Artist/Barista: More Than A Stereotype

This post is dedicated to the many courageous musicians and artists, young and old, who are making room for their Muse by trial and error while engaged in a Second Career. Amid families, spouses, debt, high rent, day job drama, and noisy apartments, we find a way to create a little extra. This is for everyone who shares their generous and meaningful gifts with the world, even though they don’t have to.

The Second Career

I want to talk a bit about the Second Career, because many of us are doing our art “on the side”. The Second Career is the thing that funds the passion project, and there is no shame in that. I think it’s really important to thrive in both places, and there are so many lessons I’ve learned in my Second Career that have helped me in my career in the arts. I’m always looking for places where the two streams can meet. Besides, working in the arts never feels like it’s “on the side” – more like it’s in your bloodstream.

“I work this job to pay for my music habit.”
– a music friend of mine

“Let me know when your next concert is.”
– a hotel friend of mine

“Am I a piano teacher or a professional emailer?”
– a piano teacher I know

“What’s your day job?”
– so, so many people

David the Musical Bellman

I’ve spent some of my Second Career working in luxury hotels. As an artist/bellman (narrowly avoiding the artist/barista stereotype), I’ve tried to learn as much as possible from my work in hospitality.

So here are 7 ways customer service experience can provide extra value to your work in the arts:

1) Discipline begets discipline.
This is a tired horse, but showing up for your 7 am shift, day after day, gives you a solid routine. If you don’t go to work, people know about it. There are consequences! And the same should be true in your personal projects. Having a barrier to push against has made my Muse-time more focused. It turns out that making things up takes plenty of discipline.

2) Learn from everyone.
What is everyone else in your workplace doing? Find out and then learn from them. You might discover something you’re interested in, like I did with communications and social media, being on committees, or training people. Or you might just be able to help someone by teaching them something in return.

3) Being helpful will take you a long way.
The great opportunity of customer service is that it will condition you to be helpful all the time. It is drilled into you. Over and over. Repeatedly. And again. And guess what? Bellmen know that if they are more helpful, they will earn more tips, and more interesting things will probably happen to them. If your helpfulness gene then spreads into the rest of your life, you’ll be stronger for it.

4) People have amazing stories.
My privilege has been to work with people in many stages of life, and from many parts of the world. Get to know people and you will find that their stories stay with you. Art can create bonds of compassion between people, and the things you learn will affect your Muse in subtle ways.

5) Your world expands without travelling.
This is especially true of hotel work, but having people come to you from other countries is certainly cheaper and easier than going to their neighbourhoods. Get to know your regulars, and get to know what they need, and why. These relationships are just like some of the varied connections you’ll make in the arts world.

6) You can find allies everywhere.
Your coworkers probably all have Muses too. So find out what those Muses are, and see if you can support one another somehow.

7) Learn where the business world and the arts worlds intersect.
Bear with me for a sec. Mostly, I mean communication. Every artist needs a way to communicate what is so special about their own work. Why should we come to your show? Can you tell me in 10 seconds? Art needs to be shared, so figure out how to share it well.

Eyes Off the Clock

If you’re working a Second Career, you may as well learn all you can, help as many people as you can, and be the greatest artist/barista/musical bellperson that ever lived! Remember these opportunities on the days when you watch the clock a little too often.

Finally, some bonus wisdom from a seasoned bellman:

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