that! :^)
    Then you can go back to making your amazing work with the knowledge you’ve gotten your work–and your story–out into the world.


  4. Hi Luann, Not sure you will get this as I don`t think I have ever responded to a blog. I have just discovered you and enjoy your blog very much. Keep going please and ignore the naysayers- we all have to follow our own path. As artists, it is such a difficult path because we have to build it as we go.

    I love your honest voice, and your work. Sue:)



    1. Sue, you did it! I’m not only honored you like my article, but moved that I’m the first blogger who elicited a comment from you. That’s so cool!
      I’m grateful for your support. Naysayers hurt in the short run, but they always lose in the long run. I have a story to tell, and I’m just gonna keep on sharing it, now matter what.


  5. Luann – do you have one of those ‘buy me a coffee’ accounts? I’ve stumbled across them on other blogs, and it enables people to send you a small sum via paypal, as though you were out for a drink. If you do, it’s not easily noticeable on WP. Let me know if you do 😉


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