It is not easy being a creative. “If only the world knew how great my art is, it would be a far better place to live in” (or something nice and pretentious like that). You have to juggle practising your craft to improve your content, whilst ensuring enough people (and the right people) have access to it. The stress caused through this process can at times be demoralising, leaving you with negative thoughts such as “What is the point?”. But we keep going. Why? Because we love what we do and it gives us context and meaning to our lives. However, there is one overriding obstacle that tends to be the biggest and most destructive barrier to any creatives' progression - The Day Job.
Being a full time creative.
Most of us have full time jobs. We work anything between 35-60 hours per week, in professions that are often unrelated to what, as creatives, we are truly passionate about. Many of you will sit at your desk day in day out, telling yourself that it is not forever and it is just a stop gap until your true passion really takes off. Then that job that was only meant to last 12 months - lasts 2 years, then 3 years, 4 years, 5 years and before you know it the company you work for have stuck a “team leader badge” on your chest to make you feel a little more important and you are left with the feeling of being trapped. You start working more hours because you are convinced you owe them for showing a little faith in your ability to complete one to ones and effectively communicate company KPI’s to your team. You start to have a little more money in your bank account and naturally that reflects in your expenditure. You build a life, get a husband or wife, have a child, get the house with a conservatory and as quick your eye blinks you are sat telling your 10 year old child “Don’t make the same mistakes as me. Follow your dreams!”
Sorry for being cynical. I am approaching 30 and having a cliche style breakdown. However, there is substance to the madness. I saw my own father live the life I have just described, and one of the few pearls of wisdom he gave to me was not to do the same. That is not to say I do not want the wife and kids part, I absolutely do. But I want to be able to build that world around a life I am also content in - and that means doing something I love - and I imagine most of you reading this do too.
Quit your job.
We are constantly told that job security is one of the most important things we can have in our adult life. Jobs are meant to give us independence. They are meant to liberate us and give us structure and stability in our life. The thought of actively walking away from all of that seems borderline crazy to many people. Irrational statements come out such as “what if you can’t find a job again?” or echos of 2008 still rain true to others “Quit your job? In the middle of a credit crunch!?”. The reality is, you will get another job and the recession is no longer relevant. It is as if we have become so scared of society's set way of living and the back lash of those closest to you, that we have lost all touch of the truth and seem to want to remain in this manufactured bubble of safety - when really all we are doing is limiting ourselves and preventing us from having a better and brighter future.
Of course, the biggest and actually only relevant question is - how do you afford to quit your job?”.
Save your money.
To be clear, and just to ensure no angry readers come and hunt me down, I am not saying quit your job immediately (unless you are in a position to do so). You should absolutely take your time in planning a secure and viable exit strategy. The first step to that is saving money.
It is no secret why this is important,just because you don’t have a job doesn’t mean you get to stop living. You will need to pay rent, buy food and all the other day to day things that are mandatory to your survival. So you need to be able to put some money aside each month so you have some capital behind you in order to keep doing those things. Here are some things to consider when saving money and working towards quitting your job.
What kind of life do I want? (Do you want to keep an extravagant way of living or happy to have a basic lifestyle).
Is where I am living too expensive? Do I need to move elsewhere to make this possible?
How long do I want to be able to quit my job for and how much will I need each month so I can reach this goal?
Once you have done your maths and reached your goal - it is time to quit your job.
Now some of you may be asking “why should I quit my job?”. The point is, that to be a full time creative and to do so for a long period of time - you need exactly that - time. Time that your day job takes away from you on a day to day basis. Many of you will apply for grants in order to see out a project. This no different, other than the fact you're bank rolling yourself. Once the finance side is taken care of you then have the time to spend on building your creative brand and fully enforce your strategy to start bringing in cash from it. My best friend is a writer. He applies this strategy of “working to save” so he can quit and then continue focusing on his craft. He has found it successful, more often than not the time he has taken to focus on himself has lead to commissions or grants that then allow him to go on longer - doing something he loves.
None of this makes sense if I do not practise what I preach. I am currently in the process of putting this strategy together. I won’t lie, it is not easy. Life can get in the way and sometimes I find myself not saving the amount I targeted for each month. I have minimised my expenditure. I keep my diet basic and healthy rather than expensive and convenient (spending money on eating out has always been my weakness). I live in London also, which is a struggle considering how expensive it can be. That said, it does allow me earn a salary that gives me the opportunity to live my life and save money at the time (it’s just every now and then I live it a little too much! Oops!).
Like most of you reading this, my craft is photography. My goal is to build a life where I earn full time from this. I hope to do so through being able to continue to create content like this on a regular basis for you to enjoy, selling prints through both my website and stock companies and building a career in event photography as another source of income. All this takes time, and whilst nothing is guaranteed, it would be extremely more difficult to make a reality if I continue to build this whilst giving a majority of my energy to something I have no passion for. I do not want to survive, but rather, thrive.
The real dream is be able to do this for a period of time whilst living outside of the UK. I do not want to regret not seeing the world. You only get one crack at this life, and I want to live in a way that makes me happy. So I intend to travel or at least spend some time living abroad, in a country where life is far less expensive and the quality of living is far better to what I am used to (I am thinking somewhere warm, with a good cultural diet).
Time to take action.
If you find yourself asking the same questions and having the same frustrations as me, then take action now and work towards a life where you can fully put your energy into what you care about. If the thought of having no job is too much, why not think about going part time first? Still freeing up more time to do the work you want to do. If you are genuine about your dreams then the thought of that “team leader badge” should scare the living hell out of you. Don’t get lost in what to you is a mediocre life. Find yourself and push through the barriers of societal opinions and pressure and make the life you dream of a reality.
Thank you for taking time to read this. On the topic of prints. I have recently updated my website and have a host of new prints that you can have on your wall, some of which have been exhibited in galleries (oh check me out) Go have a look here - Buy a print.
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