5 Ways to Diversify Your Income and Make More Money as an Artist

Artwork Archive | February 21, 2024

Close-up photo of artist Frances Byrd's hands wearing blue gloves, working meticulously on a small, colorful painting. In the foreground, a sketchbook lies open with figurative drawings and swatches of vibrant color.

Artwork Archive artist Frances Byrd with a work in progress. Photo courtesy of the artist

Here are five additional income sources for artists, besides your art. Plus, the pros and cons of each one.

Creating a sustainable career as an artist does not mean you need to rely solely on selling your artwork.

If you have been in the game for a while, you've probably already experienced the slow seasons, the flopped shows, or the rained-out art fairs. With the unpredictable nature of art sales (especially as an emerging artist), it can be difficult to count on any single income source. 

Here's some good news: there are so many different ways for artists to make a living today. Even better news? Most of these ideas require a bit of initial effort upfront but then allow for more passive income over time.

And let's not forget, you're an artist so your creativity is your biggest asset when it comes to thinking outside the box and growing your business.

As an artist, diversifying your income not only eases the pressure to constantly produce new artwork but also gives you the freedom to explore other creative projects, (ahem, while still having a steady income).

It's also a smart way to navigate the ups and downs of income from different sources without stressing out over whether one slow month is going to leave you unable to pay the bills.  

The key is to start looking at your artwork and talents as assets. 

Here are just a few of the ways to make your artwork for you beyond the traditional sales channels: 


Make Prints of Your Artwork Available

Offering prints is a fantastic way for fans to enjoy your art at a more accessible price point.

For you, it means setting up a passive income stream. After the initial effort of creating and promoting your prints, sales can continue to come in with minimal additional work. Of course, it will require some occasional ongoing promotion to keep the sales up, but the effort needed is significantly less than continuously creating new, original pieces.

You can mark that you have prints available of a piece on your Artwork Archive Public Profile, or use one of the many print-on-demand sites. Here are a few we like: INPRNTFine Art AmericaSociety6, and Redbubble. But there are countless others! 

The Pros: 

Accessibility for Buyers: Offering prints means you can offer pieces to people who love your artwork but might not be able to afford an original. Plus, making your artwork accessible can expand your audience reach—collectors may even notice and reach out about purchasing your originals. 

Passive Income Stream: Once the initial work is done—creating, scanning, uploading, and setting up the prints for sale—sales can start coming in without additional effort, allowing you to earn money while focusing on creating new art.

Product Variety: Who said your art has to exist only in its traditional form? With some print-on-demand services, you can turn your work into a variety of products like mugs, totes, apparel, and more. 

The Cons: 

Market Saturation: There is a lot of noise on print-on-demand sites, so it can be difficult to stand out among the thousands of artists and artworks. Successful artists on these sites spend a lot of time upfront promoting their profiles, interacting on social media, and leveraging unique marketing strategies. 

Lower Profit Margins: Prints are sold at a much lower price point than originals, which means the profit margins can be significantly lower, especially when using third-party platforms that take a commission. You may need to sell a higher volume of prints to achieve substantial income.

Quality Control: When using print-on-demand services, you have less control over the print quality and materials used. Make sure you're partnering with a reputable print-on-demand (POD) service. Research customer reviews, request sample prints, and check the range of materials and techniques they offer to artists. You want to be sure the final product meets your standards. 

Artwork Archive Tip:

If you decide to manage your print sales independently, rather than using a POD service, Artwork Archive offers a comprehensive solution for tracking your prints and reproductions. Catalog your print inventory, including details about each print run—such as size, number of prints, and sales made. 


Lead a workshop in your studio (or someone else’s)

Do you have a passion for teaching others the skills you have learned?

Workshops are not only a great way to diversify your income, they're an opportunity to educate others about the skills it takes to create your work. It’s also an opportunity to engage with the community and have a social aspect to your otherwise solitary art practice. 

For artists who still want to maintain a full-time studio path instead of a classroom route, but still enjoy art education, workshops are the perfect solution.

If you have your own studio and enough space and materials to host a small workshop, the overhead is generally low. Alternatively, you can seek out studios to partner with and split the enrollment fees. This generally happens if you require a lot of equipmentsay you are a potter and need 12 wheelsyou would usually partner with an arts center and commute to teach the workshop.

You can even build your schedule around travel opportunities! Seek out studios and opportunities across the globe, do some outreach, and fund your next international vacation by teaching a workshop.

The Pros: 

Financial Gains with Low Overhead: Workshops can generate substantial income over a short period, especially if you have your own space and minimal material costs. Charging for your expertise and time can be extremely profitable, especially if you're able to offer something unique that draws interest. 

Networking and Community Engagement: Hosting workshops offers a way to connect with community, share your passion, and inspire others. It's also an incredible chance to build relationships and expand your artist network. It may even inspire different directions in your work, or offer new opportunities! 

Flexibility and Travel: If you enjoy travel, hosting workshops as an artist can be a gateway to exploring new places. Partnering with studios or art centers in different locations allows you to combine work with travel, potentially even funding incredible trips through your teaching! 


The Cons: 

Preparation, Coordination, & Logistics: Successful workshops require significant upfront planning, from organizing materials and space to marketing the workshop itself. This can be time-consuming! Setting the right price for tuition or enrollment can be tricky. Underpricing can undermine your value as an artist while overpricing may deter potential participants! 

Variable Demand: Interest in workshops can fluctuate based on a lot of different factors—your reputation as an artist, workshop topic, and market saturation. There IS a risk of low enrollment, which can impact how much money workshops can actually bring your business.

But, you're creative! Think of unique ways you can make your workshop appealing, like incorporating a travel experience, integrating a guest speaker like an art coach, or offering a chance for participants to exhibit their work at the end!

Skill and Experience Requirements: Leading a workshop effectively requires not just artistic skill, but also the ability to teach and engage with a range of personalities and skill levels. It may not come naturally to all artists and can require practice and patience to develop. Make sure you have a clearly defined focus and are teaching within your skill level and specialty. Here are some more tips on how to prepare for your first artist workshop.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Use our 2024 Artist Opportunity Guide to find a workshop you can attend yourself for research purposes—take note about what you like and what you don't like about a specific workshop, so you can tailor your own when you host one. Then, when you're ready, list your own workshop on call-for-entry sites like Artwork Archive’s calls page. Calls pages like this help get your workshop in front of thousands of artists. 


A blurred image of a row of art prints displaying various artistic designs propped on a wooden shelf, with a focus on their vivid colors and the suggestion of floral motifs

Teach online art courses or sell instructional e-books

If you like the idea of teaching, but don’t have the physical space to host events or don’t like the idea of traveling, you may want to consider taking your curriculum online.

There are lots of sites online where new artists are looking to expand their knowledge by either watching video tutorials or downloading instructional books from professional artists. Just about anyone with an art practice and specialized skill can benefit from teaching classes online. Or, if you don’t want to be an on-screen personality, an instructional and downloadable ebook is another way to create an asset to add to your passive income as an artist.

Don't know where to get started? Think about if you want to self-host your content or upload it to an established site like Skillshare. 

Self-hosting may be a greater investment up front, but you wouldn't have to pay a commission on every enrollment. However, brands like Skillshare bring in large audiences and you won't have to pay as much mind to getting your courses in front of them. 

And, don’t forget that with platforms like Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, and Facebook Live you can start building a following for your courses and test-drive ideas for classes or tutorials.

For artists who prefer writing, there are an endless amount of e-guides you can create for download. By focusing on a specific niche that showcases your unique skill, you can craft content that is worth some money. If you are computer-challenged or not design-inclined, you can always download an ebook template!

The Pros: 

Brand Building and Recognition: Establishing yourself as an instructor or author can enhance your credibility as an artist, attract more followers, and open doors to other opportunities like collaborations and speaking engagements. 

Cross-Promotional Opportunities: Online courses and e-guides offer the chance to promote other facets of your work, such as original art, prints, or upcoming workshops, to a captive audience.

Cost Efficiency: Digital products eliminate the need for physical materials, venue rentals, and travel expenses, making it a more cost-effective way to teach and share your art.

The Cons: 

Initial Time and Financial Investment: Creating high-quality courses or e-books requires a significant upfront investment of time and potentially money, for equipment, software, or platform fees.

Technology Learning Curve: Successful online teaching and e-guide creation often involves mastering new technologies and platforms, which can be daunting for those less comfortable with digital tools.

Dependence on Third-Party Platforms: When using platforms like Skillshare, you're subject to their rules, fee structures, and potential changes in policies, which can affect your revenue, reach, and content control.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Share direct links to your online courses or e-book downloads on your About Page in your Artwork Archive Public Profile!


License & Merchandise Your Artwork

You can earn royalties from your artwork by licensing it to retailers or brands. Imagine the aisles of your favorite store lined with images of your artwork on their products. Sound exciting? Not only does it get your art business some pretty big publicity, but it’s also a fun way to make money from your original artwork.

Learn how to put together an effective portfolio to get started licensing your artwork.

You could also go the route of selling your images and designs straight to a stock agency. If you can build a strong portfolio of commercial work, the royalties quickly add up in monthly revenue on top sites like Getty Images, AdobeStock and Shutterstockwith little ongoing effort on your part.  

The Pros: 

Royalties Could Come In: Once your artwork is licensed, you can receive a certain percentage of the retail or wholesale price for every product sold featuring your artwork. These ongoing royalties mean that you can continue earning an income without the need for continuous effort.

Brand Association: Having your artwork associated with well-known brands or being featured in popular retail outlets can greatly enhance your visibility and prestige as an artist. Seek licensing deals with brands that align with your art style and personal values—you want to make sure you maintain your brand's integrity.

Market Expansion: Licensing opens up even more markets for your artwork, allowing you to reach consumers who might not purchase art in traditional formats but will buy products featuring your designs.


The Cons: 

Market Trends Influence: Commercial and on-trend work tends to perform better. This could lead to pressure to cater to those popular trends and lead to a body of work that feels less personal or diluted. Make sure your licensing deals align with your artistic interests and style.

Remember, someone will always connect with your work if you feel connected to it, so always stay authentic to yourself and your work! 

Copyright and Legal Considerations: The legal landscape surrounding art licensing is fraught with potential pitfalls, including copyright infringement, unauthorized use, and disputes over agreement terms. Keep in mind, legal advice or litigation can be expensive, especially for emerging artists. 

Read your contracts thoroughly. Look out for any wording that includes non-exclusive or exclusive rights. Unless it is the opportunity of a lifetime, you will want non-exclusive rights so that you can sell your images elsewhere and on multiple platforms.

Royalty Rates Can Vary: The uncertainty of royalty income is compounded by factors like market saturation, changes in consumer preferences, and the licensee's marketing efforts, all of which are outside your control. 

To combat the uncertainty of varying royalty rates, consider negotiating minimum guarantees within your licensing agreements. A minimum guarantee is a fixed sum that the licensee agrees to pay you, regardless of product sales. This ensures you receive a baseline income for your licensed artwork.

Artwork Archive Tip:

It can be more cost-effective to copyright your images in collections of images. You can use Artwork Archive to easily group, categorize and present your collections with all the necessary information. Then, upload your licensing contracts to the My Docs section of your account so you can keep all of your records in one place. 


Harness the Power of Social Media 

Have you already built up a large following on your social media accounts? Do you already spend your extra time posting, liking, scrolling, and connecting with other artists on Instagram?

You could be making extra money or getting art supplies by collaborating with companies to post sponsored content. Just make sure you're partnering with brands you believe in! Think of your favorite paper company, the best artist brushes, the company that makes your paint, etc. 

You can also use your account to advertise your own e-books, downloads, courses, artwork, and prints. Artists who build a loyal following through genuine content on their social feeds often sell work as soon as they post it on Instagram.

Beyond advertising, having a strong presence on social media helps buyers find your artwork by building your SEO. This can lead to significant income and even more opportunities.

Don’t expect overnight success. Many successful accounts that you see took years to grow before making a significant income from ads or sponsored posts. Focus on building genuine connections and engagement with your existing followers. Your accounts are an extension of your voice and vision as an artist—so BE YOURSELF.

The Pros: 

Direct Engagement with Audience: Social media provides a unique opportunity for you to engage directly with your audience, receive feedback, and foster a community around your work. This engagement can build a loyal fan base and increase interest in your work.

Cost-Effective Marketing: Unlike traditional advertising methods, social media offers a cost-effective way for you to promote your work, upcoming exhibitions, and merchandise. With the right content strategy, you can significantly enhance your online presence and drive traffic to artwork sales. 

Opportunities for Collaboration and Sponsorship: A strong social media presence can attract collaborations with brands, other artists, and sponsorships. This is where the passive income can really come in—through sponsored content, ads, or co-created projects. Just make sure you believe in the brands that you partner with and you're not oversaturating your feed with sponsored content.


The Cons: 

Time and Effort Required: Building and maintaining an engaging social media presence can be time-consuming, requiring consistent posting, interaction, and content creation. Try planning out your content a few weeks in advance and make sure to schedule times to unplug and take a digital hiatus now and then. 

Over-Reliance on Algorithms: We know this too well—social media platforms have ever-changing algorithms (we're looking at you, Instagram). This unpredictability can make it challenging to consistently reach your audience. Pay attention to the changes in the algorithm, and do your best to adapt these changes to your content-building strategy. We promise, there IS a way to stay authentic and still keep the algorithm happy, it just takes some slight adjusting! (Which you should constantly be doing for your art business strategy anyway). 

Trolls Really Do Exist: While direct engagement is largely positive, social media also opens you up to criticism, negative feedback, and the occasional internet troll. It can get tough, we know! The key is learning how to sift through the feedback you receive. There's a big difference between helpful criticism that can actually help you grow and the kind of comments that are just meant to bring you down. 

But when it comes to those baseless negative comments or trolls, remember, you don't have to take every comment to heart. Sometimes, the best response is no response at all.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Link your Public Profile URL directly in your Instagram bio. That way, your fans can have a constant and direct path to your full portfolio if and when they want to make a purchase! Make sure you add your social media links to your Public Profile too!


Psssst, make sure you're following us on social media! We post even more art career advice, business tips, and resources for artists every day!


Remember, your creativity doesn't stop at your artwork; it's also in the way you bring it to the world.

Diversifying your income can ease financial pressures AND enrich your art career at the same time. From utilizing print-on-demand services to embracing an Influencer role, every action you take can significantly amplify your artwork's impact on the world (and bring in some extra cash). 

And, when it comes to the logistical challenges—from tracking print runs to filing away licensing contracts and everything in between—Artwork Archive is here to simplify the process. Ready to transform your passion into a sustainable career? Click here to create your free account, and take a significant step towards a future where your art not only makes an impact but also provides for you.

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