It’s one thing to call yourself an "artist," and quite another to actually make a living in the creative arts. If you aspire toward a creative career, you won’t necessarily have to follow a traditional educational path. But you can reach success by seeking out opportunities for learning, networking with other artists, and using various resources to spread the word about what you do.
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1. Surround yourself with artists and inspiration.
Step one to establishing a career in the creative arts: finding things that inspire you to go out and experiment and create works of art. Surrounding yourself with a group of fellow artists can help, as you’ll learn how they go about finding inspiration, how they turn ideas into reality, and the techniques they use -- not to mention all the interesting conversations you’re bound to have when you’re among a group of creatives. You can also gain inspiration by placing yourself in places or situations that inspire you. Travel often to see things through new eyes. Work in places where other artists gather. Even if you’re only serving coffee or taking tickets at an art museum, you’ll learn something about the world of creative arts.
2. Seek training.
You don’t have to earn a university degree to call yourself an artist, but you certainly should seek as much education in the arts as you can. Take classes at community colleges, universities, or art centers. Sign up for workshops that cover a particular aspect of art. Also look for classes offered through other local artists, with whom you can also network and possibly even form partnerships.
3. Develop your niche.
Once you’ve spent some time surrounded by the world of the creative arts, you should have some very good ideas about what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and perhaps most importantly for a lucrative career, what types of work actually sells. Traditional "art" careers include those involving painting, sculpture, drawing and photography. Jobs in the creative arts can also include graphic design, multimedia animation, floral design and interior design -- all which may offer higher salaries than those traditional art careers. Of course, some of those careers will also require a university degree.
4. Work under someone.
Whether formal training is part of your path or not, people in the creative arts also often learn the nuances of their trade by working under the tutelage of a seasoned professional. Networking with other artists will help you identify opportunities for apprenticeships or internships. For those who have recently completed a training program, apprenticeships or internships are also a helpful next step.
5. Find a "home" for your creative pursuits.
If you want to actually sell your products and make money, people need a way to find you. Having a website that highlights your experience and what you have to offer is an important step. So is having a portfolio you can show people upon request, in both digital and hard copies. Being a member of an artists’ cooperative or selling art at a consistent location such as a gallery or weekly craft fair can also help you start to make a name for yourself and gain some recognition in your community.
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Even with all of this effort, working in the creative arts may still be something you do on the side while working another job that pays the bills. By continuing to take steps forward, however, you may be able to someday make it your full-time job.