I don't know about you, but I have a feeling you've also endured comments about how there's no money in art and studying art in school is useless, ad infinitum. Maybe you're thinking about pursuing a career in art or you're trying to build an artsy side hustle. Maybe you fantasize about leaving your full-time office job and need to brainstorm ways to boost your art income.
Friend, I have so been there. On every level. It's tough to get started, especially when there are people around you voicing all your fears and doubts (as if you aren't hard enough on yourself).
Good news! The wonderful world of the internet presents endless opportunities to share your artwork with the world and earn the income you deserve. It can eliminate the middleman, give you a global reach, and make delivering art and related content easy. Plus, you don't need to deal with the expensive overhead of a studio or retail space. You can do so much right from home by running your business online.
But Kate-- I have to cut through the noise of a bajillion other artists tossing their work out there!
I know, dear cherub-- Me, too! It's possible, but while you trudge through the internet trenches and try to build your audience it's important to get that revenue stream flowing. So . . .
Here are 6 income-generating ideas for artists Getting started online:
1) On-demand printing sites
If you don't have the money to print a ton of merchandise or purchase a fancy printer for fine art prints-- There are options for you! Many on-demand printing sites exist online, providing artists with the ability to sell merchandise and art prints without any of the hassle of printing and shipping. For example, I use INPRNT for open edition prints and Society6 for apparel, phone cases, mugs, and more. These services print and ship everything as orders come in, which means I don't have to deal with any inventory or logistics beyond uploading the art.
When you're just starting out, it's difficult to know what will sell. Selling through on-demand sites gives you a chance to start figuring out how much you can expect to sell of different types of artwork. Then you can either stick with this method or use what you've learned to inform more hands-on printing practices.
Some words of caution: It's important to review the terms and conditions when considering these services. Explore your options! Different sites take different cuts of your sales, and you'll want to make sure you aren't giving up too many rights to your creations. You also won't have much control over print quality, and your work might be removed through bogus copyright claims. If you want complete control, this isn't for you!
Here are some of the products I'm able to sell through Society6:
2) Digital Art downloads
If you like to dabble in stationery products, lettering, and the like, you may want to add digital downloads to your online art business offerings. Downloads can be great for passive income because they can require little to no work for each individual sale. For example, the stationery packs I sell through KateTrish.com are automatically delivered via Squarespace. No one has to wait for me to deliver those files after they make a purchase, and they can print everything from home! I love being able to offer usable artwork this way because if I had to order and ship stationery myself I probably wouldn't be able to afford this type of work right now.
An added note: These downloadable products are super popular on Etsy.com. You may want to open a shop on Etsy or browse downloads there to get a feel for how others price and present their products.
3) RESOURCE DOWNLOADS
Along those same lines, you could offer resources for download instead of artwork or stationery. For example, you might have custom Photoshop brushes or textures to sell to other artists. Perhaps you really enjoy teaching others and want to sell instructional PDFs. Got a design background? Plenty of folks out there are looking for customizable marketing material templates.
Do you enjoy sharing behind-the-scenes content, sketches, vlogs, blogs, and more, in addition to your finished artwork? Subscription-based services can provide a great additional source of income by enabling you to deliver exclusive content to some of your top supporters on a regular basis.
For example, I have a Patreon page, where wonderful people offer a monthly pledge to support my work. As thanks, I share newsletters, printable coloring pages, process videos, tutorials, and more. The monthly pledges are a fairly stable source of additional income that I can count on to pay for supplies, software, and similar expenses.
Other ideas for subscription-based income-generators include regular brush downloads, early access to artwork, stock photos, and process photos/screenshots.
If you're staying busy with your artwork and exploring other sources of income, a great way to incorporate this is to tie your content to things you're already working on. Instead of creating new comics for your patrons every month, for example, you might simply share process videos. There would be some editing involved, but you can set up a camera to record work you'd be doing anyway!
Extra points if you select content or products that don't require additional work for every subscriber or patron (e.g. Those process videos versus mailing prints to everyone each month).
You'll likely need a bit of a following in order to get this going, but even the little income sources can add up in a big way.
5) Online Courses/Workshops
If you love teaching and/or you're stellar with public speaking, this can be a particularly fun and rewarding option. Online courses can be delivered in a variety of different formats. You can even choose whether you want to host live sessions or provide recordings. Creating your course may be work-intensive, and building an audience for this content may be challenging, but it could turn into another great source of passive income if you have some knowledge other folks are looking for.
6) private Commissions
Alright, this one is obvious, but I think it's worth mentioning. Commission work isn't for everyone, but you may find this to be one of your best money-makers. People love custom art, and there are many different types of artwork you could offer. The thing I really want to mention with this is that it doesn't have to require any shipping on your part, if you aren't equipped for that. If you're a digital artist, you can stick to digital deliverables (I recommend including PSDs or other archive-appropriate file types and JPGs). If you aren't, you might still be able to sell scans.
And if you're phone shy or simply appreciate the convenience of written records and timezone flexibility? You can handle everything via email.
Note: You'll want to research options for receiving payments, such as PayPal or Square Cash. I recommend looking into options that can integrate with online stores, Patreon, or other services you're using, so you can try to streamline your finances. Please also consider your terms and conditions, process, and rates before you start!
In summary . . .
You have the ability to establish a variety of revenue streams as you get started online, and they don't have to add a lot of work to your to-do list! They'll take some time to set up, and offering new products or services always requires some effort on the front end, but these are all doable early on and can be managed completely through your computer. You don't need a ton of money, space, resources, or followers to establish your business. Of course I'll be wishing you the best luck as you grow that business.
Please don't hesitate to reach out with questions in the comments below, if you have them.
All the best,