Your 5-Year Plan

Making Your Map

Last week you wrote a Career Statement and Career Goals. This week, let’s get more specific. Let’s write a 5-year plan. Some of you may have already planned this out in detail. For many of you this might involve a lot of guessing. That’s OK!

Your mission this week is to think about what you want to achieve as the years of your career and life go by. If you achieve goals sooner than expected – fantastic – you can move on to further goals. If it turns out to be slower going than you’d hoped, that’s OK too. This plan should never bum you out because you aren’t a superstar by the end of next week! It’s only your own guess at what the road ahead might have in store and how you’d like to try to navigate it.


Art 490 is about you focusing your work.

Choosing your goals.

You may have tried many things during your time in the School of Art (SOA). But a career in “everything” is pretty hard to do.

Engineers, for example

  • If I want to build a bridge I need a Civil Engineer.
  • If I want to design a circuit I need an Electrical Engineer.
  • there are Chemical Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Aerospace Engineers
  • and more!
  • And there are lots of jobs for all of them.
  • But there are no jobs for “Engineer”. You have to be more specific than that.

What is “Studio Art”?

It’s similar for you as an artist. There really are no careers for “Artist” or “Studio Artist”. Like Engineers, we need to focus:

  • Contemporary Figurative Painter
  • Ceramicist
  • Fiber Artist
  • Animator
  • Illustrator
  • Graphic Designer
  • User Experience Designer
  • Fine Art Photographer
  • Wedding Photographer
  • Documentary Photographer
  • Tattoo Artist
  • and many more


For 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027 list what your career goals are. If you’re a gallery artist this could be things like getting 1 piece of your work in a group show at an art gallery in Southern California. A solo show. Selling works to collectors, and so on.

If you’re a commercial artist, this might focus on getting hired at an Animation Studio, Advertising Agency, Design Shop, etc. Or finding clients for your Illustration, Graphic Design, Photography, and other work.

Goals can also include a new apartment or car, getting married, travel, and so on.


For each of the 5 years, list what you might have for Income & Expenses. Expenses can be things like Rent, Food, Art Supplies, Computers, Cameras, whatever you need. It can also be trips to Europe or Asia, collecting art, or anything else. It’s your life! Spend your money any way you choose.

You’ll quickly realize that the more you plan to spend, the more you’ll need to earn. One set of choices could be very expensive. Another could be much less costly. There is no right or wrong here, no better or worse. These are all personal choices and you choose what’s best for you. What matters is that if your plan has you earning $10k/year, and spending $50k/year, something is probably going to have to change.


List what you have and what you need. Studio space, art equipment, marketing materials, networking connections, health insurance. Try to think through what you’ll need to move your career forward. You might make prioritized lists so you can work on the essentials first, and the nice-to-haves later if your financial situation affords them.


Think through potential roadblocks like illness, work not selling, and so on.

If you build it, they will come?

In the 1989 film Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner hears a voice say,

If you build it, they will come.

This is awesome for baseball fantasy films. Art careers don’t work that way. If you’re awesome and nobody knows, you’ll be broke. To be blunt, if you’re a mediocre artist and a marketing genius, you’ll probably have a decent career. As artists, many of us are introverts. We’re not always great at self-marketing and we’re taught that it should be about pure vision and not the perversion of business and marketing.

Let’s not be Vincent van Gogh – brilliant, poor, and miserable!

You may or may not like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, et al, but it’s worth seeing how unafraid they are to market their work. A successful art career will probably require you to find ways to put your work out there and find your audience.

Clear the bar & move it higher

If you set a high bar for yourself, it can be hard to achieve. It might be better to set a series of low bars that are easier to achieve and then progressively move the bar higher as you meet a series of small goals.


True failure, like reaching the moon without a way home, or losing your job, or your marriage, can be devastating. But small failures, like trying an idea that doesn’t work out, are not. Often these “failures” can help you find your way forward. In Silicon Valley they have a slogan “Fail early and often” meaning that it’s OK to try things and see how they work out. In fact, it’s great to try a rough prototype early and get a sense of feasibility rather than spend a lot of time and money on something you later realize isn’t going to succeed. Find what works and refine from there.

Post on Etherpad & Padlet

For the 1st half of the semester, before you launch your website, we’ll use Etherpad to post our content. When you and I meetup for our 1-to-1 Zoom chats we can look at this and we can both edit it to better describe your goals and realistic expectations.

  • Etherpad links in the syllabus.

Everything you do this semester: the weekly projects like this one, and also your weekly Make New Work, you can also post on Padlet. This is great to let all your classmates keep up with what you’re doing. Let them see your work, and also let’s share things like five-year plans with each other so we can think about how other people are considering careers and maybe help us sort out our own future path.


If you need help with this, or have any questions, I’m always available. Drop me an email and we can talk there. As you know, we have 3 official Zoom meetups, but I’m also available to hop on Zoom anytime to clarify, discuss, and think through anything you want help with.

  • glenn.zucman@csulb.edu

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