I only ever had interest in working in creative jobs. I am an artist, writer, and a slew of other creative things that require a lot of time and effort for virtually no money. Choosing a creative career field sounds really cool. I can’t tell you how many people say to me, upon finding out that I primarily work in animation, that they are so jealous and my job must be so fun. And tbh, most of the time it totally is. I definitely have a lot more fun than my friends who work in offices, or are doctors and have lives on the line every day. But there are a lot of things I didn’t expect when I became an artist/writer professionally, I wish I knew more going in.
Would it have changed anything for me? Not a chance, but that’s because the only thing I really like (besides my dog and margaritas) is art. I have to do it either way, so I might as well make a living from it. But if you’re ready to quit your 9-5 and pursue a creative job, here’s what you should know.
It’s The Worst Way To Make Money
Living in LA, I can’t tell you how many actors I’ve met who say things like, “Oh I can’t wait to be rich and famous, and ride in limos, and have mansions!” And it’s said totally un-ironically while they’re serving drinks at happy hour. Here’s the thing: yes, you can absolutely make money from the arts. I just found out Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe has a net worth of $45 mill, and his career was like, 10% writing/music and 90% f*cking everything up, according to The Dirt (could not recommend more btw, watch it immediately). There are many, many artists, musicians, actors, directors, writers, etc. living in mansions and making a ton of money. But that isn’t the reason to do it. It is unbelievably hard and soul-sucking to try to make money as a creative of any kind, and the chance of making mansion-level money is so difficult and unlikely. There are a million easier ways to make money if that’s what you want (I dunno, work in finance). Be an actor because you love acting and you love film or theater. If you’re after money and fame, you really just want to be a Kardashian. Also? I’m a huge believer that if you work hard and your work is good, money will come. But it’s not easy and not a guarantee.
You’ll Have To Work Harder
Speaking of working hard, except for your friend who’s a doctor, working in a creative field means you’ll probably work a lot harder than your friends do—and for a lot less. I regularly work nights and weekends, I don’t get vacation days, and I had to start forcing myself to take one day a week off work (which I don’t even get every week, tbh) because I developed such severe tendinitis in my drawing arm from overworking it. Meanwhile, most of my friends work regular jobs, get off work at 5 and go to happy hour, spend their weekends going out or watching Netflix, and they still make more money than I do. But creative jobs are “fun,” right?
You Won’t Get Job Perks
It is possible to get a steady job as a creative, depending on your field. I could work for an animation studio as a full-time employee instead of being freelance, for example. But most creative jobs, even in that case, are project-for-project. Meaning when your TV show (or whatever) ends, you will be unemployed. This causes issues with things like benefits, retirement plans, etc. I am completely self-employed, so not only do I pay out of pocket for benefits (which costs A LOT, BTW), my retirement plan is to just die. I also don’t get vacation, sick days, etc. If I can’t work, I don’t make money. And on top of that, you have to put a lot of money away just in case you get the flu and can’t work, so that you can still make your rent for the month.
You Will Be Unemployed
No matter how talented you are, in creative jobs, you will always have bouts of unemployment. In my experience it’s always feast or famine—I either have so much work I’m not sleeping, or I have no jobs to do, so I have to work super hard to line up more. For this reason, it’s crucial to save money when you do have an income. I remember being horrified when I interned at a big production studio and found out that even if I was a full-time employee doing my dream job, I should expect to be laid off every nine months. Projects just constantly end or fall through or get canceled. If you’re working in a creative field, it’s important to pick up as many side gigs as you can that earn income consistently.
It Does Kind Of Ruin It
When I was in high school, I woke up at 5am, did full hair and makeup every day, went to class from 7am-2pm, hung out with friends, did homework, and then worked on my art for hours. For fun. Now, my art is my work, and when I’m done working, the last thing I want to do is more art. So yeah, doing anything professionally ruins the fun of it. My job is really not fun when I’ve been awake for 36 hours to meet an insane deadline. The only thing I find fun then is sleeping. When you do it as your job, you have added stress you didn’t have when it was a hobby. The stakes are higher. That said, the rewards are higher too. There is nothing better than working on a project that you poured your heart and soul into and having it turn out amazing, and then watching your career move forward. It makes it all worth it.
Literally what I look like every day:
So should you look into creative jobs? Only if you love your art enough to pour blood, sweat, tears, and gallons of iced coffee into it. Otherwise, maybe you’d rather work a steady job and just play music for fun on the weekends–that’s totally acceptable too, and it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. It’s about figuring out what your optimal dream is for your art. For me, I don’t want to spend any time doing anything else. Also, I don’t have any other skills anyway. Hopefully this insight will help you figure it out! Let me know any other questions you have about creative jobs in the comments!
Images: Kevin Grieve / Unsplash; Giphy (5)