18 Ways to Get Paid For Drawing and Make Money

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

This post provides valuable information and insights on how to get paid for drawing online, and offline too. I cover various ways to earn money from your drawing skills, including traditional drawing jobs, drawing services, and selling your own drawings.

Artists get paid for drawing by selling reproductions of their art and designs, or by licensing them and getting paid multiple times for each piece of work. Artists can teach online via Youtube and sell tutorials and courses. Other ways include freelance commission work and coaching.

It’s all easy to say, and nowhere near as easy to put into practice. I should know, I’ve been drawing for a living for well over 20 years, and off and on before that. 

Disclaimer: When you buy something via my affiliate links, I sometimes earn a commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend trusted sites.

Can You Really Get Paid for Drawing?

I’m living proof that you can, but that’s not to trivialize how hard it is to choose the right path. With so many ways to potentially cash in your talent, it’s hard to stay focused. It’s all too easy to get caught up in shiny object syndrome, get side-tracked, and get nowhere.

Yet the reality is we’re in the age of the gig economy and there’s an increasing demand for digital content and many people are seeking ways to monetize their talents. Drawing is a creative skill that can be turned into a profitable career, or good side hustle. 

The rise of online marketplaces, social media, and e-commerce has made it easier than ever to reach a global audience and earn money from your art, so whether you are a professional artist, a hobbyist, or a beginner, there are many practical, and actionable, ways to get paid to draw.

It doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, but you’ll need more than talent, you need the right mindset and be prepared to work long hours. This is not passive income.

You’ll get a better idea by reading this: What is it Like to Be an Artist? The Truth Revealed!

Let’s first go over a few of the traditional ways artists and illustrators have monetized their drawing skills, and I’ll say a few words about each. 

Traditional Drawing Jobs

Examples of traditional drawing jobs include fine artists who create original artwork for galleries, and illustrators who create drawings for books, companies, and industries.

The pros of traditional drawing jobs might include more stable employment with a steady income and the chance to work on interesting projects.

Equally, the cons may include a limited career path (especially with the rise of AI art) and the need for some formal education or training in some aspects of art or design.

Traditional Work for Skilled Artists and Illustrator

Let’s cover the most common areas where artists and illustrators are most likely to find work with their drawing skills.

1. Fine Art

Let’s face it, becoming a professional fine artist is the big dream for most of us. It involves creating artwork for exhibitions and galleries or selling independently in art markets and art shows. A client list is essential to establish a loyal fan base.

Traditionally artists would develop a working relationship with a gallery and leave the marketing and client list to them.

Likewise, the artist would seek a publisher to print and distribute their art prints. Times have changed and these bonds are not as important as they once were.

This is how I sold my drawings for years. If you want to copy my methods, go for it.

Selling art made simple banner

Artists usually specialize in a particular subject and medium, rendered in a certain style. The aim is to become highly collectible with your original work in high demand. Most fine artists will produce limited-edition prints of their best work.

This is one of my drawings. I drew it after a visit to the Chengdu Breeding and Research Center in China

Panda bears drawing by wildlife artist Kevin Hayler
“Bamboo Breakfast” a pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

Read these if you intend to start a business:

Success in this field requires artistic talent, a single-minded approach, and business skills. Few artists succeed full-time and often pursue alternative career paths, and revenue streams, such as teaching, consulting, or creating commissioned pieces.

2. Illustration

Illustrators create drawings, paintings, and other visuals for books, magazines, advertisements, and other publications. Another solo career and one that pays well but with definite drawbacks. The commercial art world requires professionalism, reliability, and flexibility.

Take a look at the accompanying video and get inspired to illustrate with pen and ink.

You must be able to meet deadlines and work to a brief. Commissioning companies are notorious for paying freelancers late.

Now, with the rise of digital media, illustrators need digital skills to compete for work, it’s not enough to be able to draw or paint, you need to know how to use digital software such as Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and produce digital illustrations.

Many digital illustrators use Procreate: Is The Procreate App Worth it For Beginners? Get the Facts

These skills are increasingly in demand.

3. Graphic Design

Graphic designers create visual concepts and use computer software to design logos, websites, packaging, and other branding materials. 

One of the biggest pros is the ability to be creative and use your design skills to bring ideas to life. Additionally, graphic design can be a lucrative career path, with the potential for high salaries, licensing opportunities, and selling your own designs online 

However, it’s also a competitive field, with the need to constantly stay up-to-date with all the latest design trends and software. Deadlines and tight schedules can also be challenging, and the work can often be solitary, requiring self-motivation and long hours. 

4. Teaching Art

Teaching art has always been the fallback career option for artists to subsidize or replace the uncertainties of a fine art career. 

Teaching art is seen as a stable career option for artists, providing a reliable source of income and a way to share their knowledge and skills with others. Nothing wrong with job security.

Many teaching positions offer tenure or long-term contracts. 

There are also some drawbacks to teaching art. For example, it can be emotionally draining managing students with varying interests and skill levels. Teachers may also face challenges with funding and resources, not to mention administrative responsibilities. 

Teaching privately requires a certain skill level and ability to communicate well, but no formal qualifications. Teaching art in the education system is a different matter. It will require a teaching degree or certification, which can add to the cost and time investment.

5. Tattooing (Tattooist)

A highly competitive field but potentially very lucrative indeed. The public will spend generously on personal adornment and pay multiple times more than equivalent art made to decorate the home.

Tattoo artists traditionally completed an apprenticeship under an experienced tattoo artist, learning the necessary skills and techniques for safe and effective tattooing. The industry was a closed shop and hard to get into, but things have changed. 

You’ll need to get a license to trade in most countries which involves passing exams or specific training courses on health topics like blood-borne pathogens and infection control. 

Building a strong portfolio of work is also essential for success in this competitive field. The alternative option is to sell tattoo designs.

6. Art Licensing

Some artists make a career from licensing their art and design alone. Licensing artwork to be used on products such as home decor, greeting cards, and other merchandise. Artists receive royalties based on sales of licensed products.

Art licensing involves granting permission to use an artist’s artwork on various products, such as home decor, apparel, or stationery, in exchange for a licensing fee or royalty.

I’m no expert but Allison is, so check out her course on Domestika

The artist typically grants permission to use their artwork for an agreed length of time, for a specified use, and in a specified country. This is outlined in a licensing agreement.

By licensing their art, artists can earn passive income from their existing artwork and expand their reach beyond the traditional art market. Art licensing can provide artists with an extra income stream while also protecting their intellectual property rights.

Many artists first encounter licensing agreements when dealing with a greeting card company.

Read my post about how much money card companies pay: How Much Do Greeting Card Companies Pay Artists? A Concise Guide

Contemporary Work for Skilled Artists and Illustrators

Welcome to the gig economy, a mixed blessing if ever there was one. There are few opportunities for secure employment, this is self-employment and requires an entrepreneurial disposition to work well. 

Some of the following options are cut-throat and highly competitive. It’s the wild west online for artists, with little control over your own work. Copyrights are almost meaningless unless you have deep pockets and the resources to go after thieves and copycats.  

Don’t get paranoid. Accept it as it is and go along with the reality. Everyone borrows each other’s ideas, there’s a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. 

7. Online Marketplaces

Selling physical art or art prints with online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and eBay can provide exposure to a wider audience, increase sales and revenue, and offer a level of convenience and expedience for both you, the artist, and your customer. 

These platforms offer a low-risk option for artists to test the market, while also providing access to valuable analytics and insights to improve marketing strategies. They offer a platform, a built-in audience and remove the need to have your own website.

These posts will interest you:

However, artists also face challenges, such as fierce competition, having to learn search engine optimization, and how the algorithm works. 

It also involves having to process your own orders, fulfill them in good time, engage with customers, and absorb commission fees. Printing, posting, and packaging is an expensive time-consuming business. It can, however, be very lucrative. 

I follow Ryan Hogue on Youtube. He is a great communicator and knows his subject very well. He has a big presence on YouTube

Etsy print on demand masterclass by Ryan Hogue on Udemy

The alternative as I explain later is to sell digital products as instant downloads. If your drawing lends itself to making graphic elements, and hand-drawn designs this is a viable option.

Search for these:

8. Print-on-Demand Services (Drop Shipping)

Well-known websites like Printful and Printify allow artists to upload their designs, which can then be printed on a range of products like t-shirts, mugs, and phone cases. The artist earns a small commission on each sale. 

Printful prints to a higher standard, Printify offers a bigger profit.

Both platforms integrate with Etsy and eBay, and all the major E-commerce platforms. This enables the artist to produce a huge inventory of stock without any costs upfront.

These posts go into more detail:

9. Print on Demand Marketplaces

All-in-one marketplaces like Redbubble, are print-on-demand platforms that allow independent artists and designers to upload and sell their work to the platform on a wide range of products. 

These posts will help you out:

Artists upload their files and the platform handles everything, production, shipping, and customer service. Artists earn a small commission on each sale.

Many artists post to multiple platforms to increase sales:

Some marketplaces offer affiliate programs, where artists can earn a commission for promoting other artists’ work or products on the platform.

These sites appeal to beginners because they are zero-risk. The only cost is your time. They can generate a good income when your designs match the search for popular products. The biggest drawback is design theft.

As soon as you make sales you’ll find copycats mimicking your images.

Read this post to get a better idea of your options: 25 Platforms for Artists to Sell Their Art Online and Make Money

10. A WordPress Website and Store

Let me start by saying this is a no-brainer. You need a website as your professional hub, it’s your showcase to the world and allows you to promote your brand, services and products.

The best platform to choose from is WordPress. It’s free, open source, and has the greatest support infrastructure and tutorials to help you. 

One of the main reasons to own and control your own website is to start a mailing list. A mailing list helps an artist maintain direct contact with their fans and notify them of upcoming shows or sales.

The best way to build a list is to start an art blog and share your artistic journey. Retain your subscribers with regular blog posts sent to your list. 

These two posts will put things into perspective for you:

While setting up your own artist website offers many advantages, there are some drawbacks. Things do go wrong and a website needs constant updating and maintenance. They are not glitch-free. It’s essential to have a good host and a theme with great support.

I’m very happy with my host. GreenGeeks have great support, good pricing, and they’re carbon Neutral. What more could you want?

Running your own website, effectively, is time-consuming and involves a great deal of marketing, and knowledge of search engine optimization. It’s a steep learning curve.

The alternative is to use a website builder and open your own shop that way.

Well-known website builders include:

They provide artists with a dedicated platform for a fee. They promise you a quick, convenient, and easy experience. It’s all true. They take care of all the boring stuff such as site maintenance, security, and payment integrations.

Until recently, commercial site builders definitely had the edge. That’s not so compelling now that WordPress has evolved into a fully customizable site builder itself, and requires no coding knowledge.

11. Online Galleries

Selling art in online galleries can offer artists the opportunity to showcase their work to a global audience, without the need for a physical gallery space.

Online galleries may offer various pricing models, commission structures, and submission guidelines, so research is needed to find the most suitable gallery for you.  

It’s tempting to assume that posting your art on several sites will give you massive exposure, unfortunately, it’s not like that. 

Uncurated sites are swamped with art and standing out from the crowd is next to impossible. Curated sites offer selected works and potentially target a more discerning audience, they will however demand higher fees.

  • Saatchi Art is one of the best and currently asks for a 35% commission.
  • UGallery: A $5 submission fee and 50% commission
  • Zatista: Sells only original art and takes 45% commission

Reaching a worldwide audience is a double-edged sword. It means more potential customers but it also means shipping your art overseas with all the problems that entail, with pricing, packaging, and insurance. 

12. NFTs

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are a type of unique digital asset that can be verified as authentic and bought and sold on the open market. This means that artists can use NFTs to sell their artwork as one-of-a-kind collectibles.

NFTs are based on blockchain technology, which provides a secure record of ownership and provenance.

The artist can then list their NFTs for sale on an online marketplace or auction platform, such as OpenSea or Rarible. Once a buyer purchases the NFT, the ownership of the artwork is transferred to them, and the transaction is recorded on the blockchain.

I’ve just researched this stuff and I still think it’s BS. But hey, who am I? Give it a go and see what happens.

13. Patreon

Patreon is a very popular website. It’s an online platform that allows artists to earn an income from fans who support their work, through recurring monthly subscriptions.

Artists can offer different tiers of rewards to their patrons based on the level of support, such as exclusive content, tutorials, coaching, critiques, or early access to new work. 

I found Stephen Bauman on Instagram, watched his free tutorials on YouTube and then joined his Patreon Channel.

Patreon takes a small percentage of each pledge as a fee, and artists can use the platform to build a community around their work and generate a stable income stream. It can generate a very good income.

To succeed with Patreon you must be, engaged, provide genuine value, and market yourself well. In other words, you must have a traffic funnel directing people to your Patreon page. Artists commonly use Youtube and Instagram to attract Patrons. 

Youtube and TikTok

Artists can use a YouTube channel to generate income by creating and publishing videos that showcase their creative process, techniques, or portfolio.

They monetize their channel with links to their website or online store, with affiliate links to products and courses, and advertising or sponsorship. 

TikTok is for Youtubers with no attention span! It’s great for creators because it requires less work than Youtube and the algorithm still allows an unknown to find instant traffic and go viral.

Artists monetize their videos by joining the creator fund, selling merch, collecting virtual gifts, driving traffic to their website, and ads. 

The potential rewards are huge!

Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, and to a lesser extent Facebook can be powerful tools for artists to showcase their artwork and reach a wider audience.

By regularly posting high-quality images, engaging with followers, and using relevant hashtags and keywords, artists can build a following and increase visibility.

These Posts can help:

These platforms also offer features such as product tagging or shopping integrations, allowing artists to sell their art directly without relying on viewers having to find the link to your website.

Instagram and Facebook offer options for artists to set up a shop or link to their online store, while Pinterest offers a “Buyable Pins” feature. Social media provides artists with a way to market their work and connect with potential buyers in a direct and personal way.

Selling Art Courses

Artists can sell their online courses on third-party platforms like Udemy, Domestika, and Skillshare, which have large audiences and provide marketing and technical support. Or host their own courses with sites like Teachable, Podia, or Thinkific for a monthly fee. 

These posts are highly relevant:

Making a presentable, professional teaching course is a challenge for anyone but it can be incredibly profitable. It involves hard work upfront and then it’s a passive recurring income with very little maintenance, art is an evergreen subject.

If you host your own courses, you will need to do the marketing yourself. The most effective way to monetize your course is to build a mailing list of targeted customers.

You can find subscribers by having sign-up forms on your website, being active on social media, Youtube, and hanging out in forums. 

A successful course launch can generate tens of thousands of dollars. 

Printables and Digital downloads

Artists can create digital designs that can be downloaded and printed by customers for personal use, such as wall art, clip art, templates, info products, greeting cards, and the list goes on. 

Digital downloads and printables can be very profitable for artists. They cost almost nothing to produce, nothing to send, and the profit margins are very high.

Artists can create digital files of their artwork and sell them through online marketplaces such as Etsy, or from their own websites. This allows customers to purchase and download the file, and then print or use the design as they wish. 

Digital downloads and printables can be a convenient, affordable, and accessible way for customers to purchase art, while also providing another revenue stream for artists.

Check out Sandra Di on YouTube for no-nonsence tutorials on Printables and everything Etsy.

Freelance Sites 

Artists can offer their services as freelancers on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer, creating custom artwork or design projects for clients on a project-by-project basis.

Artists can offer a range of services, such as graphic design and illustration, at various price points. Freelance sites offer a platform for artists to connect with potential clients, negotiate rates and deadlines, and receive payment securely. 

These sites are problematic because they are dominated by sellers from developing countries who will work for substantially lower rates.

It’s ok for occasional work and some extra money, but has real limitations in terms of pricing and scaling your work.

These are just a few examples of modern ways to sell art and illustrations online.

The Pros and Cons of Drawing For Money

I’ve been drawing for a living for such a long time now that I’m well-placed to point out a few of the advantages and disadvantages of drawing for money.

The Advantages of Commercial Drawing

  • Turning your passion into a career
  • Earning a reasonable income
  • Minimal running costs and outlays
  • A portable profession
  • Having the ability to work from home
  • Creating art that gives so much pleasure
  • Building a fan base of collectors
  • Networking and collaborating with other artists
  • Having the opportunity to work on a variety of projects

The Disadvantages of Commercial Drawing

  • The pressure to produce work to a deadline
  • Balancing artistic desires with commercial reality
  • It can kill your passion for art
  • Potential for burnout
  • Risk of difficult, late, and low-paying clients
  • The loneliness of working alone
  • Limited financial security, especially for freelance artists
  • Possibility of rejection or criticism
  • Needing to update your skills and adapt to changes
  • Black and white art is a minor niche

There is no doubt about it, stand-alone drawings are not valued as highly as colored work. FACT. That’s just the way it is, fairness has nothing to do with it. As such if you choose to specialize in drawing, you will have to work harder to find customers.

There is good money to be made but as always in life, why should art be any different? it’s all about compromise and adapting to the needs of others.

As you can see, the list of disadvantages is quite long, so it begs the question as to why you should bother in the first place. It’s because all things are not made equal.

As soon as you make a sale it’s like a dopamine hit. All the trials, hard work, and insecurities melt away, it invigorates you, and your struggles are yesterday’s news.

Will AI Art Generators Kill the Industry?

It’s the million-dollar question. AI art generators have the potential to disrupt the market for talented artists and skilled illustrators by automating the creation of artwork.

Soon, if it doesn’t exist already, anyone will be able to describe the image they want and get great results. It has the potential to destroy the creative industries.

Artists, illustrators, and even photographers will possess no saleable skill, yet these are the very people who created the art being scraped by the AI generators. There are court cases happening right now as I speak, and let’s hope the outcome protects the rights of creatives somehow.

Look at this:

Ai lion compared-with an original pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

The lion on the right is one of the oldest drawings I still have in print. I drew it in the year 2000 after a trip to Zimbabwe. The image on the left was created on Midjourney with a simple descriptive prompt in a few minutes. Makes you think doesn’t it?

It could be hard times ahead. 

How to Get Paid For Drawing: Final Thoughts

Just when there have never been more ways for an artist to make money, the world falls apart and as if that wasn’t enough, AI threatens to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Will things change? for sure, but I’m not despairing. I think there will always be a market for human-made art. Yes, there may be some work lost to AI, but for many commercial artists and illustrators, it will be just another tool to use.

Let’s face it, the majority of people aren’t so creative and for those that are, only a few of them have the work ethic and staying power to make a living. There’s no reason to fold up your easel just yet.

Keep at it, build a portfolio, develop your skills, and market yourself. Find a niche you love, target your audience, and build a fan base. Diversify your income streams and adapt to new trends.

I shouldn’t be urging you to leave my site, but if you need the inspiration to succeed, read this: 1000 True Fans, and no it’s not an affiliate link.

Scroll to the end before you read it!

One thing’s for sure, no AI generator can stop you from selling your art in person, especially when you demo your drawing skills. Take a look.

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!

A few more posts I don’t want you to miss:

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18 Ways to get paid for Drawing and make money
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, I’m Kevin Hayler
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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