Many of us have a creative hobby that we explore on the side, and maybe you’ve even thought about pursuing it as a career. But have you taken the reflection further? Or have you just kept your passions as a pastime, afraid or unsure about what it would take to succeed?
There’s a massive difference between painting puppies because you love puppies, and painting them because your livelihood depends on it. You shouldn’t have any illusions about that, and it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, for those who are passionate about their art, there often comes a time when you have to decide whether to turn your creative hobby into a career or keep it contained to your leisure time. If you’re considering making the leap, you’ll need to do your research and prepare yourself for the road ahead. And if you do that, there’s no need for fear or uncertainty to stand in the way of pursuing your true passion.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before making the leap into the world of a working artist.
Should You Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Career?
My hobbies just sort of gradually became my vocation.
– Weird Al Yankovic
Are you prepared to be disciplined?
It’s difficult for some people to treat an average day like a working day when there is no one to supervise productivity. It’s nice to be your own boss, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly stop wanting to binge-watch Netflix or just relax. It’s often tempting to reward yourself for doing something small, and then accidentally derail a whole day’s productivity.
Learning to schedule and be consistent can also be essential to facilitating a positive customer or client experience. This is especially the case in commission work (like pet portraits, custom-knitted garments, print-on-demand items, etc.), whereby you’ll lose the trust of a client if you’re unable to be consistent or reliable. You’ll need to learn to make accurate estimates about production time and delivery.
Are you prepared to be resourceful?
Some people manage to fund their careers on sites like Etsy and Saatchi Art, but every single one of them will tell you it’s not as simple as just uploading your work and cashing in. Marketing is essential. The creatives who make a living that way tend to have massive marketing campaigns that sometimes don’t look like marketing campaigns.
Some artists, like Robin Clonts, are probably making a killing from affiliate programs (if she uses them) while she increases the visibility of her own paintings. Her videos are helpful, amusing, and not pushy on products.
Are you prepared to stop enjoying the creations of others?
Becoming an expert in a field means that you generate an understanding of what good and bad work looks like as it relates to what you do. It gets harder and harder to enjoy something for its merits if you understand its failings. A similar thing can happen when you get a degree on a topic.
For example, I have a Fine Arts degree. Before I started studying art to the extent that I have, I could be easily impressed and freely enjoy the work of anything that caught my attention, since I didn’t think too hard about the elements I didn’t like. Now it’s hard for me to find anything I can stand. It’s not because I’m an overly cynical person, it’s just because I understand what’s going on more now: often how a thing was made, what parts were done well, and what was ignored or executed poorly.
Or the better you understand writing, the harder it is to get past bad syntax in a novel. The same goes for any field.
Are you prepared to stop enjoying your own creations?
This one is rough, and it’s probably the biggest divider between hobbyists and workers. There’s no time to have a creative block or to be a perfectionist. Often there has to be a distinction made between “finished” and “perfect.” Often there will be times when you feel like you’re doing too much of the same thing because it’s in demand.
The fun can be sucked out of quite a bit of it. On the other hand, the satisfaction can increase immensely. The weeks that I put forty or more hours into doing what I love are grueling and tiresome, sleepless and exasperating, but when I am through it, I feel like I’ve done something I was told was impossible.
Bottom line: Never go in blind
Sometimes hobbies accidentally turn into careers, and sometimes it happens the other way around. It’s always okay to actively make the choice about which one it is that you’re doing. But at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to move forward if you know what you want and are able to plan for it.