When you need a job to support a job



Oh what a wonderful life you must lead as an artist! It’s an expression I hear a lot and there is some truth in it. I meet some lovely people, I get to see the finest art, I get to visit galleries, turn up at art events whenever someone remembers to invite me, and I get to be creative.

It's not all about the money, but you need to buy paint!


It is a wonderful life and often an experience, yet for the life of me and despite being on the fringes or within the business for almost 30-years, I still need to maintain a day job. It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation, I need money to pay bills and live, I need money for art supplies and software, and I don’t have anywhere near enough time to do what I really want to do and pursue a full-time career in the arts. Having said that, over the last few years I have upped the hours I commit each week to my art, and I do as many hours with my art as I do in my day job.

That is a story that is not unfamiliar to most artists. You need a job to support the job. Artists are not destined to be forever poor and it is certainly much better than it was before the internet came along. We no longer have to take our huge portfolios around the city’s galleries, we can do so much online. It is still as tough as ever to become a successful artist but the tools you need are almost always in front of you these days. It is just that you kind of need to know how to use them.

Artists tend to struggle not with the art but with that thing they call marketing. If you can work that murky world of marketing out you are even closer to fulfilling your creative dream of becoming a full-time artist who doesn’t have to run two jobs. There are many artists who have done just this, and ask any one of them which bit they struggle with and my money is on marketing.

The old system of gatekeepers still exists for some, where once an artist would need to plead for the endorsement of those gatekeepers. Now you can literally just start selling your art online and it will be seen by more people than it ever could have been before the internet. If you can pick up an endorsement along the way, well that’s just fine and dandy.

I have written frequently about my experiences in learning the art of marketing and self-promotion and I still continue to learn what works and what doesn’t. I am not a marketing guru, and I certainly couldn’t afford to hire one, although I would if I could. There are some things that you can do to support your art while you take time to learn that whole marketing thing.



Turn Money in to art
Turn money in to art

There are things that you do need to become successful. Confidence in your ability because artists are the harshest of self-critics, good communication skills and a network of friends, and if you read the Guardian in March 2016, probably you might want to consider becoming a narcissist. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/28/narcissists-are-more-likely-to-make-money-in-art-study-shows/)

There are more opportunities than ever to add a little extra income from the strangest of places. This week I will be talking about some of these options but be warned, I have not come across a single one that will solely pay all of the bills. I can confirm though that after all these years, the secret to success is to work really, really hard.

What are these golden opportunities to make a little extra you ask, well let’s start off with an obvious one, your online blog or artist page.

You might have noticed that there are always three AdSense adverts running on this page. There is a whole world of acronyms that you need to learn but if you have some traffic you can make some money with little effort, apart from the fact that you need really good search engine optimisation and really good content.

You can apply for a Google AdSense account and they will check put your page. The whole process is supposed to be relatively quick, I was actually accepted on the first day after submitting the application.

You then need to embed some HTML code in to your website and configure where the ads are to be placed and what size, and you are good to go. It is as simple as it sounds until you sit back and wait to become amongst the super-rich.

I had plans to use my earnings to buy a private island in the Caribbean. I had read so much about how much people were making from revenue and I wanted to be in on this little opportunity. There is no chance anytime soon or even perhaps in my life-time that I will be able to buy a private island from the proceeds, I have since lowered my expectations a little, well maybe a lot.

I spend a little time each month playing around with targeted ads, and I see my CPM (Cost per mile or 1000 views) increase/decrease, generally though I tend to stick with the things I know will increase my CPM by trying to focus on quality content. I really need to focus on traffic to turn things around, I am continuously working on that one.

If you have an artist’s website that is hosted by one of the print on demand sites then you might not have the option to add in the AdSense code, but if you are on Blogger or Word Press or you self-host, then the option becomes available. Give it a try. Another tip is to make sure the ads don’t breach the rules set out by AdSense because that is a sure fire way for them to close your account.


Here’s one that I recently decided to try out. Essentially you provide links to a product or a range of products on your website or in your social media timelines. I thought long and hard about doing this because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who posts something that I didn’t believe in. I applied to become an Amazon Affiliate in the hope that this would cover some of the production costs of this blog, and despite a number of clicks I have yet to earn a cent.

I only ever build links to products that I have purchased or used for a period of time and only things that I actually believe to be genuinely good. I have never received a product free of charge, so everything you will see in my Amazon Affiliate links are products I have paid for or had the opportunity to use over a period of time. I spend way too much on Amazon, but I always scour it for the best prices.

I receive a small percentage of whatever Amazon charge if someone buys through my link, and it depends on what the product category is that determines how much I receive. If you go down this route though make sure that you tell people you are an affiliate, and always tell people if you have received a product for free, especially in exchange for a review. If something is good I will tell you, and if something is bad I will tell you, even if the product was or will be given to me for free. That is why no products have been sent to me for review, I have very high expectations of most things.


You can take on work to create private commissions. Some artists thrive in this area, I limit my private commissions to a few per year because they can take so much time to create, but other artists do them all of the time.

With private commissions you can usually ask for a high percentage of the cost upfront. My personal experience with them is that you could either create a piece that someone loves straight away, or you may find that people expect a number of revisions. Make sure that you set a limit on the number of revisions. One work I completed last year had so many revisions that I lost count, in the end they actually said, “I think you were right the first time, any chance we could go back?”


There are a lot of crowd funding sites and many artists are turning to these. You can ask people for a contribution to help you and support your work, and in return on sites such as Patreon you can reward those who donate a certain amount of money either as a one off or as a regular payment.

The rewards can be anything at all. Maybe a piece of art, tickets to an event, a tour of your studio, a Q&A session live over Google Hangouts or Skype, or a copy of the book you intend to write one day.

There is an art to asking and it is one I am not very good at. I set up a Patreon account to raise a little to overhaul this blog. I never made it live, so although I have an account, I haven’t as yet done anything with it. I personally don’t feel comfortable asking for donations, but if you want to donate you can!

Some artists ask for you to buy them a cup of coffee, but I noticed that the aspirations of some people using some of these platforms seem a little cheeky. I came across one who wanted to raise thousands of dollars and didn’t seem to want to give anything in return. They had no backers. Others though will set up an account that not only supports their art, but also to fund community projects. These seem a little more palatable.

I know they say that if you don’t ask you don’t get, but if you are not comfortable in asking or you don’t think you can commit to sending out a reward, best thing is to move along. It does indeed work for some people and it using these platforms has helped many an artist from becoming a starving artist. If you have had success with any of these platforms I would love to find out.


How you present yourself and your work as an artist can increase sales. Invest in some nice quality business cards and make sure you maintain your online presence. Document any work that you do, but importantly make the buyer confident that you know what you are doing as an artist.

I create my own brochures and make sure that they look professional. I also create my own flyers on high quality paper-stock. One of the biggest tricks that most people miss is the business that might be on your doorstep.

Beautifully presented flyers given to neighbours really can bring in business. It is a nice way to introduce yourself too, I hardly knew any of my neighbours but I printed off some leaflets and rather than just posting them through letter boxes, I knocked the door and introduced myself. I found that the people I live near actually liked art but had no idea that I was an artist, and two of those neighbours now have some pieces of my work.


You may have a popular piece that you consistently sell. No matter how hard you try and how good your latest piece looks, there is usually at least one piece that resonates with buyers.

Make this piece in to a small series of works or perhaps off the artwork on other products. If you can offer alternative sizes that is a bonus too, not everyone can find the space to hang a 60 inch work, but they may have the space to hang a 16 inch work.



The coffee shop
Small independent coffee shops are more willing to display your work

Never underestimate the power of coffee. Some people will never step a foot in to a commercial gallery, but you can bet that your local coffee shop might have space on their walls that could be filled with your art.

Not only does it brighten up the owners business premises, your work is exposed to people who would otherwise have missed it. You can pay the business owner a small percentage of any sales that you make, or in some cases they will see it as a free way to include some art on their walls. Don’t be afraid to ask!


You don’t have to exhibit at an event to make it a successful business opportunity. By attending a gallery opening or local arts fair, you are putting yourself in the middle of the event without having to worry about displaying your work.

It is when just attending these events that you can build on your networking skills. Speak to people and speak to the artists. Many of the artists will give you advice, but you can also gain a better understanding of who is buying what. If buyers are around strike up a conversation.

If there is a local arts event near to where I live, I always make a point of visiting it even if I don't exhibit.


Not sure how many times I have said that you shouldn’t undervalue your work and take on a free commission. Long-term free work will never pay the bills. The phrase “in return you will get exposure” is one of the most common phrases in the history of art. If someone wants your work and particularly where it is a commercial organisation, you need to at least cover your costs. Only rarely does it happen where you will get very good exposure. In all my years I have never got really great exposure from any free work.

However, if you have work hanging around that you haven’t sold you can do a couple of things with it. Firstly use the coffee shop method, or secondly ask friends or family if they would like to be custodians of your art until it is sold. The latter won’t make you a dime, but you will have some space.

Or, you may want to consider loaning your work to a business or offering it for hire. Many businesses will want some art work on their premises, and as long as it will be displayed in a prominent position the return could be better than you would get by storing it forever. Just make sure that you get everything in writing and if it is damaged that they agree to any associated costs.

Charity – You can donate pieces to charity but this has its downfalls sometimes. Unfortunately some charities as difficult as it is to say, will take advantage. They may not hang it where they said they would, some might keep it for a future prize, some will keep it to display on their office walls, but there are other very worthy charities that will accept the art graciously and gratefully and in return will at least thank you. My advice is no matter how well you know the charity, ask them to state how the art will be used and displayed and where. Even better if it is a charity that you know well.


Not too long ago I never asked friends to sign anything if they asked me to create something for them. Now I ask anyone I work with to sign a written agreement. It lets them know that at least I value what I do, so I now have pre-made templates for the agreements that aren’t chock full of legal terminology. It also adds a quality feel to the experience of owning original art.


Remember that you can be successful but it needs some hard work. If you have any experience with any of the above, did they work for you? Please do get in touch if you have any other ideas that might benefit fellow artists!

If you would like to see my range of works you can do so on my M.As Fine Art Store page on this site or visit: http://10-Mark-Taylor.pixels.com and you will be supporting a truly independent artist!



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