Making a Career Change to Art... How or Where to start?



  • Hi,

    So I am heavily considering leaving my career in the health industry. I really want to work in the entertainment industry. I started self teaching my self drawing and novel writing. The reason for the change is about just enjoying life and having fun with my work. I am an INFP, myers briggs, and really want to use creativity to express myself and find things I am passionate about. I'm very much an introvert but when there is something I'm passionate about I am all out for it. I don't care about making lots of money. My transition will take about 5 years or so to accomplish. I am like 42 and just can't wait any longer to make this adjustment in my life. My family seems OK with it just as long as I keep working and I can take care of our budget. So far everything seems like I can manage just fine but I would like some more advice on this. I just want to get some advice or views on what ever comes to your mind.

    These types of questions are some things I wonder about.
    Have you ever changed careers? What did you learn through the process? If you had to do it over again where would you start or do over? Who would you ask if you where serious about changing careers? What are the ups or downs?

    Thank You
    Kind Regards to all



  • @william-patrick-mcquillan btw I just wanted to add I will be going to a professional school or college to complete the transition to a career. Thanks again



  • Hey, the only advice I have is to read the book "The ONE Thing" by Gary Keller. In the SVS "Work/Life Balance" video a couple of the instructors (can't remember who? Jake? Sarah Jane?) suggested it and it's perfect for what you're thinking. I seriously can't recommend it enough.
    Go for it and good luck!



  • Here are some things I would do differently:

    1. Don't make money a goal: it's a helpful tool that allows you to spend your time making more art. But if money is your end-goal/reward, art will be very, very disappointing. I theoretically know this, but I occasionally forget, so it's a good reminder.
    2. Your portfolio isn't the best work ever, it's the best you can do at the time: this means you need to keep it fresh and up-to-date, which means you also need to keep improving and learning!
    3. Don't pay $$$$ for a degree, pay for experiences and connections. I used to feel really insecure about not having a "high enough" degree in my field, but it very rarely comes up when I speak to clients. If I can do the work, then that's good enough for them. (Not bashing schools, just saying that a solid work ethic and dedication to craftsmanship are more important than a piece of paper. If your school can connect you to studios, publishers, etc, then go for it! But you'll still need to show work to make it happen.)

    Best of luck as you transition!! I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible for you!


  • administrators

    @lynda_percival Jake, Sarah, and I all recommend that book as well as "Deep Work" which is a true game changer.

    @William-Patrick-McQuillan I changed careers and came to illustration (and drawing in general) much later than most people did. You can do it. I recommend doing it in a slow transition kind of way. Let it build naturally.

    Good luck!



  • Hi, iam a finance analyst, who decided to take a break and see if i could develop at art and change my career, so i fully support you! Iam close to 40, so its nice to know that iam not the only one tring to make that change at that age:) SVS is a good place to pick up a lot of good courses. I planned to do one a week and draw at least 3 hours a day. Its not much but i still got young kids, which require a lot of attention. Ive been doing this for a year now and i feel like i really want to do it forever. I am challenging myself with different personal projects and i also managed to take part in a charity project (book for sick kids). Iam basing my creative energy on a few mottos, which are 'finished not perfect', 'you need 10 thousands hours to become good at smth', 'draw what you like and not others', 'copy other artists in order to learn'. Iam also giving myself 5 years max, because thats when my 10th hours ends (if i manage to increase daily average of course!). Good luck!:)



  • I also come from the health industry. I enrolled in art school when I was still working full time and kept at it during studying. I had my 60-80 hour weeks to juggle both, but since art really gives me energy rather than taking it away, it was a good balance. In 2013 (at 40) I quit my job for an internship in an Healthcare Communications agency and in 2014 got a job as art director there. Last year in October, I reduced my contract to 50% and took the "half-leap" into freelance illustration and children books, giving myself 2-3 years to do the full leap, depending how things go.
    So, I am moving in a very cautious, conservative way, which may be the one letter difference that we have in our profiles (I am INTP)!
    This is what I can say from my experience so far:

    • Freelance illustration seems a very slow and "organic" career, built on networking and consistently producing new relevant work and putting it out there. In hindsight, 2-3 years is probably not enough to reach a reasonable income, but we will see.
    • It is a buyers market and is very specialized - so you need to decide where you want to work and focus networking and portfolio there - at least at the beginning.
    • At school, my business practices teacher used to say: "three things are important to succeed as freelance illustrator: do great work; keep deadlines; be nice to work with. The good news is...(dramatic pause)....you need only two of those". Since I do not trust my work to be great, I am focussing on the other two...so far it seems to be working out ;-)
    • Although I longed to work by myself at home and it´s one of the main reasons I wanted to switch to freelancing, I find my studio days lonesome and fostering all sorts of weird destructive thoughts. Especially when a day goes by, as many do, without any mail, message or other sign from the external world, just drawing and painting for your portfolio or for a spec project for hours on end. I am finding I actually enjoy the days at the agency much more than I ever did before and I am even thinking if staying like this - half and half- is not the best option after all.
      But then of course there are the days when a client sends in an enquiry or you get a particularly nice message from a follower and you feel at the top of the world...
      For this reason, I am finding that building contacts with other illustrators or creatives is just as important as building contacts with potential clients. Critique groups, creative meetings etc...are becoming a very important part of my mental health.
    • When I started freelancing last October I felt like I wanted to make a big leap and charge at the world. I convinced myself I hated agency work and at best I would have quit it and lived out of savings for a while. I would recommend resisting that urge. As @Lee-White suggests, taking it slow and easy seems a lot better in hindsight. The right clients are slow to come, reputation takes probably years to build and, what is more important, I am not under pressure to make it work at all costs. This gives me the ease of mind to work on spec projects (aka my own children books), "sharpen the saw" (I spent four days in July just drawing pages and pages of hands from animation screenshots....), avoid stalking art directors when you get a chance to chat with them and work steadily on my social media channels and portfolio.
      But yes, this is the perspective of an INTP, which maybe sounds too much like "the voice of reason" sometimes! ;-))

  • administrators

    If you can do something else part time and make money while you establish yourself in illustration, your life will be the better for it. Quitting something and needing to make money in illustration is a recipe for disaster.

    Most pros I know do at least one other thing besides illustration to make money. Teaching, etc. is always a great option as it has a flexible schedule and pays ok. It's a catch 22 though. They want established people to teach so it's sometimes tricky to get in there.



  • @lee-white that is something I have wondered about. Is it really hard to only do illustration as a career? I don't have a BA, and so teaching wouldn't work out for me. What if I have a two income household? Do most of the pros you know who teach and illustrate notnhave that?


  • administrators

    @eric-castleman It is extremely difficult to make a full time living at only illustration. Having a two income household makes things much easier. Of course, every situation is different. Keeping costs low is a definite advantage.

    Remember it like this "the higher your ideals are, the lower your overhead needs to be".


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