Disclaimer: I should never be allowed to talk to teenagers about career goals. Never. Ever. EVER.
My Life Story.
I had a terrible experience in high school art and never pursued art in college (I studied Latin and Computer Science instead). I got a job through blatant nepotism as a digital artist in 1991 (also because I was the only person in the city who knew how to use a digital art program) and I learned a lot there, surrounded by art students who deeply resented my presence and lack of skill. Then I spent some 15 years working as a programmer while drawing and painting at home for myself. I’ve had very few freelance art jobs, and the majority of them were just as - if not worse than - most other artists relate. I was paid ten cents an hour for my labor and frequently told at the end that they had siblings who coulda done a better job. I started my personal webcomic in 2007, expecting that no one would ever read it. No one did for about two years. Webcomics are a wonderful experience in throwing art into a void. A Dark Horse rep happened to see one of my cheaply-printed copies at a convention I was selling prints at (one of three I have ever gone to, all of which were money-losing endeavors and extremely stressful) and offered me a gig. I don’t know why. Maybe everyone else said no.
I still don’t make money at art. I make money at other things and use it to pay for my crack-addiction-esque art habit. The world is a horrible, horrible place for artists and if you can wholly suck that passion out of your soul and never, ever look at it again, you will be a much happier person. But if you can’t, then you - like me - have to figure out your own way to fund it and nurture it. I don’t know that path. I don’t recommend my own choices AT ALL. But I don’t think any amount of planning makes it easier. Do art because you love it, and maybe someday someone will deign to pay you for it. But it may be that all you ever get back is loving it.