Should you follow your dream and become a photographer or get a “real job”?

Above: Image by Gina Milicia

When I was a kid and someone asked me “and what do you want to do when you grow up Gina?” my answer was always the same.

“I’m going to be an artist.”

I always got the same response, a small knowing smile, that I interpreted as “wow, how cool. Everyone should be an artist. It’s like, the best thing ever!”

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-late teens that well-meaning friends and family started to comment on my career choice.

“Yes, but what are you going to do to make money dear? Art isn’t a real job. It’s a hobby.”


“Don’t become an artist, you’ll end up starving in a garret.” This confused me because I didn’t know what a garret was (it’s small living space, like an attic).

Luckily for me, I’m a rebel by nature and pretty much ignored all the advice I was given. That was over 30 years ago now and I know everyone just had my best interests in mind, but I do wonder how different my life would have been if I took the “safe” option.

Following my passion hasn’t been easy. There were many times, particularly in the early years, when I wanted to give up and “get a real job” but art was the one thing that lit me up, and to quote Tom Cruise “it completed me”.

This is what I wished everyone said to me.

1. “The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity.” – Brene Brown

Art matters. Imagine a world without it. It doesn’t make sense.

2. Get comfortable with uncertainty. There is no such thing as a sure thing. Advances in technology and automation have rendered many secure career paths obsolete. The way we work and do business is constantly evolving. The positive spin on this development for artists is that creativity is one thing that cannot be outsourced.

The future belongs to artists, storytellers and dreamers.

3. Art is a competitive industry but you already have everything you need to stand out. If you want to be noticed, just be yourself. Nobody else in the world feels, sees or interprets the world in the same way that you do.

Paint, draw, photograph or make the things that YOU love in a way that has meaning to YOU.

4. Forget about how you will achieve success and focus on why you do your art.

There are hundreds of different ways to get from A to B. How you get there isn’t important. The important thing is you keep striving for your goal and do something every day and keep moving forward.

5. Surround yourself with people who believe in your dream and support it.

Some of your friends and family are going to try and talk you out of pursuing your dreams. They have good intentions but it’s your dream, not theirs.

6. Natural talent is great but it will only get you so far. Your success will depend on how hard you are prepared to work. Successful artists never stop learning and developing their craft.

7. There are two qualities you already possess that must be nurtured. Without them, you will struggle to succeed. They are your most powerful assets.

It’s confidence and self-belief – not skill – that will continue to drive you forward. Spend as much time developing these skills as you do working on your craft, because lack of confidence and poor sense of self will do more to undermine your career as an artist, than lack of ability.

8. Many artists are afraid to share their work for fear of criticism and rejection. Art is meant to be shared. I believe a life lived with your art inside you and not sharing it with the world is a tragedy.

You deny the world the joy your work brings.

You deny yourself the fulfilment this brings.

Writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, says this beautifully:

“To be criticised is the tax that you pay for having a public voice. There is a very simple way to avoid rejection and criticism and that is to never share your work publicly.”

9. And finally, I believe the secret of success is to focus on what you can give to the world rather than what you can get from it. And so to finish I’d like to share my favourite quote with you all:

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”
– Pablo Picasso

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About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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