I Quit My Corporate Job To Be an Artist and These are the Best Tips I Can Give
I quit my corporate job over a year ago and here are some things that I have learned along the way. I have made plenty of mistakes on this journey but they were indispensable to my growth—and absolutely necessary. Learning is beautiful benefit of this adventure and overall, it has been so fun embracing every bump and detour. My goal is to share my experience with you all and hope that these lessons will serve you well. Also, please do not hesitate to reach out for questions. We were never meant to do any of this alone.
BEFORE YOU START
- Allow yourself to start over again. If you are leaving the corporate world, consider it a great first act and you are now preparing for your second act.
- Understand that stability is an illusion. Know that even in a corporate job, the stability that it offers can be just as precarious; anyone is dispensable at any given time and always at the mercy of change.
I have experienced getting laid off during the financial crisis, mergers & acquisitions, job relocations, and now the pandemic. It helps to find peace in accepting change as a constant.
- Even if you make a plan, know that things may not go according to plan. Be cautious of pre-emptive panicking, which is thinking of every possible way your plan could go wrong. Instead, embrace the detours to steer you away from a scarcity mindset.
- There will never be the right time to make the jump. If you really want to do it, do it.
DEFINING YOU AS THE ARTIST
- If you have trouble finding your artistic voice, start with defining what you are not. When Michelangelo was sculpting David, he was essentially carving out what David wasn’t:
“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
- Make lists to get a better picture of your interests and you may start to see some patterns.
- Artists that you admire
- Drawing styles
- Things that are important to you (this helps define your values)
- Take the time learn what you really want. Otherwise, everything will feel like a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
- Keep your WHY close. Is your art what you want to create when you don’t have an audience and not worried about looking good?
- Start building your website.
- This is a monumental task and will confront you with how you want to put yourself out to the world.
- You will start defining your value proposition and what services you want to provide.
- When you write your ‘About Me’ section, you will ultimately be asking yourself who you are. I have written countless versions and it will probably be updated again.
- Get feedback but only from people who care about you and are interested in improving your work.
ART CREATION PROCESS & MINDSET
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Know that fear of not trying > fear of failure. Afraid that it will turn out bad? Great, do it anyway. Good ideas come from experience and experience comes from making mistakes.
Thomas Edison had bad ideas (e.g., that creepy talking doll). But we know him for his good ideas.
- Turn creating into a daily habit. Even if it’s drawing something small and quick. Design your own habit tracker to stay accountable to yourself. Allowing yourself to not stay true to your word can be a form of self-betrayal.
- Understand your energy flow throughout the day.
- Are you more creative in the mornings or evenings?
- Understand how much focused time you have in a day and utilize these times accordingly.
- Group mindless tasks back to back to conserve energy.
- Know that finding a new rhythm/routine takes time. It has taken me over a year to define a good working process for myself and it’s still evolving.
- Build adequate sleep into your schedule and listen to your body.
- Be careful with productivity propaganda. “Productivity propaganda promotes quantity at the expense of quality and work at the expense of health. Effort isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a path to meaningful goals. Like the tortoise that beats the hare, we get there faster if we rest along the way.” –Adam Grant
I was overworking and burning myself out. I realized it was due to me being an insecure overachiever obsessing over quantity.
- Work in time blocks and treat this focused time as sacred. I like to work in the mornings free from influence from friends, social media, and the news. Try not to start your day scrolling through your phone as this can immediately invite unwanted chaos at the start of your day.
- Have a notebook to write down all your random ideas to revisit later. Because random ideas will come up and this will help you minimize sudden energy shifts.
- Trust in the timing of your own growth. Each growth is unique.
Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.
- Stop trying to find your ‘style’ and just keep on making. Finding your style is not the goal. It’s the byproduct of practice.
- Not sure if this applies to everyone but do not work near the kitchen. I get distracted with wanting to do the dishes.
THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS
- You will have to wear a lot of hats. You will have to get good at marketing, finances, talking to people, etc. Unless you can afford to hire someone, be prepared to do a lot of administrative work. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you’re making art all the time.
- If your art is a business, attend tax and copyright workshops ASAP.
- Understand the differences between sole proprietorship, LLC, etc. and know how you can be protected.
- Keep track of your business expenses.
- Have a savings pot to fall back on. You will need it. You will not be flooded with work all the time. Even I’m not. Having this cushion will take the pressure off.
WORKING WITH CLIENTS
- A lot of people will not understand the art process and they will question why art is so expensive. It’s okay to get frustrated. Use this as an opportunity to educate them on the process and break down costs (time it takes to define vision and strategy, material cost, hours spent x hourly rate). This provides transparency and leads to mutual understanding. If prospective clients won’t value your time, don’t work with them.
- Do not start work with clients unless you clarify, clarify, clarify. Do not take “do whatever you want” and “I give you total creative freedom” as directions. Have the conversation about expectations, design parameters, goals, budget, and how to measure success.
- What the client is asking for isn’t necessarily what the client needs. You can challenge.
- It’s okay to say no.
- Don’t compare.
- Don’t do art for fame/likes. Seeking attention ruins creativity.
- Stop worrying about how many people follow you and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you.
- “You want hearts, not eyeballs…it’s true that life is all about ‘who you know.’ But who you know is largely dependent on who you are and what you do, and the people you know can’t do anything for you if you’re not doing good work.” – Taken from Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work
- It’s not about not caring what everyone thinks; it’s caring about what the RIGHT people will think about you.
- There is an endless supply of content being published every day by people who rarely practice what they preach. Don’t let the mirage of social media get to you.
SHOW YOURSELF COMPASSION
- Be patient with yourself and give the stars time to align.
- Talk nice to yourself like you would to your pet. The energy you have towards yourself is the energy you project to others.
- Struggling is part of the process and necessary for growth! I am uncomfortable every day, honestly.
- Goals will change and that’s okay. You will outgrow goals and ideas.
- If your friends are succeeding in their hustles, celebrate their victories as your own. Envy can destroy your inner peace.
- Whoever said to do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life is a liar. This is hard, hard work and it will be a bumpy ride. You got this.
This list will never be complete because I’m forever learning and evolving. However, if I were give one last advice, it would be to keep going. Get out of your own way and keep going. It will be worth it.
Please comment if you have anything you’d like to share!