In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Brian Witkowski, a Doctor of Musical Arts and the founder of The Lucrative Artist. Brian serves as a business and leadership development coach for artists and teachers. Brian often sees money mindsets in his clients that don’t serve them well, and these mindsets are common among PhDs as well. If left unchecked, these mindsets have detrimental effects on our finances. Brian and Emily discuss how to reverse negative money mindsets and how entrepreneurship is often the most lucrative and satisfying career for a PhD with a transformed money mindset.
Links Mentioned in the Episode
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Tax Center
- Self-Employed PhD Website
- Beyond the Professoriate Website
- Dust Safety Science
- The Lucrative Artist Website
- The Lucrative Artist Facebook Page
- The Lucrative Artist Twitter
- The Lucrative Artist Instagram
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Subscribe to Mailing List
00:00 Brian: When you’re starting out just by yourself, you don’t have to do all that. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s your actual service, and who are the people you’re going to serve, and then what kind of value exchange you’re going to be creating that you can reasonably get paid pretty well for it, from the right people, in the right way.
00:20 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast, a higher education in personal finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is season five, episode eight and today my guest is Dr. Brian Witkowski, a doctor of musical arts and the founder of The Lucrative Artist. PhDs, like many artists, tend to have certain money mindsets that do not serve them well, such as a scarcity mindset. Brian and I discuss how negative money mindsets can detrimentally affect our finances and how to reverse them. For many PhDs, and Brian’s clients, the most lucrative and satisfying career path forward might be through entrepreneurship. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Brian Witkowski.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
01:06 Emily: I am delighted to have on the podcast today Dr. Brian Witkowski, and we’re going to be talking about mindset work and entrepreneurship and other fascinating topics like that. So, I’m really looking forward to this conversation and learning a lot from Brian. Brian, will you please introduce yourself a little bit further for our audience?
01:23 Brian: Yeah, so I’m originally from Michigan. My grandparents immigrated from Poland. My dad grew up in a very poor area of Detroit and kind of aspired to a much higher middle-class life and worked his way up and eventually became a professor and then raised me to someday want to be a professor, too. Obviously, the world is a lot different today than it was for the generation back then. You know, I’ve had to explore how else, where I can take my teaching and my work and what I really want to do. And so, when that tenure track job, after I finished my doctorate eight years ago, didn’t quite come up, I started exploring other opportunities. I started to really think what else is not being taught that we all could be taught and how can I better serve people. So, I started studying more about business and finance and looking to see where we can help people. Especially as myself, I have a doctor of musical arts degree, and especially in music and the arts, we know nothing about finance or financial literacy.
02:13 Brian: There’s so much to be learned and needs to be learned. So, you not only can just, you know, understand about money and know how to conduct yourself in life. And because we can’t just expect those few jobs we’re trained for, we have to be entrepreneurs, we have to come up with multiple streams of income, and come up with other opportunities and open our minds up to creating new opportunities as opposed to competing for just a few things that less than 1% actually end up having. So, basically, entrepreneurship is kind of the new golden age for higher education in some ways, is what I like to say. Because we can take our expertise and leverage it in new ways and recreate different learning opportunities, not just for the people in the college classes but for the lifelong learners. So, that’s kind of where I’ve taken my teaching nowadays.
Unhealthy Money Mindsets
02:56 Emily: Oh, that’s fantastic. I’m so excited to dive more into all of that, and I’m really excited to have you on as a guest because a lot of my audience, I think, is currently still in PhD training as graduate students or postdocs or maybe closely following that. They may still be competing for that tenure-track job or not sure what they’re going to do if it doesn’t work out. And so I’m really glad to have you on as someone who’s several years further down that line and has a lot more life experience and career experience in that way. One of the things that we said that we would talk about during this interview was money mindset. Because I think the people who you work with through The Lucrative Artist and also the people who I see through Personal Finance for PhDs have some troubling mindsets around money. So, can you talk a little bit more about the mindsets that you see your clients that also maybe overlap with mine? The money mindsets that they have that don’t serve them very well?
03:48 Brian: In some ways, one thing that doesn’t serve a lot of people is just that mentality that we don’t have enough and there’s never enough there. And we always think that it’s a scarcity mindset complex that so many of us have. Even my own father did, even though his adulthood was phenomenally better than his childhood, he was still struggling financially as a professor just putting it all together. There’s a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad* by Robert Kiyosaki. More or less, he talks about how his poor dad actually worked his way up in higher education and became the administrator in the state of Hawaii, and so forth. Back in the fifties and sixties, when his “poor dad” was his friend’s dad who didn’t have any college training and just focused on acquiring real estate and thinking about owning a business and trying to earn money that way. And so, he more or less points out how we’re not taught about how to actually earn money other than to expect the job. So, part of the mindset is having your mind open to the possibilities of where you can create new income opportunities and new sources of revenue, and so forth, for your personal life using all you have to offer.
[* This is an affiliate link. Thank you for supporting PF for PhDs!]
04:52 Emily: Yeah, I can definitely see how the scarcity mindset–if you’re thinking only that, again, that tenure-track job is the only one for you and the only thing that’s worth doing after after a doctorate–there is scarcity in terms of that actual career path. That’s not imagined. That’s perfectly real. But I guess the mindset that doesn’t serve you is thinking of course that that’s the only or the best option for you following finishing your higher education. So, to think a little bit more broadly about your career track would be, I guess, the way to combat that scarcity mindset. Any other kinds of mindsets that you see in those populations?
Aim High: Raise Your Anchor Point
05:30 Brian: The only thing is, I guess we’ve focused so much like on student loans and the cost of higher education. It’s like we let the four-figure, accruing interest, to get in the way of thinking how we could maybe use that same energy toward, “How can I create maybe six figures of income or more later on?” We don’t open our minds up to the possibility of earning way more than what certain salaries we’re used to or what our parents or colleagues are earning. In a lot of different ways, if we package our expertise and services in the right way, you can find that clientele or that other startup, that kind of business that can easily make you enough money to more than pay off your debt and then some. And sometimes we get so bogged down with getting depressed over having a big student loan sum and we don’t realize that yes, it’s not that great, but it’s better than some other forms of debt that are out there.
06:19 Emily: Yeah. So, I think that’s like having an anchor point, right? So, like you in your mind around the amount of money you can make, you have anchor points, whether it’s what you were earning as a graduate student, if you had a stipend or as a postdoc or what you expect to earn as a faculty member or another kind of professional. Or, like you were just saying, the balance of student loan debt that you have or maybe the living expenses that you have to cover each month. These are anchor points that float around in your mind as, “Okay, I need to make this much money.” But really there’s no limit to that. Like, why are you anchoring yourself there? Go ahead and anchor yourself at 10 times that amount or a hundred times that amount, maybe.
06:55 Brian: Yeah, definitely. And there’s one interesting exercise that I sometimes give the clients to consider. Okay, what are you earning right now? What would you have to become to suddenly earn double that? Like who are some role models out there? Because there’s always going to be somebody out there we can imagine who’s already making more than what you’re making that you could easily–sometimes not even actually do a whole lot more, but just adjust the way you’re presenting yourself and to the right audience, and so forth. And then figure out how we can double that from there. If all else fails, at the end of this exercise, people usually say they’re going to be Oprah or Tony Robbins or something, which is great. You’ve got to not be afraid to think big like that.
07:32 Brian: Too often we think small, we don’t think we can be these celebrities and these great leaders, but anyone can really grow themselves to be more than just what they thought they could. And sometimes we’re not taught enough of that in our school. My father taught leadership courses when he was a professor. So, those are classes where I’ve kind of avoided anything that he taught when I was in school. Hence, I’ve got a doctor of musical arts degree. His degree was in criminal justice. And so, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just recreating everything I absorbed by osmosis as a child. I guess you could say it was part of my motivation to make sure I picked a very different degree program. But there’s so many of these things that my father taught in his classes that are not taught to people in the arts and so many other fields as far as management skills, how to interact with people, and what kind of personal growth is out there. We’re too conditioned to just do the exact training for the exact skill to get specific sets of jobs and not necessarily create the jobs instead.
Challenges in a Culture of Volunteerism
08:29 Emily: Mmm, yeah. Great point. So, anything else on your observations around detrimental money mindsets and then how they translate to ill effects in our finances?
08:42 Brian: Yeah, I think partly the scarcity mindset that sometimes starts with just the job market and the opportunities for earning money. Another problem is, especially in the arts and education fields, it’s almost like there’s a nonprofit aspect to it or more if you’re working for a religious institution or, in my case as a professional singer, getting paid to sing in churches and so forth. There’s that guilt trip kind of situation where some people who are cutting the checks kind of make you think you shouldn’t be earning as much as what you should be. And there are other situations too where it’s kind of like the negotiation turns into a coerced charitable contribution in some ways, but not in one in which you can actually get a tax deduction for your time in a concrete kind of way. So, it’s another situation we have to deal with, whether we’re in the arts or in education. There’s that mindset, “Wait, I’m not supposed to get paid this much. I’m supposed to do it for the children and do it for God or whoever, whatever the cause is, basically.” So, that kind of keeps people from realizing their potential. And then I try to tell people to be in a position where you can actually tithe or donate that 10% back as we all ideally should later in life.
09:49 Emily: Yeah, I agree to great, great extent. There’s this, I guess I call it kind of a toxic culture of like compulsory volunteerism in academia and in other similar fields. Exactly as you were saying. When the high level institution has some kind of nonprofit-like status that somehow translates to, “We don’t pay people what they’re worth or we don’t pay people to do work for us. We expect a degree of volunteerism.” I encounter this myself sometimes with institutions who want me to work without pay or with much less pay than I’m asking for. They can kind of use that, “Okay, well we’re a nonprofit,” as like an argument, somehow. But it’s just something that it’s hard to combat because as you said, when you’re sort of indoctrinated into that culture, you think, “Yes, well I’m supposed to be giving back. I’m supposed to be doing this for X, Y, Z. What about the people who won’t benefit from receiving my talents if I don’t take this opportunity?” But at the end of the day, you have to feed yourself, right?
Finding Balance in Value Exchange
10:54 Brian: Yeah. And that’s the other thing. I also tell people that, at the very least, it’s a two-way street. How can they serve me in return if there’s an imbalance in the actual value of exchange that’s taking place? At the very least, maybe that institution could give you a referral for another service you’re providing, or they might allow you to advertise something else. Or, like I tell people who are performing artists, maybe they can sell CDs or trade their mailing lists. There are other ways to at least get some kind of fair exchange of value if you open your mind to those things. I try to help people think about those things and make that happen so that at least if they’re not getting necessarily the actual money, maybe they’re getting a leisurely vacation out of it if it’s a traveling musical gig or something like that. They’re getting something that makes it still worth their while to otherwise feel like they’re volunteering their time.
11:41 Emily: Yeah. Something that can be mutually beneficial instead of just beneficial going one direction. Okay. So let’s say, you know, someone in our audience has identified, “Okay, well I do have that scarcity mindset,” or “Yeah, my anchor point is 10 times lower than it should be,” or what have you. Any of these money mindsets we’ve been talking about. How do you actually go about changing a money mindset that doesn’t serve you well once you’ve identified it?
Changing Your Money Mindset: Self-Talk
12:05 Brian: For me and for people who I work with, sometimes I give meditative exercises. You have to think positively. Positive manifestation-type statements, saying to yourself, “Your bank account may be empty,” but rather than say it’s empty, say, “It’s wide open and ready to receive.” It sounds silly, but you have got to think, “Okay, the money is going to come to me eventually.” You can’t think that you’re never going to get it. It’s just a matter of figuring out the right way to find the right people willing to give you that money, basically, for when you willingly deserve it and earn it.
12:37 Emily: So, it’s kind of about self-talk, then, I guess is what you’re saying? Like it’s about, “Okay, I’ve identified my bank account is empty. Oh, it’s always going to stay empty.” That’s the toxic mindset.
12:48 Brian: So, it’s reinforcing that negative stuff. And before you know it, you’re staying on the floor at the bottom and not working your way up. And then another thing is, there’s the song “Love is in the Air,” but also you could say money is in the air, too. The way the global economy works, the way money compounds everywhere, there’s always going to be enough. You know, sometimes we think, “If I take this job then suddenly somebody else is not going to have any money,” and that’s not how the world works, actually. When we keep getting all that we’re supposed to earn, then there’s more to give around and more to grow the pie.
13:22 Emily: Mhm, yeah. So, it’s not like a fixed pool of money, right, that we all are trying to grab a little bit of a piece of, it’s about growing the entire economy–the entire pie for everyone. Is that what you’re saying?
13:34 Brian: Yeah, exactly.
13:34 Emily: Yeah, so we aren’t thinking, “Me gaining something is someone else losing something.” That’s not how it is.
13:40 Brian: Yup.
13:41 Emily: Yeah, great.
13:42 Brian: It’s how the markets work. If you notice, if you had invested a dollar a hundred years ago, it would probably be who knows how much now. It’s partly a result of that.
13:51 Emily: Mhm. Yeah. Anything else that we can do to change the money mindset aside from turning things in a more positive way and reinforcing that by self-talk?
Open Your Mind to New Revenue Streams
14:02 Brian: The other way probably: be open to thinking of new ways to earn, and be open to new revenue streams. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box as opposed to how you can make a living. Because we all get so caught up trying to apply for the exact same jobs and thinking these are the only ways to earn. There are so many different audiences out there and clientele that we could actually be serving that we don’t even think about. Especially for myself. People, my colleagues mostly, aspire to teach students who are college students and aspiring professional singers. And it’s kind of like we subconsciously only focus on the clientele that is like ourselves. And we don’t realize there’s another whole clientele out there that might be willing to pay way more, or you could actually set up scalable situations where you could easily earn way than you otherwise are used to earning. So, you’ve got to let go of that in one direction and think 360 every way around you, there’s something more you could probably do.
15:00 Emily: Yeah, I think this kind of relates. For people who are still in academia, they might not feel very special because everyone they’re surrounded by also has crazy advanced degrees. Very smart, very talented, very trained in a similar way. But if you can turn and look outside of that immediate environment like you’re talking about, you can see that there are many, many other opportunities to serve different groups of people or to leverage your skills in a different kind of way. And once you do step outside the ivory tower, your skills are going to be regarded in a way that you’re not used to. Right? They’re going to be much more highly looked upon because you are special. There’s only like 2% of the population or less or something that has doctoral level degrees. So, it’s not actually that common if you find the right group to serve. So, this translates really well once you’ve opened your mind to these other types of clients and other types of work that you might be able to do. At that point, why is self-employment more attractive than a job? Or why does self-employment serve you better with a different kind of money mindset than a job would?
You Can Be Self-Employed and Still Have a Job
16:07 Brian: It’s not necessarily mutually exclusive from having a job. And I think sometimes people get caught up thinking they have to quit their job and suddenly be a sole business owner right away. Not necessarily, although sometimes there are situations where you just need to get out of a toxic environment that doesn’t pay you enough. Then you easily find that one client and you can easily–or a few clients–you can suddenly afford to just say farewell to the job that wasn’t really serving you. But I think when you’re stuck in a job, you’re stuck with a cap on your income. Whereas if you start a business, you could think owning your own business, being self-employed, you’re open to more possibilities and there’s no limit necessarily. So, it’s like you’re removing an artificial cap and you’re also giving yourself more freedom once you get it going, you find the right clientele to serve, and so forth.
16:51 Emily: Yeah, I think this goes back exactly to that Rich Dad, Poor Dad book or idea that you were talking about earlier. The poor dad, right, has a job and his income is, as you were just saying, capped and scaled by the employer. It’s sort of out of his hands, right? But the rich dad is an entrepreneur and–well, Robert Kiyosaki’s really into real estate, so lots of different ways to be an entrepreneur–and in that case, the income streams are unlimited. And each income stream itself is unlimited in how much money you can actually bring in. So, there’s a downside to that, but there’s a big, big, big upside too, if you choose to walk away from a job. Which, like you said, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So, some people in my audience, again, are still in training. Self-employment is something that they can do on the side while they’re still in graduate school, while they’re still in a postdoc for now, as long as it’s permitted by their visa and their job and everything. But it’s something you can dip your toe into and see how it’s going, and you don’t have to just take the leap, like you said, right away.
17:53 Brian: Yeah, definitely.
17:58 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. Tax season is upon us, and while no one loves this time of year, it’s particularly difficult for post-bac fellows, funded grad students, and postdoc fellows. Even professional tax preparers are often thrown for a loop by our unique tax situation. And don’t get me started on tax software. I provide tons of support at this time of year for PhD trainees preparing their tax returns, from free articles and videos to paid at-your-own-pace workshops to live seminars and webinars for universities and research institutes. The best place to go to check out all of this material is pfforphds.com/tax. That’s P F F O R P H D S.com/T A X. Don’t struggle through tax season on your own. Visit my website for the exact information you need in the most efficient form available. Now, back to the interview.
Pay Attention to What is Not Being Taught
19:01 Brian: The great thing is, while you’re still in grad school, it’s your perfect opportunity to realize what is everybody doing the same? Where do you feel like you’re literally just in “the Matrix,” and what’s not being done? I stress to people that it’s the perfect time to really observe and reflect and take notes for what’s going on and what’s not being taught that still needs to be taught in real life. Because there’s just so much of that that still needs to be taught. Whether it’s with finances or just personal development or other aspects of just knowing how to live. Too many aspects of our degrees are just kind of geared to train us for specific jobs but not for creating jobs. So, one strategy is to just observe what’s not being taught. And then how could you actually teach that? I like to joke with people who are getting their terminal degrees, their PhDs, that they could actually create something in which those same people who may not hire you for a faculty job might actually hire you to do their professional development. Because you never know. That fresh perspective of being young, just finished your degree, and offering a different viewpoint is something that’s going to be valuable to them.
20:07 Emily: You’re exactly describing my own journey into Personal Finance for PhDs, because what was going on for me in graduate school was, I was learning about personal finance because I had to apply it in my own life, or felt that I had to, right? So, I was learning how to apply it and then over some time sort of looking at the way my university was or was not supporting that growth and that journey. And I should say that Duke, which is where I did my PhD, actually does a great job with personal finance in comparison to many, many other institutions. But even so, I could see that there was more that could be done there. And that’s exactly how I stepped into my business was seeing, “Okay, well no one is teaching personal finance from the perspective of a graduate student or a postdoc or a PhD. They’re teaching personal finance from the perspective of a CPA or a financial advisor who deals with very, very wealthy clients.” And this is just completely foreign to the people that I was coming out of. And so, I decided to turn around, right? And teach the people who are coming up behind me those principles. So, exactly what you described. And as you said, I never applied for jobs, universities, or faculty positions, but I am now hired by plenty of universities to do professional development in this area. So, it’s totally, totally, exactly what you said.
Different Business Models for PhDs
21:22 Emily: So, what are the different business models that you can see with PhDs or other people with doctorates that are successful, that are easy for them to access, given the skills they’ve been learning throughout their higher education?
21:35 Brian: Yeah. One thing is just to simply think, “What kind of professional development services could I offer? Are there businesses, are there organizations or clients where what I have to offer with my knowledge and expertise can be valuable to them?” And sometimes it’s not necessarily just regurgitating the same content, but how can you repackage it in a way that is more meaningful to them. Sometimes, with my work, I stress that you can kind of integrate some personal development, leadership growth, using your content as the vehicle, so that people are thinking not just that they’re learning more about a certain thing about history, but they’re realizing how their own life embodies that same historical thing you’re trying to reinforce. Find something like that.
22:19 Brian: It personalizes it more and really fits the clientele or the audience that you’re serving. So, there’s that. Sometimes you can do something as simple as different kinds of coaching, whether it’s life coaching, business coaching. There are so many forms of coaching out there that still people need to hire people. That’s not enough just to go about life waiting for the job or expecting your business to take off. We always need more people to help us in different ways to give us different perspectives, different viewpoints to push us in different ways. In the arts, even though I have my degrees, I still take voice lessons. My voice is an evolving instrument. I’m always learning how to use it in different ways. And the older I get, the different kind of repertoire I suddenly get to sing. So, it’s a never ending thing. And there are other aspects of life where it’s the same way. So, people with PhDs and other graduate degrees, just that background alone gives credibility with certain types of audience members.
Self-Employed PhD and Beyond the Professoriate
23:11 Emily: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m part of a community called Self-Employed PhD, which is underneath the Beyond the Professoriate umbrella program. And so, what Jen Polk and Maren Wood do, who run that program, is they are career coaches for PhDs. And there are many other people who have stepped into the same area. Seeing again like we were just talking about that a lot of universities don’t prepare PhDs well for knowing the possibilities for their careers outside of academia or being prepared to actually apply for those jobs or network for those jobs or get those jobs. Many people have decided to become career coaches in this area because there is a lack of support from many universities in that area. So, exactly what you’re just saying. Any other business models that you see as very accessible for this audience?
Think Big, Think Lifelong Learning
23:56 Brian: Sometimes it can just be simply, create your own school. It might even rival your university. Don’t be afraid to think big like that. Or something else to that effect. Some kind of supplementary, after-school program for elementary kids or high school. Really any age group. I read an article that there is going to be an enrollment crash in higher education soon where suddenly, because there’s going to be way more retirees than young people, not as many young people enrolling in college. So, more job cuts and other drama might be around the corner. But at the same time, we have a retirement population that is just growing, and they’re bored. There are ways to serve them. So, rather than think higher education, think lifelong learning or higher learning and other things you can offer that can serve any kind of population.
24:45 Emily: Hmm. Yeah. If what you really wanted to do when you were pursuing that faculty position was teach–I mean there are so many different audiences and different ways that you can do that. Even within the subject matter that you were highly trained in, if you want to stay in that area.
24:59 Brian: If you’re willing to leave the country, there are 7.6 billion people in the world. There’s going to be somebody out there who will pay you to teach them something.
25:06 Emily: Yeah. Or work online, and have access to everybody in the world. Yeah. Any other business models you want to add to that list?
Other Business/Teaching Models
25:14 Brian: Yeah, one-on-one coaching, teaching, offering professional development seminars or other workshops, and so forth, using your expertise. Also, you don’t necessarily have to not teach the same students you’re expected to teach that you went through school. You just need to be offering them something that’s different from what they’re used to. So, that’s why I also, with my own business, I help people specifically in the arts figure out how can I do this likewise? How can I create something different and empower myself to have control over my career and do more of the things I actually authentically want to do? Because one thing, especially in the arts, there’s a lot of interesting toxicity that goes on when it comes to career expectations. Especially with professional singers. We have a lot of people who started their careers in the last century and sometimes they just went about teaching as if that last century way of life was still going about and everybody could easily have the same career they had. Or at least that’s how they’d go about, conduct themselves, and just kind of otherwise disregard your actual career and what you’d be doing.
26:16 Brian: You have to really be more of an entrepreneur nowadays as a performing artist if you’re not going to suddenly get some of those few jobs that are still out there. So, position yourself to help those same people who are in your field, not getting the help they probably should have had.
26:29 Emily: Mhm. Yeah. And you mentioning actually using the specific skill you’re trained in, singing. But I’m thinking about–so I have a colleague named Chris Cloney who has a business doing research. He has an independent research company, specifically translating the research that he did as a PhD student into basically another way of delivering it to the world. So, we’ve talked about teaching and coaching and speaking and so forth, which is what you and I do. But there are other ways to translate even more precisely what you were doing in graduate school into the entrepreneurial sphere instead of just going after a job. So, you brought up what you’re doing through The Lucrative Artist. I would love for you to tell us a little bit more about that. Maybe a couple of minutes on how you came to this point. We’ve already heard some of that journey, and then what you do for clients right now.
Brian’s Work with The Lucrative Artist
27:16 Brian: Yeah. So, what I do is I help clients literally figure it out. Sometimes, the biggest barrier that we need to break through is figure out what else we can do other than those few jobs we were conditioned to expect to get. And so I help people think, “Okay, how can I assess all your skills and your strengths, your weaknesses? What’s something that you can synthesize that can actually become a viable product or service that you could give to other people? And you’re more or less in a position where you’re not having to worry about competing against other people and you’re serving the audience that really wants you to serve them and so forth?” And so helping people really package that together. We do authenticity training where we think, “What is it we really, truly want to do?”
27:57 Brian: Like, “What is your purpose? What really drove you to want to teach? And how can you get more to that?” Like for me, it wasn’t really necessarily about the actual content, but it’s about helping people really actually change their lives. Like I’ve witnessed my father as a child, growing up. He did the same thing with his students, seeing people who were, likewise like him, grew up really poor, had no idea what they’d be doing later in life. Then finally they realized, “Oh, I can learn this. I can do this.” And suddenly they have great jobs or they have their own businesses, they’re making a great living, and so forth. So, helping people realize there is another way out there, and anyone’s capable of doing it. And then basically once people figure out what ideal business would be for them, what kind of service they’d be providing–sometimes there’s not a specific service, it’s like a bunch of different services related to themselves through their art form. So, for people in singing, for example, sometimes it’s teaching lessons, sometimes it’s teaching speaking lessons, presentation lessons, helping people patch together other skills related to their singing. So, they’re not just performing, but they’re also providing expertise and educating the public more about the works to bring awareness and you know, make that same connection between a certain classical work and you know, what its audience is going through right now.
Combat Limiting Beliefs and Imposter Syndrome
29:12 Emily: That sounds like, based on what we were kind of talking about earlier, you help people identify the limiting beliefs they have, the mindsets they have around their career, for example, and then coach them in how to combat that within themselves. I guess I just think about this as related to imposter syndrome, right? There’s nothing that we are trained for to do outside of academia. All we can do is teach. And if we can’t get that job, we’re like worthless, right? That’s a horrible thing to think about yourself. But I think it’s indoctrinated into so many of us who go through academia to have that imposter syndrome that “I’m not worthy of another kind of job. I’m not worthy of being able to start a business. I don’t have translatable skills into these other areas.” And so, once people see, “Okay, well this is what’s holding me back. I’m going to engage Brian,” you help them turn those mindsets around in a very practical way. Because you can say, “No, here is what you need to be telling yourself instead of what you have been thinking.” And then they do the work, right? To actually uproot those mindsets.
30:14 Brian: Yeah. And then once they get through there, once they realize what they want to do, then I coach them through step-by-step, “What can I do to actually make a viable business take off the ground.” And it’s not always necessarily too scary or confusing. Some people, you tell them you’re helping them grow a business, they want to see all these weird numbers and other things. And when you’re starting now just by yourself, you don’t have to do all that. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s your actual service and who are the people you’re going to serve and then what kind of value exchange you’re going to be creating that you can reasonably get paid pretty well for from the right people in the right way. And it’s a matter of figuring out how you can package that and who you’d be serving.
Growing a Business is a Gradual Process
30:52 Emily: Yeah. I think some people when they hear like starting a business, they think about the startup world and where you have to have a highly refined business plan you’re pitching to investors and so forth. And it is really important to have this high degree of models and understanding of what you’re going to be doing in that world. But just to dip your toe into self-employment is much, much, less than that. You don’t have to do all that. You have to try out some things, see what people aren’t going to pay you for it, see what you like to do. It’s a lot of experimentation at the beginning and it’s not really high stakes.
31:21 Brian: Yeah, exactly. I love helping people, walk them through that and realize, “Oh, I can do this.” And yes, there’s actually a demand. One interesting exercise to really take people through is just called hot or not. What are some ideas that can work, and we talk them out. And then we also might contact some other people and see what they think about that if it’s a totally new thing that they hadn’t heard of before. And just a matter of, you need an opportunity to just test the waters and you openly be in a safe environment where you can express ideas without somebody thinking you’re stupid or whatever. There’s no stupid idea. There’s, you know, millions of ideas everywhere. And it’s a matter of figuring out how to piece together to create something viable as far as the business goes.
Origin of The Lucrative Artist
32:00 Emily: Mhm. Yeah, that gives me a good idea of what your services are. But I wanted to ask you about your name, The Lucrative Artist, which is very provocative. So, can you tell us a little bit how you came to that?
32:09 Brian: It’s fascinating. It’s a provocative word. It’s a word they say all the time on CNBC and all the other finance channel for other businesses. But for some reason we’re conditioned to think we have to starve as artists. And it’s not necessarily the case. So, I try and help people realize, “No, actually if you’re getting paid what you deserve and what you should be, you’re actually in a position to make even higher quality art and you’re serving people even better.” So, it’s actually an empowering mindset that better serves them later on.
32:39 Emily: Yeah, I love that. Oh my gosh. Well, where can people find you?
32:42 Brian: Well, my website, thelucrativeartist.com, the lucrative artist, three words there, .com or there’s facebook.com/thelucrativeartist where I’m active on a Facebook page. I also have a Twitter and an Instagram where I try to be accessible to as many people as possible through all those platforms, wherever the world’s taken me. There’s a Self-Employment in the Arts conference taking place in Chicago in February that I’ll be presenting at. And also some universities here and there. I’ll be doing some presentations and masterclasses and so forth. So, I try to be all-around.
Best Advice for an Early-Career PhD
33:13 Emily: Sounds awesome. So, final question. This is a standard one that I ask all my guests, which is what is your best advice for another early-career PhD or another early-career doctor? And this could be something related to what we’ve talked about today or it could be completely other.
33:30 Brian: Yeah, I think as far as the best advice, always keep a mind open to creating new sources of income and having multiple sources of income coming in. And think of ways you could create some passive income for yourself as well as the active income. And then, when you’re in your PhD, look and see what everybody else is doing and then think, “What is everybody not doing they should be doing?” And realize that might be a gold mine of a business opportunity just waiting to happen. So, just to open your mind up to that possibility and not being afraid to go for it.
34:03 Emily: Thank you so much, Brian. Thank you so much for the interview. I’ve learned a lot. I hope the audience has as well.
34:07 Brian: I really appreciate it.
34:07 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode. Pfforphds.com/podcast is the hub for the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast. There, you can find links to all the episode show notes and a form to volunteer to be interviewed. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, here are four ways you can help it grow. One, subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it on Apple podcast, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. Two, share an episode you found particularly valuable on social media or with your PhD peers. Three, recommend me as a speaker to your university or association. My seminars cover the personal finance topics PhDs are most interested in like investing, debt repayment, and taxes. Four, subscribe to my mailing list at pfforphds.com/subscribe. Through that list, you’ll keep up with all the new content and special opportunities for Personal Finance for PhDs. See you in the next episode. And remember, you don’t have to have PhD to succeed with personal finance, but it helps. The music is Stages of Awakening by Podington Bear from the free music archive, and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing and show notes creation by Meryem Ok.
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