Don’t be a Statistic

This week I’ve looked at the reality of an artist’s job and why it is a viable career. Today though, I’d like to share a cautionary tale of when you shouldn’t launch yourself on an art career.

A friend of mine is between jobs at present. She’s a keen amateur artist, has a few prints in a local gallery and belongs to her local art society but has always had a day job rather than concentrating on her art full-time. She enquired at the local job centre about how selling paintings/prints would affect her benefits.

At this point the job centre staff went in to overdrive, arranged a meeting with Business Link and urged my friend to be self-employed. Perhaps I’m being cynical when I think that one more self-employed person is one less job centre statistic.

If my friend had been ready and keen to turn professional it would have been a good plan. There’s a lot of help and advice out there for people in the creative industries, Business Link being just one of the options. Sadly the job centre staff were ignoring the fundamentals. My friend has no studio, website, track record, stock, client list… and encouraging her to be self employed at this stage would be just setting her up to fail. 

They were also ignoring the present ecomonic climate. It’s noticably harder to sell original art today than it was just a few years ago, so you need to diversify – perhaps in to illustration or teaching. My friend has experience in neither area.

Thankfully she’s smart enough to know that she isn’t ready. She may well be a professional artist in time, but would rather do it once she’s worked her way up from painting as a hobby.

So my message to anyone in the same situation is clear: if you’re ready- go for it, but if you’re not – don’t let anyone push you in to self employment. Don’t set yourself up to fail.


About Jackie Garner

Wildlife artist.
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