Whether you fantasized about being a ballerina or a business mogul, you probably spent many childhood hours thinking about your dream job. As it turns out, according to a new JobSage survey, a sizable number of people dream about working in the arts. Following only tech and entertainment, arts and design made third place on the list of “dream industries” selected by American employees of varying ages.
While many people want to work in the art industry, however, not a lot of them actually achieve that goal. The tech industry has a respectable 46% success rate based on childhood dreams, but only 21% of those wanting to work in art and design made it as professionals. The good news, though, is that a career in art isn’t the least achievable dream either. Only 3% of would-be entertainment professionals and 2% of would-be writers made it in their dream industry.
So, while it will take a bit of effort, a splash of creativity, and a heap of persistence, a career in the arts may just be within reach. Whether you’re a current art student, a recent graduate, or a mid-life career changer, you may find the following tips useful for breaking into the art industry and making your dream job a reality.
1. NETWORK WHENEVER AND WHEREVER YOU CAN
Whether you’re looking for new ideas, commercial exposure, or just some periodic moral support, networking in the art world is a must. Connecting with other artists and professionals helps you grow your reputation and expand your reach exponentially. If you know enough people, your name will eventually come up. A museum director may consider you for a local exhibition. An artist friend who isn’t a good match for one venue may recommend you instead. A podcast host may call you up for an interview.
The potential benefits of networking with art professionals are nearly endless. Fortunately, so are the ways to connect with others in the modern world. You can choose to attend meetings of a local artist’s group, join a national organization online, stay active on social media, touch base with old art professors, mingle at industry events, or even just pop by to visit that small gallery in your neighborhood. And don’t forget to pay it forward: genuine relationships with others will take you farther than one-sided efforts to market yourself.
2. GET YOUR ART (AND YOURSELF) OUT THERE
If you didn’t love to create, you probably wouldn’t be an artist. However, creativity is only the first half of the equation. The second half involves getting your art in front of an audience. Luckily, we live in an era where that’s easier to do than ever before.
Thanks to the internet, social media, and even “old-fashioned” email, you can get your art out to the world without leaving your studio (you do eventually have to leave, however, but more on that later). Follow, join, and scour art-related media accounts, and then take action! Respond to open calls for new artists, participate in contests, sign up to show your work at fairs, and apply to exhibit at events. Not only will these occasions give you the chance to showcase your art, but you’ll likely make new connections in the art world as well.
If you can’t find enough existing opportunities that suit you, then create some! Contact community groups with their own neighborhood spaces to see if they contract local artists. If self-promotion isn’t your thing (yet), join forces with other artists to form your own group exhibition or event. Group ventures not only take the pressure off you, but may also draw a wider audience thanks to a variety of styles and skill sets.
3. DO MORE THAN JUST MAKE ART (BUT DO THAT TOO!)
While the studio may be your safe (and productive) space, the business side of a career in art will eventually call you to do other things. If you feel comfortable in front of others, try leading workshops at your local recreation center, teaching classes with an area artists’ guild, or giving a talk either in person or online. Don’t forget to make yourself accessible afterwards—chit chat with attendees or answer questions at the end of your event.
If you’d rather let your art do the talking, look into expanding your options by experimenting with joint projects with other artists, accepting commission work, selling prints or other merchandise, or joining print-on-demand sites. Remember to do your research up front with these strategies to make sure that the investment in time (and sometimes money) will be worth it to you in the end.
4. MAKE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE KNOWN
While its importance depends partly on your particular audience and medium, there’s no doubting the power of social media. It takes effort to open and maintain effective accounts, but you may find that a strong social media presence helps you implement all of the suggestions above. Social media can act as a one-stop artist’s shop, allowing you to showcase your work, market yourself, network in the community (and across the globe), announce upcoming events, and sell merchandise all in one place.
Which platform you choose is mostly up to you. While the visual nature of Instagram lends itself most naturally to artists, you may also have accounts on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, or all of the above. Whichever channel you choose (including your own website), make sure to have a professional presence, post/update consistently, and engage with your followers. Perhaps the only thing worse than having no online presence is having one that makes people question your professionalism, dedication to your audience, or even whether you are still in business.
5. GET READY!
As they say, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” While working to expand your opportunities in the art industry, make sure you’re prepared to take advantage of them when they arrive. Focus on honing your artistic vision and style, putting together a strong body of work (and professional portfolio), and polishing your online presence. It never hurts to have a stack of business cards and a short elevator speech at the ready.
MAKE YOUR DREAM JOB A REALITY
While some artists enjoy the more commercial and practical aspects of marketing their work, others find it a chore that takes time away from their craft. If the latter describes you, it may help to think of the business angle of your art as just another venue for your creativity.
You may discover that you have another skill that’s sought after in the arts industry, such as graphic design or digital marketing. If not, then hopefully these tips will help you make it in the art world until you can afford to hire your own business manager!
Author Bio: Kelli Mason has been a leader in workplace inclusion throughout her career. As a Stanford Law student and Silicon Valley-based corporate attorney, she led Building a Better Legal Profession, a nonprofit that encouraged top law firms to increase diversity and pro bono participation. Kelli is a co-founder of JobSage, an employer review platform focused on what matters most to today’s jobseekers and professionals.