HomeArtsTurning Your Art Into A Business: A Good Move?

Turning Your Art Into A Business: A Good Move?

Many of us dream of making money doing something we love. Art is a form of self-expression that can be a great source of joy. So why not start making money out of your art?

Turning your art into a business could allow you control over your art, as opposed to lending your artistic skills to an employer. You can make the art you want to make, while making money from it. Of course, making money from art is not easy. There’s a lot of competition out there. As a result, you need to put a lot of work in to stand out. At the same time, you need to be sure that this ‘work’ doesn’t cause you to lose your passion.

This post delves into some of the considerations worth making in order to determine whether to turn your business into art or not (and by ‘art’, we’re talking about visual art, music, literature and all other forms of expression). This might help you to weigh up whether you should turn it into a business. 

For love or for money?

Turning a passion into a job is always a risk. Once you start treating a passion like work, you need to start applying structure and adhering to rules. For some people, this can take away that feeling of free self-expression – you start to create limits as to what you can do.

If you use your art as a way of de-stressing, consider whether you really want to turn this into a job. You may be better off keeping it as a hobby. Once you start relying on your art to make money, there could be a sense of pressure to make it successful, which could stop it from being a source of stress relief.

Of course, you don’t have to treat it as a sole form of income. Making money from your art could be a form of passive income to supplement another full-time job. You could treat any money made from it as a bonus. If you make no money from it, it’s no big deal, as you’ve still got another job to support you.

Alternatively, you may prefer the idea of quitting your day job and turning it into a full time business opportunity. This is much more risky and a lot more tough to pull off. Often it is best to keep it as a side hustle to begin with until you’ve made a name for yourself and you are actually starting to attract interest organically. Once you start making more money through your art than your primary job, you can then start turning it into a full-time career to focus on. At this point, you need to be fully dedicated to treating your art like a business so that you can make enough money from it to live on. 

Shopping trolley and books
Credit: Pexels

What is the best way to monetize your art?

There are many different ways to turn art into an income. Every medium has its own separate means of monetization. You should explore all these options and work out which one plays to your talents the most.

For example, when it comes to music, you can make money in various ways including streaming royalties, digital download sales, physical album sales, live performances or even just through associated merchandise. Work out which form of income is most viable for you. If you are skilled at performing music and enjoy it, it may be better to focus on monetizing your art through live shows. If your talents lie in songwriting and production, you may be better off trying to make money through streams and album sales. If your image is a big part of your music, you may find that your merch is a big seller. 

When it comes to literature, there are similarly different ways to make money including selling physical books, selling e-books, selling/streaming audiobooks, publishing stories in magazines, entering creative writing competitions or performing your work (such as slam poetry). Work out what is the best way of sharing your literature with the world and which will provide you the money you need.

Are you prepared to do the admin?

Turning art into a business requires being willing to carry out a certain level of admin. Some of this could be legally compulsory, such as recording your earnings and declaring any tax. No matter what type of monetization method you use and no matter how much you make, you must file a tax return each year.

This is unlikely to be too much hassle if you’re only making a small amount of money from one form of monetization. However, if you’re exploring lots of different types of monetization and making quite a lot of money, the bookkeeping work could start to become a little bit more tricky to manage. 

Of course, at this stage you may be able to hire help with this admin. This could include hiring an accountant or paying a service to deal with VAT registration. When it comes to other admin such as booking events or tours, you may simply want to consider hiring event organisers. You could also consider hiring an agent or a publicist. Just make sure that you can afford to hire these people to help you. 

Band playing music
Credit: Pexels

Do you know how to market your art?

Unless you market your art, no-one will stumble across your art, and if no-one stumbles across it you won’t make money. Make sure that you know exactly how to market your art to connect with the right consumers. 

There are so many different ways to market your art. For example, if you’re a painter, you could consider putting your work into local exhibitions, requesting reviews from art critics, sharing videos of you creating your paintings online or even hosting painting classes and seminars. At the very least, you’ll want to create a website and social media pages. By getting creative with your marketing, you can find unique ways to expose your art to people and generate more income.

You can do your own marketing, or you can hire someone to do your marketing for you. There are specialist marketing companies that focus on different areas of art such as visual art, music and books. Art agencies, record labels and book publishers can also promote your work, however there may be certain conditions to factor in such as giving away a cut of your profits and giving away someone creative control of your image. Make sure that you choose the right option.

How much money will you need to invest?

If you want to turn your art into a serious business, you’ll need to be prepared to invest a certain amount of money into it. Just how much money do you need? This depends on the medium of art and your approach.

For example, if you plan to publish a book, you’ll need to be prepared for the publishing costs, which could cost anywhere between $500 and $5000. If you want it done on the cheap end, you’re better off going down the self-publishing route. Going through a publisher tends to be more expensive, however you could find that you don’t have to invest as much time as were you to self-publish. 

Work out how much money you’re willing to spend. You could consider taking out a loan or seeking funding from investors. Alternatively, you may prefer to save the money up yourself, so that you’re not owing money to others. Whatever funding option you choose, make sure that you’re totally committed to turning your art into a business – once you’ve accumulated the money and spent it, you won’t be able to get it back. 

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Do you understand the ‘industry’?

Making money from art requires an understanding of how the industry works. You’ll likely have to work with other people in the industry such as art agents, publishers or music publicists. Having an understanding of what these people do, how they operate and how much they charge can be useful before entering this industry – it can prevent you from being taken advantage of.

Spend your time doing some research into the inner workings of the industry. Compare the different companies out there within your field. Before choosing professionals to work with, always take the time to read reviews and check out the types of clients they’ve worked with in the past. Other artists may even be able to recommend you people to work with. 

Avoid giving up too much creative control over your art. Ultimately, you want to work with someone who still respects your artistic vision and doesn’t push you in a completely different direction to where you want to go. At the same time, you need to be prepared to take some criticism and feedback on board, especially if your aim is to make money – some of this criticism could be valid and could genuinely help you to improve your art. Be open to suggestions, but also know when to say ‘no’ if you feel your authenticism is being sacrificed. 

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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