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Paying the Bills: How to Work to Support your Art Career without Squashing it

When you first start out as a professional artist, you shouldn't expect to support yourself solely on your artwork. Once you have a solid body of work you can apply for grants, but what if you are right at the beginning of your career and want to see where it takes you before you apply for a formal project grant? A part-time job that allows you to set aside time for your art will be ideal in the mean time.


A job with flexible hours is a huge bonus - being able to schedule yourself around art openings and studio visits is an advantage for your artistic side. While it's possible to keep up an art practice while also working full time, having a few days during the week to focus on your art also makes things easier. I have a part-time job in a restaurant to support myself while using the rest of my time doing writing jobs and gallery work, gaining experience to put toward my goal of working full-time in the arts.  A part-time job can help you maintain a good balance between the work that pays the bills right now, and the work that you’d ideally like to keep doing as a career down the road.


A photo of the interior of an art supply store

A lot of part-time work may not offer benefits in the traditional sense, but finding a workplace that has some perks is a great thing. A lot of new artists and art students hold jobs at art-supply stores – you can get an employee discount for the supplies, which that makes an artistic practice a bit easier on the wallet. If you stretch your own canvases, or tend to create a lot of sculptural, and installation works, a hardware store might be a good bet, for the same reason – you’ll save majorly on supplies.


If not those two options, there’s the tried and true cliché of working in a restaurant or café while you pursue your artistic career. It might be a joke that actors and artists become waitresses and baristas – but really, if you keep working hard in your artistic career, you can’t beat the perk of free (or discounted) food and drinks. No one wants to have to choose between art supplies and food. Keep a good focus on your artwork, and soon you'll be spending more and more time on it!


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About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. She is a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she studied Critical and Cultural Practices. She is passionate about talking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In her studio practice she is a painter, but she considers herself an art writer and educator foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises

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