A couple years ago I remember running across a blog post by the cellist Zoe Keating. In it she laid out in fairly explicit detail where her income for the past year and come from and how much it amounted to.
Even though I’d long since put my own professional music career on the backburner, it was still really cool to see how she was earning a living and adapting to the digital landscape. In the spirit of that, I’m going to do the same thing this year and share with you all exactly how much this professional flow artist really makes.
Now, before we dive in I want to share a few caveats about the information I’m sharing.
The first is that I’ve had a lot of clients this year for a variety of different services. I’m not going to share any of their names but I will share dates and amounts of payments.
The reason for this is that I want to underscore that live as a professional artist of any sort is a very unstable one. Sometimes you have more work than you can handle and sometimes you’re eating ramen and hoping for the phone to ring.
Second is that this is not by any means intended to be representative of the income of what every professional flow artist makes. For one thing I know of several artists whose income level is equal to or exceeds my own who do it completely with performances.
I’ve made a few very specific choices in how I intended to focus my time this year and the amounts that I’ve made through different channels reflects these choices. Just because I’m making a specific amount through either Patreon or performance doesn’t mean that that’s the maximum you could make if you wanted to try your hand at either one.
Third, I am a full-time flow artist. I do not have a separate job from this so the number you’re seeing is a reflection of full time hustle. It would be very, very hard to put these same numbers together by trying to do any of these income streams part time.
Finally, I also know that making this kind of information available to the general public is one of those things that is going to be an invitation for a wide variety of criticism. I make no claims to be the best businessman, the best fundraiser, the best performer, the best anything in the flow arts.
The one and only statement I’m making in creating this video is that I thought it was cool to see Zoe Keating do this sort of thing and it made me inspired to see if anybody in the flow world would also like to see data of this sort.
Are you better at this stuff than I am? Outstanding! Please share your numbers to that myself and others can learn from them.
So with that in mind I’m going to summarize what I made and go through it item by item from smallest contribution to greatest.
I started off this year by shutting down my online store for making poi. I made a video on why if you want to know, but suffice it to say that took away a major source of my income.
I had a small amount of stock left over and I tried at least one experiment this year in stocking the same kind of hippie cargo pants that I wear so often in my videos. I managed to sell almost all my old stock but the pants themselves didn’t sell very well at all.
All told I made about $400 off my online store this year.
Next were festivals. Since I was no longer vending poi, I raised my prices this year for my travel stipend requests to offset the loss of income. I knew it meant I’d travel to fewer festivals and I was totally okay with that.
Despite me increasing my rates, I still made it to five festivals this year. My profit off of teaching at those events came to a total of $558 once you take out the cost of airfare. This was about 2% of my income.
Next up is my income through ad revenue on my YouTube videos. I’ve been a YouTube partner for several years now, but this was definitely my biggest year of income through the platform.
Not all my views on the platform get monetized. I average about 97,000 views per month on YouTube but only 31,000 of those are monetized. There’s a very, very long explanation as to why but that would be better explained in another blog.
I made $1300 off YouTube in 2017 with an average of $140 per month, which I’m really happy about. I used to have a hard time making $50 per month so I’m going to call that progress. This was 5% of my income.
Next up is affiliate income. What exactly is that? Well, when I shut down my online poi shop I switched over to a different income model. I didn’t want to make poi any more, so instead I created partnerships with companies that did.
Basically, I have a unique code: “drexfact0r” with a zero instead of an “o.” And you can use this code at a bunch of different companies that do sell poi such as Flowtoys, Lanternsmith, Ultrapoi, and Emazinglights. If you use that code at checkout it tells them that the sale was my referral and thus I get a cut and you also get a small discount on your order.
The company gets some promo, I get some income, and you get a recommendation from someone you trust plus a discount. Everybody wins with this system.
All told, I made about $1700 off of affiliate sales this year for about 6% of my income.
I’ll admit that in this category I’m being a little bit loose in how I’m defining it. I’ve had people this year pay me to create custom tutorials for their own projects as well as now using an online platform to sell my own structured courses.
I made $3200 off of paid tutorials this year and it’s something I’m going to be spending a lot of time on in the coming year, too. These made up 12% of my income.
Next is the very unhelpful category Other. This was basically where I stuck everything that didn’t have any kind of plan behind it or that was a one-off deal that was unlikely to be repeated.
Some examples of things that wound up in this category include the workshops that I taught in the East Bay after Burning Man, a few private lessons that I taught, coaching others on the search engine optimization tricks that have helped my YouTube channel grow, and many many others.
All told these added up to about $3400 of income. Roughly 13% of the total.
Coming in at the second largest source of my income for 2017 was performance gigs. These could be anything from corporate events to private birthday parties and the like.
I did a lot less performance in 2017 than I did in 2016. Partially because I was focused more on my YouTube content and partially because I didn’t actively seek many of these opportunities out.
The months when I got the most gigs were April, May, and November. My most lucrative month was January and my least lucrative month was July.
On average I made $300 per gig. My total for the year was $7900 or about 29% of my income.
And last but least--coming in at the biggest share of my income for 2017 was my income through Patreon!
This subscription service has been an absolute godsend for me, subsidizing my work on YouTube and allowing me the freedom to create projects purely for the sake of creating them.
I started out the year with just under $600 of monthly income through the platform and as of this month am earning over $800 per month.
All told, Patreon accounts for just over $8,000 or 31% of my income for the year.
If you’ve been keeping track, that means that my total for 2017 came to roughly $26,400 give or take. There are a couple items yet to come in before the end of the year that I’m including estimated income on, so the amount may change a little but only by a couple hundred dollars or so at most.
So...that’s what this professional flow artist made in 2017.
Let me know if this was at all helpful or informative. And if you’re also a full-time flow artist, I’d love it if you’d share this information yourself so we can compare notes. It’s really easy to get embarrassed or scared to talk about money but honestly I think having more information out there is never a bad thing.