Between Your Day Job and Your Art Career
“At this point I need to work at a ‘day’ job to make money. This leaves me with limited time and energy for both creating and marketing my art. Where can I put my artistic energy to get the biggest bang for the buck?”
I get variations on this question almost daily in my e-mail and on social media. Often there’s an apologetic tone to the rest of the note that suggests this means the writer doesn’t feel like a “real artist.”
First, let’s clarify one thing right now— whether or not you’re a full-time artist has nothing to do with whether you’re a “real” artist.
A “real” artist is a state of being, not a state of employment. Being a real artist begins in your heart, develops in your head and emerges through your hands.
I work with many artists who have part-time or full-time jobs and they’re all real artists. In fact, because their art isn’t tied to their finances, many of them face less pressure and are more creative during their studio time than some of their full-time artist counterparts who have time to procrastinate. (You know who you are …)
Having a steady income and employee benefits like health care are key considerations for artists thinking about going full-time with their art, especially for artists with families.
You are no less committed to your art because these factors play a role in your decision. I could even make the case that artists with other employment and/or family duties must be more focused and dedicated — after all, it’s much harder for them to find studio time.
So let’s go back to the question and break the answers down:
“At this point I need to work at a ‘day’ job to make money.”
- Do your job as well as it needs to be done, no more and no less because, for now, this allows you to support yourself and still be able to make art.
- Since you are making money now, set aside 10% - 20% of your income in an art account, because you’ll need to invest in your art, studio and professional development.
- Let people at your job know that you are an artist and start adding them to your mailing list.
“This leaves me with limited time and energy for both creating and marketing my art.”
- Keep your energy fresh by using the limited time for priority activities that energize you.
- Plan your limited time to include art making, art viewing, art talking and art related buying
- Allocate 50% to each for now because most successful artists will tell you, it takes at least that much.
“Where can I put my artistic energy to get the biggest bang for the buck?”
- Determine where you are now in art and marketing skills and resources.
- Decide where you want to be and define the period of time because deadlines have a way of focusing your attention.
- Measure the gap and list the ways you can close the gap.
So I ask you to not doubt or judge yourself, or your potential future in the arts, by comparing yourself to other artists you know. Instead, stay open to all possibilities and then do the work to make your art career happen.