Making It as an Artist: Working with People and Building Connections

Becoming an artist is an unpredictable venture. It’s a career path that society tends to undermine and find impractical.

In 2018, Creative Independent surveyed 1,016 visual artists to probe into the question of financial stability in the art world. Only three percent of artists rated themselves financially stable while twelve percent said otherwise. Moreover, artists have a median income of $20,000-$30,000, but 60 percent of these artists make less than the upper range while 19 percent make more than $50,000 annually.

Money matters aren’t the only concern for artists, as most of them struggle with opportunities that can catapult their careers. In the 21st century, the chances are slim. There’s only a 0.002 chance for an author to have a New York Times bestseller in 2012. In 2015, a living artist has a 0.0006 percent chance of holding a solo exhibit in MoMA.

As a result, artists are forced to work for exposure and receiving pay, and it’s counterproductive to an artist’s cause. Not only do artists spend years to hone their craft, but they also shed thousands of dollars for equipment. It’s imperative to pay artists simply because exposure doesn’t pay off bills, college tuition, or home loans.

Other than working for exposure, how can you catapult your career as an artist?

1. Volunteer

The difference between exposure as payment and volunteerism is that the former has a client while the latter is personal. When volunteering for a non-profit organization, advocacy, and community, the artist has the capacity to fight for their cause while also exercising their skills. This can also widen their audience because of the wide range of people their art can reach, and these people are usually outside of their social circle. They can make art through publication materials such as posters, infographics, photos, or writing copy.

2. Collaborate

person working at her home officeCollaboration is another way to widen an artist’s audience by touching on the followers of other artists. However, the better advantage of collaboration is in the art itself. By fusing the styles and expertise of two or more artists, the output can become more nuanced. It also contributes to creativity because of the exchange of ideas throughout the process. If you have friends who are artists, you can agree to collaborate over a cup of coffee. You can also reach out to different artists from various fields for a passion project.

3. Apprenticeship

Having connections in the art world is incredibly helpful, as recommendations can often lead you to more clients and income. This is why working as an apprentice for those who have found success in the industry is helpful. Other than the skills that they can pass down, they can introduce you to other people in the industry. It’s also good for the resume, and the same goes for residencies.

4. Residencies

Being an artist-in-residence provides employment in a related field. This is helpful for those who need extra income while their art is still gaining traction. Some programs are state-funded while some are for non-profit agencies. There are art programs for health care, social services, and community-based learning.

As a beginning artist, learning how to work with people is essential. By volunteering, collaborating, being an apprentice, and an artist-in-residence, you can gain more than just skills in your craft and audience but also experiences.

Scroll to Top