If you’re looking to turn your artistic hobby into a profession, it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether taking the leap into full-time studio art, opening an online shop for your crafts, or becoming a professional photographer, moving forward with your dreams can be intimidating. But, if properly prepared, the transition can move smoothly.
So how can you prepare for the hard work and challenges ahead? Taking the time to think through your decision and laying the proper foundation will help guide you through the early stages of life as a creative professional. And by mixing good preparation with ambition and fearlessness, there should be nothing that holds you back.
Of course, when moving from a passion project to full-time work, it’s easy to second guess yourself and lose sight of what’s important. Let’s look at a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure you’re on the right path to start your journey toward working in the arts.
To make an impact, you’ll want to focus on what makes you unique. There are millions of photographers, painters, and creatives in the world—why should people flock to you? By starting out with a particular focus, you’ll find it easier to market what you do, and you won’t spread yourself thin trying to be the master of everything for everyone.
Carve Out Your Niche
In the same vein, focusing your work will also allow you to start carving out a niche. While it might be difficult to be the best street photographer in a large urban area, you might find more of an impact by focusing your creativity. For instance, as the go-to street art photographer in your area, you open yourself up to possibilities for books, exhibitions, and talks that might otherwise pass you by. Think carefully about what might be your creative niche, who is your competition, and how you can stand out from the crowd.
Working for yourself can be discouraging at times. When trying to break into a new field you may hear “no” more times than you’d like and you may find yourself working around the clock. This is where ambition and persistence pay off. The most successful creatives don’t get to the top by accident. The drive to succeed is what will help you get through tough times and keep you moving forward to your goals.
When working for yourself, if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, it will be hard to succeed. It’s hard to be persistent about something and work the hours you’ll need to if you aren’t truly passionate about your craft. Passion shines through not only in the finished product, but the interaction you have with clients and fans. Perhaps you’re a talented portrait painter, but if your true passion is abstract work, it’s going to be difficult to make a full-time career as a portraitist. (Though it could be something to do on the side to fund the part of your art you are passionate about.)
Get Critical Feedback
Maybe your mom and your partner love your work, but is that really a true test of whether you have what it takes? Though it may not be fun to hear, constructive criticism is essential throughout your career. Not only will it help you grow and improve your art, but it will give you an idea of trends and what clients are looking for. By only listening to the positive, you risk being stagnant and not reaching your full potential.
Test the Market
Before you take the full-time plunge, it’s a good idea to see if what you are offering is something people actually want to buy. And if they do, could you earn enough to sustain your lifestyle? Side hustles are great for testing out your creative offerings and will help you build up a clientele before flipping the switch to life as a full-time professional. Start locally by looking into opportunities to sell work at fairs, markets, and group exhibitions. These initial clients can also provide reviews for your website or e-commerce shop, help you build up your portfolio, and become a valuable source of referrals.
Strengthen Your Skills
Look around at the competition. Are you up to par? If you’re getting a lot of critical feedback or your products aren’t doing well on the market, one thing to consider is taking the time to brush up on your skills. There’s nothing wrong with taking classes or apprenticing with a more established artist to hone your craft. Take the time to get your skills at the level you are comfortable with—investing in yourself is investing in your future business.
Start Marketing and Networking
You can never start too early when it comes to putting yourself out there. Once you are confident with your work and have a good idea of where you’d like to take your brand, take every opportunity to market yourself. You never know when you’ll find your first clients (though they often come from friends and acquaintances). If people don’t know what you’re capable off, how can they think to work with you? From the barista at the coffee shop to your sister’s best friend, anyone and everyone should have an idea of your creative work.
Write Out a Business Plan
All the passion and persistence in the world won’t pay the bills. That’s why it’s crucial to have a well thought out business plan in place prior to embarking on your new career. Your business plan will take you through your short term and long term goals, clearly lay out what you’ll be offering to the creative world, and spell out your financial goals. Aren’t sure how to write a business plan? We’ve got you covered.
Believe in yourself!
Becoming a full-time creative is a dream for many people. But it’s a difficult path that can, at times, cause self-doubt. In those moments, it’s important to remember why you made the decision to embark on this path. If you don’t believe in yourself and your creative vision, no one else will! Stay convicted in your dreams, prepare yourself as much as possible, and take hold of your life to steer it in the direction you want.