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Becoming A Professional


Art Tips | Becoming A Professional


It seems self-explanatory, but this is really the first thing that you should look at in regards to your work. Forget whether or not you've ever shown what you do to anyone else. Ask yourself whether or not you would purchase one of your own paintings if you saw it for sale in a shop or a gallery somewhere.
Also ask yourself whether or not you truly feel you're good enough at what you do to be selling yet. If the answer to either question is "no", then you're not ready. Work on building up your skill level and developing a personal style first. There's plenty of time for selling later.
People ask whether you sell your work or take commissions.

When you get to a point where you're comfortable sharing your work with others, make sure you do so... and not just with your friends and family. Try signing up for a free gallery on a site like Deviant Art, or one of the many others that is there for that purpose and posting some of your stuff for others to look at. You'll get plenty of feedback from lots of people -- friends as well as perfect strangers -- and this is exactly what you want.
When you're good enough at what you do to think about selling, you'll know it. People will start asking you if you offer prints or take commissions. Of course, you'll eventually find out that only a fraction of the people who ask actually pony up and buy, but interest is definitely a good sign that there is -- or could be -- a market out there for your work somewhere.
You need to be comfortable taking criticism A lot of artists aren't, you know.

They take it as a total insult every time a client or a random passer-by looking at their gallery has anything other than glowing compliments for them. If that sounds like you, then you're definitely not ready to take on commission clients on a professional level. You might be able to offer prints of existing work, but I personally recommend growing a thicker skin first.

Criticism is simply part of showing your work no matter how skilled you are. It's certainly part of selling it. You should be prepared for commission clients to ask for changes or alterations in your work, because they will. Just try to remember that you're making something for them... not you. The whole point is to make sure they're happy. Criticism is also an important part of growing as an artist overall. Listen to what people have to say and use it to identify where you're weak so that you can become stronger.
Are you confident enough to sell your artwork?
Successful artists are completely comfortable with their work, as well as with selling it to others. They're not afraid to spread the word about what they're selling and they know how to make potential clients feel that they're the absolute best choice for the job. Some work will find you, but if you want steady sales or steady work, you'll have to spend at least a little bit of time making sure people know that you're out there, that you're working, and that you're worth it. If you're too shy or too humble to do this, then you're not ready.
You're comfortable pricing your own work and actually asking people for money in exchange for it.

And by this, I don't mean giving your art away for a song. So many artists give their work away for practically nothing -- or even for free -- and it makes me want to yank my hair out by the roots every single time I see it. I'm not saying you can't do that if you honestly want to. I'm just saying that I personally find it to be a terrible waste.
Think of your work as a product and get comfortable demanding something in exchange for it that makes selling worth it. You also need to get comfortable with deciding what that amount will should be on your own. Only you really know what amount of money will properly compensate you for your time and labor. However, you can certainly conduct research on the matter to help you figure out where to start. Find out what art similar to yours (similar media, skill level, by an unknown, etc) seems to sell for in galleries and online art shops, for instance, or read articles on the subject by those in the know. Don't contact other artists and ask them to tell you what they make. It's considered rude.
Then get comfortable sticking to your guns in this regard. I get tons of people wanting me to produce original art for their book jackets or CD covers in exchange for as little as $5-10 which is completely laughable to me. I have no trouble delivering a flat "no" to these people, quoting them a real price, and letting them know how and where they can contact me if they decide that's in their budget. I suggest you become the same way instead of giving in because you're worried no one else will be willing to pay more.
The truth is a lot of people expect artists to drop dead with the honor of knowing their work is wanted by someone else and do it for nothing or close to it as result. Please don't be one of those people. Demand something in return for your work... or else don't do it at all. Otherwise, you'll never be taken seriously as a professional. Why would someone want to pay you for your work if they know you can be talked into practically giving it away? Until you find a way to sell your work for what it's worth to people that are willing to pay what you ask, you're better off continuing to just paint what you want for the sheer enjoyment of it the way you always have.
You're comfortable being firm when it comes to collecting your fees.

Because some clients don't pay up as promptly as they should. Some try to get away without paying at all... especially if they know you're relatively new to selling art. Unless the client has been referred by someone else that I trust beyond the shadow of a doubt. A contract makes it easier; stating that you receive a 50% deposit before work begins. Serious clients won’t questions it.
I also advise not turning over the finished piece until the second half of your fee has been paid as well. Show the client watermarked copies that are only large enough for them to see whether or not the work was done to their satisfaction. When they approve it? Send them their invoice for the remaining fees and give them the finished work after it's been paid in full... not before.

If a client always seems to have an excuse as to why it's not convenient to make a payment that's due and has been for some time? Lean on them. If they have a fee due that they won't pay at all and they won't even return your e-mails? Tell them to pay you or you'll turn them in to collections and then do exactly that if they don't step up. Do you think you can you do that if it comes down to it? If not, then I don't recommend selling yet.
If all of the above bolded statements apply to you and your work, then I definitely think you're ready to think about selling your work or hiring yourself out on a commission basis. If not, I recommend continuing to build confidence, skill, and experience instead. You'll get there eventually and probably a lot sooner than you think.

General Pointers:
1.    Order Fulfillment (the process of shipping and delivering goods) has always been an issue for artists.
First, talk to your client – it is their decision too: you must decide on whether to ship the work framed or unframed. This will help determine what type of packaging to use. The best way to reduce the cost of shipping is to select wrapping material, which reduces the total weight.
If you ship a pastel 'framed under glass', it often costs more than the painting itself, especially when you ship internationally. Instead of wooden crates, try using mirror boxes, which are lined with Styrofoam. They offer more protection and less total weight. You can get them from your local furniture store. Don't forget to put strips of tape onto the glass...just in case! The final step is picking a delivery method. Apparently, UPS offers an excellent service. The only problem is they don't insure artwork like most other couriers will. Insurance is another cost to consider, however, if you're willing to risk going without it, we know at least one gallery who has used UPS to ship over 100 paintings, breaking only one piece of glass so far with no damage to the portrait.

2.    When framing your work, it's best to keep the KISS formula in mind. Even though you may always feel at the mercy of your framer pushing their fancy mats and frames, it's important to remember you are in control!
Artists have to be concerned with the presentation and quality of framing and, of course, the cost. Simple is always best. Heavy, ornate frames may make a decorator statement but they can drown your work. Indeed, the worst thing you can ever hear at an art show is "Nice frame!"
When considering matting, clean white mats with the all-important spacer to let a work in pastel breathe, is key.
You can learn these pointers the hard way through rejection. Jurors, even though the work may be fantastic, will often reject anything with a colored mat. Galleries can find it difficult to hang such works and may also reject over-framed work. Finally, prospective buyers have to be able to imagine the work in their home before committing to purchase it and if the framer's decorator touches are not what they enjoy, it may nix the sale.
Best of all, the cost is often less when quality framing is kept simple but well done. Frames can even be reused for works of similar size, a plus for thrifty artists.
So when framing next time, follow the KISS Formula: Keep it Simply...Simple!


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