I’m not one for this kind of “I wish I knew” regret, experiences are experiences, but there’s a thing or two that I did when I started that make me cringe a little. Here’s 5 things you should know before going pro:

  1. Materials matter

Am I guilty of making a client a piece on my not-so-professional sketchbook paper? Did I use my simple set of 24 pencils on that piece? Emm…maybe. In my defense, I didn’t know any better. The pencils part isn’t so bad, the client wanted me to replicate a piece I had already done with the same pencils. But the paper… not so much. How your final piece is presented matters, and giving the client their money’s worth is a huge reflection on your business. So my advice, invest in some dang paper. I have a guide on the best supplies you can find (that aren’t crazy in price) for colored pencil drawings you can download here.

2. You don’t have to justify your price

Ohh… the never ending and highly sensitive topic of pricing. This topic is it’s own book, but I used to make the mistake of giving clients prices with an essay of why it’s fair. LISTEN. You know what you’re worth. Your essay isn’t going to change the persons mind on how much they want to pay. Because if they come to you asking for a $300 piece and only want to pay $35, the essay is a waste of time. Give them the price, perhaps with the amount of time it’s going to take, any other info that is relevant and not defensive (you know what I mean), and move on.

You can tell by the way the client is asking you to create for them if they really value and respect your work. “Can you draw me a picture” and “Hey Safanah, I absolutely love your work and I’m dying to get a piece from you for my husband’s birthday” are two very different inquiries. One is worth it and the other likely ends with you lecturing the person on how artistry is a real job.

(Still follow up with all inquiries, you never know, but just a warning.)

3. Opportunity must be sought out

Creating an email address dedicated to your biz and waiting for it to get flooded isn’t really a strategy (guilty). In order to get people to come to you, you need to let them know what you’re offering. If you can take commissions, let them know. If you want to work with companies, email them. If you’re selling some of the pieces you already have posted online, write ‘for sale’. Eventually as your business grows people will come to you, but until then, seek. them. out.

4. It’s all on you

When you sign up to be your own boss, that is A LOT of responsibility. You have to do ev-ver-ry-thing on your own. It isn’t just color at your desk and watch the money roll in. You have to take care of marketing, building a website, seeking out clients, taking care of your inbox, setting up a shop or some way to sell/take payments, investing in professional tools, seeking out any and all opportunity, etc. etc. There is no calling in sick. If you don’t show up, nothing gets done. You have to have discipline, it’s easy to slack when you’re in charge. You can outsource for the tech things, but if you’re just starting out you might not have the means to or be willing to make that kind of investment. If you want to freelance this, just know what exactly you’re getting into!

5. “Yes, it’s my job”

When I went to apply for a credit card the banker asked me what I wanted to study. I said art, and that I’m pretty good at drawing. He said “Wow, yea, whatever makes you happy, money doesn’t matter.” Whoa. hold up. First of all, you work at a bank, don’t tell me money doesn’t matter. Second of all, who said there’s no money in art? Look around you. The design of your laptop = designed by an artist. Your water bottle design = artist. Every single graphic you come across, every label on every bottle, every billboard, every sign, every product packaging, every logo, every piece of art on your home and office walls including the pieces up in this very bank, who do you think designed that? Nuff’ said.

That’s what I should’ve said. But, I was new to all of it. I had one product in my Etsy shop and 2k followers on Instagram. I had little confidence about it all myself. (Plus, it might’ve been too aggressive for someone who’s trying to get a credit card, heh.)

Yea, you might not be able to say ‘salesman’, ‘doctor’ or ‘teacher’ when someone asks how you pay the bills. It’s gonna take a little more explanation. But hey, if you love what you do, who cares.

What are some things you learned along the way in your art biz? Whether you’ve sold one piece or 100, I’d love to know!

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