As a lifelong thespian, a career in the arts has always been blinkered for me by the endless warnings of the dog-eat-dog world of the entertainment industry. Anecdotes of struggling artists putting on shows and exhibitions in cramped basement studios for a few close friends and the odd passersby are numerous. Time spent waiting tables is nearly inevitable.
So, in this world of diminishing big breaks and one-shot opportunities, it’s easy to ask why we’ve not yet given up. Is a career in the arts worth it anymore, and if it is, how on earth can it be possible? Well, fellow artists, read on.
The Sad State of the Arts
It’s fair to say that the arts have been a penalized medium for a very long time. I imagine I wasn’t the only one who was warned away from my controversial career choices and advised to take a more “sensible” option such as math or science.
Art education all over the world is rapidly declining at an alarming rate, and what once was seen as a prestigious area of learning is now cast aside as a mere hobby. Pure arts funding for graduates has practically vanished, and those lucky enough to get a grant will find venues hesitant to work with new and unknown talent.
Finding a job in the arts also has an age-old catch-22. Every position requires experience, but to have experience you need to be offered a position.
Overall, it’s not looking good, and so I believed as I set out as a fresh-faced graduate, waitressing job already secured, to follow my dreams. Yet when I went looking, what I found shocked me.
It’s true that if you look for a job in the arts in your local area, you probably won’t find one. Arts communities are long established, and getting a foot in the door usually requires committing an unsustainable amount of volunteer hours to the cause. However, when a friend pointed me online, I found the exact opposite.
Scrolling through Upwork (formerly Odesk), one of the many freelance websites, I could not believe my eyes. There were jobs for artists of every kind: filmmakers, designers, photographers, videographers, musicians, illustrators and even wordsmiths. They were paid, they were contracted, and there was something for everyone.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Working online allows you to share your art all over the world, and you don’t have to worry about the expenses of renting a physical space or becoming a part of the local prestigious arts community.
Aside from Upwork, there are endless websites that allow you to link up with employers and find work, but this isn’t the only way to become a successful internet artist.
There are countless platforms, such as YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, which offer a free way to showcase your work. Think about it: you may not be able to fill a gallery, but you can easily share your work online. Many modern celebrities and professionals have risen to fame through social media, so the potential for success is out there.
Alongside this, the great thing about working online is that you don’t have to be famous to be successful. The variety of work out there is limited only by the imagination. You could secure an ongoing design contract for someone’s business, make music for indie film projects, create your own video series or even just simply start your own blog or site. The potential for earning is there and ready to be taken!
The Digital Artists Toolkit
You might think it difficult to set yourself properly up as a functioning online professional, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As more people move away from location dependence and into working online, more tools are being released to aid this pursuit.
Staying secure is an essential factor of any online career as contracting a virus could result in lost work, unmet deadlines and extremely unhappy clients. Fortunately, there are plenty of installable apps to help, including anti-virus and firewall software and a solid VPN to encrypt your data so you can work on the go.
There are countless programs available for artists so you can transform work done by hand into digital formats. There are also plenty of free versions of photo and video editing software for those who can’t afford to make big investments just yet.
The Future of Art
Justin Bieber was spotted via YouTube. Kerby Rosanes began sharing his doodles on Facebook, and his “Sketchy Stories” brand is now known worldwide. There are countless singers, dancers, songwriters and animators who are skipping out the middleman and promoting and distributing their work straight through the internet.
It seems as if the days of major labels, production companies and pitiful royalties are coming to an end. Young creatives everywhere are turning their back on the exclusivity of the traditional arts world and taking their careers online. It’s an exciting time for aspiring artists anywhere, and it is bound to change the face of the arts as we know it.
So if you’re feeling disheartened about the lack of support, funding and constant warnings about your career choice, do not fear! You haven’t reached the end of the road yet. The age of digital content is just beginning and now is the perfect time to get involved!