I have spent the past year talking to thousands of artists from every part of this world. Each artist I meet has something really unique to offer the world, but all of the artists seem to follow the same path.
Building your career as a professional artist doesnt just happen magically. it happens strategically. It doesnt matter if you paint things or make things or design things. There are a few phases that every single artist goes through while building their career.
1. Developing Your Style
The first phase that every artist goes through is developing their style. Finding your style requires that you spend alot of time creating new artwork, studying the work you create and finding the special things that tie your work together. This can be the most frustrating phase that an artist goes through, but it typically produces some of their best work.
2. Building Your Portfolio
The second phase is building a portfolio of work. You should have a large collection of work at the end of phase one and an idea of what really makes your designs special. Phase two is when artists take all of that work and organize it into a portfolio that showcases their talents.
3. Finding Customers
The next phase is figuring out how to sell your work. This is when artists start experimenting with all of the ways they can sell their artwork. You might take freelance clients, develop products, chase licensing deals, pitch a publisher or teach local classes. Typically one or two of these markets will be incredibly profitable for you, but you wont know which markets are best for your work until you experiment!
4. Scaling Your Business
This is the phase where artists start making real money. You have a clear understanding of who will buy your work and how they want to buy it, so you can start marketing more effectively and grow your business rather quickly.
5. Developing new revenue streams
In this phase, Artists get bored and overwhelmed. They have a constant stream of work and a steady paycheck, but this insatiable need to experiment with their work. They start putting time aside for new projects. Sometimes they end up coaching or writing or teaching other artists. And other times they go on to develop a totally new line of business.
Becoming a professional artist takes time and dedication and a whole lot of passion. But the artists who are willing to stick it out will always figure out a way to build a career doing the work they love.
I hope this helps you feel less alone in your journey.