It’s almost a cliché to hear that you can’t make money as an artist or that all artists are starving. But contrary to the stereotype, you can make money from your artwork if you put in the effort.
All students understand that college doesn’t always leave much time for a full-time job, and typical student jobs usually don’t pay that well. However, whether you’re an art student or not, it’s possible to turn your passion for art into a worthwhile side hustle.
It might take some experimentation before you discover the strategy that works for you. But here are several ways to earn extra money while doing what you love.
- Art Galleries
An art gallery is an exhibition room or building where people can view and buy visual art. Or, in this case, it’s a room where you can put your art on display and up for sale. Anyone can display any physical, tangible, or visual art medium in a gallery.
Most galleries work on commission. Once a gallery accepts your artwork, they put it as an exhibit. Then, when someone buys one of your pieces, you split the profit between you and the gallery. Most galleries charge between 30% and 50% commission on your artwork.
Each gallery tends to dedicate itself to a specific art style or medium. So getting your artwork into a gallery exhibit is about finding the proper gallery for your unique art style. Finding galleries near you is also helpful, making it easier to deliver your pieces. So, if you were attending Northwestern University, you might look for an art gallery rental in Chicago.
- Markets and street art
One of the quickest ways to immediately see a return is to physically sell your artwork, either in markets or by selling art on the street.
You could sell art you’ve already made, create your art live to attract customers, or even draw portraits and caricatures—it’s up to you. Just make sure you get permission from the proper authorities to sell there.
- Sell via social media
Nowadays, creating a small business through social media platforms is possible. These platforms are a great place to get your work seen, liked, shared, and talked about. In addition, many of them have additional features that can help you market and sell your pieces.
It’s easier to start with one social media platform. Then you use several to reach a bigger audience as you scale. Start with social media like Facebook or Instagram, which both have marketplace features. Instagram is the most preferred image-sharing platform and has two billion active monthly users. Nearly 60% of marketers agree that it’s one of the top two marketing platforms, making it perfect for sharing pictures of your artwork.
That said, growing a decent following on social media is challenging, takes time, regular posting, and attention to marketing strategy. But if you remain consistent, learn as much as possible about marketing and securing a social media presence, and engage with your audience, you’ll eventually gather a following.
Once you have a following, you might be able to start selling your artwork and art supplies. You can even monetize your social media accounts. First, however, remember to protect yourself when selling online. Set up a secure payment option like PayPal and ensure you receive full payment before shipping any products.
- Sell commissioned pieces
As your art gains attention on social media, you can start advertising that you’re open for commissions. Doing commissions gives you more content to post, guarantees a sale, and often sells for more than what you’d get in a gallery.
Pricing your commissions comes down to what you decide. Still, it’s advisable to base the price on the cost of materials and an hourly rate. For example, suppose a piece takes you 10 hours, your hourly rate is $25 an hour, and materials cost $60. You can $310 total ($25 x 10 + $60) based off these figures.
- Put your art on print-on-demand websites
If you’re a digital artist, this might appeal to you. You may have heard of selling prints before. As the name implies, a print-on-demand website is an online store that only prints designs onto its products and ships them when someone orders them. You can earn cash from these websites by creating a profile and uploading your designs to various products. Then, when someone orders a product with your design printed onto it, you earn a commission from that sale.
You can create an e-commerce store or sell on existing stores like Teespring, Redbubble, and Merch by Amazon. Remember that this strategy requires you to upload files in digital formats, often meeting specific file size requirements. You don’t necessarily have to be a digital artist. Still, you need some way to get your art into a digital format.
Your passion for art can become a rewarding side gig. The ideas listed in this blog post should help you get started, but there are many more ways to start making money with your art. It’s best to research, learn how to market yourself and your art, and try several strategies. It may not happen instantly, but with effort and patience, you’ll be able to make money doing the thing you love.
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Martin, Jena. “Selling Art in Galleries: Everything You Need To Know.” PetaPixel, November 14, 2014. https://petapixel.com/2014/11/14/selling-art-galleries-everything-need-know/.
Todorov, Georgi. “82 Instagram Statistics To Boost Your Social Media Business Strategy.” Semrush Blog, March 1, 2021. https://www.semrush.com/blog/instagram-stats/.