Updated: Mar 9
[FREEBIE: Start Your Art Biz Checklist to help you build a sustainable business!]
Building a successful career as an artist requires more than just creating beautiful works of art. You must don hats of every shape and color - head of marketing, customer service rep, technical support, accountant, packaging and shipping...you name it. If your goal is to build a sustainable career that you can support yourself on or contribute to your family income, then you also must think like a business owner. Your art is your business!
One of the most important tasks of a creative entrepreneur is to find ways to generate money with your art and to diversify your revenue streams. When you're focused on creating and selling your work, this may seem really intimidating. This process, however, can be fun (and lucrative) and I have a list of TEN places to sell and/or ways for you to generate an income with your creative practice to help you get started.
(Not all of these will work for every artist - pick and choose based on what makes sense for your art and your business.)
#1 Sale of Original Artwork
This first one is probably pretty obvious. Selling your original work is a great way to generate an income. Depending on your medium, originals may be your big ticket items (painters, scratchboard artists, drawers, sculptors) or may be where you sell for quantity (potters/ceramicists, photographers, jewelers) or both!
If you work in a medium that can be reproduced, this can be a great way to supplement the sale of your originals. There is an initial upfront cost to build the inventory of your reproductions, but you can often sell the reproductions at a high profit margin, meaning you make more money for far less time.
If you are willing to work with clients, creating custom work specifically for them can be a great way to create a new revenue stream in your business. Create guidelines for yourself outlining how your process works and what commissions you're willing to take on before you start working with clients. Communication is key in successfully offering commission work.
#4 Licensing/Retail Products/Print on Demand
There are many many ways to offer additional products featuring your artwork. You can license your work to a different company - they create and sell products with your work on them and they pay you (payment is often negotiable). You can work with a manufacturer to develop your own line of retail products (pillows, puzzles, shirts, etc) to sell on your own. You can also work with one of the many print-on-demand websites - you upload your image and pick products that the site sells to its customer, you get paid a percentage.
#5 Teach - Workshops or lessons, online or in person
Teaching others how to work in your medium or do what you do is another great way to generate revenue. If you are comfortable and interested in working with other artists or often complete novices, then teaching a workshop or offering lessons is a way to build more consistent income into your business. These classes can be offered in person or online.
#6 Website/Social Media
Marketing online is becoming easier and easier for artists.
- Your website/personal online gallery/portfolio is YOUR space on the internet. You control how your audience views your art and what journey you want them to go on with you. You can sell directly to your clients through an online store, speak about your art and process in a blog, and share as much of your complete body of work as you'd like.
- Social media is an amazing free resource to help you reach a wider audience. Success on social media requires consistency and intentionality. Figure out a schedule that works for you and stick to it.
#7 Online Marketplaces
Etsy. Saatchi. Society6. Zatista. IndieMade.
These are all online marketplaces for artists and artwork. You can maintain an online shop with any one of these larger marketplaces and take advantage of the audience they already have. There are often fees associated with these marketplaces.
#8 Art Festivals/Trade Shows
All across the country (USA), around the world, and all year long - depending on where you live and plan to market your work, you can find a long list of art festivals, craft fairs, and trade shows to sell your work to a local audience. This avenue requires a lot of trial and error to figure out which ones are right for your work and often include application and booth fees.
Zapplication, Juried Art Services, and Online Juried Shows are all websites that may be helpful in finding shows near you.
#9 Local shops
Especially if your work is inspired by or features local subjects (landscapes, people, places, etc), you may consider working with local stores, coffee shops, boutiques, or restaurants to show and sell your work to a local audience. This avenue takes a little more networking and footwork, but can be very beneficial for broadening your local reach.
#10 Write a book
If you like writing and/or have a special skill to teach and share with others, writing a book may be a good option for you. You may also consider publishing a detailed account of your processes, featuring many of your works of art with explanations and anecdotes about your inspirations. There are publishers out there that work specifically with artists or you can self-publish.
Each of these suggestions will work better for some than they do for others. It all depends on the work you create and your approach to business. Give some thought to each option and weigh the pros and cons. You don't have to and probably shouldn't do it all...at least not right away. Get creative with how you approach selling your work and generating more income for your business - you are an artist after all!
For more tips on social media marketing, head here.
For tips on how to price your work as you get ready to sell, head over here.
Find Your Joy!
**Don't forget to grab your free copy of my Start Your Art Biz Checklist!
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