Should I Quit My Job?
The Allure of Being a Full Time Artist
Should I quit my job? Trust me. Just like every artist out there, I too have heard the siren’s call. The allure of being a full time artist. It’s something that I can feel so strongly that sometimes it’s beyond vivid. As in, I’ll actually feel it in my bones what it would be like to wake up at my leisure, put on a pot of coffee, and settle in to work on my latest project while still in my PJ’s. It’s so vivid that I can even feel what it would be like during different seasons. I literally feel how satisfying it would be to not have to wake up and brave traffic on a rainy day or one that will be blazing hot, but rather work quietly from the comfort of my own home. It’s a rather romantic idea, isn’t it? Should I quit my job? You have no idea how much I want to.
Or maybe you do.
When you consider the question, “Should I quit my job to be a full time artist?” the real underlying question is…is it feasible? As wonderful as it sounds, is it realistic? Keep in mind that what may be for one, won’t necessarily work for another.
Before you storm into your boss’ office and utter those two very final words (and trust me, they are final…it’s not like you can say, ‘Oops! Just kidding!), there are a few things your should consider carefully.
Three Things to Consider
- Responsibilities. Now, I’m not talking about the kind you can finish and be done with until next week, like the laundry. I’m talking about the set in stone ones, like raising a child. If it was just you, then maybe it’s possible to sleep on someone’s couch or in a converted garage. But if you have parental responsibilities or something of equally monumental importance, then maybe you should consider more carefully. In fact, this one may decide it all for you.
I had quite a few artist friends back in the day who banded together and lived in a commune-style arrangement. They’d find a house for rent and cram as many people in there as possible (unbeknownst to the owner). Each of the three bedrooms housed two people and the front room couch always had someone sleeping in it. None of them had major responsibilities other than themselves and scraping together their share of the rent and utilities for the month.
And of course, aside from any children, if you have bills, a mortgage, student loans, car loans, etc., do you have a plan for maintaining your payments and keeping things current?
- Creature comforts. Other than a place to sleep and a roof over their heads, my friends from the example above, had very little in terms of creature comforts. There wasn’t a lot of money. There certainly wasn’t a lot of privacy. And they mostly survived on value meals and Top Ramen. For them, it worked. They were happy to have what they had because they were free to work at their various forms of art at their leisure. Personally, I couldn’t have pulled that one off. I would have gone insane just bumping into people every time I turned around.
Seriously consider…do you need your own space as I do? Can you get along without cable TV or wifi? Are you the type that enjoys going out and partying or dining at fancy restaurants? Maybe you’re the trendy type who has to have the latest in fashion, or can you do the thrift store thing without batting an eye? Are you making payments on a car? You may have to sell it to cut costs, once you consider maintenance, insurance, and gas. Are you alright with buying a used one that you can pay off (as long as it runs) or with public transportation? Be very clear about how much you’re willing to do without.
- Risks. In this day and age, you never know what might happen. It’s a known fact that people text while driving. Buses run red lights. The Zika virus is spreading. People just get sick sometimes. Or perhaps they get the occasional cavity. If you’re fortunate to have a 9-5 that gives you medical and dental insurance, are you willing to take the risk of giving that up? Even if you’re young and healthy, accidents happen. Think long and hard about this one.
I think any reputable financial advisor out there would recommend you not leaving your job unless you’re already earning an income from your artwork equal to your gross income from your job. They would also recommend having at least three months’ worth of income (some sources say a whole year or more) saved up for emergencies (or dry spells when sales or commissions are slow). Also, consider any expenses as an artist…supplies, printing costs, advertising, etc. Obviously, if you’re married, this would be something you’d have to discuss with your spouse. Any new business (including art) takes a while to become stable, sometimes up to several years. You have to make a name for yourself after all, right? Is your spouse willing to take a chance with you and perhaps be the sole income-earner during that time?
What Are Your Limits?
For some people though, throwing caution to the wind and just diving in is what they thrive on. Necessity literally becomes the source of inspiration. Most of the people I’m aware of who have done this have been wildly successful. But, they had no major responsibilities at the time they said adios to their desk jobs and they were all quite familiar with living on a wing and a prayer. And, they had the drive and personality type to pull it off.
But that kind of risk taking is not for everyone. Be very honest and realistic here. Each person is different and has different tolerances. Creature comforts are one thing, but basic day-to-day, hard-core necessities are another altogether. It might help to create a list that has your creature comforts that you can do without. Maybe create another list that has all of the things you absolutely must have…food, shelter, and medical insurance, for example.
Once you have your lists, you can look at them side by side and determine what you can stomach and what you’d have a hard time with. And remember, this is a highly personal decision (unless you have children, which changes things). But my point is, don’t let anyone call you crazy or judge you for wanting to live your passion. Life is too short, after all. On the flip side of that coin, don’t let other artists call you a sellout for going the more secure route. Trust me, there are quite a few artists (both visual and performing) who get into heated debates about this. You can read more about my personal thoughts on this in a previous post, Follow Your Passions.
One Way or Another, It Is Possible!
Frankly, there’s a part of me that envies the folks that can just drop everything and pour themselves into their art. But personally, I need that safety net. I have bills and other responsibilities that I cannot just abandon. That’s not to say that I have nothing in the works though. For those of you like me, just because you can’t up and quit your job doesn’t mean you have to kiss your dreams goodbye on being a successful artist. It’ll just take a bit more planning is all.
If your final decision is to quit and take your chances on your talents, then stayed tuned for next week’s post in which I’ll cover five tips on leaving your job on the very best terms possible. No matter what happens, you never want to burn any bridges. And I’m not implying that you might have to ask for your old job back (which may or may not happen). But even if you succeed as an artist doing your various artist things, I don’t think anyone would argue that we need connections. The more, the better. Your old job might seem totally unrelated to anything in your artistic world. But people know people and if you leave on good terms, you never know who your name might get passed along to. So, stay tuned for Five Tips on Quitting Your Job on Good Terms!