Career VS. Job

My previous article called “Artist’s Support System” spurred some interesting comments.  One thread in particular motivated me to write this article as a follow up.  We talk about motivation a lot here at the Alliance, and for good reason, it’s why we do what we do.

Many folks in the creative industry live by the motto “Keep the day job”; as in earn money to support yourself while growing your true career.  This is excellent advice while pursuing you career goal.

What I wanted to delve deeper into is Career VS. Job.  My discussion with a reader got a bit murky because at this point in my life, my job IS my career and I use the terms as one in the same.  So I’m here to clarify.

Quickly, I define a “job” as something you do to support yourself in school or make extra money.  A career is something you do because you truly love it, AND make money to support yourself.  Yes, yes, you go to a job, but hopefully a job in your chosen CAREER.  So normally your job is your career and vice versa.

Let’s use this broad example: If I were to work a part-time “job” and invest say 20 hours a week in doing this job, I may make some money but not good money.  Would the money help?  Yes, but I’d lose that time as well to develop new career skills.

Now, if I were to take that 20 hours a weeks and work on getting commissions or selling my comic collections at comic stores or other type of networking, then I’d probably end up making more money.  And more importantly, I’d be developing my career as well, which leads to even more money (hopefully).

But what we have here is the classic putting the cart before the horse.  To take the time to develop a new career, you have to take away time from something.  In most cases that’s personal time.  A lot of people with families go to night school while working a full-time job to help start their new career.

The point being, we artists DO take the time to develop our new career and more than likely it takes time away from our family/personal life.  So those closest to you are the ones who suffer the most, and THAT is what triggered my last article.  Because a person going to night school is doing something more socially accepted and more importantly, understood.

But, an aspiring artist to spend that time drawing and building their skills, it can easily be misunderstood by those around you.  “You’re just drawing silly pictures! Get a job!”  Is a comment you may well hear, and that’s not entirely fair to us artists.  As a “job” will get in the way of our new career.  Confusing, so stay with me here!

Now, I’ve heard “successful” artists say that they would do anything to support their family; even shoveling poop, if it helped pay the bills.  I agree, we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do to achieve a greater goal.  But would these artists gotten to where they are today by taking time out of their career to shovel poop?  No, they would not.  As a temporary stop gap measure, sure, but in the long run it takes perseverance, and perhaps sacrifice, to achieve your goals.

Again, no one is lucky, they earn it.

Now in my particular case, I am a freelancer.  So, I can take the time that I would normally apply to getting new contracts/clients and apply it to my new career of being a comic artist.

I won’t get there any faster, but I’m able to split the time invested from my current career and my family.  But I did earn less money at times.  So in my case, it didn’t effect my family time while learning to draw again, but it made it hard to pay some bills.  A risk I chose to take.  But at some point my art career will have a greater impact.  And that’s where I’m at now.  I am investing more time as I am seeing more returns.  Still small returns, but name one career that starts off at the top of the salary ladder?  None.  Again, I’m paying my dues and working up the ladder.

So in essence I have two full-time jobs.  My first career and now my second career are demanding equal time.  And every so often I make more money at doing my art then I do with my old career.  It’s just not consistent yet.

So, that was the motivation for the Artist’s Support System.  Anyone who seriously states “I want to do my comic full-time” will cross this murky point in their changing of careers and it will have an impact on their personal support system.  I hope this helps motivate you to achieve your goal (dream) and puts it into perspective.

It is working for me, but at a cost.  Only you can determine if it will work for you.

Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints.


  1. Good stuff Byron – there are many things we end up having to balance. Personally, I couldn’t give up my day job – I’m extremely fortunate because I like it very much and I work for a great company.

    That being said, you’re right – there will come a time where I’m at a crossroad and I will need to make a decision.

    • You’re a good example of having a great day job, but yet have the bug to draw a comic. In your case, making the switch will be a difficult one as it is a huge decision as you really LOVE you’re current career. You could do comics for another 10 years the way you’re doing it and then make the switch. Nothing says you have to do it now.

      I was kinda “forced” into making my decision. I was at a crossroad by no fault of my own and figured why not do something I *really* want to do. So I picked up a pencil.

      Probably the silliest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m glad I did.

  2. Philosophically speaking, my career and this new job of being a comic artist kinda need each other. My career motivates me to draw the comic and feeds stories. My comic keeps me, er, sane enough to continue on with my career.

    I wouldn’t mind, however, having my job and career switch titles. Wouldn’t THAT be something. 🙂

    Great article! 😀

  3. Speaking from my experience, prior to starting my web comic and deciding to be a freelance artist. My normal daily routine would be go to work then go home and spend time with my family. Now, it’s go to work then go home and create art stuff. My family time is now reduced to Sundays.

    Great read. I wish there’s more than 24 hours in a day.

  4. I fear the day I have to bite the bullet and quit the dayjob. I doubt that decision will be met well by family, and it’ll be a rough year financially.
    First things first tho, I need a helluva lot more cash coming in to do that!

    • You can actually plan for this transition Dawn, it just takes some financial sacrifice on both you and your husbands part to get to that place. The both of you can set a goal of putting a certain amount of money aside (invest it even) to make your project have its chance and if by a certain time and date, those goals couldn’t be met, accept it didn’t work out and move on, or be thrilled it panned out and revel in its success!

      The wife and I have a goal of wanting to be out of the rat race by our early 50’s. To do that, we put as much money as we can scrape together into retirement accounts and whatever else we can find to make the money grow. Granted these days that may seem like throwing money into a furnace and watching it burn, but in the long run, it pays off little by little. So ten years from now, I’ll be retired and drawing Madbury full time, making no money from it [still] and loving it. Why? no alarm clock, I’m tired of the alarm clock! I really just want to wake up on my own!

      I also live by a motto, “for your opinion to matter, I have to care” and when it comes to family members expressing their opinions about the choices you make in life, its only the opinions I solicit that have value to me. Like my advice to you now, it only has value if it works for you. If you tell me to bend over so you can reinsert it where it came from, (out my proverbial arse), then so be it! If you believe in what your trying to do, there are only two people you need to be concerned with, your husband and you!

      I would love for nothing more than to sit and draw madbury all day long, but its not in the cards right now and I dont even pretend to think it will be for awhile. Financial responsibilities come first, but you can plan for it by making sacrifices now that will benefit you later on. Besides, with the way the economy is behaving these days, just trying to prepare for the unexpected is just as beneficial as preparing for your next adventure in life.

      I went sailing today, I think the salt air has made me frisky! o.O

  5. Sometimes you don’t have a choice about losing the dayjob…In my case, my “safest position in the department” & “you’re such a valuable asset because of your intimate knowledge of all the equipment and software” were forgotten that December of 2007 when I was blindsided in a meeting and told my so called safe position was being outsourced to India Bob come June of 2008(it happened to be my last day was a friday the 13th…lol). I’ve learned a lot but earned very little so I may have to consider taking a part time night job (I sleep very little anyway because of the stress of spinning my wheels for no return and small readership…catch 22 for me as I can no longer afford to go out and press the flesh, so to speak ie, cons, travel, etc., I rarely drive anywhere these days because it just costs too much for gas), just to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head (hard to produce a webcomic from a cardboard box). My skills have increased significantly in the past three years, but I have yet to find my breakthrough to even break even. I am like that person in the Blair Witch thingy that looked into the camera and in tears says, I’m sooo scared!

    Another learning point is as a small business owner(which that is what you are being an artist/cartoonist) is the wearing of many hats, and one hat in particular is the accounts receivable hat…ya gotta press your clients to pay or else they will figure they can drag their feet thus stopping your momentum. How can you spend time building your skills when you spend most of your time hounding clients for the money they owe you from the service you rendered. Never work for free just for exposure because all you will expose is you are a great artist who will work for free and then clients will come to expect that from you and not offer any paying gigs, just volunteer work.

  6. I feel that I’m fortunate right now because my day job is a total 180 degrees from drawing. I use a lot of design sense, but I’m not cranking out drawings every five minutes or hearing someone say they don’t like the way such and such looks and could I do it over again.

    That helps when I get home and want to draw my own comic. That’s therapy time for me. I used to have jobs working in the art field and after drawing and sketching and appeasing someone else’s fancy for 8-10 hours a day, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was to draw anything.

    So now, I go to work, do what i gotta do to pay the bills, take on a side art job here and there, and then try to build up my webcomic on weekends and after hours. This set-up is working for me right now, although i would love to just do Addanac City for a career. 🙂

    • Don’t we all just love to do our webcomic for a career? I find your mentality of loving your day job which is “180 from art”. I wish I could see my day job like you see yours.

    • I hear ya there, George. I used to run huge billboard printers, and got a good workout during my 2nd shift “dayjob”, come home and crash… but then the mornings were 100% creative and dedicated to my comic! Worked well, I really enjoyed the variety to my day… until I nearly shattered my left hand in an accident on the job. I realized I can’t do this until I’m 80, and switched back to graphic design. Mind you, I hardly every draw anything at work– mostly typography and finding imagery, designing packages, etc. So the only thing I tire of is being on the computer. ALL DAY LONG. And go figure, I had to switch to being 100% digital with my comics, so I can’t even separate myself from the computer for drawing/inking. It is faster, which is priority #1 for me.

  7. Sometimes you can also make the day job work for your career too. I agree that at some point, the two will have to part ways, but that doesn’t mean the time spent at the day job is a waste. The job of a cartoonist is one of isolation. Almost all day jobs force us to be around people, and we can learn a lot from those experiences!

    Example: I didn’t get to go to any comic conventions ($$ being the preventing factor) this year…but I DID go to a technical conference and man a booth for my company. I learned a lot about how to engage people, having good energy, using eye-contact, etc. That’s a “con” experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    Sometimes an employer will work with you, too. I’ve been making a lot of changes lately to learn new things and grow in new directions at my work place. I’m learning more about the business and marketing sides of what my company does, which benefits both the company, my job, AND my comic career aspirations. Learning to express your interests/goals in a way that “non-creatives” can understand can have great benefits even at the day job!

    • any way that you can get the dayjob to work with your night “gig”, is a HUGE plus. Sometimes you can make it work without them knowing about it. My design job has flex-time, so if I’m up way late getting that update done, I have the option to go in late. If a con rolls around and is Fri-Sun, I can work 4 10-hour days and get Friday “off” w/o a vacation day. I know Ken has OK’d it with his company that during conference calls, he can sketch RTS, and that’s mainly because it helps him focus on the call more (not that I fully grasp that concept, but it works for him!)
      I’m also replying to this thread at work…. *cough* so, yeah.

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