How to Balance a Full-Time Job with an Art Career
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
If you're just getting started as an artist, you're probably aware that art does not pay the bills. Having a 9-5 job and balancing that out with the work that fuels your passion can be exhausting.
Not every artist has the flexibility to quit their job and with bills to pay and supplies to purchase, your full-time job does play a pivotal role in driving your creative career forward. Having a steady source of income at the start of your career will help you stay creative, and you won’t have to constantly be worried about supporting yourself financially through art.
However, after a long day at work, you most likely wish to drop down on the couch with a nice cup of coffee and just relax.
But your creative outlet is key to your fulfillment. So, at the end of the day, how do you gather enough energy to make art, show it and sell it?
Here’s a list of ways through which you can maximize the time you do have:
1. YOU HAVE TO WANT IT
Before anything, here’s the problem: you have to want it enough! Enough to forego television, movies, or hangouts with friends.
You don’t have to neglect yourself or let everything go, but you’re going to work long hours for years before you have enough to quit and keep up your momentum.
So, a good question to ask yourself first is: Do I want to become a full-time artist?
A lot of artists are perfectly satisfied with a day job and creating art when they’re not working. You can have that life too. But if you’re looking to becoming a full-time artist, you might have to cut down on certain recreational aspects of your life.
It's easy to fall into the "too busy" mindset. You have a lot on your plate, of course. But when you break it down, there will always be room for things that are important to you.
As Randi Zuckerberg once said- “The Entrepreneur’s dilemma: Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time with family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick three”
You can't do everything (Trust me, even I have a difficult time grappling with this). It's hard to achieve an ideal world. Week to week, your priorities may shift. It's perfectly okay to prioritize your health, your friends, or your family at times. There is no pressure to complete everything at once.
So, rather than saying, "I'm too busy," Be honest with yourself and admit that it isn't of top priority at that moment. It will help take some pressure off, and you can re-prioritize in the coming weeks.
3. STICK TO THOSE PRIORITIES
This is the tricky bit and easier said than done.
If your art business is important to you, handle it as if it were a second job. If you were employed by someone else, they would expect you to be on time, rain or shine. You must hold yourself and your family to the same standard.
Sometimes this can also mean having to say “no” to social obligations. You might have to sacrifice a few events to stick to your schedule.
After becoming more disciplined in my art, my social life has diminished. Because I chose to paint in my leisure time, I don't have a close network of friends that I see regularly. It is not an ideal position, but it is one that I have consciously chosen for myself.
4. FIND THE RIGHT JOB
Make sure you have a job that works with art (and not the other way around).
If the job is not giving you enough time to create, try and look for a job that does (Provided you’re not looking to climb the ladder in that career path).
There are also “pockets” of time that you can use to do more, don’t ignore them! For instance, on days when the workload in the office is less, I try and use that time to listen to podcasts on growing my business. While commuting from the office, I edit my pictures that need to be uploaded on social media or publish a listing on Etsy.
Not everyone has the flexibility to do all this, but if there is any amount of wiggle room, make sure you use it. However, don’t violate the rules of your workplace.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
While you need to work hard, you must also look after the engine of your business – YOU. Eat healthily. Make sure you get enough rest. If you want to succeed in the long run, you'll need to fuel accordingly.
This also applies to relationships. It might be necessary to negotiate with your family/partner about the time you need for your creative project. If you want to stay home on a Sunday to work on your project, then accept that you could do something fun with your family/partner on a Saturday night instead.
6. BE CONSISTENT
In my experience, it's best to create for half an hour every day rather than do it for three hours every week.
Consider your creative work as a series of smaller projects in which you cover small areas of a painting instead of completing it all at once. Once you get started, you'll be surprised at how quickly your exhaustion fades and your creativity takes over, leading to you working on the painting for much longer than you had anticipated initially.
Having your own art business can be quite rewarding. It's a wonderful feeling to realize that you'll be able to pay your rent one day by selling your artwork. If this is genuinely your calling, you will find a way to pursue it.