Artists are at the center of profitable and growing industries such as entertainment, technology and social media. However, we face many obstacles when it comes to meeting our own basic needs as we pursue our careers. It is considered the norm across many industries that artists should expect to be compensated poorly if at all. We are subject to degrading, dehumanizing systems that invariably oppress the vast majority of us.

Why are we susceptible to this treatment? I think we have a problem with understanding our value and consistently valuing ourselves. At the core of this problem is our desire to create in a society that does not have the systems in place to honor the integrity of the humanity of the artist. But why don’t we see this treatment of other professions? Do we see “America’s Next Attorney General” with lawyers from top firms battling it out for a chance to be recognized? No, we do not. The reason for that is because other industries are led by businesses that approach their employment processes  through systems, processes and procedures governed by a predetermined set of rules by which individuals seeking employment can demonstrate their ability. Individuals who wish to perform a role within that industry clearly know how to prepare for and improve their ability to obtain the role. Why is the artist treated differently? How do we make the artist different? How do we elevate the artist?

To solve the problem, we have to first look at the artist mindset. Many artists do not see their own value or rather their value is determined by others. The mindset of most artists is that success means that someone, somewhere identifies the great thing you have made. This someone, then, provides you with all of the services that you need to reach your market because you, as an artist, are inherently incapable of doing so, or so you believe. Artists are encouraged to “get discovered” and to compete with one another in embarrassing and degrading ways to achieve the favor of some wealthy producer. We thrive on the approval of others. The numerous talent shows that urge dancers, singers, actors and models to battle it out for a chance to get noticed, demonstrate how we participate in systems in our society that have relegated the artist to the role of helpless beggar.

However, we are not victims, we are complicit in this system. By agreeing to be a part of it, by participating, we allow and condone it.

In this article, I will present a very important part of being an elevated artist: knowing and owning your practical needs. I first started the practice of assessing my practical needs while acting in New York. After two years of getting no where, I stopped to assess my practical needs and I made a plan to pursue them while remaining insistent that I would be an actress but I was determined to forge my own path, maintaining my integrity along the way.

The second step in the project selection process requires that you evaluate how the project will meet your Practical Needs.  In this part, you will determine what you need so that when a project presents itself you can be ready to advocate for your financial, health and wellness, family as well as your social and communal needs.

This is the second article in the digital guide: How to Select Your Next Project. I created this series of articles because I believe that the difference between a successful artist career and an unfulfilled one lies in the ability to decide what to work on. There is no reason why artists in all industries should not be living a life full of creativity, wealth and peace.

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First, assess your financial needs.

Will this project compensate me in a manner in keeping with my current lifestyle? This is your first question and this question will determine your ability to participate in this project. To sufficiently answer this question you need to define two numbers.

    • Personal Standard Expenses: These are the expenses that you incur on a regular basis. Be sure to include personal expenses, monthly bills and periodic fixed expenses (like car registration). These expenses are simply the total of your existing personal budget.
    • Personal Project Related Expenses: These are the personal expenses that you will have while performing the duties required of the project. These include  Travel, including: fuel, bridge tolls and repairs;  Attire and Appearance: including: apparel and grooming; meals, printing/copying, and any purchases related to the project or that are required for you to perform the duties of your role in this project. For instance, if you have to get lunch in another area because you travel for a project, the cost of that lunch is included. A personal project related expense is any expense you would not otherwise incur if you were not a part of this project.

If a project will not compensate you sufficiently to meet your basic personal standard expenses and personal project related expenses then you will need to consider the outcomes of the analysis in step 1 to determine if the project is worth pursuing.

If you determine that the project is worth pursuing then the question you must answer at some point is: how will these needs be met if not from this project? This is where you begin to do a resource assessment so that you can maintain balance while working towards your goals.

Conduct a Resource Assessment

For more details on how to do a resource assessment when a project does not sufficiently compensate your needs see: Balanced Within: How to Pursue Your Artistic Vision & Meet Your Practical Needs.

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