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Want to know what’s better than crashing into a comfy bed? Waking up richer the next morning. If you’ve been searching for a way to make money as an artist, then keep reading. In this post, we’ll delve into a strategy called passive income and how to sell art online and make money. We’ll answer questions about what passive income is and how to use it to turn your art into income.
What is passive income?
There are two types of income: active income and passive income.
Active income requires you to spend your time working at a particular activity every time you want to make money.
For example, imagine you work at a book store for $12 an hour. To make $12, you have to go to work and stock books for one hour. Want another $12? Then you have to stock more books for another hour.
Passive income, however, requires an initial investment of your time and resources. But then you continually make money from your initial investment with minimal further effort.
Let’s say you spend one hour designing a cute poster for book lovers. You list it for sale on Etsy with a $12 profit margin. So now, you will earn $12 no matter what you do with the rest of your time.
A bookworm shopper could buy your poster at 1 am while you sleep. Someone else may purchase it while you munch into your favorite breakfast cereal. A third poster lover could pay you for it while you take your pup for a walk. Now, you’ve made $36 for that one hour of work.
And that’s just the beginning. Countless others can add your poster to their cart and increase your earnings, all while you enjoy living your life.
Building a passive income has many benefits, including:
Greater freedom and more time to do what you love
Passive income disconnects money from time. Instead of having to show up 40 hours a week to make a certain amount, your past work makes money for you while you pursue other things.
Having multiple passive income sources (see below) helps you skip unworried through uncertain financial times.
Instead of having to wait for a 3% raise on your next employee performance review, you have control over growing your art business and income.
Of course, building this sort of income doesn’t come without work. It requires effort, patience, learning new skills, and ongoing maintenance. Not to mention, you need a solid plan with multiple passive income streams.
What are passive income streams?
Envision a large river, flowing happily down a mountain. From where does all that water come? Tiny streams that join the river along the way. Really, a big river is just many little streams combined.
Based on this idea, people refer to different methods of earning passive income as different “streams.” Like a river, a healthy passive income plan usually involves multiple streams to combine to make your total art income.
As you decide which streams work best for you, carefully weigh the pros and cons of each. Some require more work, some earn more profit, while others may fit your skillset better. Whatever the case, creating a well thought out plan is the foundation of a successful income.
The 7 Best Passive Income Ideas To Make Money As An Artist
You’ve made it to the nitty-gritty! Finally, we’re ready to dive into the top seven best income streams for creatives.
1. Sell Physical Products
Are you interested in sharing your art on physical products like posters, mugs, and t-shirts? Then this is the income stream for you. There are many ways for creatives to get their work onto a variety of products, so here we’ll discuss just the top three.
A. Pair a Print Fulfillment Provider with Etsy, Shopify or WooCommerce
Today, many companies specialize in printing and shipping customer orders, also known as “fulfilling orders,” for artists and creators. Larger printing companies use advanced printing technology and offer a wide variety of products for you to choose from.
Simply sign up for their site, upload your artwork, and their software will generate mockups of your design on everything from t-shirts to tea towels. An ideal company will allow you to easily sync the products you create with your choice of eCommerce site, including major ones like Etsy, Shopify, or Woocommerce.
You get to set your own prices and create your own profit margin. As soon as a customer places an order, they take the customer’s information, create the order, and ship it out to them. All with little effort from you.
Pros: You have greater control over your products, where you want to host your shop, and the look/feel of your storefront. You also have control over your pricing and profit margin.
Cons: You are responsible for customer service, returns, and shop maintenance. Which can occasionally feel like a lot of work. Start-up costs include either paying for shop hosting (Woocommerce & Shopify) or fees (Etsy).
Pro Tip: Order test products from your suppliers or fulfillment company for quality control before offering them to your customers. Remember that small businesses do better providing unique, high-quality items instead of trying to compete with major retailers known for cheap, low-quality merchandise.
B. Utilize a Marketplace Like Redbubble or Society6
Websites like Redbubble and Society6 specialize in connecting shoppers with a vibrant marketplace of art and artists. They handle all the printing, fulfilling, shipping, and customer service. Your only required work includes uploading your artwork, writing a description, and other basic tasks. Various websites give you a variety of levels of control over your profit margin. And you can list your products on multiple sites for wider market coverage and increased sales.
Pros: Most of these sites have zero start-up costs. You also don’t have to deal with customer service.
Cons: Your work is in competition with all the other sellers and can get lost in the crowd. You have less overall control of your storefront, listings, and prices. Your profit margin can be significantly lower than in option 1.
C. Source Products, Store Stock & Ship Them Yourself
This is the most time, work, and upfront cost-intensive method of them all. Depending on what you offer, it can be very expensive to order a stock of items, buy shipping materials, and store them all. Make sure that the expense is worth the investment and can be more than covered by your profit margin before going this route. This option is ideal for high-volume, pre-order, or very low-cost items.
This method also works well for art and fine art prints with a low print cost and a high mark up. Below you will find links to nationally recognized photo and fine art printers and packaging suppliers.
Pros: Can sometimes lead to larger profit margins.
Cons: Upfront expenses, storage area required, and more work involved.
Useful Companies & Services
Printing and Fulfillment Services
2. Sell Printables
Next up on our ways to make passive income is selling digital prints on Etsy or websites like Etsy.
Get 40 free listing credits by opening a new Etsy store today.
Printables are digital files of artwork or designs electronically delivered to buyers who can print them themselves. Printables feature low creation costs, fewer quality control problems, and potentially greater profit margins than physical products.
They include everything from decorative quotes to home organization planning pages. You can sell these on marketplaces like Etsy or your own web site with WooCommerce.
Have limited design or art skills? Then printables might be a great option for you. They usually range on the lower end of complexity and allow you to use programs like Canva or Adobe Spark Post to crete products.
You can also find high-quality graphics such as watercolor illustrations, portrait creating systems, and unique fonts on websites such as CreativeMarket or DesignCuts. Using these in your designs allows you to create something unique out of premade pieces.
Many printable sellers place restrictions on how buyers can use their artwork and files. These include prohibiting customers from redistributing print files and limiting purchases to personal use.
However, once your print files go out in the world, you have very little control over them. A buyer may decide to ignore your instructions and redistribute it or otherwise harm your interests. You can choose to enforce your copyright, but doing so often requires expensive lawyer fees, vigilance and work.
So before offering your art as a printable, consider the potential loss you could suffer should a buyer break copyright. You could consider selling simple, less complex designs, while saving your prized artwork for safer monetizing methods.
Printable ideas include: decorative quotes, customizable family portraits, home cleaning schedules, back to school schedule organizers, recipe book templates, to-do list paper.
Pro Tip: Offer your printable in multiple formats for easy printing. It can be easier to print a PDF at home and a JPG from a photo printer. Make sure that customers know that they will only receive a digital file and not a physical print.
3. Sell Creative Assets
Fellow artists, desig
Fellow artists, designers, and photographers who need products specialized to their work form the customer base for creative assets. Buying unique Photoshop brushes or an already customized WordPress theme can speed up a creative’s workflow or fill a gap in their skillset. And who better to fill that gap then you?
You can use marketplace websites like CreativeMarket or DesignCuts to sell creative assets. Or you can set up your own shop through a site like GumRoad.
What are some creative assets you can sell?
|Procreate Brushes||Lightroom Presets||Stock Photography||Icons||Textures||Illustrator Brushes|
|Scrapbooking Materials||Pricing Guide Templates||Mockups||Vintage Logos||Portrait Creation Kits||Social Media Icons|
|Resumes||Flyers||Brochures||UI Designs||Infographics||And more…|
4. Teach Others
Teaching online is a massive industry with multiple ways for creatives to approach it. Let’s examine four top ways to turn your knowledge and skill into money.
One of the best-known learning communities in the creative sphere, Skillshare, offers a platform for you to, well, share your skills. As far as online class hosting platforms goes though, competition for watch time from their students (teachers are paid by the viewing minute) is high, and compensation is low.
The best way to make money from Skillshare is through their referral program, where you can earn $10 per new student who signs up through your link. And you can do that without teaching on the platform.
Historically, teachers on Udemy sold their courses for cheap. But recently their prices have gone up considerably. The Udemy platform gives you exposure to their broad audience and a decent profit depending on how you price your course.
Private courses can range from a simple email sequence to PDF guides and tutorials to a several hours-long video intensive. This is also the highest profit way to run a course, but also the most work to create and promote.
Some course hosting companies provide excellent training for teachers on how to create classes and use their platforms. Teachable provides a great entry-level product for those new to online education. Many teacher start out there and later switch their courses to the more expensive, feature-rich Kajabi platform.
Pro Tip: Build an audience on social media and/or through an email list before launching an online course.
Skillshare | Udemy | Teachable | Kajabi
5. Create Content
Help other creatives by blogging or vlogging about your skills. Creating this sort of content can lay a solid foundation for all your income streams by building your online presence and promoting your work. It also opens up two major monetizing options: affiliate marketing and brand deals/sponsorships.
Have you ever wondered how bloggers and YouTubers make money? One major way is through the products and services they promote. Content creators partner with different websites and receive special affiliate URL links that they use in their content. When a reader/subscriber clicks the content creator’s affiliate link and makes a purchase, the website pays the content creator a commission.
For example, imagine you wanted to promote Canson watercolor paper because it’s your absolute favorite paper to paint on. You could sign up for the Amazon Affiliate Program since Amazon sells Canson watercolor paper. Then you could make a Youtube Video about your watercolor process and mention that you love Canson watercolor paper. You could tell people if they want to buy it, there’s a link in your video’s description. Then if someone clicked your link and purchased the paper on Amazon, you would receive a 10% commission from Amazon.
Brand Deals & Sponsorships
As a content creator, you can directly reach out to brands to work with them. If they decide to sponsor your post or video, they will pay you directly and possibly give you free products to review or promote. This works best after you have already built up a following.
Pro Tip: Only promote brands you use/believe in/think will benefit your audience. Honesty and trustworthiness should be at the heart of any content creation or influence campaign.
Helpful Resources: Blogging
Helpful Resources: Vlogging
Patreon allows your fans and superfans to support you directly month after month. On Patreon, you set up an account to share exclusive content with your subscribers or “patrons”. Patrons, in turn, pay a certain amount (usually between $1 to $25 a month) to see it.
You can set up different price tiers of patrons who receive different exclusive content. Content can range from behind the scenes looks, monthly video chats, tutorials, videos, or even physical products you mail out.
Patreon does take on average between 5-8% of your earnings as their fee.
Pro Tip: Promote your Patreon on social media regularly to gain more patrons.
7. Contribute to Stock Sites
The least likely to make you serious money, this one is a great stream to tack onto an already healthy passive income plan.
Stock sites these days look for everything from photography to illustration to vectorized elements. The pay is usually very low per asset, especially now that many stock sites have introduced monthly subscription plans for their users. Also, competition is high.
However, if you already have images and illustrations just getting dusty on your hard drive, making extra money with them on stock sites never hurt.
What passive income streams will you use to make money as an artist?
Comment below which ones you can’t wait to try.