Editor’s note: This article refers to earnings that accrued 8 years prior to the date the post was written.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about the importance of earning money and driving revenue as a priority over all else. Too many of us scoot around the importance of a strong, humming cash flow, instead placing more emphasis on things like pursuing passion; dreams, and ‘doing what you love’.

These are all important, but you will never be able to do what you love if you don’t have decent and sustainable money coming in.

I’ve been in the extremely uncomfortable situation of having less than zero funds in the bank several times. It really hurts and crippled my ability to even function as a productive and creative human.

Whenever I’ve been in those situations, it’s because I did not prioritise money-making (and preparing for tax bills) with enough of a sense of urgency.

But, as many have found, finding work and making money is not always quick and easy. From what I’ve seen in recent years, however, it appears to be easier to make money doing your own thing rather than joining the queue and crossing your fingers for the opportunity to be employed by someone else.

Money made on your own terms is the best kind, and because something is ‘challenging’ should certainly not be a reason to avoid it.

Despite some really tough phases in my life financially, there have been many instances where my own creativity, productivity and drive for making an income have proven very fruitful.

I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, since very young when I’d find and sell used tennis balls and children’s toys, and wash cars in my neighbourhood.

I’ve tried and failed at several ventures over my lifetime, including selling DVDs online and setting up my own real estate advertising business, both semi-successes, but short-lived.

The following are some of the ways I’ve made money that have worked for me, that can work for you too. All the ideas listed are methods that I believe still work today, otherwise I would not include them.

I’ve had better success in some than others, but it does not mean that you cannot take one income generator, and make use of it with juicier results than I did.

They are in chronological order, with one of the earliest financial successes for me, first. Not all have been consistent income sources and I have not included all the ways I’ve earned money in the past.

1. Stock Illustration Sales

After I finished my geography degree in London in 2006, I wanted to make some side-income when I was living briefly at my parent’s house. I can’t remember how I found stock illustration, but I certainly didn’t hesitate creating artwork for www.istockphoto.com as soon as I found out about it.

iStock is still active today and allows photographers, illustrators, artists, film-makers and audio professionals to upload work for sale on their platform.

istockRLC

Some examples of my early stock illustrations for iStockPhoto.com

In the space of about two years, I had added about 350 separate illustrations that I would sell there, on repeat, and earn the royalties on those that sold.

I must have had about three illustrations rejected by the site inspectors for each one that was accepted.

Many people have reservations about stock uploads because the artist does receive a very small percentage of each sale and it most certainly undercuts the industry in various ways. However, I was able to earn quite a lot, especially earlier on, because of the volume of traffic that site received and the ability to sell the same artwork over and over.

I would almost certainly have been unable to generate the kind of exposure and incentive to create that I had without that particular platform, which I was a member of exclusively (to maximise income).

I also learned a huge amount about what kind of illustration work sold in the market, and I got a ton of feedback from inspectors and other illustrators working there, not to mention the fact that all this led to client commissions and kick-started my career as an illustrator.

I’m earning much less than my peak several years ago ($1,300 per month) because I’ve (regrettably) not added any work in years, as well as the fact that it is getting more competitive and more saturated there.

I do believe there are still opportunities for unique, commercial styles and there are plenty of gaps still in that market if you do the research.

[Estimated earnings to date from selling stock illustration: $66,000]

(of which iStockphoto.com has earned well over four or five times this amount from my work)

2. Illustration Commission Earnings

As mentioned above, developing an extensive stock illustration portfolio led directly to getting noticed online by clients who commissioned me for illustration projects through me directly.

To build a successful career as an illustrator requires a strong, honed style more than anything else. Don’t worry about being ‘on-trend’ – be an innovator.

A commission illustrated map for a Yachting magazine in New Zealand.

A commission illustrated map for a Yachting magazine in New Zealand.

Some clients do prefer to be safe and going for ’trendy’ work. But being trendy is not safe for you as an illustrator. It is much better to invent.

Then you either need a good agent and / or you need to be able to market yourself effectively, especially if you don’t have or choose not to have an agent.

I’ve been accepted by a few agencies in the past, but have definitely not led to the successes one might imagine with an agent. One wanted me to move in a direction that did not interest me.

Another couldn’t find me any work, and my current agents offer me work sporadically, but not enough for a sustainable income.

Some work done with Google in 2012

Some work done with Google in 2012

So I’ve secured work through a combination of means over the past few years.

Do not expect to sit back and wait for agents to bring in work for you. You need to be active with updating and developing your portfolio and liaising with your agent.

I have worked with a range of great clients, including the BBC, Wired Magazine, Sony, Mars and Kraft. I’ve been paid poorly for illustration work (mainly due to me being too open to work with sub-standard clients) and I’ve been paid extremely well (the highest in the industry with a fairly short contracted stint with Google Plus, for example).

If you can carve yourself a distinct niche with a solid timeless style, build a strong personal, human brand, and market yourself well, you can earn very well as an illustrator.

I have a course coming up through Red Lemon Club (RLC) teaching you everything you need to know to be a successful illustrator in today’s market.

[Estimated earnings to date from illustration commissions and projects: $230,000 +]

3. Ebook Sales

In around 2008, I first picked up Tim Ferriss’ book: ’The Four Hour Work Week’. It got me really excited about the idea of earning money passively. After I read the book, I got to work writing my own so that I’d have a product to sell online.

It was an ebook entitled: ’10 Steps to Powerful Online Self Promotion for Creatives’.

 

10stepsimage

Read the full book for free, here.

I had learned a huge amount about online promotion through being a self-taught illustrator, and knew there was a gap in the market for other creative professionals needing help with marketing.

I wrote the book in about two months, and launched it via RLC in January 2010 (I’ve since taken it down because I’ve replaced it with updated approaches).

With a small audience subscribed to the site, the book did very well, selling over a hundred copies at launch, and a few hundred over the next year and a half. For me at that time, it felt like a huge success and it inspired me to keep writing from that point on.

I’ve since self-published several more books through RLC with varying levels of success, though I’ve taken down several because I want to make updates.

My most recent book, currently off the shelves.

My recent book, currently off the shelves.

Ebooks are just one method for sharing and selling information online these days. Selling ebooks introduced me to the huge benefit of building a system that allowed money to flow in without me doing any work, and there is nothing that beats that.

I feel I’ve only just started in this area, and the possibilities for earning passive income from selling information are endless. Think about how you can bring various forms of communication delivery into the products you create.

This includes writing, audio, video, screencast presentations, memberships, software, digital tools and templates, infographics and diagrams.

Video lessons is an area I’m moving into (I’ve already created a video course and plan to do more).

Another recent course I have available helps creative businesses win clients.

[Estimated earnings to date from ebook sales: $32,000 +]

4. Print and Product Sales

A few years ago, I set up an online shop through my other blog: Ape on the Moon. I wanted to monetise what was becoming a popular illustration site (340,000 page views in 2014).

ape_RLC

As I’d been forging some great relationships with illustrators around the world, I was able to easily get several artists on board to offer their artwork for sale through the site. For each print sold, I’d split it 50:50 with the artist.

I didn’t sell particularly many prints (a few a week), and the shop lasted a few months, before I took it down.

The reason for this was not low sales (I knew that sales could pick up over time with more attention placed on that side of the business), but the logistical and practical pain of dealing with different shipping rates for different customers, and a few returns.

What this process did show me was what was possible, and that selling prints, or any kind of product online, once you have an audience to sell to, is a potential income stream.

Today there are so many channels through which to make selling prints (Red Bubble or Society6 for example) and physical products really easy, that I may return to this income stream again soon.

Amazon do a great service from what I hear for printing and sending books on demand for your customers. That service is called CreateSpace.

My preference has and always will be selling digital products to make a passive income stream, though you can by all means create this kind of income through selling physical products.

As such, my focus right now is on developing digital products rather than physical products for Ape on the Moon and Red Lemon Club.

[Estimated earnings to date from physical products: $200]

5. Illustration Employment Part-Time

Beyond winning client work on a wide range of projects from magazine illustrations, to animations, to online games, I’ve made money employed in-house as an illustrator too.

A few years ago, I needed to drum up some new illustration client work.

I was fresh out of leaving a job as a researcher for a property magazine in London (Estates Gazette) and needed some income.

I’d been doing a poor job of generating illustration work opportunities with prospects over the last few months, so I needed to get paid work fast. Among other methods, I got on Twitter and did a search for people who were sending out tweets with requirements for illustrators.

I typed in: “illustrator” and “need”, and was greeted with search results that directed me straight to a London-based cloud computing startup who were looking for a full-time illustrator in one of their tweets.

illu_RLC

I immediately sent them my portfolio, and set up an interview in their Brick Lane office within two days.

I negotiated it down to a three days a week job, to allow me to focus on building RLC and creating other forms of passive income. I was working for them in-house within a week.

The job was creating illustrations for their marketing presence, and paid, pro-rata, about $62,000 per year. I worked with them for just over a year, before I moved to Tokyo for a change and to focus on one-off illustration client work and more.

[Estimated earnings from employed illustration: $45,000]

6. Affiliate Product Sales

Selling other people’s products is something I’ve been trying to make money at since I was probably eighteen.

The way affiliate product earnings work is that you take someone else’s product, be that a digital product like an ebook, or even a service, and promote it on their behalf for a cut (usually 30-50%) of the earnings from that product.

Many years ago, I’d set up a generic website, make sure it was set up in such a way that it would appear high up in the Google search rankings for certain keywords, fill the site with content, and sell affiliate products through there.

People make money in this way all the time, but for me it was not a particularly sustainable, interesting or even ethical way of making money online and I soon ditched that.

With affiliate products, it’s much better to promote other people’s products that you actually like, that you have used yourself, and that you have truly benefitted from.

This is in contrast to selling any old thing for the hope of making a quick yankee dollar. It’s also much better to actually get to know the person whose product you are marketing.

Perhaps you can increase the commission they offer, and they might bring you some extra exposure in return and even promote some of your own products down the line.

There have been one or two products from others that I’ve dropped into my social media feeds, mentioned in my newsletter and in a few blog posts, mostly through mutual agreements to doing so.

I have made some good money from brief affiliate sales and I’m only just starting to explore making use of – and amplifying – this income stream through all my platforms much more effectively.

You don’t always need to create your own products in order to make money.

You can leverage someone else’s hard work on a great product or service that you actually like, and you can sell it yourself, for sometimes great commissions.

Conversion rates on products sold will be much higher when you have built a loyal audience who trust your recommendation.

[Estimated earnings to date from selling affiliate products: $3,400]

7. Marketing Services

Helping other people, particularly creative professionals, market themselves effectively has been something I’ve been striving to teach since I started Red Lemon Club. Most of this has been in the form of blog posts and digital books and products.

I have, however, offered some products and services that directly market people’s work online that have brought in income for my own business (rather than teaching it).

A side-project I set up a few years ago was a promotion service for illustrators.

It was called ‘Lunarize’ and I’d charge one hundred or so illustrators a gallery space for $77 on the Lunarize website along with a range of promotional methods to bring prospects to the gallery pages and hopefully hire those illustrators.

These channels included social media sharing, advertising on major online networks like Creative Review, email campaigns, and newsletter marketing.

Lunarize_Web

It only broke even, but was generally a failure, with most illustrators not receiving the level of promotion they and I had anticipated.

The many refunds I had to give people dug into my profits and probably dented my reputation.

Lunarize was an important learning experience in business for me, and a solid reminder that to be a success in business you need to truly help people, not just say you will. You cannot afford not to deliver, whether providing a service or a product of any kind. You must deliver what you say you will.

Beyond Lunarize, I have made money from other forms of paid promotion for other people and companies.

One of my major campaigns was the ‘RLC 10×10’ whereby each month I’d offer a maximum of ten people ten tweets through my two popular twitter accounts to help generate some quick exposure for $149 each.

Twitter_may29

Since I joined Twitter in 2009, I’ve amassed a total Twitter following of 115,000 over two accounts (as of Feb 15th 2015), 95% of whom are creative pros or those with an interest in the arts.

I will go into detail in another post on exactly how I did that. But such a following has meant being able to help support others through opening up their work to a large, and mostly relevant audience.

[Estimated earnings from marketing services to date: $14,200]

8. Sponsorship and Advertising

I get offers all the time from shady-sounding companies and faceless PR people who want to plant links in my posts to help them get advertising on Red Lemon Club for a fee. I decline those because I don’t want my site filled with (usually) crap.

But this does not mean that I have not been open to sponsorship opportunities from people and companies I know, like and trust.

I have charged relevant, creative people and businesses for showing banner ads on my sites in the past, but I try and avoid it because it clutters up my site, and I prioritise a minimal and enjoyable user-experience for my readers.

So I now focus on sponsorship partnerships with people I like, whereby I exclusively ‘advertise’ their products through my channels in exchange for a monthly fee. I have had sponsorship on RLC since late 2013 to great success.

Right now, I’m looking out for an exclusive sponsorship collaboration for Ape on the Moon, so do let me know if you know anyone suitable.

[Estimated earnings to date from sponsorship: $24,800]

9. Public Speaking

Before October 2013, I’d done very little public speaking at all. But since then I’ve given eight or so talks to fairly large audiences, some of them paid.

Speaking to audiences does not come naturally to me, and I’d probably have avoided it in life as much as I could had I not been invited to speak at various events.

In the last couple of years I’ve given talks on my experiences at the Association of Illustrators in London, ‘Ilustratour’ festival in Spain, DXSaigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Behance in Tokyo, and OFFF festival in Barcelona to a crowd of over two thousand all at once.

Yes, I was nervous before each of those.

RLC_OFFF-1024x640

Speaking to a large crowd at OFFF festival, Barcelona, 2014

Public speaking has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. This is mainly for a sense of fulfilment in sharing your ideas with others, but also for the self-confidence and personal growth.

Public speaking has made me a more confident person and it has introduced me to people and opportunities that were previously out of reach.

I have not been paid much yet for giving talks, though I have earned quite well for the ones that were paid, or I’ve had flights and board covered rather payment in cash, which is also great.

So far, all my speaking gigs have been invites, but I know that there are a ton of events and organisations that are on the look out for speakers.

Me_Behance_Tokyo

Speaking at Behance event in Tokyo, Nov 2014

The thing is, most people do not put themselves forward for speaking.

You can, and most places will be happy to hear from you. Also look into setting up your own event or conference featuring your talk and those of others.

It will bring with it a host of opportunities, not to mention great self-exposure and you can charge for that through tickets.

You can make a great income from giving talks and lectures if you carve a niche in an area of expertise or you have experiences to share that others will find useful.

The more well known you become on the speaking circuit, the more you will earn.

[Estimated earnings (including perks) to date from public speaking: $3,300]

10. Teaching

Teaching does overlap into public speaking, and earning from things like ebooks and courses. But there is money to be made in the traditional sense of teaching, such as giving live workshops and classes, online and offline.

I’ve given a few workshops and classes in the past that have earned money, but not many. I prefer earning passively, so that I can put energy and resources into the next project, so teaching in this sense fails on that front.

However, teaching people in real time is enriching, and you will learn a lot about how to be a better teacher and knowing your subject as best as you can, when you teach.

Teaching a real class is also extremely refreshing if you spend most of your time in front of a computer for the real social interaction and it’s physical nature, and something I personally believe is important to do regularly from a long-term health perspective.

One of the best, and most challenging experiences I’ve had, was giving a week-long workshop on illustrated map-making in Valladolid, Spain in 2014 to a class of eight in an old monastery building.

Teaching map illustration in Spain, 'Ilustratour' 2014

Teaching map illustration in Spain, ‘Ilustratour’ 2014

I can guarantee you that I learned more through the process of being a teacher than any of my students did!

There is no quicker route to mastering an area when you become a teacher in it.

[Estimated earnings to date from teaching: $2,400]

11. Coaching (consulting)

Again, coaching is a form of teaching, like it is a form of sharing information through books and courses. But I want to dedicate coaching to its own section because there are some differences to traditional teaching.

Coaching people one-on-one is something I’ve started doing quite intensively over the last few months through Red Lemon Club.

Like with teaching, coaching will help you learn so much about the struggles people you teach are having, allowing you to learn a great deal in the process.

Coaching for me is an invaluable tool for making sure my guidance through my courses are the best they can be. With coaching, I’m always identifying gaps in my own knowledge and making sure those gaps get plugged.

All this knowledge really helps generate further content as an expert, for things like blog posts and even further paid products.

Coaching or consulting is actually very straight forward. All you need to do is find something that you have a certain level of expertise in that will help a specific type of person.

The great thing about coaching is that you get paid before you even start, so it is a means of generating very quick money.

All you need is to be one step ahead of that person.

In my case, I’m teaching creative freelancers, mostly illustrators, how to market themselves and get ideal clients. I also act as a very strong accountability partner for getting tasks done each week.

It’s great for me financially (short term), and it is truly helping some very happy clients make their own money so that they are able to keep paying me for the support.

The process for getting new coaching clients is basically as follows, though you do not need to take every step – this was my own route:

– Identify an area that you can develop your expertise in that you can really help people with.

– Build trust in my own expertise through blog posts, newsletter shares and social media value sharing.

– Get people on my newsletter list as soon as possible.

– Put interested people through the process of experiencing my expertise in more depth through ebooks.

– Write free short marketing reports for some buyers of my books (optional, but really adds value and peaks people’s interest).

– Mention that availability for coaching has opened up when the opportunity is right.

– Arrange brief calls with potential clients who have shown interest.

– Book coaching and secure payment.

– Deliver coaching through weekly hourly Skype calls.

[Estimated earnings to date from coaching: $12,500]

So these are some ways I’ve been able to monetise all of what I’ve been teaching myself (including the illustration) over the last few years. There are still several other income-producing ideas that I have not included here.

I still feel that I’ve only just started on the route to monetising my work effectively, and I have plans to maximise income as best as I can over the coming years.

I honestly believe that (bar the illustration maybe) I’m earning at the very low end of what is possible from each area I’ve discussed in this article. The scope is very wide.

What have my experiences shown?

– It is possible to earn well by committing to being good at one or two things, and it can be totally self-taught.

– Making good money from a blog, but more importantly your own ‘inventions’, is a possibility if you work hard at crafting something that is truly useful.

– You need to build, grow and connect with an audience who stay aware of you, as soon as you can.

– I’ve invented every single product and service that I have made money from. None of what I’ve earned from has come from formal education.

– If I can do all this, so can you.

Overall, stay with getting great at one thing that is useful to others until you see success with it rather than dragging yourself in several directions over time.

Have patience and have faith.

Do the work, then do more. Make the right sacrifices. The money will come after plenty of monotony and discomfort, but the process can also be plenty of fun.

How have you made money from your skills?

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Posted by Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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50 Comments

  1. Wow thanks so much for being so transparent with such a “taboo” topic for artists! I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about not being able to pursue your passion if you don’t have money– financial pressure really can be a distraction!

    I also believe in creating multiple channels for passive income and I am currently in the process of creating products that I can hopefully monetize. It’s just taking a while longer since I do mostly animated work 🙂

    http://www.jecamartinez.blogspot.com

    Reply

    1. Thanks Jeca. Following your progression with interest!

      Reply

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. Funny, I’ve just read “The four hour week” 😉
    I tried some of your points as well. My creative way startet from the reverse direction. First I made some earnings by selling some designs on spreadshirt (http://www.katelein.com/). THEN I began to realize that this is what I really want to do in life.
    Now I am trying to become an illustrator….. but I’m still far away from making a living of it. I have just set up my portfolio …. http://www.carmen-eisendle.com/
    Beside spreadshirt I make some earnings by selling “non digital” products on dawanda.(Kind of etsy in Germany)

    Reply

    1. We’ve all got our own path! Keep going

      Reply

  3. Hi Alex,

    As usual a great article/post and came at just the time when I needed it. I’m literally sitting down right now and trying to come up with a concise illustration/animation freelance business plan!

    I’ve commented before about breaking through my procrastination and figuring out what I want to do and to be honest I’m only just breaking through the “analysis paralysis” and lack of belief & skill, to start creating work, But I wanted to say thank you because out of all the information I read I always come back to your website to get focused and gain a sense of direction.

    “Financial pressure” can be crippling, but I’m hoping that by June I will have made some strides towards finally making a living out of the only thing I’ve ever been completely passionate about, storytelling through images.

    Again thanks and keep up the great work 🙂

    http://www.drawnimagination.com/

    Reply

    1. Thanks Tope! Let me know how the plan goes.

      Reply

  4. Thanks Alex, as usual some really great, thought provoking advice.

    Reply

    1. Cheers Alex, I appreciate that.

      Reply

  5. Nice post Alex!! It’s funny what you say about the workshop in Valladolid, lol. Big hug from Valencia! xx

    Reply

    1. Thanks Io! 🙂

      Reply

  6. –HIGH FIVE–

    Thanks for the great article. You inspire me to keep at it and provided some helpful tips!

    THANK YOU!

    Reply

    1. High Five back at you!

      Reply

  7. Loved this. Thanks fors haring!

    Reply

    1. My pleasure Maya! What are you working on?

      Reply

      1. Working as a web designer and branding consultant. Looking to build my speaking career to speak at college organizations in the fall!

        Reply

  8. Alex, a question for you if you don’t mind. Have you found that vector illustrations created in Adobe Illustrator are the most in-demand? I do hand-drawn art and illustration but no one seems to be interested in my work. It’s good, and I’ve got lots of compliments, but no gigs. Wondering if I should chuck it and learn vector art? Any thoughts would be great.

    Reply

    1. Hi Sara, vector has its advantages because it is editable and flexible in that way. But I would be careful about reacting to trends rather than forging ahead with your own thing. Illustrators need to be aware of what particular audiences might like, but more than anything you need to create your own style.

      With illustration, it’s less about the medium and more about the aesthetic. If in doubt, keep practicing. My style took a few years to develop for example.

      Reply

      1. Thanks, Alex!

        Reply

  9. I think this is one of your best articles. Very insightful and some great tips! I don’t really like public speaking either. I can’t project my voice well and get a nervous rash every time! I appreciate the self development aspects of public speaking though.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Janet. Most people aren’t comfortable with it, but yes, the personal growth is huge by doing it.

      Reply

  10. Tons of helpful content again Alex, thank you 😉 I’ve found for me private art lessons has definitely been the most profitable route, followed by commissions. I’m working on a full assortment of digital downloads now on Etsy hoping that will be another stream of income!

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the tip Ashley. Working for yourself as a teacher can be very lucrative – it’s definitely worth a thought for some of our other readers.

      Reply

  11. Alex…a truly great article with plenty of really useful bits of information. Thank you for sharing. I’ve just started out as an illustrator/graphic designer having spent many years in the creative industries as a Project/Account Manager. Ironically managing my own time, workflow has been one of the hardest challenges but I’m slowly getting stuff done. I recently was fortunate enough to get some commissioned work from a couple of friends and this has def. helped boost moral and a sense that what I’m doing is appreciated and people want to work with me…so this has been especially motivating.
    Another possible revenue stream to consider is taking your work to high street gift shops and galleries. I recently took my prints and greeting cards into a couple of shops and a gallery/framers in NW London and the gallery has agreed to show eight of my prints and a card shop bought a number of cards. This again was a massive boost for me and something I’ll be trying in other parts of London. I was a little nervous about walking cold into a shop but if you’re friendly and your work is unique enough it’s amazing how people react. So def worth considering.
    Thanks again.

    Reply

    1. Great tip Daniel! I may well look into this also.

      Reply

  12. I like this article because it shows how diverse an artist must be willing to be to generate an income. While I would like to earn my living selling paintings exclusively, to date I have made a healthy income to support my painting while I build my reputation by being willing to diversify. I have had income streams coming through web design, graphic design, freelance writing, teaching (both locally & online), coaching, ad revenue through Youtube and even photography. As my income has increased in the more fine art-related areas, I’ve been able to pull back from others that took up more time or where more of a distraction from my main goals.

    Reply

    1. Great stuff Angela. What are your biggest sources of income right now?

      Reply

      1. Mainly teaching online. I love being able to do it on my schedule and it’s really worked to grow my contact list and positioning, and the money’s pretty good!

        Reply

        1. great to hear that!

          Reply

  13. Hi Alex,

    Thank you so much for being so transparent about
    your experiences and earnings. I’m currently working my way through The Only
    Option and Promo 3.0 and would recommend it to anyone who needs concise, practical
    and actionable information for promoting, sustaining and growing a business
    based on their passions and creativity.

    Back in October, I took the plunge from
    leaving a steady, well-paying job to freelance in writing and illustration.
    Although I’m still in the throes of figuring it out, I could not agree with you more
    that earnings and revenue generation need to be prioritized. Although I had
    saved up a substantial chunk of change from my cushy job, I would be too
    stressed out to create if I had not immediately landed a copywriting opportunity
    while developing the illustration portfolio. After reading your advice in the ebooks and on Red Lemon Club, I’ve come to the decision for myself that it
    is better to invest your money into your business, establish and grow residual
    income, rather than, not taking action, and letting the money deplete due to
    poor planning.

    Also, thank you for showing us that, when
    we work for ourselves, we don’t necessarily need to be fixed to one creative category
    and that each project we pursue may open up other opportunities to learn and
    grow our skill set. That to me makes more sense than doing the same thing for
    30 years. Isn’t that why we strive to be our own bosses in the first place? It’s more human
    to change and grow.

    Thank you again for the great article and
    really look forward to the next one!

    Reply

    1. Awesome, Zhangah, you nailed it. Being an entrepreneur is all about growth and trying new things. Revenue is vital to being able to do this. Thanks for a great, encouraging comment.

      Reply

  14. Great post – I recognize one of your old istock illustrations from my library – love those stamps. Thanks for reminding me about 4 hour work week – I’m going to read it again as my motivation has been slumping lately.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Jodi! You got my stamps! Nice! Enjoy the read.

      Reply

  15. Great article Alex. it’s inspiring to learn that even someone as successful as yourself still experiences failures from time to time. I guess it shows we are human and the only way to learn is to fail. Thanks for sharing your various income ideas, some of which I think I could try out myself. Great job.

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    1. Thank you Mark. What might you do next?

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      1. Well I’m planning to sell a series of creative courses online. Then later on perhaps running some workshops… maybe even public speaking.

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  16. I am so loving this article! It is getting me to a open up my brain to a few new things in the illustration world. And thank you Alex for your honesty about money, and what worked and what didn’t.

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    1. My pleasure Debbie. What are your plans?

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      1. Right now I redoing my website/portfolio and trying to get some pieces published. I would love to start getting my work in books, magazines and blogs. I should really check out more info about doing some stock illustration to build my portfolio.

        Oh, I am also finishing up my first book. I am pretty excited about it. I’d also like to focus a bit more on getting my work into more gallery shows.

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  17. Great article Alex, I’ve tried some of your list, every single day is full of opportunities, giving up is not an option

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    1. Damn straight Hugo :). What’s next for you?

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      1. Hey Alex, have you tried some ‘Crowdfunding’? (I don’t know if you already answered that), in my case honestly I haven’t but I’m into a project and I would like to get the funds using kickstarter, indiegogo, etc…it seems it’s working for a bunch of guys so I would give it a try

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        1. I have not, though it is certainly something I will be looking to use in future. Looks like it can work really well.

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  18. […] note: this is an updated version of my original post on Red Lemon Club. Further updates will be posted […]

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  19. Excellent post – I was enlightened by the details . Does anyone know if my assistant could locate a fillable IRS 2290 copy to fill out ?

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    1. Hello colleen tomko ! my business partner accessed a sample IRS 1099-PATR document with this link http://goo.gl/TY0ncY

      Reply

  20. Found this through google and wanted to say thanks for a great article and including the NUMBERS!

    So, your total income from the above of $433,800 over 8 years comes out to $54,225 per year. A comparable income to a good decent middle class job (Seems like you had a regular job to supplement your income too).

    The majority of your income came from Commissions and Stock, $296,000 or 68.23%. Including ebooks, the percentage is 75.6%, which seems to close to the 80/20 rule.

    Your biggest money maker was Commissions ($230,000) 53% and your passive income sources (stock and ebooks) brought in $98K (66K +32K) 22.6%.

    You’ve done quite well and done so on your own terms which is perhaps the most rewarding thing. Is it possible to take it to the next level, or do you feel like there is a ceiling when it comes to making money as an illustrator today?

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    1. Hi Donald, yes it’s rewarding to make money on your own terms, and it’s the only way I would or could ever do it personally. I always had a strong drive not to be employed, which helped motivate me to do it. But I certainly can do much more, what I’ve done so far is only the foundation to build on.

      A lot of the ways I’ve made money are scalable, with no real limit, such as making and selling information online.

      The work that I get paid for in exchange for direct time, like illustration commissions is scalable only to the extent that I increase my value, attract clients with bigger budgets and charge more, but there is room for growth there too.

      This is why, if you’re looking to scale indefinitely, you need to create a product that sells, or has the potential to get from ‘warehouse’ to customer without impeding on your own time.

      Reply

      1. Thanks for the reply. I see what you’re saying about how to scale indefinitely. Very clear insight.

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  21. Thanks for sharing this! I usually end up seeing articles that just gives you an inspirational speech on success without telling you some of the methods on how they did it. I would to see those more often!

    My blog site is by the way: http//:jennymcmillen.blogspot.ca

    Reply

    1. Thanks Jenny!

      Reply