Identity
Yonk
Date
19 July 2021
Reading Time
14 minute read
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Four creatives discuss side job stigma and why they don’t dictate your success

Why is there a stigma attached to side jobs and how can we shift it? Below we delve into this question, asking Ròdy Oliveira, Daisy Parris, Leon Xu and Tori West to offer up some trusting advice.

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Identity
Yonk
Date
19 July 2021
Reading Time
14 minute read

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The Next Generation (formerly known as The Graduates) is a new annual series highlighting the freshest talent new to the creative industry. Whether you’ve recently graduated with an undergraduate degree, or if you’re about to this year. Or, alternatively, if you didn’t go to university at all but are less than a year into your creative career, you’re eligible to apply. Applications are open until midnight BST on Monday 2 August. We want to celebrate a diverse range of talent no matter what medium you work in. From graphic design to fine art and everything in between, wherever you are in the world, please do share your work with us. We can’t wait to see what the next generation of creative stardom has in store!

In the run-up to the showcase, we’re publishing a series of advice articles dedicated to making those first steps in the industry that bit easier. A few months ago we launched a survey calling all emerging creatives to tell us what advice they need and from who. The advice series is a direct response to this survey. It aims to answer the most pressing questions, directly from the voices that wish to be heard. We hope you find the content insightful, useful and inspiring; whatever your next step ahead.

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Picture this: you’ve just started out in the creative industry and you’ve found the perfect internship. But it’s only for a couple of days a week and it doesn’t cover your rent. Maybe you’re creating work from your studio, hoping to find representation or make it as a freelancer. Or maybe you’re studying, but the extortionate fees mean you’re lacking coin. So, you take up a side job – this could be at a cafe, bar, restaurant or shop. You work gruelling days, long hours, and you’re nearly burnt out. But you need to buy yourself a new piece of kit, to pay your rent, to afford to live – you have to carry on. You don’t tell anyone about it, really, because you don’t want them thinking less of you as a creative – if you’re not working full-time, then you’re probably not very successful, right?

This is the thought process of many emerging creatives today, who find themselves unable to secure full-time creative jobs without the support of a regular income. To put it into perspective, the Creative Industries Policy and evidence Centre (PIEC) states in its research that just 16 per cent of people in creative jobs are from working-class backgrounds – whereas those from a privileged background, who are qualified to degree-level or more, are over five times more likely to secure a creative role. These imbalances across the UK’s creative industries are rife, and reports like the latest NCTJ Diversity in Journalism are only cementing this fact; 92 per cent of journalism is white, while 75 per cent of journalists had a parent in one of three highest occupational groups. This is in stark contrast to the eight per cent of those with a parent in the lower two occupational groups.

Second jobs are a lifeline for many who can’t rely on the financial support of family. But those who take them on have long been stigmatised for doing so, often left to feel unsuccessful and stuck in a cycle of self-doubt. It’s no secret that the industry is elitist, and creatives shouldn’t have to rely on second jobs to enter the industry. But the thing is, there are some surprising benefits to them – they’re a place to switch off, to meet new people, learn new skills, get inspired and take a step away from your creative work. So, why is there such a stigma attached to side jobs, and how do we shift it?

First things first, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that these jobs certainly do not define your success. For this article, we’ve spoken to four creatives who’ve worked various side jobs to gain some trusting advice on the topic.

GalleryCopyright © Ròdy Oliveira, 2021

GalleryCopyright © Ròdy Oliveira, 2021

Ròdy Oliveira, photographer

It's Nice That: How did your side jobs help you get to where you are today?

Ròdy Oliveira: I’ve worked as a waiter for several years and in many different places. I had lots of good and bad experiences during this time. Customer service drains a lot of your energy but it helped me save money to buy my first digital camera, which is still the one I use today. Working as an au pair in Germany was very intense, I had so many responsibilities helping a single mum take care of two children, although it was such a good opportunity for me to grow as an adult. These jobs supported me in my endeavours living and studying overseas, I didn’t make much but I had money from scholarships I used to pay for my living and the extra to invest in a few bits of photo gear and do some travelling too.

INT: What are the positives of working at these jobs?

RO: For me it was more a matter of surviving, to afford a living. I needed a way to pay for the things I wanted to experience like studying overseas or a way to put food on the table living back in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve been back in Brazil since April 2018, from thereon my “side job” was actually my main source of income. It’s really hard to make a living as an artist here, especially when you’re Black and suburban. It wasn’t until 2019 that photography became my main source of income.

“I really think that being successful means being happy in whatever way you can.”

Ròdy Oliveira

INT: Did you ever experience any challenges along the way?

RO: Oh yes! I’m very used to only making enough to live, you know, so investing in a career that is so expensive has always been a real struggle. I felt discouraged to bet on a career, it felt like I had no means to compete in the market with only the entry-level equipment I was able to afford working so much for so little. As working in the industry is new to me, there’s still a lot I need to invest.

INT: Why do you think there’s such a stigma associated with side jobs?

RO: I think it might be related to people’s idea of success. The thinking is that if someone needs a side job, they are not thriving in their artistic career perhaps. This is nonsense, each person has their own needs, and there’s no problem in working two jobs for whatever reason.

INT: How do you think we can combat this stigma, what do you think needs to be done?

RO: Understanding that the idea of success is individual and not collective. There’s no formula or model for success. Not everyone wishes to make tonnes of money as well. I really think that being successful means being happy in whatever way you can.

Left

Daisy Parris: Spiders, oil paint on canvas, 200cm x 160cm (Copyright © Daisy Parris, 2020)

Right

Daisy Parris: Yellow At Night, oil paint on canvas, 150cm x 130cm (Copyright © Daisy Parris, 2020)

Above
Left

Daisy Parris: Spiders, oil paint on canvas, 200cm x 160cm (Copyright © Daisy Parris, 2020)

Right

Daisy Parris: Yellow At Night, oil paint on canvas, 150cm x 130cm (Copyright © Daisy Parris, 2020)

Above

Daisy Parris: Yellow At Night, oil paint on canvas, 150cm x 130cm (Copyright © Daisy Parris, 2020)

Daisy Parris, artist

It’s Nice That: What was your day-to-day like while working at your side jobs?

Daisy Parris: In the beginning, I wasn’t really focusing on my art practice and I didn’t have a studio. I’d get back from 12-hour shifts at the cinema, then try and draw or paint in my bedroom. It was quite relentless and I was tired all the time. Once I got better at my job and disconnected from it mentally, I found I had more time for art. Whenever it was quiet at work, I’d spend the time doodling. I have hundreds of drawings from this time.

Maintaining motivation to keep making art on my days off or any spare minute I got was really difficult because I was exhausted all the time. But it was making art that got me through it all.

INT: What were the positives of working at these jobs?

DP: I learnt a lot of new skills that I didn’t previously have. I learnt to cook, to chop and use knives safely, to multitask under extreme pressure, to work in a team, to communicate with the public and that I was capable of managing and delegating tasks. These jobs also taught me to never stop being critical of the system and the institution.

INT: When did you stop working at these side jobs, was there a clear moment when you felt like you didn’t need them anymore?

DP: When I was working at the cinema, it got to a point where I was exhausted and fainted on my way to work. I knew it was time to leave, so I quit and allowed myself a month off. In this time, I found a studio and painted full time. I then took a part-time job as a pizza chef and gradually worked my way up to being a sous chef full time. At this point, I was in charge of the rota, so I was able to plan my week in a way that worked best for me. I worked two 13-14 hour days and one eight hour day. This meant I had four days to work at the studio and build up my practice. It was super intense. I always wanted to leave but I planned it very carefully with minimal risk. I never expected my self-employment to last this long but I’ve been very careful and realistic along the way.

“I think the stigma comes from a point of privilege because to me it’s just normal to have to work to survive or get what you need.”

Daisy Parris

INT: Why do you think there’s such a stigma associated with side jobs?

DP: I think the stigma comes from a point of privilege because to me it’s just normal to have to work to survive or get what you need. It’s actually so painful sacrificing your time and energy when your soul is meant to be doing something else. It’s hard to have the will to work to survive, let alone have the will or energy to do what you love on top of that, so I just have so much respect for people working, especially while studying or maintaining their passion.

INT: What advice would you give to someone who’s working a side job?

DP: Be really critical of the institution. Remember you deserve respect and should be treated well. If you can’t afford to take risks then it’s going to be a bit more difficult for you than people who can afford to take risks. Don’t be scared to leave but also be realistic. Never lose sight of your goal or forget the reason you’re working in the first place. Save some energy for your true passion.

Left

Leon Xu: You've got a light, you can feel it on your back (Copyright © Leon Xu, 2021)

Right

Leon Xu: Vorfreude (Copyright © Leon Xu, 2021)

Above
Left

Leon Xu: You've got a light, you can feel it on your back (Copyright © Leon Xu, 2021)

Right

Leon Xu: Vorfreude (Copyright © Leon Xu, 2021)

Above

Leon Xu: Vorfreude (Copyright © Leon Xu, 2021)

Leon Xu, artist

It’s Nice That: Let’s begin by hearing about your experiences while working your side jobs.

Leon Xu: The two side jobs I have are working for a clothing brand called 18 East and art handling. Through working for 18 East, I am learning about and exploring my love for fashion, which I consider an art form. Through my art handling jobs, I am learning a lot more about the art world and how it functions in real-time. Working in artists’ studios, packing up their artwork, moving it into galleries or client’s homes is very inspiring. It has made my goals clearer and I am gaining insight into where I want to be and where I could be in the near future.

INT: What’s your day-to-day like while working at these jobs?

LX: Honestly, it has been tough. Sometimes my day jobs eat into a good portion of my creative energy. With such a tight schedule, I attempt to paint after work but would have no mental or physical energy to do so. Due to this, I am not able to give it my all. I have learned to listen to my body and not force it because I know I wouldn’t be making my best work. Having these moments has pushed me harder to give my all to my art practice on my days off, and fine-tune my time management skills.

INT: What are the positives of working at these jobs?

LX: There are many positives! I am someone who does not like doing the same things every day. Having multiple jobs and being able to do different things throughout my week is fun. I made sure to have side jobs that are involved with art, so I am never far away from my zone. Working jobs that distance me from my typical art practice gives me opportunities to gain inspiration from everyday life. This has been a positive impact and I feel fulfilled to continue working.

INT: Why do you think there’s such a stigma associated with side jobs?

LX: Personally, I don't think there are any negatives to having side jobs. We all do what we have to do to get by. If I have to work many jobs to support my passion, I am OK with that. I think there might be a stigma because some people don’t consider artists to be valid if they’re not full-time artists. I think the art speaks for itself and so does the pursuit.

INT: What advice would you give to someone who’s working a side job?

LX: Try to find side jobs that relate to your interests so that it does not bore you out of your mind. For me, realising that side jobs are just a job and not my life has helped me overcome many obstacles. Keeping a good balance is always good. Making art gets hard sometimes but it’s a fun kind of hard, whereas when side jobs get hard it’s super depressing. So knowing yourself and when to step away from certain situations is always important. There are so many ways to make money, so no need to kill your creativity for art through side jobs.

“Working jobs that distance me from my typical art practice gives me opportunities to gain inspiration from everyday life.”

Leon Xu
Left

Tori West: Bricks Magazine, Issue 8 (Copyright © Bricks Magazine, 2020)

Right

Tori West: Bricks Magazine, Issue 9 (Copyright © Bricks Magazine, 2021)

Above
Left

Tori West: Bricks Magazine, Issue 8 (Copyright © Bricks Magazine, 2020)

Right

Tori West: Bricks Magazine, Issue 9 (Copyright © Bricks Magazine, 2021)

Above

Tori West: Bricks Magazine, Issue 9 (Copyright © Bricks Magazine, 2021)

Tori West, editor

It’s Nice That: How did your part-time cleaning job help you get to where you are today?

Tori West: I’ve been part-time cleaning for about a year and a half to two years, and only very recently have I managed to give that up. It’s still something I do occasionally, but it’s not my sole income anymore. I've managed to open up a photography studio as part of the magazine Bricks, which has been a long-term goal of mine. I wouldn’t have got here if I wasn’t cleaning for so long, because that really gave me a sense of stability, financially, and the leeway to be able to do what I want further down the line.

INT: What were the positives of working at these jobs?

TW: Mentally, it’s been the best thing for me. While running a magazine and being freelance, it was so hard to find time where I didn’t feel like I constantly needed to be checking my emails on my phone for updates on things that were going on. And it was the only time I could genuinely switch off. I put my phone on aeroplane mode or silent, and I just listen to a podcast and clean. And that also helps me get into a good headspace as I’m not in my own thoughts.

“I wouldn’t have got here if I wasn’t cleaning for so long, because that really gave me a sense of stability, financially, and the leeway to be able to do what I want further down the line.”

Tori West

INT: How do you think we can combat this stigma, what do you think needs to be done?

TW: To tackle the stigma, obviously, we need to change the expectations of young children. What do you want to do when you’re older? What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to be in five years? Instead, say things like, ‘what do you enjoy doing for a living?' and ‘what do you enjoy doing?' Because not everyone is in a career, or is going to be in a career, that is something that they enjoy. And that’s fine. Some people just want to work for money, and then fulfilment and everything else comes outside of that.

We need to be more open and talk more about what people are earning, and how we can earn that money. It’s not shameful to talk about money. When I started having conversations with friends about financing – who are all in the creative industry – that changed my life.

INT: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry?

TW: To not feel pressure to work at an expected pace. Your age is not a timeline for how successful you should be. You should work in your own capacity, otherwise, you know you’re just going to burn yourself out, or give yourself impossible goals; you’re just going to be disappointed. And it’s less likely that you’re going to feel good about what it is that you’re doing. Especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. The last thing you want to do is look at a piece of work and think ‘I rushed that’, or ‘I’m not proud of this’, or that ‘this destroyed my mental wellbeing’. Really think about why you’re doing it.

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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