How to make money as an artist

So it’s time to sell some art. You may have just graduated from uni, TAFE or art school or maybe you’re still in the midst of it all. If you’re ready to take that first leap into professional life, here are a few hints and tips for making money as an artist.

Rihanna making money sign with hands

Professional profile

It’s not essential that you have a digital profile, but it’s super useful! It could be a website or a blog or a dedicated art Instagram. Generally, people do not make a dedicated art Facebook. Why? Unless you’re trading under a different name or a business title, the arts community uses Facebook like everybody else (as a personal profile).

Positives about getting online include:

  • Your art and resume is readily available for prospective buyers, collaborators, publishers and curators to see – a portable portfolio!
  • Websites and blogs help you present your work in a coherent yet creative way.
  • It’s easier to track audience responses and views.
  • You seem more approachable and active in the community, not to mention professional.

You can also hunt down opportunities on social media. It’s a great idea to follow the galleries you want to show at and even those you don’t.

Keep an eye out for open calls, exhibition openings and ways to get involved. Same goes for accounts for magazines, journals, big institutions, local councils and community groups.

It also might also be time to ditch your high school email account for something more professional, preferably with your full name in it! For example, is out, and is in.

Britney making art at an easel

Ways to make money as an artist

Everybody will feel differently about how they make money as an artist. While selling at markets, online and in shops might work for some, it’s not going to be right for others. Think about what is appropriate for you at this stage of your career.

Selling at markets, shops and in person

This more traditional approach is great for people-people, who want to get out there and in the community. Hit the streets and get creative!

Here is an example. You’re a great wheel throwing ceramicist and down your main street, a new café has opened. How about approaching them to buy a collection of cups, mugs and plates which are unique to their café?

Selling online

Whether you’re going to sell art directly via your website or on a pre-existing platform, make sure you’re prepared and covered as a vendor, read that fine print. Lots of people make money as an artist through sales on Instagram and Etsy.

Selling in art galleries

Commercial gallery representation is a contract held between an artist and a commercial gallery space. While gallery representation is not for everyone, it has its benefits. In this relationship, galleries will often:

  • try their hardest to sell your art and make you money!
  • grant a set number of shows per year
  • give you a place in their stockroom
  • find you promotional opportunities
  • market your work to local or international art fairs (if you’re lucky!)
  • make you sign a contract

Sounds good right? It is, but gallery representation is competitive and could be hard to come by. Most galleries will only consider artists with impressive experience including exhibitions, grants, prizes and commissions.

YouTube thumbnail from The Carters' song Apes**t. Beyonce and Jay Z standing in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

Do your research and see who you might fit with, and make your contact! You never know what might happen.

Down side of this illustrious gig? A commercial gallery will take up to 60% of sales costs as commission, and often ask the relationship be exclusive.

On the other hand, non-commercials galleries may take up to 30% commission and only require you sell through them for the duration of your exhibition. Non-commercials are less likely to work hard to sell your work and you may need to apply for a show and even pay a hire fee.

All of these suggestions are ways you can make money as an artist, but the best thing is to have a plan. Consider what combination of the above will work best for you. Best thing to do is…..a lot of research.

Images: istock/giphy/YouTube

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