SOS! I’m Not Earning A Living Off My Art

SOS I'm not earning a living off my art - hammer and piggy bank

SOS! Posts: Quick tips for getting through creative crisis.

Being a professional artist is your dream—probably a dream you’ve had since you were a child. But art careers don’t come easy, and the reality of how hard it can be to make a living in a field where you have to design your own path (as opposed to adopting a more traditional career path) is daunting. As an artist you’re subject to fickle fanbases, unpredictable trends, and budgets very easily affected by shifting economic outlooks. At some point you may have to face that feeling in the pit of your stomach and realize that you’re just not making ends meet on your art alone. Do you give up your dream?

  • Remember: You are a “real” artist no matter how much money you make off your art. The art you make and the money it makes are two different things. Just because your art may not be developed enough to fully support you now doesn’t mean it never will. You might need some time to develop your technique, or your style, or your voice. Sometimes taking the monetary pressure off your muse is the only way you can find inspiration again. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, or less worthy of being called an artist. You tried one road, and it didn’t get you where you wanted to go. Take out that atlas (or your google maps) and pick a new course to try.
  • Look for a job that gives you more than just money. Look around for jobs that are art-supportive, or still use your art skills. Art Stores, Galleries, Child Care, Elder Care and many more fields all need artists and artistically-minded people. You can also look for more established artists needing assistants, or in-house art departments in many fields that need Studio Assistants. Many illustrators make ends meet by doing storyboard work for all kinds of companies. The work is fast, and often not a polished piece to put in your portfolio, but it teaches you to draw fast as hell. There are entry-level jobs that can pay you while still understanding and encouraging you to make art both at work and in your free time. Many big companies even have budgets just for employees to take classes and further education. And if you can’t find an art-related job, look for jobs that require a lot of waiting (like Receptionists, Security Guards, and Doormen) because you’ll have a lot of time to draw in your sketchbook on the side. I’ve seen artists thrive in jobs that offer them a lot of idle time combined with a lot of people-watching.
  • Get creative with your inner entrepreneur. It may not be work that you’ll end up putting in your portfolio, but you can put up ads for any artistic skill you might be able to market to small businesses and individuals in your area. Drawing lessons, face painting, sign & mural painting, craft fairs, and caricatures have all helped artists get through lean times. If you have any graphic design skills then you’ll find making template websites and simple logos will net you a ton of clients.

Remember, do not listen to that voice of self-doubt inside your head that insists you’re “not a real artist”. Any work is noble if it’s giving you the space to create and develop your art. An art career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Against no one but yourself. And take comfort by realizing even Einstein had a day job. And Da Vinci was a “loser” until middle age.

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1 thought on “SOS! I’m Not Earning A Living Off My Art

  1. Sometimes the money shortage can take a big toll in our artistic inspiration, so its a good idea to take a step back and reevaluate why we do art in the first place.
    As they say, the struggle is real.

    Thank you Lauren for this post!

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