Man records vocals for a song and plays an acoustic guitar

 Whether you’re a musician, an actor, a writer or any other type of artist, pursuing your passion takes courage, discipline — and possibly a healthy appetite for risk.

Putting It All on the Line

Giving your all to doing what you love is an admirable goal and can be immensely fulfilling. Whether you crave the roar of a stadium full of fans, seeing your art displayed in a prestigious gallery or, simply, the satisfaction of a job well-done, success in creative industries — however you define it — is always hard-won.

You may pour years of your life, and thousands of dollars, into training, supplies and honing your craft before you begin to see any payoff.

In the meantime, you may sacrifice other life goals — financial, personal and more. Before you take off on nothing but a wing and a prayer, think about the level of risk you’re willing to tolerate and the tradeoffs you might need to accept.

After all, while you’re busy chasing your dreams, you still need to pay rent and put food on the table. It can feel overwhelming, but equilibrium is possible. Here’s how to analyze the amount of risk you can handle and plan a life that balances your craft with your responsibilities and obligations.

Identify Your Non-Negotiables

Everyone has priorities, and the things you simply can’t live without differ from person to person. For instance, maybe you’re willing to sleep in your car while working the road as a performer whereas someone else can’t fathom life without a home base. On the other hand, maybe giving up your wheels to save cash is the better option for your lifestyle.

Which current luxuries could you do without? Analyze your spending to determine which “nice to have but not necessities” you can nix to streamline your budget. For example, if you’re traveling a lot as a performer, maybe you can do without Wi-Fi for the short bursts you’re at home.

Assess the Value of Your Expenditures

You likely need to invest some money to pursue your craft, so be strategic about your spending. Think about what’s most important to you and allocate your resources accordingly. Maybe you know quality supplies make a big difference in your ability to create, so you splurge on a fancy microphone, but cut back in other areas. Or you could offer to trade services with another artist. Get your headshots taken by an aspiring photographer in exchange for writing copy for their website.

Work Your Way

The journey from hobbyist with a 9-5 job to artist solely supported by their craft is filled with a lot of in between. Resist thinking of work to pay the bills and your creative pursuit as a rigid choice. Instead, look at it like a spectrum.

Maybe you’re not quite ready to give up your “day job” and the steady paycheck that comes with it, but you’re willing to dedicate your weekends to your art. With the plethora of options in the gig economy and side hustles you can do from home, it’s easier than ever to find flexible employment that works for a variety of schedules and lifestyles.

When it comes to earning money from your art, be realistic. While you may not be selling out arenas (yet!), you can still make some cash from your craft. Look at it as another chance to utilize your creativity and challenge yourself to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for monetizing your passion, such as starting a subscription service like Patreon, Memberful or Ko-fi.  You can also sell instructional videos or print on demand merchandise featuring your art. Social media offers great opportunities to build and connect with your fan base, as well as make money through sponsored posts.

If you’re not ready to forgo your current source of income, consider more passive ways of cashing in — selling branded merch or advertising on your site.

Dream Big, But Plan Bigger

With great risk comes great reward. While you’ll definitely make some financial sacrifices and take some chances, too, you don’t have to completely throw caution to the wind in pursuit of a big dream.

We are championing undiscovered artists through Supporting Acts and Vocally, our collaboration with Rolling Stone and Billboard.

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Speech bubble icon next to text "Expert Take"

Headshot of Lindsey BellLindsey Bell, Ally’s chief markets & money strategist, is an award-winning investment professional with a passion for personal finance and more than 17 years of Wall Street experience. Bell’s unique ability to connect the dots between data and real life and craft bite-sized money ideas that people can use and apply stems from her deep background as an analyst, researcher and portfolio manager at organizations including J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. She is known for demonstrating why and how an understanding of all things money improves a person’s finances and overall well-being. An ongoing CNBC contributor, Bell empowers consumers and investors across all walks of life and frequently shares her insights with the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Business Insider. She also serves on the board of Better Investing, a non-profit focused on investment education.

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