What do I need to know to be a professional artist? You are going to need a dash of talent, honed by; hard work-ethic, resilience, understanding of pricing structures in your industry, a good template contract, representation (if you need it), a supportive person to help you with the hard days, and possibly a space heater if you get cold while working (like I do).
And… you are going to need these two books:
Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon
This book is a jack of all trades and personal hug in book form. It is a great present for students just graduating from art school, a good pep talk on a low day, a boost of creativity when you feel stuck, and a solid place to start when you are embarking on your new art career. Lisa Congdon drops buckets full of knowledge on all sorts of things in a way that feels full of heart and comes from a place of experience. From how-to advice on using Twitter, engaging a platform, making an Etsy shop, to interviews with artists in a variety of fields… this book is a great home base for any artist.
Contract templates, how to negotiate a raise, and charts with pricing breakdowns for all art careers from photographers to animators: this book is the holy grail for all artists. I am not going to say any more than that, because I don’t need to. If you do not have this book: GO GET IT!
Good luck out there! And price your work properly.