How Artists Make Passive Income: 9 Great Side Hustles

How Artists Make Passive Income: 9 Great Side Hustles Kevin Hayler resting in a hammock making passive income

This is how artists make passive income from their art. You’re not confined to selling only originals, there are other revenue streams and you should be using them. They may or may not earn much individually, but when you add them all up, you can make a good living.

Ways to Make a Passive Income as an Artist

  1. Print on Demand Products
  2. Online Art Tutorials and Courses
  3. Third-Party Art Platforms
  4. Art Licensing
  5. Sell From Your Own Website
  6. Affiliate Links
  7. E-Books
  8. Art Rentals
  9. Printable Art Downloads

This post will teach you how to create a passive income from your artwork. Let’s dive right in.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

What is Passive Income for Artists?

The idea behind passive income is that you work hard and spend some time and money upfront, but your investment continues to pay you back, with a minimum of additional work on your part.

It’s like getting paid for doing nothing.

Is Passive Income a Myth?

So is it really possible to get something for nothing? Well, most people who make a good living selling their work passively are WORKAHOLICS!

Have you ever read ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferris? It’s inspiring but think about it for a moment; what is passive about writing and marketing that book? I wrote a book and it’s insanely hard work.

In the real world, ‘passive’ income is not passive at all, it involves a lot of work initially and some ongoing work marketing your product. Think of passive income as a way of scaling your efforts to get a better return on your time and you’ll see things in perspective.

Ideally, your aim is to work hard and get everything set up so you can switch over to maintenance mode.

It’s not work-free.

1. Sell Print-on-Demand Products

Print-on-demand services are becoming increasingly popular amongst artists as a way of making passive income.

The advantages are clear. Not only does POD eliminate the print costs for artists, but it also eliminates the need for a large initial investment. It saves you time, money, and stress and allows you to get started selling art easily.

The profit margins are small but the rewards can be substantial. It all depends on how much time and effort you are willing to commit to the process from the outset.

It’s like all things with a passive income it involves more work than the name implies.

What is a Print-on-Demand Service?

Print-on-Demand (POD) is a way to print art on a product as they are ordered. It enables a creator to upload their artwork to a print-on-demand website and sell their work in a digital marketplace.

There are two types of POD sites, marketplaces and drop shipping services.

A POD Marketplace is a site that allows you to add your images to their range of products and to sell them on their platform. Typically the company will keep the customer’s details and pay a small percentage to the creator.

Some POD services also provide marketing assistance with social media.

Earning a substantial income is not impossible but it’s unlikely. Most designers that make a good income are prolific and submit hundreds of designs. It’s far from passive.

For the rest of us artists, we use these platforms as a modest side-hustle and extra income stream.

A drop shipping service is similar. It’s a third party that prints and delivers your artwork direct to the customer once they receive an order, but YOU retain the customer’s details.

You must definitely do all your own marketing but that can include integrating their platforms with your eCommerce shop and white labeling the goods as your own products.

What are the Advantages of POD?

One of the key benefits of using a POD service is that you don’t need to store stock or manage inventory. Since print-on-demand companies work with digital printing, they can produce and ship your products to customers as needed.

POD allows artists to eliminate the wait time and costs of printing for themselves.

Print-on-demand services offer expanded distribution and the opportunity for artists who don’t live in large cities or sell in a gallery to make money from their art.

What are the Disadvantages of POD?

The disadvantage is that your profit margins will be reduced because the third party takes a huge cut of the sale price.

There’s also the problem of quality control, some POD companies are better than others.

In general, if the products are very cheap, they have probably cut corners or outsourced their printing without much care.

Another disadvantage is that most print-on-demand companies aren’t going to be able to offer you much help in terms of marketing.

It’s not an easy way to generate a high income.

For an artist, it’s generally more profitable to print and sell their own work as they keep all the profits, but that’s not passive.

Some print on demand services include: (some affiliate links)

2. Make an Online Art Course and Tutorials

Teaching art online is now a viable option for artists who want to make a living. Everyone turns to online tutorials these days and the demand is high.

Pre-recorded art classes are a 24/7 business model and a great way to generate passive income.

How to Start a Online Art Tutorial

Art tutorials are a form of passive income when they’re delivered as pre-recorded lectures and demonstrations. Tutorials are usually relatively short and concise.

Typically the lessons are video feeds that include slideshows and written instructions or recorded videos giving step-by-step instructions for how to complete an art project. Students watch the class at their own pace.

Once recorded they are available as a download for purchase. it can be via your own website, social media links, or 3rd party sites such as Etsy.

This is a great way of earning money passively because once the video has been uploaded, it will be generating views on its own, 24/7, while you do other things!

Teaching Art on Youtube

Perhaps most people think of Youtube as the go-to place to find tutorials on how to do almost anything, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t join them.

Youtube is the 2nd biggest search engine in the world and it’s far easier to rank your content on Youtube than through Google. You can make videos for Youtube and then link to them from your website, sending traffic back to your site for years to come.

People think that Youtube is only about ad revenue but it’s much more than that.

Youtube allows you to direct your fans to your website or your Patreon channel and add affiliate links. Some people make big bucks.

One video a week is not that much work.

Teaching Online Art Courses

There are many other sites, some dedicated exclusively to art, and they offer more comprehensive options than a typical Youtube tutorial.

There are 3rd party platforms that host your courses and allow you to teach to the public.

Skillshare, Udemy, and Teachable are three of them but there are many more.

They are either free to use or offer free trials so you can test your idea before committing to anything fully.

They all have their pros and cons so let’s take a quick look: (contains affiliate links)

Teachable

Teachable (affiliate) allows you to do everything from their own platform and you don’t even need your own website. But you are not bound to their site, you can integrate Teachable with your own website.

They guide you through everything, from setting up your profile to creating and uploading content. They have guides and tutorials to help you with every aspect of making your site, marketing, and selling your courses.

This is a platform, not a marketplace so you get to keep your students to yourself.

You can try them out with a free trial. The basic plan is affordable. Check it out for yourself, currently, it’s $29/mo (2021). They take a 5% transaction fee for handling the payments on the lowest tier.

Skillshare

Skillshare (affiliate) is aimed at creatives and entrepreneurs and sells courses from experts on a subscription model.

The buyer joins up on a monthly or yearly plan and the artist/teacher is paid when someone watches their content. The artist receives a payment for every minute watched and the lessons are capped at no more than 1 hour in length.

It is important to get good reviews and plenty of followers for a reasonable income.

The more courses you have the more you will make. They also have an affiliate program.

Udemy

Udemy (affiliate) on the other hand is free to join and customers can choose the course they want to pay for. Udemy offers courses on every subject and art is one of them.

Typical art-related examples include ‘Introduction to Drawing Basics’, ‘Perspective Drawing’, and ‘Painting Landscapes in Watercolor’ that kind of thing.

To make money an artist must charge their students a fee to take the course and Udemy takes a slice. This price can be decided by the artist but with 130,000 courses available, a premium course is not likely to compete.

Most courses sell for $20 or below. You have to sell a lot of courses to earn anything.

If a course sells organically on their site the split is 50/50. If an affiliate site sells your course, you get 25%. If you market your own course you keep 97%.

It all sounds reasonable if you sell a lot of courses. Not so great if you think your course is worth a premium.

If you’re interested in creating art tutorials or teaching with them, the best way to start is to research the different types of art tutorials that are out there and the way they’re structured.

3. Sell Prints and Originals on Online Art Platforms

The internet promised to put an end to artists relying on gallery owners for sales, but many artists now rely on third-party platforms instead. To put it bluntly, unless you have your own website, you are not in control.

Artist platforms come and go, and they change over time. They care less about you as they grow in size! Large platforms are only concerned with their own profits. One algorithm, rule, or policy change can kill your trade. Be aware of the risks and spread your bets.

You’ll be fine if you have an open mind, are willing to adapt, and have realistic expectations.

I have used sites for passive income and I got what I deserved, a trickle of sales. To get the most out of these online galleries you must market yourself and that’s not passive at all.

With that in mind, these are some of the notable platforms but there are many more:

For a more detailed overview check out: 25 Platforms for Artists to Sell Their Art Online and Make Money

4. License Your Art

Art licensing is an agreement between you, as the artist, and a company to use your work of art on a commercial product.

You agree on a fee for the rights to use your art on a type of product and for an agreed period of time before they need to renew their license.

Your art or design will typically be used on certain types of clothing, home decor, or stationery items. Any product that needs an image to help drive sales.

I’m no expert on art licensing, but I know someone who is, going by her rave reviews. on Skillshare (affiliate)

A company will often have an agreement with you for a number of lines in their range and your license agreement would allow them to use your art on each line for a specific time, price and country.

Licensing agreements are legal documents and many artists choose to offer their work via licensing agents who take care of the legal aspects for them. The agents take their cut but they do all the paperwork and deal with any disputes or non-payments. Another passive way to do business.

5. Create a Website With a Gallery

You can’t have a credible business these days without a website. You must have one. If the whole thing intimidates you, don’t worry, it’s much easier than you think.

If you are selling your art you might as well sell from your own platform right? No fees and the customer is all yours. You can market your site and build a mailing list.

If nothing else it is an extension of your offline business and a way for customers to find you.

I highly recommend that you own your site and not use a 3rd party platform. You need to retain full control and besides, why pay more than you have to?

The days when you had to know coding are long over. WordPress can be installed with a couple of clicks and now even has its own website builder. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

All a beginner needs:

  • A Domain Name – About $10 per year, try Namecheap
  • Shared Web Hosting – About $3 per month for the first year.
  • A Fast Theme – Free, try Kadence Theme
  • Some Plugins – Mostly free including Woocommerce

My host is Greengeeks (affiliate link). I got a 3-year plan at first and when that offer expired my tariff went to $10 per month. You can get slightly cheaper deals but GreenGeeks gives super-fast support, plus they are carbon-neutral, so for me, it was a no-brainer. I’m very happy with them.

Setting up your site is time-consuming but there are so many youtube tutorials it’s very easy to get started. I simply followed along with Ferdy Korpershoek. His tutorials are insanely detailed. I set up my Woocommerce store that way.

He shows you how to set up your store/gallery including how to sell digital products.

If that is not really for you and you don’t mind paying a subscription try these e-commerce platforms:

6. Add Affiliate Marketing Links To Your Website

If you are serious about making money as an artist you should definitely have your own website. Apart from selling your art and downloads, you should be adding affiliate links to earn some extra income.

You don’t have to sell your own products exclusively, you can refer traffic to other sites and get a commission. You can make a list of your favorite art materials and promote them.

passive income with a website and hosting. Greengeeks hosting
GreenGeeks my hosting company (Affiliate)

Think outside the box, what can you recommend?

  • Web Hosting
  • Electricals
  • Email Providers
  • Website Builders
  • Online Courses
  • Ecommerce Platforms

It costs nothing to join, your reader pays no surcharge, indeed they often get discounts, and you get a commission. No one loses.

To gain affiliate commissions it’s better to start a blog: This Is How Art Blogs Make Money

7. Sell E-Books

Writing an ebook is a great way to promote yourself and make some cash. If you have a talent, use it to generate income.

E-books are most often written as a PDF which is then converted into an ebook format and sold as a download.

You can also opt for your e-book to be in HTML or Microsoft Word formats. Different platforms have different file requirements The main ones being PDF, Kindle (.mobi), and ePub.

You can use ebooks as your ticket to earning passive income as an artist. If you have an area of expertise someone will be happy to pay for it.

And you don’t have to limit yourself to teaching art techniques either, you can broaden your horizons. Brainstorm a few ideas, how about Selling Art for Introverts, How to Apply for Grants, or How to Design an Art Booth. Think outside the box.

We are all looking for shortcuts to an outcome, and an ebook can be that shortcut for a modest price. If all you do is gather content found on the web and repackage it into one digestible book, you will be doing some folk a great service.

If your book saves someone time, it’s got value, and although Ebooks and guides cannot command the same prices as courses, they are far easier to sell.

If nothing else you can always use your ebook as a lead magnet to gain subscribers.

If you are a creative person with an idea for an ebook, then writing them is easier now than ever before thanks to self-publishing tools such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), or even Canva.

That’s right I wrote my first E-book on Canva, it has all the tools and templates you need and it’s easy to use. If you are not signed up you should be, it’s too useful to ignore. Most features are free, but if you want everything there is a cheap monthly subscription that can be canceled anytime.

Canva Homepage (affiliate)

8. Rent Your Art

Renting your art to businesses can be a great way to help generate some extra passive income while at the same time gaining exposure and possible sales.. What’s even better is that you can do this on your own schedule, and if the client doesn’t like a piece of art, they don’t have to keep it!

What Are Some Benefits of Renting Your Art?

Most people will only ever buy one or two pieces from you, so renting is a great way to make some extra money while still having the opportunity to sell the art later.

It helps with exposure. Businesses will often have your art on their walls for weeks or months at a time and they might even show your pictures on their social media. This is an excellent opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up!

It also helps to generate some sales. If a client really falls in love with your art and wants to buy it, they can do so at any time.

What Types of Businesses Would Rent Your Art?

Renting art (art leasing) is tax-deductible, so why not milk it? Why should a business buy the art outright if they can get offset 20% of their payments? Instead of a large capital outlay, it’s a small monthly expenditure. And when the lease expires, you can offer to sell your art at a discount or get your art back.

It’s a win-win.

Hotels, restaurants, interior designers, and consultants all need artists. The corporate world needs art that reflects something of their business, and its values. Think about foyers, boardrooms, and head offices, they all need art on their walls.

These ideas will interest you: 3 Alternative Places to Sell Your Art

Renting your art gives you the opportunity to work with people, organizations, and companies you would never otherwise be able to reach.

What Do I Charge For My Art?

The price of your artwork will depend on its size, demand, and how long the client wants to rent it.

Looking at the RiseArt website, they are promoting their rental prices starting from £25 ($35) per month. That is obviously the cheapest deal they are offering to attract trade. The average rental is going to be higher.

It’s not unreasonable to rent your art for double that price. If you can find clients for 5 paintings at £50/mo that’s £3000/year passive income!

If you can get into the corporate world your fees are going to be higher.

How Do I Start Renting My Art?

The first thing you’ll need is an online presence. This can be a website, social media account, or blog. Once your platform is set up, start by identifying what type of business/individual could benefit from your work and then reach out to them.

Before giving someone permission to take your work for hire, you’ll want to make sure that the following is outlined:

  • The length of time they have permission to use your art.
  • What should happen if the item becomes damaged or destroyed. (Insurance is essential)
  • If any changes are made beyond what was agreed on in advance by both parties and how those costs will be handled.
  • Exactly what price per piece of art is being charged and how you will be paid.

If that’s all a bit overwhelming you have a better option and much more passive,

Let someone else do all the hard work!

There are art rental businesses that do all the work for you.

Check out these names:

Renting your art is a smart and passive way to make money and an option that’s well worth exploring.

9. Sell Printable Art Downloads

You can sell your art as a downloadable file and have no outlay beyond a professional scan. Whatsmore, you have no quality control issues because the print is only as good, or bad, as the buyer’s printer.

Many artists now sell downloads instead of selling printed images. It’s so much easier.

The major advantages are:

  • Convenience.
  • It is very passive once you set things up
  • Popular images can sell in volume

Sadly, there are disadvantages:

  • You can’t ask for much money for a digital download.
  • The competition is fierce on 3rd party platforms like Etsy
  • You lose control of your master files

If the drawbacks leave you unphased, then go for it.

How Do I Know If My Art Will Sell?

You don’t, it’s a calculated guess at best. All you can do is take a risk and put your work out there for people to see.

What you can do is research the market and target the right kind of people. The most logical way to go about this is to play to your strengths and to work backward.

If you excel in a particular style, medium, or subject, find out who sells that type of work and where it’s found. Above all do what you love doing because if you just follow the money you’ll blow out.

Think about what you want from creating art. It’s got to be better than a day job right? Why else would you choose this way of making a living? It has as much to do with lifestyle as it does about making money.

Find your niche, develop your signature style, and offer a unique spin within your chosen field. That’s your brand. There is no point in trying to be something you’re not and doing something you don’t really enjoy.

Can You Make A Living With Passive Income?

It is possible to make a living if you dedicate enough time and stay focused on building the business.

Your passive income derives from the amount of artwork you have for sale on the market. To have sufficient ‘stock’ you must pump out products at the beginning and your income will rise as you produce more work.

At some stage a year or two along the line your income may be sufficient to meet your needs. Only at that stage will you feel secure enough to ease back and relax.

Let’s look at a few options open to you.

Passive Income For Artists – Final Thoughts

I’ve read plenty of advice online and most articles underplay the work involved. You can’t just casually write a book, make a course or write a blog. They are all time-consuming and involve commitment and staying power. They can work but only if you are prepared to take the long view.

Don’t get sucked into the passive income daydream and believe there’s any free money to be had, that’s all BS. The passive side only works AFTER you’ve put in all the hard work upfront.

Only you know if you are the type of person willing to sacrifice some free time now to potentially gain it back later. There are no certainties but if you can make some extra money with a few profitable side-hustles, it might make all the difference to your income. It’s worth a try.

Start a project today and go for it.


Male lion head pencil drawing by wildlife artist Kevin Hayler
‘Head of the Family’ by Kevin Hayler

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit: (Amazon affiliate links)


Talking of which, you should definitely check out my guide if you are serious about selling your art!

Selling art made simple digital guide for starting a small art business

If You Want to Sell Your Art

Check this out!

Psst…it’s only $12.99!


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How Artists Make Passive Income: 9 Great Side Hustles