There are many ways an artist can make money these days. This article will focus on the basics. Remember art is subjective. I’d define it as anything that can be created with some skill and thought put into it. You can be a painter, singer, carpenter or just have a hobby in embroidery. Anytime you create something you put your soul in, it can be called art. Funnily enough, that little fact is enough to make money out of, you just need to know-how. Let’s see some ways how to do that.
Audience and social media
First of, you will need an audience. No matter what art you do, there will be someone that loves it. Put it out there. You need to get into people’s minds. Stop having thoughts that you are not good enough. Let people decide if they like what you do or not. Yes, that can be scary, but you need to experiment. If you put enough passion and time into what you do, no matter what it is, you’ll eventually find your niche and people that will love it. I promise you that. But, to do so, you need to help the world a little bit in order to it being able to see you. If you will always think about greatness but never make any steps towards it, it’s as if you’ve never started.
Whatever you do, take pictures of it or videos, make an Instagram account, YouTube account, Facebook, Twitter even TikTok, all of these platforms are great for discovery. Have you heard of others like art station or Deviant art? Put your stuff out there! Don’t waste your time with twitch. The discoverability there is really bad. If you are thinking of making money through it, use it once you’ll have some audience on other platforms and direct them to your twitch channel. Unless you do something very unique and market it well, it’s rare for people to find you. Focus on other platforms first.
Youtube is an amazing platform with even better discoverability. Their system is full of good stuff called artificial intelligence that uses great technology called machine learning. They have the most advanced system so far, so make a video of your art and put it out there. Don’t be dissuaded by other YouTubers being angry about the youtube’s ai. The fact of the matter is, YouTube works and it works well. Yes, there are rules that you’ve probably seen a lot of people talk about, but if you will do art, it should not bother you.
Once you get into making your videos, try to talk about stuff a lot. The youtube AI is really good in recognizing words and audio (that’s why copyright claim and content-id are so big). Not only it will make your video more interesting, but the youtube AI will see what you are saying and try to match you with an audience that likes similar stuff. Bonus points for you if you can tell a story during your art process or just describe the steps you do. Oh, and don’t be afraid of your voice. We all don’t like our own voice at the beginning. It will go away later.
To be able to make money on youtube in current time (look up when the article was posted) you need an Adsense account and the following.
With every video, not only you are building your audience on that platform and making ad revenue, but you are also now able to do calls to action. This is one of your best ways to make money. You would be surprised how many people simply forget that they can support you in other ways than just sending you money. And they will do so without a feeling of being brainwashed. Those that won’t like you, will never support you anyway. Simple as that. Your call to action can be anything from asking people to like and subscribe, to ask them to leave a comment, to visit a link in your description or to buy something to support you. Ask and you’ll receive.
Don’t forget that call to action is also telling your people to visit your other platforms. This allows you to cross-pollinate your audience. This way, if something happens with one platform, people will know where else to find you.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great for building an audience, but not as much for making money. At least not when it comes to direct monetization. There is no AdSense or similar service. But, that doesn’t mean these platforms are not profitable. Quite the opposite. They are your way to get connected with your audience and show that you are an actual, living person. Having an audience on either platform will make it easy for others to discover you and support your dreams in many ways. Just put a link somewhere to the things we’ll discuss later in this article and people will use it.
TikTok is another amazing platform. Most people associate it with memes or kids lipsyncing to music. Yes, that content is prominent there, but other videos there exist and do great! I don’t know much about how to make videos there work, but from the information I could gather, the discoverability on it can be insane! Just do some research before you’ll start making videos there. They are usually really short, so you’ll have to learn to make your videos entertaining in a short period of time compared to youtube, where you need at least 10 minutes for a good monetization possibility.
Pinterest is another platform that you should not ignore. It is basically a search engine like google, only Pinterest works mostly with a picture and its description rather than the entire page. If you add your art in it in any form, write some description and make it look interesting, people will flock to you from anywhere. Adding stuff on Pinterest can be as easy as pressing a button if you have their browser extension installed. (Not sponsored, I wish I was… It’s just an easy way to get more eyes on you.)
If you are skilled in digital stuff, Art Station is your go-to platform. It is filled with professionals from all around the world and can be a great place to gain artistic following, which can result in collabs or other networking opportunities.
DeviantArt is the last platform I will be talking about. Known for its weird communities, DeviantArt has a bit of a weird reputation on the internet, but do not be scared. If you dig through the stuff that you’re not interested in, you can find some amazing people on there and so they can find you. Compared to Imgur for example (don’t post to Imgur unless you are posting memes, the community there is incredibly toxic), DeviantArt has a really supportive community in general and being a part of one can not only be a great feeling, but can help you as well in networking.
There is a lot of other platforms I’m sure that exist, but so far I’ve been using only these. I’ll write another article if I’ll find more.
We might get later to how to build the followings on these platforms in a reliable way, but now, we will see what to do with a finally established audience.
Patreon is one of the best ways to give people an incentive to support you. As you build an audience, some people will even ask for your Patreon. So what exactly is it?
Patreon is a place where people can support you by paying you in amounts you set in periods you choose. This can be once a month or per video, per painting etc. Where the magic of this page comes are the tiers and rewards. Yes, you can set the page to have only one tier, for example, 1 dollar. In that case, every person that wants to support you will be able to pay you one dollar a month and that’s it. But a lot of people will want to do more and you can give them an incentive to do so. Let’s use an example of you being a really great portrait artist. Here are what your tiers can look like.
- Tier 1 – $1 – Reward: My gratitude and access to patrons-only chat
- Tier 2 – $5 – Reward: Previous tiers + HD quality paintings for print
- Tier 3 – $10 – Reward: Previous tiers + PSD files and Special Patreon Only Paintings for the term
- Tier 4 – $20 – Reward: Previous tiers + My brush set for download, special tutorials, you get to vote on what the next painting should be and be part of a once-a-month group chat where you can ask for a critique or any advice.
- Tier 5 – $50 – Reward: Previous tiers + Personally signed poster of your choosing a set of stickers
- Tier 6 – $100 Reward: Previous tiers + My Art Book, personally signed
As you can see, you are not just taking money from people, but you can give them rewards for supporting you. Rewards can be literally anything. It’s solely up to you. All of the rewards can also be automated, so you can do what you love while getting enough money a month from Patreon to pay your rent. Also, if you are a digital artist and are not afraid of drawing a NSFW stuff, it can be as one of your tiers as well and there is a lot of artists that do.
It’s pretty much up to you and the way you want to do your thing. Some examples of successful Patreons could be Sakimi-chan, Ross Tran, or Angela Anderson. Of course, Patreon is great for anyone who creates any kind of consistent content. You probably heard about it from many youtube videos and probably will in the future as well.
As good as Patreon can be, it can have its problems. Those problems mostly happen in the forms of fees that go into every payment. Yes, they are relatively small (5-12% +30cents), but they are still there. If you don’t like the idea, or would just try a different platform with a really nice simple interface, Ko-fi is a great choice for you.
Similar to Patreon, you can set up your goals and have posts only for people that support you. The main difference here is that compared to Patreon, there are no tiers. Ko-fi is mostly a tip jar. Your fans can just simply buy you a coffee, which is a price of 3 dollars in the basic plan. All of the money, to the last cent, go to you directly. Ko-fi does not take anything from the transactions between you and your fans. Of course, your fan can buy you as many coffees as they want just to support you. It’s also really easy to put the Ko-fi card of your page on your website, stream or anywhere you’d like to put it at.
So how does actually Ko-fi make money? There has to be a catch. Well, there kind of is. If you want to have your page completely free for just tips, you can do that. Ko-fi will never get a cent from you or your fans, but a lot of features will remain locked. If you wnat stuff like a monthly subscription from your fans, then there is the gold membership that you might look into.
By paying monthly for the golden subscription, you get several functions that help you make your page nicer and almost kind of a hub for people to interact with you. One of the features that Ko-fi gold unlocks for you is, for example, an ability to set up and offer commissions, ways to customize your page more, setups subscriptions and more.
The power of Ko-fi is definitely in its simplicity. You can have a good page running in less than five minutes, then you just fill it with content.
Buy me a coffee (also known as BMC) is a page similar to Ko-fi that prides itself on being an alternative to Ko-fi. It doesn’t have any monthly payments, but still gives you everything Ko-fi does and more. Of course, there is a percentage they take from every coffee someone buys you, which is 5%. So if you don’t like the idea of someone else taking money from your fans than you and you handling all the paying, then Ko-fi is probably a better choice. Buy me a coffee also has pretty aggressive marketing when it comes to showing differences. Like this little image from their webpage:
Seeing the comparison makes it pretty hard not to at least try BMC. Another really good thing they do not have in the handy table above is the fact you can withdraw any amount of money, even your one coffee. You can also set up a shop on the page itself, where you can sell your buy me a coffee exclusive merch.
No matter how big is your following, if you like the idea of making stuff for others and getting paid for it sometime in the future, stop waiting right now! Seriously. If you are an artist that can make commissions and are waiting for that moment when you will be good enough, stop. You are good enough. The very reason you have followers means people like what they see. Do not, I repeat, do not do your art for free for someone other than yourself.
Making art for someone else can be a stressful thing. It costs you time and eventually sanity because it doesn’t matter how calm of a person you are, there will be that customer that will want several different changes once you are done. Never do such a thing for free. If you will devaluate yourself, others will do the same. Always set up a price. Think of how long your thing would take to make and set some starting price. If you don’t know what it could be, ask yourself what you’d pay for it. And be honest, if you are saying nothing, you are lying to yourself. If you still have a problem, look at others in a similar field and set up a bit lower price than that at first. After you’re done with 2-5 commissions, raise the price. By then you’ll know by how much.
How to do a proper commission setup
Once you have your price, make it clear what is the person paying for. I’ll be using a digital character artist as an example, but the same goes for music, videos and more. At the beginning make it very clear what the paid money gets them.
For example, a character artist would offer:
- A simple portrait for 10$ – High-quality portrait for 25$
- A Simple bust for 20$ – High-quality version for 40$
- A simple full-body drawing for 45$ – High-quality version 80$
- Simple background +10$ – Complex Background +25$
Once this is made clear, always try to get as much detail from your customer as you can about the thing they want to have made. If they say “I’ll leave it up to you” at every detail, it can be a big red flag. People pay you because they want something they love made in your style. If they leave something up to you, there’s a risk you will forget or just simply not include the detail they always imagined. Try to get information as much as possible.
Now that you picked the right price, the important detail, make sure the person knows how many revisions they’ll see. DO NOT make this number relative. Again, a character artist would do the following for example:
- starting sketch – to figure out the pose, expression
- first revision – to figure out details on the characters
- revision of the edits – adding/removing details that customer wants
- colour revision – checking if the colour scheme is correct
- the final stage – handing over the complete product with the last details
The artist would do each stage only once and let the customer know this is the number of stages the painting will have. This way you will avoid “It looks cool, but can you adjust this or that?” after you are done. You can also charge an additional price in cases like that, but please, I beg you, value your time! If the customer couldn’t take their time to check the painting properly and let you know about the changes in the correct stage, then you should not waste your time either.
And finally, ask your customer if you can use the commission in further promotions. It’s free marketing and it shows the world that there are people that actually already paid for your work and were happy with it. You can post the commissions then on Reddit or any of the platforms we talked about previously.
So, we covered some very basics on how to make money as an artist. Don’t forget, there is a comment section below that you can put your ideas or questions in. What I would also recommend, if you are an artist of any kind, you are building your brand. Your brand should not be dependent on one platform. Also, make a webpage. It is one of the most important things you can do for professional life and your life of a freelancer. There’s nothing easier than having a place where you can send people to, to see all your stuff exactly in the way you want them to see it. But for now, hopefully, this information was good enough for you to start at least something. There are way too many other methods, so if you are interested, please consider subscribing to my newsletter.
I’ll be definitely posting more ways later with much more detailed steps on how to do stuff, like starting your own store, figuring out how to print your art or where to sell it. So anyway, thank you for reading this far and I’ll see you in the next article.