From Basement to Outside World – a Guideline for Beginning Artists

What does it mean to be an artist or creative? Some people wait until that first big check before calling themselves the big C-word. Others will put “photo retoucher” in their resumé after editing their friend’s picture in VSCO. It’s safe to say that both terms are vaguely thrown around and given different interpretations. But let’s talk about the process, from discovering and experimenting with your passion to actually pursuing it as a career. What are some aspects you should definitely keep in mind as you embark on this journey?

1. Is the grass really greener?

When you picture your first few years as an artist – what does that image look like? If it’s instant recognition, immediate success and big money, you might want to rethink that picture. The creative scene is very often glamorized, but the thousands of memes and rants about the hidden struggles are not an act. It has been said over and over again, but the first few years will challenge your determination and motivation to actually pursue your passion. There will be times where you don’t get the positive reaction you expected, times where you’ll be putting a lot more money into it than actually receiving from it, times where you doubt everything… The journey is worth it in the end, but don’t expect instant gratification – growing pains are inevitable.

2. Impostor syndrome? We don’t know her.

That nagging feeling you experience where you think you don’t deserve what you achieved? It’s called impostor syndrome and more importantly: it needs to go. Feeling insecure or doubting your skills at the beginning of your journey is very normal, but it’s important to validate yourself. We’ve all heard of the cliché that if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one will. When you minimize yourself and your work, it sets the bar very low for your environment and the way they should perceive and treat you. So, keep reminding yourself that you deserve to be where you are and that you are qualified enough.

Beginning artists and creatives


3. The “brand vs. human” identity crisis

There’s a lot to say about social media’s role within your journey as an artist or creative – both positive and negative. We’re already quite aware of the toxic impact social media can have on both your individuality and self-confidence. But we can’t really ignore the importance of digital presence this day, especially when it comes to putting your work out there. A lot of beginning artists receive new gigs by posting their work online, as some sort of portfolio or what was formerly known as the good old business card.

When it comes to navigating through this social media age, it’s important to check yourself every once in a while. Don’t lose yourself as you’re trying to create some chiseled online persona. Instead, focus on your craft and originality. This ensures that you keep your authenticity and don’t become a watered-down version of your feed content.

4. Set healthy boundaries

“I could have easily done that job myself”

“I know someone else who has a lower rate than you”

*Doesn’t pay you after the promised 5 business days*

 These are only a few classic examples a lot of artists and creatives have to deal with on a regular basis within this industry. That’s why it’s important to create some boundaries and principles for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of artists will tell you that they had to take on a lot of free jobs at the beginning as part of their learning process, it’s almost inevitable.

But one of the biggest toxic parts about the “creative industry”, is that companies and people in general tend to not take artists and creatives seriously. Know how to spot the difference between a job or project that is good for you and one that comes from a place where your talent is taken advantage of. In the end, it’s all about knowing your work’s worth.

5. Don’t cockblock your own success

It’s convenient, it feels comfortable and it will literally get you nowhere. I’m talking about the comfort zone. Navigating in this industry, that can already feel so overly saturated sometimes, is hard enough without you blocking your own opportunities. Of course, you don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way, but you will definitely have to take on some things that might make you feel nervous or push you in ways you’ve never been challenged before. Same thing when it comes to meeting and reaching out to new people. ‘Networking’ is one of those words that’ll have many cringing and introverts shaking – but it needs to be done. Meeting up with new people can not only open doors to new opportunities, it can also teach you a thing or two.

No one has ever claimed that following your dream or passion is easy. It’s often a long road filled with doubts, moments of anxiety and loads of hard work. And that’s exactly why that determination is so important. If you’re pursuing it with the right intentions, it’ll always be worth it in the end. Just note that you should believe and invest in your process, without losing yourself down the road.

Illustrations by Liana Finck / Photo by Hu Yang

beginning artists and creatives



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