Finding a Job that Jives with your Creative Practice


One of the biggest concerns I see in my own life and in the creative community in general, is that little nagging question: how do you support yourself financially and be creative at the same time? As I was writing about last week, I’ve been working on figuring this out in my own life. Whether or not you dream of becoming a full-time artist/maker/musician/dancer/actor/writer/etc, there may come a time when you will need or want a side job to make some cash, or to take the pressure off making money with your art and just do what inspires you creatively. I’ve had my fair share of random jobs {more than I can count on two hands}, both full and part-time. After my post last week {where I mentioned that I have hit upon a winning combination with my current job as a courier for the city}, I started thinking that maybe there were some basic characteristics of my job that would apply to what a creative person might be looking for in general in a side-job or day-job. The following guide is what I came up with. I hope this will give you some ideas on where to start looking for a job that can coexist with your creative life.



1. The fewer hours, the better.
This may sound completely obvious, but the fewer hours you work at this outside job, the better. The purpose of this job is to help support your art habit, not cramp it. Take a serious look at exactly how much money you need to support yourself—I mean, really—whip out the calculator on this one and plug in some actual numbers. Of course, different jobs pay differently, but go into the job search knowing exactly how much money you need  to survive. Also, take a minute to figure out if there’s anything you can trim from your expenditures. It may be difficult to think about this, but what is art-making-time worth to you?

2. Pay attention to scheduling.
There is a difference between working from 9 am to 2 pm vs. working from 1 pm to 6 pm. Both of these shifts are five hours long, but the first shift starts in the morning and ends in the afternoon, which can make it feel like you’ve been working all day. The second shift leaves you the entire morning for doing your creative work. This may sound like a tiny difference, but trust me—that first schedule is stealing more than 5 hours—-unless you’re a seriously early bird, you won’t get any work done before 9 am. Get really honest with yourself and seek out a schedule that leaves you maximum creative time and the optimal situation for you—your best time to work could be morning, noon, or night—you decide.

3. Put your art first.
As I started to mentioned in that last point, but I can’t stress enough—reserve your prime waking hours for your art. I prefer to put my art first, literally, so that I wake up and go immediately to my creative work. Then, by the time I get to my odd job at 1:30 p.m. I have already worked 4+ hours on art, and I can sit pretty knowing that I’ve let my creative spirit run wild. If you get most creative after dark, find a job that will give you nights free (don’t forget to leave time for other things like errands, etc). You could also look for a job that has you working every other day, leaving you full creative work days in between.

4. Find a job that lets your mind wander.
Creativity loves space and time to run free in your mind. Artists need actual time to do their work, but they also need ample time to let their minds work on their next creation. If you can find a job that keeps your body busy but lets your mind wander, you’ll be able to do double-duty and feel like you’re playing even when you’re working at your day job. Working as a courier I can easily let my mind wander while I’m driving around dropping off mail. Many days I come home with a pocket-full of small pieces of paper jotted with creative ideas. This makes me feel like my day-job work is not only financially productive, but creatively productive, and it gets me ahead of the game on my next creative project.

5. Find a job that lets you be yourself, at least most of the time.
The single most soul-killing thing about many day-jobs is that we creatives often feel like we have to pretend to be someone we’re not while we’re working. We have to pretend to care about selling random objects or providing excellent customer service, or about the policies of this or that company. We have to fake it. This makes the time we spend at said jobs feel completely contrary to who we really are, and therefore that much more painful. Look for a job that allows you to be yourself most of the time—you can look for an environment you would feel comfortable in, a creative company that interests you, or in my case, a job that lets you work independently most of the time—when I’m just driving from office to office delivering mail, I can listen to the radio, think creative thoughts, and just be myself. This makes the whole thing a lot less painful.

6. Remember what you hated most about previous jobs and find one without those qualities.
Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes it just seems easier to keep getting the same kinds of jobs—you have experience in customer service, so shouldn’t you continue on that path? Well, if you enjoy chit-chatting with customers, then go right ahead. But if constant interruptions and having to smile all day drive you up the wall (like me), then you’re just leading yourself into your own personal hell each time you get another job like that. For me, the top two most stressful and annoying things are: one: being constantly interrupted and having to put on my “fake face” all day long and, two: sitting for hours in front of a computer screen inputting boring data with absolutely no room for a creative thought. And yet, before my current job, I had a whole string of jobs that relied on these things—in fact, the last job I had before courier incorporated both of these things. I felt physically ill every time I approached the office. I would sit in my corner, staring at the ceiling, dreaming about the building burning down. Yes, it was that bad. Finding a job that will jive with what you really love (read: will not steal every ounce of positive creative energy in your body) is more about what the job is not, than what it is. Figure out the top two or three things that kill you and use that criteria every time you look at a prospective job. And then, JUST SAY NO.

7. Use your creative powers on your resume.
You’re creative right? You like telling a good story—whether it be through words, images, music, or dance? Well, how about using those powers on your resume? You can be a veritable chameleon in the workplace {hopping from one field to the next} if you can put your creative powers to work on representing yourself. Let me be clear here: I am not telling you to lie—but what you can do is reframe your skills in the light of the job you’re applying for. Study the job announcement you want to apply for, underline the skills they’re looking for, and try to find as many applicable skills from your work history. Look at all tasks you have done both large and small. Say you have been a customer service assistant, but you would like to become a baker. You may not have followed detailed instructions for making brioche in your previous job, but what about all the detailed instructions you followed to input customer orders? See it as a creative exercise: use your imaginative brain to translate your past work into the basic skills your future employer is looking for.

8. Recast your job as what it really is: an opportunity to support your creative work financially.
So many of us define ourselves by our jobs. People ask us at a party, “what do you do?” and we automatically blurt out whatever way we earn our income. The one big key that will turn having a day-job from drudgery to opportunity is the way you think about it. Think of it as slave drudgery and you will continue to let it run your life. But if you can recast it as an opportunity to work for yourself—to put one set of skills to work for the general benefit of your whole, then you can let the job just be a job and not your identity. All of the ideas above will help you with this point—the less painful the job is to your person, the easier it will be to see your job as not a death sentence, but a workable side-experience that can not only enrich you financially, but: enrich your creative life, give you a break from yourself, get you out of the house, and help you pay your bills.

9. Don’t let people make you feel bad for not having a “real” job.
Many people hassle creatives about “growing up” “getting serious” “getting a real job” {meaning: a job that’s on the career track that they can understand}. It’s hard not to let these comments get to you—you want to be a useful, law-abiding, contributing citizen. But the truth is, you already are—if you’re making time to do what you love {your art}, then you’re giving your ultimate contribution to this world—much more of a contribution than you could ever make climbing a corporate ladder that makes you want to jump out a window—even if you never make one single cent at art! Your contribution to this world is about love, it’s about passion, it’s about sharing your best, most expansive thoughts. To do that, you only need to make time—make time for your art, and then no matter what, you are a success.


14 Responses to “Finding a Job that Jives with your Creative Practice”

  1. 1 Lee Ann October 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Oh my goodness, this post was amazing! You have no idea how much what you’ve written here applies to my current situation. As a matter of fact, I just had an interview last week, and will hear the end of this week if I will be offerend the job. It’s one of those jobs with nice people and all, but it’s full-time and I wish I could find something with less hours so I could continue being creative as much as possible. Then there is the sour economy thing right now and you feel you should be grateful for anything that comes your way. After all, so many are without jobs right now who need them.

    Any ways this post sure spoke to me and seemed to come right out of my heart through you. It feels good to hear someone else say the things that my heart has been saying inside of me. It makes me realize that I’m not an ungrateful person, or out to my mind. I know I was created to be creative and need to use that side of myself in order to be fulfilled and add my part of beauty to this world.

    Thank you so much! Please say a little prayer for me too.
    Lee Ann

  2. 2 Lee Ann October 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

    oh so sorry for all of those typing errors in my comment above. I’m on a friend’s laptop and cannot see very well what I’m typing.

  3. 3 Laura October 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I especially loved this part- it may be my new mantra!:

    “Your contribution to this world is about love, it’s about passion, it’s about sharing your best, most expansive thoughts. To do that, you only need to make time—make time for your art, and then no matter what, you are a success.”

    Thanks for spelling it out- it’s one of those things that I need to keep drilling into my head!

  4. 4 antiphonsgarden October 13, 2010 at 12:20 am

    High time for a base income for all citizen.
    That would be the base of a real democracy too, and is affordable considering the money “invested” in finger pointing bureaucracy and deviant lobby pleasing politic.
    Imagine the blooming of creativity in general serving truly humanity, once the base need fears are resolved.
    The moralin “work ethic”is a punitive myth leading to a disconnected devastating neoliberalism. Humans loves naturally to work, in decent self expressing activity’s.
    Some country’s (not always the most “wealthy”!) are working on it, out of simple economical logic.
    Its time for REAL CHANGES!

  5. 6 Isabel Marques October 13, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Hi Nicole, I have been following your blog for a while now and this post is great. It truly reflects my current situation. I have a part time job that pays the rent and now I am starting a more creative / craft personal project and the creative process does take up most of my thoughts and time. I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. Thank you so much for sharing

  6. 7 tiffany October 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Nicole! This is such a fantastic post and really the perfect advice for so many of us! This is something that I’ve been struggling with for a while and I just cut my hours at my retail job even though I can only kind of afford it…but I feel like it’s taking ALL of my time, and that’s not okay. Thanks for the reminder that there are always other options!!

  7. 8 Nicole Docimo October 13, 2010 at 8:47 am

    oh, I love hearing from all of you! It is amazing how we’re all going through the exact same thing—it makes you realize that we’re all in this together–trying to find our way!

  8. 9 Laura October 13, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    What excellent advice and pertinent examples! All your points are important, but I identify the most with numbers 1, 2 and 8. Keeping the hours down and keeping your optimal working hours for your art are vital in order to avoid the “soul-sucking” feeling of a boring job. Also, I like your term ‘side-job’ over day job. After all, it’s an activity that is on the side of your main focus: your art. And the key to not having others define you by your side-job is to stop defining yourself by the activity you do to make a little money.
    As an art student, I had a part-time job in a museum, which left lots of time for my mind to wander, ideas to flow. When I came to France, this type of job was impossible to find, as you have to be a civil servant here to work in a museum. So I took up teaching English a few hours a week (Ironically, being a native speaker is qualification enough!), keeping my weekly hours under 10. I don’t really like it, but it leaves me LOTS of time to make art and be with my kids too!

  9. 10 Michele October 14, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for sharing this!!!

  10. 11 erasmith October 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm


    You’re the best. Thanks for keeping our confidence up.


  11. 12 Kerri October 14, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Oh Nicole, so much to say about this of course, but you’ve heard it all before already! LOVE this post. You make the most wonderful points and I especially love how you make an artistic life sound so so sensible as in ‘of course this is the most important thing for you do’. I think your job as a courier sounds fantastic. I am working on sending good day job vibes out into the world. There must be such a thing surely!

  12. 13 DazzlingDogz October 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Great article. I can really relate to #5 and this is my favorite sentence:
    “The single most soul-killing thing about many day-jobs is that we creatives often feel like we have to pretend to be someone we’re not while we’re working.”

    What irony – – a Google ad about Employee Engagement on this blog. One of the things I currently hate about where I work is that they’ve contracted with Gallup for a 5-year plan of surveying us to death and making us do stupid group activities to increase Employee Engagement.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.


  1. 1 Farewell for Now and One of the Most Important Lessons I’ve learned in the Past Couple of Years « blue bicicletta Trackback on May 26, 2011 at 10:11 am

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Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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