Getting a “Job”: Now harder than being a freelance artist

I just finished reading a blog post, a rant more like it, about how some artists should go GET A JOB.

I felt the desire to comment on it, since based on my own experience, he couldn’t be more wrong. He starts by saying: “GET A JOB. A stable one. 9-to-5. With health insurance and a 401k. GET IT NOW.”  He directs this at artists of my  generation, in their 20’s and 30’s. He says:

“Stop angsting over whether your Art or your Muse will survive Selling Out. Stop saying that your delicate artistic expressiveness can’t cope with an office job. Stop being allergic to money and then wondering why you can’t make rent and your lights are always being turned off.”

The first part made me laugh. A stable 9-5 job with a pension? Why, these days finding one of those sounds just as elusive as scoring a record deal, or successfully selling out your paintings at an art Gallery. It takes what feels like years to score one of those, and as time passes on, the fewer of those jobs will exist. William Bridges predicted the slow decline and extinction of the “job” back when he published his book “Job Shift” in 1992. The ironic thing is that slowly, with the dwindling down of 9-5 jobs, it’s the creative class that is predicted to rise to the top. Yeah, that’s right, those same artists the author of the blog is lecturing at. And here’s why:

Artists already have a lot of the skills necessary to survive in the current job market. Its the same skills that even those handing out the elusive and very much coveted 9-5 jobs are looking for. They are resourceful, quick to adapt to changing environment, able to think outside the box, are used to project based assignments, have the self awareness and ability to self market themselves, and the passion and creativity to get the job done. When I see a “starving artist”, I see someone who understands what the world is really like today, for most people, artists or not. And by the way, most “starving artists” I know do have jobs. Sure, part time, but guess what, most people looking for full time work also have part time jobs. Or temporary contract jobs. Or full time positions with no benefits or pensions. As I’ve mentioned before, in my city alone, half of all workers have some form of precarious employment. That’s just the nature of employment in general. Starving artists are in the exact same scenario as other workers. Except, starving artists are more equipped to deal with it and probably more motivated to do so. They don’t fear the soul sucking “desk job”. They realize that no matter what field of employment you’re in, only the best people get the job, or make the sale. And to be on top, you have to really love what you do.

Yes, we now live in a time where “loving what you do” is not just a blessing, but the best way to survive in such a competitive economy.

I also want to provide an example of how the “artists” who give up looking for the stability of a 9-5 knowing full well that it’s just a myth, how they actually not only survive, but persevere.

My friend Sonia makes jewelry and accessories. It was her way of staying creative after giving up her dream of going into fashion when she decided to take environmental studies in University instead. She wanted to set her parents at ease that she would be able to get a nice cushy 9-5 when finishing her Degree. Well, she finishes her Degree this year and has already told me that selling her line of jewelry has proved to be so successful, that instead of looking for a job in her field of study, she plans to commit to her businesses full time. While working part time at Ikea, taking on a full time study load, she has built herself two very successful jewelry brands that she sells online, at specialty boutiques, and even sells overseas. She’s even been featured in a few magazines and fashion shows. She tells me there is no point looking for a job, she’s making more than enough on her business alone. And I’m a huge fan of her brands COVEN and Quaintrella

If I saw a starving artist, the last thing I would tell them to do is to “Get a Job”. That’s a dead end. The only people I’d recommend that to is someone who wants to get a 9-5 job since they’ll take years to find one anyway. What I would tell a starving artist is this: forget getting a record deal, or living off your work, that’s unrealistic. Find a way to make money. Be creative, look around you. Look for what is needed in the world around you. Learn to match your skills and what you have to offer to that need. Then learn to sell that idea or make it a reality. Learn to sell yourself and your skills. And always do something that you will love and be passionate about, because there is no better way to guarantee your quality.


7 thoughts on “Getting a “Job”: Now harder than being a freelance artist

  1. I love your passion and dedication to “blogging the change you wish to see in the world.”

    I really liked his “Get a Job” post, but I LOVE this post of yours. Most people don’t like to admit that a 9-5 job is just false security. And I like that you made a point of reminding people to make a business out of their art (by getting paid for it) instead of just miserably sitting around starving.

    Bravo! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I couldn’t STAND that “GET A JOB” bullshit! I’m a 23 year old with a BA in philosophy, and lord knows I’ve LOOKED for those elusive jobs he’s talking about… it isn’t that I’m allergic to money, but that employers seem to be allergic to US, the young work force. Your take on the issue is much closer to the mark –that fire and ice fellow seems like some 60-something corporate raider that thinks my generation is just poo-pooing full time work….
    Like you so aptly stated, that kind of work has hit a saturation point and, with people stalling retirement more and more, there are no openings for the people like me –hell, I never thought I’d be working in the arts & entertainment industry with my degree, but that’s where people are hiring!

  3. I had the same problems with the “Get A Job” post you did. His ideas are ridiculous. I like your post and, even though I’m creeping toward 40 and feeling that the time for making my artistic dream reality has (in large part) probably passed (but I’m doing what I can), I found your words encouraging. I certainly agree with you and would advise any young artists I know NOT to succumb to the pressure of doing something they hate (and, as you said, likely something they couldn’t even find) when they should be giving their attention to doing what they love to do and can do well. The more I think about it, the more I want to call call the “get a job” bloke an idiot. It makes me angry his post is “freshly pressed”, when it’s yours that should be!

  4. I read both “get a job” & your post. I agree with both of you actually. I have a BFA in visual design and worked in the “creative” field for a while. I was laid off. I had a 1 year old at the time who had a lot of medical problems. I felt compelled to try a different field. I wanted a job with stability. I wanted to be able to find a job quickly. So I went to nursing school. I have been a nurse for 20 years. I am also an artist. I really live in two different worlds. Because I have a job, I can focus on the kind of artwork I really love to do without the pressure of having to create work to sell or that appeals to the masses. If I have a show and I don’t do so well with selling my work, it isn’t so devastating because it isn’t how I make my living. Do I love, love, love, being a nurse? not really. But ironically I think it makes me a better artist.

    • That is true, but remember, you became a nurse 20 years ago. The situation 20 years ago is not the same today. I am a big supporter of thinking about your career realistically, and if that means taking on a job to support your art, just like you have, than I think that’s amazing.
      The issue I am trying to raise is that in today’s economy, stable jobs are hard to find. I believe the health care field is probably easier to get into because there is a demand, it’s still harder than 20 years ago to get a job in the field either way. And not everyone is cut out for it either.
      It’s not just the arts that are hard to crack into, it’s any field, so if you’re going to put in that much effort to get a job regardless, might as well be at something you want to do.

      • This is true…it was a long time ago .And It is definately not for everybody. I am fortunate that I found a job that I have interest in and can make a living. I also can check out when I am done with my shift and go into art mode. I agree it is very difficult to get a job in this economic climate. I have college age kids, one just finishing so I am nervous for her (she is in the science field). The truth of the matter is I may not having taken the road I took if I wan’t in the situation I was in at the time, sick baby & recent layoff etc. My response to my reality at the time was to persue something else as a way to make a living for me and my family. Everyone should do what’s right for them…and yes, do what you love!

  5. I agree with what someone else wrote. This should have been ‘freshly pressed’. Also, the employment outlook is really quite bleak for so many as the 9-5 jobs are just not there. With the recent Great Recession, many who were headed for retirement are hanging on to their jobs as long as they can because of the uncertain economic climate that is prevelant. The jobs that are available are usually through temp agencies and part time.

    This was great writing! Two thumbs up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s