Stop Wasting Your Money on Instagram Paid Promotions

I have strong feelings about this one as an artist.

If you read my last post about wasting money on big art sharing accounts, you know I’m a proponent of organic growth on Instagram. Paying for sponsored ads through Instagram can seem like a good idea to grow your following, but it can also just be a colossal waste of limited funds as a newbie artist.

I spend a lot of time on Instagram, (way too much time…) and through my scrolling I get quite a few promotions pop up from budding art accounts. I’m a curious person, so I poke around their profiles to see what they are working with. Most of the time, these accounts shouldn’t be paying for ads, because if you are trying to sell your art and your ad pops up in MY feed you are definitely marketing to the wrong people. Your money is wasted. Not because I don’t love your art, but because it’s like Starbucks advertising to Caribou employees.

Since I don’t want to be that dick that offers unsolicited advice to the artists paying for promotions, I chose to write this blog instead. Basically, promotions can get you new eyes on your art, but it’s important to be strategic and plan your ads with a call to action in mind.

I’m not saying never pay for a promotion

Running a business requires advertising. You have to get your name and your art out into the community in order to sell your work. That’s obvious. What I’m saying is to be smart about your promos and make them worth the money.

If you are going to pay for Instagram promotions to grow your following or make sales, check out these tips.

1. Make sure your profile is attractive and branded.

If your profile is ugly, it doesn’t matter how many new people see it. They aren’t going to want what you’re selling. Your art may be out of this world, but bad photos and a cluttered profile will repel your audience.

Your profile needs to make a good first impression. When viewed as a whole, it should look clean, cohesive, and inviting. I have another blog with tips for that! (Here)

2. Choose a post to promote that is exemplifies your brand as an artist.

Don’t just pick one piece of art that you want to sell and promote it like a product listing in your store. Choose a photo that starts a conversation and introduces your potential new follower to your life as an artist.

Not every post is promotion material.

On the surface, the video or photo you promote needs to be attractive and eye catching. Once you dig a little deeper into the image, it should also tell a story. I know that’s vague, but you are the one that knows your brand so it’s up to you to figure out that story. BUT if you want one on one help I can do that too.

3. Have a call to action.

Do you just want new followers? Are you promoting a sale? Do you want to introduce yourself? Do you want to start a conversation around a particular message?

It’s not enough to just put a picture of your art in front of people. If you are paying for a promotion, you must have a call to action. Whether you ask people to share their thoughts in the comments, or want them to check out your store, make sure your caption urges viewers to act.

4. Use your unique voice. 

When you meet someone new, what’s your plan? Do you want to say something funny and make them laugh? I know I’m not the only introverted weirdo that plans ahead for social interactions. Your promoted posts should be given the same care. Your caption shouldn’t just read “Hi, I’m an artist. Check out my profile and follow me for more.”

Your post needs to pull someone in. Your photo/video will do the bulk of the work by drawing in the eyes. Then, your caption takes over to give more context. Naturally, your caption should complement the photo/video.

Spend some time brain storming and write down as many ideas for meaningful stories you can share. What do you think people want to talk about? How can you create a long lasting impression? How do you want your audience to feel?

You’re putting yourself and your work in front of strangers. Give them a reason to remember you and want to get to know you more.

5. Know your audience. 

Your audience is not anyone who likes art. That’s too broad.  I suggest really getting to know the types of people that respond well to your art. If I’m the one seeing your promotions and you’re trying to get art sales, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Now, if you are an artist trying to sell an online class for your new art techniques, then it’s appropriate to advertise to artists.

When you choose your audience on Instagram promotions they allow you to build your own, or go with their suggested audience. When you allow Instagram to target your audience, they look at your current followers and those who interact with your posts. That means, if I already follow you I may see your promotions. Seems like a waste if you’re trying to get new followers, right?

Get to know your target audience and take control of your promotions.

When you are thinking about your audience, imagine their daily lives. How do they decorate their home? What do they watch for entertainment? What do they spend their time doing? What do they wear? What inspires them? Why are they drawn to your art?

When you are interacting with customers at events, ask them about their interests. Do some research. Even think about making a survey for customers to answer a few questions so you can gather data.

Just remember, not everyone who likes art is your customer. I LOVE art, but I’m not your target audience. You don’t have to advertise to a huge group of people. Get specific and target those who will really respond to your brand.

In Summary

  • Promotions with a proper planning are good.
  • Promotions without proper planning are bad.

You have a product to sell. Whether it’s your art, your blog, your lifestyle, or your personality, you have to make your audience want it. The content that you choose for your promotion should make people want to be closer to what you are offering.

So, stop wasting your money and start planning.

***

As always, thanks so much for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email.

Oh, and I offer Instagram Assessments to other creators to help give your social media presence a boost. Check out my services here.

-Kelly

P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and discounts through my store.

Further Reading:

Stop Wasting Your Money on Instagram Art Sharing Accounts

12 Ways to Make Money as an Artist

Stop Wasting Your Money on Instagram Art Sharing Accounts

Picture This…

You’re an artist trying to sell your work. Your follower count has been stagnant for weeks. You want to grow, but just can’t seem to get exposure. An account reaches out to you to promote your art. Just $10 to share a single post. Sounds reasonable. You pay. Your post is shared. You wait for new followers to roll in…

You’re not alone

I remember how frustrating it was when my Instagram account was stuck around 300 followers. I wanted to pursue my goal of being a full time non-starving artist, but how the heck was I going to do it if I couldn’t get eyes on my art? I needed new followers and I needed them now. (Anyone else out there incredibly impatient?)

It’s tempting to pay your way to a larger following, but does it actually work? Will it be beneficial in the long run? At all points of my Instagram journey, I have been baited by larger share accounts to promote my work. They leave a comment “DM us to be featured”

Or they send you a direct message with a  “Do you want to reach more followers?” Once you respond, they give you the numbers.

Some accounts will charge under $10 for a single post. Ballsy accounts will try to charge over $50 for a single post. They are all over the place and they will take what they can get.

Should you pay to have large accounts share your work?

If you have read any of my previous blogs about growing an Instagram following (here and here), you know that I first gained momentum when a couple of larger accounts shared my posts. It is the most effective way to gain followers quickly in my experience. When one account shared a time lapse video of mine on 10/26/2017, I gained 3900 followers over 4 days.

In October 2018, I gained a total of 13,000 followers on my account thanks to a couple other videos going a bit viral (this one, and this one) and being shared by multiple accounts.

It’s pretty clear that having accounts share your work is beneficial, but I did not pay for any of those shares. I hadn’t paid for a single promotion for @messyeverafter until November 9th of this year.

I wanted to experiment with a paid post for the purpose of this blog, and conveniently I had an account reach out to me. Initially they wanted $40 for a single post. I laughed and said “That’s too much. I won’t pay more than $10.” They responded with “ok” and provided their Paypal address. I went ahead and sent $10, and hours later, my post was live.

The post got 6,000+ likes and 21 comments. I estimate I gained an additional 200-270 followers above my normal growth rate over three days. But as a data junkie, here is a fun insight comparison for you:

The share account I used has 522,000 followers. I had 86,000 followers. My post received 1,100 less likes, but reached 40,000 more accounts, had 450+ more saves, 23 more private message shares, and had 180+ more comments. I gained a couple hundred more followers, but the engagement on my own account is clearly more genuine.

Now, the share account in this example was very generous in supplying the analytics for this post, and I will not provide their name as an account to avoid. They were professional, prompt, and still provided a service that was beneficial. If I had only 300 followers and was suddenly up to 570 over a couple of days, the $10 would feel worth it.

It’s possible I will pay for more promotions in the future just to see my numbers grow faster, but I’m going to be very selective with the accounts I pay. You should be too. If you are thinking about paying an account, do your research. Not every account will benefit you.

How to tell if a share account is legit:
  • Check their engagement using Socialblade
    • This is a website that will let you see just how socially successful an account is. A low engagement rate means their followers aren’t all that active. A lot of followers means nothing if they don’t actually interact with posts.
    • For this example @artswonderful kicks @artstudio_post’s butt.

  • Look at their likes and comments per post.
    • If they have 200,000 followers, but get 500 or less likes per post you may as well burn your money.
    • If they have thousands of likes on a photo, but 4 generic comments from other art sharing accounts, their engagement is likely from bots. Go buy yourself a burrito instead.
    • Look for comments from genuine people.
  • Look at the content they post. It will be a reflection of their audience.
    • If you’re an abstract painter, you likely shouldn’t try to get your work posted on a graphite drawing account. That’s not your audience.
    • If they have a bunch of weird non-art content, same thing applies.
    • If they post a lot of content that just doesn’t aesthetically look “good” they don’t really care if the artists succeed. Avoid those accounts.
Tip: Be aggressive and negotiate.

These accounts can only stay in business if people actually pay them. They are desperate to take any amount of money from people so it’s quite likely they will negotiate. If they say $10, say you only have $7. If they say $5, go ahead and offer $3. There are thousands of art sharing accounts out there looking to profit off your dreams. Go ahead and fight for a better deal.

In an ideal world…

Having accounts share your work for free is obviously the preferred way to grow. It takes patience and more attention on the quality of the content you produce, but it’s worth it. Again, if you have followed my Instagram journey, you’re aware that I went from 300 followers in September of 2017 to 87,000 followers as of today all organically. (Just ignore the 200-270 I paid for.)

I strongly encourage you to focus on free and organic growth. This will help you more in the long run with sales and potential sponsorships.

If you want large accounts to share your art without having to pay for it or reach out to individual accounts here are a few tips:
  • Create videos.
  • Create and post as often as you can.
    • You need to produce and post quality content on a daily basis. Last fall, I was posting a video every other day and sometimes every day.
    • Post 1 to 3 times a day and keep looking for ways to make your photos and videos better.
  • Get a list of 25-30 hashtags that are niche and relevant to your art so you can maximize your exposure.

I rarely offer the “easy” way to do things in my posts. Easy is not really a word I would use to describe the process of following your dreams. I am very much a DIY, elbow grease kind of person.

In conclusion

Paying for big accounts to share you work can produce results, but make sure you are getting the best value for your money by vetting the accounts before paying.

Getting free exposure is very likely when you produce attractive content. If you would like one-on-one help to improve your content or get tips on how to grow organically I am always happy to offer my consulting services.

As they say, give an instagrammer a shared post and they’ll gain a couple of followers for a day. Teach an instagrammer how to get multiple posts shared for free and they’ll gain thousands of followers over a lifetime. That’s how that old saying goes, right? 😉

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email.

-Kelly

P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and discounts through my store.

Further Reading:

How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet

Instagram Tips for Artists

 

How to be a Better Professional in the Art World

Don’t be an Artist Stereotype

Flighty. Absentminded. Moody. Overly emotional. Whatever the cliché may be, you don’t have to be that. If you want to make money as a professional artist, you have to act like a professional.

With the rise of the internet and numerous public art events, artists no longer have to depend on gallery owners to sell their work. Artists have become their own salespeople. We can interact directly with clients and customers on a daily basis. We are able to cut out the middleman, but this creates a need for really basic professional skills.

Here are a six skills that I personally value most in my professional relationships.

1. Do what you say, when you say.

If you are working with a customer, event organizer, gallery owner, fellow artist, or anyone interested in your art it is so important to maintain those relationships by delivering what you promise. I have worked with a number of different personalities and the worst thing you can do for a professional relationship is be flaky.

If you need to set up by a certain time at an event, be punctual. If you need to wire hang all of your pieces for a show, ask the event coordinator for details and deliver what they need. If you said you’d email a potential customer by a certain date, do it.

If you over-promised and find you can’t deliver, then relay this to the other party. It’s okay if your plans have to change, but let the other party know in a timely fashion. Clear communication is crucial for professional relationships. I can’t tell you how many people I have worked with over the years that have flaked on me. When that happens, I’m not enthusiastic to try working with them in the future.

Don’t be that artist.

2. Follow Up

Get used to reaching out to people through email, text, or phone calls. Once you have formed a professional relationship, you must maintain it appropriately.

If the person you are working with doesn’t follow number one above, I encourage you to send a friendly email or give them a call to touch base on whatever you’re working on.

If you sent a piece of your art to a new customer, feel free to send them a message to see if everything arrived safely. If you are working on a commission and need more input from your client reach out to them.

Keep your lines of communication open, and avoid being shy. I still feel uncomfortable in a lot of professional interactions, but the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

3. Make your K-12 English teachers proud

Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean that you can neglect basic grammar and punctuation. Sure, writing isn’t for everyone, but nothing rubs a customer the wrong way like a poorly written email. Anytime I am working with someone who claims to be a professional, red flags pop up all over the place if I get an email that doesn’t contain complete sentences, proper punctuation, properly spelled words, or capitalized letters in appropriate places.

What and how you write makes a statement about you and your business. Even if you are responding to emails on your phone, pay attention to the mechanics of what you write across all platforms. That goes for Instagram comments, messages, and captions too.

4. Keep your personal Life and beliefs in check.

I encourage artists to show their personalities and share their personal life to help build their brand, but I strongly discourage you from airing your dirty laundry in public. Be careful which stories you share, because your brand can be negatively impacted.

Before you share something personal in your Instagram captions, always ask yourself what the content says about you. Will you offend a large group of your audience? Will you alienate your customers? Are you spreading a positive or negative message?

It’s important to be yourself, but it’s very important that you consider how your public interactions and conversations will affect your brand. Creative people will always have an overlap between their professional life and personal life since inspiration often comes from our experiences, but does your audience need to know about your current fight with your sister? Probably not.

 

5. Handle disputes and confrontation privately

Your social media accounts are not the place to attack people. Don’t be a bully. In the art world, you are sure to run into situations that will outright piss you off. People will copy your work. Other artists may insult you and rub you the wrong way. When this happens, don’t allow yourself to post anything publicly until you’ve worked out your feelings. You can still share your experiences about these topics, but make sure the tone you communicate fits your brand and make sure your words don’t exacerbate the situation.

I have witnessed a couple of interactions this year that were absolute train wrecks that I couldn’t stop watching. I settled in with my popcorn and got sucked into the spectacle these artists made of themselves. I also lost professional respect for them.

Take these issues directly to the parties involved. DM them. Email them. Talk on the phone. Get your shit figured out and don’t use social media as a venting session.

The art world is surprisingly small. Be nice.

6. Price your Art and stand behind the numbers

Part of being a professional is establishing your worth and sticking to it. Name your price. Pretend to be confident about it if you need to. The customers who understand your worth will pay. You can’t please everyone, so focus on pricing your work according to what you are happy with.

Pricing your work is hard. I’ve been there. I’ve also been in the situation where I shyly wanted more money for something, but let the customer decide their price leaving me feeling dissatisfied. Any situation where you don’t clearly declare a price can get awkward. Even when you do declare a price, you’ll still have people telling you you’re wrong and you need to raise or lower it (ignore most of them).

Once you have a pricing scheme for your work, stick with it and communicate your prices consistently. It’s okay to negotiate from there if you feel comfortable doing so, but don’t wait for others to define the value of your art.

(Why Original Art is so Expensive and How to Price Your Art)

***

What do you think? Is there anything you’d like to add to the list? Please leave your questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram. I love hearing from you!

Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned for the next post.

-Kelly

P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers!

Further Reading:

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

How to be a Confident Artist

Why Original Art is So Expensive

You’re charging WHAT for that piece?!

Most artists will tell you that pricing their work is one of the hardest things to do when entering the professional art world. The value of art is different for everyone, and so an acceptable price varies depending on the viewer.

If you are an artist, you will definitely get incredulous looks if your prices are on the higher end. If you’re a consumer, I’m sure you have seen a price on a piece of art that left you laughing hysterically (like these pieces or the $1.4mil Banksy piece that self destructed). Naturally, as artists become famous, anything goes. This blog post isn’t about that art.

If you are just a normal person trying to decorate your home, it’s reasonable you’d want to find something with an affordable price tag, but if you are hoping to have an original piece of art or something custom made for your home you shouldn’t expect to get quality work for a cheap price.

I want to go over some numbers with you to explain things a little better.

First we need to make a few assumptions:
  1. You believe art has value.
  2. You believe the work artists put into their art has value.
  3. You believe artists should be able to make a living creating the art you value.

Cool? Cool.

Now Let’s do the math

There is a lot that goes into running a successful business, and a business selling art is no different. The main goals for artists are to provide a product that others will consume, cover their operating expenses, and take home enough money to provide a comfortable living for themselves and possibly their family.

Easy, right? How much money does an artist need to accomplish all of this?

Cost of Living

First, let’s look at some estimates for living the single life. I’m going off of the two locations I have lived this year for this example, but you can explore the cost of living across the country using this tool.

It’s not unreasonable for an artist to strive to make enough money from their business to live comfortably.

We all have different standards of living, but in order to survive we need these basic things: Shelter, food, transportation, health insurance, clothing, utilities (heat, water, electric), internet/phone, and loan payments (If you’re a millennial you’ll almost definitely have student loans.)

I’m no stranger to poverty level wages, but let’s try to end the concept of a starving artist and aim for paying artists higher than poverty level.

Okay, what else do artists need?

Cost of Operating a Business

Establishing the cost of living is one thing. Now you have to factor in how much it costs to actually make art. Depending on what an artist works with, expenses will vary quite a bit. Here are examples of business expenses and how they change the income needed per month to not only live, but keep the business running.

In my business, my expenses vary from month to month, but they can add an additional $1000+ in needed revenue to an artist’s books.

If you ever see an artist set up at a well known outdoor art fair, it’s quite possible that event alone will cost $1000+ to prepare for. All of this is factored into the price of the art you are buying.

How much art can an artist art if an artist can art art?

If you are a single artist and live alone in a town like St. Cloud, MN (my home for 8ish years) you would need between $3092- $3792 in gross sales to live a comfortable but modest middle class existence and cover business expenses.

How much art does an artist have to make and sell to reach those numbers?

Some artists can crank out a crap ton of pieces in one month. Some artists take multiple months just to finish ONE piece. And some artists can’t sell any of those pieces no matter how hard they try.


This is just the baseline for pricing

If an artist needs $4000 a month, but can only make and sell 5 original pieces of art during that time, their average original art sale needs to be $800 or more.

If you meet an artist who can only create 2 or less original pieces a month because of the time they put into their work, it’s fair to say those pieces can be priced in the thousands.

If you are looking at art in a gallery, that gallery is likely going to take 40%-70% of the artist’s sale so prices will be even higher.

If that artist has made a name for themselves and is widely recognized, they can start to charge even more for originals just because of their social status alone.

There are many variables that go into the price of a piece of art, but the baseline should always be enough to provide a livable income for the creator.

Yay, math!

(Artists: read this for another way to price your work).

But I can find cheaper art somewhere else.

Yes. You can find a lot of bargain priced art. Here’s why:

  • An artist doesn’t care if they make a profit (hobbyists, part-timers etc.)
  • An artist is desperate for a sale (because some money is better than no money, right?)
  • An artist doesn’t understand the value of their work.
  • It’s a licensed print in a store. (Big box stores can sell thousands of the same piece and the original artist will get 5%-8% of those sales.)

Just because some artist’s prices are low, doesn’t mean every other artist should price their work that low.

To Potential Art Customers

Bottom line, an artist needs to make a reasonable living. If you love what they do and want them to continue their career, don’t let the price scare you. And please please don’t ask for discounts or tell them their prices are too high, because so-and-so can do it cheaper.

Shift your perspective.

A piece of art isn’t just something to pull a room together. When you buy from an independent creator, you are supporting their livelihood. You are giving them grocery money. You are helping put a roof over their head. And you are helping them build a career.

In exchange, you get to look at something that will inspire you every day. You get to adopt a piece of the artist’s story.

Supporting a visual artist is just as important as buying books you love, going to the movies, buying your favorite band’s latest album, seeing a comedian perform, watching plays at a theater, enjoying a ballet or orchestra, and so much more. The arts surround you on a daily basis. It would suck if all of these things suddenly didn’t exist, right?

We need the arts.

We need to support those who enrich our lives. So the next time you cringe at the price tag on an original piece of art, ask yourself if that artist has impacted your life in some way. Ask yourself if you want them to keep creating.

If you really can’t afford their art, then give them some love on social media. Share their work. Help expand their following. Be a cheerleader for the creations that speak to you.

Or, look at it like this: If you own a piece of art for 10+ years, how much would it cost to see that piece every day? A $300 canvas is just $2.50 a month. See, that’s not so bad!

Art is valuable.

Original art is expensive, because an artist’s time is valuable, an artist’s story is valuable, and an artist needs to pay bills and put food on the table.

And sometimes, original art is ridiculously expensive because that artist achieved fame and now gets to f*&$ with rich people. (Hats off to those artists, but that’s not the norm.)

Art is not expensive because it is “good” art. And art is not cheap because it is “bad” art. There are plenty of expensive pieces of art that I can’t stand looking at, and plenty of amazing works of art that are priced too low to pay anyone’s bills.

It’s all about the story of the artist and most of us are just trying to build a career out of our passion.

***

Thanks so much for reading! I hope this encourages you to see the price of original art in a different light. There is a misconception that full time artists just live with their heads in the clouds and have the best life ever, but this profession is has ups and downs just like any career.

What do you think? Leave your questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram!

Buy original art. Support your local starving artist. Support all things creative.

-Kelly

P.S. Speaking of being a starving artist…

If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do like writing these blogs. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and discounts to my store!

Also, check out my store! 

Further Reading: 

Nobody wants your art, but it’s not because it’s bad

How to Price Your Art with an Easy Formula

 

12 Ways to Make Money as an Artist

Is it possible to make a living from your art?

If you follow my art journey on social media, you may be wondering what life looks like at 75k followers.  Am I actively making a living? Depends on your standards of living, but yes I am. Though living in San Diego has definitely made me feel quite poor again… (The cost of living out here is INSANE.)

I recently got an email from someone asking if it’s worth it to put in the work on social media to grow a large following if I still make comments about being a somewhat starving artist. The answer is different for everyone. If you want money right this very moment, being an artist is probably the last thing you want to do. If you want to pursue your passion and have the patience to put in the work for a while without receiving an immediate reward, then yes it’s totally worth it.

Making a living isn’t going to happen over night.

It’s a hustle, and income will be inconsistent for a while. Growing an art business takes time and a lot of creative thinking. At times you will have to create your own opportunities and step out of your comfort zone in order to see your numbers rise.

Since you’re in it for the long haul, it’s important to remember to acknowledge any progress you make to keep yourself from burning out.

How you and I can make money as artists

First, there are two main categories of income.

Active Income: Income that comes directly from actions you perform. Ex. commissioned work, creating original pieces, teaching classes etc..

Passive Income: Income that you earn without additional work put in. Ex. licensed work royalties, online class subscriptions, affiliate links, advertising revenue etc..

If you want to create more consistent income or make more money without putting in more effort, you’ll want to explore passive revenue streams. In the beginning you are going to be very active to get things up and running.

1. Online Sales

This is where the bulk of my income comes from at the moment. Once you have a social following, you can start to drive that traffic to your store front. There isn’t a magic formula that ‘x’ amount of followers gives you ‘x’ amount of sales, but the more eyes on your work, the higher the chances of making a sale. You can also look at paid promotions and advertisements, but I’m not an expert on that (yet).

You can use your own website, Etsy, Weebly, SquareUp, and more. Just make it as easy as possible for people to give you money. (Less ‘DM me to purchase’ and more ‘Click this link to buy’.)

2. Event/ IN person Sales

This is my least favorite way to earn money (Hi, I’m an introvert!). Booking craft fairs, art fairs, or other in person sales events can give you a sizable boost in income. They usually take a lot of time to prepare for. You spend 8+ hours talking to people, and cross your fingers that you’ll at least cover your costs. Successful large shows can bring you thousands in sales within a weekend. Unsuccessful craft events can leave you in the hole, grumpy, and defeated.

Research and attend events before signing up for them. Talk to the artists that participate and see how their experience has been with that show. Make sure the event is well known, adequately advertised, and has a juried process for acceptance. Nothing worse than setting up your fine art next to a multi-level marketing vendor.

3. Commissioned Art

Somebody might love what you do, but want a different color scheme or size for their home. Accepting commissions is a good way to diversify your income and get to know your customers. Let your following know you accept custom orders on your website, individual posts, or social media bio.

4. Gallery Shows

Having a solo show at a fancy art gallery is a dream a lot of us have. You’re able to hang the work, mingle with art lovers at an opening reception, and hopefully sell pieces at a higher price. Even though galleries will take a large chunk of the sale to keep their business running, it’s still a great opportunity.

It’s hard to immediately get a solo show, but you can work your way into galleries by participating in group shows and building your own following in the surrounding community.

5. Teaching Art Classes

Teaching others is a great way to earn extra income. Most of the art instructors I had in school were full time creators. It’s how a lot of artists keep the lights on while building their careers.

  • Look into creating a community education course in your town for your favorite art techniques.
  • Consider hosting a painting party or becoming a teacher for the Paint Nite type companies out there.
  • Teach people one-on-one.
  • If you have a Masters in art you can look into teaching at a university or community college.
  • Explore online class formation on platforms like Skillshare.

6. Consulting Services for Other Artists

If you become an expert in social media, bookkeeping, video editing, or any of the non-art skills needed in the art world then you could definitely explore this option.

I didn’t plan on offering consulting services or coaching sessions to my followers when I started this journey. I just wanted to figure out how to find success. Once I started writing blogs to share what I’d learned about the business side of art, this new opportunity presented itself. (See what services I offer here.)

7. Patreon

Asking your followers to support what you do by pledging a small amount each month can help you establish consistent and passive income. This is easier to do as you become more widely known. (Check out my Patreon page.)

8. Affiliate Programs

You know those blogs I write to share my supplies and tips? Yeah, I earn commissions if anyone makes a purchase through the links I include in my posts. Since a lot of your social following will probably be other artists that want to do what you do, you can take advantage of their willingness to learn and earn passive income.

You’ll need a website and a desire to write blogs…

9. YouTube Channel Monetization

If you enjoy making video content of your art or anything related to your art, consider creating a YouTube channel and work at becoming a partner to enable monetization. This means you’ll be able to earn money through ad clicks on your videos. It take a lot of work to get this up and running, but the income potential is pretty cool. #youtubefamous

10. Licensed Artwork

You know those nameless pieces of art in hotels, lawyer’s offices, and the home decor section of Target? Those were all created by an actual artist. It may be mass produced and sold by a corporation, but there is an artist out there collecting 5-7% in royalties from each sale. If you get a collection of works licensed with a large enough company, you can create a nice passive income stream.

Society6, Redbubble, etc.

These sites are an option for getting your work out there, but you’re the one that has to maintain the product listings and you still only get a small percentage of the sale.

11. Sponsorships and Influencer Payments

As your social following grows, you will have more power to pair up with big brands to promote their products. I started reaching out to large companies once I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram to see if they would be willing to provide free supplies in exchange for social exposure. Free supplies might not be income, but it’s a great perk.

The best part is as your social influence grows even more big brands will actually pay you to promote their products through targeted campaigns. There are multiple social influencer platforms that you can look into to make yourself known to brands seeking authentic promoters.

12. Twitch Creative

Do you like live streaming your process? Well there is a whole market for that. Twitch was originally for gamers to stream their game play, but there is now a creative section for artists to stream what they do in the studio.

There are artists who make a complete living through their streaming channel by allowing people to subscribe and overlapping it with Patreon pledges. Check out how Sezzadactyl does it.

I was going to explore this option in November of 2017, but I got distracted…

***

There are definitely a crap ton of other ways you can earn money as an artist, but these are the options I have personally explored. I currently earn income from online sales, commissioned art, affiliate programs, consulting work, and Patreon on a monthly basis.

Since I have at least five streams of income per month now, I don’t have to panic when the sales in my store slow down. The biggest takeaway I want you to have from this post is that you must diversify your streams of income. Do not just depend on one area for money. Yes, it would be great to be able to just sell original works of art and pay the bills, but you leave yourself vulnerable when the market changes.

It’s not going to be easy.

I work all the time. Whether I’m doing social media, bookkeeping, marketing, updating inventory, or actually making art—it feels like my art business is my life. I love it, but it’s not something that I would recommend for people who just ‘like’ making art or need money to pay the electric bill by next week.

Again, building strong and consistent streams of income from your art will take time. After quitting my full time job in 2016, it took me a year to finally see forward momentum. I hardly made any money during that year. In 2018, I’ve seen loads of progress, but I’m still working on consistency. I’ve made anywhere from $269 in a month to $8,800 in a month.

Start with one income stream and go from there. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through email or Instagram.

Or, if you would like one on one help to grow your following or find your direction as an artist, check out my consulting services.

Thanks so much for reading!

-Kelly

P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do like writing these blogs. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and discounts to my store!

***

Further Reading:

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Like a Failure When You’re Not Making Sales