7 Ways to Earn Money when Art Sales are Slow & You Need Cash

I am writing this article after having a recent conversation about art sales with an artist whose work I really like. I have seen this artist at shows, he’s been around for years and years, and I think his work is fantastic…but after I was done talking with him I felt a little depressed…

Earning Money When Art Sales are Slow

Here are the lowlights of the conversation: His art sales have been almost nothing for some time. His art sales were so down he thought about getting a job. He applied for a job at a well-known chain store where his wife already worked. They wouldn’t take him. He smiled and shook his head many times. He had traveled a few hundred miles to try and sell some work. He sold nothing. I’m telling you this guy is good at his craft. He’s been around quite sometime. I felt terrible for the guy.  

That conversation with the artist got me to thinking about some of the things I have done in the past to make some scratch from my abilities. Hey, I sure as hell don’t have all the answers, but just maybe I can help at least one person out there if their art sales are slow and the rent is coming due.

When I was much younger and single, with no kids, no mortgage, and not much money, I decided to give the full-time artist thing a shot. I had no plan, no connections, no inventory, and no clue. I had not laid any ground work for art sales whatsoever. Not one of my finer moments. After a several months of not barely enough money to eat, I had a decision to make. I wasn’t gonna give up making art, but I did give up on being broke. Being broke sucks, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be a starving artist.

art sales

Wall Mural for Goodtymes Pub, Spokane, Wa., Approx 8' x 40'

 Of course, it’s not all about money. But you need money to eat, to live, and to purchase art supplies. It’s tough for most of us to live on just our talent and good looks.

Below is a list of 7 things that talented, creative people could potentially earn money from when their art sales are slow. I have done every one of these below except for number 6, and some have been quite lucrative. I’m going to only write a few sentences on each topic instead of a whole report on each one, which I could do, and maybe will some time down the road. Here it goes:

Seven Ways to Earn Money when Art Sales are Slow

  1. A commissioned work. Take what you do and suggest, recommend, ask, seek out,  whatever you want to call it, someone or some business to hire you for a “specially commissioned piece of art.”  Maybe there is a building, a scene, a concept, an idea that you have been kickin’ around awhile. Find  out who you need to present it to, ask for a few moments of his or her time, and give it a shot. Be brave, be prepared, have a plan, and act professional. I don’t think you would get through ten scenarios like this before you would get some action, unless you were asking for the moon, you were talking to the wrong person, or you had onion burgers for lunch…
  2. Portraits. If art sales are slow, there is always a portrait. Now a portrait doesn’t necessarily have to be of a human. Look how many people love their pets, their cars, and even their homes. It is my opinion that a portrait does not have to be photo-realistic. Create the portrait in your style, and present it that way.
  3. Murals. Ok, if you are a sculptor and art sales are slow, you may not want to whip out
     your brushes and paint a wall mural. But you could. Murals are generally bigger, but the basic concepts of color and design still apply. Businesses, children’s rooms, rec rooms come to mind right away as traditional mural playgrounds. there are other places to seek out mural work, but if you are in need of money, you don’t want to wait six months for a committee to make up its mind.

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    Wall Mural for Bumpers Amusements, Spokane, Wa.

  4. Signs. Look around. Signs are everywhere. If you see a beat up old sign, offer to make a new one. For a price. Know of a business without a sign? Think of a great idea and approach them with it. What do people in business want? More customers. Signs can help with that, at a good bang for the buck. Signs do not have to be your basic block lettering for sale sign. No way. Put your thought and creativity into it. Don’t get into signs way up in the air or lighted signs if you can help it…stay close to the ground and away from electricity.
  5. Logos. Who says you have to be a Madison Avenue hot-shot to design a logo? You do need to have a sense of design and realize that the logo may be used for a wide variety of applications. A lot of people are starting up their own business these days. They need some kind of logo and identity. A logo does not need to be created on a computer, but it can. Use your skill, creativity, and style to design something that is unique, easy to read, and understand. 
  6. Window Splash Art. You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them, we have all seen “splash art on windows of businesses, usually during a holiday, a sale, or special event. Sometimes they are really good, and sometimes they are not. One thing for certain is they get people’s attention. Some people use paint with brushes, others use sponges. Whatever works.
  7. Custom Christmas Cards. There is a market for custom-made Christmas cards, especially for businesses. If your art sales are a little slow leading into the Christmas Holiday season, consider approaching business owners you know about the idea. A lot of businesses send out cards to their best customers and vendors. What’s great about this is there is a deadline, so they are either going to do it or not do it. The businesses who do spring for their own custom card also like tell others about the card and the artist who designed it. Let the client keep the artwork so they can hang it and remember who created it.

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    4′ x 8′ hand painted signs for R A Aloha Arabians

     Art Sales?

Bonus…Alright, this one is off the hookI just heard about this in the last couple of weeks. I cannot list it as number eight, because it is so unconventional, but it is also very creative. I have just been made aware of an “artist” in my area that carries felt pens around with him, and approaches women about drawing removable tattoos on their bodies, mainly their breasts. He has drawn on over 600 women! Now that is creative. I don’t know how much he charges…maybe you can think of something even better.  

These ideas are just to get your mind going if you art sales are slow and you need some money. We would all like to just paint the day away and rake in the cash and have people love our work. The fact is we both know it doesn’t usually work that way. When art sales are slow, we still need to eat, and there is no shame (In my opinion) in doing some other creative work to get us by.

Got any ideas to add? Please leave a comment below. Get free updates by email…just leave your email address in the box at the top right. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s confidential. Thanks for reading. 


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