Your Child’s Career Choices or “Help, My Kid’s an Artist!”

“You should endeavor to write something worth reading, or, lead a life worthy of chronicling.” I love collecting quotes, and this is a very old quote about the difficulty of writing. When I was 11 years old, I promised myself that I would become a writer. I was a stubborn kid. Perhaps if I knew then how difficult it would be to earn a living as a writer, I might have reconsidered.

The average salary for writers is $23-an-hour. Some statistics even portray novelists as making $61,000 annually. However, these are optimistic numbers. Only a small percentage of writers ever go on to make a living at writing. Or, become superstar writers like Stephen King. Even then, it’s a long road to success and self-sustainability.

It takes years or decades to develop a following. Also, it takes time to find a literary manager or management agency. Even Stephen King didn’t become, “Stephen King,” overnight. Most people don’t realize that writers, like any artist, are independent contractors who don’t have salaries or medical benefits.

Writers must have multiple jobs and write 8 to 12 hours, or more, every day to survive.
Relative to other kinds of careers, it’s hard to succeed as an artist. Especially when it comes to literal art, like the oil paint and canvas kind of artist. I have many friends who are dismayed that their children desire to become artists.

It can be self-defeating try to discourage such life choices, as children can be very contrarian. So, it might be better to emphasize the difficulty in making a living selling art. And, to emphasize what a child must do to become a successful artist. I used to be an educator, and I’ve learned that you can’t control children; the best you can do is point them to the right path in life.

Cost of an MFA

It costs a lot of money to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree. The average tuition cost for an upper tier art school is $38,000-a-year. Over 56% of parents and grandparents go into serious debt paying for their children’s tuition. Even after getting an MFA and training, there is no guarantee of making a living.

It must be noted that over 80% of all art school graduates are white. Plus, 77% of all artists who make a living in art are white. It’s no reason to give up or make excuses about the obstacles to success, but it is a stark reality.

Making a Living at Art

The art world as an industry is worth about $64 billion. However, the buyers of all art are usually rich people, and they decide who is, “hot,” and whose art is valuable. Over 52,000 artists had their artwork sold via auction or agent, yet, only 1% out of that 52,000 accounted for 64% of total sales. Also, 99% of artists will never sell their art in the seven-figure commission range.

Less than 0.02% of all living artists can sell their work for $10 million or more. Artists need representation and connections. That is hard to come by. Gallery owners and art managers scout a lot of artists while in art school, but they are looking at a small pool of artists based on the exacting taste of a small, rich client base.

Meanwhile, art galleries are closing at a greater pace than those that open. Artists need a connection to dealers, agents, and auction houses that sell art to the rich. However, artists can end up losing up to 50% of their sales, due to commissions, on their own art!

Realistic Expectations

I am not saying that you should discourage your children from pursuing art. The world needs art. What I am saying is that one need to strategize how to make a living at it and set realistic expectations. Help your child choose the right path. Also, help them to understand the financial gravity of making the right decisions about their future professions now.

Over 22% of Millennials, or one out of every five young Americans, live at home or will soon return to live at home. More young people are living with their adult parents now than at any time in the last 100 years.

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