Ways to Make Money Online as an Artist

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It has often been said that there is not enough money in being an artist. Some may believe artists live a life of poverty and struggle, while some other may argue, “after all, Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso never saw popularity and fame in their own time. They only became known posthumously”. While all these perceptions may stem from some kind of truth (an average artist may not make as much money as a Wall Street investment banker), it is no longer true that the struggles of an artist are the same as they were before. Once you build a brand that people begin to recognize, your art will sell itself.

In today’s economy, what better way is there to make a name than with the help of the good old internet? The new strategy for every business is to attempt to go viral. It’s the most effective way to gain an audience. So when everyone else is doing it, why not artists too? The internet is also a great platform because it gives you access to all kinds of people. To be a financially successful artist, striking the right chord with a diverse audience is akin to striking gold. You don’t have to go looking for niche sites or change the way you make your art – everything is accessible to everyone through social media. If you have takers offline, they will find you online too, provided you can market yourself well.

Be it graphic design, charcoal art, oil on canvas, water color or different kinds of handicrafts and skills, you name it and there is room for it on the internet. Especially since the online medium has much room for visual content, there is potential for artists to prosper and build a steady following. So how does an artist make money online? Here are some tips and methods to help you out:

Social Media

The most important aspect of selling your art online is to build a social media following. The only way your audience will find out what you’re doing is through your social media presence. It’s important to engage and interact with your audience by using key strategies to make your art more accessible and appealing. Use high-resolution photos of your art or upload a timelapse video of a sketch you made but most importantly, know how to use the right social media tools, such as hashtags and building an SEO-friendly URL. Here are some tips to make your art accessible through social media platforms.

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and More

Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook especially, are visual mediums that reward a great image. A single great photo could get liked and shared by thousands, over multiple platforms. Everything comes down to one simple term: followers. Building a community of followers is the only sure shot way of selling your art online. Consider the following:

High-Quality Images

The quality of the photos makes a huge difference since this will be the first point of contact the audience will have with your art. If you were hosting a show in an art gallery you wouldn’t hang poor quality images or paintings on the walls, would you? Similarly, the audience needs to have a good look at your work even online.

The sharpness and vividness of a good, high-quality photograph can do wonders for your audience engagement. A high-quality photograph is also more pleasing aesthetically and audiences obviously expect an artist to have good aesthetic sense.

Branding

Branding simply means keeping a uniform style or aesthetic that makes your brand unique. You could be making different kinds of art as long as it has a signature style that your audiences can recognize you by. You can use a steady filter or a hashtag that you declare as your own. By doing this even an audience with a short attention span can immediately recognize you.

Post Consistently

To build a brand that is engaging and recognizable you have to put in consistent work. It doesn’t work if you fall complacent after only a few hits. Your audience must be assured that there will be a consistent flow of new content and work for them to appreciate and engage with. The attention span of internet audiences may not always be as long, so try not to be out of sight, out of mind.

Having said that, there’s a fine line between posing regularly and spamming. Make sure not to turn your audiences off by offering up too much at once.

Hashtags

In the case of Instagram, getting your hashtags right is winning half the battle. Hashtags make your posts more searchable, so pick hashtags that have good recall value and are simple. Use the search option on Instagram to see what keywords related to your art are trending. You can also find Instagram artists who have a good grasp of hashtags and make note of which and how many hashtags they are using. It is, however, also important to ensure the hashtag you’re using is in keeping with your post.

Once you have enough followers, several sponsors may approach you to ask you to recommend their products for a small commission. Apart from selling your art, this is a good way to make some extra money. But make sure to only promote products you genuinely like and enjoy. You don’t want to let your hard-earned following down.

Websites that Sell Art

Other than building a social media presence (which is important regardless of where you sell your art), there are several platforms that put artists in touch with each other and also sell art. As an artist, it’s important to be involved with other artists and build a network. The following websites may help you do so:

Art.com

Art.com hosts thousands of artists from around the world to bring them together and sell their art. You can sign up either for free or for a paid premium account. The platform has been around since 1998, selling high-quality wall art and contemporary decor.

Artsy

Artsy sells artworks, holds auctions and has a curated list of art galleries near you. As an artist featured on Artsy, you can display a variety of your works and even have a short bio that describes where you are from and the kind of work you specialize in, along with a detailed CV.

Art Fire

Art Fire brings together artisans from around the world to sell unique, handcrafted products. The site usually does not deal in paintings and photographs but focuses on handicrafts, jewelry, accessories and other trinkets. The site is a great platform for independent artists and small businesses.

Fine Art

Fine Art is a great option for US-based artists to sell their work. The site deals in all kinds of mediums, from oil canvases to charcoal sketches. The site also sells apparel and merchandise, giving your art a wider base.

Art Pal

Art Pal has nearly 94,000 artists from all over the world selling a variety of different kinds of art online. The best thing about Art Pal is that there is no membership fee and the artists get to keep nearly 95 percent of what the piece makes upon a sale. The portal also allows you to make your own gallery for free and display all kinds of work.

Artplode

Artplode allows buyers and sellers to interact directly without having to pay any commission. It provides the artists with a platform to build their own gallery and upload their works for sale. It charges a one-off fee of $60 to list an artwork for sale and the artist can keep the artwork listed for as long as they want, without any additional fee.

Etsy

Etsy is a lot like many other merchandise websites on the internet but is a great place for handicrafts, home decoration and gift items. The site charges a small listing fee of $.020, which is active for four months or until the artwork sells. On every artwork purchased, there’s a small commission fee and a payment processing fee for PayPal.

Amazon

Amazon, of course, is a premier destination for all kinds of online shopping but it also has a wide range of wall art and home decors. If the sites that specialize in selling art are not for you, consider Amazon which gets a wide variety of audience, art lovers or otherwise.

Freelance

While you can work at an organisation or a firm as an artist, the freedom of taking commissioned work as you go along and being your own boss is the most liberating for an artist. To become a full-time freelance artist, building your brand and network is the most important thing. While the points about your social media presence discussed above come into play here heavily, you will also have to build your own portfolio where people can see all that you have been working on. It’s of the utmost importance for you to have your own website, in this case.

Building Your Own Website

With a portfolio website, you not only let people know where to reach you but also have a handy place to invite buyers to commission work. There are plenty of ways you can start your own website with very little initial investment. Just register a domain using WordPress.org, an open-source platform you can use to create websites, along with compatible hosting services like BlueHost or SiteGround.

The sooner you get started with your website, the better, as it offers you better traction from Google users. The key is to keep updating your website so the search engine knows this is a steady website that is here to stay. For only about $4 a month, you can start and customize your own website, display your work, take orders and interact with art lovers as well as other artists.

Options Other Than WordPress

While WordPress is a popular and easy way to build a website, it may be limited in terms of serving the needs of an artist specifically. Other than WordPress, there are options that are specifically made for artists. The following are some popular names:

Heavy Bubble

Heavy bubble, for example, is designed especially for artists and has easy-to-use templates that are pleasing to artists as well as art lovers. The starting price for a subscription is $20 a month, definitely more expensive than WordPress, but it caters specifically to the artist’s needs and helps the artist put their website on autopilot so they can focus on other ventures.

Other People’s Pixels

Other People’s Pixels, like heavy bubble mentioned above, also caters specifically to artists and their needs. The platform also allows artists to protect and copyright images of their work, set up “virtual business cards” and learn about SEO tools that will make their website more searchable. Subscription plans for OPP start at $16 per month.

Fine Art Studio Online

Fine Art Studio Online or FASO is another option you could try. Starting at $8 a month, the portal allows you to sell your work directly from the site and even send newsletters to your subscribers. The portal is compatible with both Android and iOS, so buyers can browse and purchase art on-the-go.

Putting Your Art on Merchandise

While this may not be your mainstay but you can make some passive income by putting your art on merchandise like coffee mugs and T-shirts. There are several sites that take entries from artists for their work, especially graphics. You can even decide which mockups are best suited for your art. Every time someone places an order for the merchandise, the website takes on the responsibility of printing your artwork on to the merchandise and you make a commission on the purchase. Here are some sites you can try:

Society6

On each purchase from Society6, an artist makes money. Society6 sells a wide range of merchandise, from custom-made phone covers to wallpapers, cutting boards, shower curtains, pillow covers, etc. You name it and Society6 has it in a snazzy, artistic print. You can become a verified member of Society6 and upload your work. Every time an order is placed on one of your artworks, Society6 produces, packages and sells your artwork, while ensuring you retain the rights to your own work throughout.

The site allows you to set your own prices for all the work you upload and pays at the beginning of every month, via a Paypal account.

Zazzle

There are three ways to be associated with Zazzle.

  • You can become a ‘Designer’ and upload your art on Zazzle for it to be printed on different kinds of merchandise. You can set your own royalty rates for all the work you upload and don’t have to bother about maintaining any inventory.
  • You can become a ‘Maker’ and sell your own products without any membership or listing fee and interact with buyers directly and easily.
  • You can become an ‘Associate’ to promote your favourite products and earn a commission on every referral. This option is open even to non-artists with zero design experience.

 

Teach a Class

If you have the skills, why not share them with the world? Of course, if you’re an artist it doesn’t necessarily mean you will also be a good teacher. But you could always learn from making mistakes and feedback from your audience. What’s more, it’s an effective way to make a passive income using your skills as an artist. Whether you’re a charcoal artist or a graphic designer, there’s always an eager student looking to learn online. You could be their teacher and make art accessible to millions at once.

The following are some platforms you can try:

Skillshare

With Skillshare, you may see a little income rolling in from the day you upload your course. You can film your class at home and upload it. It can even be an elaborate time-lapse video along with a commentary at the back or simply you along with a whiteboard and marker. Once you upload your video, you can build a channel to create a following of students. Skillshare will pay you a monthly sum every time a student takes your course and you can earn more than $3000 a year only with one video.

The platform even has monthly teaching challenges to motivate and guide you through building a course.

Udemy

You can become an instructor with Udemy by creating a course and uploading it. Udemy also offers a resource hub for teachers, called Teach Hub, which will guide you through the process of creating an effective course that is in keeping with your personality. Once your course has been uploaded, share it widely with friends and family. Udemy even offers marketing guides to make the process easier. Udemy even has a 24/7 support group that will handhold you through your Udemy instructor experience. So even if you’re not confident of your teaching skills, the Udemy team has you covered.

It’s completely free to sign up with Udemy and you get paid each time your course is viewed and based on how many minutes a student spends on your course. So all you need to do is a little research, get a good camera and steady tripod to record a high-quality video and get started!

Start a Blog

Starting a blog is not unlike building your own portfolio website. The only difference is that you can engage with your audiences in a radically different way through posts and by sharing your experiences.

Difference between an Art Portfolio and an Art Blog

There is a lot of content to create for an art blog. You can share a step by step experience of creating a particular piece of art, talk about what inspired you to make it and how long it took you to create it. Every piece of art you share with the world can come along with its specific context, right from the horse’s mouth.

Another key difference between an art portfolio and an art blog is that the focus shifts from you to what the audiences want to know. You can use the platform to talk about art in general, interview artists, review works of art or share tidbits and anecdotes about a famous work of art. Your blog will be a channel to show people that you know and understand art. The trick is to package it in an accessible way that even a layman who doesn’t get art as well as you feels a part of the experience.

If you build a large enough audience, there is money to be made not only through affiliate marketing but even through a steady list of subscribers who will be ready to buy your art if you were to promote it on your blog. Of course, your blog can also be a part of your portfolio to drive audiences to a single channel.

Final Thoughts

Finally, making money online as an artist is not going to become lucrative from the get-go. Just as it could be difficult to find buyers and patrons offline and through gallery shows, it takes time to build a name online. The key is in showing patience and determination even when you don’t seem to be hitting the right notes.

The online audience is dynamic. While you may be expecting only art lovers to come to a gallery show, your work online can be displayed to a wide variety of people and who knows, you may find the following of a new person from any corner of the internet. No other space may give you that kind of visibility or freedom to experiment and publicize your work. Be it on your social media handles or on a blog or website, it’s of utmost importance that you maintain audience engagement and keep trying innovative methods to put yourself out there. The online world throws open a whole new dimension for you as an artist and even as a business owner. So explore, experiment and give your art career a boost!

 

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