How to Become a Professional Concept Artist

Jan 11, 2024

5 Minute Read

Becoming a professional Concept Artist isn’t exactly an easy road, and it’s certainly not a straight path. Every artist is different, and their circumstances are different too.

What works for one person, won’t work for someone else. So instead of spinning your wheels with ill-fitting advice—let’s empower you to create your own custom artists roadmap, that can take you from where you are to where you want to be in your career.

 

It’s hard to become a Concept Artist (but it’s not impossible)

Right out of the gate, we need to face the fact that this isn’t an easy road to walk. If it was easy, everybody who ever ‘sort of liked to draw’ would become a Concept Artist.

It’s very competitive and entrepreneurial, and it takes serious self awareness and dedication to keep choosing to show up day-after-day. You’ll need to face critique (especially form your self), diligently commit to your portfolio, and learn professional processes—all while keeping the bills paid with a ‘normal job’.

You need to cultivate considerable self discipline and skill before you are ready to apply for jobs, and even then, you’ll experience a lot of rejection before you start seeing those early breaks.

Becoming a Concept Artist is a huge commitment, which is why your artistic fuel is such an important ingredient to success. That gnawing feeling, that hunger to create, that artistic fuel that makes you who you are—that—is what will sustain you on the journey to your dream career.

 

It takes time to become a Concept Artist

Our culture would have us believe that success strikes like lightning. That some moment, or person, or piece of artwork will flip the switch on our ‘big break’, and our lives will never be the same.

But the truth is that dreams and goals are slowly built, one step at a time. The real work is in the consistency, the dedication and the commitment. It’s critical that you settle in for the long haul, and adopt the mindset that ‘becoming an artist’ is a lifelong pursuit (and a core value).

Any successful professional Concept Artist will tell you that the key to success is to stay focused on the journey. The goal is to build sustainable progress, not kill yourself trying to cross an imaginary finish line. If you define success by ‘becoming 1% better everyday’—then you are on the fastest track to reaching your destination.

 

How to create a 'Concept Art Career Plan'

Making income from your art and doing what you love all day is, in fact, an achievable goal for artists like you (and getting there isn’t nearly as scary as you might have thought). Contrary to popular belief: changing careers is not a leap of faith. That’s not what I did, and that’s not what the artists I work with who have done this successfully did either.

The most important first step you can make is to create a career plan that acts like a roadmap; a slow, steady, realistic plan that maps out your career change responsibly, so that you can make the best decisions for your particular career and situation.

An actionable career plan will offer you a way to do this scary thing gradually, and with a safety net—so that you aren’t just burning bridges and jumping. It’s a step-by-step plan that takes you from where you are today, to one year from now, so that you can be way closer to your goals (or even across the goal line).

Here are the key ingredients to a truly realistic concept art career plan:

  • Set clear career goals: Define what success looks like for: you. Do you want to land your first freelance gig, build an online presence, or complete a portfolio? Be specific.
  • Plan for failure: Understand that failure is part of the journey. It just is. Every great artist faced setbacks and rejection before achieving success. Embrace failure as a stepping stone to success, and give yourself timelines that accommodate for a few bumps in the road.
  • Budget your time, and your money: Money can be a major stressor (and obstacle). Create a financial plan that includes saving, budgeting, and exploring alternative income streams while you invest time into building your art career.
  • Assess your current digital art skills: Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and consider getting a mentor to audit your work. Learn what areas of your art need improvement, and what to focus on first (and always remember not to take feedback personally, it’s all a part of the learning process.)
  • Schedule time for professional training: No matter where you are at in your journey—invest in your skills by taking courses, attending workshops, or seeking mentorship. Challenge yourself and never. stop. growing.
  • Plan out your portfolio projects: Create a standout portfolio that showcases your best work. Quality over quantity is key - act as though you are being judged only by your weakest piece and prune accordingly. Your portfolio is like a living thing that evolves, grows and improves over time, so just keep painting.
  • Plan for inspiration and support: If you don’t take care of your creative fuel, it can burn out. Make sure your career growth plan is designed to keep your creative flame alive. Connect with fellow artists, professionals, and potential clients through social media and art communities. Get involved with community challenges, ask for feedback, and give-back to your community. (Check out the free DPS community and get involved).
  • Consider multiple income streams: Keep your dream career in mind, but also explore other options for making income—like selling prints, taking on private commissions, or crowdfunding to support your art.
  • Make a weekly schedule: By saying ‘yes’ to your art, you will need to say ‘no’ to other things. Dedicate regular time to your art, and block it off as a priority in your calendar. This will allow you to make time for your art while balancing your other commitments. Keep at it, stick to it, and I promise it will turn into a habit you love in no time.
  • Be relentless: You have to be the artist who didn’t quit when all others did.  Is that you? Good! Keep creating, keep improving, keep climbing higher no matter how much rejection or frustration you face.

For some, the reality of sustainable, longterm career growth might not sound that exciting. But I suspect that for most artists—having a safety net and reducing the risks (no, you don't have to take a leap of faith) is actually a comforting thought. If you really want to take your art career seriously, then your best chance at success is to be extremely realistic. Don't forget to enjoy the ride. 

Work with industry professional, Hardy Fowler, every step of the way—as you level-up your work through performance enhancing techniques, professional processes and the creative experience that art directors are looking for.  

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