#FinanceYourDance: How To Overcome “Starving Artist” Syndrome


Photo: Mariinsky Ballet Principal Alina Somova for Vogue Russia.

Photo credit: Patrick Demarchelier.


We’re all familiar with the term “starving artist”. Sadly enough, some dancers and other performing artists, actually embrace this term, as if it’s a badge of honor. I personally, despise this term, and have made it part of my life’s purpose to work to eliminate the reality of this term, in my lifetime.

Our mind, as artists, is our greatest and most valuable asset. Your thoughts and your level of knowledge and wisdom, directly affect the choices you make on a day-to-day basis, and also what you believe about yourself and your future. Many of us dancers/artists follow the traditional format of: learning our craft, seeking extensive training and education within our art form, creating our own work, looking for opportunities to present our work, and auditioning for gigs where we can get paid to perform and share our art form (this includes teaching, and choreography). Sounds pretty normal right? So what’s the problem?

The main problem with this mode of operations is that it leaves you constantly looking for opportunities from other people in order to make money. This keeps you in a deadly cycle; The Starving Artist Syndrome.


Talented, Passionate Artist + Gig + Temporary Hourly Income – Living & Business Expenses – Debt – Lack of Emergency Savings, Healthcare, and Investments =


The Starving Artist Syndrome


The idea of living paycheck to paycheck is not a good situation for any of us. It can actually be quite dangerous. But as a dancer, or artist, we must beware of living from gig to gig as well. There’s no real security in any job or gig, where you are paid by the hour, or per/project. Besides the fact that these opportunities are usually temporary, the main problem with them is that they require you to physically be in a particular place, physically working for a certain amount of hours, in order to get paid. Now you may be saying to yourself, “isn’t that how most jobs work?” The answer is absolutely, yes. But, you should keep in mind what a JOB stands for:


J – O – B = Just Over Broke


What would happen if you couldn’t physically go to work, dance, teach, or choreograph? Then what?

What if you got injured, or had an illness that caused you to not be able to physically go in to work at your job for an extended period of time? Then what?

As a Dance Teacher, in particular, you don’t get paid holidays, paid vacation, paid sick days, paid time off, or maternity leave. So what do you do when these situations arrive?


This is why most dancers, and artists in general, are Just Over Broke. Even if you do have another job that you work at for steady income, the rules are essentially the same. You are at the mercy of your employer; they decide when you work, and how long you are able to work there.


How Do You Overcome “Starving Artist” Syndrome?


Create Residual, Passive Income Streams.


“Having an extra source of income is SMART…having ten is even SMARTER.” ~ Fred Ajamagra


This is one of the keys to building wealth and leaving the “starving artist” syndrome behind. A job is not the best way to create the financial consistency and stability that you need in your life. It’s one way, but not the best way. If you really want to build wealth, financial stability, and a future that is not at the mercy of your employer, creating passive, residual income is the key. Look at any wealthy person; whether they are a well-known celebrity, or a successful entrepreneur, they have this as a major part of their financial and business portfolio. They don’t earn their money by clocking in a certain amount of hours per/week. They make their money work for them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where they are in the world.

Starting your own business is definitely a great way to create passive, residual income, but you can also try other methods. One of the most popular methods for building this (besides real estate and investments) is intellectual property. Create your own products to sell that will be bringing in money for you, while you sleep.


“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.” ~ Dale Carnegie 


I know that it can be very exciting when you’re teaching, performing, touring, and doing really well financially because of your gigs and jobs. But I want you to think long-term. Think about what will happen when these gigs come to an end. Think about what might happen if you get sick or injured. Think about your children, your parents, and your legacy. Think about the freedom you will feel when you know that your livelihood isn’t dependent upon these gigs or jobs. This will give you much more power when it comes to negotiating your pay rates, and choosing what types of jobs and gigs you do, because you’ll be able to be much more selective, because you’re not desperate for money. Lastly, think about the peace of mind you’ll have when you know that you have several different income streams working in your favor, so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make it through the Summer, pay off your student loans or credit card debt, or when your next vacation will be.


“Pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well that people are happy to pay you for it.” ~ Fred Ajamagra


The ultimate goal is to look at your passions, the things that you love to do, that you’re naturally good at, and would do for free, and find ways to create passive, residual income from them. We all have something of value to offer to others. Take a moment now to think of ways that you can do this in your life, and get started on it today. You’ll thank me later.


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