Earning a living as a poet – A Design Thinking Approach

Problem Statement 1. 

Most poets can’t live off their creativity


It’s no secret that creatives struggle to live solely on the work they produce. For writers, or more specifically, poets, this is almost an understatement.  Why is that?

Let’s look a little deeper. In order to provide practical solutions to this conundrum, we would need to ask some meaningful questions and note some key observations.  By doing so, a clear problem statement(s) can derive from this.  

  1. Is there a market for good poetry?
  2. If the answer to 1 is yes? Is there a way to consolidate the market?
  3. Is the market too fragmented to be consolidated?
  4. What is the average age of the poetry demographic?
  5. What is the most popular form of poetry in mass consumption? 
  6. Could poetry be fundamentally obsolete?  
  7. Is poetry intimidating? 
  8. What is the value of a good poem


The poetry genre hit a high of £12m in sales in 2018 according to Nielsen BooksScan, a UK book sales monitor.

Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poet, led in sales of almost a £1m.  

Her content is about female empowerment, so it’s safe to assume that she has a large female following.

“Two-thirds of buyers were younger than 34 and 41% were aged 13 to 22, with teenage girls and young women identified as the biggest consumers last year” – Guardian, January 2019

The most popular form of poetry, at least in financial terms, are based on themes of female empowerment and surprisingly, politics. According to the Guardian, Andre Breedt, for Nielsen, said that sales were booming because in times of political upheaval and uncertainty, people turn to poems to make sense of the world: “Poetry is resonating with people who are looking for understanding. It is a really good way to explore complex, difficult emotions and uncertainty.”


Keen observers would note that poetry is prevalent on social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.  It would seem that due to its ease of consumption, as relates to size and condensation of complex ideas, and more importantly, the level of engagement visibly taking place on these platforms, the market for poetry is larger than the £12 million figure would suggest. 

While many struggle to read poetry, and do find it obsolete and tedious, this opinion is not shared by all.  It is clear that poetry serves a purpose in modern society based on the increase in book sales between 2017 -18, by an estimate fo £1.3m – Guardian, January 2019.  

Problem Statements 2

1.Poetry have a large portion of its demographic seemingly not willing to pay.

2. The idea that hordes of people are going to purchase poetry collections is a fundamentally flawed assumption. Poets have to compete with YouTube, Instagram, Netflix and other forms of multimedia.  

3. if, as stated earlier, that poems provide nuanced clarity about a difficult world, it is reasonable to assume that many poets are not providing this through their work, at least, at optimal intellectual, critical and distinct levels of clarity 

4. There hasn’t been enough innovative thinking that proposes a new business model for poetry’s new adapted role in society.

5. Few established publishing firms prioritise poetry printing and distribution.  


The question remains the same: if you write poetry, is it possible to make a living?  There’s an argument that this is achievable.  

  1. Poets need to build an identity that is distinct.
  2. Poets need to write in tangent to key societal issues. 
  3. Will a subscription model work? It’s possible that through the production of high quality content through a website, it is feasible that overtime, a subscription base can be created for the work created.
  4. A website in its own right can lead to advertising prospects. So a website seems like a reasonable investment that should pay dividends overtime.
  5. A broader innovative approach would be for an entrepreneur to build a platform similar to an ‘only fans model’, that allows customers to subscribe to a poet who is creating content they like.
  6. If a poet can build a following, diversification of offerings help to create different streams of revenue. Merchandising is one example.  T-shirts and mugs with quotes. 
  7. The public identifies with people. Poets, as stated in one, need to be creative in the ways in which they present themselves to the world.  


Boldness in creativity and integrity of content wins the day.  It is important not to see poetry like other forms of media but as an old form of communication that has a more nuanced space in today’s world. Understanding that role may lie the key to unlocking a poet’s capacity to live off their creativity. 

One response to “Earning a living as a poet – A Design Thinking Approach”

  1. This just made my hopeless day to a beautiful night. Great….


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