Working the Midnight Shift

LB Culture

Text by Claire Milbrath
Illustration by Rebecca Storm

What could be more rewarding than selling pieces of your imagination for prices with multiple figures? Than having your own schedule, working on your own terms, and traveling all over the world because your work and your presence was highly sought after? It is perhaps this idealthe spoils of celebritypaired (hopefully) with the compulsion to create, that draws young creatives to the toils of artist life in the first place. An ideal that keeps them afloat in times of near-destitution. But the life of an artist is never as easy or as luxurious as one might imagine. Being your own boss doesn’t count for much when you’re not earning any money, and you can’t steal fifty dollar tubes of pthalo blue-green and burnt umber forever. Subsequently, young creatives far and widethose that aren’t lucky enough to have a paid internship or Daddy’s credit cardhave been forced to search for the dreaded day job.

A day job is the thing you do that’s secondary to your creative practice, and often earns you more coin than the latter. It’s the answer you don’t want to give when somebody making small talk at an acquaintance’s birthday party asks, “so what do you do for a living?” You may answer “I’m a rapper,” but really it’s frothing the lactose-free 1% in a cafe, or selling “gently used vintage pieces” to broke students and barter-prone middle-aged women that earns you your actual living. The best day jobs offer flexible hours, the ability to book nights and weekends off if needed, and if you’re lucky: tips. Or, the chance to use your brain in inspiring and provocative ways that will ultimately inform what you actually care aboutyour creative practice, for which a day job is a life-jacket. The funds from the day funnelled into keeping your passion afloat.

Whether you do it during the day or during the night, let’s refer to your creative practice as your night job. The thing you do when the rest of the nine-to-fivers are busy relaxing and meal planning for the work days ahead. The discipline in which your deepest passions lie, over which you have absolute creative control, and for which you maybe aren't paid much...yet. Knowing your worth and following up when a client "forgets" to pay yousuch is the nature of night job compensation. While someone saying, “don’t quit your day job,” in reference to the level of expertise with which you are carrying out your night job might seem snarky, it is important to remember that this is good advice, whether they intended it to be helpful or not. Remember that day keeps night afloat, and if you can do this, it will keep your spirits from sinking as wellsuccess, however slight, makes everything worthwhile.

It’s difficult to gauge how much of one thing you’ll need in order to support another. You can work all day and jam all night, but if you aren’t efficient with your resources, it can all be for naught. Sometimes a single hangover can throw the entire day-night waltz off-kilter. Your work ethic should be determined, but not relentless. It’s good to have a level of criticality without being too self-deprecating, and never forget to celebrate your winsthis goes for your day and night job. Because the more efficiently you do your day job, the more you’ll have to give to your creative self.