How in the world do creatives make money? And honestly, do they actually make any money at all? The answer is yes! Some of them anyway. I have been working as a creative entrepreneur for 4+ years, and have tried nearly every way to make passive income from my creative skills.
I went through many months of making less than $20 a month from my creative work, and now make a full time income from work I’ve already done. This frees me up to work on projects I love and take risks on projects that may not make much money.
I want to share my experience with you all so you can hear from a seasoned creative who has succeeded (and failed many times) what works and what just isn’t worth your time.
Creating courses or tutorials is one of the most popular (and profitable) ways for creatives to make passive income online. Once you create a class and put it out into the world, you can continue to make passive income for years. For anyone like me who has been paid $15 an hour for teaching creative courses in person (and paid nothing for class planning time), getting steady income from your online teaching is a game changer.
There are so many platforms and styles of creative classes out there, so it can be difficult for newbies to know where to start. Here is my advice after creating 50+ Skillshare classes: JUST GET STARTED. Sorry I yelled at you, but seriously.
This is the hardest part. Even if all you do is create 5 minute tutorials for your Youtube channel you can start building an audience and developing your teaching channel.
I don’t recommend starting out by planning a huge 2 hour course that covers everything you know, because unless you are super-human, you will probably burn out and get overwhelmed by the process. Start small and build up over time to get the most out of your time and efforts!
Course Creator's Masterclass
I have a course where I teach every step of the course creation process from choosing a topic to marketing and growing your following.
selling creative assets: fonts, brushes, patterns, & images
Selling creative assets like fonts, Procreate brushes, repeat patterns, and vectors can be a long-term steady income stream that is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to show their face on camera! Teaching is great for some personalities, but let’s face it, a lot of creatives prefer to make their work in a quiet studio far from the prying eyes of onlookers.
I love selling creative assets, and giving them away as freebies in my courses to entice more students to check out my classes. My favorite platforms for selling assets are Creative Market, Etsy, and of course your own website!
Selling your artwork on print-on-demand (POD) sites is one of the most “hands-off” ways to make passive income online. Once you upload your artwork, you can set it and forget it and the algorithm does the work while you move on to new projects. That being said, there is a strategy to choosing the right sites, creating good descriptions and tags, and making work that is on-trend without ripping off other people’s work.
It’s also important to keep in mind that since POD sites have been around for a few years, some of them are so saturated that it is very difficult for new artists to get found. So, how do you know which sites are worth trying? The difficult truth is that no one can tell you if YOUR work will do well on any certain site. It depends on the kind of work that is currently available on each platform, how your work fits into that ecosystem, and what kind of customers search that site.
Here is what I recommend for POD newbies:
- Find a list of the best POD sites (I’m not going to list them here because this will change over time so try searching for something like “best POD sites of 2022”)
- Go through each of these sites and look at the work. Does it look anything like yours? Can you find out about the customer base for that platform? What is their age/interests, etc.?
- Set up an account on the most promising sites that seem to fit well with your work, and upload as many designs as you can stomach (I know this is time consuming, but a larger sample will help you test more accurately!).
- Wait and tweak: Keep an eye on sales (or lack thereof) and put more time into the sites that are actually paying you. Make more designs like the ones that have sold, and try to start developing a niche based on sales.
Licensing your artwork to companies is one of my favorite ways to make passive income because you get to see your artwork on finished products around the world AND get a steady income from your work. Of course getting into art licensing takes some work upfront (building a portfolio, reaching out to companies, etc.), but once you’ve built the basic foundation, you can reach out to a lot of companies to get interest in your work.
I think the key to getting into art licensing is creating your portfolio in a way that is easy for art directors to access and understand. I like to think of my portfolio as a menu. If a customer walked up and wanted to order from my menu, would it be easy or complicated? Are there too many things on the menu (i.e. restaurants with 50 page menus that claim to to American, Chinese, Mexican, and Japanese food well?)? Is the menu hard to navigate (i.e. restaurants with menus in tiny font in front of a busy counter)? The more simple and easy to approach your “menu” is, the more likely you are to attract buyers.
Creatives can share their favorite products (art supplies, books, creative classes, etc.) on blog posts, social media, and videos to make passive income from affiliate sites. Some of my favorite affiliate sites include Skillshare, Amazon Affiliates, and Paperlike screen protectors. There are endless affiliate programs though, so try searching something like “best affiliate commission sites for 2022” to get the most updated list.
publishing: traditional or self-publishing
With the advent of self-publishing platforms like Amazon, Lulu, Bookbaby, Smashwords and many others, creatives can produce books of illustrations, tutorials, children’s books, adult coloring pages to sell to their audience and generate passive income. This is a great option if you have an audience who is interested in your work, so if you are just getting started and want to publish books eventually, it’s a good idea to start creating a mailing list so you have an audience to speak to in the future!
Working with a traditional publisher is also a great option, but of course you sacrifice some of the control and royalties when you work with a publisher, so whether you go the traditional or self-publishing route for a book is a personal decision that every author must make.
Do you know of other creative ways of making money as a creative? Share them in the comments below.
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