Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Is a Full-time Creative Career Really What You Want?

Image courtesy of Pascal Maramis

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember when I posted the story of how Sylvester Stallone got started as an actor. Sly was definitely the ‘all-or-nothing’ type, not wanting to do any work except acting, for fear of losing his passion for it.

But that’s not necessarily the right way for everyone to go about launching a creative career.

A lot of people who are dissatisfied with their jobs think that they’d be happy if they could just paint or write or make things all day every day. But sometimes, when people actually take the plunge and quit their jobs, they find that the freedom of being a self-employed artist may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

I recently read The $100 Startup (affiliate link), by Chris Guillebeau (author of The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money, which I have previously reviewed), in which he talks about Tsilli Pines, a designer who left her job after gradually building up a business making custom-designed Jewish wedding contracts.

But just a couple of weeks after going full-time with her creative business, she found herself wondering “What do I do all day?” and she was drained of creativity. Eventually, she ended up going back to her job part-time, finding a good balance between the freedom to do her own thing, and the security of a regular (if not full-time) monthly income.

It was right for her to leave, and it was right to go back. The business is still profitable, but without the pressure of needing to rely on it exclusively.

That pressure of relying on your own business is something which a lot of creative entrepreneurs don’t anticipate and it often takes them by surprise.

Isolation is another consequence of running a creative business, if you work alone. Some artists may find they start to go a bit stir-crazy with nobody but themselves for company all day every day.

A flexible employment arrangement may be a better way for a lot of creatives to make the transition to going it alone. Rather than quit your job and suddenly find yourself with too much time on your hands, nobody to talk to, and no idea what to do next, you could just free up two or three days to work on your art, and see how you get on before deciding whether to go full-time or not.

If you really can’t stand to stay at your job, you could always look for a part-time position somewhere else.


Working for Yourself Guide


Of course, I’m not saying everyone has to do it like this. If you’re already certain that a full-time creative career is what you want, then go for it! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, only the way that works best for you.

What do you think? Do you favour a gradual switch to working for yourself, or would you prefer to jump in at the deep end and see how you get on? Leave a comment below.

8 Comments on Is a Full-time Creative Career Really What You Want?

  1. Kat Carrier says:

    I enjoy reading a story that is like my life. For years I was the single parent working two full-time jobs and I lost the fact that I was born an artist. I worked hard for years lowering my work hours and increasing my art, with the goal of being a full time artist. Now I am down to 3 days a week and I keep going back. My income from there I am putting away because I don’t have to have it any more.I can support myself with my art. Do I stay because I am afraid to not have the security of that pay check? Or because I enjoy the interaction with the people that have become my friends over the years?

  2. Your post today really reenforced that I’m steering my art biz in the right direction for me, thanks for writing it. I did, about six years ago, get a part-time job. It was perfect, I would get my daughter off to school, do chores then go to work from 11 to 5. It was great until I realized I wasn’t painting. My art was being put on the back burner. My husband said, quit your job and take that discipline you gave it and focus on your art. I did, I get into my studio like it’s a job I have to be at. Also, having the part-time job made me realize my burning desire to paint was so strong that I needed to work on it totally, even if it means being alone, not knowing if I will make money this week and making all my own business decisions and mistakes. I kept at it and now that I am selling my work online I have another way to earn an income besides shows and galleries. For me, full-time works, but it took that part-time job to make me realize that I was ready to take the plunge.

  3. kathryn says:

    I’ve almost always had a part time or full time job and there’s a lot to be said for it. As you mentioned…the financial security of a paycheck and others to converse with but I’ve also learned so much and have grown from them. But now at 51 I have my style down, a slow growing business and hope in the next 2-5 years I’ll be able to take the plunge and go full time with my art…all depends on how well my art is selling and if i’m able to support myself and 2 kids in college with it.

  4. Mary says:

    I have always had a job for the regular paycheck. It has mostly been in pre-production for print and silkscreen. But I have worked in a little bit of everything. I find it is nice to go home and do creative stuff in my own time.

    That is what works for me.

  5. Jillian says:

    I reluctantly went the creative route due to some health issues. I am a huge extrovert as well. Allotting regular time for networking is a great way to break up the day and build some business contacts and plans. I really enjoy creating projects that require partnerships with other businesses. The team work energizes me for my solo projects. I also strategically plan my times at the gym as well to get that contact.

  6. Julia Dziuba says:

    Thanks for the post, Dan. This is something I struggle with off and on. I came close to making the dive recently but then decided it was not the right time yet.

    What I’d like to share is that there are many life skills and if you have a full/part ime job that allows for growth it is not a waste of your time even if it takes you from your art. In my work I manage others, give presentations and have learned a bit of programming. All of these skills will help me when I decide to start my own business.

  7. meg says:

    I had to jump into the artist world quite suddenly after some surgery. Would have loved to ease in instead. Even though it is a hard profession to get rich with, I couldn’t see it any other way. Creating my pieces has been the only thing over the past 30 years that has been a consistent love and passion for me. I never tire of it. I struggle between “being responsible and get a real job” and waking up most every day and loving to get to work.

  8. DM says:

    I’m about to make the jump, with the “fallback” of part-time temp work in the country that I working full-time in. It is a bit scary, as I have to worry about work permit issues, etc, but I am ready to make the leap, and I”m not getting any younger. Plus, I can always go back to an office job that burns people out all the time!

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