Ahh art jobs and finding the right niche. There are so many different options to choose, but how do you hone in on the best one to rock your world?
Lots of artists set high goals - like crazy high - and forget that it's actually a series of small steps that will get them to their dream lifestyle, career and income.
Today we'll talk about 8 questions to help you figure out which art market is a good fit for you - one that plays to your strengths so you can make money today and set up your dream career in the future.
WHY IS LANDING MY FIRST FEW ART JOBS SO HARD?
I went through this and it took a while, but I finally figured it out. Here's the thing. It's a struggle to balance making money AND building skills and connections at the same time. So the best thing to do? Find a way to do both at the same time.
With other careers you can 'sneak' into your first job and learn on the job, but it doesn’t work that way with visual art.
Think about it. Can you tell the difference between how good two lawyers or accountants are by just looking at them? You might have a hunch, but it’s difficult to say for sure.
Now - think about an artist. It’s extremely easy to see the difference in two artists by their portfolios. You literally have nothing to hide behind - you can either do it or not.
HERE’S A SOLUTION.
The skills needed for different markets vary wildly. Some need loose sketches while others prize technical precision and so on.
But you want to know a crazy side note? Some of the most famous artists started in completely different creative fields. My point here is that while your skills might not get you into your exact dream position now, they could work awesome if a different market (for now).
For example - concept art is a very popular market for aspiring artists these days, but the talent needed to compete are extremely high.
So while you working your butt off on your concept art abilities, you've also started to rock at Photoshop and you keep getting asked by friends to help them with their website design.
The solution for you and your bank account? Land a few design jobs and continue to work on your concept art abilities in your free time.
A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE TIME VERSUS MONEY DEBATE
No matter what happens in your life, make sure you are always taking small steps to reach your ultimate dream career.
Think about this. You want work as a concept artist for movies and games, but you know can’t land that job yet.
Instead, you’re managing day staff at a warehouse for $65,000 per year. At night, you work on your concept art.
Now, out of the blue, a friend sees your latest art piece on Facebook and recommends you to another friend. They are looking for a designer for their ad agency. The advertising job only pays $50,000 to start.
What do you do? Do you keep the $65,000 job working at the warehouse, or do you go for the $50,000 design job? (For more detailed information on salary expectations for 21 of the Top Art Market, check out this resource)
To me, this is a no brainer. With the warehouse job, while the pay is higher, you’re loosing time. Why? Because you only have a few hours at night work on your art skills – and you’re all by your lonesome.
With the design job - while it’s not your dream position of being a concept artist, will be doing design work.
But here is where this ad agency job shines. For 8 hours a day, you’ll be immersed in art and design. You’ll use the same tools you need to be a concept artist and you’ll be surrounded by other artists who will push your work forward. Plus, you’ll be building a network and reputation as a creative that will lead to your next job.
So cha ching. You’ll be speding your evenings working on your concept art AND you’re spending your days doing work that will advance your skills rapidly.
So - now let’s do another comparison…
· Warehouse job: $65,000/yr & 2 hours per day spent working on your own art in the evenings
· Design job: $50,000/yr & 8 hours per day spent working on art at your day job + 2 hours per day spent working on your own art in the evenings.
Can you see how spending so much more time on your art is going to lead you to your dream career faster? The design job isn’t the end of the road - it’s just the start. From there, you can advance to a new job or position that puts you closer to the career of a concept artist.
8 QUESTIONS GUARANTEED TO MAKE YOUR ART JOB SEARCH EASIER
The following seven questions will help you know yourself better so you can select the right position.
1. HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO MAKE EACH MONTH?
Listen, the fact is, you just can’t live without money – and your art career can pay all of your bills and then some.
And while your first few jobs might not have you rolling in the chaddah, remember, where you start your career isn’t where you will end up. You can and will develop more skills that pay higher salaries as you progress.
For now, be honest with yourself about what you need each month to be able to live AND do your art. Use this budget worksheet to start.
Knowing what your bottom line number is will help you find only the positions that can realistically let you live successfully.
2. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO WORK - FROM HOME OR IN AN OFFICE?
There’s big benefits to both. Mainly, this is a personal choice, but consider that your preference will help you determine which art market gives you the freedom you want – or the structure you need.
Working in a studio can be great for you – just as it could also be a complete nightmare for someone else. In my twenties, I loved working in an office where I could form friendships and have a sense of accomplishment that comes from working closely on projects.
These days, however, I love working from home where I can control my time and pick up my two small kids from school.
3. FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME?
Would part time or full time work be a better fit for you? Some art markets are full of part time or freelance opportunities, while others consist mostly of full time work. Whichever path you choose, know that there will be markets that are more suited to the type of working arrangement that works best for you.
4. ARE YOUR TECHNICAL SKILLS UP TO THE LEVEL THEY NEED TO BE?
Technical skills means your ability to produce artwork of a certain quality. The best way to evaluate your skills is to compare them to existing professional or published works.
When you take the professional work and compare the work you are doing - how do you stack up? Are you just as good, close to as good, or very far from it?
When you are self evaluating it's important to remember two key points:
- Your technical abilities actually only make up about 50% of how employable you are (the other 50% are your 'soft skills' which are discussed below)
- If you will be working as part of a team - what part of the creation process will you be responsible for? For example... if you wanted to create artwork for video games, there are several different people that will all work together to create the final object that you see in the game: concept, line art, modeler, texture artist, rigger and animator. What this means is that you have to compare your work to the appropriate work done at the specific stage in the production pipeline.
For example - if you would like to be an animator, it doesn’t make sense to compare your work to a texture artist or a storyboard artist. You need to compare 'apples to apples' and see how you stack up.
If you find that you aren’t yet creating work at the level for the market you would like to enter - that’s ok - depending on which direction you want to go with your career there are most likely several different art markets that you could go into where the skills you have today would be suitable, and you can get into that career while you work on improving towards your dream career.
5. WHAT SOFT SKILLS DO YOU POSSESS?
This may come as a shock - but how employable you are will be determined by skills that have nothing to do with your visual art skills. I call this set of skills 'soft' as opposed to the 'hard' skills that are represented in your portfolio.
These skills include but are not limited to: professionalism, attitude, work ethic, learning ability, writing skills, organization, being able to meet deadlines, social skills, and communication.
All of these actually play a large part in your success as an artist, so it’s important to remember to highlight these skills and consider them when you are selecting your art market.
For example - you may be obsessive about keeping things organized and believe it or not this is a highly sought after skill in many markets because the creative process is usually highly disorganized, and if you are the type of person that can come in and bring some order to that chaos you have a valuable skill that you can bring to the table.
6. HOW STRONG IS YOUR NETWORK?
While working on developing your skills it may be easy to forget that someone is going to have to hire you. Your portfolio is important, but it’s actually people that open the doors for you and present you with the opportunities you need to get started and advance within your creative career.
If you have friends who are already working in your target art market this can be a HUGE advantage for you because they can introduce you to people that can hire your or can even help you get an interview without having to compete with a bunch of other artists.
If you have friends who are working in particular art market - this may be a huge indicator to go after that market because you already know people who can help open the right doors for you.
7. WHICH POSITION SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Within each market there are several creative positions that need to be filled. By knowing yourself and knowing which positions exist within a market you can look out for opportunities that would be a perfect match for you. This will take some digging, but a good place to start is to look at the credits for creative projects as well as job postings for companies within your chosen market.
Example: Your art skills may not be that high, but because your organizational skills are off the charts you could still earn an important spot on a team by being in charge of their digital asset management. While this job wouldn’t have you in a creative role right now - you’d still be an important member of the creative team and once your skills are high enough to move into a role where you are making the art and you’ll already have the connections you need to make that career jump possible.
You will need to educate yourself on what positions are out there and would be a good fit for you, and if there’s one area I would encourage you to invest some time on - this is it. You could already have everything you need to be a perfect match for an open position at your dream company, but if you aren’t aware of the many different positions that are available you’ll never know.
SO WHICH IS THE RIGHT ART MARKET FOR YOU?
Don't worry - We got this!
Sometimes it's not that easy to figure out, but once you do it feels oh so sweet. There is nothing quite like having a clear direction.
SO HOW DO WE DO IT?
Make sure you know and are confident in what makes you special. What your creative super power is. If you are still unsure you should definitely check out this free post. You should also fill in this free onesheet. for yourself as it may open some doors you haven't discovered yet.
Take some time and do some research into the many different options that specifically fit what you do best. If your having some trouble figuring out what matches your strengths, check out this handy infographic
Now that you know you options it becomes really easy to figure out exactly who you need to contact. it may seem limiting at first, but having a small group of people that you need to impress rather than a shot in the dark can be incredibly powerful. If you want to get a little more info on each market, including expected salaries, examples and tips on breaking, we've done the work for you!! You can grab our guidebook at the link.
These resources should give you a clear idea of exactly what jobs fit your skills best and exactly what you need to break in. Ultimately you need to follow your heart and what fits you best. Once you know, You honestly will feel like you can conquer anything.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
So let's break it down. You now have the following
- What you want to do
- Who you need to impress
- What you need to impress them
Give yourself a hand! you've taken big steps to not only get closer to you goal, but also separate yourself from the crowd. Now in the words of Dory, "Just keep swimming!".
Now you've got some work ahead of you. Build that body of work and get it in front of those people!