The Creative vs Business Balance: How To Walk The Line

Pixabay – CC0 Licence

Those of us who see our career as being in the creative arts will often face difficult questions. As often as not, we’re asking them of ourselves, because it is tough to make a career out of doing something you love. Only the very highest achievers in a field can decide what jobs they take and when, and name their price for the job. For the rest of us, there can be some moments when we find ourselves wondering: Is this the right choice?

Furthermore, that question can be split in two: if something is the right choice financially, is it the right one artistically?

If you’re aiming for a long-lasting, fulfilling career, you may find that there is a line that needs to be walked. Knowing where to draw that line, and how to make decisions about when it would be crossed, can allow you to pursue your career without constant self-recrimination. So it helps to ask yourself a few questions about where business and creativity can work in tandem, and where they will end up in conflict…

Is it OK to take a job “for the money”?

Everyone in any creative industry has, at some stage, taking on work they weren’t in love with because we all have bills to pay and need to keep a roof over our heads. Even some of the most recognized actors working today have taken on jobs that they didn’t find creatively enriching, but which were lucrative. While some people will argue that it is “selling out” to use your skills in a role you don’t find diverting, the truth is that this is how most creatives pay their dues.

Can I treat my art like a business?

It’s a tricky question to answer: the moment you begin to see your creative endeavours as a career, does it mean that your efforts will be compromised artistically? But let’s be clear: Van Gogh was paid for his art (regrettably more so after his death than before), while Shakespeare certainly tailored his works to ensure more paying admirers. So if you hire an SEO company to get your art in the eye line of more people, you’re not doing anything that the greats haven’t done before you. If you’ve ever handed out flyers for a one-person show, you’re not stripping the purity from your art; you’re just getting it an audience.

Is there any reason to turn down a paying job?

In the end, any conversation about where the line lies has to be one you hold with yourself. Sometimes, you may feel compromised by the idea of taking a job; perhaps it is work that will publicise a cause with which you disagree, or means working with an individual you know to be objectionable. In cases such as these, it is absolutely fine to walk away from the job and focus on finding other work. If taking on a job will leave you feeling so uneasy that it affects your ability to create in future, don’t take it. There’s no point torching your creative muse for a one-off payday.

Any creative will have been assailed by questions over the validity of paying work. When it comes down to it, the important thing is whether you can take a job and feel good about yourself.

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Vinh Van Lam
the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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