We are an online artist community sharing ways to create and sell art. Join us to save big on art supplies or try our easy websites for artists.

Going from Amateur to Professional: 10 Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Artists

How many times have you wondered, “How can I turn my passion for art into a money making venture?” I used to ask myself that very same question, but it wasn’t until I began to study the habits of successful artists that I found answers that worked.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned throughout my art career—10 things I still use today to reach my own personal and professional goals.

1. Have a Signature Body of Work.

If your art is displayed in a gallery alongside work by other artists, can people identify it? Developing a unique style and is key in becoming a successful artist. You want people to immediately identify your art as yours—there should never be any doubt.

2. Clarify Your Artistic Voice.

It’s often difficult for us, as artists, to talk about our work, yet it’s one of the most important aspects of marketing yourself and your art. You must be able to discuss your subject matter, your techniques, and even the history of art in a completely non-technical way so that others can easily understand what your work is all about.

It’s often a good idea to come up with a simple 10-word sentence that explains who you are and what you do. Mine is “I capture emotions, feelings and memories through fine art photography.”

3. Set Realistic Career-Life Goals.

Your vision of the future is only wishful thinking unless you set specific goals to use as a road map for your career. Don’t be afraid to dream large, but set realistic goals step-by-step along the way.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is trying to do too much, too quickly—so be patient with your progress and make sure to write down every goal you set. Over the next few months or years, mark off which goals you’ve completed. This will give you the strength to continue on.

4. Maintain Your Focus.

Without written goals, staying focused is nearly impossible, and even with them it can be difficult to stay on course. There have been many times in my life when my actions were inconsistent, unfocused on art, and unproductive. I’ve learned that it’s only when I return to my written goals that I improve, grow, and further my career.

5. Understand Where Your Work Fits into the Market.

Always do your research before submitting your work to museums, galleries, publications, art shows, etc. Make sure your style fits theirs and always follow their submission guidelines to the letter.

6. Master Your Mailing List.

A mailing list is one of the most important assets for any business—and if you want to be a professional artist, you’ll need to have one as well.

Most successful business people have active mailing lists that they use at least three times a year. Why? Because on the average, people need to see your name seven times before it starts to connect with them.

Keep your mailing list current and try to know something about every name on the list. If used properly, each name translates into a potential sale.

7. Find Role Models and Mentors.

A good mentor might be another artist or businessperson who you admire, or an artist who has succeeded on a level that you yourself are trying to reach. Make a list of advisors who you can talk to about your career. How? Do what I did—just ask.

Professionals are often happy to pass on what they have learned. You can find them through workshops, on the internet, and at local art exhibits. If they see that you have a passion for what you are doing, they may help you. It’s also a good idea to plan some your questions in advance and always be respectful of their time.

8. Network With Your Peers.

A wonderful way to network with other artists is to set up a critical discussion group. This group should include artists from several disciplines, such as painters, photographers, sculptures, etc. Use the group as an arena for feedback on your work and your career, as well as to find opportunities to exhibit and sell your work. Galleries are often open to referrals from the artists that they are already representing.

9. Be a Visible Participant in the Art World.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of just being out there . Go to every lecture, opening, and art event possible. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to dealers, curators, collectors, and critics. Exhibit your own work on a regular basis, and send out press releases several times a year. Don’t be afraid to "saturate" the market. One of the comments I always love to hear is, “I see your work everywhere!”

10. Invest in Your own Career.

Treat your art business like any other serious profession. Spend money to get trained in areas you’d like to improve at, and be professional in everything you do, from your business cards to the final presentation of your work.

Above all, be patient. Becoming a professional artist doesn’t happen overnight, but if you incorporate all these tips into your career strategy and work hard at them, you’ll be well on your way to making a living with your art.

For more information on Bruce K. Haley, Jr., or if you’d like to view his photography, please visit his website at www.bkhaleyphotography.com.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

One of the side aspects to doing public arts projects and community murals is that I often spend time listening to participants tell me how they always wanted to be an artist, but that they just never got around to it. If I ask, “When did you know you wanted to be an artist?” the answer always seems to be, "When I was a child." They usually go on to tell me just how much they. . . read more

If you're looking for something else. . .
Love the Easel?

Subscribe to our totally free weekly newsletter for artists. Sign up today!

EE Writers
Cassie Rief Niki Hilsabeck Lisa Orgler Carrie Lewis Aletta de Wal Phawnda Moore

If you'd like to write for EmptyEasel, let us know!

We love publishing reader-submitted art tutorials, stories, and even reviews.Submit yours here!
© 2006-2017 EmptyEasel.com About Contact Sitemap Privacy Policy Terms of Use Advertise