How to Find Work as an Artist (and stave off starvation)

This article is a guest post from Amy Klimek, VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter

becoming an artist

The artist’s medium can take many forms, as can the path to success

As soon as you tell people that you want to be an artist, you are going to hear a lot of disapproving sighs and negative advice. Everyone seems eager to tell artists how hard it is and how unreliable it is, and they all seem happy to tell you that you are going to starve!

The truth of the matter is that being an artist is a profession like any other; the difference is that there’s no straight path from being an amateur to being a professional.

When you are interested in being a professional working artist, consider these tips for finding work.

Get Social

At this point, being an artist is very much about knowing the right people. However, the right people are surprisingly easy to know! Your art should be available on several different locations, including a professional site and on social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Pintrest.

The more you get your name out there, the better. This is something that can make a huge difference to who sees your work.

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Practice Your Art

Like anything else, art is a skill. You likely have some basic talent to work with, but everything after that is going to be practice, practice, practice. The more you refine your work, the better.

Put Together Your Portfolio

Whether your portfolio is online or contained on slides or both, you need a good portfolio if you are going to get yourself noticed.

Many art teachers are going to tell you that your portfolio needs to cover a lot of ground. You should absolutely make sure that your portfolio shows off how versatile you are, but your portfolio should also show the world who you are as well! Make sure that your portfolio is one that could only have been put together by you.

Carefully Consider Working for Free

There are going to be a lot of people out there who want you to work for free, and the vast, vast majority of them are not worth your time. The only time you should ever work for free is when you are actually in love with the project, it does not get in the way of paying work, and you know that it will put you in contact with people who may give you work.

Never do a job just for the exposure, but sometimes, the right free gig can turn into something much bigger. It’s far better to volunteer free work than to be solicited for it.

Talk with Other Artists

Art, no matter what medium or what field you do it in, is a highly networked space. Other artists are competition, but at the same time, they are also your colleagues. They will tell you about jobs that are looking for your skill set, and you will find that there is no better education than watching other people do the same thing that you are looking to do.

Bid for Jobs

There are a number of sites out there where people post their need for artists. Make sure that you are on them, and that you bid regularly for work. A lot of the jobs are going to pay far less than what they should, so ignore those, but you can pick up both jobs and contacts in this way.This is essential if you are a freelancer, and it can be instrumental when you are looking for a steadier job.

Make the time to bid on jobs. Ideally, you should do this for an hour each day!

Keep Your Day Job

Breaking into a full-time job as a professional artist is not easy, any more than getting into any rarefied field is. If you want to get work as an artist, remember that the last thing that you can afford is to allow yourself to become desperate for work and to lose the resources that you have.

Having a day job while you look for artistic work is wise. Many pros were part-timers at first, and though this might keep you busy, it is a good way to keep the bills paid before you find the jobs you need.

Be Honest About Your Skill Level

Once in a while, you will get asked about taking a job that is beyond your scope or your skill level. Unless you are confident you can take the job on, don’t take it. Instead, be honest, and ask that they keep you in mind for next time. It is far better to pass on a job than to mess it up and ruin your reputation

Finding work as an artist takes time and effort, but it is entirely possible. Take a moment to consider what it might mean for you, and to make sure that you are giving this task the time and care that it needs.


Amy Klimek ZipRecruiterAmy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at, eBay and US Interactive.

For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. I have been an artist for twelve yearrs now and I know how difficult it is to break into the industry. I am always looking for dj work and i like to sing and produce aswell. I have made many contacts but the biggest problem is people that want to break you and give you a bad reputation. Its deeply political and i am determined to make things the way i want them to be.

    Thats all folks.


  2. Colleen Tyree says:

    I have oil paintings available for sale. They were returned from New York company due to unanticipated hardships at that location . Do you have suggestions for selling the oil paintings?
    Colleen Tyree