Having a job in the creative field isn’t as easy as people want to make it sound. Complaining about a lack of job prospects to anyone except another creative is likely to get you one of the following responses:
“Don’t you work from home? You can just pick up a gig from anywhere.”
“What do you mean there are no job opportunities? People are always looking for web designers. Why don’t you just offer to design some websites?”
Or, my personal favorite: “Why don’t you pick up some jobs for free, just to get the experience?”
There are too many things wrong with those statements to go into.
“Yes, Jennifer, many people are looking for web designers, but just because I have Photoshop doesn’t mean I have any web design background.”
“No, Steve; I have been doing this for over ten years and it’s how I support myself, so I have plenty of experience and working for free is not an option.”
One thing that almost never comes up is location.
For creatives, it’s great that most of us can do our jobs from anywhere. However, just like with any other profession, it’s easier to find success when you are well-connected. Networking can lead to a steadier supply of work, friends in high places and ultimately can earn you more money. When you’re considering a place to call home long-term, you may want to consider your networking opportunities as a creative — and some cities are far better than others.
I may be biased here, but in the four years I lived in Durham I met more artists, photographers, and writers than I had met in over twenty years living in New York. Compared to the cost of living in most of the U.S., North Carolina is lower — particularly when it comes to housing — so this is an affordable spot to set up shop if you’re just starting out and your stream of work is still pretty dry. The downtown area is packed with startups and indie businesses run by millennial-aged owners, who tend to see greater value in creative services than Baby Boomers. Go to where your work is appreciated.
GREAT FOR: Just starting out
Okay, okay, bear with me on this one. The first thing you need to understand is that Oakland isn’t what it used to be. Oakland has come a long way from its days as the go-to setting for rappers’ tales of gang wars. In fact, over the last several years Oakland has been experiencing its own “Harlem Renaissance” with an upsurge in art galleries and citywide events for upcoming artists. It’s a beautiful, edgy city with a ton of opportunities for traditional artists, journalists, and even bloggers.
GREAT FOR: Well-established career
New Orleans, La.
Hands down, New Orleans is one of the greatest cities in the world for writers. Fiction writers, historical novelists, mystery and thriller authors — you name it, there has been a book about it set in New Orleans. One of the most haunted cities in the U.S. (if you believe in that sort of thing — I do), NOLA is a hotbed for creepy stories, ghostly photoshoots and ghoulish crafts. Housing is fairly affordable, but the city is a huge spot for tourism (particularly during Mardi Gras season) which can be a turn-off for some. But if you’re willing to fight through some drunken crowds of out-of-towners every once in a while, you can take advantage of the “artsier” parts of town like Bywater and experience dozens of events for musicians and artists.
GREAT FOR: Some experience under your belt