We artists often have a very self-deprecating nature. So let me go against the grain here and try to describe what I find makes me a professional. It’s not that I’m a great artist or a great writer (my self-deprecating nature forbids me to describe myself that way). But at least I’m a pro!
The obvious answer to what makes me a pro is of course that I make a living from my artistic skills and have been for almost 20 years. I’m also very good at keeping my promises (aka. deadlines) which I think is probably the most important thing for a freelancer.
But I just realized that underneath these superficial traits are two very basic principles:
I am aware of my own process enough that I am able to replicate it. That includes knowing how long each step will roughly take so I know what the time frame needs to be for me to deliver and also have an estimate of how much it should cost. This varies with each project depending very much on my own preferences. If it’s something I’m not passionate about, my price goes up. But that’s a whole other discussion.
I am aware of the resistance (as Steven Pressfield calls it) – both internal and external – that may (and probably will) come up along the way. My many years of experiencing the same feelings of self-doubt and boredom, helps me recognize it for what it is: A part of my workflow. It also helps me with strategies to deal with the resistance. Not overcome it, but live with it.
For instance, I will jump to another part of the process if I feel stuck or simply walk away from it for a while, knowing that I will get back in the groove tomorrow or the next day. What I don’t do is start doubting my entire career and self-worth because I have an unproductive day where I feel like I can’t draw to save my life.
There is no set-in-stone answer to how to become a great artist. Everyone is unique in their approach. But for me I believe the above points are crucial. Hopefully it can serve as an inspiration or eye opener for your own artistic process.
If you are looking for more practical advice on delivering the goods as a pro artist, try giving this podcast episode a listen.