How To Become a Professional Artist

Do you really want to be a professional artist? Read Below

The REAL STORY behind the profession

In this article, we will cover the realities of how to become a professional artist and give some tips on how to pursue the artist’s life.

Deciding on any career can be challenging. After all, there is more to a career than making great money and doing work that you love. You have to consider the impact that it will have on your personal and professional life. This article will cover the realities of the profession to consider before making the commitment.

Answer this question: Are you a die-hard fan or a casual fan of art?

You might like Classic rock and consider yourself a die-hard fan of the genre. Hundreds of CDs and albums from various groups adorn your bookshelves and CD racks.

You may like a certain band and their music, but you are not interested in who influenced them, how they learned to play, or where they started out. You just like them because their music is fun to listen to.

It’s the same with art…Some people enjoy sketching and painting, but learning about color theory, perspective drawing, advance shading techniques, etc. is a complete turn-off. They’re more interested in drawing the fun pictures, cartoons, landscapes, forests, etc. than learning about life-like portrait work and human figure drawing.

The die-hard fans, on the other hand, want to master ALL the techniques in art. They want to learn human figure drawing, realistic portraits, acrylic/oil painting, and color theory. They are not intimidated by the competitiveness of the profession or the amount of work involved.

How can you tell if you are a Die-Hard fan of art?

It’s easy to fall into the romance of being an artist. Where you imagine yourself painting along the Seine river and selling your work to all your adoring fans. Or having your work displayed at a prestigious gallery 

The art profession is more than creating pretty pictures. The professional artist has to create a body of work that sells. They have to find clients, be up on the latest trends and market their work.

So, the real question is: do you really want to learn the business of art: how to sell and create it?  If the answer is yes, then you have to do the research!!!!!

Start off with a basic google search “how to become a professional artist” and see how many options there are. Sign up for art blogs and subscribe to art magazines and newsletters.

Immerse yourself in the career!

Learn everything you can.  Go to the library and find books on art. Even take a couple of online courses. Find out who the “real players” are in the art community and subscribe to their newsletters and blogs. Maybe, take a couple of their courses.

Be sure to attend open houses at local art and design schools and talk to the instructors about training and employment opportunities. Even if you don’t want to pursue a degree, the information is valuable.

Most instructors will tell you the cold hard truth about getting jobs and finding clients. That’s the information you want because that’s exactly what you’ll have to do after graduation. Listen to them and don’t fall for the hype.

What can you do as a professional Artist?

Some artists teach in schools, community centers, or studios. Freelance artists, sell their work online, art fairs, and studios. Others may work for Ad agencies developing comics and illustrations for magazines. Some artists get into video game designs, animation, or work in architectural firms.

Again, do your research. Find out about the business and how competitive the job market is. There could be some things that you can combine with art such as psychology, and sociology and become a licensed art therapist. Or you could become a Special Ed teacher and develop art lessons for special needs students.

Keep thinking and keep researching. Be creative. After all, you are a creative type, right? Check out Greg Houston’s “Book Illustration That Works.” The book covers the how to’s of illustration and typical assignments that a client would give to an ad agency. Another book to check out Andrew Loomis’s Book “Figure Drawing for all It’s Worth.” It covers how to draw human figures in proper portions for magazines and ads. The does give drawing assignments that a typical Ad agency would give for a campaign.

Having a passion for art doesn’t equate with having a career in art.

If nothing that you’ve read so far resonates with you, then a career in commercial art may not be for you.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as a hobby and sell some of your pieces. But pursuing it as a career could prove to be more challenging than learning about the medium.

It really depends on what you want to do with art and what your skill level is. Most people want to enjoy art as a hobby while they are employed. There is nothing wrong with that approach and if that describes you then GOOD for you! You found a lifelong pursuit instead of a job.

Watch out for online courses that promise a lucrative career.

There are tons of online courses that promise to help get your art career off the ground. But keep in mind it’s still hard work and there is no substitute for hard work. You won’t have a lot of help in the beginning.

Here are three things to consider before spending your hard-earned money on courses.

1. Learning the craft could take years to master depending on how quickly you pick up the skills.

2. Developing a body of original work also could take years depending on how quickly you can produce work.

3. Finding an audience that likes your work could be challenging.

Legitimate online art programs will teach you how to paint/draw and market the work. But there is no guarantee that your work will sell.

Some courses claim you can become a paid artist in a year. Keep in mind everybody’s abilities are different and so are the results. Positive reviews and testimonials are from the people who succeeded.

But…what about the ones who failed or are struggling? Does the course provide options and help for those people? Be sure to find out if there are additional resources that help if you are struggling.

Everybody is different. Just because the course worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.

“One size does not fit all”

Do your research and make sure the course is a good fit. Don’t fall for the hype and promises.

The courses can be expensive and don’t include the materials in the fee. Some courses cost thousands of dollars plus materials. The legit courses will give a guarantee after a few weeks of signing on. Be sure you understand the terms of the guarantee.

Be Ever Vigilant

There are a lot of scammers out there preying upon “creative types”. They promise heaven and the world too. Just be smart and realize if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme.

But I really want to be a professional artist!

Ok, I get it.
You love to paint Seascapes, landscapes, people, and animals. The passion is deep and nothing is going to stop you.

Take this little quiz to see if the profession is for you.

The Realities of becoming a professional artist.

At the beginning of the career, you have to play many roles, business planner, marketer, writer, builder, teacher, secretary, and website developer, until you start making money. Or pay someone to do these things, which can get expensive.

Setting your own hours, being your own boss, and keeping all the money for yourself sounds like a sweet deal. But running a business is HARD work. Furthermore, you are not really your own boss you still have to answer to the client’s wishes and demands.

Lots of people fall for the “romance” of starting a business and later realize that there is nothing romantic about it at all especially when the money runs out.

Quiz Time

There are no right or wrong answers. The questions are designed to give insight into the commercial art profession.

There are two avenues to follow:

  1. Work for someone else.
  2. Or, start a business.

1. Are you willing to take all the risks of running a business? Like financial risks? Especially, during an economic downturn. Think about the Pandemic and how many businesses closed down and how many people lost their jobs. What about health benefits? Dental medical etc.? What if you need major surgery and can’t work? Medical procedures are expensive.

2. Do you like working for someone else where the work and income are predictable? Believe it or not, even if you are working for someone else the same principles apply for the self-employed. You’ll have to hunt down good art that will sell, find clients, schedule showings, and work on tight deadlines.

3. If, want to open up your own studio, are you willing to learn about business practices:, marketing, planning, financing, how to obtain permits, licenses, etc.

4. How long are willing to stick with the business until you start making money: one year, two, three years, etc.? Most start-ups fail within two years, due to a lack of planning and effort. Treat your business like a job then you have a better chance of success. Make sure you get up a certain time, make your own hours, look for clients, set daily goals, and finish projects by a certain deadline, etc.

4. Are you a competitive person? Would you enter art contests, bid for commissions on jobs or assignments? Are willing to provide free samples of your work? Even if you are working for someone else, the agency needs to make money and you have to produce work that sells or puts them ahead of their competition. Commercial art is competitive.

5. Do you have a large body of work that can sustain you throughout the years or can produce work on a regular basis?

6. Are you willing to use all means available to you to sell your work including going to art fairs throughout the world and utilizing social media?

7. Finally, How do plan on sustaining yourself while building your business? Would you consider teaching or working part-time etc.?

Do you see why most people work for someone else and use their creative talents as side gigs?

Do not let the above questions turn you off.

There is no reason why you can’t pursue art as a career if you are passionate about it. You will find a way to make it work. You don’t need to spend money on a degree or formal training. The internet is a great resource for art instruction for beginners.

In fact, some of the best artists in the world are self-taught. What determines your success is YOU. How hard are you willing to work? Are you willing to take the time to develop the skills, and set-up your business?

A truly passionate person doesn’t have a back-up plan. Nothing is going to derail their goals to become a professional artist.

Are you that kind of person? Because there is no one to urge you on if you quit. It’s up to YOU.

Don’t underestimate the value of working for someone else to learn the business

The best approach to learning the business is to work for someone else. The experience will give insight into business practices. Then you’ll be able to make an intelligent decision regarding going into business for yourself.

For more information on careers in art visit the occupational outlook website

Did this article help? Please leave comments below.

4 thoughts on “How To Become a Professional Artist”

  1. Art is something that I place so much in extreme respect because it is a god given talent that people possess to be able to create mere paintings and it comes to life. However, seeing the total that you have outlined here, I can only say that this is great. My sister is aiming to pursue a career I to this, I’m just looking for ways to support her.

    • I started drawing about a year ago. I never would have thought that I could draw anything but since reading a book for beginners, I’ve learned that Art/drawing is just a skill that can be learned. With some hard work and desire, anybody can learn to draw. Good luck to your sister. 

  2. This post is very good on how to become a professional artist. I have never thought of it would be good for me to pick my pen and draw oh paint but I really love art. Personally, I think those who are involved in it just let’s the flow come and then they just go with it after that. Happy to see you wrote on the topic.

    • Thanks for the comments 

      It’s very easy to get caught up in the flow but very different when you need to make money

      Great feedback

      Good luck on your ventures 


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