How to Make a Living in the Arts in 2018
And How I'm Making It Work
Probably millions of people around my age (Millennial/Gen Z) have thought about ditching the traditional nine to five and making a living with their creative passions, whether it'd be writing, music, painting, or recycled-materials basket weaving. But it's a daunting prospect to actually experiment and see if you'll generate enough, or any, income off of it. So as someone who has managed to gain a decent part-time (and soon to be full-time) income off of their passions, I'll give all of my fellow dreamers the best advice I can to making a living as an artist/creative in the digital age!
1. Figure out what you like and what you're good at.
This may seem obvious, but there are more layers to it. One of the first projects I tried to do was become a session musician. But... I wasn't that great a musician. So, while I was working on playing, I learned how to record, mix, and master music. I managed to make a little bit off of mixing songs for artists, but then I invested in myself a little bit and received a technical certification in Audio Technology. Once that happened, I managed to get paid-per-hour jobs that covered my car insurance for three months! And, I was doing something I enjoyed.
Now, over that two- or three-year process, I got much better at my musicianship and began composing instrumentals. I've sold a few beats. Not nearly enough to cover the bills, but a nice supplement for when I need new strings so I don't need to dig into my savings.
I also have passions for writing, graphic design, and podcasting. So I do a little of them all! But this brings me to my second point:
For a lot of people, this is one of the hardest steps. You can put all of your eggs in one basket, but as soon as it crashes you lose everything. Nobody wants that, especially if you have a million dollars a month in student loans to pay off. So what should you do? Diversify! You'll have to work A LOT to make it happen, but you'll become much more secure when you have two, three, or four somewhat-consistent forms of income. Alongside all of your projects, you can use crowd-funding sites such as Patreon to help support yourself. Get a fan base, and some may donate. I also recommend that one of your sources of income be (much to my own dismay) a job (at least part-time). I know, nobody wants to hear that. But it's a good way to save up and stash away so you can make more financial risks with your craft in the future.
I work consistently between 15 and 24 hours a week at a part-time job, while I put in an addition 45 to 50 hours a week into my creative endeavors. Half of my earnings may be going to coffee as a result, but at least it's not all of my earnings considering I've worked and diversified. It's not easy, but it can be done.
Branching off of the last point made, you need to work an intense number of hours to make this happen. None of this happens overnight. It may seem like some of it does with viral videos and controversies, but none of that is consistent. I began completely dedicating myself to my projects back in May of this year and in that time I have seen not just some residual income, but a change in my work ethic. I'm much more driven to succeed and keep going with it.
Persistence is key. Elon Musk didn't become a multi-billionaire because he came up with one good idea and sat on it, he got to where he is because he never stopped working, from when he barely had two nickels until now. People find success when they constantly work and strive for it, not because they wait for it to come to them.
4. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there.
I know that the hardest part of this process for me was actually putting myself out there. You have to chuck your vulnerabilities and present yourself with utmost confidence when you're trying to become self-employed. But for the purpose of this article, I did an experiment that may have cost me... but it was for science.
I filled out two job applications: one was way below my qualifications in terms of education, workplace experience, and other things. And the other was way above my qualifications. Specifically, one was a job as a cashier at a grocery store that only required you be 16, and the other was a technical job that required a High School Diploma or GED with at least two years experience in the field, but it was highly recommended you also have an Associates Degree in Communications.
I had neither a degree in communications, nor two years experience in a job that involved logging information, but I applied to both jobs. I didn't call the grocery store and rather waited for them to call me. I did call the tech job every five days or so. I ended up getting interviews at both (surprisingly). I was offered the cashier job almost instantly, but had a 45-minute interview at the tech position which ended with: "You seem to have a great work ethic, and the ability to learn quickly. If you just had at least six months of experience I probably would've hired you."
I came *this* close to getting a job that was way above my qualifications, all because I presented myself professionally and confidently. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn a little bit when it involves employment. Your resume, plus how you verbally describe yourself, is essentially a professional-sounding brag sheet. These rules can work with anything from getting a full-time job, to getting sponsors or clients for your artistic projects. The same rules apply.
Simply put, nothing comes easily. Becoming a self-employed creative is a long and often tough process. But hopefully, this article gave you some helpful tips and some insight into a young person who is slowly but surely achieving it. Keep in mind also, I'm 19. The younger you start these habits, the more it pays off in the long run! Don't be afraid to do what you love!
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Have A Great Day Everyone!