How to Successfully Start an Art Business While Working Full-Time

Jan 24, 2024

If you ever dream about turning your passion for art into a full-time career, you're not alone. Many aspiring artists share your vision but wonder how to become a professional artist while working a day job. Finding the perfect balance between your daily grind and artistic aspirations is challenging.

In this guide, we'll dive into the art of juggling brushes, deadlines, and office meetings and give you practical tips to help you balance a full-time job with an art career. Plus, learn about a proven process that can turn anyone into a professional artist in just one year.

Challenges of Starting an Art Business While Working Full-Time

An artist working at growing her art business while working a day job. Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Balancing the vibrant palette of your art business with the structured grayscale of your full-time job isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Before we can build an art business while working full-time, we must shine a light on the hurdles that pop up on the waltz between the studio and the office.

Time & Task Constraints

Starting your own art business is time-consuming. Juggling your art career with your 9–5 job leads to long work hours and limited personal time.

Many artists struggle to maintain relationships with family and friends. Making time for leisure activities, administrative tasks, and marketing can be challenging.

Time constraints can limit your hours you spend behind the brush and in front of an easel. This hinders your ability to create a strong portfolio of artwork.

Physical & Mental Energy Limitations

Working a day job can leave you physically and mentally drained, making it difficult to find the creative energy and motivation needed for your art business.

Splitting your attention between two careers hinders your focus, potentially affecting the quality of your work. When you start your own art business, the financial pressure can be stressful, especially if you rely on your day job to cover living expenses.

Overexerting yourself can lead to burnout, causing exhaustion, reduced productivity, and potentially jeopardizing your job and art business. Balancing these responsibilities can lead to self-doubt and frustration, affecting your motivation to pursue your business.

Artistic Challenges

A successful art career requires striking the right balance between creating art that fulfills your artistic vision and creating art that sells well. Finding that balance can take longer with limited time.

Also, developing and honing your artistic skills may take longer due to limited practice time.

15 Practical Ways to Overcome the Challenges of Becoming a Full-Time Artist While Working a Day Job

An artist planning how to start a business while working full time. Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

You're tackling everything from time constraints that feel tighter than a well-stretched canvas to the delicate dance of managing finances. By developing solid professional habits, you can turn these challenges into opportunities because our habits create our future by changing our actions and thinking. Consistency is key.

Let's look at how to start your own art business by implementing these practical tips.

1. Create a Schedule

A well-crafted schedule is a compass to guide you through the maze of responsibilities when launching your own business alongside a day job. It not only carves out dedicated time for your creative endeavors but also provides a structured framework, ensuring that no aspect of your budding art career is left untouched amidst the hustle of your weekly work routine.

There are 168 hours in a week. If 40 hours a week are for your 9–5 job, and 56 hours are for sleep, there are 72 hours left. Designate 40 hours for painting, and you still have 32 hours left for family, reading, commuting, etc.

Use time blocking to segment your days or weeks into dedicated work, art business, and personal time blogs. Write your schedule—the actual hours—in a digital or hard copy planner before your head hits the pillow Sunday night. Then, obey your schedule! Consistency is key, so keep track of how you spend your time throughout the week. If you did not stick to your schedule, make adjustments for the next week.

2. Set Priorities

Setting priorities safeguards your energy by consistently directing you toward the core elements that will propel your artistic aspirations forward. Without clearly defined priorities, it's easy to become distracted by activity that keeps you busy but may not benefit your business.

Prioritization helps you focus on what truly matters in becoming a full-time artist and ensures that essential business activities are not neglected. Decide what tasks are most important and do those first. Write down what you aim to accomplish for each week, each month, and each designated work period or time block.

3. Plan in Advance

Launching a business while navigating a full-time job is an intricate dance. Planning in advance makes you the choreographer, orchestrating each move with precision.

Anticipating challenges, setting milestones, and strategizing your artistic journey beforehand optimizes your time and transforms your aspirations into a well-executed performance on the canvas of your career.

Plan your art projects, marketing strategies, and other tasks in advance. This reduces decision-making time and helps you maximize your available time.

Artist's day job desk, organized with productivity techniques, inspiration, and a timer. Photo by Surja Sen Das Raj on Unsplash

4. Use Productivity Techniques

Implement productivity techniques to help you stay focused and accomplish more in less time. A few helpful techniques may include:

  • Pomodoro: Break your work into intervals—typically 25 minutes of focused work followed by a five-minute break. After completing four cycles, take a longer break. This method helps maintain concentration and prevents burnout.

  • Block Distractions: Identify and minimize potential distractions during dedicated work periods. Turn off non-essential notifications, and consider using website blockers to limit time on distracting sites.

  • Weekly Review: Schedule a regular weekly review to reflect on your progress, adjust goals if needed, and plan for the upcoming week. This practice helps you stay organized and adapt to changing priorities.

Experiment with these productivity techniques and customize them to fit your workflow. Consistency and adaptability are key as you navigate the dynamic landscape of launching your art career while managing a full-time job.

5. Delegate & Outsource

To alleviate your workload, consider delegating non-core tasks that don't require your artistic touch. Whether it's administrative duties, social media management, or website maintenance, outsourcing these responsibilities can free up valuable time and allow you to focus on the creative aspects that truly define you as a full-time artist.

6. Leverage Technology

Leverage project management apps, scheduling tools, and art-related software to streamline your business processes. For example, use ChatGPT or other AI-related technologies to help you create content for your blog or social media platforms. Automate repetitive tasks where possible, such as scheduling social media posts or setting up automated email replies.

Desk of artist Dimitra Milan, organized and prepared to create more art

7. Keep Art Supplies Organized

Maintaining an organized art studio isn't just about tidiness; it's a strategic move in the chess game of launching your business while working full-time. A well-organized space boosts efficiency by minimizing time spent searching for supplies and enhances creativity by creating a conducive environment for focused artistic expression.

8. Batch Tasks

Group similar tasks together and complete them in one go. For example, dedicate a specific day or time block for administrative tasks like emails and bookkeeping or marketing tasks like creating and scheduling posts for social media.

Batching similar tasks minimizes distractions, enables you to complete more tasks quickly, and simplifies your life.

Similarly, you can organize your work by batching tasks in your creative process. Whatever you do to one painting, do to other works in progress during the same work period. This technique enables you to work on multiple pieces of artwork simultaneously, boosting your productivity.

9. Work on Smaller Projects

Creating smaller art pieces is strategic creativity. Bite-sized pieces demand less time and resources and allow more frequent product releases to keep your business dynamic and your audience engaged despite your busy schedule.

A small watercolor painting. Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

10. Set Realistic Goals

Be realistic about what you can achieve given your time constraints. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. For example: I will paint 40 hours per week for the next 12 weeks. My weeks will start [DATE]. I will paint between the hours of 5am–7am and 7pm–10pm, Monday through Friday, and I will paint 8am–4pm on weekends.

Break these goals into smaller tasks, making them more manageable and less overwhelming.

Remember: you can adjust your goals as needed.

11. Network Efficiently

Efficient networking while managing a day job involves strategic engagement, focusing on quality connections rather than quantity.

Attend local art events, engage in online art communities like the Milan Art Community, and leverage social media platforms to build meaningful relationships with other artists, potential clients, and influencers in your niche, maximizing the impact of your networking efforts for your burgeoning business.

12. Use Lunch Breaks

Transforming lunch breaks into strategic power moments can be a game-changer. Use this time to respond to emails, update social media, or even plan your next art project. Maximizing these short windows can help you make meaningful progress in building your creative venture.

A group of artists gathered to share ideas and support each other. Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

13. Seek Support

Communicate openly with your employer about your entrepreneurial artistic pursuits. Seeking their support and understanding can create valuable opportunities and foster a positive work environment.

Additionally, share your artistic journey with friends, family, and other artists to cultivate a network of encouragement and collaboration, fuel your entrepreneurial spirit, and provide valuable emotional support.

Consider connecting with a professional art mentor to fast-track your success and support you in achieving your goals.

14. Prioritize Self-Care

Prioritizing self-care is non-negotiable. Your mental and physical well-being ensures sustained creativity, resilience, and the energy required to balance the demands of both your artistic aspirations and professional commitments.

Make time for rest to help you achieve work-life balance. Most people need a minimum of 6–8 hours of sleep each night for their bodies and minds to function optimally. Listen to your body, and don't sacrifice the sleep you need as a "productivity hack".

15. Learn to Say No

Master the art of saying no. This crucial skill empowers you to choose projects or commitments that align with your priorities, and safeguards your time and energy so you focus on the most impactful endeavors for your business.

Don't overcommit to opportunities or projects that you can't realistically complete without compromising your job or personal life.

Launch Your Art Career While Working 9–5

As you embark on this dual-path adventure, remember that the challenges are just as much a part of the masterpiece as the triumphs.

Whether you're sketching during lunch breaks, hustling on weekends, or burning the midnight oil, your commitment to making art a career deserves applause. You're not just an artist with a full-time job; you're a visionary, an art entrepreneur, and the creator of your own narrative.

So, as you step back and admire the evolving canvas of your life, know that every brushstroke, every challenge, and every victory contributes to a story that's distinctly yours.

Keep creating, keep working, and most importantly, keep dreaming. Your masterpiece awaits, and the art world will benefit from the vibrant chapters you paint next.

Start Your Art Career With Us

After successfully training over 2,500 students worldwide, the Milan Art Institute has perfected turning anyone into a professional artist in as little as one year. The program provides training and mentorship from professional artists. It allows students the flexibility to work at their own pace—a perfect opportunity for aspiring artists who work at a day job. Embark on your journey from art passion to art profession with The Mastery Program!

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