Making enough money to pay the bills by selling artwork is a tricky thing. I believe that with enough focus, drive and patience most artists can make it happen.
I have been making art since I was a kid. I did it because I enjoyed creating. Later on when I got old enough to understand what a job was, I wanted to make my living as an artist. I couldn't think of anything better than making money doing something fun. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to start my own business and sell my creations.
When I got to high school I was convinced that starting a business would be too difficult. They said that all I needed was a college degree and I could get a job doing whatever I wanted. I decided that I wanted a degree in illustration because it was the closest thing to what I was already doing.
So after a few short years I had a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art with a concentration in illustration... and a loan to pay. Surprisingly, when I was in college I never heard one lecture on how to make a living with my artwork. It seemed like once they had their money they weren't concerned about how I used my degree to pay the bills. After looking at my situation I found that since I didn't live in a major city I wouldn't be finding a job as an illustrator. They never told me this but I figured out that in order to make a living as an illustrator I would have to move to a big city, start my own business and get an agent. Well, I didn't want to do any of that. So, I took whatever local art projects I could get and figured I would have to make most of my money some other way. I eventually started working as a sign maker and enjoyed that to some degree, but I kept drawing in my spare time. I think this is a fairly common story. Unless you go into the more commercial field of graphic design, finding a job as an artist is pretty tough.
Luckily we now have the internet. These days most people take it for granted, but it can be an incredibly powerful money making tool for artists. You just have to figure out how to use it. It took me quite a while to warm up to the idea of the internet, but eventually around 2005 I gave it a shot.
I started selling my original artwork on eBay. That first sale was such a rush. I couldn't believe that I could sell my artwork to anyone in the world... and that it could be so easy! A while later i started an art blog and began gaining followers. It was a great feeling. In a few weeks I started to enjoy a little success and notoriety. Then the economy took a hit in 2008 and my sales plummeted. It seemed that my luck with eBay had ended, so I started looking around for another way to sell my work.
I heard about a fairly new site called etsy and started trying to sell prints of my work there. Sales were pretty slow and I only sold a few prints every month. Then one day I suddenly had a bunch of sales in one day! After some investigating I found that I had been included in a treasury that became very popular. In short, I was getting tons of exposure and people were buying... buying a lot! I ended up selling several hundred prints in only two months. It was great, but it didn't last. The exposure ended and the sales dwindled back down to nearly what they were before.
I learned a lot from eBay and etsy. I learned that there is a lot of opportunity out there, but you need a solid plan.
The best strategy seems to be the idea of having several income streams working at once. Having all your eggs in one basket can be a little risky. Having several income streams is smart because if one dries up you still have money coming in. The trick is figuring out how to operate several streams of income and still have time to live your life. I'm here to tell you that there are ways to achieve this.
After several years of online experience and research I have found several ways to make money with my art. Over the coming months I will be sharing what I've learned. Also, I have some new ideas that I want to try out. I'll let you know how it goes. I am sure it will be an interesting journey. I hope you come along for the ride.