I’ve spent most of my life devising wacky and occasionally reasonable schemes for making money.
As an artist with an interest in business, I’ve often found myself wedged between the two seemingly alien worlds.
Earning money from creative expression has always been a contentious issue because many think that money impinges on the integrity of the creative work.
In other words, “trying to make money from art makes art worse.”
But, as I’ve argued in a few other articles, I believe it is the opposite. Making money forces you to think within limitations. As creativity is aided by restriction, this actually encourages it.
Whether writing a work of fiction, painting a picture or designing a corporate logo, you must create for yourself first, and your audience second.
If you do it for income, you create in a way that engages you within the boundaries of what an audience will pay for.
In this way, the brief defines the edges of your creative expression.
“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” -Andy Warhol
With more and more tools and platforms becoming available, there are many ways you can earn, and multiple angles through which the same skill can create income.
With all this in mind, I’ve brainstormed a list of all the ways I can think of for artistic people to make money.
I wanted to have a reference for all the strategies we can use to create income in one place.
These are from my memory, there will be overlaps, and some of the elements can be chopped and replaced with other points. Feel free to add new ideas in the comments.
The biggest challenge, of course, is developing a skill in the first place, choosing a strategy, and making it work.
Sell a Service
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”— Conrad Hilton
1. Be commissioned directly by a client to create a creative work from scratch. These can be individuals, companies, charities and government organisations.
2. Work with- and be paid by an agent to create something, who liaises with their client.
3. Bid for paid creative projects with clients online on sites like Upwork.
4. Offer smaller, shorter-duration creative services on sites like Fiverr or Outsourcely, and then providing the option to up-sell* to larger projects.
5. Work in-house for a company as a creative employee full-time, part-time or on a contractual basis.
6. Get paid for street art, and interior/exterior mural painting and design.
7. Advise individuals and companies on their creative process and artistic projects such as interior design, or audio/visual projects.
8. Be a consultant or teacher in the skill of creativity itself, which I guarantee will experience a huge growth in the coming years in many industries. [See the work of Edward de Bono.]
9. Start your own creative company, working with other talent to provide creative services for companies.
“People who do “lowly” jobs with love and energy find themselves being promoted and offered other “better” jobs very quickly. Because they understand what Robert Frost meant when he said, “The way out is through.” — Steve Chandler
10. Be an agent to help sell the work of other creatives for a commission.
11. Curate the work of other artists on a blog, in a magazine, or a gallery, and sell their work or other products for a commission.
12. Work as a therapist or councillor, using art, music as a tool for therapy.
13. Be paid to document, photograph and report on creative events such as art shows or music events.
14. Host and organise creative events like art shows, performances, talks, and conferences, and charge for tickets.
“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” — Chris Grosser
15. Write and sell a book about your art process.
16. Write and sell books about your experiences as a creative.
17. Write and sell articles or being paid by publications to write them.
18. Syndicate your written work, cartoons or comics to various publications for a fee.
19. Write and sell stories in articles and books.
20. Make and sell an app with a story and pictures.
21. Make a digital product like a website template that can be sold repeatedly.
22. Sell original art and products in galleries, retail outlets, and online.
23. Sell prints or replications of your art without limit.
24. Sell prints or replications up to a limited run to increase value but losing the ability to sell the product when the limit is reached.
25. Build a game or application from scratch or through collaborating with others, to sell.
26. Build a game or application for sale using pre-existing open-source or un-copyrighted code as a foundation for a new product.
27. Sell licenses to individual creations such as designs, code, audio and video that can be sold for varying fees depending on the commercial usage.
28. Sell stock design, art, video, audio and others on stock sites.
29. Join a creative ensemble or collective that pools resources to sell all products.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney
30. Create a small portion of a creative work, like a book or a game and using crowdfunding to finance it’s completion, continuing to make money from sales after the product is done.
31. Use crowdfunding to fund new episodes, iterations, upgrades and editions of previously completed creative works.
32. Collaborate with creatives to produce a magazine or ‘zine’ for sale or subscription, or make yourself.
33. Earn a commission through sales of other people’s art, courses and products.
34. Build a newsletter that sells your art and courses, provides useful content about your work process, and sells other people’s products.
35. Sell your art at public events like trade-shows, conferences, yard sales, exhibitions, outdoor markets, car boot sales, and art fairs.
36. Sell your art door to door, office to office.
37. Sell your products via retailers on- and offline.
38. Sell your art (or promoting your newsletter or profiles) through social media advertising.
39. Host and sell creative courses produced by others for a commission.
40. Send your designs to be manufactured into products like bags and vinyl toys for sale.
41. 3D-print your ideas or those of others to sell as physical products.
42. Print your art on other products like mugs and t-shirts for sale as merchandise.
43. Pay other creative minds to make products like games, children’s books and illustrations, and then selling their products.
44. Set up a shop, stall or retail space to sell other people’s creative products.
45. Illicit urban adornments like street stenciling and murals and earning from photographs of the art, or from the art itself (see Banksy. An idea, not an encouragement. Do this at your own risk).
46. Collaborate with others to help create any of the products mentioned above and use the power of combined promotion to sell more.
“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure — It is: Try to please everybody.” — Herbert Bayard Swope
47. Make films or video skits that entertain, and earn from adverts, premium content, sponsorship and up-sells*.
“Some people dream of success while others wake up and work.” — Unknown
49. Participatory entertainment like playing video games online and earning from sponsorship or more [see Pewdiepie].
50. Write fictional stories online to grow an audience, offering premium content like additional stories and books for sale.
51. Create entertaining audio/radio/podcast shows and sell products and advertise/be sponsored through the show.
52. Be hired to perform live performance art at events, festivals or hotels and resorts, such as dance, live mural art, painting, music, singing.
53. Work with companies to create art for publicity or advertisements like street paintings, crop circle art, or installations.
54. Busk and street entertainment for donations.
“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember — the only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you.”— Zig Ziglar
55. Document your creative work process online and accept donations from your audience to continue.
56. Document your creations online and get paid for the advertising or charging for access to extra material.
57. Create written/audio/visual online courses for sale.
58. Create exclusive courses for other companies like Skillshare who will promote the course for you.
59. Make videos or podcasts about your art or art and charge for episodes, premium episodes, earn from advertising, or use the content to sell your products.
60. Write a blog and charge for premium articles.
61. The above applied to video and audio, and charge for premium content, including coaching and online seminars.
62. Teach/coach groups or individuals in real life or over the web. All it takes is to be one step ahead for others to gain value that they’d be willing to pay for.
“The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well.” — John D. Rockefeller Jr.
63. Charge for workshops and promote them yourself.
64. Lecture and give classes and workshops at schools and universities.
65. Tutor, teach people one-to-one at their homes or in coffee shops or co-working spaces.
66. Be paid for giving talks and lectures about your art at conferences or do them for free and build an audience to sell to.
[*Up-sell = a product or service sold as an additional option following previous content shared or sold.]
Clearly there are a lot of options out there. Hopefully this will stir up some new ideas for creating income from your art and creative experience that others can benefit from.
These can all be helpful for several useful income streams. My advice, however, is over the long term to focus on a particular area of expertise, and to develop mastery and build value in that one area.
I’m sure there a more ideas, and I welcome any new ideas in the comments.