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How to Build a Career In The Arts

The arts are notoriously difficult to get into, never mind earn a living by. You don’t just have to be super talented, you also need to be lucky and know the right people to help progress your career. Whether you want to sing, act, dance or create, working in the arts is always a tough path to walk and you must be passionate if you are to pursue it full time.

But don’t let this put you off. With the right attitude and a strong strategy, it is possible to create a career that suits you and brings you happiness. 

Build Your Portfolio

Only a few people will have sudden success in the arts and, let’s be honest, they are often those who already have good contacts in their chosen industry. For most people, building a career takes time and a gradual accumulation of experience. Have a look at the portfolio of Travis Preston of CalArts for inspiration. 

Your portfolio should include your achievements so far and provide details of your experience. Building a portfolio and showing it off might feel difficult when you are at the beginning of your career, but think back to everything you have done. Were you in school plays or have you been active in your community? All arts professionals start as amateurs so don’t underestimate your experience. 

Say Yes But Be Selective

One of the best things you can do to build a portfolio is to start saying yes – especially if you have no conflicts in your diary. The busier you can be, the more chances you will have to do new things and expand your experience. Saying yes isn’t just reserved for your career, though. Go out, meet people in your industry and start building your connections too. 

Though saying yes will get you moving, it’s really important that you then begin to understand your worth. If you want to build a career, you have to say yes to the things that will do your career good but no to the things that could hold you back. People in the arts are often asked to work for free as a way to gain exposure. This is rubbish – you should be paid. You will instinctively know what will gain you the right exposure so anyone who offers it is just looking to cash in on your talent for free. 

Remember to Live

The pursuit of an art form can be all-encompassing but it is really important that you also remember to live. The perspectives and experiences of any artist naturally feed into their output so don’t allow the business to blinker you. Some of the best artists started late, when they had a better understanding of the world. Just because you don’t succeed financially in your first few years doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

The most important thing you can do for your career is to continue to do what you love. Whether you become a defining voice for a generation or you simply bring joy to your local community, it all counts. Have fun. 

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