The other day I was chatting with an artist friend, and I told her I was going to start interviewing some artists who had success selling their work (and making passive income from it) on platforms like Society6, RedBubble, etc., and I asked her what kind of questions she would be interested in asking them about passive income ideas for artists. “Well, as an artist the only passive income I can think of is selling things like iPhone cases or digital downloads.”
I stopped in my tracks… “Wait, what?”
I was shocked that the only ways she could think of to make passive income was with ‘iPhone cases and digital downloads’! She also happens to be my accountability partner, so I’d been talking to her about Creating Beautifully for months.
So I got started with a list of specific ways artists can create passive income in their businesses (and yes, it does include iPhone cases and digital downloads! 😉) I came up with 16 off the top of my head, so I thought I’d share them all here.
One word of caution: all of these ideas take time. It takes time to implement them, and time to make money with them. And if you haven’t already, I would highly suggest you read “What Is Passive Income? (For Artists and Creatives.)” Also, this page may contain affiliate links. If you are unsure what that means, please read this.
One word of caution: all of these ideas take time. It takes time to implement them, and time to make money with them. Click To Tweet
36+ Passive Income Ideas for Artists
So, let’s get to it! I’ll start with, you guessed it…
Create on-demand sites.
There are several websites that will print your artwork on everything from cellphone cases to notebooks to mugs to bedspreads and much, much more! All of these platforms take care of sales, production, shipping and returns, you typically set your prices or royalty rates after uploading your images to sell on their products. Each site seems to have their own “vibe” so you can find one that is the best fit for your art and style. Here are some favorites:
At Society6 they cater to a young, hip crowd. They print on tapestries, throw pillows, iPhone cases, tote bags, t-shirts, throw blankets, mugs, hoodies, tank tops, pouches, laptop sleeves, and yes, paper and canvas prints. Your profit from sales depends on the products – some priced by you, some set my Society6.
RedBubble seems to have more quirky, illustrative art on its site. They make art prints, calendars, canvas prints, drawstring bags, duvet covers, framed prints, greeting cards, hardcover journals, laptop sleeves, leggings, metal prints, pencil skirts, photographic prints, posters, studio pouches, scarves, spiral notebooks, stickers, throw pillows, tote-bags, t-shirts and hoodies. Redbubble gives you total control over what you sell your art for. Current Redbubble artists earn an average margin of 17% of the retail price, but whether it is 10% or 30%, you get to decide.
Zazzle has such a HUGE list of products to print on, it’s almost overwhelming! They have all kinds of clothes for men, women, babies, and kids, accessories, bags, cards, posters, business cards, invitations, mugs, stickers, clocks, puzzles… this list goes on and on! It’s kind of hard to nail the vibe at Zazzle, but I imagine their customers are the type of people who love to shop at Target (and who doesn’t?! 😂) At Zazzle you set your own royalty rates – somewhere between 5% and 99%.
At Casetify they have a smaller product line: phone cases, apple watch bands, macbook sleeves and ipad covers. Casetify doesn’t disclose how much you make from each sale unless you sign up to sell with them (other than to say “Casetify Artists earn higher than the usual market standard”), and it appears to me that not every artist is accepted. Having said that, they have a very modern and hip feel, so if you think your art would make a good fit, you can always apply for more info.
Similar sites include:
Selling digital products and downloads is another way you can create passive income.
Creative Market dubs itself as “a platform for handcrafted, mousemade design content from independent creatives around the world.” There you can sell photo mockups and stock photography, your fonts, graphics for a variety of uses, website templates, and more. You set your own prices and earn 70% of the sale price.
There are other sites like this, too, but I’m not as familiar with them (probably because I LOVE Creative Market so much, it’s always just my go-to. But in case you like another one better, here are a few I found: GraphicRiver, PhotoDune, Design Cuts. (And if you have one you love, please let me know in the comments so I can add it to this list!)
Digital downloads sold directly through your shop is also a great way to make passive income as an artist.
Rather than just sell through the websites mentioned above, you can also sell your digital downloads directly to your patrons through websites like Etsy (if you’re not already selling on Etsy, you can get your first 40 listings free by clicking here), or on your own website with a plugin like WooCommerce or a Shopify shop.
If you create surface designs, there are a variety of ways to sell them…
Spoonflower is probably the most popular site to at least start selling your surface designs. They started with fabric, but now you can also have your digital patterns printed on wallpaper and gift wrap. You only get a 10% commission, which is why I say it’s a great place to start. But because of its popularity, that 10% could actually end up being well worth it!
PatternBank is somewhat similar to Spoonflower, only you get a 55-60% commission on sales from that site. They target fashion designers, so the market seems to be a bit different, and you’ll have to decide which one will work better for you.
You can also license your surface designs.
In fact, art licensing comes in many forms, and is a HUGE topic in itself, so I’d rather point you to a few resources that can cover the topic in-depth:
ArtLicensingInfo.com is a virtual library on art licensing! Check out titles like How to be a Press-Friendly Artist, How to Find an Art Licensing Agent, How to Find, Interact and Work With Manufacturers Who License Art, How to Get Started in Art Licensing, and finally, there is the Art Licensing Academy for those who really want to know all of the ins and outs of art licensing.
Creating videos and/or tutorials on YouTube is another passive income idea for Artists.
Did you know you can make money when people watch your YouTube videos? It’s true. BUT, it’s not easy and could really become time consuming. But if you, say, create video tutorials, or time-lapse videos (which can go viral) they not only have the chance to bring in some passive income, but those videos can also create new fans, followers, and patrons.
Teaching Art Online.
Teaching online is an excellent source of passive income for artists. Websites like Skillshare, CreativeLive, and CreativeBug are my personal favorites. I watch and take many of these classes myself! (I myself teach on Skillshare!)
A quick note from Jules:
Hey there! If you’ve read this far, you must be really interested in making passive income with your art, and that is awesome! I just wanted to invite you to sign up to get updates from me each week so you can learn even more! It’s easy, just…
Blogging is a great way to market your art, position yourself as a professional artist and expert, and connect with your patrons (or potential patrons.) But you could also potentially create passive income from your blog. This could come in the form of advertising (my least favorite), affiliate sales, selling digital downloads, printable art, creative courses, and/or some other way that fits you and your business.
Just like the rest of these ideas, this one will take time. But blogging is also a way to gather the email addresses of your fans. That way you can easily update them about blog posts, new work, and much more. Every artist should have an email list. Staying in touch, at least monthly — but preferably weekly, is vital to your professional art career.
You can read my other post about How to Start a Blog to Sell Your Art or Handmade Products (and More!) here. (The link will open in a new tab so you won’t lose your place on this page!)
eBooks and online courses.
Believe me when I tell you: so many people want to learn how to do what you have already done. While you are making art your career, others just want to do it for fun, as a hobby. They don’t want to go to art school, but they do want to learn.
You could create anything from a simple PDF ebook, to a detailed, mutli-module video course about how to make ______ kind of art (and that blank would be whatever it is you make: illustrations, plein air paintings, sketchbooks, large-scale abstracts, portraits of family and friends, etc., etc.)
What seems easy to you is not easy to a beginner / hobbyist. So think about some of the things they may want to learn and create a course about it.
Selling your art in Galleries.
It’s not always easy to get into galleries, but the nice thing about it is that, once you do, the gallery reps do the selling for you. Of course, you always want to help promote the fact that you have art for sale there. But it sure is nice to drop off your mail (or ship it) and let someone else handle the sales. (Even if they do take 50% or so of the sales price.)
Print on Demand websites.
Print on demand websites can include some of those I mentioned above (like Society6, etc.) but in this case I’m just referring to sites that will make your art into prints (on paper and canvas).
My personal favorites are:
Saatchi Art – I love Saatchi because of its excellent reputation, as well as the option to sell both original artwork as well as prints. They also have high pay-outs, and a virtual library of resource information on everything from photographing and packaging your work, to getting started selling fine art, and more.
Fine Art America – While Fine Art America does print on more than just paper and canvas, the overall feel to the site leans more towards those things. And, like Saatchi, you can sell original works, too.
Some other sites you might want to check out:
Well, that’s it for now. But this list is an ever-growing collection, so please be sure to bookmark this page for future reference. And if you haven’t already, please click here to stay updated with all the latest from Creating Beautifully!