Help Wanted: Excellent pay and benefits. Must be able to spend 40 hours per week painting dreams, making shapes with clay, dancing in circles, arranging words in poetic forms, staring off into space or other artistic-looking behavior. Six months vacation twice a year.
Have you seen that ad? No you haven't. And you won't. Artists don't get hired. When you see your subject on a “Worst Paying College Majors” list, it means you. Starving artists are real things. Why do artists finally get famous after they're dead? Because no one needs to pay them anymore.
Tough but true. If you're a stubborn idealist insisting on painting, sculpting, writing, dancing, composing, singing or drawing through college, you probably will have to find a “real job” after graduation.
Good News: You Can be an Artist Who Also Makes Money
But earning money isn't a bad thing. Having cash won't spoil you as an artist. Being stressed over bills will. When school is over, you will have to buy your own paint. You'll have to purchase your own desk. They won't let you sit in the coffee shop all day sketching on napkins. You'll have to buy something.
What's the difference between an artist who never sells and one that is successful? A business plan. Marketing. Financial wisdom. Creative strategy.
Having a steady income will free you as an artist. Imagine that you own your own creative space. When you make something, you sell it for a good price. Around town and across the globe, people know who you are. How inspiring is that? Muses have to eat, too.
Success doesn't just happen. It's built. Whether you're selling shoes, sprockets, financial services or your own art, you need to know business. Go ahead and be an artist. Be joyful. Just learn how to sell yourself successfully or you'll end up with your major as a hobby instead of a career.
Every artist is a business, with the artist as CEO and the product. So take the chance in college to learn how to run your business.
If You Have an "Unpractical" Major, Choose a Minor in Something Practical
Here's a piece of advice from an aspiring writer and poet: major in art, but minor in business. You can still pursue your dreams yet learn practical technical skills at the same time that will keep you afloat after college.
Accounting and Finance will teach you what to do with a dollar if you ever earn one. Lots of people make money, but only some use it smartly. The difference between success and bankruptcy, retirement and working forever, is financial planning and responsibility. You can be creative and fiscally smart at the same time.
Marketing will show you how to advertise yourself. You can be a well-known brand. When you speak, you'll say the right things and be heard. Don't write something brilliant then hide it under a basket. Illuminate what you've done so your customers will know to buy it.
Business Administration will tell you how to structure and run your business. Build up a team of support staff. Get a crew to handle the stuff you don't want to so you can be free to shine on, you crazy diamond.
Entrepreneurship will give you business creativity. You'll do it like it's never been done before, and you'll do it successfully. Art is not easy to sell. An art business is not easy to operate. Use your unique way of thinking to thrive in unimagineable ways.
I'm not saying you have to be a doctor, a lawyer, an executive or an accountant. You're not built that way. Be you and never stop, but don't step into the real world totally unprepared. Being a rich artist is no crime.
I said artists are destined to starve. Prove me wrong. Be a skilled artist and a smart business person. Sell a piece for $77.9 million like Damien Hirst. Read a poem at a president's inauguration like Maya Angelou. But you won't get there on talent alone.