We all have times, some more than others, when our art does not pay the bills.
For some, the side job is actually a second career. Others see this job as something they have to do to pay the bills, but would quit immediately if their art practice generated enough money to sustain them, or if they found another opportunity that fit in with their art career.
Remind yourself every day, every hour if you have to, that the job is a side job.
Keep a photo of yourself onstage or in the studio, or one of your band or your instrument, on your desk or in your locker at your side job. Tell partners, family, and friends that you are off to your side job when you leave for work. Do something related to your art during breaks, even if all you have is ten minutes to look up some song lyrics on your phone. You don’t have to follow every customer interaction by chanting,“But I’m really a painter!” or “I’d rather be acting,” but do remind yourself that you are an artist with a side job, not a cashier or dish washer or greeter or online tutor who dabbles in art.
Make time for your art.
While you’re telling yourself you’re an artist, don’t forget to actually be one. Get up earlier, go to bed later, or give up some time playing video games, watching tv, shopping, or visiting friends to work on your art. Plan as little or as much as you need, just make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to get something done. Scheduling two minutes before you dash out the door, so you only have time to pick up your instrument or stare at a page of poetry isn’t likely to accomplish much. Give yourself time to at least practice a single song or make progress on a draft of one poem.
Never tell the employer their job is a “side job” or “side gig” to you.
In decades past, getting a side job or first job was seen as admirable. McDonald’s even promoted the idea that they were the place for teens to get their first job and then go on to other things with a commercial that captioned pictures of employees with “Future….and another job title.” You may find a local business or two that still supports their employees in their endeavors, and is happy to be a stepping stone for someone’s career.
But overall, everybody is offended by everything these days. And it’s not always liberals, or other people in groups others most enjoy labeling “snowflakes.” Right-wing corporate types can be startlingly delicate, and capable of melting into a puddle at the very suggestion that “their” company is not the center of their employees’ lives. Just play along while you’re there. It will make things go smoother, and conserve your energy for the work that really matters to you.
“This is financing my art” is a great reminder for those days you just want to walk out the door and never look back.
The side job might have nothing to do with your career in the arts, but the coffee you drink when you wake up the morning of rehearsal does. The shower you take when you’re done painting or sculpting does. And if you have a side job to pay for rent, utilities, and groceries, then that side job is making all those things possible.
Make a realistic exit plan.
If your side job is not a second career, you probably want to quit at some point. Set that point as a goal. Decide you want to be prepared to resign from your job in six months, or one year, or a year and a half. Then you can determine what you need to do to meet that goal. If you decide to save up money, you will want to have about a year’s worth of living expenses before you quit your job. Most people will look for a better job. Indeed dot com is the best site to find job listings. It may be tempting to sign up for several job sites, but everything there will be listed on Indeed.
Take advantage of the side job while you’re there.
It is wrong to steal, but there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of employee discounts to stock up on supplies for your art. Jobs that keep you on your feet and moving around for hours at a time may allow you to eliminate your gym membership. Check with your employer first, but with their okay, mention your performances or shows to customers or clients.
Avoid falling for the lines in multilevel marketing
People with side gigs are prime targets for MLM recruiters. Is waiting tables taking too much time away from your painting? You could make the money to pay your bills in two hours if you just sign up to sell home air purifiers! Need a job you can work in around band rehearsals, studio time, and performances? Sign up to sell makeup under me, and you can have it all, plus a great new look for onstage! Up too late writing that novel to make it to a job that starts at eight or nine in the morning? Sell candles in your spare time and start whenever you want! Sure. More like, hand over a huge chunk of money, get pressured into working full-time hours, and make a few dollars, if that. Don’t give in. If you really like an MLM product, sell it for the discount and some spending money, but don’t give up even the worst day job for anything in direct sales.