One of the things that excited me the most when I started my surface design journey was the idea of making money with my designs. I know that making money is one of the dreams we artists have, even if it’s a side hustle at the start.
And it’s natural when we start a new hobby or want to step into being a professional to decide to have different income streams to diversify our earnings. But having multiple income streams is not as easy as we may think.
Don’t get me wrong, you can use different ways to earn money as an artist and have your eggs in multiple baskets. But it is not as simple as just saying: you can do it and immediately earn a lot of income.
So before we jump into multiple streams of income we have to think about some points. First of all, before I share my thoughts let me include some income stream ideas of how you can earn money with your designs:
Licensing and buyouts
In both cases, you need a strong portfolio that you can show to potential clients so they have an idea of what you do and what your skills are. For this, you must have an online presence where you can direct your potential clients to see samples of what you do, preferably a simple website. On it, you can have a gallery of examples of your designs but also a private portfolio page to direct your clients to.
Related Article: Making Money from Your Surface Design Portfolio
Sell digital products
You can sell digital versions of your designs (patterns, illustrations, clipart). You can apply to platforms such as PatternBank or sell those files on Creative Market, Etsy, or Shutterstock. However, if you also want to license the same artwork you put on these types of marketplaces, you should not offer a commercial license for your designs.
Sell products with your art
You can sell fabric or products with your designs. For this idea, you can set up your store within Print On Demand platforms or have the store within your own website.
Sites like Spoonflower, Society6, Redbubble, Zazzle, and Threadless are the most popular ones that, in addition to printing your designs on their products, allow you to set up a store on their platforms. There are also dropshipping platforms that allow you to print whatever you want on fabrics and products and will ship the order directly to your customer.
Work freelance for projects
You can also work with brands or clients on a freelance basis and design based on their requirements. You can let people know you are open to freelance or you can create a profile as a freelance designer on platforms where you can find clients and offer your design services.
Teaching Online or In-Person
You can teach others about an artistic topic you like and share your own vision with a blog or a YouTube channel, writing articles and recording tutorials. You can also set up online courses through platforms like Skillshare, Domestika, Udemy, or your own website.
So you can see there are multiple ways indeed of how you can diversify your earnings as an artist. The downside though is that you should not do it all at the same time. Take it from me, as I tried all of the above at the same time and then found myself complaining that none of them worked for me.
But in life there is no losing, we either win or learn. And I learned that not every way that exists to monetize my surface designs was going to work for me or be profitable. When I decided that surface pattern design would be my new career, I was innocent in many ways, and one was believing that everything I could try was going to work.
Yes, it is true that you can create different income streams to monetize your designs, but the reality is that for them to work, you must focus and think about monetizing your designs effectively. The key is to focus on one idea and learn all you need to make it right.
Now I want to share some tips:
Make sure your designs are ready to be sold
You have to master your own art and design techniques and get to know the technical side of them to assure the quality of your designs. Before you move forward with your idea it is also important that you set your own design process and you organize your tasks so you can manage your time properly.
Learn the ins and outs of the income streams you choose
One of the most important things is that you have to learn and analyze the stream of income you choose. For example, if you are setting up an Etsy shop you must learn how their platform works, get to know their algorithm, and how you can bring traffic to your shop in order to make good sales.
The same goes if you open a shop on another platform or instead if you want to sell your files digitally. You have to know the ins and outs of the type of project you’re working on and the platforms you are using.
Create your client’s experience
Think about what experience you want to offer your customers when buying from you whether you’re selling a digital file or a physical product. Think about how you will deliver the product and what your client will receive.
Learn how to market your product
Whether you choose to have your own website to sell your products or use an online platform, you need to learn how to market yourself. Many platforms promise you can take advantage of their website traffic but the truth is that in order to make consistent sales you need to bring your own traffic.
You can definitely have multiple income streams running at the same time and gain money doing what you love to do, but I want to encourage you to think about what you really want to do and plan your steps ahead to be successful.
There are a lot of options for multiple income streams, but perhaps instead of trying them all at once, focus on doing one for a couple of months and when you have that one ready and running you can move on to another.
Last but not least, have fun when creating your designs. The energy you put out in what you do will attract people in that same frequency. There is a common quote that says: “People buy your joy,” meaning that the emotions and the energy you reflect in all you create will bring the right people your way.
Written by Lau Hernandez
I live in the middle of the Caribbean where the sun is bright, the food is savory and the music is joyful. My designs are bright and bold, always a reflection of my happy soul. I like to think we can design the future we want to live in and paint a better world filled with bright colors.