How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

by Tessa Abrahams

A lot of young artists struggle to find time to exercise their creativity because they flat out just don’t have the time to really focus on their art. This issue becomes especially troublesome post-grad: all of a sudden you find yourself thrown out into the real world, which means you will also be burdened by new financial responsibilities. Paying rent has somehow managed to take precedent over creating artistic masterpieces. Unfortunately, the harsh reality of it is that we are left with no choice but to dedicate the majority of our productive efforts and time to working a full-time job that actually pays the bills. On the bright side, this does not need to be the case forever. While you must continue to work at your less-than-desirable job, here are some tips on how you can still remain proactive in your creative endeavors, despite the limitations of a full-time work schedule.

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

Consider marketing to be an art form.

Think of yourself as a brand: Who is your target audience? How should your products be advertised? What are your best selling points?

No, I am not saying that you need to become a total sell-out in order to actually receive an income from your creative endeavors – but rather – I am insisting that you need to learn to understand art from a business standpoint. Go beyond seeing your art from a first person POV, learn how your art relates to the outside world.

Art is a business just like any other type of business in today’s economy: whether it’s fashion, real estate, law, construction, etc., it doesn’t matter! At the end of the day, all successful businesses have figured out a way to make a profit from the products/services that they offer to their customers.

You do not have to sell your soul to make profitable art. In fact, I believe the contrary: you should create things that you are passionate about and that are meaningful to you. Nothing of any real substance is ever accomplished without the motivation of passion behind it. Just remember to be clever in your marketing tactics. Present your art to others so that it makes them feel something, whatever that something may be is open to interpretation. Emotional response is key. If you look at any successful advertising campaign, you will realize that they all are able to trigger an emotional reaction from their audiences.

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job


Are you an aspiring writer and your best friend happens to love photographing people? Oh, and isn’t your roommate’s sister some type of abstract painter also? Awesome! Plan to meet after work and start brainstorming ideas for collaboration opportunities. Once you figure out an idea, put it out there any way you can! Arrange a meet up and brainstorm. Perhaps get your best friend to photograph your roommate’s sister with her paintings and then write up a human-interest story to accompany the images and submit it to every source you come across. Start a blog. If you’re in school, tell your campus newspaper. You may even have some fun doing it too! The opportunities are endless, really.

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

Take advantage of Social Media (even if it goes against everything you stand for).

We are all aware of the ongoing debate about whether social media has done more harm than good in terms of our communication and our interpersonal relationships in contemporary society. But so what? Even if you really feel it has taken a toll on your personal life, at the very least use it to benefit your career too! You don’t need to use every single type of social media either, pick and choose the ones that are most beneficial to your creative vision.

For example, do you often find yourself tongue-tied? Forget Twitter! Screw Facebook statuses! Make a Tumblr account instead. Take advantage of its simple, yet visually appealing format to share your interior design projects. You may even find yourself using it as source of creative inspiration and place to discover your new favorite artists. Then go ahead and put your best designs on Instagram, which tends to have a more selective atmosphere. If you’re feeling indulgent why not create a new board on Pinterest as well? It won’t hurt! Plus, opportunities to promote yourself via social media are available at your fingertips 24/7 – meaning you can actively get your name out there whenever you have a spare moment at your day job. I am not encouraging slacking off at work, but I am insisting that you can acquire new opportunities as an artist while earning an income elsewhere simultaneously.

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

Learn practical skills on the side that are relevant to your artistic talents.

Is your true passion painting? Take a class in graphic design too. Is your ideal summer afternoon on your day off spent hibernating in the dark room developing large format negatives? Great! But make sure to dust the cobwebs off your digital SLR, refresh your memory on basic Photoshop techniques, and start photographing events at night! Are you unable to see yourself in a career that does not involve drawing? Try animation!

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

When applying for your dream job, don’t just submit your resume and cover letter online and forget about it like you did for the other 20 jobs you applied for – take it a step further.

Be proactive. Do some research and find the exact person whose attention you want to get. Try writing this person a hand-written letter along with a copy of your portfolio and send it off via snail mail. If you want to get even more personal, put on your best interview outfit and spontaneously show up to the place you want to work and insist on explaining to the relevant person why this is the perfect position for you (even if they are not currently hiring). These actions are not 100% guaranteed to get you hired on the spot but it does guarantee that your name will be remembered, and even possibly considered the next time something opens up.

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

It’s not about exaggerating the truth or lying about your accomplishments, it’s about framing the facts in an ideal context. Presentation is everything.

How do you make the transition from a no-skill job to an entry-level position in the creative field of your choice when you are lacking any “professional” experience? Surprisingly, it is not as impossible as it may appear: take a moment to assess what experiences you do have, even if they appear to be totally irrelevant to the job you are pursuing. Once you have figured that out, you must then take these experiences and somehow connect them to the job you are pursuing by presenting them in a context that clearly demonstrates how the two totally different professions do, in fact, share a number of their core requirements with one another after all.

For example, say you studied psychology in school but have always dreamed of being a movie producer. Throughout your college years you did help with some small film projects just for fun but never considered taking it a step further because you knew it was not a practical hobby (had to appease the parents if you wanted tuition paid for) but you still enjoyed doing it, nonetheless. Now post-grad, you work as a server at a popular restaurant that pays almost decently while you are on the look out for something better.

So how do you frame these experiences into a context relevant to producing films? Try this: you can explain how your academic background taught you how to understand the way that people think and how they are affected by various factors in their surrounding environment. Likewise, being well versed in patterns of thought and feelings could really come in handy if attempting to create a work that successfully engages its audience and triggers an emotional reaction out of them. Moreover, your experiences working as a waiter taught you how to multi-task in a fast paced environment, while still paying close attention to details. Oh and you have been recording and narrating your friend’s garage band throughout its entire career, during all of its struggles and its triumphs. Suddenly you sound great to someone looking for an assistant on the set of a documentary film crew, don’t you think?

How To Be a Successful Artist While Devoting Most of Your Time to a Full-Time Job

Take advantage of geography, get local.

Look around and see what people are doing in your local community that may relate to your art. Is there a local newspaper that asks for photo submissions of current events? See if your restaurant has a space where you could ask to hang your art for customers to see (you never know who may walk in). Does the farmer’s market need someone to design a poster? Don’t be picky, say yes to anything that will give you exposure or hands-on experience, even if not directly speaking.

Article & Photos by Tessa Abrahams