Dance is a Hobby, Career or Business? Part Two

Challenges in the life of a performing artist

So what are the things performing artists struggle with the most? Let’s find out!

  • Time management: Performing artists multitask by nature. Due to the fact that their schedules don’t follow a typical 9-5 workday and one may be juggling multiple freelance jobs, mastering time is a key part of a performing artists’ life. An artist is often an entrepreneur paving the way for themselves rather than following a predetermined path. Because of this, an artist has to think about self-promotion and marketing, teaching their craft to others, creating meaningful work, seeking out opportunities, and continued training in his/her field; while tying all of the above into income creation and a sustainable career.
  • Sustainable income: Artists following their hearts are faced with the never-ending stress of money-making and money management. Many in society are not willing to pay fair wages to an artist. Many expect an artist to work for free. Artists may have to take on work that does not necessarily align with their morals and values.
  • Respecting the competition: A catty artist is perhaps not an artist at all – after all, artists are supposed to support one another! However, increased competition, increased visibility due to social media, and limited income prospects can foster a sense of jealousy and hostility rather than mutual collaboration, respect, and support.
  • Emotional and mental health: Since the very nature of their lives is so volatile, it’s no wonder that artists need to pay attention to and prioritize their mental health. People with creative minds are perceived as being highly sensitive and tuned in to their emotions – add in the constant uncertainty and worries about career, fatigue, and burnout, and you have a recipe for depression. Artists owe it to themselves to take care of their minds and their bodies – however, as the famous saying goes – “Take your broken heart and make it into art”. The industry has a tendency to romanticize these feelings, thus creating a perpetual catch-22 with the sentiment that amazing art comes from the most emotionally charged individuals. One must always remember that art does not have to arise from the darkest of places to be poignant or authentic.
  • Staying true to message: After all is said and done, one may forget to step back and remember why he/she started working in this field to begin with! With all the ambiguity, burnout, and self-criticism, “branding” yourself becomes tricky. As the lines between social media and reality become blurred, performing artists may become jaded and confused as they pay too much attention to “what sells” versus what they believe in.
  • Not being taken seriously: Artists are smart, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who don’t take art seriously – it’s been branded as a “fun thing for kids to do” and “something that doesn’t require real intelligence”. Yikes! While their counterparts may be pursuing fields that are socially prestigious such as medicine and law, artists may end up feeling alienated as they spend time defending themselves and their choices to family and friends. They may even start questioning their own life choices!
  • Rejection: Artists are out there, putting it on the line, every day of their lives. They’re required to be raw and authentic – and with that, comes the very real experience of failure. Any artist you know will tell you they’ve failed 1,000 times while searching for their “big break”.
  • Getting advice: There is more than a little ambiguity when it comes to one pursuing a career in the performing arts. A nontraditional career path coupled with a lack of resources and help can lead to some serious confusion! Those in the field could do with a career advisor, if you will!

What do you think? Have you ever encountered any of these challenges in your career? We’d love to hear more in the comments below.

Stay tuned to hear from people we spoke to from the performing arts industry itself!

Want to read more? Read the Part One of the Five part blog series

About the author

This blog was written for WINGS by Ruby Verma. Ruby Verma started out her career working in Private Equity valuations for 9 years. She then made a career switch over to the arts! She now works as a dancer and a writer in the greater NYC area. Ruby is an artistic director at Junoon Performing Arts. Follow Ruby on Instagram or Medium and share her expression of thoughts and words through her posts as a passionate artist.