Saying NO to the "Starving Artist" Stigma

by Jessica Kizorek, Two Parrot Productions


As Artists, we must make a decision about whether we plan to monetize our artistry or work a job that pays the bills...then do art on the side. That choice is up us. But if we choose to be self-employed as an artist, it's our job to learn basic entrepreneurial tendencies that will allow us to focus full-time on our arts without struggling financially.


Let's get real about it: It's almost assumed that most artists will "starve" while they pay their dues and create enough of a portfolio to be taken seriously. Most people don't choose a career as a professional artist to make a lot of money. Many artists experience tremendous inner conflict when learning to build a business as a freelance artist. In some strange way, money is almost scoffed at and commercialism seems to pollute the purity of art...for art's sake. Sadly, artists who really gain traction and start making names for themselves are often labeled as "sell-outs." It's important to point that out if we are going to start "Saying NO to the 'Starving Artist' Stigma."


We are approaching a new era, and there are incredible money-making tools at our fingertips. It's a magical era of mobile devices, and the job count in digital arts is exploding. Recently the buzz word acronym "S.T.E.M." (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) was amended to "S.T.E.A.M." to insert an "A" for "Arts & User interface.” This points to majorly good news for artists...but only the ones who can harness their sheer creativity to offer services that are valuable on the global marketplace.


Above all else, I am a poet. But I'm also a calligrapher, painter, sculptor, singer/songwriter, photographer and videographer. Back in 1998,  I enrolled in the University of Colorado as a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) student. However, after a year in college, I had a "Come to Jesus" moment. I really got that I didn't want to be a starving artist. I wanted to travel. I wanted to do cool stuff without worrying about money. So in 1999, I made a conscious decision that I would (first) focus on understanding the business behind art so that I could effectively finance my artistic endeavors. Money isn't's fuel. Having money means you can buy any art supplies you want. Build anything you want. Go on adventures. Eat well. Be peaceful. Feel secure.


Worrying about money drains us of our creative energy. We become frustrated and stressed out rather than inspired and empowered. So one year into my college education I changed my major from BFA in Photography to International Business. 


I practice a wide variety of art forms, but I realized early on that videography was my most commercially valuable talent. Businesses and non-profits needed videos to help them communicate with the world. So I founded Two Parrot Productions while I was still in college, and subsequently I have spent my entire professional career self-employed in the arts. I've built an entire brand, work with the most amazing clients in my field of philanthropy, and am known as an expert in the video marketing arena. It's not just me...I have about 40-50 freelance contractors (i.e. designers, writers, musicians, videographers, editors, programmers) that I recruit based on what projects I need help with. I charge a margin on the subcontractors, and in doing so I've built a very healthy business that financially fuels my artistic endeavors. 


Being both an artist and an entrepreneur isn't always easy. The two responsibilities require exact opposite parts of the brain, and to do one well you must train both sides of yourself. In this new digital economy you must build your own team of collaborative partners and learn how to attract the type of clients who have substantial budgets to purchase what you're selling.


During my keynote speech at SEA on February 21, I'll dive into different pricing strategies and social media strategies to capture the attention of your ideal target audience. Staying ahead of the digital curve will magnetize new clients, deepen emotional relationships with existing clients, and amplify your extraordinary artwork to attract all sorts of supporters and collaborators.




For the past 15 years Jessica Kizorek has become known, both domestically and abroad, as an entrepreneur and international activist specializing in women’s financial empowerment. Working primarily with large non-profits through her company, Two Parrot Productions (co-founded with her father Bill Kizorek), she has created over 30 short films and video-centric fundraising campaigns. Having traveled to over 60 countries, she has covered many humanitarian causes as a journalist and documentarian. Jessica has lectured at prestigious universities such as Princeton, authored 8 books, and been a featured small business expert on media outlets including CNN and Fox. In addition to being a professional photographer/videographer, she is also a fine artist... a poet, calligrapher, painter and sculptor of light.