To begin, I would never discourage someone who has the passion and wants to become a full-time artist to choose otherwise. It is a unique, noble and worthy way to make a living. That said, as with all entrepreneurial endeavors, going full-time is challenging, to say the least.
Becoming a successful full-time artist requires more than artistic talent. It requires a business mind, a marketing mind and a willingness to endure during dark patches where your income does not meet your expectations. In other words, it requires some sacrifices for those who are not the beneficiaries of a spouse or other family members or friends who will support them in the early going.
Readers of this blog know I work hard at providing practical art business and art marketing advice designed to help artists become more successful. the How to Sell to the Affluent Market post from last week is a perfect example. Judging from the response to it, there is a substantial amount of interest in the subject. As such, stay tuned, or subscribe for future posts with more details on selling art to rich people.
Now, whether or not you are destined to make full-time artist status, you will find the ideas, information and inspiration published here helpful in reaching your art career goals and potential. Know one thing. You do not have to work full-time as an artist to have a rewarding career as an artist.
My art marketing broadcast partner, Jason Horejs, who owns Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, recently told his Red Dot Blog readers in a post on artistic production that he does not have any artists represented who are not full-time. His reasoning makes sense. He is looking for artists who are committed, both to their full-time art careers and to meeting his minimum production expectations for representation in the gallery. He has found the production part is highly problematic for artists with outside obligations.
Previously, I have written about how When Greatness in Your Art Career Competes with Your Full-time Job. In that post, I used myself as an example. That is, I work full-time in a tech sales and support position for a large domain, hosting, and email provider. I find the work both informative and helpful in feeding my inner geek. More importantly, it has provided steady income, health insurance and retirement benefits. Without the job, adequate health coverage was almost unaffordable.
Honestly, I would prefer to work full-time as an author, speaker, and workshop leader. However, I have had to temper my enthusiasm with the reality of my other commitments and needs. I made peace with that decision long ago. It is easier to deal with because I have a goal and plans to eventually, and hopefully soon, take the leap to full-time information marketing entrepreneur.
I jumped into my current job because it suits me well. Having worked 30 years as a commission-based ad sales rep, I had the selling chops down. Likewise, I have long been interested in technology. Finding a job with a company that could use my skills and interests turned out to be as ideal as possible for me.
UPDATE: I finally retired from working full-time. I’m now working harder than ever and enjoying it more than ever.
Don’t get me wrong. I chafe at working for the man. It is a tradeoff for me, just as it will be for many reading this. As the saying goes, “The price you pay for money is work.” When someone else is doing the paying, they make decisions for you. The flip side of this is when you work for yourself, you have to make sacrifices and perform tasks are not your strong suit, or even distasteful to you.
If you are not yet ready to move into a full-time art career, I hope you find considering some of these art-related careers as possible leads towards an ideal situation for yourself:
The above list just touches on obvious art-related career paths you could choose. Most of them require specialized knowledge or further education, either at the university level or through apprenticeship. Nearly all need the perspective of an artist.
As with my job in the tech industry, for which I have an acknowledged affinity, these jobs will allow you to increase your knowledge and skill sets and help you make your art career, whether full-time or part-time, more fulfilling and successful. Because of the requirements of an artist career, many artists have the experience to some degree in any number of these art-related career fields.
For instance, if you make art, you will need to understand the basics of how to frame it, how to ship it, how to market and sell it. You probably have photographic and digital art software training and skills, and a lot of other jack-of-all-trades capabilities. No matter what art-related career you decide to pursue, you will acquire and hone valuable skills that can lead to new opportunities.
You may find an occupation that is more lucrative and rewarding than you might have been able to accomplish as a full-time artist. You may also find that all your knowledge is a perfect stepping-stone to help you leap to the career of your dreams as a self-supporting full-time artist.
The good news is there are no bad choices here. At worst, you start on one direction and go to another when either your first choice is not right, or a better opportunity presents itself.
Immodestly, I will tell you my ideas are worth following. Here is my best advice in a nutshell. You want to choose your goals wisely, evaluate your resources fairly, execute your plan daily, measure your progress regularly, and never be afraid to regroup and move to a higher calling when the spirit moves you, or the situation forces you.
Be grateful for the plethora of opportunities before you. Never take a measure of your success against that of someone else. Your path is your own. When you understand and acknowledge the fact it is you and you only who gets to define your success, your life becomes simplified in a good way. Moreover, you become oblivious to negative opinions of those who ultimately do not matter to your art career, or art-related career.