8 Surprising Benefits of Pursuing a Creative Career

by | May 14, 2013 | Career Design | 19 comments

Editor’s note: guest post by Leanne Regalla

D o you ever feel like you’re selling your creative soul for a measly paycheck in a “safe” job?

Maybe you never finished writing your book because you just knew you couldn’t pay the bills with it. Or you set aside playing that instrument when it came time to start really making a living. You think you could have gone farther with your photography, but you know that you’d just end up investing way more money on the equipment than you’d ever make from it.

Most of us have a story like this.

After all, art is a lot of work. It requires putting yourself out there and being open to criticism. Why go through all that hassle when (conventional wisdom says) artists are always poor and struggling?

My Unexpected Quest

I thought the same things many years ago, when I started learning music as an adult. I knew in my gut my job wasn’t the best fit, but it was pretty good and I thought it was too late to change careers. I immersed myself in music simply because I loved it. Honestly, I didn’t expect any returns at all and certainly not financial ones.

I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Since I took that first step, I’ve successfully started part-time careers in teaching music, writing songs and performing, coaching, and most recently, blogging. I also finally got to the point where the income I generate from these activities could replace my full-time income.

It took time. I made mistakes. I invested a great deal of time and money and wasted some too. But over time the benefits far outweighed the costs, and many opportunities came from sources I never anticipated.

You don’t have to feel trapped. You have many more options than you realize.

The surprising truth is that opportunities pop up all over once you get started. Here are just a few examples of the benefits I’ve experienced from pursuing a creative career, and you could too.

1. Tax benefits of creative work

Once you start treating your hobby as a business, you can write off many of the expenses you incur in the course of doing work you love. That includes equipment, supplies, networking lunches, training, travel, and much more.

I was able to write off most of my lessons, workshop and course fees, materials, and related travel expenses while I learned the ropes in new industries and applied what I learned in my businesses.

Think of it as a cash-back bonus for being the artist you already are and doing what you love.

2. Creativity spillovers into other areas

Creativity is really a way of life. It doesn’t stay confined to your studio when you are writing, designing, sculpting, or marketing. Your ideas, inventive solutions to problems, growing resume of experiences, and newly acquired skills flow over into all areas of your life. Everything you do benefits.

Let’s say you become a whiz at writing newsletters to market your wares. That skill can easily carry over into your day job and increase your value to your current employer. You could also help peers with your new knowledge as a freelancer.

Training skills are definitely transferable. A Train-the-Trainer session that I initially dreaded taking at my full-time job gave me many super ideas to strengthen the career and music workshops I offer.

3. Surprising job and gig offers

When you are inspired and passionate about your work, everyone notices. Your excitement attracts both people and offers you never expected. Folks see that you have something going on and they love to be part of that momentum.

When I promote my teaching studio, I often get more offers to perform. It seems counterintuitive, but the visibility keeps me on top of peoples’ minds.

Each time I expanded into new areas in my music career, I’ve gotten more excited about life in general. Colleagues sensed that passion and offered me both full-time and part-time jobs. This is common. You’ll find that some offers are tempting, some are not, but it sure is nice to be in demand!

4. Partnership and collaboration opportunities

Once you go public with your art, writing, or music, other people start to see what you are doing and how you can work together. They propose ideas for collaborations and new projects.

Just by setting out as a solo musician and teacher, I’ve gotten opportunities to be in bands, to collaborate on songwriting, writing and instructional products, to head up festival committees, and even to be on a foundation board.

If you had asked me when I started, I never would have anticipated I’d have had these all these great experiences. You’ll never know unless you take the steps.

5. Fan funding options

Fan funding, also known as crowdfunding, is huge right now. It has plusses and minuses but overall there are many advantages for artists. If you grow your platform through helping other people, they will likely be very happy to return the favor with your latest project – whether it’s a book, e-book, live production, CD, exhibit, or video.

These campaigns are a lot of work to do well. You’ll need to do your research and keep up the momentum and the communication. But the results will be well worth it. Your backers become part of your support team.

I recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for a music festival and may use the experience I gained to record my next CD. If you have a dream project and even a start of a fanbase, it pays to test the waters.

6. Charity sponsorships

Businesses commonly sponsor the performing arts and related events. Charity sponsorships, although lesser known, are growing quickly.

Performers develop very loyal and trusting fanbases and charities are happy to pay artists to take a few minutes out of a show or presentation to raise awareness and leverage the trust they’ve built with their audiences. This form of outreach is more effective than any other advertising the charities do, including print media, radio, or TV. Anyone who is regularly in front of groups – speaking, performing, or teaching – can apply, and the income potential is significant.

My musical mentor has headed up these programs for 20 years and is pushing the $1B mark for monies raised for charity, with artists from all levels and walks of life. The only requirement is that you be in front of people 20-25 times per year, either performing, speaking, or teaching workshops, etc. You could be in coffee shops, schools, libraries, festivals, or stadiums filled with tens of thousands.

Today’s audiences are socially conscious and often want to help. Charities value the relationships you’ve built with your fans. You can do good in the world and supplement your income. Everyone wins.

7. Becoming a certified teacher

Your mentor or coach may train others to do the same work they do. If you are a star student and advocate, you may benefit from being certified to teach their method. You have a trusted credential and exposure to their audience of already engaged fans.

Adding a proven, world class performance program to my regular music lessons was great for my program offerings as well as for my students. I receive a commission on top of my regular teaching rates, but most importantly I represent a successful approach that I practice and strongly believe in.

If this idea appeals to you, start doing some research in your field and studying with people you admire.

8. Grant opportunities

I am learning more about these as a I am preparing a proposal for a non-profit community arts program. There are grants and residencies available to individual artists if you are willing to do the research, put in the work to craft an amazing proposal, and prove that your art fulfills a need in the community that foundations champion.

Grant writing is a skill like any other. It takes willingness to learn and hone your craft, but it’s well worth the effort.

The bottom line?

You don’t have to know where all your money will come from before you even begin. As a matter of fact, NOT starting is what keeps you from finding the opportunities! Inaction and indecision are the culprits that leave money on the table.

There are truly as many ways to fund a creative career as there are people in the world.

Be open. Apply as much creativity to finding ways to get paid for your work as you do to actually doing your art.

Take those steps. If you’re at all serious about making money with your art, you won’t need to sell your soul forever just to keep a roof over your head.

Leanne Regalla spent over 20 years in corporate America. Twelve of those years she pulled double duty as a part-time entrepreneur, much to the dismay of her black lab. Leanne is now a self-employed writer, musician, and coach who is on a mission to help creative people of all types how to pursue their art without going broke, living in their cars, or starving to death. Grab insider tips on building a solid income here The Rebel Artists’ Mastermind – 12 Top Experts Speak Out On Making Audacious Money From Your Creative Career.