Artist is a term used to describe a very broad range of people. Originally the term was limited to painters and sculptors but it has changed over the years to incorporate any creative medium; be it painting, sculpting, writing or even gangster rapping!
Most people probably still think in terms of an artist being someone who creates art i.e. pieces that are displayed in an art gallery. Again, this term has changed quite radically from the time of Leonardo da Vinci. Artists are not merely confined to paintings. Art is much more conceptual, as Tracey Emin's renowned 'My Bed' demonstrates, and art can now be found all over big cities outside of galleries.
Most people become artists due to the apparent "freedom" the medium grants them. An artist is often their own boss and sets their own hours and work schedule. However, they still have to eat and pay the bills and so are still bound by certain restrictions.They generally live off of "commissions" where someone pays them an agreed amount to create a piece of art for them. Here, they must be able to work to the direction of a client and get the work finished on time. An artist is often given more time than a regular employee and often deadlines are not quite as strict as in other professions. An artist must be creative and have a head full of ideas. Another, often overlooked, part of this job is being able to manage one's finances. An artist is often their own boss and so must not lack for basic mathematical skills at least.