Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have to work? You could spend all day writing or painting. And you’d have time to do the marketing stuff so that you could actually sell your art.
You wouldn’t have to cram your creative work into tiny time slots that have to fit around everything else. You could actually have the weekend off, relax and do something nice with your family.
Maybe you would finally have a breakthrough in terms of your talent and/or where people can find you.
I’m thinking about this a lot at the moment
This is a conundrum that I am going around at the moment. I’m going to publish my novel next year. Even though the manuscript is now finished there is a lot of work to do in terms of actually creating the book and then setting up the online marketing infrastructure. I also need to write some related articles and get myself as a guest on some blogs and podcasts. And of course, continue writing a sequel and Gentle Creative blogs.
It takes time. It takes energy. My day job, though part-time, has got busier recently and I have elderly parents whom I support. My head constantly feels full of ‘stuff’ and there isn’t much space for mental clarity.
For just a few months I’d love to devote myself totally to publishing my novel and give it the best shot that I can.
I’m not expecting to make a living from my book so I will be returning to my day-job type of work. Below are some of the factors I am thinking about as part of my decision. I don’t have the answers to all of them but they include some tough love questions that you will need to ask yourself if you want to make a similar leap.
How can you downsize your expenses?
Do you have debt? Would it would be wise to clear it first?
What other income streams do you have or could you develop prior to making the jump?
Do you have a spouse who could support you?
Could you go from working full-time to part-time to still keep some money coming in?
Are you prepared to make significant sacrifices? When Joanna Penn went full time in her Creative Penn business she moved house to downsize her expenses.
What are the longer-term financial ramifications? For me this could affect how much money, and comfort, I have in retirement.
How much time do you really need? When I first started thinking about this I came up with an arbitrary six months, but when I listed the jobs that needed doing and put an estimated time budget against this the result was less.
Attitude to your job
Is quitting your job really about making more art or do you just want to escape a job that you hate? In my Buddhist practice we are encouraged to not run from difficult situations but stay and create a victory before moving on.
Are you prepared to go back to your day job if it doesn’t work out? Don’t burn any bridges before you leave as your day job might end up being your saviour.
Do you really want to be a full-time artist or do you just like the idea of it? Who do you know who is doing this? What is their reality? How does it match up with your idyllic view of how wonderful it would be? The successful writers that I know work long hours and write on the weekend and when they are on vacation.
Work ethic, motivation and accountability
What is your work ethic like now for your creative project? Are you actually working as much as you can on it now? If so then you are likely to continue to make the most of your time if you ditched your job.
However, if you are waiting until you don’t have a job to develop a creative routine then you are taking a much bigger risk.
Who are you answerable to?
If you are in a relationship, what does your other half think? How will your decision affect them? They may have conditions that they need you to fulfil to be on board with your decision? Can you meet those conditions? Are they realistic?
How can you replace community and human contact? This is an overlooked benefit of having a job. It gives you regular structure and human contact. The so-called ‘water-cooler’ conversation sounds cheesy but you often spend more time with your work colleagues than anyone else in your life.
When you break away from this and start working on your home at work, lack of social contact can be very difficult. In my conversations with other creatives this is a topic that frequently comes up and is the most surprising downside of being a full-time artist.
If you’re going to go all in on your art then you will need to give yourself some social time and seek out the company of other artists, who understand the challenges of a creative life. However, you also need to balance this up against actually doing the work so that you are not constantly “out to lunch” and getting nothing done.
This is the biggy. How will you deal with fear? If you think fear, procrastination, the gremlin, the beast — whatever you like to call it — is bad now, wait until you’ve thrown all your eggs into your artistic basket.
This is why it is important to have an established creative routine already. If you regularly defeat fear now, you can probably continue to do so. But if you are not experienced in making art in the face of your own demons, then you might struggle when you have made it the main focus in your life.
Are you making money now from your art?
Do you have a market already for your art? Are you on social media, have an email list, regularly publish or exhibit?
I will give the last word on this to Olivia Spring whose books I have discovered recently. Olivia writes contemporary women’s fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her latest book, Love Offline, is a brilliant read about leaving behind dating apps and social media and actually getting out into the real world to meet people. She says:
“If you’re considering giving up your day job to do something more creative, I’d recommend sitting down and going through your finances. Think about how you’ll monetise your art. To be creative you need a clear and relaxed mind and the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills. For any new venture, it takes a while to establish yourself, so it’s good to start saving in advance to help get you through those initial stages. You could even take on a part-time job so you have some income to cover key overheads. I’d also suggest putting together a marketing plan outlining how you’ll promote your art to attract customers and ultimately generate sales.”
Only you can decide whether it is right for you to give up your day job. I have thought about it many times in recent years but have concluded that it wasn’t a wise move. I’m not sure what direction I will take at my current crossroads but you can rest assured that I will continue to write about it!
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