22 Trending Tips To Make Money as a Professional Artist

Earning a Living as a Professional Artist

Earning a Living as a Professional Artist: BusinessHAB.com


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1. The Background: 

Transitioning from an amateur artist to a professional artist, an artist who earns money for their work, can be challenging. Developing your talent and exhibiting your work will help you establish yourself as a professional artist so that you can begin to earn a living. Becoming a professional artist takes a lot of time and hard work, but in the end, it will be worth it to get paid to do what you love.


Being called by the muse is a wonderful thing, without a doubt, but without the technical abilities to realize your vision, you won’t get very far. Whatever your chosen medium or media, become an expert in every part of it.

  • Set aside an hour or more each day to devote to nothing but practicing your technique.
  • Focus especially on those areas that are the weakest for you, but build your strengths as well.
  • Take advantage of the communities and resources that you can find. Artist supply manufacturers, and art stores themselves, often have free literature, tutorials, videos, and websites that are loaded with tips, techniques, and more.
  • Some stores even offer weekend training seminars, where you can not only pick up some new skills, you’ll also meet other artists.

Choose one subject that is meaningful to you and that you want to be able to draw well.

  • Start with a still life, or a photo that’s yours, in public domain, or that you have permission to use. Draw or paint that same photo over and over, using different approaches—paint, pencil, abstract, realism—whatever moves you.
  • Build up from easy subjects, like a rubber ball or a rectangular block, to more complicated, difficult subjects, like a rose, a clear glass marble or a shiny metal bowl. And try to get the details right: the curves of a petal, the clarity of the glass, or reflections so good that Escher would be impressed! Each of them will improve your ability to draw in general.
  • Practice timed gesture drawing. Pick your subject, set your timer for two or three minutes, start drawing, then stop when the timer goes off, even if the drawing isn’t finished.
  • Set the timer again and start over. Doing 10 three minute drawings will give you more skill than taking half an hour to draw the same thing in detail.

 Start off with a pencil, then go to charcoal, colored pencils, pastels, paint, whatever interests you. Never fear trying new tools or techniques.

  • When trying an expensive new medium, visit Dick Blick or Jerry’s Artarama and email them for samples. Many types of art suppliers make sample sized products or the company will send out just one stick or a small piece of the expensive paper or canvas for you to test before deciding what to buy.
  • This gives you a chance to try it first and see if you like it. Try more than one brand—the samples are usually not the same colour and you can find out which brand to invest in by those trials.

 Make it clear you want a real opinion, not just a biased, “I love you so everything you do is wonderful” opinion. If they think it’s good, then you’re on the right track! If they don’t, you’re still on the right track: if several people think your technique is great, but your subject matter leaves something to be desired, that’s an opportunity for self-reflection and to learn something.

  • Don’t confuse critique with personal criticism, especially if the critic is somebody who is not interested in seeing you become an artist.


Look for critique from people who draw better than you do. Make friends online with real artists whose work you admire. Compliment them and ask intelligent questions about their techniques. You’ll rapidly find that many artists enjoy teaching beginners and will be happy to share what they’ve learned.

  • As you learn more, reach out to those who are just starting. You will learn more every time you explain and demonstrate what you already know. It’s very common for teachers to learn from their students!

 When friends and family members love everything you draw and think it’s wonderful, or your mum was putting your childhood scribbling up on the fridge from the time you were two (and believes you’ll be Picasso someday), relax and enjoy that as support.

  • The better you get at art, the easier it is for people to compliment you and call you talented.
  • Compliments can sometimes be critiques, and those are very valuable! Should an artist whose work you admire give you a compliment such as, “I love the colors in this,” this means they are not only nice enough to compliment you on your work, but have taken the time to understand and appreciate the choices you made.

 Do this by learning to paint and draw your favourite subjects in all the ways that every painter you like best has done them. The more you learn technique and understand your own passions, the more your own style will emerge.

  • Having a personal style is a combination of learning to draw and paint well in your favourite mediums while consistently paying the most attention to your favourite subjects.
  • You will become a specialist, a “brand of one” at a certain intermediate level of competence. Mastering a subject and a medium comes later, at the point when you could do it easily without thinking at all about how you do it, yet always have consistent results.

 To get into a gallery, you should have a portfolio of up to a dozen of your best works, all of which have something in common, be it the subject or style, general size and level of skill.

  • Make your work available in as many formats as possible, so that there are no barriers for interested gallery owners or art patrons to view your work.


The best way to become famous is to get known! The internet offers many avenues to be seen and promote artistic works, and in the information-loaded 21st century. It’s important to use all the tools at your disposal to build your name and reputation while staying true to yourself.

  • Blog daily about your work, and include illustrations showing your process and a gallery to show (and/or sell) your finished works.
  • Visit all the galleries in your area, and get to know the proprietors. If you’re old enough, attend as many openings as possible, not to promote your own work—there will be time enough for that later—but to become a known artist in the community.
  • Create a Facebook for your art, and encourage people to visit and like your page. Reach out to other artists through Facebook. Like visiting galleries, this will help place you in the community, and Facebook can reach well beyond your neighbourhood.
  • Tweet about art regularly. Your art, historical art, pop art, any art at all. The more you know about art, the more you’ll be recognized as somebody worth paying attention to. At the same time, follow artists and galleries, and respond to their tweets. This will encourage more people—including gallery owners—to follow you.
  • Create a Flickr account and post scans or photos of your art. It’s an active community, and while you won’t get a lot of helpful critique on Flickr, you will build your name recognition, and perhaps become online friends with some very talented artists.
  • In today’s digital world, social media and a website are the easiest ways to put your artwork into the world and attract fans who care about what you do.


Start with student level contests at first and small local art contests.

  • Teach workshops. This will help you not only get known as an artist, but also as an expert in your field.
  • Build your skills until you can enter major national and international contests in your chosen medium.
  • Enter juried art shows. Getting a painting into a juried art show is itself an achievement to put on your resume. When you have too many, shorten it by listing only the most important shows.


Read up on art agencies and contact the agent’s other clients. See if they are happy with the agent, or are generally discontented or feel as if they’ve been ripped off. Agents will market you and your work, and also represent you in contract negotiation. Make sure they are well-connected and good with contracts.

  • You might also want to work with a reputable attorney who specializes in the art world. While an agent may know a bit about the law, their job is promotion. A lawyer’s only job is knowing about the applicable law.

 If you don’t care about the subject, it will show in your work. Many artists fall a little bit in love with their subject, whether it be a bowl of fruit or the artist’s model.

  • If you like expressing anger and dark emotions, study dark painters. If you like abstracts and splatter paintings, study them and do them—they take their own techniques and don’t just happen because someone threw paint at a canvas and called it art.
  • If you love wildlife and the outdoors, get a small portable painting kit and paint “en plein air” (outdoors) in your favourite places.
  • Whatever your passion, find ways to capture that passion on the canvas.

To determine how much to charge for your art, assess the size, shape, medium, weight, subject matter, colours, how long it took you to make it, how much the supplies cost, and how experienced you are at that particular artistic medium. Once you have determined these factors, research how much similar pieces in your area tend to sell for. You can do this by searching online, or by talking to stores, galleries, and other retailers that sell similar artwork.

  • When you price your art, you need to be able to justify the amount. While your artwork is surely unique, so is every piece of original art. Thus, this cannot be a major factor in determining how much you much you should charge for your pieces.
  • When you first start selling your art, you may have to sell it for less than what other, established artists are selling their work for. After selling a few pieces, you can begin charging more.

15. Create a business plan.

Regardless of what type of art you create, writing a business plan can help you establish your goals as a professional artist and determine your financial needs. As part of your business plan, research and outline the potential markets for your type of art. Take into consideration all the ways that you can potentially sell your art, as well as the prices you have determined for the various types of pieces you create. Then, outline in your business plan how many pieces you need to produce and sell to meet your financial needs, and how you are going to go about doing so.

  • In determining your financial needs, consider all the things that you need to pay for, including food, housing, more art supplies, and any other expenses you incur on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

Search online to find professional organizations that are relevant to your type of artwork and sign up to become a member. This can help you establish yourself as a professional artist and send the message to potential clients and/or employers that you take your career as an artist seriously.  In addition, professional organizations can provide opportunities for you to network with other artists, helping you spread the word about your work.

  • Joining organizations and staying connected to local artistic communities is a great way to meet other artists, learn about the industry, and get exposure.


In addition to promoting your work, you can also sell your work in a store or gallery. While retail stores and galleries take a percentage of your sales, selling your art through such companies is a great way to expose your work to a larger audience and, hopefully, make more sales. In addition to brick and mortar options, look into the many ways to sell your art online, including through social media, an artist collective website, or through your own retail website. 

  • Learning how to sell your art on Etsy is also a great option. Etsy is popular site that gets a lot of traffic, so it is a great way to expose your work to a large audience and help you make a living as a professional artist.


Wherever you display your art, advertise that you are also available to create original pieces for individual clients on commission. Most artists create commission pieces at some point in their careers. Working on commission may not be as steady or artistically fulfilling as following your own inspirations, but it can be a great way to get your art out into the world while making some money.

  • The key to being successful as a commissioned artist is to be flexible and listen to your clients. While you want to stay true to yourself as an artist, you are also being paid to create something specific based on your clients’ needs. Finding a balance between what you want and what your clients want will make the experience mutually beneficial and, hopefully, help you build a positive reputation and land more commission work.

As a professional artist, you can make money while sharing your knowledge and skills by teaching classes and/or workshops to budding artists. There are several opportunities you can look into, including teaching classes at a studio, gallery, community centre, or school.  Teaching can also help you stay up to date on current trends and techniques, helping you improve your own skills. You might even find that you learn some new ideas or find new inspiration from your students!

  • You could offer different classes based on skill level and technique. For example, you might teach basic drawing classes for beginners, as well as advanced shading techniques or still life watercolours for intermediate or advanced students.

Work as an in-house artist for a company in need of your artistic skills. There are many companies that hire professional artists, including software and print materials companies, advertising and design agencies, and motion picture companies. These types of companies are consistently in need of artists with various special skills, including graphic design, product label design, and illustration.

  • Working as a professional artist for a company has the added benefit of ensuring that you have a steady salary.

Being a true artist is a lifelong pursuit. When you’ve reached the level of fame to which you aspire, with plenty of money and acclaim, you will still want to look forward to something beyond that.

  • Continuing to learn and invent, even after you are famous, will not just keep you on top of your game, focused on the future instead of putting your best years behind you.
  • As your style grows and changes, older paintings you’ve done become more valuable. Collectors will be interested in the entire history of your life’s work. Even the drawings you did as a child become valuable: what your mom stuck to the fridge has the seeds of your current success, so don’t throw away earlier works.

22. Believe in yourself. 

You will also be changing your social identity from how you used to think of yourself into seeing yourself as an artist. Some people will get angry about this and reject your pursuit of art. They’ll call it silly or self indulgent, they’ll insult your work and tell you art isn’t real work, call you a fraud, call you lazy, try to tell you to go back to being whoever they thought you were.


Don’t undervalue your work—whether you’re compensated through money, an exchange of services, or direct access to your target market, there are lots of possibilities to get your work noticed and start validating your artist identity.

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