I speak from the experience of the past four months, and it is more than enough for me to see the difference between going full-time on the creative work, and doing it part-time while the dayjob dominated.
I did not even deliberately set out to do it. I was led into it, in a way, because for the first time in the past six years of freelancing, the dayjob projects did not come "on time" as they usually did. It is possible I have been wishing them away secretly while checking if my bank account can still hold out for a few more months. I wanted to dive deep into my art-making one hundred percent without the distraction of project follow-ups and emails and document-writing and workdata-processing. Having to split my brain to accommodate the kind of thinking that a dayjob requires takes its toll at some point - my creative work progress becomes slow and sometimes even shallow. I could not establish a rhythm, and the stress of being "on-call" takes out half the joy in the whole process.
But in the past four months I discovered what it was like to be full-time as an artist.
First of all, I realised that if I wanted to keep this state of creative living as long as possible, I have to start putting my work out there and making sales. And I realised it had to be now, not later. Not after all the fantastic grandiose plans I imagined happening as I "launched" myself officially with an exhibit and even a little party. Now.
I have done some casual online selling before, in small short bursts. But they never looked nor felt serious enough. It looked and felt more like someone having a hobby and deciding on a whim to sell some of the things that came out of that hobby.
No, it had to look and feel like it is a serious matter. Less like a business though, and more as a passionate commitment that also happens to be a means to gain income. A business is about profit and targeting to make more of it each year. I just want to make enough to sustain me through every day, every week, every month, with a little extra to spare for little luxuries. I have simplified my life in the past years in such a way that happiness comes easier to me, because it relies on so little.
On the other hand, if I hoped to price my pieces in a way that would actually help sustain a reasonably decent life then I better start becoming the artist for real. Now. Embrace it. Claim it. Live it.
So I got started sorting through my "inventory" which, at that time, was just really a pile of stuff. Then I threw all caution to the wind and built my webpage shop -- couching its existence within the definition of a "trial run" because that is what it is. I can pull it down anytime, or extend its life. (I still needed an escape hatch.)
I understood though that no one would likely purchase any of my special works (currently in the Enchanted Series) at the prices proper to them. So I came up with and worked hard on a series of simple florals that were quicker to "produce" but which still gave me joy to make. It also offered me the opportunity to explore a style I have been wanting to try.
That shop moved for a while and then slowed down. I thought of other ways to getting my art out there without risking too much of my integrity as an artist, and without stretching myself too thin as well. And I remembered Society6 which has been recommended by one of the many artists I follow in one of the social media sites.
Hence I opened shop in Society6, and did a serious promotion of the two shops, alternately. I made myself more visible across all my social media sites. I shared my process. I made my posts more inspiring. The combination of the two shops, and the thoughtful effort I poured into putting them out there, began catching attention. Then the purchases, and thus the commissions, started to trickle in.
I have been working 8-12 hours a day, including weekends, to set it all up and keep it all working. But because I deeply love the work there was no resistance, no pain, no resentment. The lack of money is still a constant worry but my faith and love for the art-making was such that I believed it capable of provoking miracles.
"The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.
The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.
The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning "to love". The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline..."
(The War of Art)
Here is a list of tasks I need to do as part of the whole creative practice:
And I do it all by myself. It has been a solo act for me for many things, and this one's no exception. I do get a lot of love, strength, and support from my creative tribe and those count for a LOT. In fact, I don't think I would have gone this far this soon without them.
And yes those tasks could easily fill up a day and spill over into the whole week and even into a whole month. Writing this blog post, for instance has already taken me more than an hour at the very least (on the side I attend to other normal human things like coffee and feeding the cat and tending to a few household matters).
There is REAL WORK in an artist's life. The main difference with most other work is that as an artist I love this work, and I cannot imagine myself ever quitting, just like how my grandma kept on making her handicrafts until the day she passed away. My work as an artist, the tasks I do for hours every day are as VALID as any work with a monthly paycheck. They are as valid as the freelance dayjob work that brings in the big paycheck. I know this, despite my occasional doubts and the nagging of guilt for not using my skills in a more lucrative endeavour.
Miracles happen. Magic happens.