Are You a Professional Artist?

by Owen Garratt | The Effective Artist

I f you’re going to want to sell your art, and if you’re reading this one has to assume you want to, you should get used to thinking of yourself as being a Professional Artist.

Beyond the usual things professional people get handled such as proper business bank accounts, tax numbers, merchant accounts and so forth, the bigger and most important thing professionals have going for them is a professional mindset.

Pros have their acts together: they pay attention to details, they focus on giving the client an excellent experience, and they systemize their marketing efforts.

Schtick Figure being a professional artist

Thankfully, being a Professional Artist is entirely an internal game.

I’ve met some wonderfully professional artists over the years that were professional before they sold their first piece.  It’s not about having the world’s best show booth or the most sophisticated software or a staff of hundreds…it’s how they do things.

But do you have some hidden issues with the concept of professionalism? Honestly, what do you think of when you think of being a professional?

Some artists see professionalism as being restricting, uptight, and limiting. To them, the idea of ‘having’ to do something is akin to imprisonment. The thought of keeping basic records and filing receipts is right up there with dental surgery. They feel that being professional means that their spontaneity suffers. They think that they have to become stuffed shirts. They see professional as being intimidating and hidebound.

But professional artists see being a pro as liberating, fun, and reassuring.

It takes away the guesswork. If your infrastructure is together and running smoothly (to me that means pretty much automatically), then you don’t ever have to worry about things being forgotten, going missing, running out or you looking stupid because something wasn’t handled properly. Something you’ll hear at Marketing Tools for Artists again and again is the concept of “Do it once”. Set things up so they don’t need babysitting, and watch your stress evaporate.

Professionalism means being able to focus on and connect with your clients. If your act is together, then you have every confidence that your art presents itself in the best possible light, and that you client’s experience with you will be positively reinforcing. If you’re running around like a beheaded chicken, then your client’s experience gets uncomfortable fast, and their confidence in you and your art plummets.
On the other hand, if your ship is shaped, you can relax and interact in a congenial and convivial manner. You can connect and communicate and give of your very best to the people who would support you.

It’s cheaper and easier and less stressful than NOT being a pro. We’ve all seen artists whose business is one big foul up after another:

  • Checks not being deposited.
  • Orders being misplaced.
  • Running out of materials.
  • Forgetting important communications.
  • Missed deadlines.

And on and on and on…

The amount of time, energy and stress wasted on back-tracking and fixing careless mistakes is FAR greater than taking 5 minutes and setting things up so mistakes and screw-ups can’t happen…or at the very least are reduced to the bare minimum.

Being a professional artist is self-reinforcing behavior. Professionalism breeds professionalism.  It gets easier and easier. Not coincidentally, your marketing and income gets easier too!

Professionalism has to do with taking a sense of pride in what you do. You become one of those people who just rips the band-aid off and gets it done!

But that doesn’t mean that professionals dig everything about their businesses; lots of things are unpleasant, ugly, uncomfortable and expensive.

The Pros figure out how to minimize the negative stuff so they can get back to their art and clients ASAP.

Here’s a great little trick: pretend that all these little tasks that we need to do as pros is kind of like moving to a new state or province.  We need to do a few things to keep things together – we need a new driver’s license, we need satellite or cable TV hooked up, other utilities need turning on, etc.

But once they’re done, they’re done…

Take the same line with your art career: get the merchant accounts, set up a proper website, get your supplies sorted out, implement a system of contact with your clients, and so on.

Even if you’re just starting out, I encourage you to adapt a professional artist mentality. Dot the “I”s and cross your “T”s. Learn your craft. Get serious about it. Give your clients something to be excited about.

Check out The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer!

If you’ve never gone through any real process of trying to build your career, you’ve probably never gone through any kind of introspection as it relates to work. You may never have been exposed to any kind of prodding over your foibles.

You may have never had someone call you on your sh!t, so it may not be your fault – if this is all new to you, then you can hardly be blamed for not fixing it…

But now that you do know, you’re responsible. One can’t claim ignorance anymore.

What’re you going to do?

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you get our Fast Start Art Marketing Primer, obviously.

For $12 bucks, is it going to solve every possible problem you may ever possibly have?

Of course not. It’s not magic beans.

But for $12 you can be exposed to new ways of considering your career, and yourself as an artist.

You’ll begin to understand the basics of marketing and salesmanship specifically as it pertains to art.

You’ll see new ideas of managing your time and career, and ways of freeing yourself from the constrictions of whatever limitations may be holding you back.

Tips and help from almost 20 years of being a full time artist, including a litany of things to avoid and to be wary of.

Being an artist is awesome…don’t miss out on it!!!

QUESTION: Would you offer to take me out for a beer and sandwich to pick for the chance to pick my brains for a couple of hours?


Then get The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer.

It’s what I’d tell you face to face, and it’s cheaper than buying me lunch…

 Check out the Fast Start Art Marketing Primer!

“Just a note to say thanks to Owen for his courses. It has already changed my whole concept of marketing my work and makes me actually feel in control of my future. Thanks Owen!”

Tony Alderman
Durham, NC

“I’ve gotten great value out of this course. It really speaks to the artist in a no B.S. way that clears the mental clutter, and gets you to pay attention to what you really need to get the ball rolling.”

Fay Wyles
San Clemente, CA

“It was light-hearted, it had charm and humour and kept me engaged the whole time!  I loved it!”

Suzi Campbell
Melbourne, Australia

“The first or second lesson got my money back in multiples already. So brilliant…you shook me!”

Marta Spendowska
Domino, OK

“Owen’s course literally saved me from a slippery path that I would probably have never recovered from.”

Gregg Arnold
Kingman, AZ



    Hi Owen! I first learned about you via The Thriving Artist Series. I was amazed to hear from a fellow Saskatchewan born artist who know lives in Alberta. This is me too! I was from Rosetown, SK and now live in Cold Lake, AB – somewhat similar to you in Fort Mac!

    I need your help with one problem I am having. I am going to the ArtExpo Show in New York at the end of April and am wondering how I can take my customers’ money! The Square device that I use with my IPhone that I use in Canada only works in Canada. I bought a U.S. Square device but need a U.S. Taxation number to activate it. How do I get around this? You are able to handle both U.S. and Canadian order so am wondering what suggestions you might have for me! I am thrilled with these two courses that you offered and know they will both be invaluable helps to me, especially the one on Trade Shows!

    • Owen Garratt

      Hey Patricia!

      Kudos on ArtExpo!

      Yes there’s talk of this in the course, but I didn’t mention this specifically as the vast majority of artists who bought the course are American! So – good you asked! 🙂

      The short answer is that the solution isn’t quite as easy as Square is, but what you’ll need to do is either:

      A) form an LLC in the US – possibly a proprietorship – though somewhere like I’ve done this and it was very easy and if I remember correctly, about $125. BUT – this opens up a whole can of worms in regards to taxation, reporting, potential customs headaches and so on…so I recommend:

      B) Set up a few sales pages on your website and take orders online via a laptop in your booth! When you make a sale at the show, go to your webpage showing the item, and process the transaction that way!

      If your website isn’t what it needs to be, it’s a perfect prod to action! I recommend something like if you need to get going quickly…

      Best of luck in NYC!


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