For many, making a steady income as an artist seems like an unachievable, elusive goal. You may be thinking, how can I make a regular and predictable income when it takes so much time to create, market, and sell my art? It’s much simpler than you think and doesn’t require selling a $5,000 artwork every month.

Interested? We were too, so we chatted with brilliant Creative Web Biz founder Yamile Yemoonyah. Yamile started CreativeWebBiz.com in 2010 to help her fellow artists stamp out the starving artist myth and become successful creative entrepreneurs. Her smart and simple answer to this pressing question is to create a subscription service for your art business. Read on to learn more about this ingenious idea!

WHY ARE SUBSCRIPTIONS A GOOD IDEA FOR ARTISTS?

The idea of subscriptions is really old, but there aren’t too many artist that offer them yet. The concept of a subscription service comes from gym memberships, Netflix, magazines, etc. The artists that use this subscription model get peace of mind because they’ll know exactly how much predictable income they’ll make each month. For instance, you’ll know you’re going to get $2,500 or $8,000 a month from subscriptions. You can then focus on your art and not worry about your next sale.

HOW DO ARTISTS SET UP A SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE?

There are websites that set up subscription services specifically for artists. You just set up your page on a website like Patreon and send your customers there. You can create different tiers such as $5, $100, or $300 dollars a month. Then you give your subscribers something in return for their money every month. If you want the subscription signup page to live on your own website, Gumroad allows you to embed a code, so you can have a subscriber signup button.

HOW SHOULD YOU TIER THE SUBSCRIPTIONS?

Have at least three tier options. I suggest $1, $10, and $100 a month, or $5, $100, or $300 dollars a month options. Psychologists have proven that providing three options is the best approach since people like having choices and usually end up choosing the middle tier. Make sure you advertise and display all the tiers as soon as you start. Also describe what items come with each tier straightaway. Don’t just start with the lower tier first and add in more tiers later. And remember you’re most likely going to get more lower tier subscriptions. But, if you get a hundred $1 subscriptions that’s still $100.

WHAT ITEMS SHOULD YOU SEND TO SUBSCRIBERS?

The items you send have to be sustainable. Figure out how much time, energy, and money you need to invest in the products you’re creating, so you can keep up with the demand. Also make sure your items are scalable. Downloadables are great since they are very easy to scale. You just create and upload the image once. You also don’t have to worry about taking time to create more items or ship anything. You could give the lowest tier a download of art for their desktop or screensaver. The middle tier could receive a printable to hang on their wall or to give as a gift. The highest tier could get a print of art. Your community of subscribers could also choose the print from all the art you’ve made that month. Other ideas could be creating a video of how you make your art or a tutorial for other artists that follow you. You could also do a monthly group video call or a webinar, and ask your community to send questions they want answered. You could do a quarterly subscription and do a surprise box with a few prints or an item featuring your design such as a mug or a calendar. You can use Printful, RedBubble etc., to create products featuring your art and then get them shipped to your own house and re-ship from there (this also often comes with a discount), or check for local options. There are lots of options that provide value for your subscribers.

WHICH SYSTEM SHOULD YOU USE FOR YOUR SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE?

I prefer Gumroad simply because Gumroad lives on your own website and you can add a PayPal button too. I’m a fan of being in control and have the tech knowledge to add it to my own website. However, if you’re less tech savvy Patreon is a great option. Patreon already has an established community of people willing to support others. The drawbacks are that you’re not in complete control of your Patreon Page and cannot customize it. But, that can be a small price to pay for convenience sake. If you use a Wordpress site, you can use Woocommerce which does subscriptions. All these systems are much easier than receiving checks directly from subscribers. The websites have great customer service and tutorials to help you set up the service. You have to be slightly tech savvy, but it’s very easy to learn.

WHAT SYSTEM COSTS DO YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF?

Patreon and Gumroad work with PayPal and all major credit cards. The small fees involved with Patreon are listed here. Gumroad takes 5% plus 25 cents from each sale and you can learn more about it here. Both sites take care of the payment process, so you can sit back and wait for your money.

WHAT ABOUT SHIPPING COSTS?

I recommend giving your subscribers free shipping by factoring the shipping fee into the subscription cost. The concept of free shipping is appealing and it makes the payments much simpler. You can use Printful to make orders for your clients and they will send out the prints to them. If you and a fellow artist (that’s local) have subscription items that you send out on a regular basis, you could ship it together in the same box. That way you can save on some of the shipping costs and combine your lists to reach more people.

HOW DO YOUR PROMOTE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE?

You can promote your subscription service the same way you promote the rest of your art. I suggest setting up a marketing plan so you can strategically spread the word. You can promote your subscription service on social media including Facebook (your own page and art buyer groups), Pinterest, and Twitter. You could also partner up with other artists that have subscription services and promote each other. You can spread the word to your email list too. Your email list is a wonderful way to get subscribers since they are already interested in receiving updates from you. Lots of people send out holiday newsletters to friends and family who will usually be happy to support you and your art business. A holiday newsletter is an excellent opportunity to share your subscription service with people who care about you.

EXAMPLES OF ARTISTS USING SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES:

Suzi Blu uses Patreon

Kim Boekbinder uses PayPal

Gwenn Seemel uses Patreon

Want to Learn More from Yamile?

Yamile Yemoonyah has more amazing tips on her website and in her newsletter. Check out CreativeWebBiz.com to read insightful blog posts, sign up for invaluable consulting, join the CWB community, and check out her free crash course about the 4 Secret Marketing Tricks Most Artists Don't Know About. Creating a regular and predictable income is a lesson in the course and you’ll want to stick around for the rest! You can also follow her on Twitter.