There are literally hundreds of different paths to choose from, and this is where most people get tripped up by not realizing just how many great opportunities there are for artists. 

Not realizing how many opportunities are really out there is a big problem because what often ends up happening is an artist will set their goals unbelievably high, without ever realizing the path to get to their ultimate goal it’s actually a series of steps they need to take along the creative career path to ultimately get to that dream career.

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The good news is there are tons of entry opportunities for creative people.

By the end of this article you'll have a much better idea of which art market will be a good fit for you - and this is really important because it will show you how to play to your natural strengths and craft a career that will work for you today and lead you to your dream career in the future.

Why Breaking into a Creative Career is so Hard

Once you have that first creative job and have started to build a reputation for yourself it’s easy to advance your career.  

However, getting that first job can be tough and here’s why: It’s a struggle to balance earning money while you build your skills and the connections that lead to your breakthrough creative job.   

With other careers you can 'sneak' into your first job and learn on the job, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that with visual art.  

Think about this: Can you tell the difference between how good two lawyers or accountants are by just looking at them, or even by reading their resume? You might have a hunch, but it’s really difficult to say for sure.  

Now - think about an artist.  It’s extremely easy to see the difference in the quality of work when you look at the portfolios of different artists.  You literally have nothing to hide behind - your portfolio will clearly show if you can or can’t get the work done.


Don’t Lose Hope - Choosing the Right Market Can Make Getting Your First Job Much Easier

The skills and portfolio required for different markets vary wildly.  Some need loose sketches where creativity is more important, while other markets prize technical precision, and others value the mood that the artwork conveys to the intended audience.   

It’s not uncommon for the artists that many people look up to now to have started in completely different creative fields.  Your skills might not yet be high enough to jump right into your dream position, but this doesn’t mean the skills you have aren’t high enough for a different market.   

For example - concept art is a very popular market for aspiring artists these days, but the skills and creativity required for this job are extremely high.  The skill requirements for your dream career shouldn’t discourage you - just realize that it might take some time to get there.  

In the meantime, while you have been improving your concept art abilities you’ve also become quite handy with Photoshop, and you’ve always had an eye for good design and may have even been paid a few times to help out friends and family improve the art and design work for their businesses or websites.   

In a case like this - you could look at starting out getting a design job where you already have the required skills, and then continue to work on your concept art abilities in your free time.


Why Breaking Into a Creative Career as Soon as Possible is so Important

Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans, but you can make sure that you are always making progress towards your ultimate dream creative career by using the skills you have right now to land you your first job.  

Think about this scenario for a minute… you want to be a concept artist working on the coolest movies and games, but you know your skills aren’t quite there to land the job yet.  You’re currently working at a warehouse managing the day staff and making $50,000 per year doing this.  In your nights you keep working on your concept art skills and are able to put in a few hours developing those skills.  

Now out of the blue a friend sees your latest piece of art you posted on Facebook, and recommends you to another friend to hire you as a designer for their advertising company.  The advertising job only pays $35,000 to start.  

What do you do?  Do you keep the $50,000 job working at the warehouse, or do you go for the $35,000 design job?  

In my opinion this is a no brainer… with the warehouse job, while the pay is higher than the design job you really have to stop thinking about money, and start thinking about time.   

With the warehouse job,  you only have a few hours in your evenings to work on your art skills, and you are surrounded by people who know nothing about art.   

With the design job - while it’s not your dream position of being a concept artist, you know that your skills are high enough to do the work and you’re confident that anything you don’t know to do this job - you can learn along the way.   

Here’s where the design job shines - for 8 hours a day you’ll be immersed in art and design.  You’ll be using the same tools you need to be a concept artist, you’ll be surrounded by other artists and creative types that will push your work to a new level, and you’ll be building a network and reputation as a creative that will lead to your next job.  

Because you’re still spending your evenings working on your concept art skills, and you’re spending an additional 8 hours a day with the tools you need you’ll be advancing your skills at a rapid pace.   

And if life suddenly throws you a curve ball and you can’t spend your evenings working on your concept art - you’ll still be building those important creative skills and your creative network during your full time day job as a designer at the advertising company.   

So - now let’s do another comparison… 

Warehouse job: $50,000/yr & 2 hours per day spent working on your own art in the evenings

Design job: $35,000/yr & 8 hours per day spent working on art at your day job + 2 hours per day spent working on your own art in the evenings.  

Can you see how spending so much more time on your art is going to lead you to your dream career faster?  The design job isn’t the end of the road - it’s just the start… and from there you can advance to a new job or position that puts you closer to the career of a concept artist.

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The Most Important Questions to Ask to Select the Right Art Market for Your Creative Career

The following seven questions will help you know yourself better so you can select the right position.

1. How much do you need to make each month? 

2. How do you like to work - from home or in an office?

3. Full-time or part-time?

4. Are your technical skills up to the level they need to be? 

5. What 'soft' skills do you possess?

6. How strong is your network?

7. Which position should you choose?

1. How much do you need to make each month? 

This is a very real question, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly.  There's no reason that your art career can't provide for all of your bills, however when you are starting into a creative career they pay may be lower than you would like.   

The important thing to remember is that where you start with your creative career isn’t where you will end up, and you can advance quickly if you are willing to continue developing your skills and change positions to get a higher salary. 

I see people getting attached to money and believing that there is no way that they could possibly live on less in order to make their dream career come true - just like the example above of the warehouse supervisor job vs the advertising design job.  

You have to be honest with yourself what you need each month, and in some cases you may even have to temporarily downsize your lifestyle in exchange for following your dream of having a creative career.  

So what you need to do is come up with a realistic number for yourself of what the minimum amount of pay you can receive to start moving in the direction of having your dream career.   

Knowing what your number is will help you to narrow your options down and find only those positions that can realistically give you enough money to match your monthly expenses and then grow your income from there.

2. How do you like to work - from home or in an office?

There’s big benefits to working in both situations and this is a personal choice, but one to consider as your preference for this will help determine which art market gives you the best possibilities for working the way that you want. 

Working in a studio can be great… just as it can be a complete nightmare.  For me personally I always enjoyed the office environment and the friendships and sense of accomplishment that we had while working closely on projects together. 

These days however, I love working from home where I can have more control over my time and be there while my two small children are growing up.   

This is really a personal choice, and it is very common for artists to start at a studio, build up their skills and network, and then transition to working from home for the studio, or going full time as a freelancer.

3. Full-time or part-time?

Would part time or full time work be a better fit for you?  Some art markets are full of part time or freelance opportunities, while others consist mostly of full time work.  Whichever path you choose is fine - but know that there will be markets that are more suited to the type of working arrangement that works best for you.

4. Are your technical skills up to the level they need to be? 

Technical skills means your ability to produce artwork of a certain quality.  The best way to evaluate your skills is to compare them to existing professional or published works. 

When you take the professional work and compare the work you are doing - how do you stack up?   

Are you just as good, close to as good, or very far from it? 

When you are self evaluating it's important to remember two key points: 

1. Your technical abilities actually only make up about 50% of how employable you are (the other 50% are your 'soft skills' which are discussed below)  

2. If you will be working as part of a team - what part of the creation process will you be responsible for?  For example... if you wanted to create artwork for video games, there are several different people that will all work together to create the final object that you see in the game: concept, line art, modeler, texture artist, rigger and animator.   What this means is that you have to compare your work to the appropriate work done at the specific stage in the production pipeline.   

For example - if you would like to be an animator, it doesn’t make sense to compare your work to a texture artist or a storyboard artist.  You need to compare 'apples to apples' and see how you stack up.     

If you find that you aren’t yet creating work at the level for the market you would like to enter - that’s ok - depending on which direction you want to go with your career there are most likely several different art markets that you could go into where the skills you have today would be suitable, and you can get into that career while you work on improving towards your dream career.

5. What soft skills do you possess?

This may come as a shock - but how employable you are will be determined by skills that have nothing to do with your visual art skills.  I call this set of skills 'soft' as opposed to the 'hard' skills that are represented in your portfolio.  

These skills include but are not limited to: professionalism, attitude, work ethic, learning ability, writing skills, organization, being able to meet deadlines, social skills, and communication.  

All of these actually play a large part in your success as an artist, so it’s important to remember to highlight these skills and consider them when you are selecting your art market.

For example - you may be obsessive about keeping things organized and believe it or not this is a highly sought after skill in many markets because the creative process is usually highly disorganized, and if you are the type of person that can come in and bring some order to that chaos you have a valuable skill that you can bring to the table.

6. How strong is your network?

While working on developing your skills it may be easy to forget that someone is going to have to hire you.  Your portfolio is important, but it’s actually people that open the doors for you and present you with the opportunities you need to get started and advance within your creative career.  

If you have friends who are already working in your target art market this can be a HUGE advantage for you because they can introduce you to people that can hire your or can even help you get an interview without having to compete with a bunch of other artists.   

If you have friends who are working in particular art market - this may be a huge indicator to go after that market because you already know people who can help open the right doors for you.

7. Which position should you choose?

Within each market there are several creative positions that need to be filled.  By knowing yourself and knowing which positions exist within a market you can look out for opportunities that would be a perfect match for you.  This will take some digging, but a good place to start is to look at the credits for creative projects as well as job postings for companies within your chosen market.   

Example: Your art skills may not be that high, but because your organizational skills are off the charts you could still earn an important spot on a team by being in charge of their digital asset management.  While this job wouldn’t have you in a creative role right now - you’d still be an important member of the creative team and once you’re skills are high enough to move into a role where you are making the art and you’ll already have the connections you need to make that career jump possible. 

You will need to educate yourself on what positions are out there and would be a good fit for you, and if there’s one area I would encourage you to invest some time on - this is it.  You could already have everything you need to be a perfect match for an open position at your dream company, but if you aren’t aware of the many different positions that are available you’ll never know.

Group of Multiethnic Designers Brainstorming

So which is the right art market for you?

I wish the answer to this question was easier - but you are going to have to educate yourself.  

With literally hundreds of different possible positions in so many different markets the decision of which market you go into rests on your shoulders.  

Almost every day I see artists that have big dreams, but no clue about what markets are out there right now and would be a perfect fit for them.  Instead - they keep their head buried in their work with the belief that they are not good enough, and as time goes on their dream of a creative career slowly dies. 

To help get you started I’ve done a lot of research and pulled together a guide that will help you get started by understanding the real opportunities that exist in 21 of the best markets for new artists to enter.

If you’re scratching your head about what market would best fit you - I’ve already done the research for you within 20 different markets so you can start to understand what real opportunities are out there for you. 

This is the perfect starting point to understanding what the best market for you is.

Ok, so i've picked 3 art markets to tackle, now what?

Woooo easy cowboy.

This is the number one reason people struggle with getting some momentum going, they are pulled in too many directions.

You need to choose one thing to do first. Not one thing for the rest of your life, just the first area you want to focus on, build some success before branching out. It's literally the difference between failure and success.

If you are like me, you really can't decide which it will be. I've found this little trick, it came from a navy seal, that can help you make a decision quickly, so you can hit the ground running! check it out in this short video

So.... now what?

Talk about information overload. This can be a point where a lot of artists get "stuck". but believe me this is a really powerful thing.

Having a direction is the first part of any journey, we would literally be lost without it. Now that you know which direction to head, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe it or not, you'll be there before you know it!

So what are you going to do today, this week, to make your career happen for you?