What does ‘Success’ in the world of independent art look like?  Why is it VITAL for you to know this?  Why should you even care?

All these questions and more will be answered in this blog.  I will also tell you why success is like a chair with 3 legs, (why is a raven like a writing desk?) AND I will also impart the greatest, most valuable, and most useful piece of advice I have EVER been given as an independent artist. Ready?…


The idea of ‘Success’ is a slippery beast.  ‘Success in Art’, even more so.  If you asked one thousand people what their idea of success was, you could very well get one thousand different answers.  Everyone has their own definitions.  Everyone plays by their own rules.

Does this mean that there is no value in asking the question?  Of course not.  Definitions are important.  Reasons are important, and Targets are important.  If you were an archer, then knowing the exact location of your target is what allows you to: evaluate the path your arrows are taking and get closer and closer to the bullseye.  Without a clear idea of your final destination you are more akin to an archer who has been dropped from a plane without a parachute.  Trying to hit a moving target.  Blindfold.  In the dark.  With no shoes…

My answer to the question: ‘What does ‘Success’ in the world of independent art look like?’ is eminently simple.  It is an answer of three parts:

The first, has to do with The Work itself,

the second, has to do with the Audience and the Giving of that work, and

the third, has to do with the Business of art.

(Sidebar:  And this is why my conception of success in art resembles a chair.  A chair needs at least 3 legs to stand up by itself.  Similarly, to stand up and make your way a successful independent artist, all three of these parts need to be fully in play.)

Firstly, success is: being able to live and make the art that I want to make, when I want to make it, for no other reason than the process itself.

This is the real foundation of everything I do.  It is fundamental to my conception of success.  To me, making art is not a means to an end but an End in itself.  To have the freedom to create what I feel, whenever I feel to, and to follow wherever that takes me is primary.  This is why I am an independent artist.  It is why I do what I do.

Secondly:  there must be a way to connect and exchange with the people who find value in what I do / create / produce.  (This all presupposes that something of value is being created – I wrote a piece on this, here).

If you want to have a sustainable living and life creating art, then there needs to be some kind of exchange of value.  There needs to be: a channel thru which you can give, and there needs to be some kind of bridge that means that you can in turn, receive.  Art comes alive in the conversation of it, in the flesh and blood, the deep and real exchange of your own truth with other living breathing sentient beings.

Now Thirdly: The Business.  This is the aspect of things that a lot of people make waaaaaaay more complex than it needs to be.  In truth, it’s crazy simple.  The one benchmark of whether you are being successful in the business of art is… (drum roll):

Does your income exceed your outgoings?

If Yes, then Business = Success. (and also: ‘woo‘).

Which leads me directly into the phenomenally unsexy piece of advice that I alluded to at the start of this post.  It is the one piece of advice that I invariably end up giving anyone who asks me how they can move over from: doing a job that gives them little or no real satisfaction, to doing the thing they love for a living.  It is the single best piece of advice that was ever given to me, and is vital to know and practice if you want to do absolutely anything of worth.  Especially if that thing is: to do what you love for as your living.

Ready?  Here it comes…(second drum roll):

Learn to live as frugally as possible.

Wait?  What? That’s it?  Why is that so Important?

Well, it takes time to be able to create quality work.  It takes time to create awareness about that work and, no matter how good your art is, it will take time before you start to see income from the giving of it.

Therefore you need as much time as possible in order to get your thing off the ground.  Money can be a great deal of things, and one of those things is: Time.  Think about it for a second.  If you have massive outgoings each month then you need to spend a commensurate amount of time (and energy) working in order to meet these responsibilities.  This is time you could be spending: developing your thing, creating something, or finding and connecting with your own tribe.

If you master the skill of living as frugally as possible at the beginning of your career, and focus on investing the time gained in: yourself and the thing that you truly want to be / do / give, then that time will pay you massive dividends over the course of your life.

Fully unsexy.  But also fully True.  And powerful if actioned upon.  Don’t take my word for it.  Try it out for yourself and feel the force. ;-)

So, sally thee forth armed with your New Knowledge.  Master the Art of Living with frugality, and you will encounter a success undreamt of, even in your wildest and most incandescent hours.

And Now: Gifts!

Two more albums have been won. They go to:

–  Charles Loggins III, and

–  Jamie Greening

Congratulations to both of you! ;-)

My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

58 thoughts on “ Success! / A chair with 3 legs / + The best and UNsexiest advice, EVER… ”

  1. Hey again James – As I soak in this article, I’m really thinking about the word ‘frugal’ and what it means to a person who is in pursuit of a goal. I agree and believe you must sacrifice certain comforts in order to pursue your goal. Frugality could very much be in service to your art if you choose to see it that way. So I’m remembering these daily sacrifices more today. Good material, here!


    1. I agree 100%
      It’s absolutely necessary to know what you want, and then embrace simplicity in terms of the rest of your life. Identifying and hacking away the inessential is an art in itself.
      Always good to hear from you.


  2. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I
    guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying
    your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to
    the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for rookie blog writers?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.


    1. I apologise if my site ate your first comment. ;-)
      Thanks for your kind words here.
      As for helpful hints, I would just say: Make your primary focus creating quality stuff that is really of value to people. Whether it be writing, or music or whatever. If you focus on your craft, and create stuff of value, everything else will follow.
      Hope that helps, if you need anything else, you know where I am.
      – J


  3. Good advice man. There are so many voices put there that belong to people clamouring to be heard. And to be heard, you have invest more time in to doing what you love.


    1. Couldn’t agree more. ;-)
      Invest more time, make things of quality, connect hard + love what you do; those are the keys for me for sure.
      Thanks for the comment bro,
      – J


  4. This presents much more comprehensively many of the thoughts I was trying to convey with my post on how successful blogging is like sharing in recovery meetings (I consider writing to be a form of art)… I look forward to reading more of your work. Kudos for developing your own art skills, your writing style is simple and attention-grabbing!


    1. Hey there,
      First thankyou so much for the compliments, I am really glad that you got something from the post. I really appreciate your comments about my writing style tho, I strive for simplicity in both my writing and my music so, for me, this is a big deal.
      Real pleasure to meet you, hope you’re having a good day, ;-)
      – J


    1. Why, thankyou very much. ;-)
      Tragically unsexy I would say. Much cooler to say somthing like: ‘follow your heart’ or ‘trust in your feelings’,
      but this is more useful, (not that either of those things are untrue).
      Have a good night, thanks for stopping by,
      – J


  5. I am profound I found somebody with intellect..I’m absolutely new to this and I barely know how to work Word Press and I’ve only then on Google and Facebook basically I’m on a few others but nothing good I’m looking for somebody for points of advice if you could help me out I’ve got quite a bit of knowledge..Terry


    1. It is always impressive when someone starts a comment with ‘I am profound…’ ;-)
      I am happy to help you out, if you have any specific questions then post them as comments and I will answer them.
      I hope you are well,
      – J
      P.S. You should buy my album. ;-)


      1. Maybe when you say album are you referring to music you play guitar or are you referring to writing,you could be both poet to


  6. Hi there,

    Firstly, thank you for the like. The support means a lot to me.

    Secondly, I love this article. You are right. Success does mean different things to different people. My advice to everyone is, only do things that make you happy.

    Anything that produces the ‘ugh’ word must be avoided. Eventually, you will find something you love so much, master it, and start creating a service around it.

    Money is best earned when you are happy first. Money and happiness rarely come together. Happiness always precedes money.

    Lastly, awesome article. You’ve earned a follow from me!


    1. Hey there,

      First off, you are more than fully welcome.
      Thankyou for your really considerate words, I genuinely agree with you (and I really like the advice that you give – that is some GOOD advice.) ;-)
      And thanks for stopping by, I’m happy to make your acquaintance.
      Hope you are having a great day,
      – J


  7. I love your line “being able to live and make the art that I want to make, when I want to make it, for no other reason than the process itself.” That is so true!!


  8. I try to live by this quote as it seems to answer most of my concerns.

    To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803 – 1882) American Essayist & Poet


    1. I, also, love this quote.
      Emerson’s essay on Self Reliance is a majorly awesome piece of writing too. ;-)
      I am a big fan of the transcendentalists, they did some really good work.
      Thanks for getting in touch.


  9. Without a clear idea of your final destination you are more akin to an archer who has been dropped from a plane without a parachute. Trying to hit a moving target. Blindfold. In the dark. With no shoes…
    This is by far the best description of why goals are so vital to a life that is filled with contentment and success. GREAT blog.


    1. Hey there, ;-)
      Thanks so much for your kind words, I am really glad you liked it.
      I truly believe this too, it is vital to put the stakes in the ground and know the parameters of what you want to do.
      GREAT comment. ;-)


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