Here's the truth: if you want to make money being a creator, you're going to need to use both your right brain AND your left brain. Ugh, I know. If you're one of the creative types who would rather give up on your pursuit for an independent creative career than have to do MATH (tell me it's not just me!) or anything technical (build my own website? Uh, no), I've got good news. If you want that creative independence and cash bad enough, you can get paid to do your art – whatever that may be – with a bit of grit, some business acumen, and a very teensy-weensy amount of arithmetic.
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Below, I've listed tons of places where you can make money off your art online, but there's some information you need to get sorted before you jump into an online marketplace. Cue another nasty word that creatives seem to hate: Marketing.
I am a marketer by trade, so I get it. I hate the word, too. Something about it feels so … salesy? But selling something, in your case, is a great thing! No matter how exceptional your talent is, if no one sees/hears/reads/watches/experiences it, you're doing the world a disservice. You have the gift of creativity, and I want you to share it with the world! So, embrace marketing, even if just for these next nine steps.
Marketing for Creatives 101
- Find your niche
To sell yourself and your work is to know yourself and your work. Figure out what makes your product unique – whether that's a painting, a blog, or a beat. Who loves it? Who needs it? Who is going to buy it? Describe that person or people on a sheet of paper. That's your target audience.
- Know the landscape
Who else is creating work like yours? Why is yours different? How is theirs better? Get to know your competition and the other creators who are on a similar path. Network with them to find out why their strategy is working (or not) for them and how it can work for you, too.
- Teach people
Once you figure out what you have to offer that people want, teach them how you do it. Don't worry; they're not going to copy you. They're going to learn from you and forever become your superfan. They're going to find value in what you do because you're doing it differently than everyone else. They're going to trust you as the authority on your craft. Remember, you had to learn at least some of what you know from someone else, too.
- Keep the conversation going
Don't let fans of your work come and go. Keep them around by either capturing their contact information, getting them to subscribe, asking them to join, or requesting a follow. You want to build a community of fans around your work to have an engaged customer base. This also helps you identify who your customers are on a larger scale because you have a more significant sample to analyze. Stay in touch with your fans, and they will eventually become customers and ambassadors.
- Make the ask
Here's where that sales piece comes in. To make money, you have to sell your work. It will not sell itself. Remember, if someone is already looking at your work, you've won more than half the battle. That means that they want to buy. Now convince them that they should. Make the ask, price your goods, and sell your work.
- Set expectations and exceed them
Remember, the people who buy your creative work are customers, and customers love to be pleasantly surprised. Love your customers and community, and they will love you back. Stay in touch with them, express genuine thanks, write them a nice note, give them a shoutout on your social media, or include a little extra something with their purchase. If they feel good about you and your work, they'll tell the world.
- Be resilient and patient
Business of any kind is not easy, and for creatives, it may be even more challenging. You're selling your heart and soul, not someone else's product. People will love your work, and people will hate it, but it's not very unique if your work is everything to everybody. Embrace the haters, and keep doing you. It will take time to find your people, and that's okay. Keep your head up, keep creating, and they will come.
- Keep track of everything
From web hosting to gasoline to paintbrushes and more, every expense has the potential to become tax-deductible when you go into business for yourself. Keeping track of it all will also allow you to calculate the actual cost of doing business and adjust your prices accordingly.
- Look professional
You're a sculptor, so the quality of your images doesn't matter, right? You're a musician, so no one cares about your graphic design skills. So what if there are typos in the painting descriptions? These things DO matter because everything that represents you and your work is selling an idea, an aspiration, and a feeling. Don't do anything that will take away from your incredible talent by distracting your customers from the true feature: your creativity. From email signatures to packaging, pay attention to every detail as if it's all telling a story about you because it is.
Now that you've got the details worked out let's put your creativity out there! The worldwide web is a wonderful place, full of opportunities for artists to build their careers. You just have to know where to start.
How to Sell Your Creative Work Using Online Resources
- Stretch Your Work
Below in item 8, I've listed a handful of places to sell your creative outputs online. There are so many more options out there. You can sell original artwork, prints, merchandise based on your artwork, poems, and short stories, subscriptions to your blog or specialty content, access to your music, and other perks to your community. Get creative – how can you repurpose your creative works and sell them in a way that's easiest to sustain? How can you stretch a single piece of content? The possibilities are endless.
- License your work for others to use
For music, images, videos, and more, you can use a third party to help you license your work for others to use. There are many ways to do this, and some ways even allow you to keep the rights to your work and direct how it can and can't be used.
- Private commissions and freelance
From UpWork to Fiverr and more, you can advertise just about any creative service offering by registering for a marketplace online. You can also use your social channels (or website if you have one) to offer private commissions and freelance work. While you won't be in charge of deciding what your creative output will be exactly, you will get paid to use your skills.
- Teach a class, consult, or offer online tutorials
If you're great on a musical instrument, write social media posts that grab attention, or love to draw comic strips, teach someone else to do it, too! If you can't or don't want to sell your creative work, sell your skill by teaching a class, consulting for companies, or offering online tutorials.
- Write a blog about your vertical
Keep a blog, either on your website or through an online blogging platform such as Medium.com, and write about your work. Write about new developments in your space, other artists you admire in your vertical, or challenges and successes you're having with your work. This will position you as the authority on the topic and give your community of fans insight into your process and perspective.
- Create an eBook
An eBook is a great way to offer tutorials, textbooks on a topic, fiction or non-fiction stories, and more without taking the traditional publishing route. You can sell eBooks online and offer them as a way to gain subscribers.
- Coach and mentor other creatives in your space
Whether you coach and mentor for a fee or do it for free, offering this service shows that you're an authority in your creative space and makes you feel good. It is always a good thing to reach down and offer someone a hand after you've made it to the top.
- Consider online marketplaces in your space
There's an online marketplace for just about any creative endeavor these days. Most offer an easy way to bring in some cash for your work, and some creatives even make a career out of these sites once they crack the code to success.
To be financially successful as a creative, you'll have to change your mindset to act like a business owner rather than a hobbyist. It just is what it is. But, with help from some fantastic online resources, it is so much easier to get paid to create in this day and age. Get your offering, audience, and channels in order, and you CAN do it.
Let's get down to business,