Things I’ve done for Money
I’ve been working since I was 13 years old.
Here is a list of things I have done for money…
Painted the faces of HSBC bankers
Wore a ski suit at an office Christmas party
Sung an All Saints cover for the staff of Hugo Boss
Thrown glitter at people in an Essex nightclub
Worn adult baby costumes
Given a talk to a room of 15 people who were not interested in what I had to say
Told a secondary school in Brixton being gay wasn’t that awful
Played records in Selfridges on a 16ft ladder
Pretended to be a nurse in a NHS hospital training video
Became a youth worker
Became a youth worker promoting environmental issues to teenagers
DJ’d (a lot)
Wore newspaper in nightclubs
Spat SlimFast at an audience
Vomited red wine and salt until a Doctor advised against it
Pretended in to be interested in performance art
Pretended to be interested in live art
Had bottles thrown at me at Leeds, Reading, Glastonbury and Latitude festivals
Sold my old costumes
Thrown cake at Rihanna on the X Factor
Interviewed old women
Ran nightclubs so my mates could get trashed
Asked to see people genitals in toilets of Duckie
Sold tickets for West End musicals
Sold pebble dashing to people in Harrow
Copied other people
Stilt walked around Selfridges
Sold badges with my face on
Sold lots of things with my face on
Poured various vats of food over myself
Impersonated Leigh Bowery
Impersonated My Mother
Flipped burgers at fun fairs
Bossed people about
Submitted 2000 words to the Arts Council
Pretended to be Liza
Became a director
Pretended to be from New York for 4 days
Invented shows that people would pay to see
Invented shows people didn’t pay to see
In short I’ve done a lot of things that were not 100% related to my practice in order to keep afloat, pay the bills or to be able to make other pieces of work.
Here are my top five tips when attempting to make money with the job titled ‘artist’
INTEGRITY (NOT HERE)
Be prepared to do things outside of your artistic statement in fact don’t have an artistic statement until you have a regular wage / are popular / have money in the bank to fall back on.
Be prepared to humiliate yourself and others around you, roll around the floor and do things you feel uncomfortable with for financial gain. This makes your employable, versatile and most importantly makes for interesting material for your memoirs / book deal in years to come. Integrity is subjective.
You may not be able to stilt walk or be great at juggling but ‘Yes, of course I can do that’ will be your greatest selling point. Don’t be afraid to learn on the job, failure will teach you success and if at the end of the day your still rubbish they’ve agreed to pay you.
Blag your way into dressing rooms and ask for a gig. Talk yourself into a private view and make friends. Get to know people who run the events section of multi-million pound businesses. Get drunk with artists and ask to be in their gang. Be bolshie. The blag will open doors for you, which is 50% of the work.
THE PUBLIC POCKET
As an artist you can get access to money from the Arts Council via the optimism of people who bought Lottery tickets. Verse yourself in ‘art talk’; legacy, process and development are all handy things to throw into your 2000 word plea.
The world of publicly subsidized funding is tricky and will at first be difficult to gain access to so be prepared to have the door shut on your ideas repeatedly. Already this year Arts Admin told me my idea didn’t have “a complex [enough] creative idea put forward to support”, Live Art Development Agency said “We are very sorry to disappoint you but your proposal was very well received” and Arts Council topped it off with “…it is important to be aware that funding is never guaranteed”.
Be prepared to take the no’s badly. As artists our ideas are an extension of ourselves and hearing ‘no, there’s no room at the publically funding inn’ is difficult and something I’m still learning to adapt to but its part of the deal when looking for free money.
Apply for everything, get into the culture of applying and learning its language – its only then will you work out the best route for you to access funding.
Delete anything in your head about employment law, minim wage, and a wage in general and the maxim amount of hours you are legally allowed to work in a week. These privileges are for those with real jobs. Some weeks I will work 50hrs plus – 70% of which are likely to be bringing no dollar in. Be it in front of a laptop, in a studio, making things for shows, meeting people about meeting people in 2014. Be prepared for a career that’ll have you working 15hr days and worried about money. As long as you are willing to put the hours in and carry things for other people it will pay off.
It’s easy to get caught up in being a show off that lives a very different lifestyle to those in suits but we can learn from them. Routine and discipline will help you.
Wake up early, get yourself dressed and start the day with a to do list. Set yourself goals, put together a plan of what you want to do that year and be optimistic with it.
To conclude – I would be lying if I told you getting paid was easy, there is a lot of red tape, unpaid opportunities, blagging and begging to be had but you’ll end up with the greatest job on earth – being able to act out your ideas, thoughts and emotions for other people to see. The best way to reach this goal I believe is a
4 ponged attack
Commercial: the money jobs that distract you from the things you want to do
Underground: the badly paid money jobs that encourage you to do the things you want to do
Crossover: like the badly paid underground money jobs that have gained a bigger audience and better budgets
Subsidised: the money that is slowly running out so grab it while you can
This is an honest account of how I’ve paid my rent. Money isn’t everything but it will allow you to make the things you want to make.
If this rant has put you off a career in the arts then maybe the arts isn’t for you. If however it has encouraged you to get out there and start turning a buck then good luck and if want a gig – Facebook me.