Do you consider yourself a creative professional? Maybe you haven’t given yourself that title just yet, but you’re wondering how you can start making money from your art?
Whether your creative passion is writing, visual arts, music, crafting, or something else in the artistic realm, you may have thought to yourself at one point, “What if I could make a career out of this?”
The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to turn your art into a full-time job. But that shouldn’t stop you from monetizing your creative endeavors. It’s never too early or too late to start earning an income from your art.
Here are the top ten ways you can start making money as a creative professional.
1. Sell Your Work Online
This one seems like a no-brainer, but often people either don’t know how to get started or how to choose an online storefront that’s right for their product.
Where to sell your work online is going to come down to what kind of art you’re producing. These sites offer some fantastic opportunities for all kinds of creative professionals.
For authors, platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, and Draft2Digital (for iBooks and Nook), allow you to self-publish your works online in digital format. You’ll have to go through a set-up process where you’ll upload your content, cover design, and summaries/descriptions of your work. But from my own experience, they are relatively user-friendly – even for beginners.
Some of these services allow you to publish more than just ebooks and have an additional option for actual print publishing.
Founded in 2000, DeviantArt boasts the largest online art community in the world. Create an account to upload and showcase your art to a huge user base and offer your works for sale. Users can sell pretty much anything including prints, photography, literary works, and animation.
Whether you’re into papercraft, crocheting, or painting, Etsy is a creative marketplace that had over 30 million buyers last year alone. In addition to handcrafted items, sellers can list vintage and collectible items as well. The great thing about Etsy is that shoppers can look for stores local to their area (giving it a real sense of community) and that the transaction fee for sellers is only 3.5 %.
CD Baby allows musicians to monetize their sound and distribute it to the world. There are some upfront fees involved, but it enables artists to get their music onto streaming sites, download stores, and even in physical format. Once you’ve uploaded your recording, met quality checks, and submitted cover art, you can begin getting your music heard and making some cash off it as well.
For professional or amateur photographers, Shutterstock can be an excellent way to unload some of your prints and start earning money from them. Shutterstock has paid out over $500 million to its contributors since it was started and not only do you earn a percentage of your photo’s sale price, you also maintain the copyright. In addition to submitting photos, Shutterstock also takes film submissions.
Create My Tattoo
Free to join and participate in, Create My Tattoo has been connecting designers with customers since it first launched in 2008. Artists can upload their designs, set a sale price, and get paid each time someone purchases their work. Each design can be sold multiple times and you can submit as many designs as you’d like. Artists keep 75% of their selling price and get paid out at the beginning of each month.
2. Get Local
Online sales are great for creating an international audience, but selling your designs locally will establish your art within your own community.
Shops and Galleries
If you’re a crafter of any kind, canvasing your town for gift shops, boutiques, and even florist shops can land you a consignment deal. Get to know the owners or staff, if possible, and pay attention to what their stores already offer. You want your product to be similar enough that it will fit in with their shop’s aesthetic but also offer something they don’t already have a lot of.
For visual artists, try contacting local galleries to see if they have any consignment openings or would be willing to feature your art at any upcoming events or exhibits.
Art Shows, Festivals, and Bazaars
Events that cater to artisans can be a great way to showcase your creative endeavors to a new audience. Check your local community calendar for upcoming events as well as checking nearby cities and towns. Some of these events only require a small vendors fee while others can be quite expensive. Do some research to find out what kind of shoppers the event generally draws, what kind of advertising they do for the event, how many people on average come through the door, and if they charge any type of admission for shoppers. Generally, an event that charges admission will have more serious attendants, likely to spend more money.
3. Start a YouTube Channel
Did you know that over 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube every day? Currently, YouTube has over 1 billion users, which is a staggering number to get your head around and is nearly a third of all internet users worldwide.
So let’s talk about video content and how it pertains to art. As a creative professional, you might not think you have anything to offer in video format – but you have to think outside the box.
Almost any artist has expertise that is valuable to other people. It might be a how-to guide on photo editing, or maybe a tutorial on how to use graphic design software. Or it might even be a behind-the-scenes look at how you outlined your latest novel.
Okay, so how do you make money from your YouTube channel? Well, first you’re going to need to grow an audience. If you already have a following on social media or your own blog/website – that’s great! You can direct your current followers from one platform to your YouTube channel.
Next, you need to provide engaging content. Get inside the head of who you’re targeting with your video content. What information, advice, or tutorials would they typically be interested in. Figure out what value your videos will offer or problem they will solve and then create content based on that.
Once you’ve set up your YouTube channel and have begun uploading content, you can apply to join the YouTube Partner Program and start earning revenue through an AdSense account.
You might think this sounds like a lot of work – and it can be if it’s not something you’re particularly fond of. But if you love making videos and just want to have fun with it, you might be surprised at how quickly you start earning. My own mom has a YouTube channel that she just uses for funny videos of her adventures with her grandkids. Without any attempts at marketing or even an inkling she’d earn anything from it, she made over $80 on her channel last month.
Now I’ll be honest, making video content isn’t for everyone. As a terribly introverted person, I’ve put creating video content on the back burner for now. But the data undeniably shows that we are heading for an increasingly video-oriented web experience and the fact that you can monetize that is definitely motivating.
4. Submit Your Work to Magazines
This is something that honestly never occurred to me when I first started out as a freelance writer. It wasn’t until I came across an article about magazines that paid writers for short stories that I realized this could be a great way to earn extra income and grow your audience simultaneously. Not to mention, gaining some recognition for your work never hurt an artist’s ego.
And submitting work to magazines isn’t just for aspiring authors either. There are magazines that take submissions for articles, essays, comics, graphic art, poetry, fiction, and more. Pay is generally around $150-$500 depending on the type of submission, but there are plenty of magazines that are offering up to $1000 for accepted content.
Here’s some further reading to find the right kind of publication for your content:
5. Apply For Artists Grants
Being awarded a grant might not be a longterm income solution, but it can be a means for investing time and money into your art that you didn’t have before. Kind of like an investment that can lead to other opportunities down the road.
Grants for artists aren’t difficult to find. Just a quick search turns up thousands of results. Some grants are general and encompass a variety of art forms, while others are more specific to certain niches.
Some grants are unrestricted, while others have residency requirements. And some grants are for artists that are just starting out while others are for people that have already established themselves in their field.
Whatever your situation, do some research and find out what you qualify for. Here are a few resources to get you started, but try doing some more specific searches using your age, location, and artistic medium to get an idea of what’s out there.
If you’ve already established yourself as an expert, or have a portfolio of work that makes people want to know your secrets, teaching art to others can be a great way to turn your skills into profit.
Community Classes or Workshops
There are plenty of opportunities for getting paid to teach art in your community. Contact your local community college to sign up as a class instructor. Community education centers are almost always looking for instructors that can teach music, painting, crafts, and other art forms to enrich the community. Check with your local rec. centers for opportunities as well.
If you have the space in your home, consider hosting your own classes or workshops. You can charge per person and advertise the workshop on community and neighborhood pages on Facebook and other social platforms.
If you’re a musician, tutoring can be an excellent source of income. People of all ages are interested in learning to play all kinds of instruments. Advertise your services on community pages, on bulletin boards at local establishments, and on nearby campuses.
If you have your own blog or website, consider putting together an online course that teaches others how to create. You can find lots of tutorials online for how to create and market these types of courses and you can easily collect payment through Paypal. You’ll want to test out the course on a select user base first and gather some testimonials from your test group to promote the course to paying customers.
If you don’t have your own website, platforms like Skillshare can provide a way for you teach courses and workshops online without the hassle of setting up your own website.
7. Start a Patreon
Patreon is a membership platform that allows you to monetize your art by providing content for users that pay you a monthly subscription fee.
The neat thing about Patreon is that you get to provide your subscribers with an exclusive and unique experience while providing yourself with a consistent revenue stream
Who is Patreon for?
Creator categories on Patreon include:
- Dance & Theatre
- Drawing & Painting
- And so much more!
Basically, no matter what your art form, there’s a place for you at Patreon.
Since its inception, Patreon has sent over $150 million to creators and you get to keep 90% of your fee. The other 10% is split between transaction fees and what Patreon pockets. With a Patreon account though, you get complete creative control over what you offer your subscribers.
I’ve personally discovered some of my favorite creators on Patreon and I can get lost for hours browsing through all the content offerings this website provides. If you want to get started on Patreon check out: Setting Up Shop: Tips for Building a Successful Patreon Creator Page.
And if you decided to start your own Patreon, tell me about it so I can check you out and possibly become one of your subscribers!
8. Merchandise Yourself
You might be wondering how selling your art online is any different from merchandising. When you sell your art online, you are selling a unique product that you made, that may or may not have any of your personal branding attached. With merchandising, you’re promoting your personal brand in order to build recognition for yourself.
3 Reasons Selling Merchandise Rocks:
- It’s relatively easy
- You make money from it
- It promotes your brand and helps your artwork reach a wider audience
Okay, so here are the logistics:
Websites like Zazzle, Redbubble, and CafePress allow users to upload their custom images and then receive royalties when people purchase products featuring those images. Each site offers different products and royalty structures so check each of them out to determine which one is the best fit for your business.
Even if you aren’t a visual artist producing your own custom artwork, there are plenty of ways to merchandise your brand through sites like these. If you have a logo for yourself, why not brand that? You can use photographs pertaining to your art as well – this works great for musicians. Or if you’re a writer why not use a quote from one of your works or the tagline from your latest novel?
Promote your merchandise with links on your social media pages and your website. Use gift giving opportunities to force merchandise on your family and friends. Host contests or giveaways for your online followers to receive some awesome your-brand mugs or t-shirts! The possibilities are truly endless.
9. Publish a Book
Now we’ve already covered how you can self-publish physical books and ebooks through online retailers, but in this scenario, I’m not just talking novels and short stories.
Books provide limitless opportunities for artists of all breeds to showcase their work. For the visual artist, this could mean a coffee-table style book featuring a curated collection of prints or photographs. For the author that could be an in-depth look at how to create believable characters. For the crafter, it could be a how-to book on creating woven bracelets or amigurumi. Whether you create comics, paint furniture, or sketch your #OOTD, there’s a market out there for a book on the topic.
If you’re a creative professional looking to tap into this market, spend some time thinking about what unique selling point your book will offer, or what niche market you can tap into. If your art is already unique and original, you most likely already have something of value for your potential readership.
As an artist, you probably have a good eye for design, so concept and layout should come easily. But there are plenty of online tutorials on how to get started if you’re unsure what design is best for your idea.
You can promote your book to your social media followers, on your website’s homepage, and at local bookstores. And remember, the more of a specialized market your book appeals to, the more attention it will get within the online bookseller’s product categories.
10. Start a Freelance Business
If you want to take the steps towards turning your creativity into your day job, consider starting a business soliciting your artistic services.
Now, your business model is going to look different depending on the type of artist you are. But if you offer a marketable service and put in the effort to build a successful brand, starting a freelance business could become a full-time gig.
The following are some artistic services that tend to make the most successful freelance businesses (although this list is in no way comprehensive or a guarantee of success):
- Event photography
- Web content creation
- Design consulting
- Home staging
- Social media management
- Event coordinating
- Graphic design
- Photo editing
- Website design
…okay, you get the idea. There are hundreds of ideas on how to turn your art into a service that people will pay you for. You’ll need to decide if your freelance services will target businesses, individuals, or both. And once you know your target market, you can begin soliciting your services.
Consider doing a couple jobs here and there for free to get some testimonials under your belt and a portfolio going – if you don’t have these things already. However, don’t undervalue yourself as a creative professional.
It can be tempting to price yourself low at first to stay competitive or attract new clients. But don’t sell yourself short. Sit down and figure out your costs and overhead, how much you want to make per hour, and ultimately what your individuality is worth.
If you’re starting from scratch you might want to check out websites like Upwork and Fiverr to get your foot in the door and start earning cash quickly. Craigslist is another great site for promoting your services and applying for one-time gigs that pertain to your expertise.
You can market your freelance business locally too. Join local networking groups, put up flyers, pass out business cards. And don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising that your family and friends might be willing to help you out with.
I’ll be completely honest, starting a freelance business isn’t easy and you won’t start making money straight out of the gate. It takes a lot of planning and research to get your business off the ground, but once you do, the results are so rewarding!
Some Final Thoughts on Making Money as a Creative Professional
Using multiple revenue streams is not only encouraged, it’s necessary. Making money from your creative endeavors won’t happen overnight. And you aren’t going to make a living wage from just doing one thing from this list. Experiment with several (or all) of these ideas to see which ones work for you and how they work in a combined effort to boost awareness of your creative brand.
Focus on passive income for longterm income growth. Passive income is the income you earn from not really doing anything at all. It takes some effort to begin with, but after the initial time investment, you get to sit back and watch the earnings roll in. Think published ebooks, photographs on Shutterstock, and merchandise on Redbubble. The beauty of passive income is that you’re accumulating wealth over time that requires little maintenance on your part. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Keys to success: Be unique and original. Art enhances people’s existence because it provides something that makes them feel and think in ways that personally enrich them. Therefore, people are always going to seek out art that offers something new, something they haven’t experienced yet. Don’t let your individuality get lost in the process of monetizing your art – because it’s ultimately the only thing that’s worth paying for.
Now, over to you –
Have you tried any of the above ideas for making money from your art and if so were your efforts successful? What are some of your favorite ways to use your artistic talents to earn an income?