Relying on sales of original works of art doesn’t always pay the bills. Sales can be seasonal, galleries can shut their doors, or the economy might tank. No doubt you are already aware.
This is why I am all for artists having multiple streams of income—when it makes sense.
An income stream is a source of money.
Your income streams might include employment outside of your art business, but I want to focus on diversifying how you make money from your art.
Selling original works of art is probably the most appealing way for you to make money from your art. Other avenues include, but aren’t limited to, teaching, licensing, writing, and selling reproductions.
Sometimes multiple income streams go together under a broad heading.
For example, if teaching is one of your incomes streams, you might break down that money into income from online classes and in-person classes. Additional funds might come from how-to books and informational products.
They’re all related to instructing and marketed to the same audience.
Likewise, you might make products with your art and have separate smaller streams from note cards, note pads, and calendars.
When It’s Silly to Have Multiple Income Streams
Diversifying income sources from your art is tempting. You might think, More stuff=More money! Watch it.
As I described above, some sources make sense together because they are marketed to the same audience. Other times, they’re completely separate businesses.
One example is licensing. There is an entirely separate audience for licensed art than for original fine art. The people and venues you work with are different.
This means you essentially have separate businesses. Two businesses means you exert twice the effort. Three businesses will cost you 3 times the effort.
The result: multiple business plans, marketing plans, venues, and audiences. Each income stream must be attended to.
It’s silly to go to the trouble of creating a new source of income that you don’t have time or energy to invest in.
It’s also a terrible business practice to sell more “stuff” if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Many artists are spending too much time on things that have too little return.
You have to do the math. Is it making money?
Do you see progress toward that goal?
Or is it costing time and effort without the promise of reward?
Wouldn’t you rather sell a single original artwork for $1000 than 200 note cards for $5 each?
Consider all the work you have to do to sell 200 note cards. You’d have to have retail accounts in numerous places since it’s very unlikely you’d sell 200 of the same note card at a single venue. Each account comes with its own set of tasks: record-keeping, packing, shipping, and bookkeeping. That's a lot of work.
If you’re in the note card business, you really have to be in the note card business.
And if you’re in the art licensing business, you really have to be in the art licensing business.
If you’re in the original art sales business, you really have to be in the original art sales business.
Let me repeat: I’m all for artists having multiple streams of income. Just be aware that you may be juggling separate businesses. Are you up for that?
This post was originally published on August 13, 2015, and has been updated with comments intact.
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