An Artist Reflects: Lessons Learned by Quitting the Day Job

Published On: August 5th, 2021|Categories: Knowledge|Tags: , , |

“I want to quit my day job.” 

It’s a thought that echoes through the mind of every artist at some point in their career, usually at the crossroads of choosing between financial stability or unsteadily chasing a dream. The life of being a full-time artist is high reward  but it’s also very high risk. As I’ve navigated through this journey (at the worst possible time), there are some lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to share for the next artist ready to take the leap of faith.

Joanne enters Pre-Production

1. Don’t live high.

There are no longer biweekly paycheques. There can be periods stretching over months where money isn’t quite coming in, even though you’re working really hard. It’s important to look ahead at these times and have a financial plan that will get you through. 

2. You’re never off the clock. 

Especially during times like I described above, it’s important to be timely and chase after each and every lead. Sometimes I get calls in the middle of the night for a project that needs my urgent attention. It’s lovely to be able to shut out the world at 5pm, but in this industry, it can’t happen.

3. Compensation and personal interest go hand in hand.

It gets difficult to turn away paying jobs, even when there’s little artistic interest on your part. Being able to work on something you love all the time is a beautiful goal – but it isn’t realistic. There will be times when less glamorous projects come your way when you need to make rent. Accepting it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. It makes you a real one. 

Joanne calls “Action”

I know, I know. There was a lot of stuff up there that didn’t sound too fun. This life is grueling at the worst of times, and people often ask me if I regret leaving my day job. My answer? Not. One. Moment. I have work to do and art to make, and I’m not letting anything stop me.

We’ll be navigating through the reopening of our industry soon. I’ve been reflecting on how our industry was before, what is has been like for the last year and a half, and what it could be. I don’t have answers. In fact, I’m pretty sure all I have are questions. But, like every artist on the planet, I do have hopes and dreams. 

I hope our industry opens its doors to new artists. I hope that we finally enter an era of diversity and inclusivity, as we have claimed to be since our inception. We’ve seen what it’s like to close our doors and only support a select group of artists. This practice isn’t sustainable if we want to keep thriving.

I know it’s possible, because that’s what we do – we create things out of thin air and go against the odds. We stretch the limits of imagination. All we need to do is take a leap of faith… 

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    About the Author: Joanne Roberts

    Joanne Roberts is an award-winning Canadian filmmaker, writer and actress, best known for her short film series “I am” with CBC Creator Network. Her work revolves around shedding light on familial issues that are too often kept in the shadows due to societal and cultural stigma, with the hopes to encourage people to seek the help they need in understanding and improving their relationships and mental health.

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