Thursday, February 13, 2014

Biz Whiz Tip: How To Make Money As An Artist

It's About Multiple Streams of Income, Chum!
The burning question I get from folks is "how can I make money as an artist?" Well, that's kind of a big question and different artists may give you different answers according to their experiences and fields in which they work. A graphic artist, installation artist, graffiti artist, illustrator, etc., have different ways of earning income. They may have some similar ways, but generally, they are doing different types of work and they have different clientele. That said, I'm going to give you some examples of income generating activities that will hopefully give you an "aha moment" of inspiration and ideas. Here we go:

-Teaching Positions: Teaching art or craft classes at community colleges, adult education programs and after-school programs for your local school system, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA and various other local children's and adult programs.

-Exhibition Opportunities: If you want to show your work in galleries, start connecting with local art galleries to get a feel for how that world works. If you could care less about galleries, but want to exhibit your work locally, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. These days most cafes exhibit the work of local artists. This is one of my favorite venues and I've had much success with selling my work in this forum. I've also succeeded in selling work via upscale restaurants, hair salons, shops, boutiques, home accessory stores and real estate offices. (PS: Be a careful curator with regard to hanging your work. In other words, don't just hang your work anywhere.  I can't stress this enough - think out of the box. Also, reach out to people and businesses via phone, email, at events, etc. That's what I do. ;)


-Murals: Local schools sometimes look for artists who can do murals for both their interior and exteriors walls. Also, know that murals don't have to be done on the walls themselves, they can be created on large canvases so that the school can have some flexibility as to where to place them. So be sure to mention this to school officials if you seek out this job option. You can also do murals for personal clients. Some people love large works painted on their walls or large canvases. My work is very child friendly and lends itself well to children's rooms and I've done murals for individuals, as well as schools.

-Workshops: If you make jewelry, dolls, bags, body products, home accessories, etcetera, conducting workshops is a viable option for you. Adult education programs are always looking for people to conduct classes. Connect with your local libraries, Chamber of Commerce and various local arts organizations about doing workshops. Another option is to conduct workshops out of your own studio, whether your studio is in your home of off-site. Check with your local town officials about what is required to do this. I'm delving more and more into this one.

-Web Sales: More artists than ever are doing the online thing. The competition is stiff and it entails a heavy investment of time that goes into creating products, marketing, staying on top of all your sites and social media forums. Taking the online route involves being in an endless state of promoting, promoting, promoting. If you're up for the challenge (and it will be a challenge...just sayin') go for it. I used to concentrate and put so much time into my shop...until I realized I was having way more success in other areas. Some people are huge with the online shop thing. If this is you, keep rockin' what you're doing! For me, it's milk money. (lol)

-Small Business, Start-ups, Non Profits: Working with small businesses to help them create their brands, creating their logos, correspondence, business signage, creating products for them and their spaces, etc. This is one of my faves. I LOVE working with non profits and small businesses by creating products specifically for them. Love it! 


-Commissions: Has someone seen your work somewhere and approached you about creating something for them? Some artists make a strong salary from commissions. Here's my advice regarding commissions: get everything in writing. Talk with your client in depth. What is their vision? Do they know what their vision is? If they don't, you're going to have to guide them through the process. What colors do they have in mind? What is their deadline? What is their budget? What is your rate or monetary expectation from this project? Is it for a work of art or a handmade item(s)? Have a thorough discussion about the project and get everything in writing. I, personally, feel that commissions are for a more seasoned artist, because sometimes a client doesn't really know precisely what they want. They just have an idea of what they want and someone who has experience can perhaps give more guidance, suggestions, a bounty of ideas that a newbie may not be able to provide, BUT if you are a newbie and think your skill set involves being a professor, mediator, mind reader, problem solver, psychologist, reader of crystal balls, auntie, bff, massage therapist and more, all at the same time, then buy all means, seek out those commissions, my friend! 

-Speaking Gigs: I haven't moved into this arena (as yet), but it seems to be a decent to lucrative source of income for some artists and many other professionals.


-Publishing: With the advent of blogs and a plethora of social media outlets, now seems to be a great time for artists and handmakers to get a book published. Lots of crafters before you have done it and so can you. If you've built up a platform, have some writing abilities and have something to offer in the way of art or crafting, this might be a good option for you. If this sounds like a good fit for who you are and where you're at in your career, start doing some research and check into it. If you want to have something published in your own time frame without the input of a publisher, don't write off e-book and self publishing opportunities. Once upon a time, self publishing was looked down upon and not taken very seriously, but those days are pretty much over. Some authors have had great success self publishing their own books and the publishing world has taken notice. The internet has made things highly accessible and possible with all the information that out there, as well as the many programs available to do your own thing. True story: a few years ago I created a zine called Miss Tracy's Guide to Natural Hair & Body Products. It sold in shops and bookstores in the Portland, Oregon (where I was living at the time). It was an okay zine, but if I made one today, it would be soooo much better, but the point is that it sold (mostly because Portland is cool like that) and you can do it too!

The bottom line here is the possibilities to earn an income as an artist are endless. Art is everywhere - on product packaging, on highways, in parks, on billboards, inside magazines...everywhere! Produce work, think outside the box with regard to obtaining gigs, price your work accordingly and don't be afraid to approach people. They are just people like you and their shops need products, their cafes need enticing walls, and their businesses and organizations need what you can give them. So be confident about what you have to offer and don't get in the habit of working for free! That person talking to you from behind the desk or counter is earning an income and so should you. Don't buy into the ridiculous notion that an artist should work for free. But we'll discuss this subject in another segment of Biz Whiz. Stay tuned for that and go get 'em tiger. :)

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