Some career paths are linear, some aren’t. Some careers are revered and some aren’t. When people ask how do you become an artist, is that what they’re really asking?

a pencil cup full of neon-colored pens on a messy desk with the text "How Do You Become an Artist?"

I don’t think it is.

Instead, they’re asking for permission. They’re asking if they can really do it. They’re asking if all the people who supposedly love them, yet doubt them every step of the way, are right.

They want that creative life. They want to know if it’s okay if they pursue the path. And they also want to know where the hell the path is.

Mostly, they want to know that they can do it. And I would argue most people cannot.

I’m not saying that to discourage anyone. I’m just saying there are a lot of people who want a job that takes care of them. Or, rather, they want the illusion that their job is taking care of them.

There is no job that has your back 100% of the way, and most companies would fire you to protect the bottom line.

So, being an artist isn’t that dangerous of a career gamble, when you really think about it.

There’s a lot to unpack when someone asks how do you become an artist, so let’s unpack it.

How Do You Become an Artist?

Simply doing art is enough to become an artist. But when people ask how do you become an artist, they aren’t asking about the art.

They’re asking about the creative lifestyle they’ll have. They’re asking about making money. Basically, it’s a lot of implied questions rolled into one question.

They’re valid questions, but they’re questions you can answer once you start down the path of working on your art.

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It’s important to state plainly that to become an artist, you work on your art. Full stop. That doesn’t mean it will be your full-time job. That doesn’t mean you’ll get rich. But it does mean that you’ll get to do the thing you want to do.

So, with that in mind, let’s get into some of the questions people ask when they ask about art.

How to Become an Artist Without Going to Art School

I think art school can seem necessary. And, admittedly, I went to school for writing, so I’m not saying it hasn’t helped me.

But there are tons of ways you can get the same education for free. It’s all up to you and how structured you can make your self-study.

School isn’t for everyone, but if you thrive with deadlines, then school may be a good environment for you. Also, if you’d like to work in your art, you may need a degree in that subject to get hired elsewhere. But if you want to work for yourself, it’s totally not necessary.

What skills do you need to be an artist? Well, that all depends on your art. But overall, I think strategic planning and big picture thinking are great for helping you build a career.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be an Artist?

Honestly? You just need to to want to be an artist. Consider writing your life into existence and just making it happen.

Qualifications are for structured and rigid career paths. It’s for jobs where you have to prove you’re certified. To be an artist, you need to practice your craft.

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That’s not really a qualification. It’s a dedication to it.

What you need isn’t so much qualifications. You need the ability to stick to a project. If you can keep your head down and work and consistently improve, that’s good too.

You need to know how to be your own boss and stay on the path you have laid out for yourself.

Admittedly, these aren’t skills most people possess innately. But the good news is they are habits you can build over time.

Becoming an Artist Later in Life

If you’re thinking of becoming an artist at 40 or 50 or even 60, it’s possible. I mean, why wouldn’t it be?

I think it can be hard to change your life when you’re older. If you’re more set in your ways, big shifts are hard. That doesn’t mean they’re impossible.

Plus, when you’re older, you have the benefit of life experience. Sure, you could say a 20-year-old may try the artist path because they don’t know better. But if you’re twice their age, you can try the same path with insight and life experience.

It’s still going to be hard, but you’ve got a cheat code or two.

How to Become a Professional Artist

There’s not a set path for this, though if you’ve gotten this far into the post, you’ve probably figured out I’m going to say that a lot.

Instead, it’s all about thinking of ways you can earn money from the work you do. And not just getting a few coins here and there, but how you can sustainably bring in money in a way that doesn’t make you burn out or resent your work.

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That’s a lot, and most people struggle to figure that out, myself included.

But now, more than ever, it’s easier to earn money for your creative work. You can set up your own storefront online with a website. You can share your work to large groups of people using social media. You can stay in touch with your fans using a newsletter.

Admittedly, that’s a lot of work that creative people don’t normally want to do. No one becomes an artist because they want to be a full-time marketer.

But that’s the nature of the beast these days.

For what it’s worth, if you’re strategic about it, you can create systems that make it easier for you to market your work without using all your time. It does take some time to get there. Building a daily routine as a creative entrepreneur is hard, but not impossible.

So, at the end of the day, if you’d like to become a professional artist, your ability to learn skills outside your art is going to be what helps you monetize the work you do.

What Advice Do You Have for Professional Artists?

How do you recommend becoming an artist? What sort of skills or tricks saved the day for you as an artist? Where do you think new artists are most likely to stumble in their careers?

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