Who Else Wants a Creative Career on Their Own Terms?

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Definition of ActionI can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to within the creative field who have complained about an agent that never gives them auditions, or they think they can’t sell their artwork until they find a gallery willing to take them on or they don’t have a recording contract so their work is just waiting for that elusive phone call before they are willing to let it see the light of day. And in that time the days roll by, nothing gets done or released, life takes over, the dreams get packed away and the world never gets to see that particular talent.

One of my many creative jobs is as a performance coach and I often get asked by new students ‘is it realistic for me to pursue a living in music?’ my answer is always ‘Yes… but you have to be clever about it!’ As an extension I then go on to explain that you must be disciplined enough to work on your craft AND get out there to create your own opportunities.

So without further adieu, below is a list of reasons for why you should aim to be a self- sufficient creative:

  • You don’t have to wait by the phone hoping to get a call for an audition, an exhibition, a publishing deal etc. Instead you could be already working on something, be out there building your own connections and making your own opportunities RIGHT NOW.
  • The failure and success of your career does not lie solely on the chances of a particular working relationship working out. In fact ANY relationship could blow up without much notice so why stake everything on this one, especially if it’s with a manager you’ve only recently started working with? Do you know what their motivations are? Do you know how many other artists they are representing?

You don’t want to find yourself without an outlet to create and earn a living simply because your agent etc doesn’t like you anymore, has eyes for someone else, has decided to go on hiatus to Hawaii for 3 years…

    • Doing things for yourself can actually HELP your chances with other companies that represent you. As someone who helps other artists find work, I have to say I’m a million times more likely to pick the person who has been proactive about getting decent media together which effectively sells whatever it is they do. This could be in the form of high quality photos, videos or an established work history they went out and achieved independently. What this says to me is ‘this person is taking it seriously and they are likely to show up prepared for whatever work I send their way.’

I also find people who have this self-determined streak are much easier to work with as they understand what I’m trying to do and what it is I am dealing with, because they are out there plugging away at it too and they understand the nature of the landscape I’m working in.

When an agent, art dealer, record label, book publisher sees your work they are thinking ‘Can I convince people to buy this art?’ you need to help them see it in your work, so have your act together before you decide to approach them as it’s much harder to convince someone the second go around.

      • Don’t be afraid to do some work for free occasionally (but not forever and not always). If an opportunity comes up where you might be able to get some great footage of a performance on a great looking stage or exhibit at a high profile event, for example at a charity gala, DO IT! You’ll be able to market that footage and experience for years to come.

I can advocate that even after 15 years as a professional creative I will still at times do things for free or really cheap if it is mutually beneficial. These days I rarely perform for no fee (trust me I did it for YEARS early on) but I will happily write for certain blogs and free magazines because A) It’s great practice B) I’m building relationships; who knows where these people will be in a few years, they might just have a great opportunity to offer me one day and all because I was (hopefully) great to work with all those years ago. C) It gets me ‘out there’ and lets people know I exist!

You can do similar for your chosen field; just make the decision to be generous with your talents.


      • Time is one resource you will never gain more of. How many artists have wasted precious years waiting for someone else to do the work for them? Too many to count and I can’t tell you how many people I know sit by the phone waiting for a chance to work and will be lucky to get one call a year to do an audition. Could you say ‘Well their agent isn’t doing their job’? Perhaps, but that’s not always true.

As someone who has been the auditioner, auditionee and ‘agent’ I can tell you that often one artist can be pitched for hundreds of jobs in a year but they might only have the right look or skill set to tempt clients to show an interest for maybe one or two of these parts and that’s BEFORE the artist has even stepped into the audition room, so they might still not get the part.

If you want a job in the arts you need to treat it like a job, don’t let time slip by waiting for someone else to open that door for you and most importantly keep BUSY. I can promise if you’re out there learning, doing stuff, making things happen; opportunities will come your way AND you’ll be getting better at your job at the same time.

  • Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against having agents, managers, employers etc in fact I have one of my own, they are fantastic but would I rely only on them to provide all of my work? No! In fact I’d have starved to death by now if they were my only means of making a living but if they are a decent agent and you can prove you’re out there chipping away while they are in their office chipping away for you too, I can guarantee you’ll make yourself a hell of a lot more visible to them.

This has proven the case for me many times; in fact the first instance came about when I was offered a job at a talent agency after doing 2 weeks of work experience. I was 15 and their reason for asking me back was ‘Because you don’t follow us around waiting to be told, you see what needs doing and you do it, letting us get our job done.’ From this experience I got to learn how an agency works and that one piece of feedback taught me a valuable lesson.

Instead of complaining that my agent isn’t getting me work I don’t let what they are or aren’t doing mess with my progress, it’s irrelevant really because while they are submitting me for things I’m off doing my own work too, it makes both our lives easier!

So with all that said if you REALLY do want that agent, record deal, art gallery don’t let my words hold you back, in fact they should encourage you to become even more independent. If you are out there and seen to be working your tooshie off what’s to say that agent, record exec or curator won’t be sitting in the stands thinking ‘Wow, this one is putting in the hard yards, we should really get them on the books!’


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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Image credits:

Stuart Miles, Your Sayings

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