Starving Artist No More Blog

041: A New Season

Nov 07, 2023
Starving Artist No More | Jennifer Jill Araya
041: A New Season

You may have noticed that this episode is marked as the first episode in Season 2 in your podcast player. That’s right – this week marks a full year of the Starving Artist No More podcast! For a full year, I’ve been coaching creative entrepreneurs and helping them create workable strategies for businesses that actually work and that meet their needs in a real and tangible way. It’s been an amazing experience! Today’s podcast episode is going to look at the seven biggest takeaways I’ve observed from my first year working officially as a creative entrepreneurship coach. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned.


Hello thriving artists, and welcome to Episode 41, and the first episode of Season 2, of the Starving Artist No More podcast. I am your host, creative entrepreneurship coach and creative entrepreneur myself, Jennifer Jill Araya, and I’m so very glad you’re here with me today.

I started officially working as a creative entrepreneurship coach a year ago, and while I’ve learned and grown a lot during that time, one thing hasn’t changed: my conviction that creative freedom for artists requires attention to financial wholeness. And I have a resource that I think can help you figure out the financial side of your business. It’s a free guide, titled “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine: Three Financial Must-Haves for Creative Entrepreneurs,” available on my website, This guide does exactly what it sounds like: it walks you through three specific areas of your business finances and helps you make sense of them so that you can find financial fulfillment from your creative work. Being in a place of financial freedom is an incredible place to be. When you aren’t stressed about how you can pay your rent or mortgage, and when you know your kids’ school bills are paid, you are able to create with a whole new level of freedom and joy. I hope this guide helps you get started on the path toward financial wholeness. Just go to my website,, and fill out the contact form to have it sent directly to your email inbox.

I want to turn now to the main topic of today’s podcast episode: the seven biggest things I’ve learned over the past year. Since November 2022, I’ve had the incredible privilege of walking alongside a wide variety of artist business-owners in many different creative industries. I had been doing this kind of work informally for many years before, as creatives reached out to me of their own initiative and asked for advice and guidance. But November of last year is when “hung out my shingle” as a creative entrepreneurship coach, officially letting people know that working with artists and helping them build businesses that worked was something that I was passionate about.

To say that the past year taught me a lot would be a massive understatement! I learned more about myself than I thought possible. I’ve always been fairly introspective and intentional about shaping a positive mental model for myself, but my work as a coach absolutely highlighted some things that I’d allow to slip through the cracks. If you ever want to find out what you don’t know about a subject, try to teach that subject to someone else! It’ll point out those gaps in your knowledge like nothing else! As a result, I’ve read more nonfiction business and psychology books in the past 12 months than I had read in the past 5 years – and again, I already read a lot of books in those genres. This year has been a continual process of making sure I had the knowledge I needed to effectively help the amazing artists working with me.

I also learned a lot about how to be a better coach and how to convey my ideas in ways that other artists will understand. I’ve mentioned before in this podcast that my background, due to my parents owning a small accounting firm, is very different than most creatives. Dinner table conversation in my house growing up was often about my parents’ day to day work dealing with the financial struggles and triumphs of their clients. We talked about what assets can be depreciated and over what length of time, how to distinguish between a contractor and an employee, the advantages of different types of business structures, what expenses are deductible for what kinds of small businesses … you get the idea! I didn’t go to business school, but simply growing up in my parents’ household gave me a relatively solid hold on the more administrative side of what it means to be a small business owner.

With virtually no exceptions, that background is not something that the creatives who work with me have had. And it makes sense! Most fine art degree programs don’t require business classes, and a lot of them don’t even offer business classes. We’re taught how to be amazing artists, how to be the best and most unique creatives we can be. We’re taught how to think outside the box and push the boundaries of our creative industry. We’re not taught what it means to be self-employed artists trying to make a living from our artistic work, let alone the finer points of how to do it.

When I began coaching a year ago, I knew that my business background, courtesy of my parents, was unusual for an artist. I didn’t realize just how unusual it was.

In the past year, I’ve been privileged to watch a number of amazing creatives figure out how to do this small-business artist thing, and it’s been an honor to guide their journeys. And I’ve also noticed seven specific common threads that run through the joys and the struggles of almost every one of those creatives. Today, we’re going to walk through those seven major lessons I’ve learned after a year of coaching creative entrepreneurs.

Lesson #1: the importance of fixing forward.

I talked about this in detail just two weeks ago, in Episode 39 of this podcast, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about fixing forward right now. But I do want to share what I personally learned about the importance of fixing forward from my coaching experience over the past year.

If you’re a longtime listener of this podcast, you probably noticed that I wasn’t 100% consistent with this podcast over the past 12 months. After all, a year is 52 weeks, and this is a weekly podcast, and yet this is only episode 41 of the podcast, meaning I only released 40 episodes in the past year. Shouldn’t a weekly podcast have 52 episodes after a year? What happened to the other 12 episodes?

The short answer is that life happened. I got sick over the summer after attending a book con, and something needed to give in my workload, and putting out this podcast was one of the things that gave. I missed over two months of podcast releasing as a result of that illness. Also, over the past year, there were more than a couple weeks in there when I was focused on something else in the life of my family or in the priority list of my business, and the podcast just didn’t happen. I thoroughly enjoy working on this podcast and have been getting great feedback from the episodes, but when facing a time crunch when I could do paid audiobook or coaching work, or I could do unpaid work on this podcast, the paid work won out. I didn’t maintain the consistency I wanted with my weekly episodes.

And yet, even without 100% consistency, I still know that this podcast is valuable. I’ve heard from creatives who have listened to one episode and many episodes and been helped by them. I’ve heard from my coaching students that the podcast episodes provide extra support for them between our coaching sessions. And I’ve learned myself about how to communicate business concepts more clearly and logically. Even when 100% consistency isn’t possible, perhaps especially when 100% consistency isn’t possible, I can still fix forward and still make a difference.

I wasn't 100% consistent with this podcast, but I did manage to write, produce, and release 40 episodes over the past 52 weeks. Forty episodes is a lot! It’s not 52, but it’s still something to be celebrated! The experience of putting out this podcast taught me that even if I felt like I was always working to "get back on track" or "get back on schedule" with writing and producing these episodes, the process of getting back on track, the process of fixing forward, is one that has value. Like with a horse, you have to get back on again when you fall off. I had to let go of the weeks I didn't get out an episode and instead focus forward to the next week, when I would get one released. Focusing forward and letting go of past struggles will always be a helpful mindset to cultivate.

The second thing I learned this year is that finances matter. I already alluded to this at the top of the episode, but the importance of finances in the life of a creative entrepreneur cannot be overstated. Money issues aren’t everything, but they matter a lot! Finances also go back to the very reason I felt so compelled to start working formally as a business coach in the first place. I do have a background in the business side of what it means to be an artist, and I saw the struggles my artist friends and creative colleagues were having with their business finances, and I knew I had knowledge and experience that could make a difference.

As artists, we deserve to be paid for our work. Our creative output, our artist efforts, have value. Our time has value. It is not “selling out” or “becoming commercial” to state that you deserve to be paid a fair and honest wage for your work. “Starving” for your art is a harmful stereotype that has no basis in reality. 

It’s a hard truth that artists who want to be full-time artists but who don’t prioritize financial fulfillment in how they manage their businesses will not be able to stay full-time artists.

Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing your creative work part-time or even as a hobby if that is what you want and if that is what fills you with creative joy. I am not here to tell you that you must be a full-time creative. That would be so incredibly presumptuous and wrong of me! If you want to do your artistic work part-time or on a hobby basis, then that is exactly what you should do!

And doing your work part-time doesn’t mean that you can’t still be an incredible artist whose work matters and influences others. In fact, two of my very favorite composers, Alexander Borodin and Charles Ives, were both part-time composers! They both were incredibly revolutionary for their time and extremely influential on the composers who came after them. Both had an incredible impact on the development of classical music that is still being felt today. Both are still known worldwide for their incredible work, even though have been dead for a very long time. And they both had day jobs, Borodin as a doctor and chemist, and Ives as an insurance salesman. The fact that they didn’t rely on their creative work to financially sustain them does not in any way lessen their status as incredible artists. If that kind of situation – working as an artist part-time or as a hobby – is what you want, then I encourage you to go for it!

At the same time, if what you want is to support yourself and your family financially with your full-time artistic work, then you must make financial fulfillment a priority in your business decisions. If you don’t, you won’t stay a full-time artist.

The saddest example of this, in my opinion, is that of Herman Melville’s situation with Moby Dick. When Moby Dick was released, it was a flop. It didn’t sell anywhere near as well as Melville’s previous book, and it performed far under the publisher’s expectations. Obviously, this book is an incredible work of art. When the candidates for the “Great American Novel” are listed out, Moby Dick is always going to be on that list. This is absolutely a book that had – and still has! – an audience. But Melville and his publisher were not able to find that audience at the time of the book’s release. It underperformed. It didn’t bring Melville the financial reward and public acclaim that he was expecting.

And he stopped writing as a result. Melville never wrote another big, ambitious book. Not long after Moby Dick’s publication, he took a job as a customs inspector and then completely stopped writing at all.

Imagine if Melville and his publisher had figured out a way to market Moby Dick more effectively. It is obviously an incredible book that has mass market appeal. They could have found that audience. But they didn’t. And because they didn’t, the world will never know what else Melville could have written. What incredible stories could we have from Melville today if he and his publisher had done the marketing work necessary to make Moby Dick a financial success?

What incredible art could you create if your business finances are a well-managed resource and if you’re being paid fairly for your work? What creativity could you unleash in yourself if financial stress is not something you have to face on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis? What difference would it make to your creative processes if you prioritized work that paid you your highest rates?

Don’t be afraid to ask for the rates you need, the rates your work deserves. You are worth it. Being financially conscious in your artistic business decisions is the exact opposite of selling out. It is giving yourself the resources you need to keep creating. Finances matter.

Lesson #3 goes hand in hand with lesson #2: marketing is always your job.

I’ve said it before on this podcast, and I know I’ll say it again. The flow of work into your business is directly correlated with the flow of marketing efforts out of your business. If you want to have work, you must consistently market yourself and your creative products.

And I get it. Marketing is hard. It’s uncomfortable at times, and for us artistic types, it’s often not something we enjoy doing. But it is necessary. In order for people to buy your creative work or to hire you for your artistic projects, they have to first know about you. No one is going to buy anything from you if they don’t know that you exist!

I talk to a lot of creatives who are reluctant to market because it feels like selling out. I hope I already persuaded you out of this mindset just a minute ago, when I was talking about Lesson #2, that finances matter. But in case I didn’t, let me say it again: you matter. Your work matters. What you create has value in the world that deserves to be financially rewarded. Marketing yourself so that you are able be financially fulfilled by your artistic endeavors is the exact opposite of selling out. It is doing what you need to do to financially be able continue engaging in your creative process. Marketing enables you to do the creative work that you do. It is not selling out.

I also sometimes hear from creatives, especially those who have been working in their creative industries for a while, who don’t feel like they need to keep marketing at this point in their career. They might not come out and say it quite as bluntly as I just did, but that’s the sentiment. On some level, they feel that they’ve been around long enough that people should just know them!

If that is your thought, I urge you to reconsider. Think of any successful company you know anywhere in the world, and you will see them marketing on a consistent basis. When I was waiting in the airport for a flight recently, I sat down across from a giant screen that was showing Coca-Cola ads for the entire hour that I was waiting there. You can’t tell me that people don’t know about Coca-Cola. It’s a brand that is recognized worldwide! And yet they still pour time and money and effort into marketing.

Why do they market, when everyone already knows what Coke is and what purpose it serves? They market because they want to remain top of mind for their customers and their audience. They advertise because they want to make sure that the next time you’re thirsty and considering purchasing a soda of some sort, they are the first brand of soda you consider. They want to be top of mind.

The underlying purpose of your marketing is exactly the same: you want to be top of mind when someone thinks of your exact niche in your creative industry. For me in my audiobook narration business, when a casting director is thinking about who they might hire for a female point of view mystery-thriller that includes specific accent requirements, I want to be the first audiobook narrator that comes to mind for that casting director. When your audience members think of a project or product that is in your Sweet Spot, you want them to think of you first. And the only way that can happen is if you are consistently reminding your audience that you are there. Marketing allows your audience to think of you and is the catalyst that eventually brings new projects your way.

No matter where you are in your creative career, marketing is part of your job. Exactly how you market – what strategies you use – will vary depending on your specific creative industry and the specific type of audience you’re targeting with your marketing efforts. But the fact that you do need to market in order to have a thriving creative business does not change. If you want to thrive through your artistic enterprise, you must market. As a creative entrepreneur, marketing is always part of your job.

Lesson #4 that I’ve learned over the past year is that thinking of goals as a guardrail changes everything.

Much of my core curriculum for my group workshop relates to goal setting and business planning. And even among those creatives who are interested enough in goal setting and business planning to sign up for a workshop about it, I still noticed a lot of hesitation to set firm limits and boundaries. As artists, we have lots of different interests and passions! We want to be free to do any type of work that we want to do at any time! Goal setting instinctively feels limiting and restricting to a lot of creatives.

But the process of goal setting and planning for your creative work is not actually limiting or restricting at  all. Rather, it’s focusing. It centers you on what really matters most to you. The incredible author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” and he was so right. If you don’t have a plan, a strategy, for making something happen, it’s not actually a goal for you. It’s just a wish. Setting goals and developing a strategy for achieving them isn’t something that ties you down. Rather, that process allows you to take your dreams and make them reality.

As you think about goals and strategies in your creative business, reframe the process a bit. Think of your goals, of your business strategy, as guardrails that keep you on your chosen path. Get rid of the “goals are a straitjacket” mental story and replace it with a vision of a gorgeous road sweeping across the countryside, with guardrails on both sides to keep you going the right direction.

For every single artist who came to me somewhat hesitant of the goal-setting process, this mindset shift allowed them to embrace the power of goals and use their goals to help them grow and thrive.

After all, your goals are in service of you and your dreams, not the other way around. They are your goals, and they can change if you want them to! Yes, you should be careful and intentional as you set your goals and develop the strategy to achieve them, and you shouldn’t change your goals willy-nilly. But if they need to change because you or your art has evolved, or because the creative industry around you has changed in ways you didn’t anticipate, change your goals! Again, they’re not a straitjacket. They’re guardrails. And if you find out you’re not on the path you want to be on, you can adjust. You can take a turn and make new goals and allow them to be guardrails to focus you on your new path. But even if you adjust your goals, having goals in the first place helps keep you focused on the things that really matter to you.

Another goal-related concept that my coaching students found very helpful is that of the Goal Green Room. Like I said, as artists, we have lots of different interests! We like to be involved in a huge variety of things! We want to do it all!

A sad fact of life is that, while we might want to do it all, it isn’t physically possible for you to do them all right now. And often, a lot of the goal setting process is spent taking the world of possibilities that you want for yourself and trimming it down to the things that are actually achievable for you in the short, medium, and long term. Goal setting is a kind of “pruning” of your dreams that can be very difficult and even emotionally painful, as you choose not to focus on parts of your craft that you do truly enjoy.

But saying no to a dream right now doesn’t mean saying no to that dream forever. That dream can stay as part of your world of possibilities for the future.

That’s where the Goal Green Room comes in. The Goal Green Room is a document that you keep somewhere that you won’t misplace it – in a journal with the page marked, in a starred document on your computer, whatever works for you – and that contains a list of all of your ideas and dreams that you aren’t quite ready for just yet. These are the possibilities for yourself that aren’t ready for the spotlight. You’re not ready to put all the focus on them yet, but they still have your heart, and you still want to keep that possibility available to you.

Like an actor in full costume and makeup who is waiting in the green room for the next scene, when it will be time for him to go on stage, those goals will wait for you in your Goal Green Room until it’s the right time for them.

Goals are a guardrail, not a straitjacket. Your goals can and should change over time. And your Goal Green Room will be ready and waiting for you with a room full of dreams when it’s time for those goals to be adjusted.

Lesson #5 that I have learned in the past year: Every creative’s path is unique.

As much as there were a host of commonalities between the creatives I’ve worked with over the past year, there are also other very important factors that made every single one of those artists’ paths entirely unique. Every artistic journey is shaped by that specific artist’s individuality. We may all be artists, but we are not all alike, and comparing the paths of two artists, while tempting, is a dangerous thing to do. What is right for Artist A is not necessarily right for Artist B, and vice versa.

I hope this is an encouraging thought to you. You don’t have to have a career or a business that looks just like your creative colleague’s. In fact, you can’t have that mirror image career or business, because you are not them, and they are not you. You can let go of the urge to compare your journey with others’ journeys, and/or to judge your journey in light of what others in your industry are (or aren’t) doing. You do you!

This applies to the specific strategies we use in our businesses and the kind of work we choose to focus on, but it also applies to the areas of struggle and hardship that we each face. If something is hard for you, even if it is trivial for others, then IT. IS. HARD. Don’t minimize your struggles.

Marni Penning, an amazing narrator who also happens to be one of my business accountability partners and one of my best friends, is very open about the fact that she has ADHD. I do not. Because of her neurodivergence, she sometimes struggles with things that I don’t struggle with. On the other hand, I have a chronic pain condition, and Marni does not. I sometimes struggle with things that Marni doesn’t struggle with!

And this difference in what is hard or easy for you or others is hardly limited to medical conditions and neurodivergence. Every artist has a background as unique as they are. Each of us have different experiences that have taught us about how the world works, in different ways. Don’t minimize your struggles just because you don’t see others struggling with those exact same things.

After all, when you are looking at others, you only see the highlight reel. There’s no way you can truly know the full complexity of their situation and fully grasp the struggles they are facing. After all, something that is easy for you might be super difficult for them, but you don’t notice that because all you see is how easily they do the thing you struggle to do.

Allow your journey to unfold in the way and in the time that is right for you. Let go of comparisons. You are unique and your path is unique. You do you!

Lesson #6: Celebrations matter.

I talked about this a lot in last week’s episode, so this is another lesson that I’m not going to focus on in too much detail. If you want to know the science behind why celebrations matter, go back and listen to that episode.

But even though I just talked about this last week, I do want to reiterate that celebrations matter. Recognizing every bit of progress we make is a way of staving off burnout and of keeping yourself motivated and excited about your work. Every time you take a step in your work, every time a task is completed, allow yourself to mark the occasion in some way. Those celebrations don’t have to be big – even just taking a moment to smile at yourself and say “Yes! I did it!” can be enough. But somehow, in some way, celebrate every achievement and every step, no matter how small.

Being a creative entrepreneur is hard. The messages we receive from the world are ones that tear us down and minimize our value and tell us that the creative world in which we operate is one of scarcity and lack. The world tells us we should starve, that worrying about money means we’re not true artists, and that our work doesn’t have value. None of those things are true, but it’s hard to exist in a world that is constantly telling us such harmful stories about ourselves. Find every moment of joy and make the most of it. Take time to celebrate.

And finally, Lesson #7 that I learned in the past year of my work as a creative entrepreneurship coach: Mindset is everything.

Truthfully, this is the biggest thing I realized in the past year, and it was the biggest surprise to me. I kind of had some inkling of the other six lessons I’ve talked about today, but even though thinking about mindset and mental models has been part of what I teach and how I communicate since the very beginning of this coaching business – goodness, Episode 2 of this podcast is all about mental models! – even I didn’t realize just what a huge difference mindset makes. Mindset is everything.

Almost every problem faced by my creative entrepreneurship students over the past year was one that, at its root, could be traced back to a mindset block. Frankly, every single problem I have faced in my creative business over the past year could be traced back to a mindset block.

Telling yourself false stories of some sort. Thinking something isn’t possible for you. Thinking that a workable strategy doesn’t actually exist for you to achieve your goals. Feeling stuck and not sure where or how to move forward. All of these situations, and a thousand more, are shaped by your mindset.

When we face a problem or feel ourselves struggling with something in our business, the best place to start – which might also be the hardest place to start – is by examining your beliefs around that situation. Chances are, there is something in your mental model, your understanding of the problem and the circumstances surrounding it, that doesn’t actually line up with reality. And when you grow that mental understanding of the situation, you’ll be able to find your path through.

Personally, I find it really helpful in these situations to talk it out with someone else. I’ve already mentioned Marni Penning, one of my business accountability partners. If I’m dealing with a tough situation and need help doing the detective work of finding my mindset blocks around that situation, I know that I can go to Marni and Gail Shalan, my other business accountability partner. Or, perhaps I’ll reach out to another colleague in my creative industry who I know has dealt with something similar or who has given me helpful advice in the past. I also have several key mentors in my audiobook work who I know can give me guidance when I need it.

All of those resources are available to you, too. If you don’t have an accountability partnership relationship with another artist, I encourage you to reach out and develop one. But even if you don’t yet have that kind of accountability, you do have colleagues in your creative industry. And you do have mentors you can trust. Going to others and talking through the problem with them serves as a mirror to your current mindset and allows you to see where your current understanding of the situation might not be reflective of the full reality.

In truth, I’m not sure why I was so surprised by the realization that mindset is everything. It makes complete sense that the root of our success as artists would lie in our internal world. After all, our art is a reflection of who we are as individuals. It is a reflection of that internal world, ruled by our mindset and our mental model. And in turn, our businesses are a reflection of our art, and therefore, they again reflect who we are as unique people. It makes sense that for a creative entrepreneur, mindset would be at the root of almost everything.

What we believe around ourselves and our work matters. Take time to cultivate positive self-talk and to intentionally notice the good. Your mindset, and your business, will thank you!


Thank you so much for spending this time with me today. I know how much time matters to creative entrepreneurs, and I will always be grateful that you spend a bit of your time with me, listening to this podcast. I want to thank you for making the past year of this podcast possible. I’m looking forward to learning and growing for another year with you right by my side! If you enjoyed today’s discussion, please consider leaving a rating or review for me using your podcast player of choice. Ratings and reviews really do matter and really do help new listeners find me. And, of course, be sure to subscribe so that you never miss an episode. If you have a creative friend or colleague who you think might be helped by this episode, or any episode of this podcast, please share it with them. Sharing is caring! And if you have any questions about my work as a creative entrepreneurship coach, if you have feedback or comments you’d like to pass along, or if you have topic suggestions for future episodes of this podcast, please reach out to me via my website, I’d love to hear from you! And as always, a huge shout out of gratitude goes to my husband, Arturo Araya, who makes the technical side of this podcast possible.

I am so excited to mark this passage of one year working as a creative entrepreneurship coach. I am so honored and grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work with such amazing artists over the past 12 months, and I can’t wait to see where the next 12 months take us together. And I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way: that it’s ok to fix forward. When I’m not 100% consistent, I can let go of any past inconsistency and focus on doing the best I can moving forward. That finances matter, and that worrying about finances in my creative business is the exact opposite of selling out; rather, it’s giving myself the freedom I need to create with joy and excitement. That marketing my work is also not selling out; that it’s letting my audience know about my work and my passions so that they’ll think of me first. That goals are a guardrail, not a straitjacket, and that the goals I can’t handle right now are safely and patiently waiting for me in my Goal Green Room. That every creative’s path is unique, and that it’s a good thing that my journey doesn’t look exactly like anyone else’s. That celebrating every achievement, big or small, has value. And that my mindset is everything. When I take time to make sure my understanding of a situation lines up with a kind and gracious view of reality, everything in my creative life gets better. I hope these lessons can help you, too. You matter, and your work matters. I can’t wait to see what you create.


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