10 Tips For Becoming A Professional Artist

For people with an artistic impulse, the desire to create isn’t really a hobby so much as it is an urge. You simply can’t resist; if you weren’t drawing, painting, or sculpting, you’d go insane, and you wouldn’t be able to weather the slings and arrows of life without a creative outlet.

It’s natural, then, to want to turn that passion into a profession and get paid for your hard work, but you’ll almost certainly have seen just how hard it is for artists who want to do what they love for a living. Of course, it is possible to break through the barrier, but you’ll need to have every advantage you possibly can at your disposal. Here are 10 tips for becoming a professional artist.

10 Tips For Becoming A Professional Artist
Image credit: Student world

1. Don’t expect to get paid straight away

For many people, becoming a professional artist can take years, and those years are often filled with rejection or unpaid work that feels unsatisfying and unfulfilling. It’s important to have realistic expectations of what being an artist on a professional basis will be like so that you don’t give up when things don’t necessarily pan out the way you expected them to straight away. Play the long game, stay patient, and maintain your love for art, and you’ll find an opportunity eventually.

2. Support yourself another way while you work

Many artists have other jobs besides their art so that they can keep funnelling money into what they love. Finding another way to support yourself while you pursue your dream is imperative, because as we’ve established, it may be a little while before you can get paid for your art. Don’t be afraid to seek additional financial help in the short-term, too; even a £1500 loan could mean the difference between making bills and missing them when you’re an artist. 

3. Try not to work for free

We know that this is going to be extremely difficult, but when you’re trying to break into the professional art world, it’s important to try not to work for free. This is because the more free opportunities you take, the more people will take advantage of you and assume you don’t have a problem with working for free, and that will make getting paid opportunities in the future much harder. Working for free also undermines the artistic fraternity and makes it harder for everyone to get paid!

4. Sell art online

Online platforms like Etsy or even eBay are good places to sell your art online. You may not get that gallery show you’ve been dreaming of straight away, but you can create things that people will want and sell them via online stores, giving you a relatively steady source of income (assuming there’s demand for what you’re making, of course). You’ll need to take care of your own marketing, naturally, but that’s a worthwhile skill to learn as an artist anyway.

5. Take commissions

One of the biggest potential sources of income for any budding artist is the commission. Put simply, you charge people to draw or create the work of art that they ask you to create. Of course, you can set your own terms; there may be commissions you’re uncomfortable with, for instance, or you might be the kind of cosmopolitan artist who will take on all comers. Whatever the case may be, considering commissions is definitely a good idea.

6. Build a portfolio

If you want people to know what they’re getting into when they commission you or hire you to create art for them, then building a portfolio is pretty much a must. Giving people an idea of what your work looks like and what your range consists of will mean that they know what they’re getting into, and you’ll also get more work coming your way; after all, if you were going to hire an artist, you wouldn’t do so if you couldn’t see a preview of the work, right?

7. Exploit social media

Posting your work for free on social media would naturally violate item number 3 on this list, but there’s no reason you can’t post previews of what you’re working on or talk to your followers about your work on social media platforms. Social media is a great way for artists to get themselves out there and known, and it’s also a good way for artists to network with one another so they can recommend opportunities and lift one another up.

8. Don’t be afraid to work commercially

Quite often, artists find themselves taking up work with commercial enterprises as videographers, for instance, or photographers. While this may not be the kind of work you envisioned yourself doing for the rest of your life, it’s a great way to build experience and get your name out there, and it also means you’ll be paid for what you’re good at, so don’t be afraid to look off the beaten track when it comes to employment opportunities.

9. Consider studying

If money isn’t necessarily a problem - or you’ve already got a steady stream of income and enough spare time to consider it - then you might want to think about studying art professionally. When companies, brands, or individuals commission artists, a formal educational qualification in the arts is always a boon; it shows that you have expertise and knowledge even before you have experience, so if you’re interested in the academic side of art, think about signing up for a course.

10. Don’t give up

There will be times throughout your professional art career when it feels like the work just isn’t coming in. During those times, it’s important not to give up. You might even take an extended break from art for a while so that you can build your funds, but that doesn’t mean you’ve given up on the dream. As we’ve established, true artists often feel they need to create for themselves whether they’re being paid or not, so as long as you keep the flame alive, you’re an artist and you always will be.