The term “starving artist” gets thrown around a lot. I don’t like to think of them as starving though (even if they are a little). I like to think of them as artists without good business ideas. Yeah, I know you didn’t become an artist to do boring things like marketing and taxes. If you want to make money though, you have to think of yourself as a business and your work as a product. It’s not the most romantic notion, but you can save the romance for your next great piece.
This article is going to feature 7 good business ideas for artists to help them jumpstart their passions into careers. It’s aimed more for those who attend conventions, but the ideas and really apply to most 2D artists out there (and maybe a few for 3D artists). Some of them might be obvious, but it’s easy to get so focused that you miss the obvious. If that’s the case, then just consider this a gentle reminder. So, get ready for 7 Good Business Tips for Artists.
Keep a Strong Online Presence
It sounds obvious, but keeping a strong online presence is essential. How are people supposed to find you if you’re not out there? The first step is to make sure you maintain a consistent schedule no matter how you choose to do it. A lot of people think that having a site is the way to go, and they’re not wrong. But a site means that you have to keep creating new pages and articles for Google to consider it active, and you have to make sure to use SEO, which can be a real pain. Luckily, social media has made it easier for artists. I recommend a Facebook page (“Your Name – Art”), Instagram, and if you’re feeling plucky, a youtube to post videos of your process. No matter how you decide to do it, maintain a manageable schedule. I suggest putting together a posting schedule to follow.
Sell Original Art on eBay
This probably won’t apply to digital artists, but if you create tangible art then this is definitely something to consider. Especially if you have a strong online presence with a lot of fans. Of course, you should make sure you have copies that you can duplicate to make prints and save for the future, but selling original art is a great way to make some money and clear up some space. How often have you gone to comic conventions and seen people selling their original art? Or checked out a Kickstarter to see that original art was included as a reward for high-level tiers? The key is making sure you have a strong description of your work that meets SEO requirements. So, do a bit of keyword research on AdWords to see what fits your work and gets a lot of hits each month.
Sell Prints on Etsy
People sell prints at conventions all the time. So why not set up a shop online to do the exact same thing. Luckily, Etsy makes it pretty easy to do that and as long as you have enough prints to go around (I suggest 11×17 and 9×12 since they’re pretty standard). This is a great business idea, especially if you do fanart of popular characters and series or graphic design. Like with eBay you want to make sure your descriptions focus on SEO. That means doing your research and making sure you put in some serious effort. It also means making sure you stay on top of your orders and take care with your shipping. After all, people will rate you, so customer service is key. Like with crowd funding be sure to thank people for their orders and maybe throw in something cheap as an extra (like a doodle or sticker). The extras will go a long way.
Do Limited (Numbered) Prints for Cons
This is a good business idea that a lot of big companies (see Funko Pop) do for different conventions. I mean, check out any con brochure and you’ll see tons of “con exclusives.” So why not take a page from them and do a limited, numbered print run of a piece specifically for your next convention. A lot of artists I know try to finish up pieces before a convention anyway, so stick to 50 or 100 prints (depending on your fan size), number them, and sign them. The word “exclusive” automatically adds value. If you add on the fact that it’s limited and numbers, and suddenly that piece has more perceived value. True, this does require a lot of work to pull off, but it gives you an excuse to work on new and relevant pieces for each con. Plus, if you’ve got a strong online presence, then you’ll definitely get some value from them. Any you have left over can be sold still since they’re still limited.
Use Redbubble to Sell Shirts, Posters, etc
Hey, prints are great. My wall is covered in them. But that’s the problem. If my wall is covered in art, why would I buy more art? Seems like a waste. Well, how about another good business idea? Increase the versatility of your product by expanding into new marketplaces. In other words, sell shirts and stickers and posters and more! Sites like Redbubble take care of all the work for you from printing to customer service. They let you keep the rights to your art and even let you set the price point for your pieces. This might require you to redo some of your designs, but if you’ve got a piece that is really popular, toss it on a shirt. It’s a great way for your fans to show their support and won’t have to worry about taking up more shelf space.
Meet with Other Artists
The great thing about artists is that you’re not really in competition with each other. As weird as that sounds, just think about it for a moment. If you mostly do dark, horror centric art, the guy looking for cute fluffy animals was never going to buy from you. However, you can point that guy in the right direction, and other artists can point people in your direction. So, make sure you socialize more! Trust me, I know it’s easier to stay in your room, hissing at intruders and light. It’s not going to make you more money though. So, walk around conventions and talk to people. Get on sites like Meetup to go out more. Check Eventbrite to see what art events are happening in your area. Networking is more than just a good business idea for lawyers and executives, it’s something that is required for EVERYONE trying to make a living.
The most important thing you can do as an artist is keep at it. Keep posting Instagram pics of your work, even if you don’t get a ton of likes. Keep sharing videos of your process, even if they don’t get a lot of views. Keep making art, even if nobody is buying it. If this is something you really want in life, you have to realize that to get to any summit, you have to climb up there. If it’s not worth the climb, you don’t really want it. It’s going to be rough. You’ll probably need to keep your current job and work late nights, but anything worth having takes effort, and more important, time. Don’t get disheartened if you aren’t a success overnight. There’s no secret to success, but the internet was built for niches and out there somewhere is yours. So, keep going for at least 6 months. Even then, you’re halfway to a year, so you might as well see it though.
Those are just a few good business ideas for artists. Remember you’re not just selling your art, you’re selling yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased prints, graphic novels, whatever, just because I liked the artist as a person. So, let your fans in when your posting. Tell them what’s happening in your life. You’ll give your business a smiling face, and it’s hard to say no to a smiling face.
How about you? Do you have some sage wisdom when it comes to good business ideas in the art industry? I’d love to hear them. Make sure you comment below. Who knows, your idea could be in the next article!