Alternative Sources of Art Income

I’ve mentioned before that you can make money with your art online by selling it directly or as prints from POD sites. Sales like this can be difficult. First off, buyers only have so much wall space, once they fill it, their demand for art drops to almost nil. Furthermore, you have a lot of competition for that wall space. Not only must you compete with other artists out there today, but because of the nature of art, you have to compete with artists from the past as well. In any give year, prints of Monet’s paintings likely outsell those of any artist alive today. So, yes, you are competing with the grandmasters. Not only that, you are also competing with your prospective buyer’s family photos and even more mundane stuff, like mirrors.

Keep your chin up though, you may have a lot of competition in the wall art arena, but prints still sell. After all, I sell them, and if I can do it, you can too.   In fact, if you want to see how well I do at selling via POD check out my article “How I Sell Art“.

However, this point of this article is something else: that there are other online ways to make money from art. So without further ado, here’s a few new ways you can earn art income:


Rhino Watch
One of my best sellers on Zazzle is a watch with my work “Angry Rhino” on the face

Your art does not necessarily need to be just framed wall art. It can also become part of a more utlitarian object. In the art world, this is known as design. For instance, you can put you artwork on a coffee mug and sell that, or, perhaps, you can make a T-Shirt that features your art.

Making such items may sound like a lot of work, but, it does not have to be. Just as there are POD sites that will print and ship your art for you, sites such as Zazzle and Cafepress act as POD sites that will put your art on anything from coffee mugs to mobile phone cases. They handle the payment and do the shipping. You just collect the commission.

Personally, I use Zazzle as reports of product quality seem higher and I can set my own commission rate (Cafepress is locked at 10%).

Let People Rent Your Art

Art can be expensive, that can deter a lot of customers. What’s more peoples tastes change, and people recognize this in themselves. For many, buying a piece of art may seem like too much of a commitment for the cost. So, one site offers a novel solution: Turning Art, allows users to rent prints for a period of several months, with the option to buy at the end.

Rough Crowd of the Farmyard
I’ve never sold a print of “Rough Crowd of the Farmyard” through my gallery, but through TurningArt it has been rented quite often.

Like a traditional POD site, Turning Art allows you to create an account and upload your works, they handle the business of printing and shipping, you just collect commissions.

Being that they are rentals, you aren’t going to make nearly as much in commissions, but unlike a traditional POD site where you only get one commission on a sale, on Turning Art, a particular piece will earn you a commission month after month as it is being rented. This is known as recurring revenue.

I’ve used Turning Art for about a year now, and, though it doesn’t provide a lot of income, it still is another source.

Earn Money with Advertisements

Finding buyers for your art may be difficult, but finding who want to just view it online is WAY easier. So, if you make art that draws people in, create a blog or website to feature your art. Then you can put some form of advertising on it to earn some extra money.

What’s more, people may be interested in viewing art, but they are also interested in how it’s made. If you use your blog or website to not only show your art, but also talk about how you made it and why, you’ll draw even more people in. I’ve mentioned that the most important skill for being a successful online artists is writing. Well, it pays off here too.

In the online world you have many options for advertising. Two of the most common are affiliate marking, and pay-per-click ads:

With affiliate marketing, you sign up to be an affiliate of a company. You put their advertisements on you blog or website. When visitors click on the ads and buy something from that company, you get a commission. Many companies offer the chance for you to become an affiliate directly (usually there is a link at the bottom of their homepage). Others use affiliate marketing brokers like ShareASale or Commission Junction.

With pay-per-click ads, you place ads on your site that earn you money (usually only pennies) when ever a visitor clicks on the ad. Whether or not they buy something from the company being advertised is irrelevant. The king of the pay-per-click ad systems is Google’s Adsense. If you do this, resist the temptation to click on the ads on your own site – it could get you banned by the provider.

Do Commissions

Perhaps people are not buying your art, but they like your style enough to commission work from you. Quite often I get requests for fantasy book covers as well as paleontology publications. It can happen. It is up to you though to handle a lot of the details though. You’ll have to write up the contract and deal with collecting payment as well as making any changes your client requests and dealing with how you will deliver the final work to them.

“A Minstrel Named Rynstrel”, A commission I did for a book cover

The key to making this work is to get your art found. It really requires similar skills as selling your art, but there are a couple of sites that cater more to this form of business. One that I use is DeviantArt, particularly when it comes to genres (suspense, mystery, fantasy, scifi, etc.), a lot of people look for illustrators here. Another site that works well (more for photos) is flickr.

One warning about commissions though: they can be very stressful. Realizing your own visions in art can be hard enough, but realizing someone else’s can really give you sleepless nights and grey hair. Communication with your client is essential.

License your art

This is a bit like doing commissions, except a lot less stressful. The way licensing works is that someone finds your art and wants to use it in their commercial endeavor, e.g. as the cover art for the book, for a graphic on their website, etc. You then make an agreement with them to use your work. As with doing commissions, you may need to deal with the contract and handling payment and such.

You don’t necessarily need to handle all the details with licensing though. For instance, I use and online service that handles some of the details for me: It’s an extension of the POD site and allows people to license your work by purchasing a license then downloading a high resolution version of your image.


So, there’s a few alternative ways to make money with art online. There are likely many more. If you spend some time on artist forums, you inevitably pick up a few. Just keep an open mind and you’ll be surprised by the kinds of things that turn up.



Don’t forget to check out this week’s sponsor, Dick Blick Art Materials (since I offer this site for free, I have to fund it somehow 😉 )