How easy is it to make money as an artist

10:31 AM

I've officially been in this whole commercial artist gig for two years folks!

It's been two years since I made the conscious choice to really put myself and my art out there, signed up to open a shop at Society6 and keep on creating and hustling.

It's been hard, fun, scary at times, very often frustrating, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. There is still a lot I'm figuring out, and I am sure I'll spend a lifetime figuring it (and I am fine with that).

One of the thing I hear or read the more often is "How easy is it to make it as an artist?" or "Is it really easy money?"
Head to Quora, and there are many, many, many questions being asked on the same theme, along with "How easy is it to make money on Society6" (or Redbubble).

Let's be honest here

There is no such thing as easy in life, and there is certainly no such thing as easy money...period.

There seem to be this idea that we artist either live a life of misery and starvation waiting for a lucky break to ever happen, or we had that break and we live a life of wealth, success and pleasure. 
Maybe because to a person stuck in a 9-5 job they hate it seems like finally breaking free and doing what you love seems like a dream. 

The fact is, I, along with many artists, indeed do what we love doing. You have to be super passionate to go into that field trust me on that. 
Why? Because we work long hours at time, and there is a lot of promoting, hustling and making sure you are just getting your name out there in what is a VERY competitive field. 
And if that were not enough, you are completely on your own doing this. There is no boss behind you reminding you to stick to your deadline, paint more, promote more, get that one more promo post schedule, or going to that networking event you really don't fancy much because you are an introvert. 

You are your own boss, and your own employee all in one, at least in the beginning. I know artists who've been doing it much longer than me and now have agents and assistants to help them a bit, but that is not the norm. 

So, what's the money like? 

After 2 years on various print on demand platforms, I make a handful of sales on Society6, a handful on Redbubble and am still waiting to reach a payment threshold on Colorpur. The money I made on Cupick and Paintcollar is never going to be paid because both startups when bankrupt. 

I made a few sales in my Etsy shop this month (and earned more from it than both Redbubble and Society6 for the past month).

That said, I still make money, it's just that it's not all from selling art at the moment. Since I decided to go out as an artist, lots of my friends were amazed I kept it hidden, and many of them asked if I was looking at conducting classes and workshops. 
Right now, the majority of my earnings come from the art classes and workshops I give out of my home. 
One of my friend who is dedicated to live as much of a zero waste lifestyle as possible has decided to stop gifting useless plastic toys and games at birthday and she now offers vouchers for a paint party with me. 

The birthday kid gets to bring one or two friends to a paint party in my home. The parents get 1-2 hours free, the mess happens at my place, the kids have fun, and they take home a beautiful painting or craft project and lots of memories.  Added bonus : It spread my name, and what I do further in the network. 

I am currently re-investing most of my income into growing my business and presence, especially now that I decided to go on Etsy. I still do make a profit each month that goes toward non business related expenses. 

Ok so where should you start? 

That is something I read a LOT on Quora, along with "Shall I open a shop at Society6 or Redbubble, or elsewhere?"

I find it interesting that people still think you should only focus on one thing, one platform, one stream of revenue. Because, seriously, if you go with this approach, you'll end up nowhere. 
My advice is always to go for at least 2-3 big art licensing websites, start from there, and keep on having an active presence on social media, and offline as well. Then once you are ready to take the burden of having an inventory of any kind, start an Etsy shop, and later on you own website.

If you decide that you only want to be on just Society6, and hope that in time you'll make an income from just that, you are in for disappointment. I don't know a single big artist and designer that does just that.
One of the lady I admire greatly : Cat Coquillette not only sells on Society6 and Redbubble, but also sells on many other PoD art licensing websites she doesn't necessarily advertise. She also has her own shop which she runs with the help of a manufacturer. Has and still do collabs with big brands, conduct workshops and even created a few very popular Skillshare classes

So, in short, NEVER put all your eggs in just one basket. Seriously, in two years, I saw 2 India based startups I was licensing to go under. This kind of thing can happen anywhere, and once it does, there is nothing you can do. 
Now imagine that you decided to stick to just one platform and that company goes down? Leaving you with no income whatsoever overnight? 
Don't make that mistake, the beauty of the art licensing model is that you still own the rights to the work you create, and you are free to license it on as many platform as you like. 

Be in for the long haul

Expecting to make money as an artist overnight is a ridiculous idea. As ridiculous as hoping to just join a big company at a senior position just fresh out of college. It's simply Not. Going. To. Happen. 

You can be super talented, have all the credentials, the degrees and that what nots, as long as you haven't made a presence in the field, you are a nobody. 
You need to be consistent with your work, and how you promote yourself in order to build a following that will in turn start turning in sales. 
When I started 2 years ago, it took me 2 months to make that first sale

It's also around that time that my close friends started spreading the word about my artwork. Over the months, my Instagram following started growing, and it still does. 
These past few months, I'm in that stage I get tagged and mentioned frequently enough. It's no accident or luck though, you only get out of Instagram what you put in. So the hours spent interacting with content, commenting, posting, and sharing other's content end up paying off after a while, again, it's not something that happens overnight, and this is something you NEVER stop working on.

All the successful artists you have heard off, have been at it for YEARS, so don't expect you'll replicate their success in months, or else, you'll be disappointed

Create a life you don't need a vacation from

When you are stuck in a 9-5 job you hate, and on top of that do it for crappy money, it's easy to think that you life would be swell if you could make easy money just sitting on a lounge chair by the pool doing almost nothing. 
We artists, spend hours working too, as many, and sometimes more than at a 9-5 job. The difference is that because we really love what we are doing, it doesn't feel like hard work, but make no mistake, we work hard. 

So, if you really hate your job and want to quit, focus on what you like doing, and from there, figure out how you can turn that into a career which in turn, will earn you an income overtime. 
Nobody said quit your job immediately and hope to survive on instant noodles while you hope to get rich. 
It's ok to go in as gradually as you need to. Keep your day job, paint in the evening, and upload on Society6 later that same night. Then work on being active on social medias, and promote yourself during your lunch break. Head to art shows on weekend, start gifting your work to family and friend and slowly build that presence. 
You'll reach a point at which you'll start reaping enough benefit and be able to either quit your job, our downgrade to a part-time gig while you still work on what you love. 

If there is one book you need to read about making it as an artist, it has to be "Real Artists Don't Starve" by Jeff Goins. It dispels a lot of myths, and will help you approach this whole artist gig better. This link by the way, is an Amazon Affiliate link, this means that if you click on it, then buy anything on Amazon, I get paid a commission at no extra cost to you, and yes that is another way I make money as an artist and creative. 

To summarise it all

There is no such thing as easy money in general, being an artist is hard work, and you must be prepared to put in the hours to get what you want (like with any other job).
While money can be made from licensing arts on Society6 and Redbubble, it doesn't happen overnight, and it's not as passive an income as you think, once you stop promoting yourself, the sales might stop to because on those platforms you are in direct competition with hundred of thousands or other artists. 
In the end, do what you love doing, and keep doing it consistently, the money will follow, just don't expect it to be easy. 

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