Five ways to make money as an artist without a gallery

We all want to do what we love, and if you’re an artist it can be challenging to earn an income from art. Some people decide to get a “regular” job and so their art on the side, either as a hobby or for side income

But, what if you really want to be a full time artist? It is possible to make an income as an artist, but the term starving artist didn’t just come from nowhere! You have to work very hard, both at your art skills and at your business, in order to make decent money as an artist.

When I first started seriously working at making money with my art, I decided to make goals for how much money i wanted to make in the coming years. So, the first year I said $500. Then the next year I wanted to double that. And double it again every year for five years. I managed to reach that goal, and more! Here are five ways that I have found to be very viable ways to make money as an artist, without using galleries:

1. Find niches online

This strategy has worked every time I’ve tried it. Let’s say that you paint a lot of deer, go to hunting forums and websites and show them examples of your deer art. Or you can just start posting, and have a sample painting and website on your signature.

I live on a hobby farm and have lots of opportunities to sketch and paint our animals. By going on farming and homesteading forums, I sold two paintings and got a commission with just one post! Identify the people that would love your art and bring it to them! Chances are, at the right price, you will sell something and may even make valuable long term customers!

2. Ask cafes, restaurants and bars

I’ve had my artwork hung up in lots of coffee shops, restaurants and bars. I’ve made a sale in all but one of these, and the best part is that it is usually free. It should be seen as a sort of mutually beneficial agreement. The shop gets free wall decor and you get your artwork out there and possibly some sales! It’s a very low risk way to market your art. Just make sure every piece is framed and wired, and that you identify the artwork in some way with your contact information.

If you frequent any little shops, just ask! The worst they can say is no.

3. Consider illustration

For almost six years, I’ve been illustrating children’s books for a wonderful publishing company. It is fun work, and helps bring in additional income with my art. It’s all done under contract, so unlike some commissioned work you dont have to worry at all about not getting paid, or other shady endings to the deal. (Believe me, I’ve experienced commissions gone wrong!)

Almost all of the large publishing houses get innumerable submissions.  I’m not saying you won’t get hired, but the chances of it aren’t very high. It also takes a lot of effort to send in the mail packets that some of them require. Online submissions are so much easier, so I always try to stick to places that accept them. If you can find any local, smaller publishers give them a try! Not only will you be supporting a small business, you also increase your odds of having your work looked at.

4. Teach art classes

There are some franchises that offer art classes to after school kids and don’t require a degree. Before we moved way out in the boonies, I got hired to do these classes. Unfortunately, I never got to teach any since we ended up moving that summer, but I think it would have been great fun teaching kids art and making a little money in the process!

My artist friend Anna Murfield of Crooked Feather Studios has started doing wine and paint nights. People love this concept, and are so proud of their paintings at the end. She shows them how to paint a subject step by step, so even someone that has never picked up a brush can paint a beautiful piece of art! You can read more about her art at and follow her on Instagram @annamurfield

5. Check Craigslist 

You have to use some caution when using Craigslist,  as there can be scammers. But there are some cool opportunities for artists on here. I’ve found some unique ways to make money with my art from checking Craigslist, from cafes looking for some art to display to even getting my first solo show at a gallery! This really shouldn’t be passed up if you are trying to find new ways to get your art out in the world. Just use common sense, and if it sounds too good to be true, I’d say steer clear.

First solo show!

I think by trying these ideas out, you will find that your art income increases! I have four kids and homeschool them, so I can’t devote much time to my art.  I was very encouraged at my income growth before I had my last two babies and had to step back from my art for a while. But, once they are a little older I think I can jump back in and start increasing my sales again

Have you found any creative ways to make money with your art?



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