If you’ve ever tried to pursue a career as an artist, then you’ve probably been told that it’s impossible or that you’re never going to make it. While it’s certainly true that being an artist as a professional endeavour is much, much harder
than other careers, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it or that you shouldn’t chase your dream. By having (somewhat) realistic expectations and mixing those expectations with a genuine desire to achieve success, you should be able to make inroads in the art world. Here’s how you can start a career as an artist.
Build up some funds first
If you’re currently working a day job, then the most important thing you can do, especially if you’re planning to leave your current job in order to pursue art full-time, is to build up some savings. By doing so, you’ll make sure that you can weather the initial storm of not making much money from your art, and until you’ve built up a decent following, you can survive on the savings you’ve squirreled away. You may find that online loans
can help you in the short term if you start to struggle with money, too, so don’t be afraid to take that route.
Construct a portfolio
The first thing that anyone who commissions you as an artist is going to want to see is your portfolio. This is where you show off what you can do in a professional capacity; it’s where you let the world see the quality and diversity of your art. Try to pick pieces that demonstrate your range and versatility as well as your raw skill; it’s one thing to appeal to people as an artist, but quite another to show that you can be whatever they need you to be. Continually revisit and update your portfolio as you draw or paint new pieces.
Don’t worry - we’re not simply telling you to “start making money”. Rather, what we mean by this is that you should only take free opportunities if you’re absolutely certain it’s a good career move. Many people will attempt to exploit you as an artist; there’s still a perception that art “isn’t a serious career”, so people will try to commission you without paying you in return. Sometimes, it’s useful to take a gig
even if there isn’t any money involved, but for the most part, you should try to make sure that you demand payment; after all, you have a skill that not everyone has!
As an artist, one of the most important things you can do is to keep improving. That way, you’ll get more and more complex (and better-paid) commissions, and you can work towards boosting your profile within the industry. The best - and practically only - way to seriously improve as an artist is to continue practising, so if you find yourself with a spare few moments during the day, consider trying to improve an element of your craft. What you decide to work on will, of course, be personal to you, but just making sure to set aside time to practise each day is a boon in and of itself.
Create your own website
It’s very important as an artist to have your own website
that you can show to prospective customers. This will demonstrate that you’re a true professional; while any artist can create a social media profile for themselves (although this is also extremely important), not every artist has their own personal site. There are many platforms out there that will help you to create a site if you’re not particularly savvy when it comes to web design, so whether you use Squarespace, Wix, or one of the many alternatives available, you should think about making a site sooner rather than later.
Build your social media presence
Of course, it’s not possible to simply create an Instagram or TikTok presence for yourself and achieve instant fame. If that were viable, then every single artist out there would be doing it, and there’s a reason that only a handful of artists truly become “social media famous”. However, if you want to communicate with prospective clients, update followers on what you’re doing, and generally build hype for your art business, then having a social media presence is crucial. You should sign up to all the most popular platforms and make sure to post regularly across them.
There are going to be a lot of people telling you that you’re “never going to make it” as an artist. Some people might try to get you to give up on your dream and go back to “sensible” career choices. You should not listen to these people. As long as you’re able to support yourself and you’re not harming anybody else with your choices, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with chasing your dream. Whatever you do, just don’t give up; you never know when the next lucky break will come along, but it never will if you decide to turn your back on your calling.
Accept dry spells
You’re going to suffer through dry spells as an artist. It’s one of the pitfalls of the job; everyone has moments where they’re not getting any work, and those moments can seem overwhelmingly hopeless at times. Just know that you’re not alone, and that work will eventually come your way if you simply stay focused and keep working at your art. You could even use these moments to work on more personal projects; after all, if you’re not buried in commissions, then you’re free to pursue the art that you personally want to create.