Your mom was worried it would happen. You overheard your aunt telling her friend that you were a professional artist and she rolled her eyes a little bit. You know that everyone’s expecting you to fulfill that stupid Starving Artist stereotype and end up in your parents’ guest room within a year.
You aren’t going to let that happen, though!
The thing is, you can’t be constantly creating art. If you do that, no one’s ever going to know you exist, so you need to be smart about where you get your artistic income. Have you gotten a booth at a festival or fair to sell your art and it fell flat? My friend Elizabeth did that last summer and realized that her hometown is just NOT the right place to sell fine art. Maybe you’ve run into the same problem.
It’s kind of the dream to get into a gallery and have someone else sell your art, but let’s be real: a lot of gallery folks can be snobby and a pain in the butt. Selling your art yourself is more straightforward, but it also requires more hitting the streets, so to speak, and getting your art out there. The world of fine art sales can be tricky to navigate, I know, and many artists get stuck, but that doesn’t have to be you!
If you’re ready to make more money as an artist, know that it’s not impossible. There are a lot of creative ways to make money as an artist beyond just selling your originals.
Intrigued? Let’s dive in!
1 | Sell a subscription to your artwork
If you want consistent income, this can be a great way to do it! The subscription model is something that not many artists are exploring, so you can carve a bit of a niche for yourself and it’s one of my favorite creative ways to make money as an artist. I can hear you asking what an art subscription would entail, so let’s chat:
An art subscription can work in a number of ways. You could work it so that subscribers receive digital copies of your subscriber-exclusive artwork every month and they can then print them out. This is one of the simplest methods for you as the artist because you only have to do each action once and all of your subscribers will receive the art. So you could set this up on a platform like Teachable and create a simple login portal that subscribers can go to and download that month’s artwork, or you could set it up through an email marketing provider or a digital download service like SendOwl or EDD.
You could also mail physical copies of the month’s subscriber prints. While this is more logistically complicated, many people would view this as a more premium offering and pay more for it. That would mean you could charge more for the physical art subscription to make up for the manual effort that goes into printing, packaging, and mailing the art prints.
If both of those options sound good, you can even combine them and offer different tiers with subscriptions for digital-only, physical-only, and both digital and physical in one subscription (probably for a slight discount). This way, you can capture everyone who would be interested without having to create completely separate subscriptions.
2 | Teach your art to others
If you enjoy showing others how to make their own art (knowing that it’ll take most of them a fair amount of time to catch up to you, so no worries there), this can be one of the best creative ways to make money as an artist. There are a couple different ways you can do this, too!
If you’re an introvert, you may want to avoid too much face-to-face time with people so you don’t drain your batteries, metaphorically speaking. You can still teach your art, though! Online classes are becoming popular, so you can create your own online ‘school’ on sites like Teachable. All you have to do is create resource guides, record videos, and whatever other materials you would need to teach folks how to create art. Once your class is set up, you’ll be able to start marketing it and people will be able to sign up directly on Teachable or wherever you host your course. You don’t ever have to interact with them directly, but you’ll still get to pass on your legacy of art – win-win!
If you’re an extrovert, teaching in-person can be invigorating, so in-person classes are also a viable option in addition to online classes. You could host classes at a nearby rec center, offer them to local homeschool groups, or anywhere else you can find that has an audience ready to learn. If you want to expand beyond your local sphere, you can turn your in-person classes into online classes, either through webinars where people can ask you questions as you teach live over video or through an online class on Teachable or another platform like I talked about a moment ago.
There are so many options for teaching your art to others, so get creative and see what fits your personality and needs! See, finding creative ways to make money as an artist isn’t as hard as you may have thought. 😃
3 | Teach others how to use art better (display, framing, etc.)
This is a bit of a spin-off from the last suggestion. Instead of teaching people how to MAKE art, you can teach them how to USE the art (that they hopefully buy from YOU). A lot of folks would love to have original fine art in their home, but they’re intimidated by the idea of figuring out how to frame it properly, where and how to display it, how to choose the right artwork and make sure it fits with their other decor, how to ensure that it lasts, and more.
As an artist, you’re uniquely qualified to help answer their questions. You can do some market research to prepare for creating a course on these topics by asking those around you and even those who have bought from you before what’s held them back from buying fine art, either currently or in the past. Get their answers word-for-word, if possible. You can then take those answers and use your audience’s words to form your course and create your marketing materials
You can do the same types of things I recommended in the section above to teach others how to use artwork. You can teach art resource classes online, in-person, or both. If you choose to go this route, it can be a great way to organically promote your own artwork while providing value to your perfect clients. Talk about finding creative ways to make money as an artist – you can sell your art AND give your clients that Extra Mile service at the same time!
4 | Sell art prints
Speaking of selling prints, let’s talk about that! Prints are a great way to help people get their feet wet with fine art. A lot of folks don’t realize that they can get quality, unique prints for about the same price as they can get a print at Target. That means you have a prime opportunity to do some client education and help them realize that they can be part of the art world without breaking the bank.
You can sell both regular prints for framing and other display options, but you can also sell product prints. There are many print-on-demand companies that make it possible to sell your artwork on products like mugs, pillows, bags, and clothing. If you get creative, there’s no end to the possibilities! You can even work with a trade printer and print a number of items and sell from that inventory if you want to increase your profit margins and are confident in the product line’s success (e.g. if you’ve already had people asking you for them).
5 | Offer different price points
Part of the reason prints are a great option to make more money as an artist is because prints offer a lower barrier to entry into the art world than originals do. After all, it’s a lot easier to swallow a $20+ print than a $600+ original! This means that if you can create different price points for your art, you can reach a wider audience. By meeting different budgets, you can help the folks who gaze with wistful despair on your original artwork at least get a facsimile of them at a price they can afford and you still get a sale out of it, even if it’s not at an original art price point – that’s a win-win situation!
6 | Partner with other creatives and printers
This is a great way to get your artwork in front of a new audience! Partnering with others could be something as simple as doing cross-referrals or as extensive as creating art for an exclusive line of wallpaper or home decor. Typically, you’ll receive some sort of percentage of sales from the partnership AND you get your name out there even further. This is one of those creative ways to make money as an artist that many folks don’t think about because it’s a little out of the ordinary, but it’s a great option. Your partner gets quality exclusive artwork or whatever other benefits you work out, so everyone wins!
7 | Try something new
Sometimes artists get into a rut. If you’ve been trying the same thing, maybe just because YOU like it, but your artwork hasn’t been selling, it may be time to start experimenting. Honestly, it can be great to try something completely the opposite of what you enjoy creating. So if you like light and airy, try something dark and moody. Even if it doesn’t sell, it at least gets you in a new mindset when it comes to your art and may open up new ideas that turn into something that DOES work.
Ask your audience what they want to see, too. You may be surprised at what you hear from them! Once you know what they’re looking for, you can adapt it to your own style and kill two birds with one stone – you still create something you love, but your audience also gets what they want. That often leads to more sales and helps you think outside the box a bit more.
8 | Share products that you already love and use affiliate links
This is a bit of a bonus tip, but if there are products you use for your art that you can wholeheartedly endorse, see if there’s an affiliate or referral program. If not, see if they’re available on Amazon and sign up for the Amazon Affiliate program. While this likely won’t be a huge source of revenue, it can bring in some extra cash here and there – and who doesn’t love pocket money?!
Well, there ya have it – 8 creative ways to make money as an artist! Whether you teach, sell different price points of your artwork, or partner with other creatives and your audience to try something new, you’ve got a lot of things you can start experimenting with to boost your art income. It’s time to say goodbye to the stupid Starving Artist stereotype!
What are your thoughts about creative ways to make money as an artist? Leave a comment! Here are some ideas:
What’s the first alternative art income method that you’re going to try and why?
Have you tried any of these alternative art income methods already or have one to add? Share your tips with your fellow artists!
Drop your questions about any of these creative ways to make money as an artist in the comments!