Contrary to belief you CAN make a living from your art. The days of getting the same question “so how are you going to make money?” from friends and family can be far behind you, you just have to be willing to put in the work! Here are my top 3 secrets to making a living from your art.
S1. MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME
I put this as number one because I believe it’s the most important in earning enough to live off of or better yet enough to support yourself and others. In February of 2019, I quit my job and went full time on Teluna. I had been gracefully accepted into 14 shops over the rest of that year and making a full-time income. Then on March 14th, 2020, every shop that carried my products closed their doors due to the Coronavirus.
Closed doors mean no sales which means NO INCOME from brick and mortar.
If my only income had been those 14 shops, I wouldn’t be able to pay my credit card, my rent, my bills, my card printer for my latest order, my seamstress, and more. It was only because I had already started diversifying my income by selling online that I knew I and my company at least had a chance to survive. One significant piece of my income was shut off, just like that, but the remaining revenue streams were still open.
It’s so so important to diversify your income because while yes the stores would eventually open back up; but what if they’d closed for good for some other reason? I would be starting from scratch. The famous quote “don’t put all your eggs in one baske.” is true.
Below I’ve listed a few of my favorite streams of income for you to try. If this is more of a side hustle that’s cool too! You could choose one or two of these income streams and see how they go. Test each one fully and see what works best for you and your company.
1. Selling original artwork.
This depends on your art/craft. If you paint you could sell original paintings. These would likely be a much higher price point as they are one of a kind. If you’re not sure how much to charge, read my article about how to price your handmade products.
2. Selling prints of the original artwork.
Selling prints of your originals is different than selling your original artwork because you can make and sell as many copies of an original piece as you like. This allows your fans to purchase your art at a much more reasonable price point and is much less work for you. You can also sell these online and to shops for retail if you desire. (2 revenue streams from 1 product woohoo!)
3. Write about what you know.
Are you amazing at your craft? Do you love it so much that you find ways to bring it up in conversations? Then write about it! Start a blog that shows your art, how you do it, what tools you use, why you love it, etc. People like to know the artist behind a piece, show them who you are! I love helping other people build their creative businesses from my blog. I share everything I learn in building a creative business with you guys because I wish someone had written it for me 6 years ago.
4. Paid Advertising.
Snowballing off of number three, when you build your blog writing about your craft you can sell ad space within your posts or in your sidebar for extra income.
5. Live Events.
This doesn’t just have to be for extroverts! In February I “performed” my hand calligraphy live at the jewelry shop Sophie Blake NY where customers would purchase a card and I would calligraphy a little note inside. I’m the last person who wants to do my art in front of others so this was a big step.
Turns out, because art is such an escape for me, I barely noticed people watching me while I got into each meticulously calligraphed note. As a painter, you could be painting as a sort of live performance at any kind of event. Think about how much people at a fashion show would love to watch someone like Megan Hess drawing live!?
If you have time for craft shows do them! Sometimes they don’t turn out as we hope but if you’re at a well-known show, especially around the holidays, it could end up being a decent chunk of your yearly income.
7. Teach classes.
You can create a class and share it on your blog or a hosting website like Skillshare. You create the video once then you’re paid as passive income. Meaning you’re earning money on something that after working on it once, you need to put in little to no effort to earn or maintain that income.
8. Custom pieces & Collaborations.
Custom pieces or collaborating with another company or artist can be a lot things including designing someone’s new logo, a one of a kind large scale painting, surface design pattern making for a company, and more.
9. Textile designs.
Think because you’re a painter that your only medium is canvas or paper? No way! You can take your beautiful designs and have them printed on fabric. You can sell this fabric in bulk or create other products with it, like I did with my clutches and pillows. These all started with hand-painted designs.
S2. IDENTIFYING YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER
Before you start sending your products out into the world or spending a bunch of money on marketing, make sure you know who you want to reach and in turn sell to, i.e. your ideal customer. An ideal customer is someone who gets their needs met by what you’re offering; they are the people who are most likely to buy your product.
Let’s say you make clay flower necklaces. Your ideal customer is probably not going to include a 75 year old man whose interests are golf and fishing. They’re more likely a 24-50 year old woman with an interest in home and garden.
If you don’t hone in on this early then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and money marketing to people who will never end up buying your products. If you’re not sure how to find your ideal customer I’m writing a post now that will teach you how. (check back soon!)
S3. MARKET YOURSELF
Boy was I getting this one wrong at the beginning! From day one tell everyone about your business. Leave business cards everywhere. Make sure people know about your products because otherwise how would they know they could buy them?
I know this is hard for a lot of us artists because we often compare ourselves to others and have a hard time talking about ourselves. Art is often a personal outlet. It's putting a piece of your imagination into the world and hoping others like it. It’s hard to talk about your art as your job because for most of us it starts as just a wonderful hobby. And quite frankly a lot of people don’t take it very seriously; it’s just the name of the game.
You will eventually reach a point when you find yourself talking about your business and craft all the time. The more people you talk about it with the more confident you’ll become at marketing yourself.
You’re amazing, share that with others!
I hope my top 3 secrets to making a living from your art have been helpful to you. If you have any questions please comment below, I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.