business ideas for artistsOne thing my professors did not teach me in art school is the realm of possibilities to make use of artistic talent. I was conditioned to think that the gallery system was the only option as a working artist. The truth is, artists are needed in many professions, especially ones involving creativity and artistic talent.

I will be writing a series here covering some alternative business ideas for artists. Hopefully this series will inspire and encourage some of you to pursue your dream in art – in whatever form that means to you.


If you are selling your art, you already have your own business. You are either working independently or through a gallery.

There are basically two options for independent artists: To work solely on their art, and spend all efforts branding and marketing themselves. The other is to find other areas (such as teaching) that can work side by side with an art career. One sure way to grow your art business is by expanding into other areas.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make money with your art. Money can be made if you look in the right places, and start planning for your future.

The following are a few of the professions that may be covered in the artist business idea series. If you have heard of a unique business idea not mentioned here, you are welcome to share it with us, or even send us a guest post about it!

Some Business Ideas for Artists

  1. Tattoo artist – The best tattoo artists are trained visual artists or illustrators. Many artists make their livings from designing tattoos for popular tattooists, or selling their designs. I have created some tattoo designs myself, and have even been a tattooist for awhile.

  2. Graphic artistGraphic artists are needed in many professions related to film, magazines, books, newspapers, websites, and much more.

  3. portrait drawingProfessional portrait artist – This is what I consider myself (as an aside to my artwork). I have created portraits for many clients over the years, though primarily in graphite and oils.

    I now have plans to extend my mediums for portraiture into ink and watercolor (which seems to be a more popular medium)

  4. Website designer – The best website designers have some sort of creative or designing background.

  5. Art supply stores – If you live in an area with no art supply store, why not open your own. Also sell craft supplies, have private art classes, sell arts and crafts on consignment, and you could have a thriving business.

  6. Sell art prints – This is how many independent artists make the bulk of their income. Art prints can be a very lucrative industry for popular artists. For new artists it can be difficult to get into at the outset.

    My advice for emerging artists is to get everything professionally photographed and keep good digital copies. If the time comes when you decide to sell prints, you will have a diverse collection to draw from.

  7. Art consultant – The art consultants industry seems to be growing, especially online.

  8. Art licensing – Art licensing is also BIG business. Please refer to my post on art licensing if interested in this topic: Art Licensing

  9. Art agents – Art agents work with artists to promote them and find opportunities, such as exhibitions.

  10. Unconventional Guide to Art & MoneyTeaching art – If you have been a practicing artist for awhile, then you are certainly qualified to teach art. Consider classes for specific age groups.

  11. Caricatures – Create caricatures of famous people and sell them. A caricature artist is also a popular attraction at fairs and festivals.

  12. Art gallery – Instead of searching for an art gallery, why not open your own? Depending on where you live, this could be a successful business, especially if combined with a craft or gift shop directed at tourists.

  13. Mural painter – There are many artists who paint murals for homes and businesses. Previously featured artist Michael Gaudet paints huge murals, which are artworks in their own right.

    Read about it here: Mural-Painting as an Art Form in its Own Right

  14. Designing and selling T-shirts – If you are a designer or illustrator, and have lots of great ideas related to pop culture, then t-shirt designing could be the way to go.

    The t-shirt business is a multi-billion dollar industry!

  15. Learn custom airbrushing – Airbrushing is used by some gallery artists, and is also big business for custom airbrushing of cars, motorcycles, and more. There is a lot of money to be made by those who break into this business.

  16. Video game designer – Video games have become extremely popular in recent years, and professional artists and creative people are in high demand.


Some other business ideas for artists I haven’t mentioned are ceramics studio, book illustrator, organizing or going to craft fairs, matting and framing business, interior designer, sign maker, etc. I could keep going with business ideas for artists but don’t have the space here.

If you have an interesting business idea to share with us, or know of an artist who is doing something very unique to make money, please share it with us below.

Stay tuned as I will be speaking more about some of these. Please subscribe so that not a single post will be missed!

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  1. Fantastic article (as always!) Art therapy is another idea, though requires professional training, it can be thoroughly rewarding.

  2. @Karen Middleton Illustration Thanks Karen.. I agree that art therapy is a great business idea for artists. Most of the business ideas I mentioned do require extra training.. or at least some knowledge of another area. Looking back, I wish I had studied something more specialized, related to art, after finishing art school (such as graphic arts or illustration). Never too late though.. :)

  3. You have again provided some very good ideas for the artist who wants to make a living using his/her art talents. The art school I attended did provide classes(and a degree) in advertising design or industrial design. Thus I did work in advertising/illustration for many years. They did not provide business and promotional skill training and that is what is greatly needed. Trying to make a living as an artist doing only paintings, drawings, sculpture, etc., is a huge challenge, so further ideas and business skills surely are needed.

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  5. I'm doing number 5!! I qualified as a teacher to allow me to have a 'job' as an artist... but did not enjoy all the red-tape and curriculum regulations etc that goes along with schools - so I've done private art lessons for children for many years.. and am now expanding to take on other teachers and focus on selling art materials and kits! It can be hard to make your own living, but totally worth it in the long run! My business is: and on facebook: if you want to have a look :)

  6. @Lindy Great job Lindy! Would you be interested in sharing a guest post aout your experiences?

  7. Hi Graham,
    I am an Indian and in India many artist earn good money by hand painting on dresses ,sarees,
    and other fashion garment manually . People likes very much these hand painted designer
    garments .
    Thanks and Regards,

  8. Fantastic article Graham! I am doing or have done many of the things listed including internet based art education and I agree, artists have so many options available to them that they should never be out of work. I love the way you have put this all in one place for everyone to have a good read and realise that the struggling artist mentality is a myth.

  9. @cindywider
    Thanks Cindy.. you're right, the struggling artist mentality is a myth.. there are just so many opportunities for artists. They are needed in all facets of society.

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