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Balancing your Art with your Day Job

Posted by Heidi Monsant on


What really matters - fantasy apocalyptic illustration by artist Heidi Monsant

Do you struggle with balancing your day job and your creative practice? Most people do.
If you look at full time artists and envy the time they have to create art, there is one important thing to remember.

Unless they were born rich, at some point every single artist has had to balance working and making money with being creative.

The full time artists are those who were able to sustain their practise and grow it at the same time, all while working to pay the bills. 
So here are my tips on how to manage working a day job and building your creative business:

  • Set your priorities and boundaries, and stick to them. 


  • Disclaimer: I’m still not very good at this. 

    I currently work 4 days per week, with 3 days per week dedicated to my art practice. Unfortunately the nature of my job as a manager means that I often get interrupted in my painting days and need to deal with rostering and emergencies. 


    It is important to be able to set boundaries between your day job and your creative life. Most jobs will try to take more of your time and capitalise on your energy. This means you need to be very conscious of the impact that changes in your working hours or tasks will have on your art practice. 


    And if something important to you takes priority over your art practise, that’s ok. You don’t have to and shouldn’t sacrifice everything to make art. You are creative by nature, and you will come back to it when you can. 

  • Take advantage of having money to spend on your development


  • Your day job doesn’t just pay your rent and bills. While stability is necessary to be able to have the mindset to create, it also gives opportunities to buy art supplies and invest in courses. 
    I am very appreciative that my current day job pays well enough that I now have a drawer full of quality paints. For many years I only used paints from the 2 dollar store, and spent most of my spare cash on things that gave me temporary happiness, such as clothes, games and going out. 
    The buzz you get from buying new paints or canvases feeds directly into your inspiration, and is an investment in yourself as an artist. 
    The way I think about it is that investing in myself is a lot easier now than it will be when I’m a full time artist, sometime in the distant future.  

    Steal pockets of time


    How do you find time to paint when you’re out all the time at work? Find the time of the day when you are most inspired and productive, and dedicate that to your art.
    One of the worst things I have discovered about myself is that I’m a morning person. I know, ew. But I get up at 5am so that I have a couple of hours before work to paint, and that’s when I get my best work done. 
    I usually get my best ideas when I’m at work, which of course is when I can’t do anything about it. But I write them down whenever they come to me, so that I can explore them later. Then I can let them go for the day and focus on my work. 
    In the afternoons I am usually out of energy to paint, so I spend this time working on the admin side, such as updating my website, posting to Instagram and searching for exhibition opportunities. 

    So what’s the lesson here? 

    You can be an artist and have a day job, but it is definitely a grind. There will always be things competing with art for your time and energy.

    Being an artist is also emotionally taxing, as so much time is spent on self-reflection, so it’s important not to let your physical or mental health slide. Real Self-care will enable you to perform at your best and help to keep your boundaries solid. 
    Gosh, sounds pretty hard, right? 
    It definitely is, but living a creative life is so rewarding. I know that art is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and so I make it happen. 
    You can make it happen too. 

    Fantasy art by Heidi Monsant

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