IF YOU DREAM of being an artist, relying on job listings for employment can leave you with a blank canvas. To work creatively, you have to get creative.

Performance artist Laura Zam teaches aspiring writers, actors, musicians and others to ignore the myth that artists can’t make bank through her workshop “How to Leave Your Day Job: A Holistic Approach to Making a Living in the Arts.”

“What I hope to do is really break down that starving artist paradigm by introducing artists to the concept of being able to generate income through creative means, but to look at it a little bit differently,” says Zam.

The Basics
The workshop, open to 40 people interested in any art form, aims to turn insecure wannabe artists into business-savvy moneymaking machines.

First, students talk about their careers and artistic objectives. Then Zam provides tips for reaching those goals. The main idea: Find products and services related to your core art form that could appeal to similar, established markets. For instance, a photographer might shoot food for Whole Foods ads, or a novelist could write brochures and freelance magazine articles.

“Artists get very stuck in ‘I’m a painter and I don’t believe that painters can make a living,'” Zam says. “We would look at different ways that a painter could generate income doing things that they love. For instance, this person might really love doing something else related to the visual arts, or this person may love painting very generally, and we would break down what they could use specifically that might enable them to generate income where there is already a market for what you do.”

“I don’t [see] hard lines between commercial and noncommercial art,” Zam says. “Those kinds of divisions are a little bit archaic to me. … They’re just different income streams. It’s not like one is art and one isn’t art.”

What You’ll Learn
Zam uses case studies of successful artists to teach participants to find opportunities to bust money-making barriers and to use those newfound options to create the beginnings of a business plan that includes a strategy for transitioning from day job to dream job. Armed with that knowledge, participants gain a new perspective, Zam says. “It’s thinking entrepreneurially: ‘OK, what do I have that there’s a market for? What are my skills? And, concurrently, how can I grow my art, whatever it is — poetry, art books, performance plays?'”

Zam also offers fear-busting techniques for overcoming doubts about making such a professional leap. In what she dubs the World Café, she provides categories of fears such as fear of inadequacy and has students write their individual fears within that category. Her goal is to take a paralyzing insecurity and break it down into something surmountable.

What’s the Deal?
“How to Leave Your Day Job” will be held Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel (2500 Calvert St. NW). The workshop costs $95 before Oct. 3 or $110 at the door. Register at Nodayjob.eventbrite.com.

Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz
Photo by Kevin Dietsch for Express