You’ve Graduated Art School, Now What?

You’ve finally graduated. After countless all nighters and years of creatively giving it all you’ve got, you’ve reached the finish line. Leaving the safety of art school may seem scary but you don’t have to become a stereotypical “starving artist”. While you may not become an overnight success, having a plan and working towards it is the first step in building a successful career. Being an artist is essentially becoming your own boss and a freelance employee. Don’t set yourself up to fail by not having a plan in place to help yourself succeed. Unlike most professions, you aren’t going to go to a specific place of business with a résumé and interview for a position. (Perhaps, this is part of why you wanted to be an artist in the first place.) If you have your portfolio of work and artist’s statement ready to go but don’t know where to go next, here are some additional steps you can take to set yourself on the right track.

5 Quick Tips to Jump Start Your Career in Art:

1. Set up your website and social media presence

If you haven’t already done this, it’s a great idea to do it. Social media is free, and will give you a platform to start getting exposure for your art and connect with the global artist community. Platforms like Instagram are great for artists because it is visual based. The key here, is to utilize appropriate hashtags for people to find your work. Artist assistance pages and artist material pages will also feature artists. You aren’t guaranteed a feature but using their determined hashtag will still increase the chance of more eyeballs on your work for those also searching that tag.

You don’t necessarily need to know anything about coding anymore to build a beautiful website. There are many platforms like Squarespace, WIX and Weebly that have templates and a drag and drop interface that you can use to build your site. WordPress is also great but requires a little more technical knowledge. There are many free resources out there to help you, if you want to invest the time to learn. If you can’t afford a custom domain and hosting these websites offer free versions that you can map a custom domain to later when you are ready.

2. Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail.

 Take time to sit down and figure out what your game plan is going to be for your art. Setting up your art business can seem really overwhelming at first, so sitting down and making a game plan for how you are going to accomplish everything is key. It’s frustrating when you want it all done at once, but that’s not realistic. Make a list of the things you need to accomplish from a business perspective and some goals that you may have. You may realize while making this list you might need to take a few more classes, do some research on how to do something, or enlist someone who is more knowledgeable to help you. Setting up a system to keep yourself organized now will do wonders in the long run. Use whatever method works best for you. If writing things down helps you remember, invest in a physical day planner book to help you with scheduling your day. If you’re more comfortable in the digital space, use the calendar on your phone or other apps that are available to help you schedule.

3. Use unconventional ways to get exposure for your art 

Getting into a gallery can be hard, especially when you are new to the art scene. The good news is, you don’t have to be in a gallery anymore to be successful as an artist. Local bars and restaurants will often display local artists. Do some research and see if there is an appropriate place you think your art might work in and find out more about how to make that happen. Entering local and online open entry competitions and art shows also works and the fees are usually minimal or free. Sign up for table with a friend at a local farmer’s market or craft fair. Even if you don’t sell much your first try this can be a great opportunity to get feedback from people on your work and what price point sells best there. Make sure you have a business card or some sort of sheet with your website and contact info on it people can take to follow you or get more information later on your work. If you’re not ready for that type of investment, try submitting images to artist magazines that do features on up and coming artists. Setting up an online store to sell prints of your work can also be a great start.

4. Research marketing tips and advice for artists.

This is huge. Marketing is something a lot of artists are reluctant to want to do or are afraid of, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. There are many established artists out there who are giving back to the community with free tips and advice on how to build your career into a successful one. If you want a more in-depth knowledge on this subject, take a class or sign up for an artist to artist mentorship online course. Reaching out to a successful local artist you admire and asking them, if they are willing, to give you advice can also be extremely helpful.

5. Take part-time or full-time job if you need to, but don’t give up on your art

You still have to pay your bills. If that means taking on a part-time job in the meantime, I say do it. The key with doing this is to keep doing all the other things you need to do in the meantime to get your art career going. It may take some time and a lot of effort but if you are truly passionate and truly want to make a living making art, it won’t be time wasted. This might mean working part-time at an art store, or even taking volunteering opportunities at events that support local artisans.

As overwhelming as it may seem, don’t fear life after graduation. You’ve invested the last few years of your life in honing your craft and growing your skill as an artist. Even though the hard work may just be beginning, rest assured you are not alone, and that a world of creative possibilities are waiting around the corner. You just need to start your plan to get there.

Helpful Resources to Start with:

Previous Art Student Advice Posts:

The Good Thing About Bad Critiques

Art School Survival Tips

Art Student on a Budget

College Entry Portfolio Tips

Choosing the Right Art School For You

Why I Went to Art School

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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