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How to Survive On Art: 7 Major Keys to Making a Living as an Artist

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Artist paintbrushes in a jar over colorful background

You live and breathe art. Creating consumes your every waking moment. Naturally, you want to try to make a living at it. 

But, like many artists, you’re unsure as to whether that’s feasible. Is it common for individuals to make consistent income as artists?

While it’s not terribly common, it is possible. However, in order to make it work, you have to plan strategically. 

Need help doing so? Then read on. We’re going to provide you with the 7 major keys to making a living as an artist. 

The Keys to Making a Living as an Artist

In truth, not everyone can make a living as an artist. It requires a certain type: a creative self-starter who can persevere through hard times and who has a firm grasp on the business side of things. 

If you’re not this type of individual, you’re going to have a rough go at it. If you are, however, you have a legitimate chance at making art your career. The key is to utilize the following tips. 

1. Work Within a Niche

The first key to making a living as an artist is to work within a niche. A niche is a specialty, something which caters to a specific type of audience and customer base. 

For instance, an artist could work strictly in creating logos. Or may he or she could exclusively paint landscapes? 

By working within a niche, you are able to signify yourself as a master in that niche. Conversely, if you were to create art in a number of different styles, you would be seen as a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. In other words, working within a niche helps you to stand out among the rest. 

What happens when you stand out? More buyers find out about your work, and more of your work gets sold. 

So, despite the fact that you enjoy creating several different types of art, for the sake of money, you need to focus on one or two. Remember: you can still pursue other types of art as a hobby. 

2. Market Yourself Aggressively 

As in most business endeavors, when it comes to selling art, marketing is key. A failure to adequately market yourself and your work will almost surely endanger your ability to make a living as an artist. For this reason, you need to market yourself aggressively. 

The question is: how do you go about marketing yourself? There are several different methods, the most important of which we’ll discuss below. 


There’s nothing more vital to the success of an artist than networking. Networking not only provides you with greater exposure, but it also secures important connections which could go on to benefit you down the line.

If you really want to make it as an artist, you should discuss your art career with every person you come across. You should also actively pursue networking opportunities, chatting on internet forums, going to art shows, and the like. 

Post Videos on YouTube 

In this day and age, you need to market yourself online. Perhaps the best way to do this as an artist is to post videos on YouTube.

By posting YouTube videos regularly, you slowly build up your subscriber base. While not all of your subscribers will buy your art, a decent portion of them will. Some will even buy it on a recurring basis, ensuring long-term sales. 

Wondering what you should post? You could teach art skills, show off your art, and discuss trends in art, to name just a few options. However, seeing as it’s your channel, the world is your oyster. 

Make a Website 

Another aspect of marketing yourself online is creating a website. While your website likely won’t see as much traffic as your YouTube channel, it’s still a terrific place to display and sell your work. 

Note, however, that if you’re going to create a website, you have to make it look legit. Most individuals won’t buy from a shoddy and cheap-looking website. 

Need help creating a website that’s clean and professional? You’re advised to hire a professional web designer. 

Utilize Social Media 

For artists, social media is a necessity. Not only should you be interacting on general social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, but on art-centric platforms such as DeviantArt as well. 

3. Find Several Streams of Revenue 

Unless you have huge connections, it’s difficult to make a living as an artist with just one stream of income. For this reason, you need to create several streams. Some streams to consider include the following.

Sell Your Art in Person 

Selling your art in-person is always a wise move. This is true not only because it puts your art directly in front of the buyer, but also because it provides you and your art with valuable exposure. 

Sell at art fairs, try to get your artwork put in galleries, and, if you live in a big city, you could even try to sell it on the street. 

Sell Your Art Online 

The easiest (but not necessarily the most lucrative) course of action is to sell your art online. There is no shortage of art marketplaces upon which you can list your work. Some individuals make thousands of dollars a month selling their art this way.  

Some sites to consider include Society6, Etsy, Threadless, and Zatista, to name just a few. 

Hold Art Workshops 

Another option is to teach your craft. Plenty of individuals are interested in becoming artists, and you could definitely make money by teaching them how to do so. 

You don’t even necessarily have to leave your home. You can hold live workshops online with the use of several apps.

Merchandise Your Art 

Another way to bring in money from your art is to merchandise it. Allowing your art to be printed on shirts, mugs, and other items is a great way to bring in passive income. 

4. Be a Little “Out There” 

Being a successful artist isn’t just about making great art. It’s about separating yourself from the rest. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to be a little, well, “out there”. 

Creating an artistic persona not only helps to grab peoples’ attention, but it also signifies that you’re an artist who should be taken seriously. 

Be provocative. Wear weird clothes. Hone an intriguing personality. 

Soon enough, consumers will take notice. From that point on, your career will grow and grow. 

5. Keep in Touch with Customers 

While it’s obviously nice to pick up new customers, you shouldn’t rely on new customers alone to drive the success of your business. It’s important that you cater to old customers as well.

After all, old customers have already bought your work. There’s a reason to believe that they would buy it again.

So, how do you cater to old customers? By keeping in touch with them via newsletter or email. In this day and age, email reigns supreme. 

Email marketing tools allow you to reach thousands of past customers in just a few minutes time. Give past customers the opportunity to subscribe to your email list, and you’ll have the ability to keep in touch with those that want to keep in touch. 

Wondering how to get people to subscribe? https://mailchi.mp/667ff196a248/writtenartist offers a good example of an artist subscription page. 

6. Always Be Creating

You can’t sell art without making art. As such, you should always be creating. The more you can create, the more you can sell. 

Now, this isn’t to say that you should throw away all hobbies and free time. It’s just to say that you need to treat art creation like a job. Anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of your day should be dedicated to making art. 

In the early days of your career, you’re going to have to hustle a bit. You’re going to be pinching pennies, and you’rue going to be scraping by. But with hard work and dedication, you can reach the level that you’re striving for. 

7. Ignore Unhelpful Criticism

Any artist knows: criticism is a part of the gig. As an artist, you need to know how to handle this criticism in a productive fashion. 

If the criticism is helpful, you should take it to heart, and use it to better yourself. If the criticism is unhelpful (ie. cruel), you need to be able to ignore it. 

Should you get hung up on every piece of criticism that you receive, you’ll never get any work done. As a professional, you can’t afford for that to happen. You need to push through the negativity and continue to create. 

Stoke Your Artistic Impulse with Inspire52

Now that you know about the keys to making a living as an artist, you might be on the search for more art-centric content. If so, you’re in the right place. Inspire52 has you covered. 

Our site is loaded with art information, covering everything from inspirational stories to tattooing to art projects and more. 

Take a look at our other art-centric articles now! 

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