20 Art Business Ideas to Help You Make Money (and Enjoy It!)

art business Ideas

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When you want an art career that makes money, you need art business ideas. Fortunately, we have plenty of starting points to get your creative juices flowing toward a path you love.

In fact, several of the ideas below I’ve either done myself or want to try in the future. I’ve done quite a bit of research on how viable these ideas are financially, so you can finally take a break.

Let’s take a look at today’s best art business ideas – not only can they become a viable source of income, but some may speak to you on a personal level.

1. Selling Original Paintings

selling original paintings

One of the most elegantly simple ways of making money off your craft is to sell your original work to individuals, galleries, or art collectors. However, this simplicity comes at a cost – there’s quite a bit of saturation in this area.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can increase your chances of transforming your one-of-a-kind work into a dependable business model.

  • Contact art galleries that are eager to bring in visitors with exclusive new work
  • Build an online audience through social media, such as regular posting or participating in popular hashtags
  • Feature your work at local craft fairs and conventions to generate word-of-mouth

2. Crafting Custom Paintings

If you want to try another angle with your original work, consider doing custom paintings for clients. There are quite a few people who will pay a pretty penny for a one-of-a-kind piece based on their unique ideas.

crafting custom paintings

Similar to selling original paintings online, you can generate a profitable art business by promoting yourself regularly online. A few ways you can stand out in this area are:

  • Emphasize a specific niche based on subject matter, theme, or mood
  • Continue building your unique style so you can’t be confused for anyone else
  • Learn how to price your work so you can cover the costs of labor, supplies, and shipping

If you do digital art, you can still reap the benefits here. You can do commissions for people who love your style. You can also make high-quality, signed 3D printing offerings of digital paintings for collectors.

3. Specialize as a Book Illustrator

Do you dream about having your work featured on book covers for novels, biographies, or cookbooks? Book illustration is a profitable art business that can net you steady work – I’ve done quite a bit of work here myself!

specialize as a book illustrator

Choosing a niche is a dependable place to create art that sells in this industry, such as fantasy, romance, or history. You can also narrow down your options by business type, such as a publishing house or working directly with indie book authors.

There are more ways to get your start in book illustration, but below are a few that have worked for me:

  • Network with artists – several gigs were from referrals from others in my peer group
  • Reach out to publishing houses – they’re in regular need of cover and interior art
  • Promote yourself on social media and keep your portfolio updated – I’ve had many reach out to me through my profile or keywords in the search engine

4. Specialize as a Concept Artist

Concept art is a bit of a broad term, but it refers to any creative concepts for a larger project. Character design, environment design, and packaging design are just a few examples of concept art.

Concept art often takes the form of digital sketches and digital art, though it can also include 3D models, storyboards, and short videos. The function is to create art that helps breathe life into ideas and test them out in a real-world application.

specialize as a concept artist

Turning concept art into a viable artistic business means finding an industry that resonates with you. You don’t even have to start from scratch! You could already have some past experience that could translate well into a concept art role, such as:

  • An eye for fashion so you can create outfits, accessories, or t-shirt design
  • 3D modeling knowledge for videogame concept art
  • Prior food industry experience in packaging concepts
  • Art skills in a very specific area, such as vehicles or animal anatomy

5. Specialize as a Sculptor

Sculpting is another flexible creative business idea because you can apply this skill to a number of industries. Even better, you can cross over your skills traditionally or digitally.

specialize as a sculptor

If you’re a traditional sculptor, you can do all kinds of fascinating work for film and design studios. These businesses are in regular need of props, outfits, and mock-ups to get their projects off the ground. You can also sell or display originals at an art gallery.

If you prefer digital sculpting, you have several industries such as game design, animation, or advertising to enjoy. You can provide freelance packages for short animations, character models, or special effects. You name it, there’s a target market for these art forms.

Sculpting overlaps nicely with a few more business ideas below, so let’s keep looking!

6. Creating Original Murals

Have you ever had your breath taken away by a huge, beautiful mural? If you have painting experience, you can level up and consider creating original murals in the art market.

creating original murals

Murals may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but some artists actually get consistent commissions to create artwork across entire buildings. There are quite a few people and businesses who are eager to add eye-catching work to a public space, such as:

  • Small businesses who want to bring in more foot traffic and press
  • A city or town commissioning an artist to liven up a public space
  • Individuals who want a large piece for their home

Since murals are time-consuming and bring in a lot of positive attention, they tend to garner high prices. They also work as constant advertising for your work every time someone walks by and takes a photo, so it’s a win-win.

7. Selling Handmade Items

Remember concept art and sculpting being flexible categories? If you have any skills in this area, consider conceptualizing and crafting handmade items to sell online.

selling handmade items

Many art businesses generate consistent income by making limited-edition or one-of-a-kind items for their client base. A quick look at Etsy’s success and you’ll see just how in-demand this industry is – recent statistics saw buyers in 2022 generating $95 million in sales.

A few ideas you can consider when making your own art business are:

  • Selling handmade jewelry like rings, necklaces, bangles, earrings, and hair decorations
  • Selling handmade clothing like sweaters, dresses, skirts, shirts, and jackets
  • Selling handmade home decor like pottery, wall decorations, rugs, and pillows

Not interested in using Etsy? You can also add e-commerce options to your website so people can purchase straight from your portfolio instead.

8. Set Up a Tattoo Shop

If you’re fascinated with body art and have a flair for illustration, add tattooing to your art business ideas. However, I can’t emphasize enough the medical and legal bases you need to cover, first.

set up a tattoo shop

Becoming a tattoo artist involves several steps to ensure you’re creating a safe experience for your customers. Below are a few you’ll have to cover alongside generating a portfolio:

Purchasing an Office Space

Tattooing in your basement or home office isn’t exactly professional (or legal). You’ll have to purchase a dedicated space for all your equipment, preferably somewhere people can easily find you.

Get Medically Certified

While the exact name of the certification will change depending on the country, medical certification is a must-have for tattooing. These come with courses that teach you essentials on sanitization, bloodborne pathogens, and other hazards of the job.

Get Legally Licensed

You also need to apply for a license in your state, district, and/or city. These licenses also need to be renewed regularly to ensure you’re maintaining quality standards across the board.

This may seem like one of the toughest art business ideas, but it’s achievable with a little dedication. You’d be amazed by how many people thought they couldn’t own a tattoo shop…until they did!

9. Set Up a Nail Shop

set up a nail shop

Another one of the in-depth art business ideas I recommend is a nail shop. While this sounds pretty niche, nail art revenue is actually expected to grow steadily over the next few years.

Similar to a tattoo shop, you need to do things such as purchasing office space and getting licensed. Each state also has different licensing and practice rules – some let you work out of your home, while others don’t.

The differences between a nail shop and a tattoo shop are in complexity. Nail art isn’t quite as involved as tattoos, nor does it carry the same medical risk. That said, there are still best practices you need to keep in mind to maintain your customers’ health:

  • Regularly sweeping up and wiping down tables and floors after sessions
  • Using disinfectants to clean equipment as well as clients’ nails
  • Masking and/or cleaning the air to reduce exposure to illness or chemical residue

10. Set Up an Online Pattern Shop

What are other niche art business ideas that could be your next reliable source of income? An online pattern shop is a fantastic way to put your artistic skills to a very functional use.

set up an online pattern shop

You can easily find patterns just about anywhere you look, from wrapping paper to greeting cards. With a little creativity, you can also apply these to home wallpapers, fashion, and even web design.

Some artists also generate income by selling digital pattern packs for people to use for personal or commercial purposes. They often increase their chances of capturing people’s attention by sticking to a niche – such as animals or fantasy – or having a very unique style.

11. Livestreaming a Painting Channel

Do you have a little skill with video and enjoy sharing your process with others? Livestreaming a painting channel is one of the best art business ideas for generating consistent income.

livestreaming a painting channel

Many people – myself included – greatly enjoy the live painting process. From the thumbnailing stage to blending together paints, there’s magic to the art process people are happy to pay for. This payment can come in the form of single donations, clicking affiliate links, or buying your originals once they’re finished.

You can take things a step further and have your live-streaming painting channel act as an educational resource. You can repackage these live streams with a voice-over and captions for educational courses on sites like SkillShare or Domestika.

12. Teaching Art Classes

Let’s take the educational aspect a step further with teaching art classes. There are a few ways to add these business ideas to your roster, so I’ll take a look at them below.

teaching art classes

Get a Teaching Degree

The most straightforward way of teaching art classes is to become an art teacher. Most institutions require a four-year degree to qualify for a licensed teaching profession, but a two-year degree may pave the way for an internship.

Host Classes Online

If you don’t want to spend years getting a degree, you can also consider hosting classes online. Again, these can take the form of online courses such as SkillShare and Domestika.

Online classes are even more viable if you prefer to work remotely since in-person courses require commuting and transporting art supplies.

Start a Patreon for Art Courses

start a patreon for art courses
(Image Source)

Another accessible option is to start your own Patreon and host art classes. You can live-stream paintings, do figure drawings, or provide constructive portfolio feedback.

For this business idea to be viable, you need to demonstrate your expertise with an online portfolio and a few already existing courses. People need to literally see the value you can provide them.

13. Become an Art Consultant

Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others, but don’t enjoy rigorous scheduling or talking to large groups? An art consultant gives you the ability to teach without some of the financial or social barriers.

Art consulting refers to any sort of professional advice given to individuals or small groups on business problems. Below are the two approaches you’ll have to consider when marketing your consulting services:

become an art consultant

Business-to-Business (or B2B)

Do you want to offer consulting to a marketing firm or art studio? Since you’re a small business, you would be generating advice for another business – B2B consulting.

This distinction is very important since B2B generates higher income more often than not. You’ll be working with business professionals who pay you from a marketing fund or crowdfunding effort.

For example, you could be a former logo designer who reaches out to start-ups to consult on iconic imagery for their brand. This interaction is one business to another.

Business-to-Customer (or B2C)

If you would rather work one-on-one with individuals, you’ll be a business consulting a customer – B2C consulting. Art consultants can make good money here, but you’ll have a more uphill challenge.

Individual people’s budgets fluctuate more than a business with a dedicated budget, so you’ll have to be consistent with your marketing strategy.

For example, you could be a 3D printing expert who consults other artists on how to use print on demand for their creative projects.

14. Become an Antique Curator

become an antique curator

Let’s walk off the beaten path to another niche you may not know about. If you have a passion for finding hidden treasures or have experience with art restoration services, consider becoming an antique curator.

In an age of thrift shopping and popular vintage aesthetics, antique curation continues to be a viable career path. This profession involves everything from restoring old work to reselling rare finds. Not only can you do antique curation for an online Etsy shop, but you can also consider working at museums or galleries.

Another fun and rewarding way to approach antiques is to start a YouTube channel documenting your rare finds.

15. Work as a Live Caricature Artist

work as a live caricature artist

Are you a fast artist who enjoys chatting with people? A solid art business idea for you is the dynamic work of a live caricature artist for special events.

Caricature artists are those very comfortable with drawing people of different shapes and sizes. You also might draw pets, props, or the occasional background, depending on the services you offer. One of the biggest appeals of this creative business is being able to watch the artist at work in a short amount of time, so being sociable and fast is key.

Finding work of this stripe involves dedicated outreach to places that regularly hire caricature artists like theme parks, wedding venues, or birthday venues.

16. Run an Art Blog

The old-fashioned art blog is far from dead. They’re still prime resources for people who want to learn new art techniques, keep up with their favorite artist, or get deals on special offerings.

In fact, according to one study, nearly 65% of Americans spend more time reading blog posts than emails. When you consider how popular emails are as a marketing tool, that’s no minor feat!

Monetizing your art blog is also not as hard as it sounds. Many platforms have several ways of generating income for bloggers, such as WordPress’s ad feature or Medium’s subscription service. You can also run a blog on your main portfolio and gain revenue through affiliate links or a tip jar.

run an online art blog

A few tips for becoming an art blogger with a strong online presence include:

  • Learn a little SEO to help your blog posts pop up on the first page of the search results
  • Dedicate your blog to a specific industry or niche instead of spreading yourself too thin
  • Use multiple sources of monetization instead of just one
  • Don’t give up – it can take several months for a blog to sell your art and grab attention, but it’s worth the wait

17. Sell Stock Art

If you’ve ever used a stock art website, you already know the power of this art business idea. Stock art is a useful tool for countless businesses and individuals, allowing them to see their projects through to completion.

The logic behind stock art is simple – you can upload your work to a stock art website, charge a fee for a high-quality download, and get paid a royalty percentage every time someone buys. With enough purchases, you can see a tidy sum paid to your bank account on a regular basis. Popular places to sell stock art include iStock, GettyImages, and Shutterstock.

sell stock art

A few types of stock art you can sell are:

  • Illustrations
  • Patterns
  • Photos
  • Photomanipulations
  • 3D models
  • Stock videos

18. Run an Online Fashion Business

If you have an eye for fashion, you might just enjoy running your very own online fashion business. You don’t even have to know how to sew or screenprint to enter this art market.

Print-on-demand sites have made it easier than ever to create high-quality clothes with your original designs. You can choose classics like a sweatshirt or a t-shirt or go for more unique leggings or gloves.

These sites make it easy to grab a free account, submit your work, and start selling within the same day. Generating a consistent profit, however, will rely heavily on a consistent marketing campaign and commitment to good customer service.

run an online fashion business

If you do know how to sew or screenprint, you can also try your hand at a handmade fashion business and sell one-of-a-kind items.

19. Create 3D Models for Games, Movies, and Ads

These art business ideas were explored earlier, but they’re even more specialized and in demand than you may think. The videogame industry rakes in impressive global revenue, while the film industry is also no slouch.

3D modeling is a high-demand skill due to its necessity in crafting everything from characters to props to entire open worlds. You can run a creative business where you work with studios to bring their next project to life. You could also create stock 3D models for people to use in their personal short films or indie games.

Curious about what other angles you can approach this creative business niche with? You can also do 3D modeling for advertisements – there are plenty of businesses that need their mascot animated or some special effects for their actors.

create 3d models for games, movies, and ads

20. Window Displays and Business Signage

Last but not least, some of the most art business ideas start with…other people’s businesses! Many illustrators and graphic designers have crossover skills that help businesses bring in more foot traffic.

Your art business could make good money by providing eye-catching window displays for local businesses in busy areas. You could then take things a step further with signage both outside and inside the store. When shoppers are busy and short on time, bright and communicative signs create a more seamless shopping experience.

Some businesses may even ask you to improve already existing signs. One way or another, there’s a way for you to apply your artistic skills and deliver results people will pay for.

window displays

What Makes a Strong Art Business Idea?

A profitable art business does best when you marry passion with demand. Not only do you want a business that suits your personality and goals, but you also need one people are eager to pay for.

Let’s use an example of an acrylic painter who loves to illustrate animals. They already know their passion lies in recreating the natural world or people’s pets, but how do they turn that into an art business? For starters, they could do original commissions of people’s pets and advertise their work on social media.

They could also look into niches such as book illustrations for established authors, selling originals at local craft fairs, or caricatures at pet-focused events.

When combined with a business plan, they’re already on the way to quitting their nine-to-five job or generating side income.

what makes a strong art business idea?

5 Tips for Choosing a Suitable Art Business Idea

Still a little nervous about which art businesses will suit you best? Below are a few more tips to steer you in the right direction (advice I still use to this day).

Choose an Idea That’s Practical for Your Limitations

It’s easier to commit to a long-term goal when you have fewer barriers. Choose a great business idea that doesn’t require too many obstacles – you’ll already have plenty of those when starting.

For example, if you have to take care of children or elderly parents, a business idea that requires extensive travel would be very difficult. You’d have to factor in commutes, babysitters, and home care aides alongside everything else.

Another example is living in a very rural area and choosing a business idea that requires a high volume of in-person visitors. While also not impossible, the small population will stack the odds against you.

Any successful business will have roadblocks, but the fewer, the better.

choose an idea that's practical for your limitations

Pick a Business Idea That Suits Your Personality

I once tried a career path that involved a lot of talking, delegating, and tutoring. While it was a valuable learning experience I don’t regret, it burned me out due to my natural introversion.

As such, one of my biggest tips is choosing a career path that suits your lifestyle. If you prefer to work at home, try not to choose a career that involves a lot of networking at art fairs and local events. If you’re very social, then a profitable business based on exclusively selling art online could be tough.

Consider an Idea That Overlaps With Other Skills You Already Have

Work smarter, not harder. Take a moment to consider all the different skills and hobbies you have – you may be surprised how your unique history could translate into a business model.

For example, do you have experience working at craft fairs as a volunteer? This past experience could give you valuable tools for running booths at major conventions to sell your art.

Another example could be familiarity with online platforms such as social media or blogging sites. Whether it’s comfort with SEO or an understanding of building an audience, this is a fantastic foundation for becoming an art blogger.

consider an idea that overlaps with other skills you already have

If you have coding experience, you could combine this knowledge with your photography business to become a web designer.

These ideas don’t even have to come from obvious places like already existing creative skills. If you’re assertive and determined, you could use these personality traits to create a powerful marketing strategy for your print-on-demand site.

Lean Toward Ideas That Have Multiple Monetization Opportunities

Some of the most stable art businesses got to where they were because of multiple monetization opportunities. As the saying goes: don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

For example, graphic designers who usually work for small businesses may also submit stock photography art to generate extra income. A professional makeup artist may use a print-on-demand site to create fashion items to support their growing makeup brand.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Little Help

Entrepreneurship is much harder when you go solo – you won’t win any extra points for gritting your teeth and roughing it. There are online resources, low-cost classes, and consulting that will make things easier.

Law Depot gives you a starting point with legal documents so you can cover yourself and get started on your work sooner. Freelancer’s Union is another resource that’s helped me with marketing, finances, and staying in-the-know on freelance laws.

A Marketable and Enjoyable Art Business Idea Increases Your Chances of Success

a marketable and enjoyable art business idea

The art world, despite how saturated it is with skilled artists, absolutely needs your vision. There are more than a few art enthusiasts or curious students who could benefit from your future business idea.

Choosing a suitable idea will take time, so don’t feel like you have to rush into your decision. It took me a few years of experimenting and trial and error before I found out what works for me. Whenever you’re feeling lost or confused, just imagine a version of yourself two or three years from now – they’re rooting for you!

If you need a resource that helps you tackle an art business from top-to-bottom, check out The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook.

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