Being an artist

Is there really a paid job out there for an artist?

Written by spunout


You may have always yearned to be an artist/singer/dancer, but are unsure of how to go about it and are mighty sick of everyone and their granny telling you that there is no money in it. Well then, how come David Hockney seems to earn a good living, eh? And what about all those dudes gracing Hotpress' cover every month? They sure don’t look poor. There’s got to be some dough in art!

This article aims to give you some tips and ideas on how to make a living in the arts plus the pros and cons of the industry.

Practical hints

  • It sounds so boring, but do pursue an education of some kind. You may never use Leaving Cert Geography sure, but it’s still best to get the Leaving Cert anyhow. Remember that true freedom comes from having choices.
  • Think outside the box. It's great that you want to be an artist, but remember that there are other creative careers available to you. Think of a general area rather than just a specific job. For example, if you dream of being a singer, you may find a career working in an orchestra, as a music researcher in a university or as a teacher. Or how about working in an arts council or in youth arts?
  • Think about freelancing on top of a part time or full time job. Yeah, it’s crap to crunch numbers all day if you really wanna spend your time writing children’s literature or painting. However, freelancing will build up your contacts so that eventually you may be able to leave that job you hate. Bear in mind that while you may hate your job, you probably don’t hate it as much as going hungry! Also, be aware that there probably is a day job out there that you can tolerate.
  • All aboard the intern ship! This is one of the best ways to get into an arts job. Certain art genres don’t offer internships, but it’s quite common in the field of writing, for example.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you never manage to practice your craft full-time. Just because you only perform music 15 hours a week instead of 40 doesn’t make you any less of an artist. Not at all!
  • Network, network, network. One of the problems with being an artist is that you are just that: an artist. You are not usually a born sales person or top-level marketing executive. However, in order to sell your work you will need to market it. Marketing your work can be a daunting task, particularly because many artists shy away from business or marketing. The best way to deal with this issue is to take a course of some kind in marketing for artists. Social networking can play a large role in your marketing strategy and there are many courses in social marketing also.


  • You get to do what your heart yearns for and what makes your soul sing. On a very basic level, most people want to spend their life doing work they enjoy.
  • There are endless opportunities in the creative field if things go well. One day you could find yourself having an exhibition at The Met in New York or The Louvre in Paris.
  • It’s generally quite an independent venture. If you don’t like being bossed around (by the boss!) or working with lots of people, then being an artist may be wonderful for you.
  • People will be extremely jealous of you. Including the fans that worship the ground you walk on!
  • You can get away with doing crazy stuff in the spirit of artistic eccentricity. Go nuts!
  • Fun. Enough said!


  • Both a pro and a con of art is that the pay scale is extremely wide. In other words, if you are only starting out or going through a bad spell, you might only be earning €200 a week from your art, whereas if you are at the top end of your art form, you could be earning €200,000 per week.
  • It can be lonely. Most artists spend quite a bit of time on their own creating and this can be difficult. You may particularly find it hard if you are the sociable type.
  • There is no guaranteed promotion or salary raise. In many jobs you can work your way upwards and usually get some type of pay rise on a fairly regular basis. As an artist, you are not guaranteed pay rises or increased sales, no matter how darn hard you work.
  • There are little to no benefits. Many jobs offer pension schemes, health insurance contributions and even stock options. However, since artists are usually independent contractors, none of this stuff is on offer.

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