Full-time artist who also works as a...
May 16, 2017 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I don't have any day job ideas. Any guidance/suggestions would be appreciated.

I'm a self-taught graphic artist who took college art/graphic classes but never got a degree. The school was horrible and I ended up teaching myself. Since then, I've been working various jobs that lead nowhere. I've never had any motivation to advance beyond wanting to make more money. I've always focused on my art and this past few years, I've been working harder than ever. I've worked on children's book, I've been developing my portfolio with new work and I have two solo art shows this summer. Unfortunately, as with any artist, it doesn't fulfill my financial needs. Which is fine, I accept that.

I was laid off this past October and I've been on a furious job hunt since then. It has absolutely gone nowhere. I've posted previous questions about finding work and was inspired to work in print production (screen printing as an example) but there's no work anywhere that doesn't require previous experience. I'm located in central NJ. I've been on unemployment benefits for awhile and they are about to run out so I've been incredibly stressed. At age 30, I feel worthless and pathetic. I've found this job hunt and the interviews I've been on completely demeaning. But it's something I have to get over.

I've considered going to trade school but I'd rather move out of my hometown first.

My previous work experience includes mostly retail, customer service, data entry and graphic signage/illustration work.

Are there any good day job suggestions for someone with no college degree? Jobs that pay decent and that aren't retail/customer service related?
Side note: I'm more interested in illustration jobs rather than mundane graphic design/logo work.

Thank you for reading.
posted by morning_television to Work & Money (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You are not worthless or pathetic, so stop that. It just makes it harder to do anything.

I would suggest you make a plan to pay your bills and pursue art, but just being able to pay your bills will make you feel happier. Being frazzled is not a good state to be in to make decisions. There are jobs out there, maybe not your ideal job, but they can help you have some cash and that will help give you some breathingbroom.

Buff up your resume, and make it look good, and get some help with it if you need it. Realize that school may be necessary. I have gone to school A LOT and never regretted it ever, but I picked some good schools.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:39 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you considered an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor? It won't pay immediately but once you have completed the apprenticeship it's not a bad choice for no degree work. Also, there are absolutely jobs in printmaking for entry level applicants in my greater KCMO region; you might consider moving to another area if there aren't enough art jobs in NJ. But some of those entry level jobs will prefer college degrees, so I wouldn't move without a job in hand.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:42 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Read everything you can and watch as many online videos as you can about how to be a _good_ interior painter (and what happens when people do a bad job of it). Come up with a one-sentence description of your approach to doing an actual _good_ job. Put up some ads (Craigslist, bulletin boards near your house, etc.), call some property management companies and let them know you're getting started and that you _care about quality_ (also on time performance, presenting yourself seriously, communicating well with clients).

Congratulations, you're not just a painter, you're one of the very best ones in your area. After a year or so you'll be eagerly sought after and able to command top rates.

If you also learn about how to hire good people and keep track of the videos/texts that helped you learn best, you'll do great bringing on an assistant or two, and poof, you're a small business owner. (OK, it's not that simple, and you'll have to work hard to get the money part right, but it's very doable if you're not _awful_ at math. If you are awful at math, hire someone super trustworthy to help with that part.)
posted by amtho at 11:03 AM on May 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Since you're an artist and graphic designer, is freelancing something you might consider? If you already have a good portfolio of your work, it might be a little easier to find some short-term contracts or projects to work on for income than to find and go through the onboarding process for a new job, especially since a lot of full-time jobs are less likely to hire someone without a degree.

If you were looking more for a job you could hang on a hook at the end of the day and that wouldn't eat up your creative labor, large distribution centers or warehouses usually pay more than minimum wage if you can handle physical labor, and I have a couple of artist friends who clean houses for pretty decent money to fund their various ventures.

Trade school is a pretty solid idea, especially if you have an interest in apprenticeships in like plumbing or electrical work or something, because normally you get a stipend while you're completing your training. Even if you're leaning more towards something like welding or massage therapy or something without the formalized apprenticeship structure, you can knock a lot of those programs out in two years or less.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:26 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Plumbing, electrical, carpentry etc. don't require trade "school" persay - rather, you apply to an apprenticeship and then take classes in conjunction with full-time paid work for 3 to 5 years depending on trade. It's a great option, but also will involve long, grueling days until you get your journeyman card and the flexibility that entails.
posted by cnidaria at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2017

Oh, I forgot to mention, people sometimes do go to school for welding in lieu of apprenticeship. Or you could also do a pipefitting, sheet metal, ironwork, or other welding-focused apprenticeship. It depends on whether your time or your money is more important to you, and which welding speciality you're interested in.

Welding or custom interior house painting might be good trades to look into that could use your artistic skills and give you a good paycheck and career flexibility.
posted by cnidaria at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you considered doing art technician work? I graduated from art school in the UK about 10 years ago. I had a studio and exhibitions and managed to make ends meet for a while with the income from sales and bits and pieces of part time bar/restaurant work. But then came a realisation moment - I wasn't getting the shows or income (maybe financial crisis stuff didn't help) so I moved from Glasgow and ended up in London with a *real* job. I worked for 5 years for a gallery running a collection and doing installation and technician work in a gallery. Seeing as you are considering technical college I'm presuming you're fairly practical.

While tech work at galleries isn't particularly glamorous, it can be interesting and could be something that you could do freelance to support your real interests.

Good luck!
posted by multivalent at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you are able to do physical labor and work some long hours, you might freelance as a stage hand. Contact a labor provider like Rhino Staging (if in the U. S.) explain what you want and see what they say. If you are responsible, show up on time, follow directions, and work well with others, you will soon have more work than you can handle.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:13 PM on May 16, 2017

Any job is going to be better than no unemployment benefits. Ask your friends and others in your support network if they know of any jobs. Have some money coming in by doing something while you position yourself to look for a job you want. My suggestion would be civil service. Go to work for the State of NJ or Uncle Sam doing something you might like.
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:01 PM on May 16, 2017

How do you feel about admin?
posted by divabat at 8:31 PM on May 16, 2017

I'd also suggest Art Teching/Art Handling. The industry is full of artists who do it as a second job.
posted by mani at 4:00 AM on May 17, 2017

Have you considered websites like Fiverr? If photoshop is part of your self-taught suite of skills you can pick up the odd job here and there designing logos and business cards etc. They won't pay a lot (its definitely a buyers market) but its good for 'odd jobs' using your skills and you can occasionally find more robust graphic design projects there as well.
posted by deadwater at 5:54 AM on May 17, 2017

Maybe the answer might be to temp, which means instant cash without the formal interview process which you said you dislike. They don't always offer retail/customer service jobs and in the past I have found some quite satisfying without too much commitment needed. And this gives you the ability to continue your ilustration practice part-time. Or find one temp job you like, and use it as a stepping stone to do a job you want to do.
posted by phodraws at 4:43 AM on May 22, 2017

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