Working as a full-time artist?

I have often asked myself, can anyone be an artist and what does it take to start working as a full-time artist? Have you ever wondered if there is a formula that can be followed to understand how to turn your hobby into a business?

Is it possible for anyone to learn how to be an artist, or better yet, start working as a full-time artist and generating regular revenue from this passion?

Are you starting a new project or in the process of expanding your activities? Maybe you are fresh out of school or university.

If this sounds like you then It is important to consider structuring yourself in a manner that will make it easy for your clients to collaborate with you.

In order for you to find out if you are ready to start working as a full-time artist, It’s a good idea to keep an open mind about the change process.

Many artists treat their passion as a hobby and wonder why they are not making more sales.

Too often artists focus most of their time and energy on creating art. Instead of trying to sell art and make money.

Leaving a gap when it comes to marketing, management, sales, and networking.

I will take you through some simple steps so that you can decide for yourself if you are ready to work as a full-time artist.

So discover with me how to give yourself a chance. What do you need to know to start working as a full-time artist?

Before you sit down to write your letter of resignation, let me debug some uncertainties about what it really takes to run your art hobby as a business.

The first thing you must realize is that you are the only one who can steer your ship.

Like with any industry you need to be prepared and motivated to hang on during the stormy times.

The results will show only when you put in the effort to make the changes that are needed to succeed.

working as a full-time artist

Coming to terms with working as a full-time artist

How you create art, sell art, and distribute art is all about to change.

The art industry and your future opportunities are as abundant as your imagination. If you set yourself up to let people find your work.

If you have an abundance of artwork and don’t know how to find buyers maybe it’s a good time to investigate some time to learn a few simple solutions to promote yourself with better intentions.

So! Can anyone start working as a full-time artist?

where you are currently positioned in the grand scheme of things.

Are you trying to figure out what stage in your career you are at? Don’t worry this question pops up with most if not all artists.

career artists go through stages commonly broken down into 3 phases as follows.

Emerging artists.

Mid-career artist.

Established artist.

Let us start from the beginning and point out that your art career as a full-time artist is not dependent on your age and certainly not dependent on your natural ability to make art.

Understanding the 3 stages of your art career goes much further than simply producing a few paintings and expecting the recognition to follow.

So if you are wondering?

Why it’s taking so long for you to achieve the success you are dreaming of? That is to start working as a full-time artist?

Then you might find these few key points helpful in defining where you are now and the things you might want to consider to get where you want to be.

  • There are 3 key milestones that can serve as guidelines when identifying your current positioning as a local or international artist. Knowing where you fit in is important when identifying the 3 stages of your art career.
  • All 3 stages have their time and place when it comes to developing your career. They often overlap each other while blurring the boundaries which makes it sometimes difficult and confusing, at times even frustrating.
  • Being aware of where you are will make your journey less stressful and allow you to focus on the important tasks ahead while letting go of the frustrations.

That being said let’s look at each stage from a broader perspective.

Emerging Artist

These artists are typically seen as evolving, growing, and dynamic creatives, constantly questioning the next move.

  • One body of work can differ from the other. And that’s ok.
  • There is no defined culture or boundary that sets these artists in a category or genre. Many artists will spend most of their careers in this very phase. Leaving options open for change and experimentation.
  • Identifying yourself as an emerging artist does not have to mean that you cannot sell and promote your work.
  • There exists a market for collectors and art enthusiasts who enjoy the diversity of work that comes from emerging artists.
  • More often than not, it is the platform that best describes how artists end up making a name for themselves.
  • If you are an emerging artist you are more likely to be focused on art-making rather than art marketing.

The trial and error process is essential to reaching a certain maturity as an artist.

Mid-Career Artist

I like to call this the grey zone between emerging and established. The mid-career artists have reached a certain level of credibility within a local or international community.

  • This acknowledgment tends to occur naturally when an artist decides to shift their focus to more marketing and as a result less making.
  • Now, this does not necessarily convert into more revenue. However, it can give you indications that you are on the right track.
  • It simply means that you are now moving your attention towards sharing your work with the wider community as a way of establishing your place in the art market and generating more interest to sell your work.
  • A mid Career artist will start to look at participating in regular group exhibitions and possibly thinking about preparing a solo exhibition.
  • Potentially investigating a body of work for a solo exhibition as well as take more consideration towards what they share and don’t share with the public.
  • If you are a mid-career artist, there is a good chance that you are on your way to having an honest go at making a full time living off your art.

If this seems like a familiar place.

Then you will most probably have a website, possibly your online gallery, some form of social media platform and maybe a part-time or full-time representation in a gallery.

You possibly have a few collectors that are supporting your journey and therefore the confidence to pour more time into your art as a business rather than an experiment or hobby.

Established Artist

Although the word “established” seems self-explanatory. There are a few key factors to consider when striving for stability in your art career.

  • Recognition of your art by the public generally results in a higher demand for your product. In most cases, the demand is dominated by one particular style that has stemmed from or matured from your experiences as an emerging artist.
  • If you are established as an artist, then you are able to develop solid business models with multiple levels of income.
  • Your inventory is substantial enabling you to be present in multiple shows and galleries.
  • The established artist is able to build a brand around what they love doing.

The established artist understands pricing and utilizes the right tools to promote themselves while being connected with a local and international community.

Here Are 5 Goals To Consider

If You Want To Position Yourself As An Established Artist.

1. Aim at small goals with an eye on the big picture.

2. Start, finish, or update your marketing tools.

3. Be creative with your potential revenue streams.

4. Produce more of your highest quality work.

5. Be proactive and don’t give up. Know one said it was easy.

Try answering the next few questions in the most objective way possible.

Instead of what you feel you should be answering, be honest with yourself.

There are no right or wrong answers here, simply a few questions that may help clarify some grey zones about your next big decision.

What will it take for you to decide if you are ready to start working as a full-time artist or not?

Question 1.

I would prefer to make art when I?

  • Am on Holidays but that never happens
  • Go traveling to be inspired
  • Feel inspired
  • Find some spare time which is very rarely
  • Am at work

Question 2.

When I create art my focus is mainly on?

  • Relaxing & experimenting
  • Worrying if people will like it
  • Trying to fit into a community
  • Being unique to my style
  • Making art I believe in

Question 3.

If I was a full-time artist I would?

  • Enjoy the flexible hours
  • Be more creatively productive
  • Not know where to start, it scares me.
  • worry about financial pressures instead of producing art.
  • Be a much happier person.

Question 4.

I am currently making?

  • Art I don’t know how to sell, but want to learn.
  • Art I don’t want to sell
  • No money from selling my art
  • A little bit of money from selling my art but trying to sell more.
  • Not enough money from selling my art
  • Enough money from selling my art

What are the financial implications?

Let’s review some of the financial advantages and disadvantages of working as a full-time artist.

You might have already answered some of these topics yourself in the questions above. However, I will still go through a few of the obvious scenarios.


  • The revenue opportunities are much more diverse than a fixed salary.
  • You are in control of your time management and work hours provided that you deliver.
  • You will be able to earn a good living from your passion only if you produce and market accordingly.
  • Being in control of your actions, successes, and failures builds confidence as well as experience.


  • Lack of sales may lead to unstable revenue resulting in stress demotivation, and low self-esteem instead of financial freedom.
  • You find yourself working longer hours to make up for losses causing fatigue, lack of inspiration, and a lot less passion.
  • As a full-time artist, you are dependent on your productivity and creativity to make sales rather than earning a fixed salary in a creative job.

Getting to know your market

Being a full-time artist requires you to have a good understanding of your niche market.

  • To avoid any nasty surprises it is strongly advised to do some research before you take any major decisions.
  • Do not skip this step. It is essential to understand what you are getting yourself into.
  • Once you have done this you can easily make decisions and ask yourself a few important questions.

I have prepared a few examples to get you started.

Question 1.

Is my art clearly different from other artists?

  • Yes completely different.
  • A little bit different.
  • No, it’s similar to other artists.

Question 2.

Does my art have WOW? factor?

  • My family and friends think so.
  • My art gets positive recognition from a wider public.
  • I don’t know as I have not shown my work to people.
  • My work is good but not yet WOW!

Question 3.

Does my art have a consistent theme I can develop further over time?

  • Yes! My art follows a consistent theme.
  • No! My art is all over the place with different styles.

Question 4.

Is my art affordable to make in large quantities?

  • Yes! I can produce a constant volume of work at an affordable price.
  • I don’t know I have never calculated the cost price of my work.
  • No! my art is expensive to make.

Question 5.

Will my art stand alone in a gallery and sell?

  • Most certainly, I am already selling in galleries.
  • Only a few select pieces might sell.
  • Not at all my art needs improvement.
  • If I change my subject maybe I have a chance.
  • My art has the potential to sell but not in galleries.

Assuming that you are now ready to take action and start monetizing your hobby in a more structured way, then there are a few more additional steps to be taken.

You can easily identify your personal strengths and weaknesses by going through this next series of questions and then deciding for yourself.

This section specifically refers to the daily running of your business working as a full-time artist.

You will be able to identify the tasks that you are comfortable with as well as those that will require you to gain additional experience and knowledge.

  • The good news is that you can always get started today with what you are good at and keep fine-tuning your weaknesses as you progress.
  • There are certainly important elements that may require you to seek professional advice and coaching.

But for the most part, if you apply your common sense and have the motivation to learn.

you should be just fine.

I have prepared a list of the most relevant categories that you should be familiar with in order to run a successful art business.

See how you shape up and what you need to work on before taking the step into working as a full-time artist.

Category 1.

Pricing your artwork and managing your stock.

  • I can do this I am great with numbers.
  • No idea where to start with pricing.
  • I am organized so I keep my records digitally.
  • Computers are not for me so I keep a logbook.

Category 2.

Marketing & Communication

  • I am creative but don’t have enough knowledge in this area.
  • I understand the importance but don’t take the time for it.
  • Marketing & communication tools work for me.
  • I know it is important but don’t know where to start.
  • No time for this and prefer to outsource this service.

Category 3.

Distribution network and commissioning

  • This is not something I have considered before
  • I have tried in the past without any success.
  • Commission work is unstable to make it sustainable.
  • I am keen but don’t know where to find galleries for my work.
  • When I have more stock I will be able to consider this.

Category 4.

Diversifying your skills with multiple revenue opportunities

  • My art can be adaptable to sell in different ways and forms.
  • My art can only be sold the way I make it.
  • I would like to diversify but I don’t know where to start.
  • I have tried this in the past but it didn’t work out very well.
  • This is a priority I would like to focus on to develop a brand.

Category 5.

Running a studio or Co-working space.

  • I am already working in a studio.
  • I would like to work in a shared space but don’t know where to go.
  • For now, I am working from home but realize it is not ideal for the long term.
  • I can’t afford to have my own space for now but I hope to soon.
  • My art requires me to work outdoors so I don’t need a space for now.

Where do I start?

If you have gone through each step and checked all your answers then by now you should have a clear idea if you are ready to take the next steps to upgrade your hobby into a full-time business.

  • You don’t have to master every aspect of your business from day one.
  • The most important thing to do is to take the right decision that will work for you.

Maybe consider preparing a timeline that will help you achieve some milestones over a set period of time and then work towards checking that list off one by one.

That’s great but I still don’t know if I am ready to be working as a full-time artist.

If you would like to have more information about setting up an art business, or you are still unsure how to go about starting, then you can contact me for a chat to discuss your work.

David Lagesse

If you need additional support to start up your art business then you can write to me with a brief introduction of what you want to achieve as an artist.

Maybe we can work out some solutions together.

What if you could have a support network that helps you with:

  1. Regular support and coaching
  2. A comprehensive portfolio evaluation
  3. Marketing tips and strategies
  4. Guidelines for setting up your business
  5. Brand strategies to promote yourself and your artwork across multiple platforms online and offline
  6. Gain access to networking opportunities
  7. Information about merchandising your products
  8. Portfolio advice for interviews and gallery representation
  9. A comprehensive guide to pricing your artwork
  10. Understanding how commissioning and private sales work
  11. Where to position yourself in the market and how to remain unique to your style.
  12. Receive a basic overview of administration and banking procedures for invoicing, taxes and receipts.

Can anyone start working as a full-time artist?

Are you ready to take up the challenge?

David Lagesse

Full-time artist David Lagesse