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1. How to make money as an artist: Nine top ideas

How to make money as an artist: 9 profitable methods

Some people create art as a hobby or passion project, while others want to utilize their talents and creativity and turn them into cold hard cash.

If your hobby has become something more significant and you're curious about how to make money, we're here to tell you that you can build a profitable business as an artist!

You don't have to be a starving artist; with the ideas and suggestions in this post, you can leverage your artistic skills and build a multi-revenue business you are passionate about.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Selling art online is a multi-faceted approach for most professional artists.

  • Art fairs and contests are beneficial ways to network, connect with other artists, and increase visibility in the community.

  • Many artists use passive income streams to make consistent money so they can pursue other creative projects.

How to make money as an artist: Nine top ideas

As an artist, you may brainstorm new ways to make money with your art to grow your business, gain financial freedom, and continue doing what you love. Here are our top 9 ideas to make money as an artist.

1. Selling original art pieces

selling art pieces

Every artist creates original art pieces, and some prefer to sell them over saving them. If you aren't attached to your original art the way some artists are, selling it to buyers who appreciate and marvel at your talent can be a dream come true for many artists.

The challenge of selling original art pieces is that it takes time to build connections in the community and make a name for yourself. Networking is an effective way to grow your visibility, but it takes time, and until you're a local or internationally-known artist, you have to pay the bills somehow.

2. Selling commissioned art

Commissioned art is created when an artist is approached or connected with a customer who has an idea of artwork they want to buy; they just need an artist to create it.

Many artists charge higher rates for commissioned art because the customer is getting a custom product and the artist is following (to an extent) their vision and guidelines for the piece. Some artists thrive in this scenario, while others struggle without full creative freedom.

Suppose you complete a few commissioned pieces and yield happy customers. In that case, you can build a profitable branch of your art business through commissions and advertise those services on your website or social media platforms to bring in more business.

For your creative process and development as an artist, creating your original art is still important, but commissions are great for visibility and your wallet.

3. Teaching art

To monetize your artistic skills, teaching art through an online course or a YouTube channel is a lucrative way to leverage your art education and experience and pass it on to others.

Teaching art establishes your credibility in the industry and can help you build connections with other artists, define your target audience, and make money online.

Start an art YouTube channel

Choose a niche to share your knowledge with, then start filming. You can create YouTube art tutorials offering a step-by-step guide for beginners wanting to learn a new skill.

Monetizing a YouTube channel can happen after you hit 1,000 subscribers and generate 4,000 hours of watch time (videos and other media content). Then you can apply to the YouTube partner program to monetize your channel through ads, member subscriptions, Super Chats, and more.

Create an online art course

Many artists opt to create online courses that teach people how to draw, paint, sketch, sculpt, and many other art forms. Online course platforms like SkillShare and Teachable allow artists and other creators to showcase their skills for a very generous fee.

However, online courses must solve a real problem for their target audience to sell. Whether your niche is "Sketching 101" or watercolor specifics, it's essential to carve out your identity and what value you bring to the table. If you're a graphic designer, you could create a course on graphics for beginners or how to use Photoshop and other design software.

Creating online courses is a lot of time and effort upfront, but the payout can be cost-effective in the long term. You'll also learn valuable skills like website coding, shooting, editing video, and talking to an audience (even if no one is in the room with you).

Once you create the course, you can sell it on your own website and promote it through your social media platforms. This can be another fruitful passive income stream because once you create and launch the course, you'll have to do minimal work while the course will continue to sell and bring in a profit.

4. Selling at art fairs

selling art fairs

An art fair is often compared to a trade show in that it brings many like-minded individuals to the same place, even if they're in different phases of the buying process.

Art fair opportunities

At art fairs, art dealers, curators, and potential clients usually look for the next unique artwork to hang in their homes or curate for their clientele. It's an excellent place for artists to sell art, but you have to make an effort to participate.

Because of the demographic, art fairs are an effective strategy to sell your fine art and make money as an artist. Art fairs are great for networking opportunities; you'll meet many fellow artists to connect with, owners of local art galleries, curators, and more.

Art fairs' drawbacks are that they present a limited audience, usually on a local scale, that may need more time to be ready to purchase art that day and just come to browse. Art fairs require a lot of physical effort and time to travel to the location, set up a booth, interact with people all day, tear the booth down, and drive home.

If you plan to attend 2 to 3 art fairs annually, this can be a very profitable strategy to make additional money. Art fairs shouldn't be your sole revenue stream, but one of many.

5. Entering art contests

For emerging artists, art contests are a great way to increase your visibility in the community, get your name out there, promote your style, and start to sell art.

When attending art competitions and contests, you can network with fellow artists, meet gallery owners and curators, and entrench yourself in the local art community. The more you participate in contests, the more you'll create consistent work and improve your artistic talent.

Challenges of art contests

Art contests can also be discouraging if you never win the prize or receive the acclaim you need to feel successful as an artist. Some artists need more motivation or creativity after attending an art contest and not getting the desired outcome. Some art contests also require a fee to enter, which can add up, especially if you are traveling to attend.

6. Licensing your art

Licensing your artwork is where you create an original piece of art and then sign an agreement with a manufacturer that can then print your art on any of their products for a fee.

While licensing isn't a big money maker, artists often use this as passive income to commission other projects and sell art online. When supplemented with additional revenue streams, licensing can be a nice cushion for every artist.

Before you can license your art, you will need to get the copyrights to your work, which can be done through the US Copyright Office. Most manufacturers require a copyright certificate before signing a licensing deal with any artist. Receiving this certificate can take up to eight months, impeding an artist's licensing deal.

7. Selling physical art prints

selling physical art prints

If you're looking into selling prints online, a print on demand supplier can help propel your art business to the next level while saving you a lot of upfront costs on inventory.

Here's how it works:

  1. You add your art prints to your online store

  2. Customers purchase your art prints

  3. The print on demand supplier then prints, fulfills, and ships each order

It's that seamless, providing an excellent customer experience while saving you time and money on holding and managing inventory, dealing with shipping, and more.

Print on demand services can be used to create beautiful physical art prints, from ready-to-hang posters to canvas or wood prints. The supplier you choose should offer the paper and product quality you feel comfortable selling to your customers, as it directly reflects on you as a professional artist.

8. Selling digital art

Many artists who want to avoid parting with their original artwork opt to sell digital artwork through a platform like an Etsy shop or an ecommerce store.

Use an online platform

Using an online marketplace like Etsy or a website like Shopify that allows prospective clients to purchase your artwork are highly profitable ways to make good money as an artist.

Think about why - you only have to create something once, and you can sell it repeatedly without much more effort. Selling art online is very different from creating an original piece for a client.

Selling digital art allows the artist to be more hands-off, but the main downside is you're responsible for driving traffic to your ecommerce store or shop. Artists must push their art marketing consistently to get their target audience to their website or marketplace shop.

These platforms also take a percentage of your profits for each sale, which can quickly cut into the money you're making.

9. Printing your art on products

printing art products

Once you have a popular design that sells regularly, you can make passive income by adding the design to other products within your print on demand supplier's product catalog. If they're a legit POD supplier, they'll have many different products you can choose from.

Offer variety

Take Gelato, for example. While we emphasize our high-quality prints and posters, we also offer tote bags, apparel, phone cases, and more for our customers to use in their online stores.

Some customers may love your artwork printed and hung on their walls, while others want to carry it on a tote bag or a custom hoodie.

You'll find more success (and profit) as an artist by offering product customization so your customers can get exactly what they want from your shop.

Earn money from your art with print on demand

Whether you choose to work as a freelance artist, do commissions, or sell art online through an Etsy shop, the opportunities to make money as an artist are ample; you just need to lean into your creativity and determine where your passions lie in business, as well as art.

Artists looking to grow their businesses and make more money selling products should explore creating digital art and selling it online. With a print on demand supplier, the heavy lifting is minimal on the artist's end, and customers will receive high-quality prints and products of their unique creations.

Ready to earn money selling art online? Get started with Gelato's print on demand services to offer physical art prints and custom products with your art printed on them.

Making money as an artist FAQs

How do artists actually make money?

Promoting art is a full-time job, and artists have to be creative with how they make money to pay their bills, buy art supplies, and invest in their skill development and education.

Many successful professional artists make money through multiple income streams, like selling digital art, offering commissioned art projects, and teaching skills in art classes locally or online.

Every artist's goals and values are different, so their revenue streams are also unique.

How do you make a lot of money as an artist?

If selling art online is a business model you're open to, you can generate a massive income in this space. Art is one of the most profitable niches to sell online, with the industry projected to reach nearly $73 billion by 2028. Extend profits even further by adding your artwork to other products, like tote bags, coffee mugs, and calendars, for your customers to purchase in your online store.

To diversify your income as an artist, utilizing multiple business opportunities is an effective strategy to profit significantly from your existing skills and current artwork. If you love to educate others, offer courses and art tutorials that teach new skills.

Pair those ventures with a few art fairs throughout the year and run a POD business simultaneously, and you'll be amazed at how quickly your bank account grows.


Next steps

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