Six Ways Artists Can Create Passive Income

Katie Carey | June 23, 2020

Make more money with less effort using these methods for your artwork.

Passive income is exactly what it sounds like—a way to build up your finances with minimal effort and maintenance. Once you get your channels for passive income set up, your start-up effort will work for itself.

In other industries, we hear the buzz about “diversifying” income. An art career is not a financial portfolio, but varied sources of income will fortify you in your art career.

Passive income should be an active part of diversifying your income in your art career.  You can create steady and consistent flows of passive income using one or more of these methods. 


Art leasing

Typically when you sell your art, there is a down period between when you create a work and when you sell it. This sleepy period between a sale can do more. If you want to capitalize on this moment of in-between, experiment with leasing your artworks!

Leasing your artworks is just like renting any other type of good or service. Whether it's through an art leasing company or arranged by you the artist—you rent out your art for a set period of time to a paying party. 

There are multiple benefits to leasing your art besides just making money from your art’s “rent.” When you lease your art you are creating a new marketing opportunity for yourself. Many businesses rent art and then display these works in public places. Passersby can view your work and ask about the artist behind a publicly displayed work. 

Leasing your art creates relationships with you and your lessees. Businesses or individuals that you rent your art to may recommend you to their friends and within their industries, increasing your leasing potential. By leasing your art, you are also getting to know lessee’s who may become permanent buyers. 



If you have art that’s completed and ready to go, think about adding to its commercial appeal. Work with print-on-demand sites or offer prints yourself and then use print-on-demand services to print and send artworks to buyers. 

If you partner with a print-on-demand site, you are making your art widely available to buyers and you are making income with barely any work. There are pros and cons to print-on-demand. Depending on the terms and conditions of the site, you may not make much money for each work sold.

So while print-on-demand websites like Society 6, Redbubble, or Zazzle may increase your visibility—selling prints from your own website may take more effort, but be more lucrative. Make sure to read and fine print and ask questions when partnering with a print on demand website. 

You can sell prints from your own website and then use a print on demand service to print and ship works. Having print options allows you more variety in the price range and sizes of your work, helping you reach new buyers. To make this process more seamless, keep track of the number of sales and the different options of prints that you are offering. 

Online art management platforms like Artwork Archive make it easy for you to organize your works for print-on-demand options. You are able to generate different Editions and Runs and Reproductions from one of your artworks. An Edition of works allows you to manipulate your artwork dimensions and then track sales and create invoices for each work sold. 

For smaller ticket items like postcards, the Artwork Archive Runs and Reproductions feature is a great tool to manage mass-produced items where you’ll want to keep a sale count but not necessarily need to individually invoice each buyer.  


Art Merchandising

If you’ve ever had success with print-on-demand options for buyers, think about going one step further to merchandise your artworks.

The beauty of art merchandising and art print-on-demand is that the work of creating is already finished. Now you are repurposing your art into a new form that will attract a different audience and range of buyers. 

Art merchandising is a great way to make your higher-priced works available to a lower-priced market. 

There are so many different options out there for merchandising your art. You can find both the type of merchandising and the printing company that works best for you. 

Merchandising your art makes art ownership accessible, increases your income from a single work, and spreads your art further and into the homes of more people!

Online tutorial and class downloads

Are you also a teaching artist? If you do in-person classes or online workshops—record or repurpose them! 

In our DIY culture, we are all about learning and perfecting new skills with the click of a button. We are used to learning and engaging online. Youtube tutorials can turn any home baker or hobbyist into a skilled practitioner within any and every field.

If you have a skill to share, think about creating your own online tutorials and then charging for downloads. 

Online tutorials are a great way to build a following and to establish yourself within an artist community. Not only will you earn extra income by teaching tutorials, but you will also drive participants to your website. Viewers will seek out your art to see the skills that you taught them in their tutorial applied to within your own works. 

You can follow up after someone purchases a tutorial with other related tutorials and resources. Once you develop a following, think about creating a subscription service for tutorials and resources.

You can choose to host tutorials and classes on your website to download or host them on websites like Skillshare or Udemy to generate a larger reach.

Keep track of downloads and purchases in an art career management system like Artwork Archive. Make sure that you are documenting and tracking revenue and expenses


Art licensing

Art licensing pairs your art with companies who put your works on objects, then you earn you royalties from sales. Could passive income get any more passive?

Similar to art merchandising, when you license your art you’re not selling originals. You’re allowing your images to be used on commercial products. The difference between art merchandising and art licensing is that with art licensing, you yourself are not selling the objects that incorporate your artworks. 

Companies source artworks for clothing, kitchenware, decor, and other consumer products. Many of these artworks come from freelance artists and sometimes develop into more official and sustained business relationships. 

One caveat to art licensing is that you don’t have total control over how your art is printed and used on a product. However, artwork licensing is a great way to create sustained passive income. 


E-books and E-guides

You’ve accumulated a lot of wisdom and experience through your art career. Share your tips and insights!

Another strong way to create passive income for yourself is by selling written materials. 

You don’t need to have a book professionally printed, ebooks and E-guides are a perfect way to communicate your art experience and make money.

Review other online guides and resources to help gauge what information if out there and how you can fill the gaps.


Passive income bolsters your creativity and reduces stress

No matter how busy you are in your career, you can always be generating extra income with not much extra work! 

Not only do different income streams guarantee that you are always earning, but they also make any career more interesting and less stressful. Passive income affords you the ability to take risks. If you are experimenting with something new in your career or going through a slow period, passive income is the extra boost to keep you going.

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