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Fear of Making Money

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This post was originally written on my personal blog Maker/Mistaker and I thought I should repost it here.

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine Danielle Harper. We were discussing a lot of things that affect us as entrepreneurs. One of those was money. Danielle was describing a criticism she received but defended herself by saying, “and I didn’t even make any money on it.”

I stopped her right there because what she said made me realize something. She defended herself by reminding me that she didn’t make money. Why?

Check out her post on her blog about this very conversation. 

So why did she resort to the “but I didn’t make money” defense? I notice this a lot with the people I surround myself with. Grown adults who grew up on punk rock that never quite fit into the system. The whole DIY movement is sort of a fuck-you to capitalism and corporate greed. There’s a certain badge of honor doing things yourself and trying to “stick it to the man.”

I’ll Just Do it Myself

In your teens and early twenties, you are filled with hope and determination. You have enough courage to start your own business and start making money doing your own thing. Maybe you tried to get a job but couldn’t and were like, “fuck it” I’ll just do it myself. Maybe you made an amazing product or had an brilliant idea nobody ever thought of before. Maybe you created something people admired and loved.

You knew you had to charge money for whatever it was, but you secretly hated that part of the business. You loved the creation. You loved the work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard really talented artists say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this shit.” As if their talents are somehow worthless and clients and customers are fools for paying them. How much more self-deprecating can you get?

Fear of Greed

The thing is, we seem to have this underlying fear of making money. Because what does money lead to? Does it lead to becoming that big fat greedy bastard we imagined when we were younger? Are we afraid of becoming the man? We don’t want to be seen by our peers as motivated by money. Being motivated by money is the ultimate evil, right? Well, that’s what we told ourselves.

Ever since I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, there have been many conversations about money. I heard from people who thought we were rolling in the dough with our $35 ticket price. I’ll be first to admit I was quick to defend myself with how broke we were and how much we sacrificed. “Hey look, we are doing this for the love of the music and art!” That was the truth, we did love it. We just needed enough money to cover our costs. And guess what we got? Just enough money to cover our costs. Danielle said the same about her businesses.

It can be scary imagining yourself earning money. Money is power. Having power can be scary because you’ve seen so many people abuse it. You’re scared of what you might do with that money and power.

Fear of Criticism

Why are we so afraid of making money? Is it because you can no longer be immune to criticism? You can’t fail if you’re not making money right? There’s an assumption if you’re doing anything related to music and art that any hint of commercialism taints the true intentions of the artist. An artist often does not want to be regarded as having compromised his artistic integrity to make a buck.  Once you’re making a buck, you have customers. Customers who feel that you are now working for them and that they’re always right. You now opening yourself up to critique and criticisms and that can be hard to accept.

Altruism and Sacrifice

We all want to do good; to change the world. We all feel that we were granted some special ability to affect the world in our own unique way. We judge ourselves and each other by how much we sacrifice our own happiness to make others happy. Sacrifice is just another measuring stick to compare fellow humans with. Are you better if you sacrifice more for a greater good of the team or humanity?

Being selfless or altruistic is admired. It’s sometimes like a competition to see who can struggle the hardest and earn the least. Have you ever told someone a story of your hardship only to hear someone else one-up you? “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you!”

Change Your Perspective About Money

Sometimes we are afraid of other people feeling insecure around us. If we happen to become successful, we’re afraid it’s going to make our closest friends jealous and insecure and even hate us. Until we change our perspective on money we’re going to treat it like poison. Until we stop judging what others do with their money, we will forever be judged with what we do with ours.

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
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Discussion

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  • http://brushchick.com/ brushchick

    great article-stored this one away for when I’m successful one day!

  • http://brushchick.com/ brushchick

    great article – I stored this one away for when I’m successful one day!

  • Micheal Russell

    Wow, I tried NOT to read this article; but somehow its relevance was too strong to ignore! I hated reaching the end.

  • Kwabenaotabiradjei Jnr

    great article…wow…creativity and money..somewhat an odd mix but a necessary evil or angel…you choose!!!

  • http://www.sashaendoh.com Sasha Endoh

    I’m a freelance web designer – people tend to put us into a “not quite artist” category, because what we do “they could do themselves”… since a lot of us are self-taught and all. I stopped being apologetic about money, talking about it, charging it. I don’t compromise, ok I’m human but my goal is to avoid compromise when it comes to getting paid for my work. The way I see it, life costs money – rent, food etc. – most of us need money to live and it’s silly to feel ashamed of this need.

    This idea that people ought to sacrifice themselves, struggle, and be ashamed of living with some sort of degree of comfort is completely ridiculous. I’ve learned through my own experiences that those who feel that way are trying to turn their shortcomings into some sort of valiant quest. It’s an excuse for not being good enough or feeling that you’re not good enough.

    That said, great article Jeff! I hope it will give courage and confidence to lots of talented folks out there.

    • http://www.gomedia.us/ Jeff Finley

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply Sasha. Good for you on not being apologetic about money. The valiant quest comparison is pretty accurate!