working artist woman paintingAs we learned in the recent post, 10 Important Things Every Aspiring Artist Should Know: Part 1, there are some very important things that aspiring artists need to know before they strike out on their own to make it as a professional.

Being a professional at anything takes skill, hard work, perseverance, confidence and knowledge. I hope these two articles help arm you with some of the tools needed to make the move from an amateur to a professional artist.

#6 Contracts Can Make the Difference

As you look for the perfect artistic career, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of piecemeal contract and freelance work for extra cash. When you work on a project-by-project basis, you need to get paid promptly so that you can pay for things you might need. To make sure you always make rent, you need a solid contract.
Keep your contract straightforward, simple, and professional. Make it clear that your contract is legally binding and that payment is due within 30 days of the receipt of the invoice. Stipulate that additional penalties will accrue at X% on top of the original fee if payment is tardy beyond the 30-day mark. In most instances you can accomplish everything you need to in a short form contract. For more information on contracts for artists check this out.

#7 Know Your Value

value of a buck
Art is subjective. One man’s paint splatter is another man’s masterpiece. When you are trying to decide  how much to charge for your work, you need to take a lot of things into account.

  1. First, think about the time it takes you to do something. If a piece takes you 60 hours to complete and you only charge $500 dollars for it that means you are working for about $8 an hour. That’s not a great salary for a professional artist, unless of course you are a “Sandwich Artist.”.
  2. Second, consider the cost of your supplies. If you spend $200 on materials for that 60-hour piece, and charge $500 dollars, you are only making $300 on the piece – which means you’re actually making about $5 an hour.
  3. Third, factor in the intangibles of your work that give it value. You didn’t start making art today; you’ve practiced, studied, trained, experimented, and improved for years. Factor those years of preparation into your final price. Even if you can make something in an hour, it doesn’t mean it’s less valuable because it would take a non-professional many more hours to approximate the same thing. After all, your years of practice prepared you to create quality work quickly. You should be compensated for that foresight and training.
  4. Fourthly, value creates value. If you charge more money for something, people will assume it is worth more money. If you make an amazing sculpture and sell it for one dollar, people will think that there must be something wrong with it. They will devalue it, even though their initial impression was that it was a lovely and valuable piece of art. There is a point where you can charge too much for your work, but charging more than you think it’s worth might actually help you sell more of it, make more money, and establish a perceived value that wasn’t there before.

#8 The Client Will Annoy You

The problem with art is that everyone assumes that they are good at it. Nuclear engineers never face this problem. If a nuclear engineer gets hired to work on a problem, they are never second-guessed about tweaking their quantum physics formulas. Why? Because the person who hired them knows they don’t know how to perform nuclear engineering, that’s why they hired a scientist.
Art is not like this. Art is more democratic—and democracies make mistakes. Everyone thinks they have a hidden talent for art, a great eye, or a subtle genius for color theory. At the very least they will assume that “they know what they like” (even if their taste is atrocious). Because of this common misconception, your client will give you advice and feedback that will annoy you. And it should annoy you, because in most cases, it will be wrong. After all, your client lacks the talent and vision to create design for him or herself. Don’t worry; this won’t stop them from piping in with ill formed opinions. He or she will try to put their touch on your design by having you add space where it isn’t needed, or mix colors that clash.
Unfortunately, until you are an established artist, you are going to have to either concede to your client’s wishes and get paid, or stay righteous and poor. The sooner you deal with this, the sooner you’ll get paid.

#9 Being an Artist Doesn’t Mean You Get to Be Irresponsible

sky diving blue

Until you’ve made it big, your quirks and whims won’t be seen as endearing or delightfully Warholian. If you’re serious about making art your business then go ahead and put aside romantic visions of an artistic lifestyle that focuses on glamour and doesn’t put much stock in the details.
As an aspiring artist you’ll need to hustle, and you’ll need to sell yourself. You’ll need to network; you’ll need to market your skills and your portfolio. You’ll need to answer phone calls, and, just as importantly, return those calls you missed. Just because you are talented doesn’t mean you are going to make it as an artist. A combination of talent and tenacity is required to showcase your work and get it the recognition that it very well may deserve.

#10 Confidence is Required

self confidence
If a stranger asks you, “What do you do?” And your response sounds something like, “Umm. Well, I um … I don’t know. Well … I want to be an artist, but I’m not really an artist, I mean I’m not that good, and I certainly don’t get paid for it, but I sure like art.”
You are not doing a good job of being an artist. No matter how amazing your artwork is, if you can’t project an aura of confidence and professionalism it is going to take a series of miracles for anyone to ever get the chance to see and appreciate your work. Yes, the universe is unfair, there are some artists with little talent beyond self-promotion that are famous. Do they deserve to be famous? Not really, but the point is that confidence and self-promotion can be as important, if not more important, than talent.
The majority of successful professional artists exhibit a combination of confidence and talent. They recognize an opportunity and they know how to present themselves and their work to seize that opportunity. If you don’t think your art is good enough to talk about, stop now, because nobody else will either.


Thanks to for sharing another great post!

…maybe you have another ‘thing‘ in mind that every aspiring artist should know, if so, please share your comment! Thanks, ~Lori 🙂


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