Can You Actually Make Money As An Artist?

In short: Hell to the yes! 

Now here’s the kicker: It’s going to take time and effort.

I know what you’re thinking “Oh great, now she’s going to just say that tired old spiel of ‘work hard and you’ll make money’,” But surprise!! It’s not just that for once. How amazing, right?! I’m actually going to explain some of the key goals and what you can do to achieve them. Alright, let’s get onto what your here for, the good stuff, that is.

1: Money Doesn’t Come Quickly

If there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that making money as an artist can be tough. I mean we’ve all heard the age old adage of the starving artist right? It could take a few months to get your first sale, maybe even a few years and you’ll probably find yourself wanting to torch anything art-related after a point. Don’t give up there though, because when you get that first payment for your work you’ll have that sweet, sweeet moment when you finally get to say “worth it”. (Just… uh… don’t spend it all on coffee within a week… I di- my friend did that).

2: You Have to Network and Market Your art

This is how you can go about the actual process of trying to make money; about 90% of your first sales are probably going to come from referrals by friends, family, or other connections. So get yourself out there; start telling people about what you do and make sure that as many people as possible know that you’re an artist that’s looking to sell their work or do commissions. Carry pictures of your work in your phone and set up social media accounts, websites, etc.; basically any places where people can find you and see your work. Art is subjective and we as artists tend to view our own work more harshly than a perspective buyer would so keep your head up and keep trying.

3. Art is basically a business

Shhh…Here’s the secret. (Saaayyyy whatttt…. its not about the art?) Well yeah…and no. Of course some talent will have to work its way onto your canvas but I’ve seen artists generate a good amount of money selling work that consists of scribbles or magazine clippings taped together. How? They have their business model down better than the average hobbyist artist; Now, if you’ve ever started a business you know its an insane amount of work, and that’s no different for marketing yourself as an artist. People don’t just swoon to you in droves, no matter how good you are skill wise. I’ll touch more on this aspect later but if you want to start learning more about the business side of art; pick up a few business books, podcasts, videos, or whatever it is you can squeeze in the time for (and don’t forget to hit that follow button for my updates, because I’ll have posts on this coming very soon).

4. Get yourself out there

The only way to sell art is to let go of your preconceived notions about your own work and get it out there. Vend at local fairs or try popping up a small table on the sidewalk (just check with local laws first). Try contacting gallery owners, cafes, restaurants, interior designers and pretty much anyone else you can think of who might need something art related; this will get you a good amount of exposure and immediately place you above all the other artists that don’t do this. I actually started in a small, off the beaten path cafe and ended up generating quite a bit of sales with pieces ranging from 80$ – 300$; so don’t overthink it, just get in where you fit and keep moving up from there.

5. Public Murals

Public Murals generate a huge range of viewers to your art. If they like it and you make it easy for them to find you, they will find you. Collectors are hunters; they like to acquire things that not everyone has. They are trend setters, trail blazers and have a taste for uniquity; if you put yourself in their path and they love what they see, they won’t hesitate to support an artist and scoop up a sweet piece of original art to hang on their walls.

6. Establish Value

The more your original art begins to make its way into homes and businesses, the

biggiesmall
The value of your art goes up as it makes its way into people’s homes and businesses.

more valuable your work becomes. Constantly re-assess your “value” and try to keep logs of everyone that buys your work. This isn’t always possible, especially if third parties are selling your work but always make yourself
available to your buyers. There is nothing better than receiving a photo of your work proudly hung in their house, or a short text about how happy your art piece made someone; those moments mean more than the money (to me, at least) because they’re when I get to remember why I started: For the passion and love of the craft.  Although money is necessary and definitely nice to have, remember that it really isn’t everything and what is really important is that you LOVE what you do.

Stay tuned for my next article: Making Art a Business