You may have noticed all the roads you can take with your career, but how do you know what is best for you - now and in the long run? 

It can be hard to make those decisions. Believe me! I get it. 

And art school doesn't help you navigate this post-art school space. So how do I make these decisions - from what to post on social media to what job to take? 

When I need to decide on my next action steps, I keep the following three things in mind. It's like my own personal celery test

YOU ARE A BRAND            

Get this. Everything you say and do, especially online, either strengthens or weakens your brand - the brand of you and your artwork. 

And I ain't talking colors and fonts here. When you think of your brand, consider the following: 

  • Your posts and feeds online 
  • Your comments online
  • Your willingness to help others 
  • Your ability to meet deadlines 
  • Your art work (yeah, I put that last). 

We're all in this together - you, me, art directors, and other artists so play well with others. Give back to the community by being helpful. There are times when artists can’t handle all the work they have and look to collaborate with others. You could just be that other - and that can only help your brand. 


It’s tempting to want to do all those super cool things you see. Or you could be trying to do 50 things at once because you're not sure which direction to go in so you decide to try it all. 

Here's the thing. That will get you nowhere fast. Why? Because you won't be good at anything!

Instead, pick a niche (for a year to start if you want). Then, be the best in that niche. An art director hires someone with passion. Why? Because that person will create the absolute best piece possible. They've done their 10,000 hours. They get it. 

Here's an example. I’m an art director. I need someone to create a piece of environment art. I have two portfolios of both equal, professional quality work. Do I go to the person who has everything under the sun in their portfolio? Or do I go to the person who has 90% environment art in their portfolio?

I’d go with the person who rocks those landscapes. I’d go with the person that loves what they do so much they are will go the extra mile and do the best job ever.

What would you do? 

Once you have one niche nailed down, you can consider jumping into a new one (if you want). Not sure which niche is for you, this resource might help


I know, I know. It's tough out there. Every artist looks at other artists' work and, for a lot, this makes them feel miserable. Overwhelmed. Like everyone is so much better than you. Especially now, when you wake up in the morning and the competition is just a few clicks away.

Well, stop it! I’m not saying don’t look at other peoples work. I’m saying stop feeling like you are not good enough! You need a serious mindset shift! 

There are tons artists out there whose creative works blow your socks off, yet they are slaving away somewhere at Starbuck. Maybe they tried and failed. Maybe they didn’t even try. But there is much more to making an art career than just skill.

The tools you need are simple - although they are often over looked.

Yes, you do need talent/skill and contrary to popular belief, if you want it bad enough and work hard enough, you can turn that stick man into an amazing life drawing!

The other tools you need are just as easily obtained but people don’t really bring them up, especially in most art schools.

o   Be professional 

o   Be deadline driven

o   Talk confidently about your work.

o   Accept criticism graciously 

o   Be organized and clean

If your work is professional, clean, and on time, you're already ahead of the game.  

Shane Madden