How to Make Money as an Artist

Posted on 24 Apr 14:33

 

So you're an artist, and you want to make money from your art.

As artists, we all dream of earning a living from our art — and with some hard work, we can achieve it! 

 

 

Here is a list of 10 ways to turn your talent into dollars!

Some of these possibilities may fit your lifestyle and capacity better than others — and pretty much all of it involves a hustle. But having done most of what's on this list myself, I'd say the hustle is worth it.

Besides, sometimes as artists we are not given the option not to make art. ;)

 

1. Sell your work through galleries

 

 

The main advantage here is that you just have to make the art... you don't have to worry about the business side of it (the gallery will take care of that for you). The downside of using a gallery is that they will usually receive a 50% commission from your sales. 

Some people feel intimidated by the prospect of getting in with a gallery, but it's easier than most people think. When choosing a gallery to exhibit with, remember that locations in urban centres will always have the best markets. 

Check out @kristofirdean as an example of a very successful artist selling work through galleries. 

 

 

 

 

2. Sell your work through Instagram

 

 

 

Fine-tuning your Instagram account is a great way to begin marketing your art for sale. Simply start by posting as frequently as possible with artwork that feels like it belongs to a single body of work, and then field sales inquiries as they come into your DM. 

Instagram is a great place to offer a narrative about your work and allows your viewers to form a deeper understanding of who you are and what you do. Showing your process can also really help viewers connect with your work. Artist @callenschaub does a great job of showcasing his unusual proprietary process through Instagram to make sales. 

 

 

Instagram is also a great way to drive traffic to your other points of sale, such as your personal website, a gallery you're exhibiting in, or an upcoming art show. 

 

 

 

3. Sell your work through your website 

 

 

 

Having a personal website is a MUST for selling your art. This website will serve as a home base for people to find you as you will want to connect all your other online presences back to this site. 

When you sell art from your own website, you don't pay a commission, and you can build an email list that will help you communicate directly with your audience. Many people will likely need to encounter your work a few times before they commit to making a purchase. 

It's a good idea to offer some kind of incentive for signing up to your email list. For example, when you sign up for our email list on ArtResin.com, we provide a free how-to guide for beginners. Send out regular emails with news and updates—1 per month is usually a good schedule—to keep your business in the minds of your potential customers. 

Building this website doesn't need to be complicated. You can use pre-made templates from intuitive platforms like Wix or Squarespace to create a simple and effective page. 

 

  

 

 

4. Sell your work through art shows

 

 

Once you have built an inventory of art pieces, you can take your work to public art shows. Shows are great because they give you a ton of exposure and can translate directly into sales. You can use this face-to-face time to direct potential customers back to your website, Instagram, and mailing list. 

Art shows are usually set up in public spaces where people can view your work casually. This makes it a unique place to capture the attention of people who might not otherwise come across your art as many people aren't comfortable frequenting a proper art gallery.  

The only downside to art shows is that it's a ton of work to cart everything around from place to place. But the sales will make up for all of that!

Artist @lorieslaterfoto does as many shows as she can as they work for her as a photographer. 

 

 

  

5. Sell your art through Amazon Handmade and Etsy

 

 

 

There are several popular platforms like Amazon Handmade and Etsy that draw a lot of traffic and allow you to sell your art. People who visit these sites come with the intent to buy, so you will likely reap more sales on a site like one of these. 

The downside is that these sites usually take a 15% commission, and you can't build up your email list from customers on these platforms. On the other hand, they are quite easy to set up, and the commission may be well worth it because of how much traffic these sites bring to your work. 

 

6. Sell reproductions of your work

 

 

 

Building an inventory takes so much time and energy, and when you sell that work, you have to work even harder to build it up again! Reproductions offer a way to work smarter, not harder. 

 In conjunction with selling your original pieces, you can also sell prints of your original work. Search for giclee printers near you, as well as printers that will put your work on pillows, phone cases, leggings, bags, etc. Some examples of businesses that do this are ArtsyShark.com, Society6.com and Printful.com. Reproduction items will sell for a fraction of the value of the original. However, this method allows you to retain the original and still put money in your pocket! 

 

 

7. Turn your art into a book or greeting cards

 

 

 

This is another form of residual income from reproductions—you just need to find a printer that will print cards or books on demand, such as createspace.com. I wrote and illustrated a kids' book and sold each copy for $15. Ultimately I made more money selling many inexpensive books than the most money I had ever made off of one painting.

If you're curious... the book was based off my multicultural students from back in the day when I taught grade six; I painted realistic portraits of 18 kids and wrote a narrative that spoke to equity and diversity. Titled, The Cutest Face, my book can be purchased here

 

 

8. Sell the rights to your original art to a publisher

 

You know all that pre-fab art you see at homeware retailers like HomeSense or Ikea? Someone made that art and sold the rights so the store could mass produce it. My friend @heathersinnottart has made a good living this way. I've even seen her reproduced art on display at The Brick (a local furniture chain) which was pretty cool. 

 

 

 

9. Rent out your art

 

 

Set designers often rent out art for the shows they are working on. The standard rate is 20% of the total value of your art PER WEEK. This means you can make a chunk of money of your artwork and still retain the work to sell at a later date. If you rent it indefinitely, you have cash flow without having to trade your hours for dollars—the art makes money for you! 

 

If you want to get started this way, reach out to galleries and museums in your area to see if they have a similar program. Artist @callenschaub earned a lot of notoriety by renting out a mural size painting through the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

 

 

10. Market your process—put together a course!

 

You can also make money from your knowledge about your technique. You can charge interested patrons to learn your trade secrets by setting up a course on a platform such as Thinkific. It takes some time to set these courses up, but once you do so you'll receive residual revenue as you continue to run that course into the future. 

 

Artist @janelovesdesign offers e-courses for her techniques. She sees her courses as one of many streams of income in her diversified portfolio. Check out our interview where Jane and I speak about the business of being an artist. 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, making art should be something that you do for the love of it. Making money off your artwork just allows you to invest more of your time into doing what you love!