It's every artist's dream to create the work they love while also making a bunch of money.
And while art has never been an optimal path for wealth creation, there has never been a better time to make money as an artist.
In this guide, we're going to teach you, step by step, how to make money as an artist.
We'll show you the two primary ways that great artists earn full time pay for their work, and we'll teach you how to use either strategy to quit your day job and start making art full time.
Let's get started.
The Poor Mindsets That Hold Artists Back
The intersection of creativity and profitably creates some interesting mental blocks for many artists.
There are some very common mentalities that hold people back from making a decent living:
- Some artists believe that earning money from their work constitutes "selling out".
- Some artists struggle initially to profit from their work and accept a false reality that profit is unattainable.
- Many artists are simply mediocre at what they do, and instead of investing their time in mastering the craft, they spend all their time trying to compete with thousands of other mediocre artists.
- Some artists are only interested in creating niche work that doesn't have much monetary demand.
If you decide that profitability in art doesn't interest you, more power to you. But if that were truly the case, you never would have clicked on this article.
Since you are here, reading this piece, it means that you actually do want to make money from your art, and in that context, every single mentality above is bullshit. Each has numerous solutions and is really just a small hurdle to jump for someone committed to succeeding.
So what are those solutions?
The Mindset of a Successful Artist
There are tens of thousands of artists (minimum) making a killing from their work right now.
And while it would be impossible to create categories that capture every one of them, we are going to focus today on two specific paths to profitable art.
- Create types of art that are in high demand.
- Build a following of people who love and pay for you art.
We'll spend the rest of this article diving into these two paths, but before we do, let's address the single most important element of a successful artist's mindset:
Mastery = Success
Like with any skill, there is ALWAYS good money available for people who are true masters of their craft.
- If you are a top 5% woodworker in the world, you can make insane money.
- If you are a top 5% painter in the world, you can make insane money.
- If you are a top 5% digital artist in the world, you can make insane money.
- If you are a top 5% _______ in the world, you can make insane money.
In all likelihood, top 5% is too stingy. You can probably make great money in the 10, 15, even 20 percentile.
The point here is that people who excel at what they do make great money, and art is no exception. If you truly want to make money as an artist, your first goal should be mastering your artistry and becoming one of the best at what you do.
When you are genuinely a standout at what you do, the money comes much more naturally. It's easier to get key jobs. It's easier to sell your work as a freelancer. It's easier to attract a following of people who love and are willing to pay for your work.
If you are in the 50% - if there are tens of thousands of people who can do exactly what you do - then you are going to spend the rest of your life fighting for scraps.
Focus on master first, and the rest of this guide will be a piece of cake.
Part 1: Creating Art That Is In Demand
The first and easiest way to make great money as an artist is to create the type of art that is already in high demand.
This can look like an artistic job, a freelance business, or any number of gig types. We'll spend most of this section teaching you how to get a freelance art business off the ground, but first, let's devote one section to covering the surprisingly vibrant and lucrative artistic job market.
Art Jobs Are In High Demand
The market for full-time artists is probably larger than you think. It's not that difficult to land an artistic job paying more than $55k per year.
Some of the top careers in the arts include:
- Art Director - Typically with an MBA or Master of Fine Arts degree one can earn upwards of $100,000.
- Art Agent - Managing the business aspects of art can be exponentially rewarding based on the success of your clients.
- Art Professor - Becoming an aficionado in the arts may require an educational invest itself, such as a Master of Fine Arts or doctorate degree, but pays anywhere from $40-88,000 annually.
- Commercial Artist - Often requiring a minimum of a bachelor or considerable experience, salaried commercial artists are generally paid between $40-85,000.
- Animator - From video games to movies, animators with a bachelors education and/or computer graphics disciplined work experience can pay $45-82,000 within the field.
- Interior Designer - Typically completing a associate or bachelors is sufficient in this field although often completing a master's program may give provide you with an edge depending on your pursuits. However done, this is a very niche-oriented pursuit and can be greatly rewarded independently or with salaries from $35-65,000.
- Graphic Designer - Serving a broad range of uses, graphic designers can really work entry level and move on with a bachelor degree programs or stick within their demand. Salaries are typically $33-60,000.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you've never felt like the entrepreneurial type, but you still want to make great money from your artwork, a full-time job might be the perfect career choice for you.
On the other hand, if you want to retain the freedom that comes with running your own business, here's how to do just that.
How To Make Money Selling In-Demand Art
To figure out your work's worth, you need to look at how you are marketing your art. You can value you work by the price of a single piece of artwork, the time you invest into a piece, or a combination of the two.
There are a few factors to consider starting out. If you're starting from the ground floor:
- First and foremost be honest with yourself
- Equally important, give yourself a living wage (consider what your minimum wage would be at a normal job, and work your way up)
- Be consistent and transparent with your pricing.
- Compare your pricing with others - Is your pricing reasonable?
- Set a price/flat rate for commissions as well as factor in the time you spend on a piece.
- If you are spending time on something that doesn't include the final product, such as photography, figure out how much to charge for your time, and then how much do you charge for prints.
- Consider licensing your art or selling it through stock agencies.
If you're prepared to be hired within a company or agency, the answer here may be simple.
However, it is necessary to do the proper research before diving head first to find clients or jobs - asking questions such as:
- What is normal or expected out of the work you will be doing?
- Does this company excite my art/passions about said art?
- What role or opportunities does this company present in furthering my art?
- What is a normal salary for a given position - How much is expect to be earned from this position through other companies?
There isn't any one answer here, as it is up to you to know your worth, but these are all questions to consider and answers know in order to begin working.
Once you have a deeper understanding of your worth as an artist, it's time to consider how you can convey that to potential clients and fans.
1. Develop Your Core Offer
To get started, you need to define your core offer—the creative skills you hope to use to generate income. This isn't as simple as listing out the medium you work in, but rather putting it in terms that make sense to others who may be willing to pay you.
Many entrepreneurs and artists specialize in a specific area and have developed their core offer that has in turn made a viable career for themselves and others like them. Why?
- Creators aren't necessarily innovators in their medium. Their entrepreneurship distinguishes them in on way or another and because of this they are able to find success.
- Artists aren't creating an always creating an audience, they are utilizing a pre-existing audience or market to capitalize on their ideas.
- Creators have core passions directly related to their work. From this passion each have identified their core offer, and from this core offer they have built their business.
So what is your core passion? Let's say you design clothes. What is it that you design, and why? Do you make work wear? Women's fashion? Sports shoes?
Not only is it important to specialize in something (that is also your passion), but it is increasingly important for you to ask why you want to create something. What need can you fulfill with your art?
Knowing this, and communicating it, adds to the value of the experience of why people will choose you over the alternative.
For example, let's say you are a fashion designer, and you want your core offering to be sports attire. For the consumer, there are so many options to choose from when it come, so why should they go with your creation?
People want specifics, they want a WHY. They want the moisture wicking, odor repellent, form-fitting flexible material with the perfectly sized compartment for their phone.
As a sports clothing designer, such specifics are a leg up in the competition, because people value these specifics. Using your skills, find a way to make your creation stand out from the pack, so that customers will clearly understand why your designs are better than the rest.
2. Master Your Execution & Delivery
As with any type of work, improving over time is essential to staying afloat. As an artist, there are always ways you can improve your mastery. Of course, practice makes perfect, but beyond that, there are other ways to improve your skills:
- Find a community of artists to share ideas and work with
- Go outside your comfort zone to gain feedback and new perspectives
- Consider going (back) to school or taking a course
- Conduct independent study (visit a museum, find a book on your subject, attend a conference, etc.)
In many cases, education plays a large role in landing a commercial job. But just how important is it?
Let's say you are in the visual arts. Much of this field increasingly falls under the umbrella of Graphic Design.
Does this mean education is better than experience? Not necessarily. Out of the top ten highest-paying artistic jobs, only 55% of the workforce work with a degree. Additionally, among the graphic design workforce only 47% work with a degree.
The exception to this would be arts that involve as much precision as they do conceptualization, for example: Interior Design, Industrial Design, Architecture.
These jobs require as much technical training in physics, physical ergonomics, working with spatial measurements, and scientific decision making as they they do intuitive creativity.
Something interesting to consider is that while a graphic designer's median salary is highest when employed by a company, the ceiling is much higher when self-employed.
What this may mean is that the self-employed in the top highest-paying artistic jobs are successful simply by determination and ingenuity.
It's not to say that they are not working with a degree, but often people won't pursue a degree if it isn't required in order to be successfully self-employed.
However, the higher you scale as a graphic designer the more the role becomes focused on art direction, and this does typically require a degree.
With all this to consider, perhaps your core offer could be an asset to a company that would see great mutual use from your craft.
Much like the art itself, finding the right place to work means getting creative and exploring what you environment or what path best suits your goals.
3. Develop & Grow Your Clientele
Freelancing allows you to build your own brand while your art serves a role within another business, project, or your clients' purpose for your art.
If your goal is to become a business owner yourself, you are going to want to make your art well known.
This can be difficult to manage at first, but it really comes down to networking. This also means making your name well known by building your own brand.
Some ways to do this include:
- Attending events such as galleries and showcases
- Advertising on social media and sites like Craigslist
- Pitching your work to leaders in your industry
- Finding other artists to collaborate with
If your goal is to get hired within a company, then experience is vital. As discussed, education isn't a must, but it certainly would help. Many companies are open to hiring if you have a decent portfolio.
Here is a list of artist oriented job sites that allow you to find work as well as submit your work on job boards for potential clients to view:
Part 2: Build An Audience That Loves Your Work
While the simplest path to profitable artistry is to create work that fills an existing demand, it's not the only path.
You can also create your own demand by building a following of people who love your work and are willing to pay you for it.
This path is much less straightforward. Different people succeed here for different reasons, and it's difficult to predict the specifics about what will catch on, what will be popular, why it will be popular, etc.
That said, this path is absolutely viable in today's market, and artists of all types and styles are making a living through their online audiences.
Here's the best framework we can offer for pursuing this path.
1. Find Your Unique Draw
Again, in order to be a successful artist on any level it is imperative to maintain excellence, recognition, and monetary gain through:
- Finding what your unique draw is
- Developing your audience by drawing them
- Knowing how to capitalize on your success
To get started defining your audience, ask yourself what about you and what you do attracts people to want more?
For example, let's say you are streaming original content like video essays or tutorials (Twitch, Youtube, etc.) What is it about you that people should pay attention to?
Are you striving to be the most insightful source for your niche? Are you the most entertaining or possess the ability to create a persona that stands out amongst the wealth of other streamers?
If you aren't striving to turn potential into a unique draw it isn't likely that you will find more than marginal success.
If you are striving to be more than a moderate success by finding your unique draw, good news, there are potential markets out there just waiting to be tapped.
Because you are seeking to build an audience who are coming to you for content, you are going to need creative ways to broadcast and capitalize on your success.
On a practical level this means adopting the art of the hustle and finding platforms to broadcast your art.
2. Choose The Right Platform
Finding your platform to build your audience ideally replaces the need to find clientele - your clientele will come to you.
It will also directly correlate to your worth and will be the primary way in which you are paid.
There are many ways to go about finding platforms. There are a few time-tested options to consider:
- Commercial galleries, which will often take a percentage of your earnings
- Non-profit galleries, which typically won't take a cut
- Open a studio, which will usually come after you are established in your medium
Fortunately, there are many platforms that do not require you renting a physical space.
Online portfolios, sites to showcase and sell you work, and social media platforms have opened a vast array of ways to showcase your work.
These sites may still act as a middle man, as in some cases they will still charge you "rent" or commission, but they will broadcast your work to a much broader audience.
Here is a compiled and extensive list of some of the places to showcase, sell, or create your own website to portfolio your work.
A. Online Portfolios
Building an online portfolio has never been easier and more efficient. Currently atop the online portfolio game are the following websites.
- Carbonmade ("A hassle-free online portfolio")
- Adobe Portfolio (free with Creative Cloud)
- Cargo Collective ("We make tools for building websites, shops, portfolios, archives, blogs, or whatever")
- Crevado ("Free, easy-to-use portfolio builder for creative folk")
- Fabrik (Clean and professional portfolio website themes)
B. Website Builders
Perhaps you're looking for something a bit more straightforward. There are business platform's emerging all the time. These are currently the most popular and easy to use.
- Wix (Free website builder)
- Squarespace (provides software for website building and hosting)
- FolioLink (elegant portfolio website building)
- Weebly (online store creation/website building)
C. Showcase Platforms
If you're simply seeking platforms to gain recognition or a place other than craigslist to make sales, these sites are great to explore. They also act as a great place to browse - like a instagram for art.
- Behance (Adobe's Platform To Showcase/Discover Other People's Work)
- deviantART (The Largest Online Art Gallery and Community)
- Coroflot (Design Jobs & Portfolios)
- Dribbble (Discovering Designers and Creatives)
- Artspace (Contemporary Art For Sale)
D. Social Media Channels
This one is obvious, and may even sound played out, but social media channels are still great ways to connect with fans and build an audience.
Facebook currently has the best advertising system in place, so if you are planning to use paid advertising to build your following, you'll want to be on Facebook.
Instagram is the #1 instant gallery in the world right now. If you offer any sort of visual media, Instagram is an ideal platform for building a following, highlighting your work, and sharing behind the scenes insights.
Every social media channel has its strengths and weaknesses, so try to figure out which channel your "tribe" uses most, and invest your time there.
E. Streaming Platforms
One of the best ways to start building an audience is to stream your work. This is particularly well-suited for artists who can showcase their process, provide reviews of other artists or concepts, or deliver how-to information around their services.
Thanks to the massive popularity of streaming, there are a number of platforms where you can find and nurture your audience:
The first to discuss is Youtube. Youtube offers a place to stream essentially any type of content you can think of. Once you gain enough popularity, you can monetize your channel and make money by providing:
- Online Lecturing
- Video Essays
- Vlogging, etc
The current king of the streaming world is Twitch. Like Youtube, Twitch offers a place to get paid for streaming content. Many people, especially gamers, choose Twitch for live streaming over Youtube.
Ways to get paid through twitch include:
- Bit Donations
Facebook is a 3rd place you can stream video content, but it has a less developed capacity for monetization and is not nearly as committed to the act of streaming as Youtube and Twitch are.
F. Direct Sponsorship Platforms
It has never been easier to get paid as an artist.
Many people still use Paypal for their transactions, but more recently, direct sponsorship sites like Patreon have emerged, allowing fans to directly financially support their favorite artists.
Self-described as the, "Best way for artists and creators to get sustainable income," Patreon offers its users funding directly from the fans, or patrons, on an annual basis or per piece of work.
Because it is a crowdfunding membership platform offering a unique space for creators to interact with their subscribers, Patreon charges 5% for each donation and 5% in transaction fees, meaning you keep 90% of your total earnings.
Not so bad for a virtual storefront.
3. Be Consistent & Patient
For every successful artists who explodes onto the scene, thousands of others spend years grinding away before they hit their stride and build enough of an audience to earn a living.
Even if you have the tools and potential to ultimately succeed, your audience building journey is likely to be a long one. Consistently, persistence, and time are prerequisites to succeeding via this path.
That said, the amazing thing about building an engaged audience is that it's very difficult to lose them. People who are passionate about what you are doing will stay with you for years, and whether you find 10 of them or a thousand, finding any number of them is worth the effort.
Carve Your Own Path
There's an interesting quote attributed to Pablo Picasso:
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
Being an artists is about carving your own identify into the fabric of the world, but you can't break the rules until you've learned them first.
In a similar way, being an entrepreneur is about carving your path to profitability, but you can't carve that path until you've first learned a proven, established framework for building a business.
This is the framework we teach here at Consulting.com, and it's how 3,000 of our students have been able to quit their jobs and launch successful full time businesses. If you're ready to finally take action and build a legitimate business, click below to try our premium course, completely free.