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How to Make Money as an Artist

Money should not rule our lives but be a tool to help us reach our long-term goals. 

Wouldn’t you agree? Many artists would. 

They’d rather spend their time honing their skills instead of wondering how to make money as an artist. 

But cash is king. It’s popular to assume that making money with art doesn’t always assure financial stability. But if you’ve heard of artists making more than millions, then you know there is enough money for everyone out there. 

Making money as an artist would require you to go beyond just selling your art. At this point, you should be branching out and creating multiple streams of income for yourself. 

And the following ideas will help you do just that.

Adopt a success mindset (You don’t have to be a starving artist!)

It’s time you start considering yourself a business owner. Act like one

Bill Gates, the billionaire, recommends a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Succes, basically re-iterating the idea, ‘When you look at things differently, the things you look at change.’

It’ll be in your best interest to research and come up with the best business ideas to run yours. Discard the notion that marketing or selling your art isn’t appropriate for artists. 

At the end of the day, every artist needs exposure to get recognized. And it won’t happen unless you put yourself out there. 

Making money as an artist could be a struggle unless you have someone experienced to advise you. That’s why we called up Antrese Wood for some advice. 

She’s the host of The Savvy Painter and has worked both as an art director for a major video game company and as a professional artist who has sold hundreds of paintings. She sheds some light on the struggles artists face and ways one can make money as an artist.

“Starving artist syndrome is a very ingrained thing in the art world,” Wood explains. “Some artists think it’s sleazy if someone even considers marketing themselves or trying to sell their art.”

This screams hypocrisy!

Wood further adds, “Artists are very conflicted by it. We’re being told through the artistic community and culture that selling your art is dirty. And yet, at the same time, what artists want most is to be recognized. They want people to see their work and ‘get it.’ The only way that happens though is when people are able to buy it.

It’s frustrating to hear sometimes. You spend all of your time complaining about how nobody wants to buy your work and yet at the same time you’re talking about selling your work as if it’s the most debasing, horrible thing in the world.”

You need to understand you’re building a business. And like any other business, a lot of the work you put into it won’t be sexy and it won’t be romantic.

She continues, “That includes marketing yourself, putting yourself out there, and generally doing all the boring stuff that doesn’t happen magically. It’s not dirty. And it’s not beneath you.”

So how does one market their art? First, figure out what is it that you can offer. 

Find your artistic niche

What are you the best at?  And what else can you offer besides making good art? An individual can possess multiple talents. If you are a painter, you are most likely capable of creating wall art. Perhaps, you could be a good photographer or a master of Adobe illustrator. Let’s touch on a few areas you can pursue:

Fine art

Fine art includes art pieces that hold profound meaning and aesthetic beauty.  Fine art includes:

  • Paintings
  • Mosaics
  • Architecture
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Conceptual art

Wood says, “The fine artists are artists who are more in the luxury business, so to speak. They set out to create paintings, sculptures, and other works of art for patrons, and typically work with galleries and aspire to be in museums.” 

If you want to go into fine art, you should already have an idea of what your medium is, whether it’s painting, sculpting, or photography.

No matter which you choose only good work will get good jobs, good opportunities, and good money.

It might seem obvious but people sometimes forget this when they jump into a creative pursuit.It seems so obvious but you have to spend time developing your craft and creating work that you’re proud of,” she says. 

“You need to be super proud of it. You can’t just put crap out into the world and expect people to like it.”

“It’s great for the mindset too,” she says. “If you’re doing work you’re excited about, you’re going to be motivated to keep on doing it.”

Commercial art

It’s an art that’s specifically created for media, advertisements, or entertainment. Commercial art is used for promoting and selling products, services, and entertainment. Basically, it’s art sold for commercial purposes. 

“A commercial artist is someone who works for hire,” Wood explains. “That can mean anybody from people who provide storyboards for the entertainment industry to people who do illustrations for magazines or books, to people who design t-shirts for example.”

Check out what all you can do as a commercial artist:

Advertisement art

This type of art is used for the purpose of marketing and promotion of products and services. Paintings, posters, billboards, designs, illustrations, sketches, or memes can be used in various advertisements. Your art can be used to promote movies, shows, albums, plays, musicals as well.

Decorative art

Decorative designs are painted on ceramics, glassware, furniture. Floral prints are used in the production of rugs and carpets, tapestry. Jewelry art and decorative pieces can also be included under decorative art. If you are an artist that is good with floral or exotic designs, you can excel in decorative art.

Fashion art

Fashion art includes designing clothes and fabrics to making trendy visual art for T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. If fashion interests you, this is something you should look into.

Animation and illustrations 

Animation companies are always in need of good artists. Possess the talent of a cartoonist? Take this up.

Game art

Similar to animations, the gaming industry thrives on artists and animators. Character designs, scenery, and creating other elements for a game could be your next gig.

Wall art or grafitti

There is a high demand for interior wall designs or graffiti in hip places or restaurants and cafes with a modern touch and even homes. There are high chances of making a good income with such gigs.

Graphic design

By creating logos, choosing fonts, selecting specific colors that represent everything a brand stands for. Graphic designs are used for creating:

  • Posters
  • Banners
  • Brochures
  • Merchandise design
  • Customized imagery
  • Infographics
  • Magazine ads

You can help brands create their visual identity. Graphic designing is surely one of the best ways an artist can start making good money in a small amount of time.

Find paying customers

Everyone you come across can be a potential buyer or know someone looking for artists just like you. Word spreads faster than you think. And people tend to remember frequent faces. Finding clients can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.

“Go to the shows,” she says. “Show your face. Be memorable. Leverage the social skills you need in any business to help you network. Find ways to stand out and be helpful.”

“[Something] you don’t do is that you never EVER go to an art opening and try to approach the gallery with your own work,” she says. “You’ll just look like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet.”

Another important tip is: Make use of social media to connect with people in the creative field. Don’t just send them a friend request or a follow. Make sure to strike up a conversation and compliment them on their art. Keep the conversations going.

To find some clients, you can always check Craigslist. Or head on over to industry-specific job boards online. These will definitely help you find clients that are looking for your services.

For freelancers, here are a few with an arts and media focus that can help you get started:

  • MediaBistro.com An awesome job board for finding media-specific jobs.
  • 99designs.comGood for finding graphic design or illustration work. The site has paid out over $200 million to its community of designers.
  • Designs.net Allows you to place your work on its marketplace where potential clients can find and pay you for your work.
  • Behance.com Another great site with a comprehensive job board for graphic designers and illustrators.
  • DesignerNews.comA massive community of designers with plenty of opportunities to find freelance gigs.

Decide your rate

When it comes to deciding your prices, it may get confusing. You might want to listen to what Wood has to say:

“I think artists who are just starting out and aren’t familiar with the market yet tend to either price their pieces too low or too high,” she says.

“The simplest way to do it is to be brutally honest with yourself and evaluate your own work,” she says. “For me, I know who paints like I do, who has a similar skill set, where they’re showing, what kind of galleries they’re in, and then you go and look where they’re showing their work and how much they’re selling it for.”

“If your skillset is close to that person but they’re in the top gallery in New York and they’ve had six solo shows and you haven’t, you can’t price your work the same as theirs,” she explains.

Work for art galleries and magazines 

Try to get an art job at the galleries or marketplaces. Enquire if they are looking for people to curate, sell or promote their art. 

Apply! 

Volunteer for internships or traineeships.

The Museums Association (MA) website offers information on volunteering and internships. There are contact details of over Two-thousand institutions in their museums and galleries yearbook.

Working at galleries you not only gain experience but also, money. You get to meet new people in the industry and expand your market knowledge, attracting new opportunities at the same time.

If you happen to be good at writing or photography, working for an art magazine would be a good side hustle. Working at such places will be a good way to familiarize yourself with people in the industry and also promote yourself to the right crowd. Start submitting your art to various art magazines and send cold pitches to their editors.  

Do not quit your day job (just yet) 

As an artist, working a desk job would be the most soul-sucking experience. It’s tempting to hand in your resignation. But are you sure you’d want to do that just yet?

“When they start selling their work, it is tempting to quit. They think ‘If I can sell X with a full-time job, I could 10X that if I just had more time to paint. I need to quit my job.’ 

Makes sense? 

What they don’t understand is what happens in their heads when they no longer have a steady paycheck. 

Even if they were smart and put cushion money aside, the mindset inevitably shifts from ‘I’ll create the best painting I can, if it doesn’t sell right away, it doesn’t really matter’ to ‘I worked hard for that savings and every day I don’t sell, I’m a day closer to losing it all. This painting HAS to sell.’

“Keep your job,” she says. “Take a ‘pay cut’ and live only off the profits from your art. Can you pay all your bills? Are you comfortable? In the meantime, set your regular paycheck to automatic deposit into a savings account. 100% of it. 

When you can live off the sales of your art for three months without dipping into that savings account, you can quit your job. And congratulations, you have an extra three months of savings!”

How to make money as an artist without selling artwork

Create an online course or an Ebook

Might take you a while and a lot of dedication to create a whole course or even write an Ebook. But it’s a great source of generating passive income. Promoting courses and Ebooks online is easier and the right people will find your work. You can use platforms like Skillshare or How Now to publish your course.

Make a youtube channel 



Making videos describing your art or even sharing your creative process while working on a piece can result in a huge fan following. 

Aesthetic videos online get all the hype. By making creative and alluring videos you create a fan base, you make money and you get the perfect exposure. 

You could also start teaching your viewers everything you know about art. Making video courses, tutorials and publishing them on online platforms also is a great way to generate huge amounts of passive income.

Create a blog and a portfolio

Creating a portfolio and a blog takes your credibility higher. It makes you look more professional and makes it easier for people to find you and your artwork across search engines. 

It’s a great way of letting clients find you, check out your work, and remember you for further business.

Use social media

Never underestimate the power of social media. Because once your art gains even a bit of traction online, you start getting sponsorships and work from various brands and companies. There are various artists that gained success using social media platforms. Some pointers: 

  • Post high quality attractive and trendy posts
  • Stick to a daily uploading schedule
  • Interact with your audience
  • Use paid promotion 

Email marketing

Another great way to make money online is to reach out to potential clients yourself. Research and make a list of all prospects. Find out their email id, and send an introductory email their way:

CLIENT’S NAME,

I saw your post on X and visited your website. I noticed that you’ve been looking for a video editor.

I’ve been doing video editing for three years and I’d like to offer to help you edit your videos and get them optimized for the web.

That would make them look more professional and load faster, which is important for your readers. And you’d free up time that you could use to create new content.

We can discuss the details, of course, but first I wanted to see if this is something you might be interested in.

If so, would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how to help?

Best,

XYZ

This is a GREAT introductory email script because it’s simple, direct, and sells the clients on the benefits of working with you.

Of course, you’re going to want to mold it for your specific hustle.

And for a more comprehensive summary of how you can start a successful freelance hustle, be sure to check out these two articles on the topic:

How to make extra money on the side

6 ways to get your first client

How to make a living as an artist

It’s not a walk in the park to make a living as an artist, you know that by now. But what you are is a business owner, so you need to embody that. No businesses start out great, the profits come in after months and months of hard work and patience. And when they finally arrive you’ll be thanking yourself forever. 

To summarize, you can make good money by taking up art jobs, working at galleries, and art magazines. Also by networking efficiently and working hard to find clients. You own a business so learn how to run your business.  Adding to all that, the online world offers numerous opportunities for artists to thrive. 

It’s safe to say it has never been easier for artists to get a following, get clients, build a fanbase, attain fame and make money. With the strategic use of online platforms,  earning and sustaining wealth becomes a reality. Of course, all of this only comes with effort and patience.

And if you’re ready to put in the work into becoming a successful artist and earning more money, we have something for you that will change your perspective towards money.

Our Ultimate Guide to Making Money includes some of the best strategies to:

  • Create multiple income streams so you always have a consistent source of revenue.
  • Start your own business and escape the 9-to-5 for good.
  • Increase your income by thousands of dollars a year through side hustles.

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