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Monetizing your Artwork – A Beginner’s Guide

Let’s face it – art is a difficult business. As much as I love what I am doing right now, if I had told my parents that I want to pursue art as a career when I was a kid, I would have got a solid dressing down. And their fear is valid – it is deeply rooted in, apart from other reasons like job security and sustainability, its economic viability. But there are certainly many ways in which you can earn through art and since its such an important part of being an artist ( and paying the bills ) , I thought of penning down some thoughts on monetizing your art and the various avenues you can check for the same. Note that these are purely my views on the various resources and every avenue may not click with you but I hope some do.

Selling Original Artworks This is the first option many would consider – you can simply sell your original artwork on paper or canvas through exhibitions,in-person social circles, social media flash sales or through an online store(more on this later). It goes without saying that this has to be your original art – everything from the concept to end result – and not copied or inspired work. Even if it is a recreation of a photograph, make sure that you have prior permission to use it commercially. While pricing the artwork, keep in mind the effort that went in – not only the painting and the materials but also the conceptualization and initial research and drafts before you arrived at the final piece. Pricing will vary from artist to artist – someone with a good reach may price it higher than someone who is just starting out. Bottomline – think as a consumer, would you have bought this artwork at the same price? Its always good to compare how other artists are pricing it but do not take that as the baseline as they may be catering to an entirely different audience.

Sales through Commission Commissions are hard work – and hence may be priced more than an original that is already created. I say this because an original artwork is your idea, your conceptualization while with a commission you are trying to recreate someone else’s vision in your own style. While taking up a commission, make sure you clarify the number of iterations/ re-designs allowed with your client beforehand. I have struggled with some who would end up suggesting modifications 4-5 times and each ends up being a separate artwork and hence needs a lot more effort than an original you may paint based on your vision. So be clear on the number of drafts you will share, preferably share a rough design first with basic composition and placement of various elements/products before starting with the detailed work. Price it considering the above(multiple iterations) along with how you price your originals and stick to it. Make sure that you do not negotiate a fair price just to get a collab – that will set a wrong baseline that you will struggle to recover from later.

Selling Prints Many people prefer buying art prints instead as they are relatively cheaper than the original artworks and yet carry the artist’s style so they get to keep a part of their favourite artist’s work with them. For prints, you will need to get a high quality scan of your artwork and if needed edit it in photoshop/any other photo editor.Go for atleast a 300 dpi image so that the quality of your artwork is retained in the prints. Check for local stores that print stuff and ask for good quality (300 gsm or above) paper. I print my artworks on 300 gsm Iris Matt Textured paper. Since prints are recreations of original work and can be done in bulk they are usually priced much lower than original artworks depending on the size and paper used.

Selling Merchandise Another great way to reuse your artwork is to put it on merchandise like magnets, badges, coffee mugs etc. This will involve a bit of digitization as every product will have its design specifications and you will need to fit your work into that. There are many online stores like Inkmonk, Vistaprint that help you with creating merchandise with your design and you will also get loads of options locally – just check Justdial with specific words. If you are opting for merchandise, try to get them done in bulk as it will reduce the per unit cost price for you. Pricing again varies based on the artist and the brand value- for eg. badges are priced anywhere between 50 to 150 INR.

Print On Demand A relatively different concept and a great way of making passive income using your designs is to go for sites like Redbubble, Society6 etc. These are Print on Demand sites – meaning that you upload a design of yours and they print it on various merchandise and sell it from their end. In this case, the production, inventory and shipping is managed by the site while you get paid a certain percentage for every order that is placed for your design. There are a few concerns raised over the safety of uploading your designs etc on POD sites but I haven’t come across any mis-use of the designs personally. And if your art is just lying in a folder, its anyday better to upload it on these sites and get paid when there are sales. Again, you will need to get a high quality scan to digitize your artwork according to product specifications on these sites.

Pop ups or Flea Markets This one is a bit tricky – especially in India. Pop up fairs or flea markets are a great way to connect with people but you have to be careful while choosing which one to go for. Check for events that are art/craft specific – usually these are mixed with food/music and eventually attract crowd that comes in may not really be interested in buying art. It is best to understand the kind of audience the fair caters to and their footfall in the previous editions before arriving at a decision. Try to collaborate with other artists to share a table – this way if the stall rates are high, you get to share it with them and consequently reduce the chances of ending up in a loss. Make sure you carry loads of visiting cards for any such event as it is a good chance to do some networking. Setting up your online store There are many ways to setup your own store which enables you to reach a larger audience worldwide. I might share a detailed blog later on these but for now listing the options below – * Instamojo or Shopify Instamojo or Shopify help you with setting up an e-store alongwith payment gateways for easy management. Setting up your store is fairly easy, you just need to add the basic details like product description,pricing and shipping etc alongwith a good quality pic. You will need to fill in some basic information about yourself initially to get started – the brand name, the bank account where you want the payments to be credited etc. Note that Instamojo currently caters only to India so international payments wont be possible. Most of these sites have their own shipping partners so you can sign up for these and get your pickups done from your studio directly.

* Etsy Etsy is a great platform if you are a small business dealing with handmade stuff and have international audience. The default currency is dollars so thats something you need to keep in mind while quoting the prices. Also you have to manage your own shipping with Etsy in India so you should add on the shipping charges accordingly. Etsy differs from Instamojo – its more like going to a supermarket vs going to a small grocery store. On Etsy your products can be visible to anyone who visits the website, while for Instamojo the person will need to come via the dedicated link of your shop.

I will try to share more info on packaging your art and setting up the stores step by step in one of the blogs soon. For now I hope you found something useful in here! Drop in comments on anything you feel I may have missed or any questions you have and I will try to answer them to the best of my knowledge! Love and Light!!

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