James T. Green is a conceptual artist, designer, developer, podcaster, and writer based in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A..

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Own your side hustle

As someone with multiple interests and practices, I’ve seen how much it takes to wrangle them together and focus. Figuring out how to invest your time and resources is one of the hardest things to do for anyone that creates for a living. With numerous distractions and fleeting interests, it’s hard to figure out what you’re good at.

It’s now the sexy thing to say “Do what you love and forget the money”. While this sounds empowering to the ears, you can’t help but eat it up, especially being young and just out of school, with the desire of the opportunity to make money off your craft. While I’m still young in the art and design fields, I’ve learned quite a lot about utilizing my talents, focusing them, and paying rent with them.

Making designs for clients and sharing works in progress online has given me the ability to fund my art practices, but never to the point where I can make a living selling art pieces exclusively. The key is finding that niche, looking into your personal art practices and figuring out a way to monetize it. In order words, getting paid from something that is in relation to your field.

A good example is in my personal practice. I love making art that utilizes technology such as video, elements of design, and online programming to create conversations. While this is good in the world of art and exhibitions, I have not found the perfect way to monetize off this practice, i.e. selling my work. Maybe I’m doing it wrong and completely open to feedback, but what I have learned is these same skills I use for a personal art practice, I can use commercially. My formal education in graphic design and art practices have helped me to market my skills from a business standpoint. Utilizing skills in web and design, I can work on projects with clients and find full time work that is not only in my interests, but are also helping me learn new skills for my art practices. In turn, this also funds my needs to buy materials, enter juried art exhibitions, and participate in residencies. With this beautiful need fulfilled, everything comes full circle.

A large percentage of artists have some sort of side hustle buried in themselves, it’s all about finding it. Teaching after school programs, being a preparator for an alternative space, or building apps can all be things that are done in conjunction with an art practice. While you may be at the point where people aren’t knocking down doors to buy your artworks, it isn’t selling out or being dishonest to your craft if you use your skills to pay rent and buy groceries. While this advice is not as syrupy as “quit all other things and follow your passions,” it’s worth digging into and giving a shot.

James T. Green