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Learning how to make money as an artist is definitely achievable, but it includes a lot of hard work and a long-term strategy.
In this article, I’ll outline exactly what I’ve learned about where to sell your art online, how to get new art clients, and lots more to help you build your revenue as an artist or creative. I’ve worked as a creative artist for years, and now I have compiled all my top advice and discoveries into this article and accompanying video to support you in your artistic journey.
14 Best Ways to Make Money as an Artist
Are you passionate, talented, and dedicated, but still wondering how to make money as an artist? There are several ways––and you don’t have to choose just one. If you get creative, you can have multiple streams of income. Whether you’re a part-time artist or a full-time freelance artist, there are plenty of ways to make money from your art. Here are a few of the best ways I’ve seen artists make a living:
Selling Your Art Directly to Consumers
In the old days, selling your artwork meant finding an agent or getting your pieces featured in a gallery. Luckily, it is much easier to make money as an artist in the digital age. There are multiple ways to go about selling your art directly. My best ideas are below to help you get started.
1. Sell your original pieces
You can sell paintings, sculptures or decorative items and jewelry through any website or e-shop. Some artists invest a lot of money into creating a fancy personal website. This works well if you have any established audience, or experience with and money to spend on marketing.
For those just getting started, it makes more sense to bring your work to an established online art marketplace, with thousands of clients and millions of visitors, instead of waiting for buyers to discover your fresh website portfolio with almost zero traffic.
Some of those platforms offer you the chance to have your art featured, which is a great promotion.
2. Sell prints
Original work can be sold at a high price point, but once it’s gone, you have to create something new. Selling prints gives you the opportunity to generate more sales at less money per piece. There are many online marketplaces offering artists a place to sell their art with print-on-demand, so the startup costs are next to nothing. Most print-on-demand sites will offer a variety of ways to sell your work, such as one T-shirts, buttons, stickers, or traditional prints.
3. License your art for stock websites
Graphic designers, illustrators, photographers or videographers you can license artwork for stock websites as a way to make passive income for artists.
Stock image sites have specific guidelines and criteria for accepting photos into their libraries. These requirements will vary, but a good rule is to ensure your images are extremely high quality, have a broad appeal and aren’t too specific, aren’t too heavily edited or stylized, and are diverse. You also need to ensure that any real people featured have signed a commercial release.
One way to get started is to search for trending topics, and create images surrounding those keywords.
4. Private commissions
A commission is when individuals or companies hire you to create art from scratch. They will generally tell you what they are looking for and give you some guidelines on sizing, colors, etc. Some will be more specific than others.
As a painter or illustrator, you can even get paid for street art and interior or exterior mural painting and design.
In this day and age, you can make money as an artist with a private community that your fans pay to be a member of. Patreon, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are all platforms that allow you to seek financial support from people who enjoy your work. Be sure to offer incentives at a range of price points so you cast a wide net.
Teaching and consulting
If you already have experience, you can help other aspiring artists to follow their dreams. Many people nowadays prefer to follow an online class or a webinar from their home, especially those who don’t have many local opportunities to attend a course.
There are several ways to teach, educate and consult people online as a freelancer.
6. Teach an online class or start a workshop
It’s not so easy to set up your own webinar or online class from day 1, but you can start by subscribing to some of them to see how it’s organized, or use an already established platform that offers online courses, like Skillshare.
7. Offer tutorials
If you’ve already built an audience who trust you through blogging or social media channels, you can start selling them tutorials in various forms: pdfs, videos and webinars.
Creating your own blog is one of the best marketing strategies to attract clients today, and sites like WordPress make it really easy.
This was the most successful decision in my career. You build trust and gain authority while you’re promoting your work. The trick is to write for your target audience, offering them what they’re looking for. Whether that’s graphic design, social media, photography, or arts, you can find a blog niche for you.
A blog that gets a lot of traffic can become a profitable business (this requires hard work and dedication), through ads, affiliate links and sponsors.
9. Create and sell an eBook
If you’re into blogging, this is the next step you’ll probably take, after building an audience. It’s much easier to promote and sell your eBook to people who already trust you and consider you as an expert.
10. Coaching and mentoring
Many creatives and artists are sharing their experiences through coaching and mentoring. You probably won’t start your career online as a coach, but if you get seriously involved in blogging or teaching, this is also a potential next step.
11. Consulting and art direction
Being more visually educated and informed about arts and design trends, you can advise individuals and companies on their creative process and artistic projects.
Working for the art industry
12. Work for online marketplaces or galleries
You can get valuable experience with the behind-the-scenes work, offering services like curating, selling or promoting art.
Apart from earning money, you open yourself to opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise.
This is a step you should take anyway if you’re dreaming of getting deeper into the art’s industry and not just selling your work.
13. Work for magazines and blogs
Writing articles, taking photos and doing art direction for the press and blogs is a fascinating way, not only to make money as an artist but also to make powerful connections and put your name in front of a broader audience.
If you find it extremely difficult to work for a blog or another website, I can assure you that it’s easier than you think. All you need is to be an active follower (that means commenting on their posts or connecting through online groups).
Most bloggers and website owners are likely to hire from their own audience of readers.
My personal experience: Millo was one of the first blogs I subscribed to almost 5 years ago when I knew nothing about blogging — 2 years later, having launched my own blog and website, I started writing for them!
14. Art Grants and Residencies
Some institutions like universities, museums, nonprofit foundations and even the government offer short or long-term funding to support artists in their creative endeavors. With a little research and a strong portfolio, you can apply for a variety of opportunities that could be life-changing. The competition for art grants and residencies can be tough, so it’s essential to present your work and ideas in the best possible light.
15 websites to sell your art online
For those looking to learn how to make money as an artist, there are several online art marketplaces to sell your work on and different ways to do it — only a small sample is listed here. I recommend you do your own thorough research to see which is the best fit for you.
These websites and platforms will offer everything you need to start selling as soon as you upload your pieces, although all charge a commission or an initial fee.
Painters, Illustrators, Sculptors, Photographers
Singulart is an online art and design gallery that exposes the work of over 12,000 artists to more than 3 million collectors through the platform’s newsletter, digital marketing, editorial content, and social media. By applying to Singulart, artists benefit from a dedicated Creator Care Team that guides them on every step, from shipping to administrative procedures.
With almost 250K monthly page views, 2.3M+ Social Followers and 94,000 artists from around the world, this is one of the most popular online galleries, to sell your paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculptures. They handle shipping, have a non-exclusive policy and charge a 35% commission. It’s an excellent site to sell your art online.
Another art market that offers 10,000 artists the chance to reach 500,000 subscribers around the world. You can sell original art including painting, prints, photographs, and sculptures with a 40% commission.
A curated online art gallery selling one-of-a-kind works by the top emerging artists in the world. You will have to apply and be accepted to exhibit on their site. There is a small application fee, and they charge a 50% commission.
Artplode is a high-quality online art gallery where dealers, artists, galleries and collectors buy and sell art with no commission charged. Artplode charges a low, one-off flat fee of $60 to advertise each artwork. The listing stays on the Artplode website until the seller removes it. You may also elect to pay extra to have your art included in one or more of their featured categories.
Photographers, graphic designers and illustrators
You probably already know it and even used their high-quality stock photos, vectors and videos. It’s not easy, however, to be accepted and have a fully active account.
Creative Market is an online marketplace for community-generated design assets. You can sell graphics, WordPress themes, stock photography, and other digital goods for use by web creatives. Creative Market has artists from all over the world, and more than 4 million purchasable items.
There are 3 ways to make money as an artist with Zazzle. The first is as a designer, publishing your designs on products, the second as a maker, selling your products, and the third as an associate, or by promoting your favorite products. This gives you multiple options to sell your art online and make money as an artist. If you choose to sell your designs, you get to set the commission rate (which changes the price), but there is a minimum of just 5% and a maximum that depends on what you are selling.
Using Society6, you will not only be able to transform your artwork into posters & prints but also phone cases, stickers, t-shirts, bedspreads and pretty much anything that can be printed. Similar to Zazzale, you make money as an artist through commissions. The standard rate is 10%, but you can raise that (marking up the price) in some cases.
Printful prints and sends your custom print designs to your customers on products such as t-shirts, posters, canvas, mugs etc.
Hands and Crafts artists
Etsy is a very popular e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies. These items cover a wide range, including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, food, bath and beauty products, quilts, knick-knacks, and toys. The site follows the tradition of open craft fairs, giving sellers personal storefronts where they list their goods for a fee of US $0.20 per item.
ArtFire is another online marketplace for handmade products, designed by artisans worldwide, with no listing or final value fees.
Photographers and videographers
A place to make money as an artist by selling stock imagery, Alamy claims to be fair, transparent and easy to work with and you get up to 50% of the sale. Your work has the potential to be seen by 110,000 buyers.
14. Vimeo on Demand
You can sell your videos on Vimeo, the famous high-quality video platform, for between $12 and $60/month, or try it free for 30 days.
Odds are, you have used Amazon to buy something at least once in your life! You can sell just about anything there — you can print and sell your book, DVD, or whatever you can imagine.
How to make money as an artist on Instagram and social media
No matter through which channel you showcase and sell your work, social media is the perfect tool for promotion and networking. Social media marketing can be a full-time job, but it’s worth the effort if you put in the time.
Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the most popular media for artists, but it’s up to you to find the place that makes sense for you and your goals.
Take some time to get used to the platform and see how things work before you start posting. Follow those who do it successfully to learn their secrets – some of them offer free webinars and ebooks.
A few basic tips to follow:
Post only high-quality images and interesting content
Don’t connect your name or brand with low-quality images, videos and irrelevant posts just for the sake of being there. If you don’t add value, educate or entertain your audience, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. Aim to have a cohesive look and feel that sets you apart.
Post often and consistently to build a following
One of the most important rules in social media marketing. It takes more than posting once a month to build a considerable following. Be in front of your followers’ eyes constantly, with gorgeous photos and compelling stories.
Generate traffic with paid ads
It’s extremely easy and affordable, even for a very low budget, to generate more traffic and boost your posts with paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. The two are tied together, so you only have to set it up once.
Link to your revenue stream
Remember, the entire purpose of your social accounts is to attract potential clients, so always remember to include links to purchase your work. You can link to a personal website, your art marketplace accounts, a print-on-demand store, or whatever feels most relevant. Instagram even allows you to sell directly through the platform, so be sure to set that up and maximize your sales.
Learn the basics of running a business as an artist
The reason many creative people never master how to make money as an artist is because they spend thousands of hours, late nights, weekends honing their artistic talent. But they spend very little time learning about what it takes to actually make money as an artist.
But since you’re here reading our article on making money as an artist, you are already a step ahead of other artists! Did you also know that you can sharpen your business skills with sites like Udemy—where there are literally dozens of business classes for incredibly low prices.
For example, there’s this course for $49. And this course is only $19! And there are many more. Courses like these are an investment in yourself and your business (and they count as a tax writeoff if you are self-employed).
Find your speciality
It’s very common for artists and creatives to have many skills and talents. You can be a passionate illustrator or painter who works as a graphic designer, or an architect who takes gorgeous photos.
You have more chances to successfully learn how to make money as an artist by selling something you’re really good at, or is in high demand.
For instance, you may find out that you can make more money teaching others than selling your own illustrations. Try selling courses on Fiverr for a low-stakes way to try out this concept.
I’d never imagined that writing posts for my blog would bring 90% of my clients to my architectural studio!
You may have to start with what pays the bills (like copying paintings, or curating art), even if that isn’t your true passion and be open; sometimes unexpected opportunities show us the right path to making money as an artist.
Choose your niche or invent a new one
There are no limits on how to make money as an artist nowadays, but one thing is necessary: you must find those who intend to buy what you offer. As a business owner, it’s important to make decisions based on what the market wants.
There are two options you can follow, each with its pros and cons, both requiring hard work and patience:
- You sell something people are buying already.
You know in advance that what you’ll offer is in demand. The disadvantage of an already established market is a huge competition, which requires much harder work, exquisite quality and a lot of promotion.
- You find a very specialized niche or you create something new and innovative.
In that case, you have to work harder in the beginning to attract clients, but you will stand out easily since there won’t be much competition.
Offering something unique and innovative was my choice, and I haven’t regretted it. I had to work really hard for almost three years before I started seeing results, but there’s still zero competition in the niche I “created.”
Develop your skills
Whether you’re just starting out or you already have a lot of experience in fine art, you have to keep practicing and honing your skills constantly, exploring new techniques and testing new tools.
Your talent is useless if you don’t work consistently, experimenting and developing your own style, while staying up-to-date with new trends and taking advantage of the latest apps, software and technology.
It’s also necessary to be productive and create a volume of work before you start selling.
Network, Network, Network
People who really understand how to make money as an artist understand the value of networking. Every person you meet can be a potential buyer or someone who can refer you to others. Art is an interesting subject, so many people are excited to discuss it with a painter, photographer or jewelry designer.
Grab the opportunity to talk about your work and make sure they’ll remember you by handing them your business cards or sending them your portfolio’s URL.
If you think that paper cards are outdated you’re wrong. When you are out talking to someone new, they don’t want to open their phone and check a link. And they won’t remember to do it later. Plus, business cards are a great way for artists to show a sample of your work.
Be imaginative and innovative, using postcards or photos for instance, instead of a classic business card. Using your creativity is one of the best ways to make money as an artist.
A successful tip I used to advertise my blog was to print simple but well-designed bookmarks with just my url. I gave them as a small gift to those who wanted to visit my blog – almost everybody I met!
Social media is also an excellent place for networking and connecting with professionals that are interested in art and are constantly looking for new talent or fresh content.
For more ideas, check out the post Adam Wright wrote covering every possible way to get clients quickly.
Determine your pricing
Whatever way you choose to make money as an artist, you’ll have to adjust your prices or rates several times before you figure out what works. This applies to freelancers in general — not just artists.
Artists have an advantage compared to other professionals, by being able to see what their competitors are charging. You can easily get a clear idea about your peers’ prices, just by visiting sites where their art is exposed.
However, the art market is complicated compared to other industries. The same piece of art can be too expensive or too cheap, depending on the artist’s “value” and timing. (Poor Van Gogh was not as good a marketer as Picasso or Dali.) Most people buy the artist, not the artwork.
Final tips on making money as an artist
Here are just a few more things to keep in mind as you work hard to make money from your art.
Be unique or amazing
Creating amazing pieces of fine art is not all it takes to make real money as an artist. But it’s a very good start.
If you do what everybody else does and you don’t do it perfectly, there’s not much of a chance of getting noticed.
Keep up to date with new trends and technology but don’t be a slave to them!
Develop your own style—honing your skills and improving every single day.
Cultivate the right mindset
Where most creatives fail is commitment and patience. They get easily disappointed and quit their plans and dreams, especially if they feel rejected.
As a freelance artist, you are more sensitive and vulnerable to criticism than other professionals, because through your work you express your feelings and reveal your inner self.
Your artwork will be exposed and judged — you can’t avoid it. Instead, develop a thick skin and be able to distinguish constructive feedback from negative and poisonous criticism.
Don’t take things too personally. The fact that somebody doesn’t like your creations does not necessarily mean you’re a failure. Art is subjective, so you have to find the right audience.
On the other hand, if nobody seems to like your drawings or photos, you might want to think about changing things up.
Be disciplined, organized and mindful of your expenses
Running your own creative business is amazing for the freedom it gives you, but it is likely that you’ll have a hard time making money as an artist at first.
When you start learning how to make money as an artist, you can outsource time-consuming tasks or things that don’t interest you on the business side to focus on your creative work, but when you’re just starting out, know that you have to wear many hats.
Improve your branding and presentation
Exposure is the first step of promotion — so make sure you do it professionally! First impressions are crucial, especially in the art industry — you want to impress your visitors, not only with your art itself but with an amazing presentation.
If you haven’t built your personal website yet (just don’t wait too long), you can showcase your work using platforms like Behance, Deviantart, Weebly or Dribble. Your portfolio must be up to date and have a decent and cohesive look and feel. Use only high-quality photos or graphics, choose the right color palette and typography, and use mock-ups of any kind to present your art professionally. Check out sites like Canva that can help you create quick and custom graphics for your social.
Choose your best, outstanding pieces to include in your portfolio website.
Connect with fellow artists/groups
When you are learning how to make money as an artist, having relationships with other artists is extremely helpful in many ways.
You can discuss and solve problems, you can get an expert’s feedback on your work, you can even collaborate, or send clients to each other.
If you feel isolated, social media groups (like Millo Mastermind) are great places to connect with the creative community, find support, learn tips and have access to useful resources from other fellow freelance artists.
Your talent alone isn’t enough to make money as an artist
In case you’re wondering how to make money as an artist, here’s a secret: you must stop thinking like a hobbyist and start acting like a business owner.
Although it seems easier than ever to go out there and show your art pieces, it’s also possible to get lost in the crowded, hyper-competitive web.
You need hard work, patience and the right strategy to get discovered by prospective clients, sell your artwork, and make money as an artist.
Even if you create masterpieces, they’ll probably remain locked in your warehouse (or your hard disk) if you don’t develop your marketing skills as well as your creative mastery.
Start making money as an artist
Don’t get disheartened. Many of us who now run an online business felt the same way in the beginning — lost and confused in the chaotic web.
Subscribe to the best blogs in your niche and start following fellow artists you admire.
You’ll learn a lot, not only by implementing what they advise you to do but by paying attention to how they do it. Don’t just look at their artwork and technique — see how they market themselves.
I won’t lie to you, the path to success is not easy and effortless. It takes hard work, patience, perseverance, discipline and a smart strategy to make money as an artist — but you can do it.
As soon as you start conceiving your art as a business and not just as a pleasurable hobby, you are well on your way to success!
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