Have you always wanted to be a professional artist, but you’re waiting for the right time?
Maybe you intend to become a professional artist when you feel you are good enough, or when you’re in a better financial position, or when your kids have grown up and left home.
When will that be? 5 years? 10 years? 20?
Let me tell you, if you’re waiting for the perfect conditions before you can become a professional artist, you will be waiting a long time.
The right time never comes, and there will always be some condition that is not quite right, and you’ll have to wait a bit longer, then a bit longer, and a bit longer still. Before you know it you’ll be retired. Maybe then you can be a professional artist.
If you don’t feel like waiting that long, then you need to take action now. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily quit your job today, but you definitely need to start taking steps towards your creative career, or it will never happen.
Nobody is going to come to you one day and say “Ok, conditions are perfect now, you may be a professional artist.”
What you need to do is accept that there will be obstacles, and then do the best you can to overcome them.
So How Do I Become A Professional Artist?
The fact is I can’t give you a step-by-step guide to making the transition to a creative career, because everyone’s situation is different, so everyone will have different obstacles to overcome.
What I can do is tell you about my own creative journey, and give you some guidance.
So here are the factors I considered when deciding to become a professional artist.
Recognizing The Need For Change
The first thing that happened for me, was that the dissatisfaction with my current situation began to outweigh the benefits of having a regular job.
Eventually my dissatisfaction grew to a point where a regular monthly income was not enough for me, and I started to think seriously about making a change.
There will always be voices in the back of your mind telling you you’d be crazy to give up a paying job for the uncertainty of an art career. Those voices never really go away (and some of them are actually the voices of real people.)
But when these doubts start to overwhelm me, I can always rely on 3 simple words to get me focused again: “Life’s too short!”
Life is too short to put off doing what you really know you should be doing. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.
Steve Jobs used to get up every morning, look in the mirror and ask himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And when the answer had been “No” for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something.
So ask yourself the same question. Maybe it’s time for a change.
Assessing Your Financial Needs
Obviously, we all need enough income to buy food to eat and pay the mortgage, rent, bills etc. so you need to think about how you will make money as a professional artist.
Personally, I was fortunate enough to have saved up some money to ease me through the transitional period, but not everyone will have this luxury, so you may need to do things differently.
Maybe you already have people lined up waiting for you to put your artwork on sale, or to start taking commissions. If so, that’s great, you can start earning money from your art straight away.
But it’s more likely that you’ll have to build up sales gradually, do some self-promotion, and work hard at finding your target audience and getting your work in front of them. So you may need an extra source of income to begin with, until you are more established.
You could potentially keep your current job, but go part-time, or find another part-time job that is in a more creative field. There are plenty of ways to earn money from your artwork too, so with a bit of hard work you can find a way to support yourself.
If you don’t already have one, the best thing you can do to start earning money from your art is to get started with your own website or blog.
Assessing Your Ability
Another thing you need to succeed as an artist is some level of artistic ability.
That’s not to say that you need to be a master painter with a fine art degree. In fact you don’t really need any formal qualifications to make a living as an artist. But you do need enough skill to produce consistently high quality work. And you need the confidence to be able to sell it.
If you don’t feel like you’re at that level yet, then you may need to get some more training.
One important thing to note, is that just because you are still learning, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be earning at the same time. An artists never stops learning.
You will never reach a point where you have nothing left to learn. So you don’t need to wait until you are an ‘expert’ before you can make money from your art.
I have sold art in the past that wasn’t as good as the art I sell today. And the art I sell today won’t be as good as the art I sell in 5 years time.
You are constantly growing as an artist, even as a highly successful professional artist.
The Right Time Is Now
So that was about what I went through to get where I am today. To recap:
- Acknowledge the need to make a change in your current situation.
- Figure out how you will make enough money as a professional artist.
- Determine whether you need any more training to increase your confidence.
- Take action!
Sounds pretty simple when you break it down like that, doesn’t it?
As I mentioned, everyone’s situation will be different, and there may be other obstacles you will meet, but this is a good starting point for you to consider today.
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
So stop waiting for that mythical ‘right time’, and do something today to get your art career started.