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How to Make Money as an Artist

Art. If the thought of getting your fingers black with ink, chalky with watercolors, or sticky with glue makes you feel alive, then you probably have an artist in you. If the urge is strong, you might dream of a world where you can make money doing what you love.

As Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” The term “starving artist” was coined for a reason, since making money with your art can be a challenge. When you step out into the art world, you take a risk. How long will you starve before you’re able to earn your income creating?

Thankfully, not a lifetime, as long as you make the right moves. The modern world is easier on the artist than it once was in some ways, since you can sell your art worldwide online. The competition is fiercer, however, and it will take a lot of work to get ahead.

If you want to make your art lucrative, stick to these golden rules.

  1. Network – Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? While the phrase isn’t a universal statement of fact, it rings true in the artistic world. Many interactions count as connections, from that first meeting with a comic book publisher to the respect (and retweets) of an industry leader.
  1. Sell Wherever You Can – Your job as an artist will be to create but it will also be to promote yourself. You should leave no stone unturned when it comes to selling your art. Take a look at online options, but also try booths at art fairs, comic cons, and even farmer’s markets. You can display stunning canvas prints of your best pieces and sell a canvas print or two for a much higher markup than a digital copy. Give out business cards, and some people might visit your website the next day. (Oh yeah: make sure you have an online and social media presence!)
  1. Diversify – Every artist would love to do what clicks for them, every time, and most free-spirited artists don’t relish the thought of doing graphic design for businesses. To make money, though, you might have to do a little of both. You can keep creating the watercolors you love and sell them on Etsy or Society6, but you should diversify the skills you offer.
  1. Grow Your Fan Base – When an artist gains enough fans, they can try getting an income stream from Patreon. When enough people like and support what you do, they might give monthly, or one-time donations. Even if you only get 1 dollar, 1 time, from every fan, that’s still $250-$3000 (depending on your fan base) that you didn’t have otherwise. You can get new materials with that or at least pay your booth fee for comic con.

Once you’re making money as an artist, you can finally ignore those oh-so-polite relatives who ask, “When are you getting a real job?” Artists might have starved in the past, but if you have the determination that a career in art requires, you can absolutely succeed.

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