Making successful art is an inherently subjective activity. Trends come and go; people’s tastes are always evolving. Trying to make a living in this unpredictable field is a risky enterprise.
The stereotypical image of the struggling artist exists for a reason. Even in modern times, with the ability to instantly upload and share images of their creations, most people tend to dabble rather than attempt to make a living from art.
However, if you’ve found your passion for your art hobby, you might want to take the risk nonetheless. After all, there are many contemporary artists who’ve managed to succeed by finding the right approach. Here’s what you can do to start sustaining a career out of your art.
Shift from traditional to digital
Even though there’s a wide variety of digital apps and drawing accessories on the market, most hobbyists today are still likely to start learning their craft through traditional media. A quality tablet and professional software will set you back considerably more than a set of pencils, pigments, and paper.
You don’t necessarily have to make digital art, but every artist today would be well-advised to become more familiar with the digital realm. Potential clients and buyers will look you up on social media. They will expect to be able to browse through your portfolio on your professional website, or at least your Instagram feed.
Working online also gives you access to additional sources of income. You aren’t limited to hanging pieces in galleries; Etsy and other online marketplaces can easily translate digital prints into actual revenue. And in a world where people are staying at home and doing more of their shopping online, that can become a real advantage.
One of the problems artists have always encountered is that their profession is generally a winner-take-all business. Big names sell; if you’re just starting out, whatever you earn might not be enough to cover your cost of living.
You might have the talent to eventually make it big as an artist, but no matter how good you are, talent is only part of the equation. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Thankfully, the growing shift towards remote, online work and a knowledge-based economy has been beneficial to freelance workers. And that’s one stable way to earn more money from your art while making a name for yourself.
Artists usually don’t like working in service to another person’s vision in exchange for money. But freelancing can be an essential intermediate step towards having the ability to create the pieces you envision and sell them to support your career.
Approach it like a business
Even freelancing has its limits. When it comes to earning potential, a freelance artist is always trading their time for money. You can only squeeze so much work into a 24-hour day.
Many artists handicap their career earnings by refusing to take a more businesslike approach. That makes no sense because businesses are the ultimate experts in making money.
You don’t have to actually run an art business; you just have to learn from them. For instance, even healthcare providers know the value of marketing consultants. Where your competencies fall short, it’s crucial to reach out to someone with greater expertise and a better network.
Above all, business owners understand that they won’t survive without connecting their products and services with the right audience. It’s a lesson many aspiring artists need to digest fully if they want to succeed. You can always make a work of art that’s understood by a select few. But if you want to make a living from your art, you have to make art that connects with people who are willing to pay for it.
Hedge your bets
If these steps start to rankle and disagree with your sensibilities, don’t be surprised or discouraged. Making art and making money are so disparate, most people find it difficult to change their mindset and skills accordingly to do both.
An alternative approach you can take is to hedge your bets. Adopt a so-called ‘barbell strategy.’ Take on a predictable, boring day job that pays the bills while leaving you with enough free time to make art the way you want.
Using this tactic, you can take the pressure off your fledgling art career to instantly provide enough income to sustain you, even through difficult times. At the same time, you can focus on improving, finding your voice as an artist, and casting a wide net to connect with the audience that appreciates your vision.