10 Guiding Principles for Your Arts Career

Rejection is inevitable.
10 Guiding Principles for Your Arts Career
“Find the practice that works for you, and never apologize for it.” - Walidah Imarisha
Make your arts career work for you with this empowering advice from artists.
Build yourself up
Do the thing.
It's OK to ask for help.
"Watch your pals." - Hanif Abdurraqib
Court rejection.
You can be financially stable.
Know your rights.
Protect your work, invest in your future.
The world needs your perspective.
In the words of educator and writer Walidah Imarisha, writing or creating every day “works for some, but if it doesn’t, especially because you’re struggling to survive, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer” or artist. You are the only one who can set the best, and most feasible, rhythm and schedule for yourself.
Try: If fitting in large chunks of time for your art feels unattainable right now, set aside a few minutes on a regular basis to explore.
Or, if you’re ready and able to carve out more time aggressively but find yourself pulled in opposite directions by various priorities and responsibilities, set aside realistic chunks of time in your calendar to create.
Become your own best supporter.
Try: Create your own repository of kind words.
This could be a document you add to, or you could try a more tactile approach and list compliments on your wall or create text-based art with them.
Creative block will manifest for every artist, but it is different for every artist.
In the words of author Pam Stucky. Wendy Perron (Fellow in Choreography '85) recommends doing the thing "even if at that (blocked) point, it feels really stupid and pointless. At least then you’ll have something to look at or fix or edit."
You don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re struggling in some way, it’s very likely there is someone or something that can help.
Try: Reach out. Your local arts council or arts organization likely has the exact resources you need.
It can be a challenge to find the perfect outlets for your work once you’re ready to share it with the world.
Here’s a simple starting point from poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib: “All of my dream publications are the places I can be published next to the work of my friends and heroes.”
Try: Create a list of 10 favorite artists in your discipline with whom you feel an affinity in style or subject matter.
These could be artists in your circle, online or in-person, or others you admire from afar.
Then, research any relevant deadlines or eligibility guidelines and set reminders for deadlines and the steps you need to take along the way to be ready to submit.
These could be artists in your circle, online or in-person, or others you admire from afar. Where are they published? Which galleries exhibit their work? At which festivals have they performed?
Don't let the “no's” you receive define you.
Lean into the “no’s” you receive because that means you’re putting your work out there.
Being an artist can be a financial challeng.
Try: Artists and creatives in all fields are often at a loss on how to price their work or services.
But let's throw out the stereotype of the starving artist. It is possible to survive, and even thrive, financially as an artist or creative, and there are many ways to reach this goal.
Artist fees and hourly rates should be realistic in order to be competitive.
Another principle to live by: when you're creating a project budget, remember to pay yourself for your time.
Here's a staggering statistic from the National Endowment for the Arts: “American artists are highly entrepreneurial; they are 3.5 times more likely than the U.S. workforce to be self-employed.”
This means that artists and creatives can find themselves without the protections of a standard workplace, shouldering more risk and liability.
Try: There are a range of contract templates online or you may want to ask peers to share their template with you.
Your work and your well-being are precious resources; luckily, protecting yourself is well within your power.
Every small step you take adds up to readiness in the face of disaster, as well as readiness for exciting opportunities in your arts career.
Artists are all too familiar with imposter syndrome, as people who make their own rules and create something out of nothing.
‘Your work is worthy, your work is worthy, your work is worthy.’ I try to take it very seriously. So that even if I suck that day, I still try.”
8