Sydney Morning Herald story
Creative pursuits like painting and performing may be fuelled by passion, but that’s not usually enough to convert them into lucrative careers. People wanting to make a living based on their art are up against limited income potential, plus competition with many talented applicants for the few well-paid opportunities available.
But there are always people like Sharron Tancred who do it anyway. The Brisbane-based artist is one of many creative professionals using online platforms to win well-paid gigs in their area of expertise.
Under her business name Tailored Artworks, Tancred specialises in making personalised art for residential spaces. She’s painted everything from portraits and murals to custom-designed kitchen splashbacks for her clients’ homes.
“It’s quite niche,” she says. “So finding the right online solution was tricky.”
Tancred tried finding clients through platforms such as Freelancer and LinkedIn before finding a better match in Oneflare, an online marketplace that’s currently bringing her several relevant leads each day. The low cost of investment compared to traditional marketing avenues is a major advantage; Tancred says she’s spent around $30 on Oneflare in the past three months compared to the $6000 she previously invested for a stand at the local home show.
But the online marketplace also has more competition, with creatives often undercut by people willing to work for much less than what their skills are worth. Tancred says when she saw people with similar skills selling their time for as little as $20 an hour, she countered by upskilling, and tailoring her work to the more specialised home art market.
“Reinvent yourself,” she suggests. “You have to be single-minded in your vision. But you also have to be good at business.”
Developing her business nous is a current focus for Melbourne’s Shannon Dowd. The children’s party entertainer uses Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to find clients for her business, Pixie Moon Parties, and recent success has resulted in her looking for casual assistants to help with some large bookings.
She credits the increase in clients to a consistent marketing effort, particularly important as someone making a living from one gig to the next. “I have to rely on promoting myself actively as it’s quite a competitive industry,” she says.
For the former legal transcriber, ups and downs are worth it to pursue creative work she enjoys.
“I find it difficult to work in jobs that I don’t find personally fulfilling or creative,” she says. “I’ve had radio shows, and written ’zines and blogs, but never could make a living out of it in my twenties.”
While the online platforms have connected her with plenty of customers, Dowd admits there’s the occasional downside, like a customer refusing to pay up.
“I dealt with a man who, at the last minute, wouldn’t pay the agreed amount at his church’s kids function, even though my friend and I had worked very hard [with] close to 100 kids. I’ve had another person pretend to pay me a fraction of the money, and then made out it was a joke, hoping I wouldn’t notice.”
She also has to cover her own sick and holiday pay, but for Dowd, who also works as yoga teacher, pursuing her passion is more important than the perks of a regular full-time job.
“I think security is important, and yet if it comes at the expense of our happiness, I’d rather take the risk of being happy and less secure.”