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Making the move from hobbyist to professional artist

17 July 2019

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Being an artist in the digital age is not only confronting but it can also be overwhelming. We are constantly trying to figure out how to navigate the realms of the digital space and with a bombardment of information, it’s rough to figure out where to begin.

Some of the things I often see others trying to figure out is pricing, commissions, where to start, what platform should they use to showcase their art and how to network with other artists.

Heck, even trying to understand copyright law is a feat within itself.

If you are an artist you’ll eventually reach a point in your career where you have more and more people asking you for commissions. You may not know where to start, but you will begin to realise that your passion is evolving, your priorities are shifting and your desire to formalise your hobby into a business will start to take shape.

Don’t stress! This is an incredibly exciting time and there are so many tools and resources available to take you to the next step in your journey.

The basics
  • Graphics: There are some amazing resources to streamline your imagery and make it more professional. I always recommend Canva (a basic account is free) as it helps you with a basic brand kit, drag and drop designs. It suits both non-designers and professionals and helps with web, print media, design and graphics, to take your brand to the next level. Another great resource for more seasoned designers is Envato Element. For USD$31.90 a month, you can use over 600,000+ photos and digital assets to elevate your work.
  • Instagram: One of the most marvellous tools to come out of the Instagram era is Platony. It’s a free to use tool (with premium options) that allows you to curate your Instagram gallery, schedule posts, reuse hashtags, and draft posts. It makes a gigantic difference in projecting your imagery into a social landscape and helps set you apart from the rest.
  • Web hosting: Carrd is a simple, free and full responsive one-page site. Keep in mind that it isn’t incredibly optimised, but it is a great placement holder for your homepage.
  • Portfolio: Artstation is a portfolio platform that allows you to showcase games, film media and entertainment. Imagine the “LinkedIn” for creatives. It allows you to look for freelance projects, showcase your work, sell tools/designs via the marketplace and gives you access to resources from other artists in shared fields.
  • Resizing: Derivv allows you to resize images into various png dimensions, which you can export into a compressed file. This is a great tool for emote artists! (Credit to thesammykins)
  • Copyright: (Please sacrifice five goats to understand copyright.) Copyright is definitely complicated, but you do have rights and you do have protection as an artist from theft. Creative Commons has many examples of copyright that you can utilise for free.
  • Contracts and getting them right: This information sheet explains the requirements for a contract and discusses some contractual pitfalls, when terms are implied in contracts and the rectification of omissions of terms.
  • Craftybase: An inventory & book-keeping software for handmade businesses. It’s an all-in-one business management tool that is designed for artists. It integrates with Etsy, Shopify, Square, PayPal, WooCommerce and Amazon. (Credit to Megzie)
  • If you are selling online it’s best to follow the advisement of your national tax office. This nifty tool from the Australian Tax Office serves as a guideline to understanding whether or not you are functioning as a business or as a hobby from a tax perspective. For New Zealanders, you can find out more information here.
  • And lastly, here are some great alternatives to Adobe Suite or license. (Credit to EverBlue_Comic)


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