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How to Turn Your Art into a Thriving Business

I believe that there should be no such thing as a starving artist these days. With the reach of the internet, some dedication and drive you too can create a thriving business off your creative pursuits. I’m living proof - I’ve been at this professionally for more than two decades and support my family of four off my art alone.

Maybe you’re looking to create a side hustle to scratch that creative itch. Or maybe you’re just out of school and looking to pursue a full time career in the arts, not knowing where to begin and wanting to ditch that part time serving job.

The prospect of turning your passion into a lucrative business might seem like scaling a mountain, but fear not. With the right mindset and approach, your art can become a sustainable source of income.

Here are some tips to help you transform your creative passion into a bustling business:

Find Your Artistic Niche: Every business needs a starting point, and for artists, that means finding your niche. Think of what you love doing, what you’re good at, which clients you’re trying to attract and what kind of person your art targets. Focusing on a niche allows you to create a signature style and build a brand that will allow you to stand out from the crowd.

Hone Your Craft: Like any pro, continuous practice and improvement is key. Some of the best ways to do this is through personal projects created with your specific target audience or client in mind. Want to get book cover jobs? Show off your lettering and illustration skills by mocking up a book cover. Take part in Instagram challenges to practise and show off your skills. Attend workshops, take online classes, build your community and soak up insights from fellow artists. The more honed your skills, the more valuable your art becomes to others.

Showcase Your Best: Your portfolio is your artistic resume. Make sure it’s professional and shows off your best work. Look it over every so often and cut out any work that doesn’t speak to your style anymore. NEVER show anything you wouldn’t want to get hired for. I know this because doing one dog treat packaging job lead me to another five! If you don’t like drawing cars, don’t put them in your portfolio. Is painting not your strong suit? Then find a medium that fits you and comes easily.

Connect and Create: Art is a collaborative journey. Attend exhibitions, join art groups, and reach out to artists you admire - which is super easy these days with social media. Be friendly, and remember that social media is SOCIAL. Stop just liking and actually comment on other’s work. Empathize with them - they’re also spending a lot of time making content and would love feedback. Ask questions, engage, slide into their DMs. Collaborations with other creatives can open new doors, exposing your work to a wider audience.

Art Pricing: Setting the right price is an art in itself. Consider the time, effort, materials, rights you’re giving to the client and your skill level. Research the market and see what fellow creatives are charging to gauge a fair price for your creations. The Graphic Artist Guild Pricing Guide is my go to starting place. It gives wide ranges but can still be helpful in terms of what to consider when quoting a job. I’ve also written a pricing guide that can help you through the process. Check it out here.

Embrace E-Commerce:
Dive into the world of online selling. There are many print on demand sites (POD) that are super easy entry. Society 6, TeePublic, Printify and Redbubble to name a few. You just upload your high resolution designs while the company takes care of the manufacturing, shipping and sales. You earn a small commission. It’s a great entry into the world of online selling as it doesn’t require you to hold inventory or make a big investment. However, you don’t get access to the customers interested in your work, and only earn a tiny percentage per item. I personally wouldn’t rely on POD as my main source of income, but it’s good to have running in the background.

Consider creating e-books, guides and courses to help others. Maybe you know something you can share with other artists a step behind you. Building an online presence broadens your reach and boosts sales - you could grow and soon you could find yourself selling to clients worldwide!

Diversify Your Artistic Ventures: Don’t put all your art in one basket. Offer prints, merchandise, or even art classes. Diversifying your offerings caters to different tastes and ensures a steady income stream. It’s been my secret sauce to growing my business to 6 figures this year. Bonus, if one stream dries out you always have another to fall back on - relieving you of some of that artist anxiety so many of us have.

In a nutshell, turning your art passion into a thriving business is a journey that demands dedication, hard work, and a business-savvy mindset. It won’t always be a walk in the park, but with determination you can totally find success. Stay true to your unique style, keep learning, focus on building your business skills as well as your technical skills, and watch as your art blossoms into a successful business. Cheers to painting your passion into prosperity!

You’ve got this!

If you want a creative to chat with feel free to reach out to me for a 30 minute chat session! Sometimes having an opinion outside your own noisy brain can make all the difference.

- Alana McCarthy

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