10 Tips I Didn't Learn In Art School

I can’t believe we’re approaching our 4 year anniversary for Chasing Linen! 

I began my art journey back in 2013, side hustled for the first 2 years, then officially went full-time in 2015. This four year milestone makes me feel like I’m graduating from college all over again! Speaking of school, here are some works I created back in college. So different from my current work right?

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I would have never admitted it back then but at the core, I thought that I would be a “starving artist” once I graduated. Society often labels artists this way & it feels hard to break away from that cliche at times! When I stumbled upon my freelance journey by accident, I started to see the potential of becoming a full-time artist. Looking back, I’m so glad that I went for it and it’s been an amazing ride since. 

Becoming a full-time artist did not happen overnight. It took a lot of work and there were several lessons I learned along the way, a lot of which I didn’t learn from school! I narrowed it down to 10 tips to those wanting to become a full-time artist. If you’d prefer to watch it instead, here’s it is in video form. Otherwise, continue reading!

Tip #1: Create a portfolio then share it

I was what you would call a “closet artist” and most of my friends had no idea I drew or painted. I first shared my work in the form of a water color calendar that I created in an effort to raise money for a missions trip to Alaska. After that, people took notice of my art and would ask me to do side projects for them like logo design or custom artwork for their office. From there, I started to pick up more freelance gigs. If you are an artist or wanting to dip your toes into doing freelance work, share your work online now! It is scary and vulnerable, but it will become easier the more you do it. Don’t be the artist that is only well known once they have passed away. Share it now! 

Tip #2: Have a side income

I definitely did not launch into being a full time artist from the get-go. I had a ton of side jobs like being a waitress,  swim instructor, art teacher, social media manager, visual display intern at Anthropologie and so much more. It took me about 2 years of side hustle to get to full-time, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. Be patient! All of these experiences allowed me to continue my freelance jobs, as well as make contacts and learn lessons that would later help me when I became a full time artist. 

Tip #3: Set Deadlines

Along with the side jobs, I was also in school finishing my Illustration degree. It was there that I learned the importance of setting mini deadlines (first & second drafts) and timelines for each project. This was and still is super helpful in helping me stay on track with various projects and knowing how many clients I can bring on at a time. Create those deadlines & follow through with them! 

Tip #4: Add buffer time into your schedule 

You never know what life will throw at you, so add buffer time into your schedule. It may not seem as important in the beginning, but these times may save you during the process! Make room for those random things like getting a smudge, running out of paint or your dog knocking coffee all over your finished product. Make sure to add buffer time into your schedule so you can meet deadlines even if something unexpected happens. And if you’re on-time, you can always use that extra time for self-care ;)

#5: Have a contract in place

Something I didn’t learn in school was the importance of setting ground rules for my freelance projects.. For example: have a set number of revisions in place so that clients know how many edits they will get. Have those concrete details of the project in writing!  Having a written contract protects both parties and will help your clients know what to expect from you.

#6: Set office hours & stick to them 

Another tip I wish I learned in school was making sure clients had a way to contact me. Let your clients know how and when they can communicate with you. As a creative, it is easy to work whenever and not have a set 9 to 5 schedule and sometimes that is a perk of the job. But if you want your clients to only reach out to you during certain times, set your business hours & make sure you stick to them!  

#7: Keep written receipts

During a phone meeting, I always make sure to have my laptop or notebook nearby to write down notes. After the call, I’ll email the client so we both have a written record of what was said and agreed upon. This will help make your clients feel safe and avoid confusion throughout the process. It also makes it easier to keep track of details and information as you might have many different projects on your mind! 

#8: Network with local creatives 

 One of the best things that has helped me tremendously in my art career is being in contact with other creatives! I kept in touch with fellow students from my school, as well as creatives that I had worked with in the past. If you meet a local creative that you want to connect with, make sure you do something to help them first! For example, I worked at a shop where they would host creative workshops. Before the class, I would help the artist set up, grab them coffee or do whatever they needed. Because of this, they were way more willing to share their knowledge with me & I was able to learn so much from those relationships.

#9. Build your community online

 If you’re not surrounded by creatives, network with people online & create your own community! You can connect with people all over the world through different social media platforms - put yourself out there! A lot of the relationships I have now (including my husband) started online - how crazy is that? Reach out, you never know what can happen! 

#10: Create these habits now

I want to encourage you that going from side hustle to full time artist is absolutely possible! However, to do this you need to create habits of a professional artist now.  Treat whatever you are currently doing - whether it be social media posts or freelance projects - as if you are the professional now. This will set you up for success when you do move to full time! 

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This photo was taken four years ago. It was the last day of my day job and I stepped right into my first art show! I was then dating Patrick who was my biggest support. I was SO terrified to take this leap but I am SO glad I did it! I hope my story inspires you to go after it. It’s absolutely possible to have a successful career as an artist, you just have to start!