Do you have a thing? That thing that you love doing alongside your day job? Keep doing it because it could well blossom into your main gig.
I know this because this is absolutely how ipaintdogs came about.
Having been a jobbing artist for years, my business model was about making work, then selling it via galleries, my website or at exhibitions.
I can’t tell you how hard that is. Standing by your part of the wall whilst people walk past, sometimes stopping, other times not can be soul-crushing - it can also be the making of you.
When students or those thinking about a career change contact me for advice, my first question is if they have retail skills? Did they work in a restaurant waiting tables? Bookshop or ANY role that was customer facing - ever? If not, my advice is always to go and find something that builds that retail experience - spend at least 6 months doing something customer facing, part-time is fine, it’s the experience that reaps rewards.
This valuable learning curve teaches you how to sell, to make sales and aftercare too.
Because you need to be able to sell your work - this is essential.
You can, of course, learn on the job, but if you do have retail skills - even if collected 100 years ago in your first job, you will be far ahead of the crowd.
Life changes and fast. The recession taught me that, we had a harsh and brutal time. My key to survival was adapting what I was doing to what was needed locally to me. I began art classes for children, summer workshops and after-school art clubs - where I thought there might be an opening for my art sessions, I organised and ran them. I named this business ‘Artypops’ and it saw us through a tough 5 years.
Alongside negotiating something (your paid work) that fills a demand (real wages) you HAVE to keep making your thing. In my case it was my animal drawings and art prints, in your case it might be making candles, learning coaching skills or writing a book. Continuing your own work builds stock and plenty of it to then go on and sell when the time comes and it does.
Today I have a successful dog painting business. This was my side hustle. I loved to draw animals in ink, drypoint print and other mediums. Last November, less than a year ago I painted my own dog Barney having completed a course online in animal portraiture, my clients saw it and asked me to paint theirs, then other clients, then family members of my clients and friends too.
ipaintdogs was born of that. It’s blossomed wildly over the past 11 months and this ‘thing’ (painting and drawing animals) is now square on my main business. My side hustle that I practised for years is now here and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
If you are fitting tyres for a living - or serving tea at your local cafe, it’s fine. Continue your thing on the side as much as you can, no matter what as it will take over when you least expect it.
Did you side thing become your main one? I’d love to know..
Sam Barnes has been a practising artist for 25 years. Throughout her career she has had her own gallery, worked with hundreds of artists in making and marketing their own works and exhibited her own extensively. Her work has been successfully published & licensed many times. Sam is passionate about artists, makers and creatives earning a decent living from what they do. Our world needs new and beautiful things and artists deserve liveable incomes. Those two things are possible. Sam writes from her first hand experience and occasionally works 1:1 with others.
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Thanks to Anna Sullivan of Unsplash for this great photograph.