Should I Quit My Big City Day Job
to Make Art in the Country?
Q: How do I know when it's time to quit my day job and pursue my art career full-time? I'm thinking about leaving an expensive major city and either moving to a smaller town or a place in the country where the cost of living is less, and where making my living as an artist will be easier. If my current sales remain the same or improve, this plan can work. I figure I'll be able to sell locally as well as long distance.
A: Seriously consider several points before making this change. First of all, you'd better have a good, solid, established and committed following or a successful ongoing relationship with a reputable gallery (or galleries) or a productive sales network in place at your current location before you move. Trying to maintain sales over long distances (or even not-so-long distances) can be challenging, especially with respect to keeping up the consistent levels of personal contact that are necessary to sell your work, continuing to expand your collector base, keeping your core buyers happy, or even collecting money. For example, collectors often prefer to buy art from local or regional artists whose work they can identify with, which means that you may lose a certain number of sales if you move too far away, especially if the direction of your work changes as a result of the move (unless you're nationally or internationally known, your art already has a broad range of appeal, and your collectors or galleries representing you don't care where you live).
If the bulk of your sales tend to be more local or regional, then with respect to relocating, be aware that typical art selling prices where you're thinking about moving might not be as high as they are where you're currently living-- assuming that you can sell any art at all to the locals. The cost of living may be less there, but so might the cost of everything else... including art. So that's something to take into consideration. Furthermore, the local art market in the area where you intend to settle may be weak or nonexistent or controlled by local galleries or artists. In other words, thoroughly research the art scene wherever you're thinking about moving before you leave your current location. It's better to have a reasonably accurate idea ahead of time about what to expect in terms of sales and prices (or lack thereof) rather than learn the hard way after you settle there. Don't assume for an instant that in a place where people don't really know you, that you'll have no problems building an entirely new collector base similar to the one you're leaving behind.
Another point to keep in mind is that you'll be experiencing a level of culture-shock as well as a certain degree of isolation that you don't currently experience in the big city. Once again, have a pretty solid idea of to expect before you permanently relocate. Imagining what your new life might be like is very different from actually living it. If you haven't done so already, spend at least a month or two in whatever country or smaller town settings your thinking about moving to, get an idea of what your daily routine will be, and even keep a running tally of what you enjoy vs what you miss. Hopefully, the positives will outweigh the negatives.
The most important consideration here is the issue of quitting the job you now hold and transitioning into making art full-time. You're the only one who can decide the point at which that life change makes sense, but you can certainly stack the odds in your favor and maximize your chances for success by having at least six months of living expenses saved up and having an alternative money source available to fall back on or as a temporary way to supplement your art income just in case the initial transition doesn't progress quite as smoothly as you hope it will. Making a major change like this is never easy, particularly from one of receiving a regular paycheck to the uncertainties of making art full-time, but it can be extremely rewarding when it's well thought out and prepared for in advance.
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