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How To Make Money As An Artist

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Being an artist in Hong Kong can be extremely challenging but it doesn't need to be. We've listed out a few ways artists can survive and hopefully thrive in this city.


Originals And Art Prints


Creating original art is the foundation of being an artist. However understanding the value of your work can be challenging to say the least. Its important for artists to factor in their time and material costs. Once you have a price point that works, a good way to price your portfolio is to work out your cost per square inch. That way your work is consistently priced and you don't end up undercutting yourself or devaluing your larger work or vice versa. Not everyone can afford originals and sales can generally be quite slow especially when you start out so prints are a great way to bring in some income and make your artwork more accessible. If you're worried about prints devaluing your originals a good trick can be to make your prints a smaller size to create an obvious visual difference. An advantage to selling prints is it also grows your support base.


Creating original art is the foundation of being an artist. However understanding the value of your work can be challenging to say the least. Its important for artists to factor in their time and material costs. Once you have a price point that works, a good way to price your portfolio is to work out your cost per square inch. That way your work is consistently priced and you don't end up undercutting yourself or devaluing your larger work or vice versa. Not everyone can afford originals and sales can generally be quite slow especially when you start out so prints are a great way to bring in some income and make your artwork more accessible. If you're worried about prints devaluing your originals a good trick can be to make your prints a smaller size to create an obvious visual difference. An advantage to selling prints is it also grows your support base.

Photograph: Painting by Rainb.w. Photo courtesy Rainb.w.


Commissions and Projects


Being open to commissions and projects is a great way to make additional income as an artist. Its important to understand working with clients and the time required. Setting out clear work stages and approving sketches is essential to commission work and making sure your clients are happy.


Being open to commissions and projects is a great way to make additional income as an artist. Its important to understand working with clients and the time required. Setting out clear work stages and approving sketches is essential to commission work and making sure your clients are happy.

Photograph: Szabotage at work. Photo courtesy Kyra Campbell Photography.


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Working With A Gallery


Working with a gallery is a more traditional route for artists and one that many aspire to. It can be a great way to sell your work and make money without having to worry too much about marketing your work, giving you the freedom to create beautiful artwork. It is important to understand the gallery though and how they work. Make sure your work is a good fit for the gallery and you have a good working relationship with the gallery team. Be very mindful of exclusivity contracts as you can find yourself doing most the marketing work and still handing over 50% of your sales. There are some artists that refuse to work with galleries for this very reason. So understanding the gallery and checking the terms of your contract are essential. If you can make it work though it can be hugely beneficial to your art career.


Working with a gallery is a more traditional route for artists and one that many aspire to. It can be a great way to sell your work and make money without having to worry too much about marketing your work, giving you the freedom to create beautiful artwork. It is important to understand the gallery though and how they work. Make sure your work is a good fit for the gallery and you have a good working relationship with the gallery team. Be very mindful of exclusivity contracts as you can find yourself doing most the marketing work and still handing over 50% of your sales. There are some artists that refuse to work with galleries for this very reason. So understanding the gallery and checking the terms of your contract are essential. If you can make it work though it can be hugely beneficial to your art career.

Photograph: HKARTS Christmas Exhibition. Photo courtesy Kyra Campbell Photography.


Art Licensing


Art licensing is essentially giving someone else permission to use or sell your artwork for a fee or royalty. An example might be allowing a company to use your artwork on their packaging. Another example is print-on-demand websites such as Redbubble, Society6 and Displate. Print-on-demand sites will basically sell your artwork on their products and then pay you a royalty based on their sales. In 2021 the global print-on-demand market was estimated at 4.91 billion USD. While tempting, many artists shy away from licensing as they worry about devaluing their art... which can be a serious concern. A good way to compromise can be to simply create a different name or brand for licensing and try a completely different art style or theme. That way you can keep it separate from your art practice, experiment with different media and benefit from a bit of additional income all at the same time.


Art licensing is essentially giving someone else permission to use or sell your artwork for a fee or royalty. An example might be allowing a company to use your artwork on their packaging. Another example is print-on-demand websites such as Redbubble, Society6 and Displate. Print-on-demand sites will basically sell your artwork on their products and then pay you a royalty based on their sales. In 2021 the global print-on-demand market was estimated at 4.91 billion USD. While tempting, many artists shy away from licensing as they worry about devaluing their art... which can be a serious concern. A good way to compromise can be to simply create a different name or brand for licensing and try a completely different art style or theme. That way you can keep it separate from your art practice, experiment with different media and benefit from a bit of additional income all at the same time.

Photograph: courtesy Society6.


Social Media


Building up a strong social media following can be a great way to get sales and build your fan base. Once your following gets up to a certain size you can also look into sponsorships. This could mean working with a paint manufacturer or trying out a new range of brushes to pretty much anything. Affiliate marketing is another alternative way to make passive income just by redirecting people to certain brands or products that you recommend. There are a huge range of social media platforms so its important to diversify your reach and encourage followers to follow you on other platforms. Patreon is another platform which many artists can make decent income from. It allows users to create reward tiers for memberships. Essentially you set a price to be a member and in return members get a reward which could be anything from first access to new work to exclusive access to a limited edition print or merchandise.


Building up a strong social media following can be a great way to get sales and build your fan base. Once your following gets up to a certain size you can also look into sponsorships. This could mean working with a paint manufacturer or trying out a new range of brushes to pretty much anything. Affiliate marketing is another alternative way to make passive income just by redirecting people to certain brands or products that you recommend. There are a huge range of social media platforms so its important to diversify your reach and encourage followers to follow you on other platforms. Patreon is another platform which many artists can make decent income from. It allows users to create reward tiers for memberships. Essentially you set a price to be a member and in return members get a reward which could be anything from first access to new work to exclusive access to a limited edition print or merchandise.

Content Creation


As an artist there are so many ways to share your amazing work, process, thoughts and journey and get paid for doing it. One of the obvious platforms for this is Youtube which for some artists can make up as much as a quarter of their income stream. It can take a couple years to get to a point where Youtube starts paying so its definitely something you need to stick with to make profitable and takes a tonne of work so bear that in mind. Other ways to make passive income through sharing your journey is by writing a blog or publishing a book or e-book.


As an artist there are so many ways to share your amazing work, process, thoughts and journey and get paid for doing it. One of the obvious platforms for this is Youtube which for some artists can make up as much as a quarter of their income stream. It can take a couple years to get to a point where Youtube starts paying so its definitely something you need to stick with to make profitable and takes a tonne of work so bear that in mind. Other ways to make passive income through sharing your journey is by writing a blog or publishing a book or e-book.

Workshops And Teaching


Teaching is a great way to get paid for doing what you love and can offer a much more stable income stream. You can offer workshops through your studio practice or online. Skillshare can be an incredible platform for offering online classes and is specifically geared towards creative skills. As an artist you record a class and load it on to skillshare for people to watch. You then get paid a commission every time somebody watches your class. If you have a good following and make enough classes it can become an incredibly powerful passive income machine.


Teaching is a great way to get paid for doing what you love and can offer a much more stable income stream. You can offer workshops through your studio practice or online. Skillshare can be an incredible platform for offering online classes and is specifically geared towards creative skills. As an artist you record a class and load it on to skillshare for people to watch. You then get paid a commission every time somebody watches your class. If you have a good following and make enough classes it can become an incredibly powerful passive income machine.

Freelancing


Freelancing can be a good way to make income while working as an artist. As a talented artist why not use your design knowledge and expertise to freelance for a design company or small business in need of a graphic designer. A good compromise could be to work a few days a week as a freelancer and then leave the other days for your art practice so you have a stable background income. You can also consider working as a freelancer through online platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.


Freelancing can be a good way to make income while working as an artist. As a talented artist why not use your design knowledge and expertise to freelance for a design company or small business in need of a graphic designer. A good compromise could be to work a few days a week as a freelancer and then leave the other days for your art practice so you have a stable background income. You can also consider working as a freelancer through online platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.

NFTs And The Metaverse


Begin eyeroll. When NFTs first hit the scene they became a global talking point for all the wrong reasons. It became about the money rather than about the art. It was a shame because the implications for NFTs and their use in the metaverse is a stepping point into a potential digital renaissance. Like them or hate them they are reshaping how art is viewed, shared and bought online and also acting as a jumping off point for digital design in general from cars to fashion. A great starting point for creating and sharing NFTs is Opensea.


Begin eyeroll. When NFTs first hit the scene they became a global talking point for all the wrong reasons. It became about the money rather than about the art. It was a shame because the implications for NFTs and their use in the metaverse is a stepping point into a potential digital renaissance. Like them or hate them they are reshaping how art is viewed, shared and bought online and also acting as a jumping off point for digital design in general from cars to fashion. A great starting point for creating and sharing NFTs is Opensea.

Artist Grants


There are multiple grants handed out to artists and designers every year to carry out interesting and exciting art projects. A couple of places to look for grant opportunities include the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the Design Trust.


There are multiple grants handed out to artists and designers every year to carry out interesting and exciting art projects. A couple of places to look for grant opportunities include the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the Design Trust.

Conclusion


Surviving as an artist can be challenging but there are ways to navigate it. Think creatively and keep pushing forwards. Our community and our team are always here to help. You can also keep checking back on our blog for more artist opportunities and tips.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hong Kong Arts Collective - Logo.webp

The Hong Kong Arts Collective

The Hong Kong Arts collective (HKARTS) was established in 2019 by local artists for local artists. It was created as an online artists village to support and promote artists living and working in Hong Kong. We offer exhibition opportunities, fine art printing, art consultations and our online shop supports both our artists and the wider community as a whole.

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