Job or Career - Creatives (Part - 2)

30 August 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

Anybody who has ever expressed an interest in becoming an “artist” has probably dealt with a slew of well-meaning people trying to dash their hopes and kill their dreams; quietly. By artist I mean any of the many creative fields such as writing, dancing, acting, music, sculpting. Not all careers have marked paths. Creative careers often unfold in unconventional ways and are fraught with huge pitfalls. While successful artists can rise to dizzying heights, there are many more who end up broke and broken.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue a career in fine arts or any creative field. The stories you don’t often hear are of those who make a decent living doing what they love. They may not sell out arenas or hang in famous galleries, but they have never missed a mortgage payment, and they didn’t have to give up on what they love. To have this kind of success, creatives must look at their career in a very different manner.

People pursuing creative careers must imagine building their career is less like constructing a wall and more like unraveling interlocking puzzles. The “breaks” that moves your career from one level to the next are not defined. What works for one person may not work for anybody else. Your mission is to find a unique way to solve problems and create demand. Unfortunately, there are a few mindsets that hinder creative people from fulfilling their potential.

The first roadblock is not understanding just how many creative careers are out there. Advertising, publishing, and design are all relatively stable and creative career fields. Of course, publishers don’t have the same kind of name recognition as singers or dancers. As a creative you should take some time to decide whether you want to be famous or pursue a career where you can pursue your passion AND put food on the table. There are countless options, so keep an open mind.

The second greatest hindrance to creative types is the belief that to be a creative you must earn one hundred percent of your income from creative sources. Many people pursuing creative careers have day jobs. J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss both had day jobs. Toni Morrison worked for years as an editor at Random House while her children were small. And T.S. Elliot was a banker.

Simply put, you have to eat. If your only marketable skill is your fancy foot work, you are headed for disaster. Don’t forget to develop outside skills and interests so that you can feed yourself while you wait for your big break. Strive to get a sound academic base that you can fall back on when times get lean.

The third issue that many creatives face is discomfort in marketing themselves. Most creative types prefer to focus on the art and allow others to handle the business side of things. This rarely works out well. Unless you have an amazing team who is devoted to you, you need to understand some basics about business, finance, and marketing. Marketing and self-promotion can be doubly difficult for likes of writers, sculptors, and poets, many of whom are introverts.

Once you begin to see your art and your time as a valuable commodity, it will be easier to devise ways to market yourself. Rather than getting that “icky” feeling when dealing with the marketing aspect of your career, you’ll find that “exposing” yourself is relatively simple and worthwhile. Marketing isn't just Facebook ads and fliers. It's about forming trust and relationships with other people. It is the art of getting your portfolio in front of the right people. While it may feel like a tedious task, it is a huge part of what you do.

Creative careers don’t have the same emphasis on hierarchies and qualifications. Having a degree in fine arts doesn’t make you a better artist or more successful, but what every artist will tell you is to do your research. Creative careers can take you around the world and into some of the most prestigious organisations on the planet. It can also be a major drain on your time, energy, and relationships. Setting clear goals and standards at each stage of your journey will help keep the lights on while you pursue your passion.

Alexander Partners
30th August 2017

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