From Hobby to Career: Part 4 – The Artist

Is it just me, or are we at that part of January where you’re so tired and broke, you’re considering jacking in all your resolutions and just mainlining vodka and chips?! Maybe just me. Anyway, I thought we could all use an injection of #inspo none-the-less, so I’m back with the next instalment of From Hobby to Career!

As an explanation for new readers, I’ve decided to do a series with people who have successfully turned their hobbies into their careers because it feels like The Impossible Dream, but people have actually done it, so I want all their secrets and I want them now. 

Next up is Internet Favourite and All Round Nice Guy, Ben Cameron.  He is now a very successful artist with a BLOODY BOOK OUT. Let’s find out how he did it immediately.

So, first things first, what’s this hobby that you have and how/when did it start?

Artist! Crikey, it’s weird to say and still doesn’t completely sit right but I think it’s the best and easiest way to explain what I do.
What I do is draw.  I sometimes paint or use a digital tablet too.  All sorts of stuff.
Cartoon, doodles, portraits….words.

It all started with doodles. Silly, funny…even vulgar little doodles I would draw on scraps of paper that I kept in my back pocket while working in a shop. All drawn to make myself and a few other colleagues laugh. Sometimes it felt like passing notes in class. Childish and by way of escape those long and sad days in a job we all hated.

I LOVE this!! Bringing some joy to the workplace! So when was it – or what was it – that made you decide you wanted to make it a source of income?

I continued to do these doodles for a while. I started to share them online too, twitter mainly. I liked the feedback so did more. At home I spent time indulging the whim and went farther by printing up some t-shirts and key rings with popular designs to sell to friends and colleagues.

I found another job that took me away from the awfulness of retail. A great job that I was good at but I still continued to draw. More than just doodles now. Large illustrations and painting and I started some art projects for people to share through the post. I was having an absolute blast creating and sharing art.

The new job was going well – but some big changes happened there. The office I was working in shut down and there was a lot of redundancies. I was offered a pretty substantial promotion but it would’ve required me moving house away from family and partner and a bigger commitment with time.  Meanwhile, I was really getting into the art and selling a few bits on etsy and wondering if I could actually do it as a job.  I had a big decision, go with the good job with pay rise and stability and all that, or find something temp and work towards packing in ‘the day job’ completely. Temp seemed like the way to go…

Eee!! This is getting exciting… So how did you go about doing it?

I was able to quickly find a job working in a customer service centre for a bank. I spent my lunch breaks and evenings working hard on my drawings and creating a nice selection of options on my etsy page. After a month or so I was able to drop a day there (so only working 4 days out of 7 at the bank) to spend more time on my art.  I was going for it.

Orders were coming in steadily and I was finding myself struggling to find time to meet demand. I had to make a plan. I decided that I wanted to build up enough money so that if i made no money I would be covered for rent and bills for three months. If it was clear after three months that it wasn’t working I would find another job and have a rethink.

So, 7 months after joining the customer service centre I was on my own. I was self employed! (November 2012)

What setbacks did you face (if any?!) and what did you do to overcome them?

I think my own obstacles mainly. Laziness is a strong word but I think it applies in some respect to me. Complacency and not being used to setting my own routine too.  Maybe I was overwhelmed but I sort of flapped around for ages with no real business plan or goals and just working day to day, etsy sale, to etsy sale.

I’m still working on this. When I’m busy it’s great but feel sad I can’t work on new projects, and when it’s quiet I feel sad about no money coming in.  I think I’ve found a nice balance now.

Good! Do you feel you have made a success of it?

I think so! It’s hard to see the bigger picture sometimes but I’ve been self sufficient for over 4 years now. I’m not indebted to anyone and I can work on whatever I want.  It’s incredibly liberating but often that feeling is only appreciated in hindsight right? The immediate and present pressures and stress can cloud all that. But right now I’m feeling very positive and excited about the future of my career, which in all honesty I feel I have only just started. Also, I dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, and I have kind of made that my reality, which is pretty cool!

Also Ben, you have a bloody book out, and BUZZFEED RAN THIS ARTICLE ON IT!!! That’s pretty awesome success if you ask me!

Any regrets?

I do wish I had kept better records of work and what people have bought. I’ve kept accounting files but no real tally of what drawings I’ve sold.

I don’t seem to do well with notebooks for sketching either. Always on scraps, and they go missing so my portfolio is ‘out there’ – on people’s walls. I’d be rubbish if I ever wanted to do a retrospective. Maybe that’s something I should be more mindful of now – no more regrets!

Now, can you give me some words of motivational wisdom please!

Oh crikey, this is tough. Of course the best is ‘just go for it’. If there’s an interest in what you do, then keep pushing. If one person likes it, then maybe there’s another, and another. But don’t forget to do what you do for you first.
I’ve made the mistake of trying to ride a popular trend or meme and failing. It’s hard, when looking at someone else success. Especially when it’s similar to what you do. You can lose track of what’s important to you, why you do it and why people like it.
It’s good to be motivated by those feelings though. But keep in mind that you want to better yourself, not others.

Thank you so much Ben! Wise words!

You can check out Ben’s brilliant work here

Or follow him on Twitter here: @ben_cameron

I have myself purchased Ben’s work on multiple occasions and AM OBSESSED WITH IT! It makes awesome personal gifts and awesome personal PRESENTS FOR YOURSELF! Here is a selection to whet your appetite! 

Thanks for reading guys! To see more of me, follow me on Twitter @susieblues or on Instagram @susiebluesyy 

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