You’ve likely heard of the stereotype of the starving artist. You may even have family and friends who discourage you from pursuing art as a career because they believe you can’t make a living this way. The good news is that this is simply not true! While it does take a good amount of time, planning, and effort, you can earn a full-time income by selling your art online.
Whether you’re a traditional painter with a physical canvas or you create digital art on your iPad, there are many ways to earn money. Here’s everything you need to know to turn your creative skill into a real business.
12 Ways an Artist Can Make Money Online
1. Sell Originals and Prints
The most obvious and direct way to sell your art online is to start with your original works, as well as prints of those originals. There are lots of places to sell these pieces online, but the best place depends on your internet presence. If you have a following, you could post your originals and prints on social media or your own website for sale.
Most people don’t start out with a huge following, though. If that’s the case for you, it’s best to sell on an online art marketplace that already has millions of visits from prospective buyers. As people start to see and buy your art on these platforms, you’ll also draw more visitors to your website and you can eventually get off of the marketplaces.
Prints are especially profitable because they act as passive income. Just set up a print-on-demand shop, create the art once, and earn money every time someone makes a purchase. There are tons of marketplaces where you can create your shop, like Etsy and Society6.
2. Offer Private Commissions
Clients expect to pay more for commissioned work, so you can earn a respectable paycheck by going this route. You can offer a private commission for just about any form of art - whether you specialize in oil painting portraits or creating musical jingles. Plus, it’s a good way to gain experience if you’re thinking of testing out a niche.
It’s generally easiest to start on social media, where you’re likely already showing off your work. Add a note in your bio and in your post captions that you’re offering commissions. You can also post in local Reddit or Facebook groups - you may even get hired to do a mural in your town.
There are also several websites where you can connect with buyers, though you’ll face more competition. Some examples of popular sites are:
- Art Please
Commission work sites do charge a fee, which is usually a percentage of the sale and can sometimes be as high as 50%. To avoid losing out on so much money, aim to advertise elsewhere and sell on your own terms. With Pay.com, you can even send direct Pay Links to your customers via text or email - no need to have a website.
3. Do Freelance Projects
Freelancing is a lot like commissioned work because you have a client deciding what art you make. However, most freelance platforms allow you to apply for jobs, so you have more control over your workload. Freelance work is also a great way to earn money when you need it or have a gap in other projects.
One of the most popular freelance sites is Upwork, where you can often connect with clients looking to hire for long-term projects. You can also try Fiverr for shorter, more one-off projects.
It’s worth noting that these websites take a cut of your profits - usually 10% to 20% of your sales. You’ll also face a good amount of competition, which means you may need to start at lower prices until you’ve built up a reputation with positive reviews. Still, you can raise your prices fairly quickly, so it could be worth checking out.
4. License Your Art
With art licensing, you essentially rent your work to companies so they can use your design on their products. You can earn a lot of money if a company features your design on a popular product, though this is a fairly time-consuming process.
The companies you work with will likely spend months mocking up products, manufacturing them, deciding on a sales strategy, and shipping the final product. You typically don’t get paid until the quarter after the shipment goes out.
So, who do you license your art to? It’s actually a free and potentially fun process. Go to a couple of stores and find products that you can imagine your design on. For example, a mug with a fun design that’s similar to your own work. Then, take note of the manufacturer on the bottom. Do this until you have a list of manufacturers.
Next, you can go home and research those manufacturers online. Some have a section of their websites for artist submissions, while you may have to reach out to others and ask if they’re looking to license art. You can also meet contacts at these companies by attending trade shows like Surtex, where retailers and manufacturers meet to source products.
5. Make Art for NFTs
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a growing type of asset. If you aren’t familiar, NFTs are digital assets (usually art) that you store on the blockchain. If you get lucky, NFTs can earn you quite a paycheck. Recent research shows that the top 20% of NFT art collections earn more than $8,000 per month. However, the average price point sits around $230.
There are also fees to consider. It can cost up to $250 in transactional and listing fees just to advertise your NFT. The process can also be a bit lengthy. You’ll need to choose a blockchain to use for creating and developing your NFT, set up a digital wallet, and then select an NFT marketplace, like OpenSea or Mintable.
Still, if you already have knowledge of the cryptocurrency and NFT space, it could be worthwhile. Considering that the most expensive NFT sold for millions of dollars, it’s an attractive opportunity.
6. Create a Print-on-Demand Shop
Having a print-on-demand shop is similar to selling your prints, but you can create a wider range of products. By connecting with a manufacturer, you can have someone else create prints, stickers, mugs, t-shirts, and more with your art on them.
There’s little risk with this method since the manufacturer doesn’t make any products until you make a sale. They also house the product and ship it for you, so it’s fairly low effort. However, you will need to create an online storefront which can be time intensive. You can do that on your website - just be sure to get a payment system like Pay.com that allows a wide variety of payment methods.
You may also start a print-on-demand business on a website like Etsy. While Etsy does take a cut of your sales, there are already customers on Etsy looking to buy products just like yours. You will also need to spend a good amount of time researching SEO and creating perfect listings that draw in customers.
7. Make Stock Art
There’s always demand for stock art as people use it for their own products, websites, videos, and more. People need all kinds of stock art, from photography to fonts. You can earn up to 60% of the revenue that your art produces, depending on where you sell.
There are plenty of websites you can sell stock art on. Popular options include:
- Adobe Stock
- Creative Market
8. Teach Art
As an artist, you have an invaluable skill that other people will pay a lot of money to learn. You can also easily prove and advertise your abilities by showcasing your past work. By teaching art online, you can reach tons of people and earn good money.
There are many ways to teach others online. This includes:
- Courses: Host an art course on a website like Skillshare or Teachable. These sites give you a wider audience, but if you already have a following you can teach a course via Zoom or Google Hangouts and keep all your profits.
- Webinars: Webinars require less work than courses, but you may not earn as much in passive income. Still, you can easily promote a webinar centered around a certain skill, host it on a platform like Zoom, and earn money.
- YouTube videos: Post tutorials on YouTube. It won’t pay much in the beginning as you need to meet certain metrics to earn a cut of YouTube’s ad revenue but it can become very lucrative over time.
- Mentorships: Offer one-on-one coaching or mentoring to your followers. This is a much more high-touch way of teaching others but can be incredibly rewarding.
9. Sell an Ebook
When you create an ebook, you earn passive income every time someone purchases it. Plus, since it’s all digital, you don’t have to worry about dealing with publishers or printing companies. You can make the ebook using free software like Canva if you aren’t already well-versed in other programs, like PowerPoint or Adobe.
You can make an ebook about any art-related topic you specialize in. It could be a step-by-step guide, technique workbook, or knitting pattern booklet. If you don’t want to make an instructional ebook, you could also create digital notebooks, journals, and planners that feature your art.
You can sell your ebook on marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy. Still, these sites take a percentage of each sale. If you want to keep all the profits and have a solid social media following, you could sell the ebook from your website. Just be sure to set up a secure payment system, like Pay.com.
10. Start an Art Blog
There are a couple of reasons you might want to have a blog as an artist. First, a blog can be a very successful marketing approach, showcasing your work to your ideal clients while building trust. On the other hand, you could monetize your blog and earn money via ads, sponsors, and affiliate links.
The strategy for each type of blog is a bit different because you’ll likely be speaking to different audiences. If you’re looking to gain new customers, you want to write about topics they’re searching for, such as your particular style of art, your medium, and opinions on any related new art trends.
Meanwhile, if you want to earn money from the blog itself, you’ll want to write about topics that draw in big crowds. For example, you could share technique tips and art supply reviews.
Either way, it takes time and dedication to build up an audience for a blog. You’ll need to implement an SEO strategy, research topics, and post consistently. Still, as you grow the blog, you can earn more and more in terms of ad revenue, bigger sponsor deals, and bigger clients.
11. Create a Members-Only Site
As you grow a following, you can offer exclusive content that you keep behind a paywall. You’ve likely heard of influencers and YouTubers using this exact tactic with sites like Patreon. Here, creators set tiered levels – usually $5 to $30 per month – which subscribers can opt into to access special photos, videos, live streams, and more.
You can do the same with your art. If you don’t want to use Patreon, there are plenty of alternatives, like Podia, Buy Me a Coffee, and Memberful. Within your membership, you could offer:
- Behind-the-scenes exclusives
- How-to workbooks
- Viewer-requested art
It’s worth noting that all of these sites take a cut of your sales, which can either be a percentage or a flat rate. To avoid fees, you could create a members-only section of your own website. Weigh the costs of each option to figure out what’s right for you.
12. Offer Art Direction or Consulting
If you have years of experience in creating, designing, and selling your art, you might take your business to the next level by offering consulting and directing services. With consulting, you can teach other artists how to create successful careers selling their own art. You can do this in a one-on-one setting or with a group via a webinar.
You can also offer art direction to individuals or companies for their artistic projects. With art direction service, you can also help other artists finetune their creative process. With this work, you need to be particularly educated within your medium, as well as design in general. You need to have the communication skills necessary to translate your vision for others.
How to Run a Business as an Artist
Even if you have experience selling your art, running an actual business can be confusing. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be difficult. You already have the hard part – creating the art – down. Now, you just need to do some planning and create systems to get the business side of things done.
It’s best to start with defining your business by determining what your niche is and who your target market is. This will make selling your art far easier. To determine this, you can ask yourself:
- What type of art do I sell?
- What subject matter do I like to cover in my art?
- Who’s buying my art?
- Where are they buying my art?
- Where does my target market spend time online?
- How much money is my target market willing to spend on art?
Next, make a list of how much it costs to create your art. What raw materials do you need? Do you pay for a studio space or ongoing training? With this in mind, as well as knowledge of your target market, you can set your prices to ensure you earn a profit.
Next, you’ll need to register your business and deal with state regulations. Most states require that you license your business according to local rules. You’ll also want to create a website to use for displaying your portfolio and potentially making sales.
It’s important to make it easy for customers to enter their payment information and buy your art. You can set up a payment system on your website with Pay.com, which includes a no-code solution. In just a few clicks, you can add a variety of payment methods to your site and start taking orders.
From there, you’ll need to start building an online following or community. You might also consider getting additional tools, like inventory management software, to help make your selling process easier. You can read our full guide on starting a successful art business here.
How to Get Paid Online as an Artist
Although you might shy away from it, setting up a payment system so you can get paid for your art is incredibly easy. Pay.com is a one-stop shop that gives you everything you need to start accepting payments, including a payment gateway, merchant account, and payment processing services.
Through the Pay Dashboard, you can customize your checkout page so it looks just like your own website, creating a seamless checkout experience for your customers. Once set up, your customers can use a wide variety of payment methods, so you’ll never have a customer walk away from a sale because they can’t use their favorite credit card.
Even if you sell a piece of art off of your website, Pay.com can help. For example, let’s say someone wants to purchase a piece that you posted on Instagram. You can send them a Pay Link. When they click it, they’re taken to a checkout page where they can enter their details and complete the sale. Or, let’s say someone calls you and wants to buy a piece - you can enter their payment information manually and get paid that way.
How to Market Yourself Online as an Artist
There are a ton of ways to market yourself online. However, even if you have the best marketing strategy, you won’t get far if your target customers don’t see what you’re posting. With this in mind, market research is key. Understanding who you’re selling to, how much they’re willing to spend, and where they hang out is fundamental to your marketing strategy.
For example, if you’re selling oil paintings, your target market might spend time in fine art Facebook and Reddit groups. Meanwhile, if you sell online courses that teach users how to create art in Procreate, your ideal clients probably spend more time on Pinterest and Instagram.
Once you determine where your people are, you can work on building a following there. Consider the following tips when posting and engaging with others:
- Write as if you’re speaking to one person, not a group. That means referring to the reader as “you” – not “they.”
- Focus on discussing the benefits of buying your art. Marketing is about the buyer, not about you as the artist. What emotions will the buyer get when they view the art every day? What will it add to their space?
- Engage your audience by telling stories. Perhaps you write about a particular art piece, why you became an artist, what inspires you, etc.
The Bottom Line: You Can Make Money Doing What You Love
Selling your art online might seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is that you’ve already conquered the hard part: making art! Now, you simply need to put the planning and research in place for your desired method of online selling. Whether you want to explore art licensing or make NFTs, you can earn a healthy income doing your creative thing.
Once you decide on a course of action, make sure you give your customers an easy way to pay you. Pay.com makes setting up a payment system simple and gives you the flexibility to get paid in several ways, from website checkout to Pay Links. Get started today by clicking here.