Hey there happy artists, and welcome back to Kyle Heath art!
Today we're gonna talk about how to get that bread--that's right we're talking about making money.
The stereotype of the starving artist is so last year. There's never been a better time to be a thriving artist that makes a great living off art: especially because of the Internet.
in this post, I'm going to list 17 ways to make money off art. And you can be doing more than one of these--by my count I do 7 out of the 17.
Some of these very naturally flow into the others. Some of these ideas are traditional, some are brand new, some are pretty niche, but these are all ways people are making a living off art. And I bet some of these are just the right fit for you too!
I've organized them in a way I thought would be most interesting, and the last one is very special, so you'll want to stick around to the end!
So with that, let's get started!
1. Selling in a Gallery
This is the method of selling art that everybody knows about. It's what you immediately think of when you imagine being an established artist: being represented by a gallery.
Here's how the gallery system works: the gallery offers to sell your pieces in their brick-and-mortar location, and you and the gallery split the profits 50/50.
Now every gallery is different--some places will take 60%, some only take 30%. Some take a percentage and you pay a monthly fee for wall space. But the basic agreement is they take a sizable commission for selling your work to the public.
The amount of marketing the gallery does will depend too. Some galleries have relationships with local businesses or real estate groups, and can match your work up with interested buyers. Galleries may also market your work online or through their email lists.
Then on the other side of the spectrum, some galleries do none of that. They leave it up to you to market yourself and to draw people to their gallery to buy your artwork.
If this sounds like a mixed bag, you are dang right! There are some amazing galleries out there that make artists super well-known and successful, but if you're forking over 50%, you really want a gallery that has their stuff in order. Be warned, there are a lot of sleazy galleries out there too, ones that won't pay you or will disappear with your art.
There are also galleries that are honest, but may not do a ton to get your work out there. Every single one is different.
I'm a part of a gallery that is basically a non-profit. I pay for a wall space, but I earn a hundred percent of the profit off my work, but it's up to the artists to do most of the marketing to drive people to the gallery.
So a gallery may not be your one-stop marketing solution. A lot of artists don't want to market, they just want to make art, and they assume that a gallery is their one solution. But not every gallery is going to get you there, and the better they are, the more you're gonna pay.
2. Sell in Boutiques
Clothing boutiques. There's a hundred of them in every city, and lots of them sell much more than clothes. Many of them carry art crafts and jewelry. This could be a great candidate if you have prints or cards of your work.
Some of these places will buy your work wholesale, some may charge you for wall space and charge a commission, and other places may do consignment.
3. Sell Art Online
Selling your art independently online. This one in a lot of ways is the antithesis to the gallery system. In fact, some galleries do not allow you to compete with them by selling your own stuff.
But selling your art online has changed the game for artists, and has made making a living attainable for any artist with a little skill and a lot of hustle.
See, I'm not sugarcoating it for you guys! Building a business from scratch is no joke. But I know you're here because you love art enough to work hard. I have plans for tons of future videos that will guide you in building an art business, so join my email list if you haven't yet.
If you're selling online, you need a home base, and that's your website. Think of it as like a storefront, but you don't have to pay rent or electricity or employees to staff your store.
Getting people to your storefront is all on you, but the sky's the limit with the size your business can scale up - and listen, I know a lot of you guys are already getting anxious thinking about marketing! If selling online is something you want to try or grow, I'm gonna put out a video that simplifies marketing into something that will feel less intimidating and more doable.
Okay, wrapping up online selling, there are home bases other than a website that you could go for. Some artists sell their work on Amazon or eBay or Etsy.
These are called marketplaces, or third-party channels, because these sites are hosting other sellers. Selling on these sites requires paying a commission for your sales, usually between five to twenty percent, but it does solve some of the problem of finding an audience. Think of how many millions of people just subconsciously go to Amazon when they need anything.
There are also specialized art marketplaces that operate the same way. A couple examples are dailypaintworks.com & Saatchi.com.
4. Auction Off Your Work
This one is so related that I have to mention it here. Quite a few artists have made a living off eBay auctions of their pieces. Daily paint works does them too - some artists even do auctions starting off at one penny to drum up excitement!
The very first painting I sold was a penny auction. I was so curious about how it worked that I took my best painting at the time and listed it at the lowest starting price possible. I made $10.50 off that painting, and honestly, I was elated that I sold my first art piece and was now a professional artist!
So if you want to make more than $10.50, it's possible you'll actually want a following before you try this. Or maybe just be a better painter than I was back then.
5. Teach Art
Since time immemorial, artists have been teaching their craft in order to fund their passion. And a side benefit of this is when you teach, are you also get better at art, because you're internalizing all these art concepts as you try to figure out how to express them to people!
You also may find that you love teaching. I think I love teaching just as much as art. It's so fulfilling to come alongside another artist and help them grow, and then to see them flourish and improve thanks to your help. It's really addicting. In my case, it also really fires me up to get into the studio and create.
There are tons of different ways to teach art, especially now that we have the Internet. Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Internet! Internet! Internet! The Internet has opened up endless opportunities for artists.
And of course, there are traditional avenues too. Lots of galleries will hosts teaching spaces for evening classes. You may also have a local arts organization that will provide teaching space and even help you advertise.
Also, workshops are a huge deal for artists. Something about that intensive three or four day stretch of learning from one artist, there's a lot of demand for it, and therefore there's a lot of money in it. If you don't have a following yet, you can start with this locally.
And now on to some teaching opportunities the Internet has opened up for us.
You can become a or mentor for other artists. This may look like monthly meetings over Skype, where you critique their work or discuss art principles. Some mentors also give art assignments and guide their students through a curriculum designed to help them improve.
I'm a part of a mentorship program, and another cool thing my mentor does is incorporate a community aspect. I know the other mentees. We share our paintings on a private Facebook group, and we offer encouragement, ask questions, and share insights. I think all artists are looking for a bit more community, so that is definitely something you can incorporate into your teaching business.
Another teaching option, there are online learning platforms like Skillshare and Udemy that you can teach through. These again give you the benefit of an established marketplace where you have people that are already coming there looking for art education.
And one more teaching option, you can make YouTube videos! YouTube has an ad network called AdSense, and you can make some money off each ad viewed on your videos.
At the time I'm writing this, you can start running ads once you pass 1,000 subscribers. And also before you quit your day job, the ad revenue isn't huge. So the name of the game for this strategy would be to build a large, very passionate audience of viewers.
6. Work For A Company
Shifting to a more traditional option again, there are lots of companies that need artists. I worked for years at a children's publishing company, and they employed seven full-time artists. These artists drew fun characters for flash cards, they made impressive graphic design titles for board games, they made assets for video games. So the most random companies you can think of have a need for artists.
If you develop specialized skills, you can find even more opportunities. The concept art industry employs tons of talented artists for creating movies, video games, board games, and book covers.
Concept artists used their creative juices to imagine and design interesting characters, stunning scenery, cool outfits, of weapons, everything you love from that last movie you saw.
And one more thing all out here in this section, probably the biggest need of all for these companies is good graphic design. Turning text into art is undeniably powerful. I love looking at advertisements from the early 1900's Art Nouveau period. Beautiful text is all around us because companies see the value in getting their message out in a way that pops.
This one is almost identical to working for a single company, except it affords you a higher independence, and you can negotiate your rates. You also need to build relationships with potential clients and develop a reputation, not only as a great artist, but also as a timely one with good communication skills.
A lot of artists have built up their reputation and gotten freelance jobs by posting their work at artstation.com. A lot of concept art industry people look here for potential new talent.
8. Repurpose Your Art
Ever heard of the phrase functional art? This is the idea that art doesn't need to be on a canvas or a frame on a wall. There's opportunity to make all sorts of things more beautiful. So a great way to get your art out to a wider audience is to print it onto other things. Clothes with your art on them, or handbags, calendars of your artwork and day journals.
There are tons of sites that can do this for you and also drop ship the finished product to the customer. So that means you don't have to buy product before you sell it, and they'll generate a preview picture of your item so the customer knows what it'll look like. And since its drop shipping, you won't need to pay shipping twice to get it to a customer. Some websites that do this are redbubble.com society6.com and CafePress.
And then of course the most popular way to repurpose your art is to make art prints. Prints have a higher demand than original works because they're less expensive. Some artists will limit the number of prints they make of a piece to add some exclusivity and scarcity to their product. They'll mark this somewhere on the print, so you'll see something like 1 out of 250.
Some artists will also hand embellish their prints to add a bit more of a personal touch. So a few brush strokes painted on top of the print. This suggests some of the texture of the original piece to, which a flat print can't show.
9. Art Shows
Some artists make a big percentage of their income traveling across the country and setting up booths at art shows. You can find these locally. In our area, they center around spring and fall, and then there's always a holiday market too.
And if you're willing to load up your SUV and travel, you can seriously do this all year round. You can do art shows, craft shows, vintage markets; a lot of different shows will take artists. You can also get booths set more niche gatherings like Comic Cons and industry conventions if your work will appeal to this clientele.
If it's a traditional art show, it may be juried, which means your art must be entered and critiqued before you're accepted. A lot of these shows take a commission on any sales you make, maybe 30%, and then these art shows will give out awards to their favorite artists, which helps out with sales. One of the draws of doing these traditional art shows is theoretically they attract more targeted art enthusiasts.
Craft markets and vintage markets are usually cheaper and don't take a commission, which means you don't need to sell as much to break even. For all these shows you'll probably need to invest in tables, chairs, a tent and decorations. Shows can also be a great opportunity to build up your email and do some email marketing. I plan to make a video all about that in the future, so subscribe to my channel if you're interested in that too.
10. Talk About Art
I know this is a little art adjacent, but I need to bring this up too. People love reading and hearing about their favorite art passions! So you could start a podcast about being a watercolor artist, and lots of people would love to hear you talk about that. Then to make money off your podcast, you could run ads and Squarespace will pay you to talk about their business. And any podcast fans know what I'm talking about there!
Blogging is a business like this - it's maybe not as lucrative as it used to be, but you can write about interesting art topics, and if you build a large enough following, you can get ad revenue from all that traffic. Google AdSense again is an easy way to get started with this. You can also write freelance for blogs and magazines that need content.
11. Earn commissions in an affiliate program
I'm guessing this is one that most of you may not be familiar with, and it's a great way to make money if you have a large audience. The way it works is if you have art products that you truly love and believe in, you can start a business relationship with that vendor and direct customers to go buy from that vendor. Then every time a customer comes from you and buy something, you earn a percentage Commission, say 3 to 10%. Every company handles affiliate programs differently, but most big companies do this in some form or another.
Some companies will offer a way for you to create tracking URLs for the products you want to advertise. And I know for podcasts a lot of times you'll be directed to a unique sign up page that their advertiser has created, something like squarespace.com/serial might be an example for the popular podcast called Serial.
12. Repair and Restore Art
I kind of feel like doing a couple weird ones now. I know a few painters who make some of their living by repairing damaged artworks. I don't know a ton about this, but with training you can learn to professionally retouch pieces that have been damaged.
I think there are some legal ways to duplicate art pieces too, so you can make legal forgeries for a living!
13. Submit your art to contests and events
You can submit your art to contests, both local ones and online ones, and win prize money if your artwork wins. Galleries and museums do this too. They showcase artworks for a month or so, and then award cash to a winner.
Oftentimes the art that is on showcase is also available for sale, and a lot of these contests do have an entry fee.
14. Apply for grants and residences
Most cities and counties have arts organizations, and they're allocated funds in order to support and promote the arts. One of the ways they do this is by gifting financial grants to local artists. Usually these groups have a website or an email list where you can see what's available and how to apply.
You can also find residency programs all over the place. If you're able to travel and spend a month or so somewhere else, this is a cool way to make art and have your room and board taken care of.
And one more thing about your local Arts Council, they may also keep track of all the local calls for artists. Museums organizing showcases, cities commissioning a new statue, magazines needing cover art. This is a great resource to find all the local groups that currently need art.
15. Do commissions
This is kind of like freelance, but we'll say commissions are for individual customers rather than for a business. People love artwork of the things they love. Their hobbies, their pets, their family, their house. It's often easier to sell a painting when the subject matter matches the buyers interest, rather than trying to draw people with your painting style. I can't tell you how many artists make a living off of pet portraits!
And if you're more into the digital space, you know how many people want a professional rendering of their OC, or their fursona, or some sweet fan art. And if you don't know what a persona is, please don't look it up. That's free advice from me.
There are all kinds of opportunities for commissions that you wouldn't believe. This may fit more in my freelance category, but have you ever read a science article or something announcing they found a new dinosaur or found a new black hole? There's always a picture in these articles that say artists renditions underneath them. Some artists make money literally by painting dinosaurs.
16. Paint on location
This is a great option for outdoor painters and artists, also sometimes called plenn air painters. If you set up an easel and start painting in an area where there's people, you will draw a crowd. People are fascinated with the process of art making. To a non artist it looks like magic. When someone sees you painting, that painting immediately has a story to that person. They were just walking around one other favorite areas downtown, and actually saw a painter creating this amazing piece of art. That's what they'll tell their friends is they look at your masterpiece on their wall!
Painting on location is especially effective if you live in a tourist destination where tourists already think of your town as a beautiful place full of powerful new memories. One thing to make sure of if you do this, make sure it's legal to set up an easel and paint in that area. Some places require a permit for this kind of thing.
And a slightly more formal version of this is the plein air competition. Lots of cities host this kind of thing where outdoor painters get together and they compete to make the most beautiful artwork. There's a showcase after events like this, and a lot of paintings get scooped up by buyers.
17. Make a Patreon account
I'm so excited to talk about this one, because I have a patreon account! Here's how it works: you can invite followers of your art to support you financially on a monthly basis. Kind of like a Patron of the Arts.
Get it? Patreon? Patron? You get it.
It's like a Netflix subscription. Your followers can pledge to give you five dollars a month to support your art, or whatever amount you dictate. You can also offer rewards to customers in exchange for their monthly payment. Maybe you'll send them a print every month, or you can grant them access to a private community of like-minded followers, like a private Facebook page or a discord channel. You can give your patrons a shout out on your next YouTube video. There's all kinds of rewards that you could offer.
And with patreon, it doesn't have to be a patronage system at all necessarily. You could make high quality video lessons that release once a month. You could release process videos of you making art. Or if you're a digital artist, you could share your Photoshop file of a finished piece to give insight into how you made it.
My patreon is set up where my followers pay $5 a month and get access to a whole library of real-time painting demonstrations. In each video, I take a creation from start to finish, and talk throughout the video about making the piece. I also teach art principles along the way, I talk about art marketing, and I load every video with entertainment and encouragement. And then every month I add new videos to the library.
So I'd like to ask you now, would you sign up for my patreon classes? I'm very proud of the lessons. I think you'll find them a wealth of information, and an absolute steal at five dollars a month!
If you're interested, you can click here to join. Thanks for considering, I hope I get to see you in my patreon group!
And with that we have explored 17 ways to make money off your art! Good job you guys!
Now I want to hear from you. Which of these has worked best for you as an artist. And also, have I missed any good ways to make money? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching you guys, Happy Art Making!