6 Ways to Make Money with Your Art

6 Ways to Make Money with Your Art

So you've decided that this is the year you want to start monetizing your art, but you aren't sure where to start. You've spoken with people who've sold some of their stuff online, in local shops, and/or galleries, but you're not sure which is the right way for you. Also, all the different options can be overwhelming. 

If this sounds familiar, don't worry. These questions and concerns are very common and are some of the ones I struggled with at first, too. Keep in mind that I am no expert and will always be learning new things about the art world, but it helped for me to think about all the ways I could sell my art, research them, and then choose the easiest one first. Once I got that one down, I have expanded, and this helped me avoid overwhelm.

Below I break down the 6 primary ways to make money with your art. I put them in order of what I think is easiest to most difficult, and highlight the simple pros and cons of each and make some recommendations so that you have a better idea of which one(s) are a better starting place for you, and which one(s) you may want to explore in the future after you've established a foundation.

Let's get into them.

1. Sell Art Online. It has never been easier to sell your art, and the easiest way to do it is online. The startup costs are considerably cheap and you can do it from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, like your living room, a café, or the library. You don't even need to carry an inventory or hand-ship your art if you don't want to. You can drop-ship prints to anywhere in the world using print-on-demand companies. Not only is this method easier and more cost-effective for you as you get your business off the ground, it's also much more eco-friendly and sustainable. 

Online you also have access to a global market as long as you can find a way to tap into it. I started selling my art online and made over $200 in my first month without knowing much at all about online marketing. It only gets better from there the more you learn. I am putting together a free guide to walk you through what I would have done differently so you can far surpass $200 in your first month. Be the first to get it here.

If you are just starting to sell your art, I would recommend starting online and then expanding your income streams once you've got this one set up. Not only will it get you in "the game" with little effort, it also serves as a landing page for people to come back to who find your work in the other places you may choose to sell your art. In my guide, I'll walk you through the best way to get online fast and make your first sale.

2. Make Commissions. Another easy way to start making some money from your art is with commissions. There are probably a lot of people in your local circle who would be willing to pay you some commission fee for a beautiful animal or family portrait that they can have as a keepsake or a gift to a loved one. This requires very little upfront cost for you. It only requires your skill, your time, and your ability to deliver. 

There are some drawbacks when doing commissions. First, you want to make sure you are getting paid, and getting paid fairly. Some artists do this by requiring 50% or more for the piece before they even begin. Keep in mind that, unless you are passionate about the commissions you are doing, commissions may take away from the time you have to create the art you want to do.  

However, commissions can help you build your art practice, build expertise, build a following, and begin to understand how to price your original works. This is a good route to explore and decide what's best for you. 

3. Sell Art Locally. Selling art locally is a great way to sell your art and build a local following. This is a great option if you like interacting with people, have your own store front, or can sell in local shops (i.e. cafes, bookstores, gift shops). 

The drawbacks of selling art locally are few, but are significant for someone who might be short on time. This method requires relationship building and approaching shop owners (unless you have your own) about selling art in their place of business. Each location operates differently, which can present challenges. They may require you to come hang your art for a limited time, they may take a commission of each sale, or they might not handle sales at all. In this case you have to figure out a way for buyers to pay you even when you're not there. 

Many artists love this method of art monetization and it makes them feel closer to their community. While it's helpful to start selling online before this step, you can start here. Keep in mind that it's nice to have a website people can go to if they see your work in a store and want to learn more. 

4. Sell at Fairs and Festivals. The easiest way to make an art sale is face-to-face. People like to know who they are buying from. This is true for any of the methods mentioned here, but the most time you'll have with buyers directly is if you take part in art fairs and festivals. This is a good way to go if you like interacting with people and have the time and resources to choose this method. 

The biggest drawbacks to selling at fairs and festivals is that they require carrying considerable inventory. That means there might be significant up front costs to make prints, copies, and other merchandise, and you might not sell everything you hoped to. You can always sell leftover inventory online later. Keep in mind that fairs and festivals usually require other materials like a tent, sandbags so the tent doesn't blow away, totes, and a way to transport your art from event to event.  All of these things add up in money and time. Art is also more likely to get damaged at these events because they're exposed to the elements and lots of people.

However, the collective energy at fairs and festivals invigorates a lot of artists. They love the community and wouldn't trade it for anything. 

5. Sell in Galleries. A lot of artists' primary goal is to sell in galleries. This is a great goal, but very few artists make it into the type of gallery they dream of. The competition for the high-end galleries is fierce and a lot of it has to do with luck. 

The esteem of galleries varies across a wide spectrum. In the beginning, you can pursue community galleries and pay to have your work featured. This might be expensive, the gallery may have rules, and will likely take a large portion of any sale you make. Higher-end galleries, on the other hand, usually contact the artists they want to feature. While art in these galleries sells for far more, they will take 50% or more of the sale. Featuring your work in galleries also takes time and focus to put a cohesive collection together that follows gallery rules, such as white borders on canvas, specific frame types, or other hanging requirements. Keep in mind that burnout can be an issue for artists that are constantly meeting gallery show timelines and requirements. 

That being said, if selling your work in galleries is your dream, then go for it! Consider some of the other ways to get your art and your name out there so galleries start to take notice of your work, like being online! 

6. License Your Art. Licensing your art is a great way to earn money with your art. Artwork licensing is when an artist signs a contract (also known as a licensing agreement) to allow another person or company to use their artwork for commercial purposes in exchange for a fee. This fee can be a one-off payment or an ongoing percentage of sales, it all depends on the terms you negotiate.

You know those beautiful beach paintings on canvas sold at Target? An artist painted those, got a licensing deal, and makes a percentage of every one sold. You know that shower curtain with the pretty flowers on it you bought, or that set of dish towels with turtles you thought were so cute, or those new sheets you got covered in a leaf pattern? All made my licensed artists. Art is everywhere and people are making money from their designs through licensing agreements. 

However, this is a very specific artistic niche and takes focused, deliberate work to get into the industry. If this is your dream, do it. I highly recommend learning from other pattern designers like Bonnie Christine to get a better handle on this process.

Well, there you have it. Six ways to monetize your art this year. I recommend starting with one of the easier ways, getting good at that method, and then start to incorporate other income streams that interest you. Avoid overwhelm and burnout by mastering one at a time. 

If you want to learn how to setup your online art shop and make your first sale, sign up to be the first to get my guide below. 

Thanks, and don't forget to do something for you today!  

Back to blog