I would rather sell 1 of my works for $1,000 in profit than 1,000 of my works for $1 in profit. The money is the same, but the former adds more value to your work.
IMO the trick is to step up to the plate (plate of your choice) and show one's work directly to the people who will evaluate: Accept, become enthusiastic, reject, ignore, ridicule.
I found it easy to develop advertising agency clients that paid my bills by showing my work to their art directors, most of whom have serious formal art educations as well as their own ongoing artistic activity.
Art directors pay photographers to deliver work that meets requirements. If you like a photo in an ad, it means somebody has delivered what you like and has probably been paid well. Same applies to art gallery exhibitions.