You Don’t Need Art School to Sell Art

You want to “make it” as an artist. Ideas are overflowing, you’ve got the drive, but you don’t have an art school degree. Don’t let this stop you!

Thousands of artists are creating and making money without art degrees. You don’t need art school to sell art. All you need is energy and dedication to make your ideas a reality. 

The steps below will help you create your own art line- without an art degree.

1. Start with Planning

You need to start with your business plan. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but being successful is about making your ideas a reality. Brainstorm, write down your ideas. Then create detailed action steps that you will do to make your ideas a reality.

2. Create a Line- Focus on Results

Plenty of merchandise is connected with sales. After all, the more merchandise you have, the more people can buy! Be creative and tell a story with your art line. Create a cohesive vision. Then look at your line from a business perspective and determine how you’ll get the line to sell! A tip is to try to create something irresistible, ask yourself objectively, “would I buy this”?

3. Engage in Your Community

Promoting yourself and your art is vital. Talk with and collaborate with other artists. Join social networks and local clubs. It will make a difference. I give specific tips on how to do this in these posts: 5 Steps for Spreading Your Creative Business Message and How to Get Them Talking About Your Art.

4. Just DO it!

If you truly want to earn an art school degree, do it! You’ll learn and make connections and it could help your career. Just remember, nothing is stopping you from making your own creative business right now. Every art school graduate I know agrees: you learn more by working in the field and getting things done. Get your hands-on education and just do it!

Final Tip: Whenever I’m completely lost with my creative business goals, I print out my Track This! Workbook and fill it out again. It forces you to answer the hard questions and move on to the next step with your business. Try it if you need help creating a business plan for your art line!

image above dream by selflesh

Vanessa wrote this post. She is a full time copywriter and webmarketer with a passion for art, creativity, and thrift. She writes about thrifting, creating, and saving money every weekday on her blog, Thrift Core.

13 comments | Click here to reply

Fantastic topic, would love to have you post on our “Guest Post”.


This is great food for thought! I went to art school and yes, I agree the student loans can be tough, and degrees don’t always reflect current achievements and creativity. But I really appreciated having the chance to learn from trained professionals on a daily basis and getting immediate feedback from them and my fellow students. I loved learning how to talk about my work, develop an “eye,” and how to critique my work. And a degree can help earn respect for your work in certain exhibition situations, but not necessarily for sales — that’s where talent, hard work, & marketing come into play.

I think art is so subjective and flexible that it can be easy to say you don’t need a degree, so I wonder how it would be taken if we were tax accountants saying we don’t need degrees in finance or accounting. 🙂

I think the art degrees help in unexpected ways, at least they do for me & my career. I admire people who go into art on their own, studying and learning as they go — that’s really brave! But if you make the right choices with your art degree it won’t feel like a waste.


I am an artist/crafter and i chose not to go to art school. Both my parents are making there living as full time artist and I have learned more about selling my work from them then any paid art academic could ever tach me. I don’t miss the student loans ether!

rose beerhorst

i often think about that but in the photography business… i would love to go for a photography degree but the prices are completely out of my range… so all i have to is keep doing the research and, of course… trial and error are great ways to draw the path towards success! but i also needed to read this, as i often don’t think of myself as that good just because i don’t have a degree… or like if i needed a degree to consider myself a photographer. need to work that part! 🙂 take care!!! wonderful post! twiggs


I absolutely loved art school and gained a whole lot from it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Does an artist need art school in order to make art…definitely not.


Thank you!! I have a business degree and plenty of professional marketing experience under my belt. I’m ready to debut a series of paintings and original art and I REALLY needed to hear this. Love your posts…always insightful! Cheers,

Mandy Behrens

Jessalin and Brittni: Thanks for sharing your two cents! There’s a part of me that desperately wants to go to art school to put in the house and learn from the pros, but if I can start now without it, I will. 😉 ! A couple of art school graduate friends have also told me not to go, that with a career in place I’m doing fine without it.


My 2 cents:

You may not need an art degree to make money, but it definitely earns you cred. It is also something that magazines and galleries love to talk about (i.e. good for press releases). I also feel that an art degree is beneficial because you put in hundreds of hours to developing your skills, and if it is a good school you’ve also learned how to write (and talk) about your work. It seems that If you can write an interesting bio/story about who you are and what you are doing that makes you stand out in the sea of people making things, you are on your way.

I don’t have an art degree, and while I feel like I am behind in a lot of regards, I think I have a lot more drive and humility than people who do. What’s most important, in my opinion, is that genuine creativity and innovation is not lost in the quest to make money. Art is ultimately about self expression and your own personal journey, which school can help you to tap into, but so can a lot of other things…


I love this topic Van! Great job writing this post. I thought I would share my perspective as an artist with an art degree…

No one has ever asked me whether or not I have a degree in art before deciding whether or not they value my work enough to buy it. Schooling is wonderful- I learned SO MUCH from my incredibly talented professors, but I could have just as easily learned many of the things I did while in school from books, friends, mentors.

The schooling is not what’s important. The knowledge and understanding you gain from school is what’s important. And if you can get that elsewhere, more power to you. Some of the most successful painters I know don’t have a degree at all. They create amazing work, and are actually quite brilliant. Far more brilliant than the chick with the art degree. 🙂

Please continue to share your thoughts below. I am really enjoying the dialogue.



Valerie: I know so many people who wonder the same thing. School is incredibly expensive, and in the current economic climate it no longer guarantees work. This is one reason why I can recommend trying to sell your work without a business or art degree, but I’d love to hear the opposite perspective, too!


So true- I have a degree but I always thought that I should have gone back for more- since I joined Etsy ,and loked around I realised that believing in yourself and just ‘doing it’, and doing it ‘cleverly’ (with a business mind) is what an artist needs- we can learn more as we go, learn through trial and error ; learn with our artist friends.
Thank you for this-It’s always great to reinforce the important stuff-!XX

Annamaria Potamiti

Sometimes I wonder if I could have been as successful at my art without my business degree. (Three degrees actually, and they cost me a lot of $$)


Very helpful article, thanks! I don’t have an art degree but I’m not going to let that stop me. 🙂

Carolyn Cochrane
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