I consider myself very lucky because I’m one of a few who found their passion in life at an early age. Ever since my first class in high school, I was hooked on photography. I knew instantly that the only thing I wanted to do with the rest of my life was hear the beautiful sound of a shutter release.

There was just one little problem: How could I support myself as a professional artist?

Whether pursuing a creative field or entrepreneurship in general, here are a few tips that neither art school nor business school will teach you about reaching for your dreams — and how to turn your passion into a business that pays more than just the bills:

  1. Ignore the naysayers. You know exactly who I’m talking about — the ones who are always saying, “You’re only going to be a starving artist,” or “Who would buy art in this economy?” The truth is, there is always going to be someone trying to bring you down. Whether they think they’re looking out for your best interest or they’re totally jealous of you going after your dreams, just concentrate on moving forward. Try politely asking them to respect your dreams and not to say anything negative about them. If that doesn’t work, then de-friending them on Facebook may!
  2. Find your niche. Just like any good product, your artwork needs its own identity. Something you can be known for so that you can become the expert at. If you enjoy putting blue elephants on yellow T-shirts, make sure you’re the best darn blue-elephant-shirt-maker out there so that people come to you when there’s a need. Once you’ve become known for your niche, it will be a whole lot easier to diversify into other subject matter. If you are in the beginning stages of your art, play around with a couple of different things before committing to your niche. You may surprise yourself.
  3. Don’t change for others. Art or otherwise, people will always have their own opinions about a product. Again, you have to learn how to let their negative comments roll off your back. Instead of accepting the negativity, ask them what they like about the piece/product or ask for suggestions on how to make it better. Art is your personal interpretation of how you experience the world. Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard and trust your instinct.
  4. B2B is realistic business. It takes just as much effort to market to individual consumers as it does to a business, but businesses have the big bucks, connections and resources to finance your passion. If you’re pursuing art, then interior designers, art consultants and art galleries are just a few places to start. Brainstorm a list of people you may already know in these fields and ask them out to coffee immediately.

When you’re ready to make that jump from hobby to professional, always remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. Discovering your passion in life is a gift that many people don’t have, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine. With these tips, hard work, and persistence, turning your art into a business still won’t be a piece of cake, but you’ll get there a whole lot faster.

Angela B. Pan is an award-winning travel photographer whose work has been featured on ABC, TravelChannel.com, and the Washington Post. Her blog has been named one of the top 100 travel blogs and has been internationally recognized by the World Journal.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

photo by: AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker