Everyone knows the stereotype of penniless artists struggling for their work. But clearly some artists have managed to ‘make it’ and make it big. If you don’t think so just Google it and you’ll see! So what is the secret? How do artists make money, and how to they make a lot of it? Keep reading to find out!
How do artists make money? Via the 3 following avenues…
Avenue #1: The school, job, income career path
There are 3 major ways to make money as an artist that I’ll talk about here. Either an artist goes to art school, finds a job as a graphic designer, logo designer or some other job where he or she uses his or her talent in order to create things to the specifications of an employer. There are plenty of companies and business owners looking to hire talented artists to do cookie cutter, run of the mill type of work to certain specifications. There are even some jobs that encourage creativity and independence within certain parameters.
Avenue #2: The classic artist’s life path
Another option is for the artist to be “discovered.” This is probably the most difficult avenue of the three because it relies so heavily on getting noticed in a huge and highly competitive crowd. It is the road most travelled by. In this case the artist submits portfolios to galleries, websites, etc. in order to be chosen and represented. For example, an artist who fashions up a portfolio and submits it to 10 galleries may be chosen by 1 or 2. These galleries then display the artist’s work. If the work sells then the gallery gets a percentage of the sale. Enough success with this, and the artist develops a name and can start to sell privately through connections or through an agent, who also racks up a commission.
Avenue #3: The new artrepreneur path
Last is my personal favourite (perhaps obviously): the entrepreneurial avenue. This is not only the new way but also the most efficient and easiest way of making it as an artist. This way you control of your future. You choose what work you do. You choose who you sell to, who you connect with and who you target as your audience. Your success relies most heavily upon your drive to succeed.
Look at how much Etsy has boomed. There’s also Cafe Press, Fine Art of America and plenty of other options for all artists to display their work in a multitude of ways. Usually these services are free or very cheap to use and the more stuff you put up, the higher your chances of selling are.
“Living and Sustaining a Creative Life” was published by Sharon Louden, a contemporary artist and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale. It consists of 40 personal essays from artists of various genres and conveyed that artists can surely make money but it will never be easy. I don’t agree with this. Maybe it was true then but it’s just not true anymore. Making money as an artist can get very easy but it takes some work to get there. Although Sharon does state that networking with other artists can help, which I definitely concede to be true.
Ellen Harvey, a contributing author, said that “your career gets its own momentum once you start meeting people. Artists rely a lot on other artists and you can’t overlook that generosity.” She also thinks that it is important to buy the work of others. I could not agree more. Generating contacts may be old fashioned but it still works as well as it always has. Buying the work of other artists seems like you are supporting your competition, but what people fail to realize is that competition is the best thing for business. If you run out of competition – that’s a 100% sure sign you will run out of income too. What you are in fact doing is supporting the industry and fellow artists.
The simplest, cheapest and most effective way of pursuing artrepreneurship is to do the following:
- Create a blog about you and your work
- Attach a store to your blog (www.myartblog.com/myartstore)
- Sell your work through your store
Valerie Atkisson is an artist and ArtBistro blogger who believes that it is necessary for artists to earn income through online sales of artwork as well as through other avenues such as commission projects, teaching lessons, public talks and publications. These may seem like impossible opportunities right now. But a blog is your key to all of these.
With a blog you can obviously generate online sales, you can film teaching lessons (you can charge for them or even do them for free or both), you can make connections and once you establish authority – you may be invited to give public talks, and a blog will give you plenty of practice writing. You’d be surprised how easy it will become to put together ebooks after a while.
Of course, you might be thinking its not quite as simple as that. You have to figure out how to set up a blog and then how to set up your store and then all of this other stuff. And what if no one comes to your website? And what if no one buys your work because they hate it?
First of all – RELAX! This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Just by reading this post, you are one step closer to artistic freedom. Second of all, our team is working right now to provide you with all the answers you need to do this. We are a new site but we’re working as fast as we can to get as much useful info to you as possible! Third of all, below is going to be your very first, number 1 thing to do if this is something your might want to pursue:
NUMBER ONE THING TO GET YOU STARTED AS AN ARTREPRENEUR
Start researching in your spare time. Research other art blogs out there, other artists online, other stores that are selling similar items to what you provide. Even better, you can post comments, start building relationships and learning from these artists. Try to spend 15-20 minutes on this everyday. You will be surprised how much you end up learning in a few months.
You can also do research on Etsy, Fine Art America etc. to see if similar work to yours is posted and if its selling. Although this is something I recommend you do regardless. When you have a chance, post as much as you can on these sites. I would recommend having your full stock of artwork available in print format on as many platforms as possible. Of course you can include your signature so that as these works spread, so does your name.
Other Artrepeneurial Tips
Real Estate – Owning Your Own Gallery
Austin Thomas opened his own art gallery rather than relying on other art galleries to choose to feature his work and then take a commission on anything they do accept and sell. Austin learned the entrepreneurial skill of managing real estate in Brooklyn and this allowed him to take his career into his own hands.
He put up a gallery space called Pocket Utopia in Manhattan. Austin states that owning a business gives him maximum flexibility and freedom with his time. He controls if he’s open for public viewing or charges for private events. He can add his own influence into the art world because he gets to sell whichever work he chooses. Finally, if he can’t come up with work fast enough, now he is in charge of choosing what other artists to he wants to feature.
Innovation – Get Weird and Wonderful
Jessica Hagy, a contributor to Forbes wrote a post titled “Why Weird Is Wonderful (And Bankable)”. Consumers have everything they need. They want things they don’t need but that will make them happy, inspired and satisfied. Art does just that. And the weirder, more innovative and strange it is – the more likely it is to flourish in today’s market. People get sick of the same stuff over and over again. They want newer, better and provoking.
Adding abnormal angst in your work that evokes emotion and makes people stop and stare is sure to strike a cord with your customers. I mention this my other post on how to create an amazing photography portfolio, but contrary to popular belief, you do NOT want to try to appeal to everyone. This is the last thing you want to do. You need to send a strong, bold, unique message.
Think about what shocks you and incorporate it into your work to shock others. Hagy states that the more normal something is, the less memorable it will be. True to her words, legends liked Picasso and Van Gogh made it big because of their striking and unique styles at the time.
Success in the artrepreneurial field is all about MINDSET
I know you might have heard this a million times about a million different things. I know you’re probably sick of it and think its BS. Mindset isn’t going to put money into your bank account, right? Wrong. Mindset is truly everything. You need to drill this into your mind: YOU CAN DO IT. DONT GIVE UP. KEEP PUSHING. Adopt that mindset and never let it go. Become addicted to chasing your dreams.
Having the right mindset is vital in making money as an artist. Passion and skill alone isn’t sufficient. You have to adapt to failure and rejection. Learn to bounce back from it and become unshakable. The greats failed hundreds and hundreds and even thousands of time before they hit it big. Your success will be founded on failures so if you want to win you need to learn how to loose.
Please let us know below in the comments section if you have any questions or thoughts!