Is a paycheck a prison for artists?

The debate on artists who are employed in other occupations requires a different perspective

“A paycheck is the bribe they give you to give up on your dreams.”

This phrase has been circulating in social media circles recently, and the implication is clear. According to this mindset, those that work for a traditional company with a salary are less likely to explore other options, like being self-employed or attempting to do something more rewarding with their lives.

But is this a true assumption?

Do people who maintain a traditional job sacrifice their dreams simply by being employed?

Many creative artists maintain professions in all kinds of fields – service jobs, corporate jobs, management, etc. – while continuing to explore creative projects as their passion and / or for additional income. If a paycheck truly makes people give up on their dreams, these creatives certainly wouldn’t continue to push forward developing their other talents. And thanks to technology,  many artists are able to create more efficiently when they aren’t working in their primary income occupations.

Rather than being a burden, it’s more likely that a paycheck is the way these creatives fund their dreams.

It’s a fact that making a full-time income in the arts is not easy, and most artists seek out multiple sources of income to support themselves and their families. Not only that, it’s not uncommon to find artists that are gifted in a non-creative capacity. It would be foolish to assume that a marketable skill should be neglected due to the implication that the artistic side should always come first. No artist should feel ashamed of being employed in the traditional workforce.

For creatives that work full-time in the arts or that have an entrepreneurial spirit, working for someone else may seem like a step back. And it is certainly true that full-time artists can focus on their art more freely than those who have to maintain a primary occupation elsewhere. However, every creative artist must find a balance between seeking freedom to explore their ideas with the need to support themselves financially.


Where or how you earn a living doesn’t determine your status as an artist. What you create does.


Share your thoughts: Answer our poll question and comment below: If you consider yourself an artist and work in a traditional job field, do you feel it detracts from your creative pursuits? Why or why not? 

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3 thoughts on “Is a paycheck a prison for artists?

  1. 4 me …Well gigging has helped me go from a FT time position to PT . I now control my work schedule. I don’t want to totally depend on gigs because it will take the fun out of it for me . My husband job transferred him to Florida in June ….now I have to start from scratch marketing & heading to open mic nights in hopes to connect with great musicians grrr . So now I’m back to a FT job in my sales field . Grrrrr Ugh !!!
    E.P

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story Ebonie, and I certainly can relate with the struggle to find the right balance! Life seems to require a readjustment of our creative pursuits daily. Don’t let frustration get the best of you…keep connecting and I’m sure you’ll re-establish a core group of musical collaborators. And you’re not alone in not wanting to rely on gigs – several artists I know prefer to keep full-time jobs so they can be more selective with their choices to perform. Blessings and thanks for reading!