How do I move from a computer career to an art career?
March 29, 2004 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Well, I have a Computer Science degree and a job to match. I'm slowly but surely working on an art degree (Art classes tend to be during the day) and easing my way out of the computer field forever. The thing is, I do have a mortgage and a wife (no kids, thank goodness) so I'd prefer not to starve and lose my house over it. Has anyone made such a switch from a professional pursuit to a personal pusuit, and do you have any info, resources, advice, etc. related to that change? How'd you make it happen? How'd you manage with a career and juggling college courses mostly offered during the day? How'd you make ends meet?
posted by internook to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Im sorry to not have any advice, but I always felt that doing a job you love for 1/3 less pay than a job you dislike would always be worth it. Good luck in your ventures.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:38 PM on March 29, 2004

internook, perhaps you need to be more specific about the kind of information you want. Sometimes people lob a whole complex situation onto the green and then no one contributes because it's just too big of a topic and no one knows where to start. Do you want time management tips? Budgeting tips? Career advice? Perhaps if you could list some of the specific things that are problems for you right now, you'd get more feedback.
posted by orange swan at 4:18 AM on March 30, 2004

Keyser, I'm in mid switch from architecture (building design) to art. While still employed in a conventional 9-5 job, I paid off all bills except the mortgage, refinanced that with a special loan that cut the monthly payment in half, and gave myself a 6 month window to breathe. I also networked with people in the CAD circles so I can contract myself to help pay future bills, but still control my schedule.

Maybe you could cycle your work/art pursuit in 4 month - 1.5 month phases. So if a project lifecycle was around 4 months, you could work on that, then take a breather. Gradually change the ratio as you get more art community contacts.

I'm using my initial 6 months to focus on my own style and creative process. I also have used the time to make a lot of art community contacts, and have scheduled at least one show of my work out of it. Waiting on confirmation for a second show.

I had been thinking about the switch for years. A friend referred me to this article (pdf file) in the Harvard Business Review, which was the catalyst for making it happen. What struck me was her observation that people considering career change have already been doing the career they want to do for some time (usually as a hobby or side projects). Might help you in your approach to make the switch.
posted by yoga at 4:55 AM on March 30, 2004

I work in web design fulltime and am a classical musician nights and weekends. I'll eventually go back to just music, but while I have the steady income, I'm taking the opportunity to make contacts - that means doing some jobs for lower pay or for free (community stuff or for charity).

I take almost every job I can. It makes for some hectic weeks, but I'll have a good resume and will be on lots of folks' "call list" when I'm ready to solo again. You'd be surprised how often important people can show up at small things - a 1 hr obligation accompanying a high school choir has put me on the top of the call lists because the president and other top members of the music union were also contracted for the same gig.

In short, start your social networking now.
posted by Sangre Azul at 7:32 AM on March 30, 2004

I did it. At age 26 I left my successful financial career and went to art college full-time to study painting and drawing.

At the time it was an easy, short-sighted decision (a step towards something infinitely more interesting and challenging that what I was doing). I think I told myself I could always 'go back' if I needed or wanted to.

I didn't have a mortgage. I had some savings, but not much. I worked summers and weekends while in college.

I finished a year-and-half of the four-year art program. I was doing really well, but it wasn't right for me. Since then (9 years ago) I've been doing the full-time artist etc. thing. I've sold my paintings myself, and never really bothered with galleries or artist grants. I taught art classes, took commissions and other projects to help supplement my income. Lately I'm doing more design than art.

I've been, and am increasingly choosy about what I get involved in (my motto is something like: if I have to work at something I hate, I'll go back to the power-suits and make a helluva lot more money at it). I try to stick to stuff I actually believe in, and work with people I respect.

I learned to live simply in order to survive the low income months. I'm not sure if I could have done it with a mortgage, or if someone else was relying on me financially.

Discipline and sometimes desperation really help. So does a good deal of openmindedness and self-confidence. And when the confidence wanes (and it does!), it's invaluable to have supportive friends and/or family (though it took my father a couple of years to stop telling people I was 'on sabbatical').

I'm (financially) poorer than I'd have been if I stayed with the suits, and while this has meant some restrictions in terms of consumption, my choices have so far realised a very rich, free, interesting, full and happy life.

'Making the switch' is possible if you want it. How you make it work is, of course, individual, but I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you have, or feel free to contact me via email.
posted by spandex at 10:31 AM on March 30, 2004

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