How To Become A Professional Artist

How To Become A Professional Artist
Image from “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Anatomy of Suffering” by Sam Ben Meir | Source:

Becoming a professional artist may seem like a long and arduous path to go on, but there are certain steps that you can take for it to be as effective as possible. Even as an amateur artist, you have the chance to create an art career for yourself and follow in the footsteps of successful artists. As a creative person, you may not have the knack for planning and developing strategies as a business person might have, but that is why we are here to help! Keep on reading to learn how you could pursue a successful art career.

Build A Portfolio

Having a showcase of your best works at hand at any given time is a significant first step onto the path of becoming a professional artist. Having a portfolio ready does not only mean that you can show your artistic skills accurately — but also assess your strengths and weaknesses during the building process, which will aid in the long run. Now, let us see how you can make a good portfolio?

Organize Examples Effectively

Your presentation skills and your process will reflect how you arrange the different art pieces in your portfolio. Keeping a consistent theme helps the viewer understand your work’s narrative better and focus on your skillset.

Quality Over Quantity

While it is good to have many examples, you should take care that the pieces presented are of the best quality that you can reproduce. After all — a portfolio is often the first impression someone will have of your work.

Ask For Other Perspectives

The process of creating an art portfolio can make you think about your work for too long. That can lock you in a subjective box, where your judgment may become clouded. That is why asking for an outside perspective throughout the creation process is a good choice for both you and your future portfolio.

Showcase Both Your Style and Your Technical Ability

Technical skills are what allow an artist to communicate the message or meaning of a piece. However, the style is how they convey the message. Hence, both are equally important when choosing what you should put in your portfolio.

Value Your Worth

Professionals should know how to value their time, as well as the worth of their work. For example, you could keep these basic art pricing fundamentals in your mind when deciding on a final value of your work:

Establish Your Type of Art

What kind of art do you make? What are its visual characteristics? In what ways is it similar to the art of other people? How would you categorize it? Who is interested in that type of art? Once you have answers to these questions, you can start exploring the possible audience and then — 

Determine Your Market

Where would you sell your art? Will it be nationally, internationally, or, perhaps, digital? Who are the people creating such art, and who is their primary audience? This leads us to —

Discover Which Artists Make Art Similar to Yours 

And this can be done either by researching online or seeing their work in person. Pay particular attention to artists who are similar to you in terms of career — similar accomplishments and resumes, similar styles and audiences, and so on.

See How Much These Artists Charge For Their Art

Sometimes, it is desirable to use the prices other people set to gauge whether your prices should be lower or higher.

However, a good starting point for those who have little or no sales experience would be to price your work based on the combined value of time, labor, and cost of materials. Decide on a reasonable hourly wage, add the cost of materials and make that your base price. For example, if materials cost $50, it took you 10 hours to make the art piece, and you pay yourself $20 an hour to make it, then you price the art at $250 ($20 X 10 hours + $50 cost of materials). However, this is where the fundamentals mentioned above come into play. If your art turns out to be more expensive than what other artists in your area charge for similar art, you may have to rethink your pricing.

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Learn How To Promote Your Work

And how do you do this? The answer is quite simple, really — you should have already done all the preparatory work in the previous step! Notably, you should use the knowledge you gained while researching the market, competitors, and possible audiences to tailor your marketing strategies.

Do not be discouraged! With proper planning, anyone can do this step, regardless of their financial status. Namely, the next part would be crucial in that:

Build And Maintain Your Community Presence

Networking and relationship building is the foundation of all great businesses and careers. And it’s easier than ever to build an audience due to the popularity of online platforms.

However, as we already mentioned, it takes an incredible amount of work and an effective strategy to implement and maintain an excellent digital presence. This is the main reason why artists need to think critically before executing any one area of a promotion strategy.  

The crucial question an artist should ask themselves before sitting down to create a marketing and community presence is — what do I want people to see as my signature trait? It can range from your art style to witty descriptions of your images — and that should be present wherever you are, from social media to an exhibition in a gallery.

Once you know what that will be, you are ready to get started. But, before creating or executing the strategy, keep in mind these facts:

Content Will Always Matter the Most

Regardless of what you are posting, it is your signature trait that should always shine through. This is equally important for both your own work and the work you decide to share on your platform. The clients can and will remember who you are and what you stand for, which is why you should take care to be consistently yourself while still making wise and professional decisions.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is Important

To have a good SEO ranking, your posts need to include words that will attract your client base, as well as the algorithm. If you are serious about increasing your digital presence, plan out a complete strategy for content a week ahead, so you are ready for every day as it comes — regardless of the platform. For example, you could optimize your artist statement according to the search algorithm’s preferences to reach the maximum number of the target audience.

Good Visual Design is Crucial To Your Image

Delivery matters. How you present your work will be how the audience will see it. This may seem painfully obvious, but you should keep it on your mind at all times, as there is enough content on the internet to satisfy anyone. Ensure that your visual presentation matches your overall style and still looks pleasant to the eye to capture the viewer’s attention and have them coming back for more.

Lack of attention to detail in design, whether a blog, website, art community profile, or a social media page, will be associated with you. Therefore, you should ensure all design elements on each of your platforms — both online and locally — are coherent and consistent.

Be Where Your Clients Are

Just having a website as a portfolio is not enough to have a presence in the community. For this, it would help if you were in the same circles where your clients are, so ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I set up social media pages where my target audience is?
  • Am I engaging with clients and followers in a meaningful way?
  • Am I following, sharing, and responding to both potential buyers and fellow artists alike?
  • Am I attending relevant art exhibitions?
  • How many artists professionals do I have in my network?
  • Am I following the art news and keeping up with the trends as I should?
  • And, not necessarily — am I in a position to purchase paid advertising?

It’s all about being where your audience is and engaging with them authentically and consistently.

For example, you could use a platform such as ARTDEX to reach potential clients and other artists and art collectors, forging connections that may help you in the future while using that time to learn more about the art world and the niche you reside in. Whether you want to become a full-time artist or a freelance artist, there is a lot you can learn from people in art communities — especially other talented artists.


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