I came across these 10 tips for success by Micheal Shane Neal that I thought I'd share here. Although these hints are written for portrait artists, his advice applies to all working artists.
1. Set goals and write them down!
List things you would like to accomplish both in the short term and in the long term. You might consider committing yourself to a weekly class, list teachers you would like to study with, techniques you would like to improve on, subject and compositions you would like to tackle, galleries you would like to show with, competitions you would like to enter, etc. Setting goals is the first step to accomplishing them. Hang them near your easel as a constant reminder of what you will achieve.
2. Work hard.
Whether you have the opportunity to devote your entire day, or just a portion of the day to your art, work hard! I have worked 12-18 hours a day for more than 15 years. It is important to devote as much time as possible to your growth as an artist, but you must work smart as well. An hour of painting free from distraction is worth 3 when the phone is ringing and the kids are home from school.
Set aside a portion of each day for study. Read about a favorite artist, visit a museum either in person or via the internet, browse through a favorite art book, sketch from life, etc. Spend quality time developing your skills by reading and studying each day.
Don’t take “NO” for an answer! This can be no truer in the life of an artist. You will constantly face defeat and rejection. Galleries, agents, clients, friends, and even family may at times dampen your resolve. Put your passion to work. Remind yourself constantly that you can and will succeed. Pick yourself up after a bad painting, a rejection notice from a competition, or a negative review from a client. Turn each of these situations into learning opportunities. Ask yourself “what can I do better or differently next time?” Commit yourself to growth from every experience. Remind yourself constantly that you will succeed, that you will grow as an artist, and your decision to follow your dreams to become and artist will become or remain a reality.
For nearly the first 10 years of my life as a full time artist I painted every painting on a $2 easel bought second hand, mostly held together by duct tape and a prayer! I rented a small studio that was prone to flooding and had less than ideal lighting conditions. It was important that I kept my overhead low and focused on living off of less than I made. Survival is your main goal. Living frugally whether by choice or not, is important. Getting to the next painting is your ultimate goal.
6. Identify your market.
Who are you painting for? How can you best connect with the clientele that can become your patrons? Recognize “who” can purchase your work. Contribute to auctions that you know are supported by influential people. Contribute work to elite private school auctions, hang a portrait in an expensive children’s clothing shop, propose your work to a successful and well placed gallery, speak and share you work with local business clubs. Offer to paint a portrait for FREE for a highly respected local figure, and request an unveiling event. These are just a few of many ways to help identify your clientele.
7. Fair pricing.
Your goal is to have your work seen and to earn enough money to cover your expenses. Price your work fairly and reasonably. When starting the life of an artist, the more work you are completing (even for a modest sum of money) can create excitement and motivation by you and your client.
Don’t just become a portrait painter! If I had not painted fruit and landscapes along with portraits when I began, I would not still be a full time artist today. Not only does this diversification help you grow as an artist, but it provides other opportunities for you to show your work and advertise your name. Not to mention, providing alternative income! Teaching can also be a profitable experience for you and your students. Not only as an additions source of revenue, but it can also connect you to other artists and potential clientele.
You are a business as an artist. Go the extra mile and remain dependable at all costs. Be responsive and provide the best customer service possible. Unfortunately artists are not known for seeping schedules, arriving on time for appointments, or generally running their affairs in an orderly and responsive manner. Show your clientele that you respect them, appreciate the opportunity to work for them, and take your work seriously. Always do more than what is expected of you!
Develop relationships with other artists and friends you can trust. Share your work in progress with them. Share problems you are facing or new ideas...get their feedback. These relationships will help you in your life as an artist, making the experience richer and more rewarding.