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How to Know When You're a Professional Artist

How to Know When You're a Professional Artist

Aletta de Wal

Anyone can consider himself or herself a professional artist, but that doesn’t make it so. Here’s how you can know when you’re really a professional artist.

1. First, You Must Think Like a Professional Artist 100% of the Time.

Everything starts in your mind. You must think like a professional artist all of the time. Become aware of all your attitudes and beliefs about having a professional art career. You must root out any ideas or thoughts that that will keep you from assuming full responsibility for your career decisions. You must commit to eliminate any negative self-talk that prevents you from taking all the actions needed to build relationships and to live up to your art career responsibilities.

You no longer subscribe to any stereotypes or myths about artists. You slough off negative attitudes, like “You can’t make a living as an artist.” or, “Get a real job skill to ‘fall back on’.” These common sayings were probably intended to keep us from harm, but are deadly if you allow them to persist and to control your behavior.

2. You Accept the Multiple Responsibilities of Being a Professional Artist.

Being a professional artist means juggling multiple responsibilities. You are ready to engage professionally when you can say that the following statements are true of you and your business: Your work is consistent—not all over the place. Your work is unique, identifiable, and well developed. Even your experiments fit into your signature work. Both your audience and your sales representatives can easily and instantly recognize artwork as yours.

• You have an inventory of properly finished work. You have plenty of completed work, already in final show form to be able to exhibit at any time. If a gallery owner or collector were to come to your studio, they would find an impressive body of work to view and select from.

• You have gotten feedback that your art has an audience—not just friends and family. You have a history of shows and sales. Your work attracts media attention, interest and excitement.

• You develop business relationships. You are able to commit time and attention to building and nurturing relationships. You know how important it is to relate professionally and engage with those in the art world, and you are both ready and willing to do so.

• You have the money to exhibit and market your work. You present your work professionally and meticulously. You have professional marketing materials, and a first class web site.

• You understand how the art market works. This is a constantly changing environment, but you have taken the time and trouble to research and understand what you need to know about how to access your audience and market.

• You have good photographs of your art, a one to two page resume, and an artist statement. You’ve put in the time, effort and money to create professional materials to present your work and your credentials.

• You have consistent pricing and a pricing policy. You know how to price your work so that you are competitive in the market. There’s logic to your pricing and that logic is obvious to prospective buyers. The consistent development of your signature contributes to the consistently rising value of your work.

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