There seems to be a commonly held misconception among ‘non-creatives’ that it’s very difficult to make any money from art.
In fact, there is a wide variety of ways in which you can make money as an artist. Lori McNee has compiled a list of the top 10 ways for artists to make money, most of which are based on selling your art.
These are great tips for established artists, but what I want to share here are some alternative artistic money-making ideas which might be more realistic options for someone just starting out down a creative career path. Some may seem obvious to you, and some you may already be doing, but I hope you can get at least one new idea for creating an extra source of income from your art.
1. Sell Prints of Your Work
The obvious way to make money is to sell your artwork itself, but it can also be very lucrative to sell prints of your work to earn a little passive income.
I used to avoid this as the hassle of getting prints made and delivered wasn’t worth the relatively small amount of income involved, but now modern technology has reduced the hassle factor, so that you can sell prints of your work without lifting a finger.
Services like RedBubble let you upload your artwork images for people to buy online as prints. RedBubble charges a base price for each type of print they offer, and you can then decide on a markup percentage, which you get to keep whenever a print is sold. All orders and shipping are handled by RedBubble, so once your image is uploaded you literally don’t have to do a thing.
Sure, prints will sell for a fraction of the price of your original artwork and you only get a small percentage of the sale cost, but surely that’s better than nothing when there’s zero effort on your part.
2. Take it to the Streets
Have you ever seen the incredible pavement drawings of Julian Beever? Julian spends days on end in busy city centres drawing on the floor to create amazing 3D illusions.
If your art is something that you don’t mind doing in front of other people, then why not let people watch you at work, and take donations from people who like what they see?
I had a caricature of myself drawn by a street artist years ago. It was shockingly bad, but I still gave the guy his £10 and he had a long queue of customers waiting for their turn.
I would just suggest that you check with your local authorities before you set up your street stall, as you may need to get permission and sign a contract before you can start drawing in the streets.
3. Teach an Online Course
Teaching is another obvious career choice for artists, especially if they like the ‘security’ of being employed and getting a regular salary.
But to teach in a school (in the UK), you would need to get your QTS (qualified teacher status), which takes several years of study, and then you have to find a job, which is no mean feat!
But what if you could create your own teaching job, which required no formal qualifications, and you could teach from the comfort of your own home?
That’s exactly what Paul Moyse did when he created his Advanced Caricature course. Paul created an entire curriculum to teach the art of caricature through video tutorials and demonstrations. Students can enrol on the course and they will be given personal tuition and feedback on homework assignments, just like a regular college course.
The big advantage here is that the course content is in digital format, so Paul also offers a cheaper ‘without tuition’ option, where students can watch all the videos, but they don’t get personal tuition from Paul. This means there is no limit to the amount of students who can take the course simultaneously, so in theory there is no limit to the amount of income the site can generate.
If you like the idea of teaching your own course, but you don’t want to have to manage it all yourself, another option is to teach a course for an online art school.
Schoolism.com offer a wide range of art courses (I took Jason Seiler’s caricature course a few years ago and it was awesome!) If you think you could create a great art course, why not get in touch with them and offer your services?
4. Create a Membership Site
This is still on the teaching theme, but instead of selling an entire course for a one-off fee, you charge people a monthly subscription to join, and then you continue to provide valuable content to them on an ongoing basis.
This kind of service has the advantage of providing ongoing monthly income, but on the other hand, you need to make sure you can continue to deliver great value every month, or people will unsubscribe.
Matthew Archambault offers monthly or annual subscriptions to Drawing Tutorials Online, where there is a ton of resources to help you learn to draw, and there are more lessons added each month.
5. Write a Book
If you want to teach people, but you don’t fancy making videos or giving personal tuition, how about writing a book?
You could write A Guide to Sculpture for Complete Beginners, or The Complete Guide to Wedding Photography, or possibly a series of shorter books on different aspects of your artistic field.
Hang on! Isn’t it ridiculously difficult and expensive to get a book published these days?
Again, modern technology comes to the rescue, as you don’t need to worry about getting accepted by a publisher, or shipping and storage problems, or any of the hassles that come with traditional book publishing. Now it’s incredibly cheap (possibly free) and easy to create an eBook.
The basic method is to write all your content in a word processor, save it as a PDF, and upload it to a site like e-junkie, where anyone can pay to download it. You choose your price and e-junkie charges a very small monthly fee (starting at $5).
The beauty of selling eBooks is their incredibly high profit margin. There are no direct production costs once you’ve written the book, and no shipping costs, so every penny you make in sales is yours to keep.
For a great guide to creating your own eBook, get Pat Flynn’s free eBook(!) eBooks The Smart Way.
6. Throw a Party
My girlfriend enjoys making crafty things, and last weekend, a friend of ours threw a craft party at her house, where they invited people round to buy some of the things they had been making for the past few months.
They expected to sell a few bits and pieces, but they had no idea how successful it would be. Within half an hour almost everything had been snapped up, and they had plenty of orders for custom made items. You can read more about the party on their blog.
Now the success of this party may be down to the relatively low price point of the goods. I doubt you could throw a ‘fine art party’ and expect all the paintings to sell like hot cakes, but the concept could certainly be applied to other areas.
7. Write a Blog
This is a huge topic, and probably deserves a post of its own, but writing a blog is one of the best ways to earn more money as an artist.
There are tons of reasons why blogging is a good idea for artists. Check out this post on EmptyEasel by Dan on the top 9 reasons every artist should have an art blog.
But where does the money come from?
Glad you asked. There are a few different ways to earn money by writing a blog, some better than others.
As Dan mentioned in his article, writing a blog can increase your art sales. If you regularly publish interesting blog posts, then people are more likely to link from their sites to yours, tweet about you, and generally spread the word that you write great content. The more people who visit your site, the more sales you are likely to make.
The same applies if you have written your own ebooks. Blogging is the best way to promote your books to your audience.
An alternative which is very popular in the blogging community is affiliate marketing, where you sell other people’s books and products on your blog, and they give you a commission for every item you sell. This is great for digital products because the production costs are so low that most merchants are happy to pay large commissions, often 50% or even more.
My only advice on affiliate selling is to be careful what you promote. I generally only promote stuff that I have read or used myself, so that I can honestly guarantee that there is value in it. If you start promoting any old crap on your site, then people will lose trust in your recommendations, and ultimately you will alienate your followers.
The final way to make money on a blog is through pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Adsense. Personally I don’t recommend pay-per-click for bloggers who want to build a loyal following. The amount you can earn from it is very small unless your blog gets enormous amounts of traffic, and the value to your readers is negligible. For more on why Adsense sucks, (and a load of other inspirational advice) read Chris Guillebeau’s free manifesto, 279 days to overnight success.
Whether you write a blog about your art itself and your artistic journey, or an art-related blog like this one, and whether you are trying to increase your art sales, or sell your own or someone else’s ebooks or products, the number one thing to remember is to write great content that will provide value to your readers. If you think you can be a successful blogger by writing mediocre, low-value content, you haven’t read this.
For more information on creating a successful blog, read Make Your Art Blog Matter.
8. Get Your Kit Off!
Ok, this one is a long shot, but might be worth considering if you’re not shy about your body. Sometimes if you’re just starting out, you might not be generating enough sales to meet your minimum survival budget, so you might have to think about getting part time work to pay the bills.
If you’re having to look for work, you probably want to find something art-related, so that even though you’re not actually working on your own art, you can still be in an artistic environment and you’ll get chance to mingle with other artists.
Most university art departments and art colleges will hold regular life drawing sessions, and they are often looking for new models to provide a range of different bodies for their students to draw. Why not get in touch with your local art school and ask if they need any models.
I go to a local life drawing session most weekends and they are always looking for new models. And a lot of the models are also artists. When they’re not modelling, they’re sitting in front of the model drawing with the rest of us! I think the models there get £30 for a two hour session, so the money is not bad. You may get more if you already have some experience.
And if you’re up for posing for a larger audience, there are a growing number of online life drawing resources, such as Life Drawing Poses. You’d probably need to find one based in your area, but if there is one, it might be worth getting in touch.
I hope this list has provided you with some idea of how you might earn some extra income from your artistic ability. Just remember that anything that provides value to someone can be exchanged for money. What can you do that people will find value in?
Do you have any other unusual ideas for earning money as an artist? Please share them in the comments below.