Can I Make a Living as an Artist?
So let me first say that I feel it has NEVER been a better time to be an artist or illustrator. Whether you create comics, clip art, video demonstrations, or you enjoy digital painting, the resources available to generate a living from your art have never been more accessible. You can create video courses, custom brushes, print on demand services, clip art sites, create game art, app designs, online mentorship, and the list goes on and on.
So this has been a question for us all at one time or another. “Can I Make a Living as an Artist?” Often it is also a source of negative debate so I wanted to give my views on the matter. I have been a working artist for most of my life now. Sometimes as more of a designer and other times as more of a business man when I ran a small sign shop for 15 years. ( It was called Ram Studios Signs 🙂 Although I ventured out in the name of making money I was always and artist at heart. I probably would have never started a business if I have not listened to the negative comments from people telling my that I would struggle financially to be a comic book artist. It ultimately led me to think of other products and services that I could market to my local area. Which at the time was Flint, Michigan where I grew up.
I learned a lot from starting and running a business but nothing more important than what I came to the conclusion of. I need to create art on my own terms. Sounds selfish right? Maybe it is but I had spent years creating designs and projects for everyone else. I needed to get back to creating my own ideas, my own comics. To tell you the truth I probably would have kept going if I was at least drawing comics or storyboards but I couldn’t bare doing graphics anymore. I was quickly coming to the realization that I compromised who I set out to be.
I had let the negative comments stick with me by thinking that I may not be able to make a good living if I didn’t have my business. It was time to venture out again and start over. This time putting art in the front seat and money in the back seat. ( Notice money is still in the car though. ) We all have to pay the bills but money shouldn’t be the driving factor. Money is a by product of a successful and happy lifestyle. If you spend your time doing something you love then you will have lots of opportunity to share that with the world and the money will follow. Besides, how many times have you heard about people making lots of money that are utterly miserable. The trick is to make a good living and be passionate about what you do. Then you will never get tired of putting in the time needed to be successful.
After putting in lots of years as a business owner I was ready to move on and finally just be an artist. So that question reared it’s ugly head once again, “Can I Make a Living as an Artist?” The thing that was now different from when I started my business was that there were so many ways to share the journey of art with my fellow creators now. That is what gets you ahead in life in any profession, sharing knowledge. That has never been easier than now with social media, Youtube, blog posts, and digital downloads. As an artist you are in a unique and very powerful situation. You have the ability to create on a level that most cannot so it is extremely easy for you to share you message. Others have to hire someone like you to help create that visual display.
With today’s means to quickly share you work and find an audience you can make a good living easier than ever. You can even take a very small niche and grow your audience very quickly if you work hard at sharing the work. You can grow that niche to a large scale because you are working off a global market now! Here is a run down of what has worked for me so far –
1. Help others learn what you know. They will appreciate you and help spread the word for you because of it. Create FREE content! Not everyone will share your paid promotional stuff but if you share what you learn, others will share it too. You help others like yourself and you get some free advertising in the process. 😉
2. Market yourself. You love your art, right? Quite worrying if someone else doesn’t. Share your work and develop a thick skin. You cannot make it in a competitive industry like comics/illustration without taking criticism like a pro. Learn what it is to actually market your work. You can have amazing art but if you don’t know how to sell it then you might as well just do it for fun. Here is the definition of Marketing, “Marketing is the promotion of an idea, good, or service that benefits individual and or organizational objectives.” So the key word here is “BENEFIT.” Learn who your work benefits and that is where you need to focus your energy on marketing.
3. Always have an empty cup! You ever hear the phrase, “Can’t fill a cup that is already full.” If you think you know it all, you have already failed and it is time to empty your cup. Only when you realize that you know nothing can you truly begin to grow. To be a successful artist you have to get better than the competition and there are lots of hungry amazing artists around the world that you now need to compete with. Luckily for us there are also a bunch of lazy artists that think they know it all already. Don’t fall into that category.
4. It’s a real job! Work hard at it if you want to succeed. Don’t think you can create an amazing piece once a year and get the proverbial fat cash! We now live in a fast pace hi-technology age of information. So don’t think people will wait around to see your amazing art next year. They have attention spans that can only be measured in nano seconds. You have to put out lots of content if you want to make it as an online artist or a production artist of an kind. Quality is king but speed is queen and you can’t have one without the other.
So there are lots of things out there to think about when it comes to being an artist in todays world but I assure you that you can make an excellent living as an artist these days. If you are still wondering how to do this just study some of these sites and what they have done for lots of hard working artists.
Patreon – Kickstarter – Udemy – Gumroad – iStockPhoto – Amazon – Youtube – FineArtAmerica – Twitch – Etsy – RedBubble – Society6 – Envato – CreativeMarket – Skillshare – and so on….
There are tons of great resources out there for artists like never before and this is only going to grow. Just remember that as an artist you can create a visually impactful statement that transcends language barriers. That alone is extremely powerful and very marketable. If you work hard you can make a living at anything you do so why not choose something you love?
Good luck to you can keep up the good fight!
For my video where I talk about this topic, please visit here – https://youtu.be/qLqWP2sHvfY
Please leave your comment and share your thoughts on this as well. It helps other artists to grow and learn from each of our experiences.
Robert A. Marzullo
Ram Studios Comics
Visit my Gumroad to see some of my digital products that I have created for artists that want to learn how to draw comics and digitally paint – http://www.gumroad.com/robertmarzullo