Want To Become A Full-time Artist? Here Are The Hard Questions

You woke up this morning. Maybe you decided to get ready for work. Maybe you went. Maybe you got off of work and went home. You feel tired. You look over at that pile of unwritten stories, unpainted canvases, or overall unfinished work. You either decide whether you’re going to tackle them or whether you will leave it off for another day. You then wonder, “What if I could wake up every morning and simply create?”

As an artist myself, it is extremely easy to jump ship on my day job and decide to “do this artist thang.” Even when I mention this not well-thought-out idea to a close somebody, I quickly get hit with the typicals:

“Have you saved enough money to pay rent for **insert random amount of time**?”
“Well, what are you gonna do when you have a dry season?”
“Maybe you can just work a part-time job to give you SOMETHING financially?”

*eye roll*

Cool. Whatever. “We need a plan.” But do we really? Is there really some step by step manual for how to become a full-time artist? In a time and era where everyone seemingly works for themselves, it is easy to wonder whether EVERYBODY took this “ideal” route and if everybody is somehow saving thousands of dollars to go live their extremely successful freelance lives in peace.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I have wondered the same thing, and I wanted to receive a more realistic standpoint on what it truly means to create full-time. What should we truly consider before taking that leap? After posting a question to the YBA Instagram asking for advice from those who have been at this freelance life for a while, we received multiple responses. Most of the advice rolled up into four questions we all can ask ourselves before joining the “work for yourself gang”:

What is your marketing plan?

*eye roll*

Yes, your friends and family were right when they said you need a plan, but the type of plan is really what matters. How do you plan to market yourself, your brand, and your art? Are you currently only marketing yourself on social media? Are you only marketing yourself in the community and not on social media? Overall ask yourself what more you can do to shamelessly promote yourself. Our belief at YBA is that exposure is the foundation for what we need as creatives. Once the exposure is in place, everything else comes flowing in.

How often do you want to create?

it's time to grind!

Just like with anything in life, working for yourself requires somewhat of a hustle mentality. If you have the pressure of needing to pay bills, then you may also need to create pretty regularly. Just think, are you the kind of artist who can knock out a painting a week, or do you need 6 months? Are you supplementing with print sales and other merchandise? There’s no wrong answer, but having a clear understanding of how your work will be available for your audience at any given time can help you determine whether you want to make this your main hustle or not.

What lifestyle do you want?


This is a big one. Truth is, many individuals who work for themselves may not have started their journeys with a luxury lifestyle. Creating full-time may result in a cheaper apartment, fewer vacation trips, and even in bills going past due. We may perceive creatives living a specific lifestyle, but it is really the behind the scenes portions of their lives that are not always pretty. Keep in mind that everyone’s circumstances are different. Are they married to someone who works full-time? Were they able to move back with their parents as a way to make ends meet? Did they save up tens of thousands of dollars before working for themselves? Taking a step back and looking at your personal circumstances and reevaluating what you are willing to lose can make quitting your “day job” a reality for you.

Do you really want to work for yourself?


This point actually is inspired by a conversation I had with a family member who is a freelance photographer. She summed up her experience by saying, “it ain’t for everybody.” Really…I get it, everyone seemingly works for themselves. Your favorite Youtuber, artist, and social media personality may have preached that working for yourself is the path to financial freedom and internal happiness. They were right, it is a path, but it is not the only path. As a UX Designer who works typical business hours, it has been easy for me to feel dissatisfied with walking into an office every day. Yes, some of my unfinished artwork is collecting dust, sometimes I forget to post to Young Black Artists, and I may even want to tear down the walls of this icebox of an office myself, but it is important to point out that I love what I do. My career has provided me with so many opportunities to travel, meet with new people, work on amazing projects, and live a pretty decent lifestyle. Many companies have changed their policies to fit the needs of the younger generations, such as working from home and making your own hours. Just know that not every creative has to take the same path. Whichever works for you simply works for you.

Here’s the truth: every person’s journey is different and every full-time artist had and has very different circumstances. What is important is that we as creatives are making decisions that best fit ourselves as individuals and not because of any external expectations or pressures.

Comment below: Have you considered working for yourself? What advice would you give someone hoping to create full-time?

All images in this article are from giphy


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