How to make money from illustration – List of 12 ideas you can do now
As an freelance illustrator you’re always searching for your next work and it’s not always the work is steadily coming in, that’s when it’s nice to have a alternative income stream between assignments.
In this guide we’ll talk about different ways how you can create a extra income as an illustrator or artists, it’s all about creating your own opportunities and stop having to worry about your next pay check, and in this online world there’s plenty of opportunities for an illustrator.
Print on demand shops
Selling your illustrations on t-shirts and other products via a print on demand site can be a nice side income for any artist that have some visual art laying around. Uploading your art to these kinds of sites is easy for anyone to do, it only takes time.
It work like this, you upload your pictures to their platform, you then choose what kind of products you want to sell with your art (t-shirts, mugs, stickers and a lot more), then your product will be up for sale on their shop for anyone to buy. For each sale you’ll get around 10-20% of the price (depending on the platform)
If you want to learn more you can check out our guide about these kinds of sites with advice when uploading and a list of the most popular shops/platforms to upload your work on.
Sell Stock photos & Downloadable content
Selling illustrations as stock photos is another low effort way of earning some cash, just be aware that the pay isn’t great when selling stock images.
I wouldn’t use your best work for these sites just because the pay isn’t great, instead use pictures you know haven’t taken that much time and effort to do.
A alternative to selling stock photos is to open up a online shop (etsy or similar) and sell your illustrations as downloadable files, so people can buy them and then download and print them out themself. You’ll get paid much more doing it yourself
Photo by Howard Lawrence B
Offer a service
Another way to create your own opportunities is to create a service related to your service, this helps of course if you have a following already (on Instagram for example), but with just a few dedicated fans creating a creative service could be a good idea.
You could for example draw portraits, portraits of people’s pets, create avatars/profile pictures or any other type of illustration that suits your style.
Just make sure it worth your time, research what’s reasonable to charge and how much time you can spend on each drawing for it to be worth it.
Open up a online shop
You can open up a shop online and sell your own prints, stickers or any other product. There’s plenty of great platforms to choose from when opening your own shop, and you’ll find a few alternatives to the right to get you started.
They all have their pro’s and con’s but a good start would be to go with Etsy just because it’s such a easy to use platform and because it’s the biggest and most popular option.
If you don’t have anything to sell there’s plenty of sites that let’s you order your illustrations on a range of different products, pins, tote bags, t-shirts and a bunch of other stuff, so don’t let that stop you from opening up your own shop.
Awesome Merchandise is just one of many places where you can order products and prints in bulk.
Photo by Clifford Yeo
Display your art in Cafés & Restaurants
Ask local cafes and restaurants if they would display your prints on their walls and sell your prints to their customers, a lot of places would be happy to have some new art in their establishment.
Before going door to door try and think about where your prints would suit the best, and target those places where your art work would really fit, that will increase your chances, but don’t over think it, it’s better to ask a lot of places because that will increase your chances for a yes.
I’d also recommend doing this with prints rather then original work, but either way works, but with prints you can scale it up and sell more and also have your art in more then one place at once.
Contact local shops
You can also go to your local shops and boutiques and ask around if they’d be interested in selling your prints, art or any other work you have. Don’t just go to one shop and give up, go to as many as you can, and if you can’t find that many shops in your town you can go online and search for shops in towns nearby.
Be prepared and give them some information and pictures of your products, and a business card with all your info.
Photo by Artem Gavrysh
Sell your work on art fairs & design markets
See if there’s any local design market/art fair or any other event that let’s you sell your work, participating in events like these are a great way to earn some extra income, you will also be able to reach new customers and meet other artists and creative people.
Being apart of a design market is a great way to see which products of yours that works and which don’t just because you’re interacting with all your potential customers directly, it’s increasable useful, fun and quite scary to get that instant interaction between you and your customers that you won’t get when selling on a online store.
Create videos about Illustration
This next idea is something that requires a lot of work and won’t suit everyone but creating a Youtube channel can be a good way to create a extra income from your art.
You could for example create videos around your illustrations where you show your drawing process and give people advice on how to improve their own work.
Below you can find two great examples of illustrators that have their own Youtube channel.
Brad Colbow is a illustrator that makes a lot of product & software reviews with an artist perspective, he also mixes up his content with other kind of videos like makes animation about the life as an illustrator that’s really entertaining.
Gal Shir have a channel where a lot of the content is videos of his drawing process from start to finish, they’re short and well-edited videos. It’s a simple concept to just record your drawing process but it’s surprisingly fun to watch!
What are other Illustrators doing?
Another piece of advice that can generate even more ideas is to see what other artist are doing.
Head over to artist that you follow and love over at Instagram, Facebook, their portfolio site or any other place they’re displaying their online, and start looking what they’re doing to earn money as and artist, are they selling their illustrations as prints? if so, where?
Have they worked with any companies lately and if so could there be a similar opportunity for you to work with that company?
If it’s a artist that’s near you, you can see if they recently participated in any markets or events that might be interesting for you too.
If you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask them to these artists, people are usually happy to help. Just make sure you don’t ask to broad questions and don’t ask too much from these people, they’re giving you a piece of their time so respect that, limit your questions and be polite.
In the past I asked other artist how they do their shipping when dealing with fragile items and I got a lot of great advice by just asking!
Photo by Tim Wright
Learn something new
Branch out and learn a new skill, it should preferably a skill that has a strong demand and could easily be sold somehow.
It could be anything from animation, logo design, typography or even just a new style of drawing. I’d suggest you choose something that would suit your art style or that you find rewarding and interesting to learn, you don’t want it to be something too far fetched or something you’re not that keen on doing.
Team up with someone outside your field and create a project together. You can create a app with a programmer, write a children’s book with a author, create a website with a designer, or something completely different, there’s so much knowledge and talented people out there.
It’s always best to collaborated with people you know and trust but if you don’t know anyone you can look online for people to collaborated with or head out to a local art fair or design market and try and find someone there.
Contact blog & websites that you like and ask them if they’re in need of illustrations for their site, just be prepared that you’re going to get a lot of no’s, but don’t let that slow you down. Sending out emails are easy and you never know what kind of opportunities it could lead to.
If you’re starting out I would suggest you don’t go for the biggest blogs and sites though, chances that these sites gets plenty of similar requests are pretty high, so go for small to medium sized blog/sites where your art style would be a good fit for.
Just be aware that if you’re contacting too small sites the chances to get a reply is higher but if they’re too small they might not have a budget to order illustrations from you.