Many people who aren’t artists wonder this, and many seasoned artists wonder the same thing! We need more artists featuring people of colour – so this article will help to encourage those with a dream to become a top earning artist rather than a starving artist.
Of course artists know that to make money, you must sell work. But there other methods of making money that you may not be aware of.
Here are the top 10 ways artists can make money. Each has a short description and a link to an article full of expert advice.
1. Commercial Galleries
Commercial galleries typically sell artists’ works at a commission. The typical commission that galleries take is somewhere between 40% and 50% of the sale of the work. This is determined by the contract. Whether you submit your work for sale by consignment or enter into an ongoing relationship with a gallery, the parameters should all be written down in a contract.
2. Nonprofit Galleries
Nonprofit galleries typically show work that is young, edgier, and cutting edge. Depending on the gallery, they will take a commission – usually not more than 30%. Nonprofit galleries typically do not “represent” artists or enter into contractual relationships with them.
3. Co-Op Galleries
A co-op gallery usually involves a group of artists who work together to show their work, promote the gallery, and sometimes offer community art classes or workshops. Some will even have studio space available for their members to create artwork on site.
4. Out of Studio
Many artists sell their work out of their studio by arranged visits or open studios arranged with other artists. If you are represented by a gallery, that agreement may extend to “studio sales” or all sales of your work. If you do not have a formal relationship with a gallery, you obviously retain 100% of the sale.
6. Private Commissions
Artists will do work on a commission basis to make money. If collectors want a personalized work of art like a portrait, they will commission an artist. The artist sets the price and usually asks for a percentage of the price up front.
If you have a formal relationship with a gallery, they will likely take a cut of any commissioned work that they bring to you. Terms of commissions will be stated in your contract. Artists who do a lot of commission work have been interviewed to give you.
Artists are commissioned for public art usually in connection with a new building or construction project. Many states have a law that specifies that 1% of the total building cost go to art for the building. Usually state and city art groups have the latest information of what program is currently accepting applications.
There are also private funds for public art like The Public Art Fund and Percent for Art. When artists get a public work commission, they typically get 20% of the total cost of the project as an artist’s fee.
There are many grants for artists. They are very competitive to get, but as one mentor of mine advised me, “Don’t give up until you have applied ten times.” Grants vary in how much money they award. Some grants are privately funded and some are publicly funded. Some are given for a specific project that you propose and some are given outright for the work that you do.
There are many residencies for artist to get “away from the world” and focus on their work. The length of the residency varies and the amount of money granted to the artist varies too. Some residencies actually charge money. But many will cover at least some if not all costs. You must apply for these residencies and have a flexible work schedule to go.
Many times the most valuable asset of a residency is not the money granted, but the professional network an artist forms while there. The network may include other artists, guests, curators, and other influential people in the art word.
9. Museums and Art Centers
Artists generally don’t see a cent from exhibits in a museum. In some cases, however, they do make money. Installation artists are typically given an artist fee for creating a temporary installation. The fee can be set by you or the museum. Find other ways that museums can help an artist’s career and hear what a curator has to say about the business of museums.
10. Teaching / Guest Artist Programs
One of the most popular ways to make money as an artist is to teach. Teaching opportunities at a college level are competitive, but don’t overlook guest artist programs. There may be ways to get a teaching job that you have not thought of.
How do YOU sell your work? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Guest author: Originally posted on ArtBistro.com
Black Economics Commentary
Artists should check out what other artists are doing. Sell your work on your own website, such as or add your work to 3rd party websites which are selling art all day long. Examples of these are below.