How to be a professional artist (my top 8 tips)

Paint by James Wyper •

Paint by James Wyper •

1 - Believe that you can. We're so used to hearing that all artists starve that we don't notice the ones that aren't. Tons of people have excellent art careers! You don't even have to be famous. Start by shifting your thinking from "I don't know how to do it" to "how do I do it?"

2 - Get excited about your work. If you're not excited about your ideas or your work why should anyone else be? Address this on paper by brainstorming the MOST EXCITING things you could create. The excitement will be your motivation to get shit done and create work other people will love. 

3 - Stop trying to make money. If money is your main goal, this career is not for you. Trying to make the art that will sell the best will kill your creativity and you may start to die inside. Instead focus on finishing your most EXCITING work and sharing it with people. This will lead to sales.

4 - Know your worth. Find out how much it costs you to produce work, including materials, education, loans, studio rent, etc. What you charge should pay for all your expenses, AND give you a good living wage. If you live in an expensive area this could be a lot. You're worth it! You deserve food, shelter, and happiness, right? Find the real value of your work—don't just copy what random internet people are charging—and be confident about the price you quote when people ask!

5 - Help people. This gives your work purpose, value, and demand. You can make work that helps people directly—even creating things that just make people happy is a great way to do it. You can also use your work to raise money for a good cause. I've seen people do this through official charity events or personal auctions on places like Twitter. What feels genuinely right for you? Shift your thinking from "how can I sell more work?" to "how can my work help more people?" This will lead to sales, connections, and returned favours naturally, just don't expect things from everyone you help. Find causes you are passionate about and help because you want to!

6 - Don't have expectations. EVER. Expectations do not get you results! And they are likely to lead you to disappointment and bitterness. They can be a great wake-call that you're doing things for the wrong reasons though. Instead, focus on doing what you love, doing what most excites you, and helping people. Trust that choosing a positive path will get you positive results!

7 - Take one day at a time. Being a full-time artist can be terrifying. There will be challenges, uncertainties, and dry spells. When things are tough, the best thing to do is focus on what you can control that day—take care of yourself, make great work, show people, and learn from your experiences. Change can happen overnight.

8 - Be creative! In my opinion, this is more important than any tactic. If you have a problem, learn to use your creativity to find an inspired solution. Don't follow the crowd. Creativity should be your way of life, not just how you make art.

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