'Professionalism' Part One: What it means and why it matters.

By Team IMA


With a new shift in working dynamics, an increase in online communication and remote working, all industries have crossed bravely over the horizon into a new working world.


Now more than ever, conducting ourselves professionally counts for a lot. In this new era of majority online communication, our professionalism is under newer and harsher scrutiny, and one that can't be explained away as it might have been able to be before. As artists, a large part of our livelihood comes from our ability to create and maintain professional relationships. Making a good impression can mean the difference between getting an opportunity or being passed by.


This article is split into two parts. In Part 1, we discuss what it means to be professional, and in Part 2 we share some case studies on professionalism. Ready?


Photo by OVAN from Pexels


Part 1: What does it mean to be a professional artist?


There is no template for being an artist, no manual, no set career path and no single right way to negotiate our way through the art world. We often have to make it up as we go along, learning new skills and using trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. While there is no absolutely correct way, there are certainly some things we can do to be a little more professional in our day to day dealings with people both within and outside of the art world.


Being professional

If you’re an artist, then you are a one-person business. We may love to focus on making our art but everything else should have a similar attention at some point. Sometimes this is clear communication with those around us, sometimes it’s making sure that our framing is professionally done, our publicity has no errors, our pricing is consistent, that we are respectful of others, that we turn up and deliver on time and that we are polite.


It’s also about making sure we have the right insurance and remembering to document our work, particularly at exhibitions, comprehensively and as professionally as we can. Rather than use our phone, ask a photographer who will know how to control and work with the light. These documents may be crucial at a later date when we are looking for future opportunities. It also gives a sense of our work in a 3D space rather than flat on a screen or print.


Something else to bear in mind is that when we interact with non-arts people, we are to some extent a representative for all artists. Being polite and professional goes some way to ensuring that other artists are seen favourably now and in the future.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels