Thinking of turning professional?

Are you thinking of turning professional? Have you considered the impact this might have on your artistic freedom?

There are many differences between amateurs and professionals. While no professional would want to be called ‘amateurish’, there are benefits to being an amateur, and keeping your interests a hobby rather than a job.

The amateur has no obligations. They are free to follow their hobby in as open a way as they like. Because of this, your art remains full of passion as an amateur.

“To be creative as an amateur with no requirement to make money provides opportunities for infinite artistic freedom.” (David Parrish, Creative, Cultural and Digital Industries Guide, published by Business Link West Midlands, 2008)

As soon as you turn pro, you have to deal with a few C words: Customers, Competitors and Cashflow.

That means developing the business side of your creative enterprise. That means learning about business, and commerce and thinking about balancing the books when you’d rather be doing somehthing ‘much more creative’. When you found your passion, you didn’t sign up for this!

Can your creativity survive commercialism? Can you stay true to your identity as an artist and still make money?

If you are currently amateur and thinking of turning professional, make sure you get sound business advice before you begin.

There may be organisations that can help you make this jump. Business Link is one of them. They offer a local service which provides the practical advice, information and support you need to start and maintain a business.

And then again, there are some artistic renegades who have made such a big splash that commerce has run after them, screaming “Please let me give you some money!”

I’m talking about the Banksy‘s of this world; those who seem to step so far outside the box and challenge our perceptions so strongly that they break all of the rules about what you have to do as an artist to make money. These kinds of artists are our heroes because they took huge risks. Banksy stayed an amateur, but used highly political graffiti to make a statement. He risked arrest many times but achieved huge publicity through notoriety and a following of fans. However, he could have ended up in prison, penniless and ignored. Either way, it took many years to build his reputation before he was paid a penny.

Are you willing to take this risk, to preserve your artistic integrity? Can you afford to wait years and years for your first paycheck?

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has made their love their business. How do you find the journey? Were you a rebel who eventually attracted financial success? Or did you start a creative business, keeping a balance between creating for your pleasure and creating for a market?

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