Most parents would cringe if their child told them they wanted to be an artist. But in reality the stigma of the “starving artist” is on it’s way out. There is a decent living to be made as an artist, but it’s going to take a LOT of hard work. If you’re thinking about being an artist for a living, consider these questions:
Will you go to art school or be self-taught?
Going to college for your art education has advantages: learning techniques, tons of practice, time to discover yourself as an artist and what your art will be about, and most importantly-making connections with people. You may also decide to pursue a Master’s degree and get a job as a professor. With that said, being a professor should not be seen as the end goal. You’re an artist first and professor second.
On the other hand, going to college is VERY expensive. If you have to take on a lot of debt, then it’s really not worth it. Remember, you have to pay those loans back! Consider a business degree, something that might actually get you a job. There are not really any jobs for fine art majors. And if there are, they are few and far between.
Are you disciplined and self-motivated?
If you need someone to tell you to do something, being an artist probably isn’t for you. You are your own boss! Awesome, I don’t have to listen to anyone! On the other hand, it can be difficult to be motivated to do your work. You have to be self-motivated. You can’t procrastinate.
Are you comfortable or willing to learn to think like a business person?
Creating art is only 50% of being an artist, the other 50% is business and marketing.
It is a great idea to take some business and marketing courses. As an artist, you will probably be self-employed. Sounds great right? You can stay home and lounge around in your pajamas. Yes but that also means you are also the owner, the manager, the public relations person, the accountant, the marketing person, etc. Your success all depends on YOU. For some people this can be really scary. Thankfully there are a lot of resources out there to help you. Take a look at your local community college for continuing education courses for entrepreneurs. Buy a few business books. Specifically for artists, I’d Rather Be in the Studio! by Alyson Stanfield is a great book all about promoting and marketing your art.
Are you willing to give up the benefits of a 9-5 job?
Typically with a full-time job you have a set schedule, steady paycheck, health insurance and a retirement plan. Being self-employed means you won’t be getting these benefits. If your spouse has a full time job with benefits then you should be fine. But most of the time you have to get your health insurance and retirement plan on your own.
I chose a career in art because I simply wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Even though I see the success of others and sometimes feel like I should have majored in something that would get me a job, a great-paying job. But I think even with the money I would always wonder if I could have made a living off my art. I think with this gift I have been given it would be a shame to not pursue being an artist. I like the freedom I have. I can schedule trips or outings on the fly. I can enjoy life instead of being stuck in traffic or a sterile office cubicle. I am just not cut out for a 9-5 job! It is so stifling. I want to be surrounded by beauty and nature, not white walls. So even though it is a difficult path, it comes with its rewards. If you can handle the business end of it and be persistent, you might just make it!