5 Things Artists Need to Know Before Launching their Career

It’s no secret that taking the creative route to success can be more challenging than a typical career, but it’s not without its rewards either. If you’re an aspiring artist, or someone just starting to emerge in your field, here are five tips that you need to know before your big break.

1. Network, network, network, network!

This is by far one of the most important things you can do. Expanding your network will get you places that job postings won’t. Interacting with other like-minded people can not only help you cease opportunities, but some of them can eventually become the kind of friends who will understand your hustle and be supportive in ways others might not. Simply put, you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. It might sound cliche, but who you know is just as important as what you know. Many times I went as far as sending messages and emails to people I admire, just to ask how they did it. You’d be surprised to know many do answer!

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


2. Not everyone will like you

It’s not a secret. It doesn’t matter if you can top Lady Gaga as a vocalist, match the wits of Samuel L. Jackson, or paint a canvas that’ll tower higher than the Sistine Chapel, not everyone will like your work. Seeking likes on social media, or bending your identity to accommodate everyone might get you five minutes of exposure, but it won’t give you an entire career. The most successful people are those who refused to give up, created their own unique identity, and who kept on singing, acting, performing, writing, training, persisting regardless of who was watching.

Flashdance (1983)


3. Know Thyself

When we’re just starting out, we may take jobs we’re not exactly proud of, ‘cause you know- they pay the bills, but if you’re looking to do this full-time, you need to know exactly why you’re here. Are there certain values you’d like to convey? Is there a disenfranchised community you want to help out? Did you become an artist to inspire people in any way? Do you want to see more diversity on screen? We don’t think of these questions very often, but they’ll help you narrow down exactly the kind of portfolio you want to have. And you also have to learn to say “yes” when you mean “yes”, and say a firm “no” when you mean “no”.

This goes for everything in life. If you know deep in your heart that you’re a rock or jazz singer, try not to bend for others. If you have an idea of which roles bring out your best performances, go for it! If you know your poetry is what expresses the real you best, don’t write a fiction novel just for the sake of it- unless you really, really want to. Experimenting is fine, as long as you come back to yourself.

Fame (1980)


4. The hustle is real

If you decided to become an artist because you thought it would give you more freedom, or so you can be a rebel or an outcast, think again. There’s the expression, “If you work doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. While there is some truth to it, some people like to run with that idea. The reality is becoming your own creative boss will require you to probably put in almost double the hours of a regular full-time job. Nevermind the fact many of us do have a regular job simultaneously! The good news is it gets easier, and eventually you manage to get to doing your art full-time, but for the first decade or so of your career, you won’t have much of a social life, or much sleep (as I’m typing this at 1:30am). Ask anyone however and they’ll tell you straight up spending twelve hours onset or in a studio, totally beats an eight hour shift at the office.

Dead Poets Society (1989)


5. Have a plan, but stay open to the unexpected

I’ve been a writer for over ten years, and directed my first short in 2012. Had you told younger me that I would have had to drop out of university, work at call-centers, and eventually move to a big city like Toronto, only to spend the next two years hustling as a freelance script supervisor and write blogs, I would have hid in my room for the rest of my life! And for good reason. The reality is that it’s going to be overwhelming. Having a longterm plan will pay off in the long run, because there will be days where you’ll wonder what made you want to become an artist. There will be days where you’ll wonder if it’s worth it, because change take time. Remember, a watched kettle never boils. Going over that plan will remind you why you started.

Million Dollar Baby (2005)


Even if it means sharing cheesy quotes all over your social media. And yes I also encourage you share as much of your own work as possible! Don’t be afraid of to spam news feeds. Even if it means creating a vision board filled with photos of the most outlandish goals you have, and meditating on them. Even if it means sacrificing a few fun events, and releasing friends who don’t support you. What matters is to keep pushing. What matters is whatever you do is fulfilling for you. The world needs more inspired people.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? In what ways can the community better support each other?

"An artist cannot fail. It is a success just to be one." - Charles Horton Cooley