What is your day job? (question for full-time and part-time creatives)



  • Hi all,

    I'm just curious about who illustrates full time and who does it on the side or splits their time 50/50 between illustrating and 'normal' 9-5 work. Personally, I've come to enjoy having a part-time job that gets me out of the house and covers basic bills so I have more freedom to turn down work that doesn't lead me in the direction I want to go with illustration.

    I'm curious what everyone's opinions or experiences with this has been like. I wonder what you think the best type of side job for an illustrator/creative might be. I think my favorite so far has been working at an animal shelter - which worked out because I love drawing animals and got to use many as reference subjects lol. What has your favorite 'day job' been if you have/had one? For those of you who illustrate full time: How long did it take you to get there?



  • I work full time as a finance officer in a school. I don’t dislike my job, and I like my coworkers, but the longer I work there the more I realise I want to illustrate at least part time. My partner is starting a new job/career path soon where he will be earning more. Once he’s settled into his new job I really want to drop down my hours at my job to part time so I can really give illustration a go and try to earn some money from it. I do think it’s a struggle to come home from a day job and long commute and find the energy and motivation to work on my illustrations sometimes



  • @Mary-Toth It would be nice if I had a choice in the matter but I also work part time. I work tech retail part time and it's enough to keep my head slightly above water bill wise. I've been applying to jobs around NYC that are art or illustration or book publishing related, but no luck. I have been practicing art on the side but I haven't gotten any paid work from it yet. My job is supposed to be more of a teaching position in the stores, teaching people how to use technology and more specifically, art relation applications. But most of the time I'm just an extra body on the sales floor.

    It can be very exhausting working tech retail because, aside from standing for 8 hours a day, people like to blame their tech issues on us, and sometimes they are extremely angry. Since I live in the US a big chunk of my income goes to the health insurance for me and my partner so to help pay bills I have to pick up more shifts which leaves me with less time to work on art.

    From this I have met a lot of different people and have a better grasp on personalities and how larger corporations treat non corporate employees. Which is helpful because it's allowed me to think about different themes I'd like to incorporate into the comics I'm writing.


  • Pro

    @Mary-Toth I do freelance illustration full-time for 2 years now 🙂 I had a rough start - I had to move out of town and leave my stable studio job, and started freelance out of desperation when I couldn't find a studio job in my new city. I don't really recommend it LOL.. It was really rough and I had to hustle 24/7 for about a year, I had to accept every single job that came my way just to pay the bills. It was stressful. In hindsight, I totally should have gotten a part-time job to ease the burden! Ah well, in time it worked out and I've been able to finally slow the cadence significantly, which is a huge relief.



  • I work full-time as a Buyer for a college bookstore. I am currently the food and beverage buyer but I am hoping to eventually work my way into Art Supply Buying. I make okay money doing what I do but I wish I could do it part time so I had more time to try to pursue an art career. But I do get 20% off art supplies and the head of the art department always gives me pretty sweet deals and some high end items I got at cost which is a nice bonus.



  • Hi @Mary-Toth, I wondered the same thing so thanks for posting!

    I work 50hr weeks or more in the engineering and construction industry, specializing in writing contracts, making deals, and handling claims and legal stuff.

    I love my career because it’s challenging and changes frequently based on the projects I work on.

    I also love to draw and write; however, I’m not pursuing illustration as a full time gig, nor thinking about quitting my day job. I am pursuing art as a side hobby and working on personal book projects.

    Since I’m the sole provider in my household, I have to keep my career steady to take care of my family and in-laws, which live with us and are retired.

    Art helps me relax and getaway from my high stress job, so it balances me.

    This community is really good. I know it sounds cheesy, but my art dream is to have a book available at a big box retailer. Not online, but physically in the store. Maybe, one day...


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I am a Web Designer by day. I been with the same company for 19 years. I got hired while I was still in college going for an animation degree. During school I changed from animation to web design because at the time there was a lot more demand for it. I was still able to be creative and my hobby became illustration.

    Working full time and having a family does limit how much time i get working on any illustrations. But the time I do find I enjoy. It's like my escape now.



  • I'm still a student, but I walk dogs to pay for classes, which lets me listen to art podcasts and get some exercise 🙂



  • @K-Flagg can i bug you for art supply discounts?



  • @Mary-Toth I work as a preschool teacher. I began full time and now work part time. I am fortunate to surround myself with my intended audience for picture books. I spend lots of time searching out amazing stories and art to inspire my learners. I can even test out illustrations and story ideas with a built in control group. Even working as a substitute preschool teacher or teachers aide would be a great part time gig. It puts you in touch with a target audience and lets you into the workings of their little minds. They are sophisticated thinkers even at the age of 3. It's wonderful to watch them engage and question or see them totally check out when the books and images are "ho-hum." If you're into picture book illustration you might give it a try.

    All that said, I am working hard to get myself home and creating full time. I have worked in early-childhood education for 19 years teaching children with special needs as well as typically developing children. Sometimes the job, children's needs, and extra stress that goes with teaching can wear me down or stress me out. I find that when I am home in the evenings I have a hard time letting go of my teaching day and getting into creative mode. As a teacher, I guess we are always thinking of the students and the classroom. Or maybe that's just me not being able to separate my realities and get into a disciplined frame of mind.

    Good luck in your searching. Follow your passion. That will always bring joy while you are working toward full time illustration.



  • I am a homeschooling mother of 3 (ages 13, 10, and 3) and I work part-time as a bookkeeper/administrative assistant/stager-of-homes for our family businesses. I wish I could say the breakdown was even 70/30 but it's more like 90/10. I wake up at 5 to get an hour in without "3yo help", listen to podcasts while folding laundry and washing dishes, and put in an hour after all are in bed again. When I have an idea, I write it all in a notebook with captions for each thumbnail because one day I know I'll get there and as long as I inch along, for now, that's ok.



  • I am a full-time neuroscientist and I do research in this field in a university. Not exactly a 9-5 job (it takes longer hours) but I like it, it's the only job I ever had. It is difficult however to have time to draw and paint, I mainly do it at night after dinner, not my sharpest hours. I like the balance of both "activities" but I definitely would like more time for art, as science doesn't completely fulfill me. If one day I leave science behind I would like to be a full time artist, we'll see.



  • I was a teacher before my kids were born, but now I stay home with them full time. Now that the last kiddo is getting bigger, I’m thinking about what I want to do when he enters kindergarten. I don’t want to go back to teaching, and I’ve always loved art, so I started working through the svs classes in the evening and in my spare time. I’ve sold some art through Etsy, but I’d love to work on children’s books or other publications.


  • Moderator

    I am a 5/8ths-time benefits-based adjunct assistant professor at a private university, where I coordinate the costume design and construction for 5 theatrical productions each year, teach multiple classes, and mentor any student costume designers. I've been there for 20 years, but before that I worked as a costume technician in the costume shops at The Old Globe Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse, and designed a variety of shows in smaller local theatres. (www.coreyjohnstondesigns.com)

    I've struggled for years to keep my job "part time", but it's honestly an impossibility and most other people doing my job at other universities across the country are full-time or full-time tenure track. Finally this year, my department had an external reviewer come in and say it was an egregious error that my position wasn't full-time. Ahh! Sweet Validation!! LOL! Who knows if it'll change.

    But the good thing about being part-time with benefits means that I supposedly have that ephemeral unicorn of situation: I can supposedly work on my art when I'm not at school, and be able to invest time in developing my illustration skills. Since most illustration gigs are freelance, I can theoretically do both, and augment my income with side-gigs doing something I really love.

    And I'm trying to make my day-job conform to what this position is in other non-theatre departments. But it's easier for them. In theatre, the reality isn't that simple. Making theatre demands so much time... The industry expectation is that it's all-consuming in a lot of ways--and that comes from both peers and theatre administrators. Live-able wages are very hard to justify when so many will literally just "do it for the love of it." Martyr complex is a thing--"real profressionals" are "all-theatre-all-the-time" and if you can't measure up to that impossible standard you just don't care enough... So burn out is very real. And I'm still one of the lucky ones--I teach at a school and get a year-round paycheck. Currently, the entire theatre industry has been gutted. I have friends who are in very very dire straights... It's rattling and disheartening. I'm seriously scared for my students' futures.

    Believe it or not, illustration actually pays better than theatre. So I keep going, and use my drawing as a sort of mental escape. I know what it's like to collaborate with people on projects--that's literally what theatre-makers do all the time to make productions--so I use my art as a kind of personal, singular expression that can be more about me and my own likes/dislikes/preferences. I know that's not the reality of the illustration industry at all, but I'm still in that "this is for me" stage. And I still have a long way to go on my fundamentals. So for now, every step is a forward step. And I'm happy with that.



  • I'm a full-time lead graphic designer, and I do small freelance logo, design, and illustration jobs on the side. I like my day job and the people that I work with (as well as the stability and benefits), but I'm working on a 5 year plan to flip things to illustration full-time, and doing a little design on the side.


  • SVS OG

    I work full time as an admin, and thank goodness it pays the bills because nobody would pay me for my illustration work LOL! Someday...


  • SVS OG

    I work from home as the admin for my husbands construction business... Something I desperately want to quit. Haha! In the last few months I've also become a home school mom to my 5 kids. I've done it before, but its so much harder when I don't get to set the curriculum and schedules. I do art in the in between moments... hopefully those moments will increase to something more, or at least to something semi consistent.😆


  • SVS OG

    @charitymunoz I feel your pain. I'm in the same boat. Making progress and working when I can, but I'm on the slow boat for sure.



  • @Pamela-Fraley Same story here, but with four kids, and I also used to homeschool. It is so different following someone else’s plans!


  • SVS OG

    @sarahlash oh my gosh! It was nothing like homeschool. I’m so glad we’re done. My sister in San Diego still has 2 weeks. 😬 on a side note, there should be a support group for mom artists. My family loves my art and is encouraging in their way. But...they also don’t ever want me to go do it because that means I’m not paying attention to them anymore. I used to go to the library or my favorite coffee shop... but now I can’t hide anywhere. 😆


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