How to Make a Living Online As an Artist

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At the time of writing this, April 21 of 2020, we have been undergoing social distancing measures in the U.S. for over a month now. At least here in Colorado where I live anyways.

It has highlighted the many benefits of working from home and making it even more clear that building my professional art career through online avenues is the best way for ME to go.

While I don’t have all the specific details for you yet, as I’m only just barely getting started myself, I do have a general game plan in mind for how I plan to accomplish this.

If you are an artist who is currently being impacted by the global pandemic lets explore some ways we can both start getting that online money!

Even if you’re a beginner, at some point during your development it is going to occur to you that you might actually be good enough to earn some money creating things.

Whatever your medium is, you can find a way to make money on it online.

I just made my first $7 in the past few weeks through this website and that is just the beginning. I’ve been taking it real easy on the monetization at this point. I’m Just barely dipping my toe in the water here.

Just remember, every waterfall starts with a trickle.

Let me tell you about how I plan to turn that first $7 into a full-time online income. Join me on my journey!

Create Helpful Content for Artists

When it comes to making money online, as an artist or as anything else really, there are a number of avenues to do that. As someone who is already a creator, it just takes a shift in your creative mindset to get there.

Start thinking of yourself as a content creator. As Gary Vaynerchuck likes to say “Document, Don’t Create.”

I started this website as a beginner artist because I knew I could document my journey and studies in a way that would help other beginner artists as well.

Whether you’re a beginner artist or a seasoned professional you could create a website that puts out helpful content to help other developing artists out there find their way. It’s as simple as taking pictures of your painting, or sculpture, or drawing etc., as you go and documenting your process in a way that others might be able to benefit from.

Whether that is through writing “search query focused” pages like this or creating “search query focused” YouTube videos, the idea is to create helpful content on things people are searching for. If you can do that effectively you can draw in traffic through getting search results in search engines.

Besides creating a website or YouTube channel, you can also build up an audience through building a presence across various social media platforms.

Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn are all great platforms to be on. They all offer a variety of unique ways to build an interested audience.

Once you start drawing in traffic or build an audience you can then monetize that traffic through various options. It’s all about garnering attention.

There are two keys to take away from this section for this particular approach.

The first is to build a targeted audience that is interested in whatever it is that you are interested in. They key here is to draw your audience in to you!

If you use multiple platforms like the ones I have already referenced you can attract a diverse range of potential consumers to market your wares and goods to.

The second is to put out posts and content that HELP your audience. This isn’t about what YOU can get from THEM, it is about what VALUE you can PROVIDE TO THEM.

That value can come in a variety of packages and formats too! Whether it is highly useful unique information or simply an entertaining presentation, there is a way for you to generate value for your visitors.

Once you do this, there are a number of avenues to travel down that will pull in some streams of income for you. This is without even selling any of your artwork!!!

Ultimately though, this approach will enable you to sell your artwork as well! Furthermore, there are a number of other ways to monetize your artwork outside of selling one piece directly to one person.

I have only barely discovered some of those methods and have no experience in utilizing them so I won’t be covering them today but the point is, with this approach I’m taking any money I make directly off of selling my artwork is going to be bonus money!

Monetizing Your Helpful Art Content

Once you start creating helpful content and you have your audience the next step is to look at various monetization options.

The first one I am using is called affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is when you partner up with a site or product to send your traffic in their direction. Once the person clicks the link they get a cookie that lasts for a specific amount of time.

The cookie may last only 24 hours or it can last months. It all depends on the program.

This allows you to get credit for the sale or sign up during that time period thus granting you commissions.

My current and only affiliate partner is Skillshare. In the case of Skillshare, you can earn $7 every time someone clicks through to sign up for the free trial.

I plan to expand my affiliate partnerships gradually over time and find other partners to align myself with so I can recommend various products I use. In this way, I can start generating streams of income when a visitor trusts me enough to try one of my recommendations.

By the way, I do use Skillshare a lot and highly recommend giving it a try! I’ve used it to study drawing, video editing techniques, audio editing techniques, painting techniques, and much more! Pretty much anything creative you can think of is on there!

If you use this link or click the banner above you can get the first 2 months free and help support me in the very journey we are discussing here!

Relentless self-promotions aside, you can find a partnership for nearly any product you use.

Whether you’re a sculptor, illustrator, painter or draftsman there are products specific to your niche that you know a lot about. You probably also know which ones to avoid too.

There are products you would swear by and recommend like its the holy gospel!

Online, this is all valuable knowledge you can use to make money while you preach the good word!

Now, other than affiliate marketing you can also generate a stream of income through advertising.

As an example, with a YouTube channel, the easiest way to make money off your content is through Google Adsense. That said, it may not be the most profitable way to monetize your content.

Once you get enough views consistently you can approach brands for sponsorship or even free stuff to review too! Eventually, when you get big enough THEY will approach YOU!

With a website or blog like this, you do have many other options when it comes to ad networks that pay much better than Google’s Adsense as well.

Networks like Ezoic, Mediavine or Adthrive offer higher CPM. This basically means they pay more per every 1000 page views or page impressions than Google Adsense.

That said don’t be a nuisance with your techniques either. I can’t tell you how many art websites I have come across already in doing research for this website that just bombard you with adds.

It’s repulsive to the visitor and can’t possibly work that well. Don’t be one of those guys.

Selling Your Art Online

I saved this section for last because I feel the previous sections are vital to achieving any level of success in selling your art online.

You have to build an audience on some platform or preferably on multiple platforms. Get people interested in your work, what you do, and who you are as a person.

This takes consistent output and effort. It takes time to get there.

Once you’ve built up your audience there are a variety of ways to go about making money off of selling your art specifically.

If you plan to pursue going the blog route as I have done here, you can use a storefront like Shopify to sell your artwork from your own site. This is something I plan to launch probably later this year once I get my painting inventory up to at least 100 awesome paintings.

Photo by Dom J from Pexels

This is one of the most cost-effective ways to sell your art. The basic plan on Shopify costs $30 a month with a 2.9% transaction fee plus 30 cents. You can structure packaging and shipping fees into your price.

There are other storefronts similar to Shopify we can look at later and compare potential costs with but you’ll soon see why storefronts like Shopify are one of the best options for an artist.

It’s just a lot more work to generate sales.

While this approach is what I’m planning on doing myself there are a ton of other ways to sell your art online. Besides using sites like LinkedIn and Instagram to potentially generate sales there are a ton of sites specifically designed to host and sell your artwork.

Sites like Artfinder, Etsy, or even Ebay are all popular options to go with.

Artfinder has an application process and currently has a wait of 6 weeks before your application will get reviewed. Boo that!

They do offer a way to pay to have it put on the “Fast Track” but you could pay for it and still not get through the application process. Plus I hear they also charge a 33% commission.

While that may be common in the art world I personally don’t agree with it when there are better options for you online.

Furthermore, once you do get accepted what are the chances of selling your artwork if you have no following?

How competitive is it to sell artwork? Are there techniques and strategies you need to know?

If that additional 33% doesn’t come with any benefit then what’s the point?

As for Etsy, this is a much better option in my opinion. There is no admission process. Only a twenty-cent posting fee and then some basic transaction fees.

That’s a total of 8% in transaction fees plus another twenty-five cents transaction fee.

It looks like you can opt in to have your posting advertised offsite for an additional 15%. I’m pretty sure that it is optional and I have no idea how well it works.

I do hope to at least try Etsy out at some point and run some tests to see if I can help provide you with some ways to sell your art without having a specific audience.

There is actually a really great course on Skillshare called “Building an Etsy Shop that Sells: Strategies for E-Commerce Success” by Parker Gard. He is actually a video producer at Etsy.

His course is certainly one of the better ones I have taken and has a ton of great information on how you should go about launching your own Etsy store.

I definitely would recommend checking it out before you launch your own Etsy store. When I finally am ready to experiment with Etsy I will certainly be following some of the advice in that video.

His class isn’t the only one either! If you search Etsy over 5,000 classes come back! I’m sure there is plenty of good information to be mined.

How To Make Passive Income With Art

Let’s move on to what I am more deeply interested in myself. I’m always interested in finding ways to get continuously paid for one work session.

Royalties, passive income, residual income…whatever term you prefer to call it by. I don’t know about you but it sounds really nice to be able to get paid over and over again for one session of work.

This is actually some of the stuff I have already mentioned. A painting used as content on this site becomes a part of my content machine ultimately engineered to produce multiple streams of income.

Thus raising the potential income that one single painting can bring in.

There are a whole bunch of artists on YouTube who simply film themselves painting. It takes time to grow but I have watched a handful of artists doing only this in the past year grow enormously.

Some of them do a painting every single day this way! Building up a massive audience interested in their work assuring they have a nice pool of fans to sell their paintings to.

Which brings me to my next avenue for generating passive income from one single piece of artwork. This would be in addition to any of the previous streams we’ve discussed so far.

That is to partner with print on demand services like Society6 or Redbubble.

I’ll have to do a separate article specifically for print on demand sites for artists as after discovering these two I began to realize there is a variety of ways to approach this.

It is a great way to get more out of your work. Using print on demand services will allow you to offer your artwork on a multitude of products!

Things like framed prints, phone cases, pillows, or even curtains!

Some other potential avenues to earn passive income with your art are Merch by Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Gumroad.

I got these options from this video made by YouTuber BeeJayDel. In this video, he breaks down what he made through his art online in the month of December of 2019. It’s well over 10k altogether and worth a watch.

He does mention in the video that he actually puts his designs on Merch by Amazon under a variety of anonymous names. So while building an audience as previously recommended can definitely help there are ways to make good money without doing that.

I certainly don’t have any level of understanding in how to do that just yet but I certainly will be doing deeper research on this a bit later on. Once I feel like I have the skills to utilize this avenue of income.

BeeJayDel here does have another video called “Scaling Your Designs” on some ideas you should consider if you’re interested in creating Merch for Merch By Amazon.

In this video, he talks about how you can take one piece of art and adjust it in a variety of ways so it appeals to numerous niche markets. I’m sure this is how he is able to make so much through selling merch without leveraging his following.

There is definitely something to be learned there. The fact that he is doing that without tapping into his audience is impressive and means there are other ways to do that as well.

This is perhaps where trial and error comes in my friend. You may be a far more advanced artist than myself. All you need to do is take action and experiment.

BeeJayDel again has another video on how to make money through your art by selling coloring books on Kindle Direct Publishing. He basically takes digital characters he has made, perhaps for other projects, and removes the colors from them.

Another awesome artist who does this is Thaneeya Mcardle from She has a unique style that lends itself well towards being used in coloring books.

So far she has 60 coloring books for sale! I bet that brings in a decent stream of income for her!

Again, I really cannot wait to get to this level to experiment with this monetization method and perhaps come up with some of my own unique ones.

Another thing you could do with Kindle Direct Publishing is simply to write a how-to book or some art-related book. I definitely plan on writing a book myself and not only selling it in e-book format but also record it in audio too.

Mostly because I love audiobooks myself but also because why leave money on the table?!?

As you can see, there is a literal treasure trove of options available to choose from it just is on you on what you’re comfortable doing. The only limit is your ambitions and the work you’re willing to put in.

Marc Spagnuolo

Hey there! Thanks for reading my article! I'm Marc the creator of this website. I'm a growing artist and web creator seeking to share what I'm learning in the hopes that it helps someone out there like you. I hope you found this information useful. If you're interested in learning more about me and my story click on my name or on my picture!

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