Where’s The Money?

Artists who focus on only one method of making income have businesses that are fragile. Stabilize your business by diversifying income streams.


While many artists are complaining about the economy, others are finding out how to survive and prosper creatively. Vacancy signs on Main Street are everywhere, so rent is cheap or even free in some great locations. Now is a time when everything is negotiable. Take a tip from those stingy customers you see at retail fairs, get tough and learn to negotiate!

One strategy that really makes sense is taking a look at the multiple ways an artist can earn a living. Those people who diversify become more secure, as they have income sources which can fill in holes in the calendar year, or cover expenses when other sources dry up.

Are you primarily selling your work retail at shows or fairs? Here are some other ways to inject more revenue into your business: 

1. Wholesale. This is the big gorilla. Wholesale selling balances art/craft businesses beautifully by creating ongoing relationships with stores and galleries – and ongoing income. Artists with studios who wholesale are far more likely to have employees. The Craft Organization Development Association (CODA) Survey says that “Craftspeople that have paid employees generally have three times the household income and ten times the sales/revenue of those that work alone.”  This can make the difference between an average of $50,000 annually vs. about $17,000.00.

2. Teach Classes. Using studio space for more than producing work means you can add extra income without much more expenditure. Schedule classes when your travel schedule or commitments are low, or work with a spouse or partner who can cover one income-producing activity while you work on another.

3. Sell Tools and Supplies. This can be a great income-generator. In fact, on Etsy, “the busiest vendors on the site sell craft supplies to other Etsians,”  according to CNN Money. Studio owners who supply local artists, craftspeople and hobbyist can attain a higher profile and become a go-to destination while cross-selling their own art as well.

4. Hire Sales Reps. This can expand your reach throughout the country, or wherever you seek to gain representation. Multi-line reps can be located through trade publications, websites which connect reps to vendors, or word of mouth. The reps you hire should have lines which work well with yours, and will be selling product lines priced at wholesale, which are made in production.

5. License Your Work. Although licensing is an industry in itself, some artists license designs while also producing in their own studios. When you contract with a manufacturer to license your work, it allows them to use your design for a designated period of time on certain products. This is an excellent way to build multiple streams of income.

6. Sell Other Artists’ Work. Do you sell your work retail from your studio? If you have a good location, create gallery space and partner with other artists looking for a sales outlet. Open studios, trunk shows, and participating in Arts Walks will bring additional visitors into your retail space as potential customers.

7. Print on Demand.  Sites like Zazzle, Café Press, Ponoko, and others (check out this article on Mashable for details)   Many artists have storefronts on these sites, which adds an extra bump to their income.

8. Write an Ebook. Are you really good at something that you can write about? If you already teach classes and can put together a saleable package, write an ebook which you can market and sell from your website or blog.

9. Become an Affiliate. Advertise for vendors whose products you believe in, on the sidebar of your blog. These might be art supplies, coaches, natural products, tech services and more. Every time a visitor to your blog clicks through to their site and makes a purchase, you get a commission.

10. Shopping Cart on Your Website. Although many artists and craftspeople use Etsy or other retail site, a shopping cart on your own website can catch sales for you 24/7. If you retail and wholesale, make sure you use a  2.5 markup over your wholesale price when you retail, and a different “brand” name or shop name  than at wholesale to prevent conflicts.

11. Get Creative. Commission work, home shows, pop-up galleries, and even bidding on government contracts (they need art too!) are more possible ways to earn money. Talk to other artists to find out how they’ve discovered other income streams.

 Have you found new ways to make supplemental income? Please share!

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