Hello fellow graduate, congratulations on completing your studies and taking the first steps towards your dream art career. We know it’s not easy to pursue an art after graduation, especially with all the uncertainty and competition out there. But you know what? You’re not alone. We’ve all been there, with our portfolios under our arms, our hearts full of hopes, and our bank accounts empty. And yet somehow, we’ve also discovered ways to make it work and to sustain ourselves as artists.

By studying art at University, we have the chance to develop our practice, experiment with processes, and build complex ideas. But many artists find it increasingly difficult to find their footing after graduation; unsure of how to get started with an established career when you have little to no professional experience. In this post, we want to share with you some tips, tricks, and insights on how to build an art career after graduation, based on our own experiences and those of other successful artists we’ve met.


Some professions require a degree – but art is quite different. Not every successful artist studied art or even went to university at all. To become an artist, it’s more important that you have natural creativity and a positive attitude. At the end of the day, becoming an artist has less to do with your education, and more to do with the actual process of making.

That being said, studying art and creative courses at university can definitely harness your existing skills. It’s also a great insight into how the art world works. By having a degree in art, you’ll have the opportunity to network with fellow students, push your practice in experimental ways and take on advice from your lecturers – who will often be practising artists themselves. Although an art degree is not essential; it gets you on the right path to building your art career.



The key to building your career as an artist is about finding new opportunities outside of your study. It can be quite daunting at first, especially without the support of an institution. But here are a number of common opportunities that artists go after once they’ve graduated:


An artist residency is a program that provides time, space, and resources for the individual to create new work. They can be located anywhere, but typically residencies are found in isolated or inspiring locations, offering artists an opportunity to focus on their craft without distraction. Varying between short and long-term, the residency program is commonly funded by a gallery or other artistic organisation. For recent graduates and emerging artists – it’s a great opportunity to continue their practice despite their lack of funding or experience.


Art grants and funding are financial resources provided to artists to support their creative projects. These can come from government agencies, private foundations, and non-profit organisations. Usually, an artist must prepare a detailed proposal outlining their project and budget in order to apply. It can be a competitive process, but art grants are great option for emerging artists, especially those who have just graduated.Art grants and funding are financial resources provided to artists to support their creative projects. These can come from government agencies, private foundations, and non-profit organisations. Usually, an artist must prepare a detailed proposal outlining their project and budget in order to apply. It can be a competitive process, but art grants are great option for emerging artists, especially those who have just graduated.


An open call is when an arts organisation is wanting to receive applications for an exhibition, residency, grant, or other related opportunities. It’s an invitation for artists to submit their work or proposals as long as they meet the specific, individual requirements. Open calls are usually publicised through various channels, such as social media, art websites, and newsletters. We have our own opportunities page, but some other popular examples include; Art Rabbit, Arts Hub, Arts Jobs, and ArtQuest.


One of the most important things gained from an art degree is not your skillset, it’s actually the network of creative people around you. In an industry where so much of your success depends on who you know – it’s never been more beneficial to meet people and maintain those relationships. Networking can be scary for those of you who are shy, but there’s plenty of easy ways to insert yourself in creative spaces.

Start by attending more events like exhibition openings and private views. These occasions are more of a social gathering rather than an art viewing opportunity – so come prepared with your business cards and confidence. Even a simple hello can generate a whole conversation that then turns into a LinkedIn follow.

It’s easier to hold onto those existing connections than make new ones. Once you’ve graduated, you’ll no longer be surrounded by your peers in studios everyday. If you don’t nurture these relationships, you’ll risk losing them – so stay in contact online and reach out when you can. You may even want to form collectives, make work together or share a studio space in the future.


One of the biggest and most obvious changes to leaving art school is the loss of your studio space (if you were lucky enough to have one). Most students go from having an open, dynamic and physically suitable environment to work in – to nothing. Suddenly you’re forced back into your bedroom or kitchen, annoying your family with all the materials and mess. Without the finances to rent out your own studio space – becoming a professional artist seems impossible. However, don’t lose hope, as a home art studio could really help you out.

Have you ever considered using your wardrobe as a studio nook? Or using that one corner of your bedroom that collects dirty washing? With the right layout planning and art storage accessories, these small spaces can transform into a little creative hub.

When constructing your home studio – consider lots of clever storage options to maximise space. Your environment will need to be adaptable, so moveable furniture will be important as well as thinking how objects can double up for multiple purposes. Despite not having the room for a massive sculpture or painting, you should be able to continue your practice in some form in a efficient home studio.


What should you include in an art portfolio? This is a common question for emerging artists, especially those who worry about not having enough work. The truth is – you probably already have a lot of high quality work from your time in study. Use your old art to build a great portfolio and establish the gaps that you need to work on.

It’s likely that you’ll be showing your portfolio to lots of different people and organisations once you leave university. As you may remember from your art school interviews; different places require different things, so consider curating more than one portfolio. We recommend having a general portfolio that you can edit accordingly, depending on the situation you are using it for. Whether your future career is as a painter, graphic designer, illustrator or curator – a portfolio will be required at some point.

How do you build a portfolio with little experience? Many creatives at the beginning of their careers won’t have had much experience to show for just yet. In these cases, the artist can set themselves their own briefs and projects, creating mockups of designs and ideas. For example, if you’re looking to get into graphic design – you could take a brand and redesign their visuals, improving on what was originally there. This will show a future employer that you hold the talent and skill in your area despite your lack of professional experience.


Putting your work online is the best thing you can do for your art career after graduation. The online space covers a variety of areas from social media to your own website domain. Instagram is the most popular social media option, with creatives utilising other platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Pinterest. It can take a while to build up, but it’s definitely worth having an online presence in one way or another.

It can be hard to know what to post online – artists are usually great at creativity but can sometimes struggle with the self-promotion side of business. Take a look at what other artists are posting online, and take some inspiration from our long list of artist content ideas.

Once you’ve put yourself on social media, the next step is a professional website. Even if you’re not selling your work (which we’ll discuss below), a website acts as an accessible portfolio for anyone who may need it.


When choosing to pursue an art career after graduation, you’ll want to make some money from it. The next logical step seems to be selling your art online. In fact, you may have already started doing this during your studies. If you’re looking to get started, there are a whole bunch of platforms to choose from so make sure you do your research on what option is best suited for your art. 


Given that we live in the age of social media, it should be no surprise that selling on Instagram is a great way of making money as an artist, no matter what level of experience you have. The app now has a built in shop feature, meaning people can buy your work without having to leave the site. This is similar to TikTok, where users are really beginning to harness the commercial potential it holds. But do take your time and don’t rush into selling online, discovering your niche and building a decent following are important steps to take before offering work to customers.


Another option if you’re not interested in selling through social media is starting an artist website. Although not essential, having your own website which you sell from is definitely a sign of professionalism – and will help establish your art career after graduation. These days it’s really easy for anyone to get started by building your website with platforms like Wix or Squarespace. Spend some time comparing different website builders and their perks before settling on a choice. If you don’t have the time, there’s always the option of hiring someone to build a website for you.


E-commerce sites or online marketplaces are a great place to sell your art if you’re a beginner. A popular example is Etsy, a site created by artists and makers for people to sell crafts, vintage items, and art related goods. Marketplaces like Etsy have their own customer base which means you can sell work without having a following beforehand. If you’re strategic with SEO and marketing, your art should get noticed by your target audience. Of course, having a following to send over to Etsy helps – but it’s not entirely necessary. With all platforms, there are a number of things to consider before selling your artwork on Etsy, so do your research first.


Selling art online may take a while to pick up, especially just after graduation. That’s why it’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket. A good way to do this is by looking into different streams of income from your artwork. Whilst it may require some research, making a passive income is beneficial in the long run for your art career. These methods won’t need much maintenance and attention, so they are great for beginners who want to make money from their art whilst continuing to dedicate their time to creating. If you’re trying to launch your art career after graduation, here’s a couple examples you could be using within your practice.


Print-on-demand (POD) are websites that allow artists to upload their designs and print them on a range of products – such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and a lot more. They are the middleman when it comes to selling online, so when you make a sale the company prints, packages, and ships the work straight to the customer.

Sites such as Redbubble and Society6 are fantastic for beginners, as all you need to begin is a design, email, and occasionally a shop name. It’s best to do some digging and see what sites would be good for you, as some are more notable than others for their quality and customer reviews. 


Licensing your art is a lot simpler than it seems. Like POD, it’s a form of passive income. To start licensing your art, a good place to start is researching a manufacturer or company and seeing who would be good to work with.

This can be a very complicated process, so it’s a wise decision to seek legal aid if you are offered a contract. Always read contracts carefully, so if you cannot afford legal aid to help read it over, it’s worth asking a close confidant. With an agreement in place, your creation can be used for many different things, and in return, the owner of the licensed image should receive a payment.


Commissions are a great way to earn money as an artist, helping to build yourself a name and grow your clientele. With a better idea of what you’re selling and how things should be priced, the custom art pieces you agree to make shouldn’t stray too far from what you’re already making. As part of your practice, they are definitely something to look into when your brand and niche are properly developed. 

Make sure you have the time to take on this extra work. It would be your job to make sure you execute something your client will love, on top of everything else you have going on and your own making. You want to be able to make something to the best of your ability as someone comes to you and is willing to pay your rates to get a high-quality piece.


It’s easy to get lost in your practice when you work from home or are just finishing school, but it can also mean you end up losing your love and passion for art. Many artists find themselves with a lack of artistic inspiration due to creative blocks that could have been prevented if they had taken the time for themselves. 

One way of making sure you’re taking the right amount of time for yourself is by setting clear goals for your everyday life. Whilst creativity and inspiration do not necessarily have a schedule, having one for yourself is beneficial to growing as a creator and preventing life-affecting issues such as burnout. A good place to start is by using a diary or online calendar, there are hundreds of communities online for bullet journaling – a daily and creative way to plan or share your life.

There’s a lot of pressure to get a job or amount to something right away, with too many artists overwork themselves due to this pressure or post-university depression. So if you feel yourself burning out, be sure to take a break and rest well.


One of the biggest lessons you’ll learn after graduating is to not give up after setbacks. Failure and rejection is something that is bound to happen – but it’s how you overcome this that will set you up for success. Graduating from art school is not a one-way ticket to an art career. Be prepared to put in the work and face the obstacles that come with it.

Of course, this is easier said than done. You may find it helpful to surround yourself with graduates in the same position. Social media is a great place for this, as well as reaching out to your peers. Try not to compare your career to others though – everyone is on a journey that looks very different. Just because you’re not experiencing immediate success now, it doesn’t make you less of an artist.


Some art graduates may not pursue their craft after university, and some make it their full-time income. What you decide to do after graduating is entirely your choice, but it’s important to remember that neither creativity or success are on a linear path. So as long as you are consistent with your practice and have a goal in mind, you’ll find that achieving an art career after graduation is more attainable than you thought.

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