Everyone has projects they dream of and clients they would like to work with. Dream projects don't put food on the table alone. They have to be paid for, right? How do you manage to get both and be satisfied with the results?
The Usual Story
There is a story happening nowadays that is not only seen often, but it is slowly taking the form of a norm for any business. People invest in their business with money they don't have and then mostly work for paying off their debt. That's probably food on the table minus the artist's satisfaction.
What's the Problem With That?
Every payment is like the chiming of the bell of a clock. It strikes without caring if you have the money or not. It strikes without asking you if you have been delighted in your work this month that earned this money. It doesn't care if you eat beans and bread or gourmet courses. It is like the voice of the examiner that tells you, ready or not, you have to put your pen down and submit your papers.
Art today is not that well paid unless you have good work, good marketing skills, and have found your niche. Going into debt as an artist will not make the situation any better. On the contrary, you have to start working on anything that brings you income as long as you keep the financial institution happy. This is not an environment creativity is best developed in. Eventually, if you have any free time from working for your monthly payment, you can work on things you love, unless, of course, your clients are paying you for projects you dream of.
Portfolio as a Personal Image
Your portfolio will determine what types of clients will hire you. If you show weddings, there's a slim chance you will be hired to do a products catalog. If you want to work on certain projects, you have to show your affinity towards these projects by displaying a portfolio predominating with visuals in that field. If you work on projects you don't want, but you have to, because of your debt, you can't stay with a blank portfolio. You have to put something there. If you don't have the time to spend extra effort on personal projects you love, you will probably have to put up work you don't like. Little by little, you will get a name for being good at something you don't like. Switching away from that kind of portfolio will be similar to starting from zero, which will require you to turn away a multitude of potential clients who want to hire you for what you're already known for.
But You Still Need Money for Basic Needs
You can work on personal projects and wait for those dream clients, but you have to put food on your table after all. If you don't make enough yet, you can still work on something that can cover your basic expenses, but you will have the time to build your dream portfolio and business without any financial institution chasing you for a monthly payment. Piece of mind is an essential fuel for creativity and smart business decisions.
Is It Worth It?
Is it better to spend a year or two on paying off and then starting all over in another area of the visual arts and throwing away the imagery and name that you have built? When you pay off a debt, you always give more than you've been given. This means that for that period, you could have saved money that would have bought you that type of gear and even more.
Is it better to be known as someone who turns away projects they are known for instead of starting as a nobody with freedom to build a dream portfolio and attract clients who would pay for such work?
Do you actually need a type of gear you can't afford? Isn't something cheaper going to work too? Do you not want cheap because it's cheap or because it won't suit the type of work you do? Cheap is not always expensive, as they say. There can be a smart and cheap investment as well.
Do you actually need to buy gear at all?