The word "fight" is so often associated with "artist". However, you don't have to win The Voice or sell a painting for millions to translate your art into an extra paycheck, part-time or full-time job.
Websites like Etsy where you can find handcrafted products can help you start your small business. However, don't forget the importance of social media, a polished website, and old-fashioned networks.
So three creators have found ways to make money as artists.
Be brave, push your portfolio and have a sideline
Alli Arnold took her bold first step to promote her illustrations at the age of 8.
"I posted an illustration for Valentine's Day on Newsday in Long Island, New York, and they posted it! My elementary school principal posted it in the school lobby. I knew I was on my way," said the professional Illustrator who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A combination of talent and the courage to submit her work again and again, she has worked as an artist for more than 20 years.
After graduating from New York's Parsons School of Design with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, Arnold got a job at Seattle Weekly.
“My growing stack of published work allowed me to find other publications that I wanted to work with. After three years in Seattle, I moved back to New York City and started right away, ”she said. Her illustrations have been featured in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Glamor, Real Simple, and other national publications.
They have also appeared on gift cards and other content for Target, Barneys New York, Tiffany & Co., and Neiman Marcus.
"In the old days, before social media and the internet, if you were illustrating for one magazine, another magazine saw your work and when they liked it, they called you," Arnold said. “That's how my entire career has worked for 15 years: inch by inch. There was a time when I had monthly illustrations in five different magazines. Those five illustrations a month paid the bills, and anything beyond that was sauce. "
However, a move to St. Petersburg in 1991 hampered her career. At that time, personal contacts such as seeing customers in the office or meeting for coffee kept things flowing.
“To my surprise, I quickly learned that there really is something about being in New York. Even in this modern world, people really want to work with someone they have met, ”she said.
So Arnold had to make her name known again in Florida. She staged a show in a popular shop and submitted her work to local publications. Work started again, and one job gave birth to another. She also worked social media to the max.
"I have four different Instagram accounts that I update regularly," she told Arnold.
Arnold is working on a mural for a new store that is opening. She has also illustrated books and created custom animal portraits for clients. Chris Zuppa / The Penny Hoarder
It wasn't until that year that she started selling Etsy, offering bespoke portraits for pets and people. The platform made doing business easier because people are more familiar with a proven and well-known market than they would with an independent website, she said.
Arnold was featured as a pet artist of choice in the October issue of HGTV magazine, and it was great to be able to drive that traffic on Etsy, she added.
But of course a career in the arts was not easy.
"I know very few artists who don't have a sideline," said Arnold.
Her part-time jobs included working as a personal shopper, costume jewelry scout, pet sitter, proofreader, stints at The Gap, and even modeling hats for the Kentucky Derby.
Have a flexible product line and mindset
Just because you go out alone doesn't mean you are bound to this business model forever.
In 2015, at the age of 49, Malacia Anderson, known as LiLi, left her customer service job when the income from her art exceeded her daily earnings.
She designs and sews custom clothing from her home in Roosevelt, New York. Their dresses, tops, skirts and headgear are made from distinctive fabrics with African prints from countries like Nigeria, Ghana and India.
She sells most of her clothing on Etsy.
“It's the easiest platform for my company as it gives clear information on delivery and descriptions. It's easy to set up a business, ”said Anderson. “The payment and refund process is easy. Overall, they provide back office support that alleviates the fear of starting a business. "
Yet three years after Anderson made her art her full-time career, she missed the regular paychecks (and health care benefits) that come with an office job. She now works part-time as an administrative assistant, but complements this income as a tailor considerably.
Malacia Anderson sells custom clothing and designs on Etsy. In 2015, Anderson left her customer service job when the income she made from her art exceeded her daily job income. Photo courtesy Aderon Mothersill
Not too long after taking on the part-time job, COVID-19 changed the world.
"I had a (social) supporter who worked in a hospital and she announced that she couldn't find cloth masks," Anderson said. “I gave her a few and posted a picture of them. People asked me to make one for them. "
Friends sent her photos of masks that sold for $ 25 or more.
"I couldn't believe it. I started making it for $ 10 and then it just got out of hand," she said. "In a month I had over 800 orders from my Etsy shop." Before the mask craze there were 25 orders for clothing in a typical month.
Meanwhile, Anderson still had orders for custom clothing.
She completed these orders and reduced her offers to standard options.
“I've brought back all the simple things I did in the beginning. The prices were lower and that was better for me and the changes in the economy, ”said Anderson. "It turned out to be the perfect midpoint between that and the masks."
Now about 75 percent of their income comes from sewing.
Along with the Etsy shop, which she has had since 2006, Anderson started selling her own website LiLi-girl.com and selling on Instagram in 2018.
Decide, save and invest in marketing
Setting aside money two years in advance and investing in marketing are two ways Lynn Veronneau of Washington, DC transitioned from her job to professional jazz singer.
She sang part-time for a living years ago while studying music in France and learned that it was difficult to make a living.
Veronneau used her fluency in French and English to build a career as a bilingual communications specialist. For more than two decades she worked at the United Nations, the European Center for Nuclear Research and the World Bank in Washington, among others.
"I started a family," said Veronneau, who married Ken Avis, a guitarist and singer she met backstage in Switzerland.
Then there came a point where life got a little shorter and my husband and I started planning something else, ”she said.
This "something else" found a way to be professional and leave their daily jobs. Avis worked in the human resources department.
Lynn Veronneau, her husband, and two other musicians formed a jazz group called Veronneau. The group invested in a publicist, website, professional writer and photographer. This helped the group get into the charts and the reviewers started writing about it. They released more music and earned grants to produce festivals. Photo courtesy Lynn Veronneau
That was 12 years ago. By the time, two of her three children had graduated from college in Canada, which is where Lynn Veronneau is from, and higher education costs much less than the United States. They worked in their job for another two years and provided money for the education of their third child.
The couple performed together but wanted a bigger, fuller sound with more people. They found two other musicians to join their group and named them "Veronneau".
"After about a year, we decided to record, publish and promote," said Veronneau.
The group invested in a publicist and a good website with a professional writer and photographer. The website has easy ways to listen to the Sound Cloud and Spotify pages.
“You have to look at the role before you can really turn to clubs. You really have to look like you're real already,” she said. “We all put our eggs in one basket, got some traction and interest awakened. "
It wasn't long before the group hit the charts and reviewers started writing about it. The group kept the momentum going, releasing more music, and earning grants to produce festivals.
"We kind of came out of nowhere," said Veronneau, "and then we got it all going."
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