How to Make Money as an Artist Online: 3 Methods

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to make money as an artist online? Is it easy to make money online as an artist?

As you create things, you’ll invariably reach a point where you consider making money from your work. In Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon has ideas on how to earn an income as a creative person online. 

Keep reading to learn how to make money as an artist online in three ways.

1. Donations

The first way to learn how to make money as an artist online is pretty common: simply ask for a donation. For instance, it’s generally expected that a performer will have a jar out to take tips when they perform in public. Kleon suggests that you include a virtual tip jar or donation button on your website. As he sees it, such simple tools let you share a bit of your story and invite people to voluntarily support your work. 

(Shortform note: Research shows that people donate more when they feel an emotional connection to the person or organization they’re donating to. This supports Kleon’s idea of sharing a bit of your story when you invite people to donate. If you put a donate button on your website, include a small paragraph near it about who you are and how a donation can help you. If you can explain how it will directly impact your life, you’ll likely elicit a better response.)

2. Turn Daily Posts Into Durable Works

If you’re having trouble creating enough stuff to sell, Kleon suggests that you collect your daily shares into larger, more durable works that become part of your corpus. In his case, much of Kleon’s other book Share Your Work started as tweets. Over time he fleshed them out into blog posts and eventually into chapters of a published book. 

Whatever your creative work is, consider mining your daily posts for ideas to flesh out in this way, advises Kleon. If you examine them, you may find posts that have common themes that you can build into larger, more permanent works. 

(Shortform note: Some musicians have found success by using social media to compose a larger work. Recently, the musical duo Barlow & Bear won a Grammy for a musical they wrote live on Tik-Tok. One benefit they found of writing the musical this way is that their social media followers could give real-time feedback as they composed the songs. This helped them gauge the audience’s reception and also encouraged the audience to invest more in the work.)

3. Use Email to Sell Things

The third way to make money online as an artist is to use email. Email is a powerful tool for connecting with people, writes Kleon. Collecting email addresses enables you to keep people in the loop and sell things when you have something to sell. Just remember—never put an email on your list if the owner hasn’t permitted you. And if someone has given you their email address, don’t take advantage of it by spamming them. 

(Shortform note: Marketing experts encourage businesses to use email marketing because it has been shown to have the highest return on investment compared to other forms of marketing. If you’re interested in selling your work, then, consider how you can incorporate email into your online strategy.) 

How to Make Money as an Artist Online: 3 Methods

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Here's what you'll find in our full Show Your Work summary :

  • How to succeed at your creative endeavors
  • How to make money off your creative work
  • Why you should share your creative process

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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