The Death of the Starving Artist

Turning the myth on its head in 6 steps.

The words "starving" and "artist" are like peanut butter and jelly: they were meant to be together. Or were they?

To have a career as an artist requires an intense amount of discipline and commitment. A lot of people may think that channelling an artistic passion into a job will help make that job more pleasurable. But it doesn't come without its challenges. Having an artistic career can be a fulfilling and profitable endeavor if you stick to these tips.

1. Be creative in how you get your revenue.

You're already a creative person, right? So put that creativity to good business use. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, Artist and ArtBistro blogger Valerie Atkisson advises her readers that "in a profession that often lacks traditional benefits and job security, it's useful to rely on multiple sources of income, such as gallery showings, teaching positions, Web sales, commission projects and grants." Because you are taking a risk, you have to support yourself with these safety nets, to make sure you will continue to have the flexibility to keep doing your art. Being an "artist" will likely not be a livable income on its own, until you make it big.

2. Take advantage of the off hours.

As an artist, you many not be working 9 to 5. You may do a lot of your art early in the morning to catch the sunrise, or late at night during an insomniac creative binge. Part-time jobs are great to supplement your schedule, because you can work around them. Here is a great resource to find part-time jobs for artists.

3. Be unique in your branding.

Social media is huge resource for branding yourself. And it costs virtually nothing! Having a unique style and big social following will help get your work out there. Post photos of your work and engage with your community. Promote your blog or website and offer incentives to your followers. Learn the market you're trying to break into, and then come up with a totally different angle. Take your time and get it right. It also helps to befriend a graphic designer if you're not one yourself! Here are some tips about how to build your brand as an artist.

4. Take responsibility.

We know you're a free spirit and you just want to do your thing. But you still live in the real world. You'll still have to find a way to handle your accounting, budgeting, and saving. Ask friends for help and tips. You must be okay not having a paycheck every month, and being creative when money is short. Because being an artist is a job with little structure, you'll have to make some for yourself. Keep to a schedule and give yourself expectations for completing work. Planning now will help you out later.

5. Consider that art school may not be worth the expense.

Art school may seem idyllic, but think about it. What can you learn in art school that you can't learn on your own? You should weigh the amount of debt you will have versus the profit-building activities you'd be missing out on. You don't want to be using your art gains to pay off your debt, but instead, by putting it into your business. Check out these awesome DIY art sites for inspiration.

5. Network with those you aspire to be.

Make a business card and go out to gallery openings or shows of people you admire. Don't waste your time with no-name artists, because they likely will not have a lot to offer you. Reach for the stars, even if it sounds corny. Tell everyone you can about your art, and have a mini-portfolio on hand just in case anyone wants to see. Come prepared, and you will be rewarded.

6. Don't work for free.

It may be tempting to take an unpaid internship for the great learning experience, but consider the fact that the time you spend working for free is less time spent building your business. It may be more valuable to you to spend time in another industry that requires less brain space so that you can save all of your brain juices for your passion.

Being an artist is a brave endeavor, but you are not doomed to starve on the streets. With a little street smarts, you'll be able to indulge in your passion and build up a little nest egg too!

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