Can You Make a Living as an Artist?

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Most everyone is familiar with the trope of the starving artist – men or women (most likely in desperate need of personal grooming) who barely manage to survive on a day-to-day basis despite working days and nights on their next masterpiece. Images of falling behind on rent, sleeping on futons, and restless nights of debates of transitioning to a typical 9-5 job come to mind. Despite this chilling cliche, it is very much possible to make a living as an artist in 2016 without depending on your next paycheck in order to pay for each and every meal. The question that then lends itself is “how?” How can one make an honest living as an artist? If this is something you’ve wondered and having a career as an artist is something that interests you, ask yourself the following questions:


  • Can you be flexible?



Being an artist is certainly an unconventional job, and the challenges that are associated with it are as well. Unlike 9-5 jobs that are meant to be highly structured, being an artist lacks that structure entirely. And while at first, that freedom may sound appealing, it could well mean that you spend longer than the hours of 9-5 working on some days, and less on others. The ability to be flexible is essential if you want to make a living as an artist.


  • Do you get easily discouraged?


This ties into the aspect of being flexible. Odd working hours and lack of structure can be too much to handle for some. So if you are easily discouraged or weak-willed, being an artist isn’t for you.


  • Can you take criticism?


Any and every artist has been criticized at one point or another, and, unfortunately, this criticism may not always be constructive. Therefore, in order to survive in the world as an artist, you need to develop the ability (if you don’t possess it already) to take criticism in stride. Since you are ultimately in control of the output of your work, you can’t let criticism have the potential to halt all progress, or else you’re better off at a more conventional job.


  • Do you consider yourself weird?



Though this is not a requirement of surviving in the world as an artist, it certainly is a good indicator that you’re headed in the right direction. This doesn’t mean that you should try to act as someone who you naturally aren’t. Everyone has aspects of them that are incongruent with others. Being an artist simply means you let those incongruent aspects flourish and rise to the surface, rather than suppressing them. If you take pride and indulge yourself in your weirdness, living as an artist may be for you.


  • Can you brand yourself?


This one is essential in order to succeed as an artist. Famous artists have a signature style, which is arguably how they ended up famous to begin with. Therefore, to follow in their footsteps, you would also need to find out what your style, or brand, is and sell yourself according to that brand.


  • Will you be prepared to generate income from varying sources?


Artists rarely make money simply from art sales. Therefore, you should be prepared to earn your income from varying sources and also, perhaps, to explore what those alternative sources will even be. Once again, living as an artist is an entirely different profession. Your income will most likely being coming from varying sources, so you will need to ask yourself if this is something you are prepared for. If so, living as an artist may just be for you.