Creative Malaysia: Remaining Financially Sound while Being Creative.
You’ll have some in university talk about and make fun of students who get into a creative Malaysian degree, saying things like how they will not have a job or how they are going to struggle financially, that’s what I experienced at least.
There is a reason for these speculations however, the creative industry, not just in Malaysia, but around the world, is a very hard one to get into and be successful. Getting into the creative industry never starts out with success, all who do it will have to go through some trouble, I say this through experience and through seeing my own creative friends deal with the challenge themselves.
Some of us however can’t afford to go through the financial difficulty, not everyone will find it ok to not go through a full year without a job, some people may need the job immediately as their well being may depend on it.
But don’t let the financial aspects keep you from being a movie maker, a graphic designer or music producer and so on. As there will always be a market for those careers. But as said before, not all of us can afford to take a year off doing nothing. So below are some tips which might help you either:
- Get a job a bit more quickly and;
- Be financially sound.
- How to make money on the side with your creative works.
Some of you may not care so much about the money (which I find hard to believe), but having a healthy financial platform will allow you to carry on creating, there is no point in being a musician if you can’t afford an instrument or software, there is no point in being a graphics designer if you cannot afford a proper computer to do it on. So, hopefully, these tips might be somewhat helpful for any of you creative types out there.
#1. Have a Back-Up
When you start university, it is always good to go for a dual major if it is available. If it is, choose a major which has higher job prospects along with your creative major, that way when you graduate, you will be specialised in two fields and if one is not going so well when you are out of uni (I’m assuming that the creative part is the one not doing well), you can fall back onto the other major which can land you a job much faster than the latter. You may not like the job or it was something you were not expecting, but remember, you can still do your creative stuff in your free time and build up your profile while you are working the other job. To put it in a more simple explanation, let us create a situation as an example.
Say you want to be a game designer, and you are pretty good at it. So you decide to take a Game Design course in your university along with a computer science course in a Double Major programme. When it comes time to graduate, you would have a degree in both Arts and Design and in Computer Science.
Now it comes time for you to look for a job, you realise that your city is not big on gaming, or that there is no sizable gaming industry for you to get into. But, computer science is always needed, so getting a job that revolves around computer science is much easier than getting a job in Game design, so you apply for one and eventually, you land a job as IT support.
Now you must be thinking, “Ah this isn’t what I wanted but it pays the bills I guess,” while true, you can still tap into your creativity, why not use your leftover salary to build a better home PC? Or get some software that allows you to create designs? Basically, create your profile on the side while you are doing one job because with a proper profile, those in the industry will be able to look at your examples and it may increase your chances of employment in the creative industry.
So back to this example, you have created quite a neat profile of your artworks and designs, now you can post it on your Twitter or other Social Media platforms, who knows? Perhaps a game developer may be interested in your art and will give you a little message about their interest.
In all, it is good to have a safety net when you want to get into the creative industry, do not just rely on the Arts Degree to land you a job in the snap of a finger.
#2. Experience is Key
In all job aspects, experience in the field is key to your success in getting a job position.Experience can come on all forms, be it an internship or actually being part of a creative project. As long as it can go on your resume and add to your total experience, it should be good.
Luckily, most university courses offer job experience, even the creative ones as the institutions understand and acknowledge the issue of employment that most graduates face once they leave the university.
#3. Showcase Your Work
While you may not get a job position in the creative field you wanted, it doesn’t hurt to create a blog, or social media page to showcase your stuff while you work a day job. If you are an amateur music producer, you could always create a Soundcloud page where you can upload your tracks, if you are a filmmaker you can create a YouTube channel to upload that short film of yours. But simply showing your work may not be the key to your financial success from your creativity. Creating and posting decent content online is easier said than done, you need to put in some effort.
If you feel the need to improve your work, you can be thankful that there are loads of online resources to help you learn and better yourself.
Creative Malaysians who specialised in crafts and art can take advantage of Instagram and other creative platforms to sell their works as well. E-commerce and online shopping is a rather big thing over here so if your work has the potential to attract some people into wanting it, why not put it up on Instagram and put them up for sale? Or do commissions?
You can start spreading the word of your works by asking friends or family to share your works with others.
Platforms like Redbubble are perfect for those who really want to sell their works as it is a dedicated online arts and crafts marketplace where people can purchase user-submitted work.
#4. Don’t Be Dependant on Crowdfunding
With crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Patreon and Ko-Fi. Many artists and content creators can create income from donations by people who wish to support them. In some cases, these donation campaigns are successful in meeting their targets and the people behind them have turned their creativity into a stable source of income into. It is really easy these days to create an account on these platforms and share them to various people.
But it should be noted that absolute success is only seen in a few cases.
While online crowdfunding is an amazing innovation of our time, you should use it properly and understand that not everyone will want to give you their money. There is a lot of work that needs to be put on from your side as well. The content you create must be worthwhile and enjoyable to the point in which people will actually be willing to lend you their money in order to support your creations.
What is cool about platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter is that they give you the ability to reward your backers, depending on how much they pay or pledge. For example, if someone pledges 10 dollars to your Patreon, you can reward them with things like access to requests, access to pieces that are a work on progress, access to demos and so on. While this reward system can be favorable and lead more people to give you money, you will of course need to keep up your end of the bargain and deliver on those promises, otherwise, you will see people removing their donations and pledges and eventual the income you make from these crowdfunding platforms are not enough to support you and your projects.
So while crowdfunding is great and all, make sure you do not rely solely on it, this brings us back to the point where having a day job supporting you is an ideal way to do it, while you do your creative works on the side.
#5. Prioritise your Cash Properly
There is one thing about making a decent salary, spending that salary stuff you may or may not need is another. It should be obvious, but it is important to ensure that your money first goes to your needs, like groceries, food and bills. Don’t spend your first month’s salary on a fancy computer when you are starving now or are seriously in debt.
You yourself will need to be disciplined and responsible for where your cash goes to, we are here just to give you some tips. But we’re just going to say, if you spend all your money on a new guitar while you are eating off-brand junk because it is cheaper or you are a month behind your rent, you may have your priorities all jumbled up.
#6. Compare your Pricing, But Not Too Much.
If you are an artist that is open to commissions, it is important that you do not under or over-charge for your work. The best way to do so is to look at fellow peers who are creating the same stuff you are. By comparing their prices with yours, you will be able to deduce an estimate on what you should charge. Now, you might be inclined to charge as cheaply as possible in order to remain competitive, but this will only serve to hurt you and the entire industry for that matter.
But don’t be too focused on comparing prices, otherwise your thought process will just go in the wrong places. If you know your art’s worth, charge it accordingly.
#7. Understand That It Will Be Difficult.
True success isn’t a free meal, it simply isn’t just handed to you. When it comes to creativity and turning that creativity into a source of income, you need to accept that you will struggle in the early stages and even just scraping by is the norm for the creative types in Malaysia. But do not be dissuaded by that difficulty, as this is completely the norm. So long as you prioritise your health and livability, struggling to make some cash on your creative works is a rite of passage for many creatives. Looking at history, most famous directors or artists do not start off well. Many directors will admit that their first films are not as good as their famous ones and artists will see that their firsts pieces of art which they put up for sale won’t make as much back then.
By accepting that it will be difficult, you can mentally prepare for whatever is thrown at you.
Hopefully some of these tips will help ease the burden of maintaining a creative lifestyle while being financially sound. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, and again, success will not be instantaneous.
But the key to it all is your motivation, and willingness to pull through, the confidence you put into your work and your willingness to adapt, change and improve.
But when it comes to the basics, the best and most simple way to remain OK financially is to have a day job or a ‘safety net’, hence, why it is at the top of the list. Because by having a safety net which gives you a day job, which gives you a monthly salary, you are not at risk by whether people want to buy or consume your art or not. So long as you’re doing well in your day job and make proper well thought out financial decisions, you can use any bit of extra cash you have left to invest in your creative endeavors.
So do not be deterred by those who try to bring you down by bringing up financial implications that your creative outlet may have, instead what you should do is listen to these but not as insults, but as a form of advice.
Because that is the reality, artists who like to be creative in Malaysia will definitely have a hard time if they solely rely on their creative specialities if they are the first thing they do when they get into the job market.
But if your passion is kept alive by that fire of determination in you, you will be able to take on these challenges.