There are many roads to becoming a professional artist and very few signs to follow. However, if I had to pick three starting points, they’d be the following (in no particular order).
NUMBER ONE: Be seen. Make exceptional work and do not shrink from showing it to the world. Work harder than anyone else in the room. Make a lot of work and only show your best. Remember that, to your viewers, you are only as good as the worst painting they see. That means you need to make a lot of paintings before you have enough really good ones for a decent body of work. A body of work consists of 20-30 or more paintings, preferably consistent with each other and in a style identifiable as yours. That should be your goal if you’re getting ready to go pro.
NUMBER TWO: Have a decent website. It should go without saying, but you have to gave a solid, up-to-date, dedicated artist website. You need business cards you can pass out too, but their main purpose is to get people to your site. Therefore, your website must, at the very least, showcase your best work (without any copyright watermarking!) and it needs to contain a bio and contact information. Hire a pro if you have to. Or look into the many companies that provide ready-to-go web designs (templates) and marketing plans too if you like, for artists. FASO is the most popular, and they keep getting better. Their website is full of free advice and programs for on-the-verge pros and newbies alike.
NUMBER THREE: Use social media for marketing. Everyone says you have to use social media to promote your work, you know they’re right, but how? Tirelessly, I’m afraid. Pick a social media platform, watch a youtube video on how to use it, make a free account, hold your nose, and work it at least once or twice a week.
The “social media landscape” may seem less overwhelming if you realize that you don’t have to know and use all of them, just one or at most two. Do a little research and decide what social media “platform” (Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) feels the most comfortable to you, learn how to use it, and use it consistently to promote your work and your life as an artist.
Post each new painting you finish, post studio shots, updates on this or that – post several times a week if you can swing it. That’s half of what you need to do – you also must COMMENT ON other peoples’ posts that you like; the secret key to gaining followers (at first anyway) is spending time daily discovering, liking, and commenting on other peoples’ posts.