How to Turn Your art an Online Business

How to Turn Your art an Online Business

The word “artist” has traditionally been paired with “starving.” Most people assume that art is a hobby that can’t pay for itself, let alone serve as a source of income. Thanks to the rise of e-commerce and social media, however, painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, graphic artists, and designers with a variety of specialities are coming up with new and exciting ideas for online business models that allow them to pursue their creative passions and still pay the bills.

 

In an article for Work at Home Adventures, Julie Stevens reports that a larger percentage of art buyers are finding artwork through social media than through museums and galleries. The author provides a comprehensive list of online platforms for selling your art. If you are trying to sell original paintings, for example, ArtWeb is a free site where you can connect with buyers directly.

 

The media exposure of a portrait hanging in someone’s living room is limited, but the same portrait hanging in a popular coffee shop is a focal point. WallSpace Exchange is a platform that connects artists with venues looking to display artwork. Saatchi Art is a professionally curated online gallery that displays both paintings and photos of sculptures. In exchange for a 35% commission, Saatchi Art promotes artists through social media, advertising, print catalogs, and a series of blog features.

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Now that many online platforms offer printing services, selling multiple prints of your original artwork at lower prices is a convenient way to make more sales. Another option is selling the rights to your designs. Photographers can sell stock photos through Dreamstime or Alamy. Cartoonists can sell their clip art through VectorStock. Web designers are constantly on the lookout for stock footage that doesn’t look like stock footage, so fresh designs are in high demand.

 

If your art isn’t selling, consider changing the format. Stevens identifies Printful, DeviantArt, and CafePress as just a few of the websites that will print your artwork on a variety of items, from coffee mugs to greeting cards. In her article for Selz.com, Nicole Yingling identifies top-selling products, including phone accessories, sunglasses, jewelry, t-shirts, leggings, women’s activewear, and baby accessories. Think about what merchandise your designs would best enhance and then target the audience most likely to buy it.

 

Regardless of whether you are marketing a photo or a baby bib, branding is key. In an article on using Instagram as a marketing tool, Artworkarchive.com recommends choosing a style that represents you as an artist and making sure that every image you post reflects that style, from the lighting and filters to the hashtags and captions. While the content needs to be varied to keep your followers interested, the framework in which it is presented has to be instantly recognizable as something you’ve created for your customer base.

 

As an artist, you have more to offer than just your artwork. In his article on redlemonclub.com, Alex Mathers mentions the increasing demand for creative consultants and self-help books on the creative process. Creating artistic tools and shortcuts for others is also lucrative. Yingling describes the demand for sewing patterns, adult coloring books, templates for kids’ crafts and scrapbooking, lightroom presets for photography, and website themes.

 

Consider the many ways you might profit from your knowledge, insight, and experience. One way is by self-publishing an eBook. Mathers notes that artists write books about general skills, their specific artistic processes, and their lives as creators. You might create a series of beginners’ guides to basic drawing techniques to appeal to the how-to market, or you might take a completely different route and publish a memoir about how your experiences as a veteran inspired your metallurgic sculptures.

 

Dan Johnson describes the process of self-publishing and its benefits in his article on rightbrainrockstar.com: “The basic method is to write all your content in a word processor, save it as a PDF, and upload it to a site like e-junkie, where anyone can pay to download it. You choose your price and e-junkie charges a very small monthly fee…The beauty of selling eBooks is their incredibly high profit margin. There are no direct production costs once you’ve written the book, and no shipping costs, so every penny you make in sales is yours to keep.”

 

Another way to leverage your skills and knowledge is through online teaching. Unlike traditional classroom teaching, online courses for adults usually don’t require specific credentials and can be taught from the comfort of your own home. Some artists teach through existing online platforms such as Schoolism or Skillshare, which saves some of the effort of promoting the courses. Others use their own artist websites and offer an ongoing series of smaller courses and other premium content that is regularly updated and visible only to paying members.

 

If the thought of writing an entire book or designing a whole course seems overwhelming, start small with a blog post. Johnson recommends that all artists have a well maintained blog: “If you regularly publish interesting blog posts, then people are more likely to link from their sites to yours, tweet about you, and generally spread the word that you write great content. The more people who visit your site, the more sales you are likely to make.” Having a blog also gives you the option of eventually including premium content in a members-only area and possibly earning a little money through affiliate marketing.

 

Sometimes the secret to selling your art is connecting with other artists. Your drawings may turn out to be the perfect illustrations for an author’s picture book, your graphics may be just what a team of video game developers is looking for, and your music video editing may help launch a young singer to stardom. Just as you identify your target customer, envision your ideal collaborators, the team that will make the magic happen.

 

How have you harnessed the business potential of your art online? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

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