New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Austin.
At one time in the not so distant past, these were the places where professional creators wanted to live. The bigger the city, the bigger the opportunities.
Now, the times have changed. During the pandemic, so many companies either furloughed or completely dismantled their creative teams. So many graphic designers, copywriters, and creative directors were left without an office to go to.
Instead of wallowing in their misfortune, they did what they do best. Picked themselves right up and created their own opportunities by embracing freelancing and remote work.
They said goodbye to the tiny apartments in the big cities and spread to other parts of the country. Except this time, it wasn’t for the next big opportunity, but for the inspiration and lower cost of living of quaint towns and sweet suburbs.
In this blog, we’re going to explore the top ten best cities for creatives and creative directors (in no particular order.)
1. Portland, Maine
If you are looking for a place to find seaside inspiration, don’t mind the cold, love historical houses, and all four seasons, then Portland may be the place for you. This city delivers a true slice of New England pie, but with cool restaurants and breweries when you want them.
The cost of living here is 15% higher than the national average, but don’t let that deter you! A one bedroom apartment costs only a third of what the same apartment would have cost in Los Angeles or NYC.
2. Nashville, TN
For a lot of creatives, great music is what inspires their art. Whether you are a fine artist or a graphic designer, Nashville can be the perfect place for you. From sprawling vineyards to a lively Broadway at night, Nashville is one of those places that just sticks; it’s tough to forget a place that is equally so diverse and rich with great food, nature, and culture.
At a 5% lower cost of living than the national average, freelancers can easily thrive here without having to sacrifice the majority of their living to high rent prices. There are so many free things to do in Nashville and most venues do not charge a cover fee.
3. Baltimore, MD
If the historical facades of city life inspire you, and you’d rather live in a very walkable city rather than in the middle of a scenic town, then Baltimore may just be the place for you. Baltimore is home to some of the nation’s best art schools and museums, and is the birthplace of many of our favorite artists (hello, Billie Holiday).
One thing to note about Baltimore is its proximity to DC, Philadelphia, and New York City. All three are only a train ride away (no more than three hours by train). While the cost of living is 7% higher than the national average, the median rent is only $1,385/month. Still more affordable than other big cities in the United States.
4. Asheville, NC
The mountains, the music, the breweries, the people (oh, the people). If you are looking for a stunning view to wake up to every morning, then pack up your life and move to Asheville. Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachians, Asheville has that dreamy vibe and mild weather (with seasons) that we all secretly crave.
This is the place to find your muse if you’re a burnt out creative professional looking for a fresh start.
Asheville’s cost of living is 6% higher than the national average, and housing is 15% higher than the national average. Compared to large cities like3 Los Angeles (49%^), Chicago(23%^), and NYC (155%^), it’s still far less expensive.
5. Bend, OR
Bend is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States for a reason. If you love the great outdoors, or just want to trade the concrete jungle for sprawling forests and fairytale trails, Bend could be the perfect place for you.
From craft beers to a progressive and animal loving community, Bend is ideal for people who crave four seasons without extreme weather and don’t mind how remote it is compared to bigger cities.
While the cost of living is steadily increasing (5.5% higher than the national average) in Bend due to the recent transplants, it’s still relatively affordable.
6. Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor is a friendly city with a great economy, great schools, and a whole lot of things to do for both foodies and outdoor enthusiasts. If you have a family and want a nice town to raise your kids in, then Ann Arbor may be the place for you.
If you prefer a rich nightlife over a quiet town, then downtown Ann Arbor has a lot to offer.
Why it’s great for freelance creatives: Ann Arbor is a big-time college town which means that there are plenty of cultural experiences for the artists in all of us. From a robust theater community to a multitude of galleries and museums, this family-friendly city is sure to ignite your creative spark.
Of all of the cities on this list, Ann Arbor is one of the priciest. While the cost of living is only 5% higher than the national average, housing in Ann Arbor is 15% higher.
7. Twin Cities, MN
Minneapolis and St. Paul makes up the twin cities. For those of us who love our concrete jungles, and whose favorite line is “The cold never bothered me anyway”, the Twin Cities is a culture-rich mecca for freelance creatives.
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for the afternoon? Lucky for you, Minneapolis has one of the best park systems in the country! In addition to the greenery, there are also tons of festivals year-round.
While Minneapolis is full of things to keep you busy, we recommend truly weighing the pros and cons before packing your bags and making a move. The cold isn’t just NYC cold, it’s Moscow cold. And winters are very (very) long.
You’re probably wondering why Minneapolis made the list over warmer locales like Naples and St. Petersburg, Florida. Well, you really can’t beat the cost of living for the perks. At only 3% higher than the national average and lower housing costs than the national average, you can enjoy all of the perks of city life. Just make sure you pack a good parka.
8. Tampa, FL
If you hate the cold and are susceptible to seasonal depression, Tampa may just be the place for you. This thriving seaside town is located on the West Coast of Florida, and temperatures rarely dip lower than the low 50s.
Tampa is a great place to live if you love museums, live music, inclusivity, sports, a robust nightlife scene, tons of things to do, and year-round t-shirt weather. With easy access to sparkling Florida beaches and a short-ish drive to amusement parks like Disney World and Busch Gardens, this is a great place for you if unwinding means a great tailgate or a beach umbrella.
One thing to note, however, is that you absolutely need a car here. While there is a public transportation system, it’s not for the faint of heart. Don’t move here expecting reliable bus schedules and trains. In fact, for a lot of Florida, reliable public transportation is non-existent.
The cost of living in Tampa is 5% lower than the national average and housing is 11% lower than the national average.
9. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh has something for everyone. With an abundance of (free) museums and used bookstores around every corner, this is a place that you can easily stay in forever. Scenic trails criss-cross the city, and one of them even leads to a beautiful art museum.
The mom and pop shops preserve that small town feel, while the abundance of colleges encourage rich cultural experiences and an inclusive environment. You can get just about any type of food that you are craving at one of the many hole in the wall restaurants spread all over town.
Visit one of the many parks and enjoy the mild weather year-round. Beaches are only an hour driving east and the mountains are close enough that you can escape to a cabin for a weekend at very low cost. This city is historically rich, inviting, and the people are truly warm and easy to befriend.
Housing expenses in Raleigh are a whopping 9% lower than the national average while the cost of living is 7% lower overall. The median rent is less than $1,200/month.
10. Louisville, KY
There’s a reason why Louisville consistently makes the list for the top creative cities to live in. Want a taste of true southern charm? Louisville’s historic architecture, wonderful food, and a thriving community of graphic designers make this an attractive place for freelance creatives.
Get inspired by the numerous museums and galleries around town. Find your muse at historical St. James Court. Grab some inexpensive drinks with friends, or enjoy a cozy night in with takeout that’s sure to please.
If you ever get tired of living in the city, there’s plenty of land that you could buy and build yourself a nice little house with all of that money you saved from moving out of the big cities.
The cost of living in Louisville is 4% lower than the national average, and housing is 18% lower than the national average.
Did we miss a really cool place to live? Let us know in the comments!