Careers in the Arts
Careers in the Arts

Working Successfully in Arts Industry Jobs

Singing, dancing, writing, painting: whether it’s film, theatre, visual arts or literature, a creative career in the arts is doing what you love IS possible…

Many people would love a career in the arts, but very few can make it viable or ongoing. Here are some essential tips to working in art industry jobs successfully and sustainably and making a living from your creative talents.

Give Up Delusions of Grandeur

Sorry to tell you, but most people working successfully in the arts industry are neither rich nor famous. They’re well-respected artists who have steady, regular, financially stable work doing what they love. If you’re serious about your art rather than living a fantasy about being the next big rock star, aim to make a living, not a fortune. Rock stardom may still be in your future, but don’t let your career be over if it isn’t.

Have a Fall-back Job

We’ve all done it – temping, retail, telemarketing, working from home or busking! Every upcoming artist will find slow times between projects requiring bolstering up with other more menial but reliable temporary work. Use it as a spur to reach the next creative goal and remember: the next best thing to making a living from your art is to have a job that allows you and your skill to live.

Know Your Talents

Most artists and arts graduates rarely appreciate all the skills they have acquired in studying their art. It is crucial to promote your particular talent and artistic ability but consider: you can also market yourself as creative, innovative, self-motivated, dedicated, hard-working, articulate, analytical…

Know all your strengths and practice outlining them for potential employers, patrons and clients.


Every skill you acquire in your art is a string to your employment bow, so diversify to be more employable. Any successful artist should be reasonably confident and eloquent on paper and in person, whether writing grant applications or networking with valuable contacts. The more ways you can exhibit your artistic talent in different genres or mediums, the better your employability.


The old cliché of who you know genuinely does come into play here. Artists need to take the time to know people and get known, whether it’s for a general audience at your next gallery opening or gig, charming the media for a publicity boost down the track, or fostering relationships with influential people in your field.

It never needs to be ingratiating or forced, but get out and mingle at all possible events, take opportunities to chat and make a good impression on the people you meet. Be able to gossip about yourself and your current project, and be sincere in your conversations and expressions of interest, whether personal or professional.

Be Easy to Work With

Artists have a reputation for being temperamental, irrational, disorganized and unreliable, and these are not qualities likely to get you a job in any field or profession. If you want to work regularly as an artist, you need to prove this reputation wrong because there are plenty of other wannabes out there who would love to be doing what you do.

Make yourself as accessible and appealing to work with as possible so that when a job or project comes up, you are the first person everyone remembers from last time and wants to contact to take a new position.

Don’t Burn Bridges

Emotions and tempers run high in the arts, with so many passionate, creative people who are used to expressing themselves for a living. However, the industry is also constantly changing and evolving. That terrible singer you worked with last week might be the next musical director of the hottest musical in town next week.

When things get heated in a creative work environment, walk away, and realize that while you want to hang on to your creative and professional integrity, you will also need to make compromises and room for others to continue working successfully.

No one is going to tell you it’s easy. You also battle against friends and family who might refuse to take your chosen career seriously and financial institutions that frown upon irregular income. However, if you can create and maintain a strong network, expand and market yourself and your artistic abilities, and embrace and enjoy diversity. Erratic, ever-changing work that is creative and surprising and will take you in all kinds of directions you’ve never thought of, then pursuing a job in the art industry can still become the career of your dreams.


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