A 9-5 grind that might not suck
July 14, 2012 12:16 PM   Subscribe

You love your hobby big time, but turning it into a job is either very difficult or financially impossible. Instead, you work a job that pays the bills and leaves you enough energy to aggressively pursue that hobby on the side. What's your job?

I recently realized I'm passionate about photography, which is incredibly weird for me as someone who has never had a Thing. I'm even good at this Thing, and I'm selling prints in coffee shops and I had my own (!) gallery and I finally shot someone's wedding as the main camera lady for money after dozens of times as second shooter. I'd like to make a career of photography except it's a notoriously difficult field to try to do full-time, I'm very young and doubt I have the maturity to manage my own business, and I'm scared making it work would diminish the joy I get from it.

Anyway, thought about teaching for the summers off, but I've concluded pretty soundly that I'm not made of the teaching stuff and the time/brain space/effort put into it are way more intensive than ideal for my purposes. I'm going to be in NYC. I like being out and about, especially if I'm going it alone; I'm not at all sure if eight hours in an office is ideal for me, but I'm willing to try it. I fantasize sometimes about being a location scout.

Also! I realize this is all highly dependent on the specific company you work for and its culture. I'm kind of trying to expose myself to fields I might not have considered before, or ones which may have yet undiscovered facets, so I can take the information here, do some research, and comb my contacts for an in.

So, others who have found their Thing but make money elsewhere, what do you do? How do you get through 40 hours a week when you really just want to grab your camera or get on the stage or paint or write a story? Is walking dogs in the afternoon and waiting tables at a nice restaurant in the evening my best option?
posted by goosechasing to Work & Money (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Follow your dreams! The fact that you seem to have talent is a great thing too. Most artists do whatever they have to do for money, part time, full time, to fund their love. Some are eventually lucky enough to make a business out of it. But are all lucky to be doing something they love.

Really, go for it as fully as possible, the rest will work out.
posted by snaparapans at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2012

I've found that university or not-for-profit administration jobs here in NYC, at least the ones I've had, are good lifestyle jobs. Entry level pay isn't necessarily great, but even though you might have busier times than others, for the most part, they are 9-5 jobs where you get to leave the job at the office, and with lots of holidays and vacation days. For example, at my entry level university job, I started off with four weeks vacation from day one (not to mention great benefits).
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:41 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also if you get a job at a university you will probably be able to get some free classes and maybe access to facilities.
posted by BibiRose at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a lawyer. It keeps me plenty busy, but I've had time to get engaged and co-write a book in the past year. It helps that I'm not working for one of the big corporate firms.
posted by valkyryn at 12:53 PM on July 14, 2012

I do administration. You can work in just about any field that interests you, and I have a crazy, full day that I love, but it stretches totally different muscles than writing, so I never get home feeling exhausted about working on the book.
posted by OrangeDrink at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2012

I've been writing a blog since December about how I transitioned from working in a day job full time and doing the odd bit of proofreading on the side to working full then part time while building my business to working on my business full time. And I have another blog with lots of helpful info on running a business - mainly aimed at the UK but useful elsewhere, too. If you're interested (or anyone else is), drop me a memail and I'll send you the links - I'm not going to risk looking like I'm just touting my websites around but I've done it and it is possible!

Good luck!
posted by LyzzyBee at 2:11 PM on July 14, 2012

Work in a camera store, or the electronics department at a bigger store. You might get an employee discount on equipment.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:14 PM on July 14, 2012

Simply put, you do it.

You make time for it. You take notes during the day (something like Evernote is great for this) and schedule whatever you're going to do when you're off, then uphold that schedule. Sometimes it means you skip out on fun things to do art things. Sometimes it means a lovely day is spent inside slaving over a novel or painting or photograph or whatever, which is what I'm doing now, in fact (though I may hit the pool later, once I feel I've gotten enough done today). I've found my best ideas require percolation and turning over anyway, so while I mull how to get dashing hero out of the dastardly villain's evil machine, I can work on my actual work, the stuff that pays the bills for now.

The other thing is, if you MUST use your talents to get paid (and I say, don't, get a nice boring job with good benefits), sometimes you can sort of only use part of them for work. For example, in my freelance life, I write a lot of nonfiction, things like press releases and internet content and factsheets and things like that. I don't feel like I'm using my "fiction" energy doing that, since I can still mull over plots and so forth.

In your situation, I'd say start the process. Work on stuff like setting up your website and building your portfolio on weekends and evenings after work. Feel it out and let it develop organically. Where the would-be artists I know run into trouble is they decide to jump in with both feet and proclaim NOW I AM AN ARTIST when really they just had some nice luck, then things get rough because they don't have an actual business, they just sold a few ebooks or a painting or whatever and decide YES THIS IS CLEARLY IT.

Build up a cash flow, do whatever sounds fun, and see how it develops. Maybe you take it full-time, maybe it stays a fun hobby.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:36 PM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I work in a law office 9-5 and do science on the
posted by mismatched at 4:02 PM on July 14, 2012

*on the side. I sort of happened into this accidentally, but having my side Thing makes getting through the work week much easier.
posted by mismatched at 4:03 PM on July 14, 2012

Teaching SAT prep in Seoul, yo.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:34 PM on July 14, 2012

For me, the key was finding a day job that had no strings attached. I work for forty hours, sure, but it's not hard. Just time-consuming.

I work in a call center. I come in and start answering calls. I keep answering calls until the end of the day. Then I go home. No long-term projects. No responsibility beyond "Handle the calls properly." And the work itself is pretty straightforward, so it doesn't particularly tax my mental reserves (other than getting bored waiting for calls to come in.) That way, I can come home and still be able to write, polish, and submit my short fiction.

(Having a baby kind of effed that up good, but y'know. In principle.)

Teaching, by the way, is a terrible plan. You don't get "summers" off. You get six weeks, tops, that isn't already taken up with post-school and pre-school meetings and planning and whatnot (and then you usually have to take some kind of post-grad course for "professional improvement" credits), and when you ARE working, you're working 80-100 hours per week just to keep up with homework and planning. It is a calling more than a job or a career, and I would discourage anyone who isn't dedicated to the idea of teaching per se from pursuing it.
posted by Scattercat at 5:08 PM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Depending on where you work, software engineering can get you there. If you have skills in an in-demand area, you can bill at a high enough rate to work only part time. Example
posted by jewzilla at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I work in technical application support in what is basically the R&D division of a large byzantine megalith tech services company. I volunteered to take an unattractive shift (graveyard), which came with the added benefits of a higher pay scale and a 4 day/10 hour shift. The 'work' is less mind-intensive than usual support stuff because it's after-hours system uptime monitoring instead of tickets or whatever, so I often have 4-6 hour stretches with very little to do, and I'm alone for most shifts. I can usually do a lot of admin/research related work for my Things during work hours, and I have a 3-day weekend every week to do actual fun stuff.
posted by par court at 8:18 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recommend reading The Renaissance Soul. It had good advice for figuring out day jobs that support your side passion (e.g. a job that gives you an employee discount for the stuff you need for your side passion, an admin job that lets you network with people in the industry you really want to work in, a job where you have access to specific equipment like copy machines, etc.).
posted by cadge at 12:34 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dammit! Forgot to paste in the URL for The Renaissance Soul. Here it is.
posted by cadge at 12:35 AM on July 15, 2012

Web design!
posted by nosila at 7:38 AM on July 15, 2012

My dentist is a dentist 3 days a week and an abstract painter for the balance. If you can manage to get into and finish dental school I think this is a great way to support basically any creative gig.

My wedding photographer was a real estate appraiser.
posted by town of cats at 1:18 AM on July 16, 2012

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