How to Make a Side Business Selling Art

While I don’t consider myself to be particularly artistic, I’ve been blessed with some friends who are quite talented artists. But many of them admit that for the average artist, regardless of how good they are, it can be quite challenging making money as an artist. So, I’m going to go over how to make a side business selling art.

Now, if you’re the type of artist that dreams about selling your prints for thousands of dollars at your local art shop, then this article is not going to help you. But if you’re a part-time artist who’s looking for a way to make a tad bit of extra cash and get “paid” to do something you love then you’re who I’m talking to.

While I have zero tips on how to get your artwork into a gallery showing or an auction, I may be able to give you some insight into making a side business selling art.

What Do I Mean By a Side Business Selling Art?

When I’m talking about selling art online, I’m not talking about selling your physical art piece (specifically a painting or drawing), though if you’re interested in doing this, you can via an online platform like Etsy or Ebay – this article on how to sell your art explains this in more detail⁠⁠⁠. Instead, I’m talking about taking your artwork and putting it onto products like t-shirts, mugs, throw pillowcases and even shower curtains and selling it.

It’s probably not the dream of Picasso or Van Gough — though I never personally knew either of their lives, so it very well could have been — but for those of us with both a passion for art and entrepreneurial dream, it might be the perfect solution to combining those.

So if that describes you personally, how do you do it?

Preparing Your Artwork

First thing’s first, you need to prepare your artwork to be uploaded. This means you need to take a digital photo of the picture. This, in my experience, is best done with a good quality camera (such as a DSLR) but if you don’t have access to one the quality of photo that’s produced by your smartphone should do in a pinch.

Make sure your lighting is nice (nothing too orange and nothing too dark) and do your best to fill up the whole display with your piece, though you can crop it later if needed.

P.S. If you’re a photographer, you can also sell your photos this way too!

Setting Up Your Shop

Once you have a picture of your artwork, you’ll need to choose a platform where you can create the type of products you want to sell. I also highly recommend that you choose a print-on-demand service to ensure your start-up costs are minimal.

While I am no expert because I don’t personally sell my own artwork, I would recommend Society6. I both purchase items on Society6 myself (shout out to my super cute shower curtain), and I have a friend who uses this service to sell her artwork, and she loves it. Not only do they have a good service, but they also seemingly have endless products to sell — not only can you put your artwork on a t-shirt or mug, but you can choose bathmats, credenzas, towels, art prints, tapestries and even wrapping paper.

Different products require different pixel sizes, so make sure you meet those requirements before you upload to save you time (you can check out Society6’s here).

Other Set-Up Considerations

Once you have your platform set up, you’re going to want to think of a few other set-up items. I would suggest thinking about setting up a separate business email (which can totally just be a different Gmail or another service), a website (even if its just used as a portfolio), a social media platform to help promote your work (start with only one) and whatever legal business-related requirements you need in your jurisdiction.

I am not a legal or business expert and I definitely do not know the requirements you need to meet wherever you live. But I can tell you that anytime you set up a business that brings in any amount of money (which hopefully yours will be doing) you’ll very likely need to meet sort of legal and tax regulations. It’d be smart to check those out for yourself.

Marketing and Selling Your Product

Once you are up and running on the logistics side, you need to figure out how to sell your artwork. But before we jump into our very brief crash course in marketing, I should premise this by saying that businesses take time to grow so you probably won’t be racking up the throw pillow sales in your first few months. That said, everyone has to start somewhere so how do you find people?

Low-cost marketing strategies are one of my favorite things to talk about. When it comes to art-based retail sales these are my favorite strategies:

Social Media

Social media is a great way to market your products and yourself in general. For instances where you are marketing retail products, I would suggest focusing your marketing on Pinterest or Instagram. Pinterest is a favorite for retail sellers while Instagram is a great platform for visuals.

I also highly suggest starting with one platform and getting a handle on it before you grow your outreach. If you start with too many, the experience could be overwhelming.

Personal Blog

Blogging is an awesome way to market yourself and grow your following… pending you like writing. If you’re not big on writing, skip this step altogether. I particularly like blogging for artists for the “do it yourself” and “how to” type posts — people love to read those!

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing is not only the most effective type of marketing but for those of us just starting it will probably be the most lucrative as well, depending on how much your mom loves you (just kidding… sort of). This involves telling your friends, family, and acquaintances about your artwork (and where to buy it) and crossing your fingers that they do. I recommend doing this alongside one of the other techniques.

Selling Art Online

Selling art online is a process. In the majority of cases, it takes a while to build up a following and get those sales coming in at a steady pace. But if you’re passionate about your artwork and want to make a genuine go at creating a side hustle out of it and learn how to sell your art, the long-term reward could be well worth the initial start-up efforts.

Do you have a side business selling art? What’s your best piece of advice?

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