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How to Balance an Art Business with a Full-Time Job


Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.

—Thomas Merton

The question of how to balance an art business and a full-time job comes up frequently, which is no surprise. That’s because it’s a complex problem that vexes creative people, especially those stuck in jobs they don’t like. Balance is attainable with the proper perspective and plans to maintain it.

Recently, a Quora user requested me to answer this question:

How do I balance a full-time job and building art portfolios? I finished studying illustration diploma, and I’m working as a storekeeper for about 8 hours each day.

Live Your Best Artist's LIfe
Live Your Best Artist’s LIfe

I answered with the following more in-depth thoughts to benefit my blog readers. I trust you will find them helpful. Please scroll to the bottom and add your comments or questions.  

Work/Life Balance Is Important.

Passion is what makes creativity possible. It’s about balancing time spent on your day job with time for working on projects you are passionate about.

Creativity takes time and practice. You don’t need eight hours a day to create art, but you do need the right amount of energy, focus, and motivation to be a creator in the time you have available.

When you have a stable outside art income, you’ll feel less pressure to produce artworks designed to sell to pay bills. And if you don’t feel pressured, you’ll be more likely to relax and enjoy your creativity. With bills to pay and replenishing supplies ongoing, your full-time work performs a critical role in funding your creative career.

The Problem with Making a Career Out of Your Hobby.

For most people I know, including artists, jobs and careers are not about getting rich but making enough money to live a life one loves to live. Being wealthy has its perks, and few would turn them down but they won’t trade their comfortable lifestyle for what it takes to attain such wealth. Nothing’s free, including getting rich.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Being naturally gifted is a blessing and an advantage, but living up to your talent still requires hard work to sustain making a living from your gifts. Getting desirable results always takes time and effort.

The word hobby is not a pejorative term. It simply means one chooses to spend time on an activity as a pastime, instead of a profession. It’s a lifestyle choice that many make and feeds into one of my guiding bits of wisdom for artists, which is this:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

— Barney Davey

I’ve known countless artists, musicians, writers, and poets who are quite content to create their art without worrying about how to get it to market. Fortunately, they are not in it for the money. Many dislike turning a hobby into a business because they know it would ruin why they love to do the work. But, for them, it’s about expressing themselves creatively without the burden of turning it into a career.  

Why It’s Okay to Keep Your Full-Time Job.

For every artist making a full-time living from the fruits of their artistic labor, I bet there are ten thousand who are not. A percentage of them struggle with how to crossover to full-time, which may be why you are reading this post. But a larger percentage are artists working at a level that suits their lifestyle and business is in the mix but as needed versus all-in. And I’d also bet more are content with things that way than those who aren’t. It’s okay to be okay with your job and your art. That’s pretty good for many and enviable for others.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Let me tell you; there are no bad choices. So do what is right for you, and don’t worry about what other people think. Unless they support you as a patron, they have no stake in your life and career, so feel free to ignore their opinions.

If your job supports your lifestyle and leaves you adequate time and energy to pursue your art creation endeavors, you may have the best of both worlds. A career with steady pay and benefits and a side hustle art business that makes you happy and occasionally brings in extra income is an excellent choice for some.

Go Full-Time If That Is Your Dream.

Suppose you are determined to become a professional artist who pays the bill from the sale of your art; good for you. You’ll join the ranks of thousands of artists actively engaged in creating art and selling it profitably at a pace that pays the bills and then some. It’s not easy, but anything worth doing never is.

To make it as a full-time artist requires taking risks, and embracing mistakes and failures as stepping stones to experience and success. Thriving pro artists take constructive criticism well while ignoring misguided and mean comments. Ambitious artists are curious. They are eager to learn how to make their art better and equally desirous of discovering new and better ways to improve their art business.

Full-time artists are at peace knowing they make art for the marketplace. They don’t see having success in business as a concession to their creativity but rather a challenge to use their creativity to make art they love that people love to buy.

Always Start With Your Why.

Why are you creating art portfolios, and what do you want to happen to your art after making it? You don’t want to climb the ladder of success only to find it’s leaning on the wrong wall. If you waffle on your why and let others choose your journey, that can happen. If your answer is selling your art, go further. Will it become a full-time business, a part-time side hustle, or a passionate hobby? The answer is not locked, but it simplifies your choices, which is good.

Once you are clear in your heart and mind about your purpose for making art — and remember there are no wrong decisions. It’s your life, and you can choose how to live it. So, learn to tune out noise and distractions that pull you in many directions. It’s critical to understand that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A talented musician doesn’t have to pursue music as a profession even though they could, and the same for you.

Prioritize and Organize to Get Control of Your Creative Time.

Now that you have a firm grip on your why, it’s time to prioritize and organize and figure out what is important to you and how much time you need each day or week to progress your goals. Unless you are devoted to your full-time career, you should prioritize your art. Don’t let anything distract you from your art. Set aside specific hours to work on your craft. Make sure you block out outside distractions during those hours.

First, look at your schedule and identify available dedicated hours for your art. Second, gather the plans of everyone who demands your time—family members, job, church, etc. Third, find the time you are in the least demand and create an art creation schedule in the available hours. Finally, let all your constituents know your plan by publishing it so they can see it. Then explain what you are doing and why and ask them to help you maintain the schedule and be an encourager and enabler. Offer to return the favor to them.

Manage Your Perfectionism.

Perfectionism is often about fear. When we’re afraid of something, we want to avoid it. We try to make sure that we never fail. We want to make sure that our work is perfect. But this means we’ll never begin anything. So, if you’re going to create art, you need to be willing to take risks. It would be best if you were willing to fail. Because without risk, there is no reward. And without compensation, you won’t continue creating. So I recommend you create rituals for yourself before you begin working. This ritual could be anything, but I’d recommend doing something that triggers your hands or fingers to do the work. Wedge some clay, wash some dishes, etc.

How to Balance an Art Business and Live Your Life Relentlessly.

Know what you want and what you are willing to trade-off. Being an artist may be the way you most describe yourself, but life is more complex. The more confident you are about knowing what you want is the key to maintaining your art-life dream-work balance. Seeing your marketing improve as you personalize it based on your knowledge of yourself and your buyers and tribe adds balance.

If you are serious about upping your art business, consider joining the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) Project. It’s a worldwide community of artists led by me. We work on two things. 1) How to live your best artist’s life, and 2) How to develop an art marketing strategy that supports your choices for how you want to get your work to market. The Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) is $4.99 per month with no contract. I keep the price low to make it affordable no matter where you live or your income. Good luck.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.



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