To be a full time artist/singer or not. It’s a decision that’s filled with trade-offs. Trade-offs that are really hard to quantify since they vary from situation to situation.
But a lot of the time you hear creative folks phrase it as a really binary choice.
I remember a friend of mine, a wonderful opera singer, put it this way:
“It all comes down to what you want more, to have a family or sing with an orchestra.”
I heard her say that during my undergrad and it really left a mark. For the last 10 years I’ve been carrying around this belief that I was choosing the orchestra and not choosing a family… because I couldn’t have both.
Except that didn’t track.
I met singers who did have families. In fact there’s a proud history of opera babies out there. Their lives might look a little different, but there are definitely models to follow.
Clearly it wasn’t that simple.
The beliefs we carry around define what we think is possible
You can’t have a family and be a full time singer.
You can’t be an artist and have a day job.
You can’t be a financially stable freelance artist.
I’ve believed all these things.
If I’m being honest, there’s still part of me that clings to them… no matter how much evidence I build to the contrary.
And if you believe them and that belief has led you to building a life that you’re completely satisfied with… that’s awesome.
But for lots of us these beliefs are limiting.
We look at them as ‘facts of life’ and forget that they are, as the director Alison Moritz says: “the problems we were born to solve.”
You’re a rebel… it’s time to rebel
I know singers who travel the world with their kids, and others who have partners that stay home while the other one travels.
I know really interesting artists who don’t make a lick of income from their art.
And I know artists who max our their retirement accounts, have a 6 month emergency fund, and are set to retire right around 65.
People are doing it because they didn’t accept the classically held beliefs in our industry.
It’s crazy that we’ve got a whole business full of people who like to colour outside of the lines, rebels, and yet they accept the confines that have been put upon them.
We don’t have to be different to change everything.
In fact, we need to unleash everything that makes the creative industry great.
Diving into the trade-offs
I’m not saying you can have it all.
There will always be sacrifices, but you have more power to set what those sacrifices are.
I’m more and more convinced that the real power comes from being clear on what you want and, more specifically, what you want MOST.
I want a lot of things. It’s not a problem to write down a list.
What is a problem is prioritizing that list … because something has to be first. Something has to get the most energy. Something has to be more important than something else.
And the clearer you can be about what big things are most important for you, the better you’ll be able to decide what trade-offs you’re willing to make.
The better you’ll be able to decide which battles you want to fight.
The better you’ll be able to start redefining those tired old tropes in our business, and start painting your own future.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org