Artists Essentials Toolkit #3: Making money from your art online

From online shops to putting ads on your website, here are five easy ways to start making money from your art online.

Thinking of ways on how to sell art online and earning an income as an artist can be overwhelming. It requires a two pronged approach: putting it online where it can be found, and promoting it well to establish an audience.

Here are five easy ways you can make money from your art online to get you started.

Useful timestamps:

00:38 – Sell your products
02:08 – Put your art on stuff!
02:46 – Livestream your event
03:49 – Get crowdfunded
05:08 – Advertise on your site

Artists Essentials Toolkit is a co-production of ArtsHub and Creative Victoria.

Presented by Sabine Brix.

Music: Eternally Alone by Poppongene, released by Our Golden Friend.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which this content was created. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present and future.

Video transcript

0:09: For most artists, making money with their art online is slower and more of a supplemented income rather than a single stream. Making money from your art online requires a two-pronged approach: putting it online where it can be found, and promoting it well to establish an audience. Check out our videos on how to get your art online, and also how to get your art noticed online. They’ll give you some great info for your art career toolkit. Now, let’s get to how to make money from your art online.

0:39: There are a number of ways you can showcase and sell your work online. Let’s start with an online shop. Many website builders include online shopping functionality so people can browse your work and buy directly from you. Or you could set up a separate site as a standalone online store, depending on the scale of your inventory, but if you want to hitch your wagon to something that’s primed for use and already has a big audience. You can set yourself up with Instagram shopping, which is like a mini storefront that lets people shop your products via Instagram. Etsy is a great online marketplace for arts and crafts. Plus, there’s always Facebook marketplace and even Gumtree to list your products.

1:16: For visual artists there are a number of impressive online galleries like Bluethumb and Art Pharmacy that showcase Australian artists. So having your work on these virtual walls is an excellent conduit to a potential buyer. Bandcamp is a useful platform for bands and musicians to make some money by listing music for download as well as vinyl and merchandise. Or you can look into Repost by SoundCloud to promote and monetize your music. For writers, there are print on demand and e-book platforms like Tablo, Smash Words, or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing out there. They can be as simple as uploading your manuscript and getting it formatted and listed on shop fronts all over the world including Amazon.

1:58: With print on demand you can save on the cost of big print runs because your book only gets printed if someone wants to buy it. So no boxes of unsold books in your garage.

2:11: Creating a single piece of art is one thing. But what if you could put that piece of art onto multiple products and make money in the process, you can submit your work to print on demand sites like red bubble, and make money every time a customer buys a mug, t shirt, tote,  cushions or even socks that feature your design. Plus, they can order an actual print of your work to hang on their wall. You’d be surprised what designs end up being popular. You might not want to put a prized work up there. But if you’re an illustrator or designer who likes the potential exposure of this platform, it could be a useful income stream.

2:48: Even before lock down forced us all to watch theatre from our couches, live streaming was gaining popularity, and now it’s a popular form of online entertainment and education. Now live streaming has blossomed and you can livestream on Zoom, Google Meet, Skype for Business, YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Instagram TV. You can earn money from live streaming performances or workshops, you can host a live play reading and q&a, a drawing class, a recital, a dance performance, and sell tickets to access these online events.

3:20: To add an incentive to these kinds of online events, try to add something tangible to the experience, a download of a how-to guide or a cute event program or a useful souvenir. When it comes to ticketing platforms like Eventbrite, Trybooking and Ticketebo are affordable to use and take all the administrative hassle out of ticketing your online event, some can plug into your email newsletter software, so you can build a fanbase online and stay in touch about future events.

3:51: Crowdfunding, where people donate money to a project, is an excellent way to fund the creation of your work, which you can then try to make money from. Crowdfunding is also a great way to foster a sense of community around your work. You can set up a crowdfunding campaign on platforms like Pozible or Kickstarter, outlining your project and set a target amount. If you hit that target, the donations will be transferred to you to make your work, you can set suggested amounts and offer incentives for these donations.

4:19: For example, if you’re making a record, you could offer a free download of the album with every $10 donation. A $50 donation might include a signed vinyl copy, and their name listed on the album credits. A $500 donation could include an exclusive gift pack and dinner with the artist. You can get creative with these incentives and include your supporters in your creative journey with video updates about how the campaign is going and offering new bonus material. Just make sure you don’t spend all your time supplying these bonus gifts instead of making the work they’re paying you to make. Patreon is a slightly different model. It’s a membership platform for fans of your work to pay you either monthly or every time you release something new. If someone’s a fan of your writing, art or music, they might pay every time you upload a new short story to your site.

5:09: There are always options to put ads on your site. Simply if someone clicks on an ad and makes a purchase through it, you’ll get a small commission. You can research Google AdSense to see how to trigger these ads, and what kind of money you can roughly expect to earn. Taking into account factors like where you’re located, advertiser demand, and how much traffic you get to your site. Similarly, there is the Amazon affiliate program, where you can put Amazon product links on your site and get the commission from any purchases people make from it. Advertising on your YouTube channel is in the realm of those who have a minimum of 100,000 followers. These are the professional YouTubers who, like Instagram influencers, can get paid for product mentions. Do weigh up the cost and benefit of ads on your site. If it doesn’t align with your aesthetics or ethics, it might not be the right fit for you. We hope you can take some of these ideas and turn them into useful income to make an artful living.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts