Balancing Passion and Paychecks
Whether you’re an independent filmmaker or musician, for most, the goal is to earn a living off your art and what you love to do, we’ll call it your “passion career.” Almost nothing is more fulfilling than being able to support yourself with a passion. To get to that point, a lot of hard work needs to happen. The majority of that work can be found in the balancing act of ensuring you’re drawing a steady paycheck while still advancing your artistic career.
There are three things to keep in mind to ensure the grind of pursuing your passion career doesn’t burn you out or shut you down. First, there is most likely going to be a day job you have to do to support yourself at first. Second, you will need to work your day job alongside your passion career, making for long hours and few weekends off. Last, the transition into your passion career is probably going to be gradual, not a single defining moment.
The fact of the industry is that we are all going to have to work day jobs to make enough to support ourselves until we can embark on a passion career with financial stability. Obviously, nobody wants to be stuck in a job where they can’t find fulfillment. Before you get out there and take the first telemarketing position offered you, think about what you’re signing up for. Nothing can pump the brakes on artistic inspiration faster than a soul-sucking job.
Fortunately, as artists, our skills can be applied to readily available jobs that may not perfectly match our passion career but can earn us a living. We don’t have to love these jobs; we just have to find something that can support us with enough time leftover to continue advancing towards a passion career. No matter what your position is, make a list of skills and abilities that can be geared toward a less artistic position. Things that come naturally to you may be desperately needed in a corporate environment. The first place I would recommend looking is the job boards of the companies producing the hardware or software you have the most experience with. While working for these companies may not scratch the proverbial artistic itch, they provide a way for you to support yourself without draining passion and inspiration entirely from your work.
Many successful artists will say that while you’re working your day job, you still need to be able to find time to pursue your passion career. This can be misleading. When working a full-time or part-time job to support yourself, maintaining a social life, and taking care of yourself are all combined, they can quickly consume your schedule. Instead of finding time to pursue your passion career, make the time to pursue your passion career. Proceed to know that sacrifices need to be made. There are going to be nights and weekends where you’re not partaking in the fun and activities enjoyed by friends who aren’t driven to have a passion career. The same way you should take care to make sure your financial budget is healthy, make sure your schedule is healthy.
Make a list in your phone of everything you do in a week and how long you spend doing it. This includes day jobs, hanging out with friends, video games, writing, whatever it is you do, log it. This will be tough the first couple of days but it will eventually become a habit. After you’ve got a week or two of schedule logged, dive in and analyze it. What are you consistently spending time doing that would be better spent pursuing your passion career. Scale the time-wasters back until you’ve made time to be consistently pursuing your passion career. All of this scheduling should be working towards a goal.
A common goal I’ve encountered is the part-time goal. You should be spending the same amount of weekly time pursuing your passion career as would be required by a part-time job. 24 hours a week seems like a lot of time, but after you analyze your schedule and trim the time wasting activities, it becomes easier than you might think.
Once you’ve found a job that supports you, and are pursuing your passion career as a part-time job, you will start to notice some shifts in your schedule. Many pursuing a passion career are looking for a definitive moment when they can say, “Yes, this is it. This is when I’ve officially started my passion career”. In actuality, rarely are things so clearly defined. What started as 24 hours a week spent pursuing your passion career will slowly and steadily grow into 30, or even 40 hours. When this occurs, goals shift. Instead of trying to fill a schedule pursuing your passion career, you’re trying to fill a bank account.
The same way you treated your schedule as a financial budget, the reward of your consistent pursuit and hard work will begin to manifest in financial gains. It will start small but with continued dedication, your passion career will begin to support you financially. It is these small increments and gains that will eventually build up into a career. When you’re consistently making enough to support yourself, that is when you can shed the skin of your day job and emerge fully into your passion career with financial stability.
The most important thing to remember while balancing paychecks and passion is this: The transition from day job to passion career is a slow and steady process and only happens through consistent dedication. There will be weeks where it feels like time has been spent and nothing has been gained. Sometimes that will be the truth, but with enough consistent dedication, progress will be made. Pursuing a passion career is not an easy process, but when the ultimate goal is achieved, your happiness and quality of life will be leaps and bounds beyond your peers who did not elect to make the time and turn their passion into a financially viable career.