Creative careers that actually pay off


Yeah, we get it. You’re an artist.

The nine-to-five office grind isn’t for you, and you can’t imagine working a job that doesn’t let you flex your creative muscles. But even artists have bills to pay, and sad as it is, most of us probably aren’t going to make a living off our bronze sculptures of hamburgers or other personal passion projects.

Fortunately, there are lots of creative careers that can help you make bank. These jobs use artists’ existing skills in a bit more of a professional capacity, turning creativity into cash. Here are just a few career options open to artistic souls.


Unless you’re JK Rowling, odds are you aren’t going to get rich off creative writing. On the other hand, as a copywriter you can make a pretty nice living, and you still get to write creatively. So what is a copywriter? The term is pretty broad, but most copywriters write advertising copy—the slogans and content that make up print, video, and radio ads. Think Mad Men and you’ve got the basic idea. Copywriting requires you to churn out a lot of ideas and hit deadlines, but it does often offer a pretty significant payoff, not to mention the opportunity to think out of the box.

How much does it pay off? Copywriting gigs can start at the low end around $30,000 a year but can also make it into six figures.

Audio Engineer / Producer / Sound Designer

Music is another tough industry to make a living at, particularly if you’re banking on being a rock star. But the people working behind the scenes at a recording studio are often in high demand, and they still get to have a lot of creative input. Audio engineers do the basics of recording—setting up mics, getting the basic tracks down, and editing. Producers, meanwhile, help songwriters finesse their recordings, making creative and arrangement suggestions. And sound design is a growing field, particularly in video games, which need someone to create sound effects and ambient noises to enhance gameplay. Basically, if you’re a musician, studying recording is probably one of your best routes to a “real” (and still rewarding) job.

How much does it pay? Payscale says that audio engineers tend to earn a median of around $50,000 a year, but if you manage to make your way into a big studio, that number could go up substantially.

Character Designer / Motion Graphics Designer

Let’s face it, video games will one day employ all of us. OK, not really, but while traditional creative fields like publishing and illustration may be on the decline, the video game industry is steadily growing. And luckily for visual artists, there are lots of openings for the graphically inclined in the game world. Character design is one highly creative position that lets artists use their chops. Character designers bring characters into existence, from concept to finished design, creating the dynamic, memorable creatures that populate games and movies. It’s a great role for artists with an eye for detail. Motion graphics designers, on the other hand, take those characters and bring them to life, animating virtual scenes and transforming them from static designs into living, breathing worlds. If you want to experience the true magic of creation, video game design may be a great option for you.

How much does it pay? Character designers make good money, often upwards of $70,000 a year. Motion graphics designers average around $60,000 a year.

Music Supervisor

Some movies can never be separated from their soundtracks. Saturday Night Fever couldn’t exist without “Stayin’ Alive,” and what would Wayne’s World have been without “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Being a music supervisor is a dream job for any music-loving film snob (or any film-loving music snob). But just what is it, exactly? Music supervisors oversee all the musical aspects of film and tv, choosing and sourcing songs and clearing permissions. Music supervisors need to have wide musical knowledge and a feel for scene, but also, as music supervisor Maggie Phillips told Vox, “You have to be very empathetic to do this, because you have to be able to put yourself in all these characters’ lives and feel what they’re feeling.”

How much does it pay? It really depends on the scale of the project. Music supervisors can be paid anywhere from $2,000 to $500,000 (!) per project, according to Forbes.


In 1968, Andy Warhol uttered his famous phrase: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Turns out he was right. If you want proof that we really are living in the future, look no further than YouTube, where everyone from bored teens to grandmothers with cooking chops can become YouTube celebrities and make a living off home-produced videos. It’s a job that can be almost anything you want it to be. Into comedy? Create a channel full of your skits. Like video games? You can actually get paid to play them, providing you’re good at providing witty banter. There are lots of channels full of all kinds of strange stuff: makeup tutorials, weird animation, even people making and playing with slime. As long as you can get eyeballs onto your videos, you stand a chance at making a little cash.

How much does it pay? Again, it depends. For most YouTubers, making videos is a creative side hustle at best, but if you have lots of regular viewers, you can make a pretty nice living from advertisements on your YouTube channel. Lots of YouTubers also partner with companies, getting sponsorships for showing off or reviewing products. Making it as YouTuber requires some serious hustle and luck, but it does offer the opportunity to make some cash with lots of creative freedom.