The Cold Art of the Side Hustle for Artists

 The hustle that's a hassle!

wreath blog cover image side hustle
The Cold Art of the Side Hustle for Artists

When it comes to writing new articles I have a process that I have to follow. It usually involves late nights, early mornings, lots of coffee, and copious amounts of research because I want every reader of my site to go away with the best information and to come back next week when they’re ready for more.

Well... that's usually the plan!

So that’s exactly what I did when I began preparing this article, and oh my life, did my eyes get opened! This week we will be looking at the side hustle, the sideline that an artist can use to pay the bills in between major works and commissions, or at least that’s the theory. Sometimes, the side hustle can be a huge side hassle that can pull you as far away from your art as possible.

So, in my quite literally, weeks of undertaking research to figure out what kind of side hustle might bear more low-hanging fruit, I discovered that hundreds of websites had already covered the subject. I distinctly remember thinking that my work here has already been done and I would need to select the next subject on my list of must-write articles, or at least that was until I read them.

The thing is, I have absolutely no idea who even wrote some of what has been written on some of these websites purporting to have the insight that would point an artist towards a side hustle that would complement their art practice, because in no way, in any universe, would less than a tenth of what’s been written and described as a fruitful side-hustle complement your art practice or pay any bills, not even your Netflix subscription. And besides, none of the themes was exactly what you might call easy side hustles either.

Want to know what most of these websites thought the highest paying side hustle would be for a visual artist? YouTube. Apparently, you can earn mega-dollars just by being you in front of a camera and uploading the finished video to the Tube of You. Yep, no you can’t. Well, you can, eventually, you know, when you have as many viewers as the Pew di Pie character, but that’s never going to happen with visual art unless you are already established or your name is Banksy.

Sadly, that’s the cold reality of YouTube, there’s just so much competition for the same eyes and there are so many artists, all vying for the same viewers. So, unless your production quality is on a par with those who are getting the big views and your content is different enough to stand out, YouTube will be a long grind that certainly isn’t as easy as all of these websites will have you think.

artwork of an art supply store
Oh My Gogh Art Supplies by Mark Taylor - art supplies can be a lucrative side hustle for artists too!

Sell your talent…

Another one that appears on the many lists that promise your days of scratching a living will be over, is the tip that I’m sure no artist in the history of artists has ever considered. There’s a hint of sarcasm there, any working artist will be all too familiar with the grind but the tip in question here is to sell your creativity through services such as Fiverr and Upwork. At their core, these services pit creatives, and in fact, pretty much anyone with a pair of hands and a pulse, together with the intention of offering cheap services that can be ordered by anyone with a need for a pair of hands to create or do something. They’re popular with providing the skills to produce things like logos, where the commissioner wants something as quickly as possible usually for the least amount of money.

To be fair, there are some extremely talented folk on these services but the way that the services are structured lends itself to creating an almost disposable talent pool that can be picked up and put down at will, and the competition and often low-cost services offered do no one any favours as it devalues the work being done.

Sure, there will be a few who manage to scrape a living wage creating on these services, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Mostly, the gigs provide fillers in between major projects and while they’re especially useful if you don’t already have a commercial portfolio and need to quickly build one, let’s not think for a moment that these gigs will be any easier than anything else and, neither will they necessarily bear enough financial fruit for you to forge a decent living on.

the 80s newsagent artwork
The 80s Newsagent by Mark Taylor - Nostalgia is a great side hustle!

You get the idea…

It’s as if whoever has written these long lists of possibilities hasn’t actually tried any of them out. If they had, and the ideas worked, most of the authors would be too busy with side hustles to write such an article in the first place.

As an artist, a side hustle can be an essential part of the creative journey. Sometimes the hustle is essential to filling in the gaps between major projects so that the bills can continue to be paid. That’s not to say that just any side hustle is going to be compatible with your ambitions to create a successful and professional art practice, indeed, some side hustles can cast a shadow on what you are trying to achieve with your art or they can quickly become a distraction that takes your artistic focus away.

Whatever the side hustle is, it’s also kind of a bonus, if not essential, that it is also something that you enjoy doing, otherwise it could become something that is a grind that you then begin to resent and that would just be miserable. The whole purpose of the side hustle is to fill in the financial gaps, whether they’re small or big, so it’s critical that any side hustle you choose is one that can fill whatever gaps you have or as I intimated earlier, it really can become a side hassle. The more fun you can have with a side hustle, the better it will be, it should never start to drain your artistic creativity.

If the last eighteen months have taught us anything at all, it’s that as artists we need to be resilient. There have been many artists who went into the pandemic probably thinking that they would still get to turn up at physical events and keep their art flowing out through the door. Those that relied on turning up in a physical space had to refocus their efforts online and if they weren’t prepared for online sales, will have had a choice to respond quickly or continue to struggle.

art supplies artwork by Mark Taylor
Art Supplies by Mark Taylor - art for artists is another side hustle!

What the side hustle should be…

Other than ideally being fun, the side hustle should complement your art practice rather than being something that is disparate from it. You have to avoid confusing the market that you already have and it’s even better if the side hustle isn’t a single thing.

If we learned any lessons throughout the pandemic it should have been that plans can change, economies can stop spending, and even the most resilient businesses faced, and in some cases continue to face a struggle.

It’s not that any of those issues have never happened outside of the pandemic, they did and they did frequently. The art world is perhaps more ebb and flow than most other businesses even in the best of times but the one thing we did see that we haven’t seen previously, was the closure of physical spaces. Some people will continue to buy art whatever the economy looks like, others won’t, or their buying habits will change, and there have always been busy seasons and slow seasons, that’s the art world in a nutshell.

What the pandemic did was to shine the spotlight on the problems that inherently existed in the art world even before the pandemic and it shone an even brighter light on the changing buying habits of collectors who for the first time, began to take online more seriously.

These issues will appear again in the future, it’s the cyclical nature of the art business and any other business. So, when it happens again, and it will, the pain will be the same regardless of the cause. The key is in how well you prepare during the good times so that you can combat the bad and how prepared you are to counter things like physical closures which we could one day see again.

Whatever the economy looks like, it’s just not worth placing any blame for any lack of sales on that alone, a tumultuous economy is an expected issue that arises over and over in any business and you really do have to learn to adapt, and in part, accept that this is generally just how any business really works. It’s not fun, but you can plan and prepare and at least stave off the worst of it when it happens. Those who read my previous article on business strategies might be more attuned to thinking outside of the proverbial box when it comes to preparedness. You can read that article right here if you missed it.

Don’t just have one hustle…

Having multiple income streams means that you’re not putting all of your eggs into a single fragile basket, but it’s how you choose those side hustle that really counts. I mentioned earlier about making sure your side hustle is compatible with your core business, but it also has to be compatible with you.

One side hustle might be to start selling sunglasses alongside your artwork, but wouldn’t that be confusing? How about selling a professionally created course on how to paint instead? That certainly sounds like it would have a fit that makes more sense to the market of an artist. What you are really looking for are business assets that do most of the heavy lifting for you rather than potentially quick wins that can turn into an unsustainable grind that takes your focus away from your core business. You absolutely need something that will be relevant long term if you want to create a sustainable side hustle.

This is what happens over and over, side hustles can quickly turn into let’s also do something that will just make a lot of money fast, rather than being carefully planned to leverage your core business. Surely the intention, if you’re not selling much art, should be to do something that has the potential to help you to sell more art if art is indeed your first passion and you are serious about making a living from it.

If you already have a market, even if the market is currently spending less, you really don’t want to lose that market even temporarily. When the market eventually corrects course, you’ll certainly want them to come back and spend just like they did previously.

An incompatible side hustle can lose you the business and the market you have strived to build maybe for years if the side hustle introduces any confusion. So what might be compatible? Thankfully, I have researched this, spoken with numerous successful creatives, and have my own experience to draw from after running the side hustle of creating retro, computer and game-related artworks for more than three decades. In fact, that was exactly how I originally cut my teeth in the art world so you could say that the non-computer and game-related art I produce to this day is probably my original side hustle!

wedding invitation
The Wedding Planner Hussle


Custom upcycled furniture is currently hot and it allows you to extend your creativity in new ways, and it’s not just furniture that you can work with. Custom frames for your work can extend the story within your art outside of the canvas. Taking a bottle and decorating it can make an awesome table centrepiece, add sequins to the outside to give it a shimmering look and feel, or dip it in environmentally friendly glitter to sit in the middle of a wedding party table, alongside the wedding party name cards you designed.

If you enter markets such as those populated by wedding planners, there’s a myriad of options for artists from producing environmentally friendly confetti out of dried leaves, wedding invitation design, and there are markets for portrait artists.

dried autumnal leaves
Look towards natural resources to create unique gifts and products...

Once you begin to open up new markets you can widen the market even more by offering more compatible items, and you can even customise almost anything to make it bespoke for your clients.

The sky really is the limit here, and what you should never do is judge other peoples wallets by the value of the contents of your own. That’s true of your artwork too.

There is a market for premium, and that market didn’t go anywhere during the pandemic, in truth, the market grew considerably in some areas. That means that you can find premium markets for premium quality items that might also now be interested in your now premium art.

Upcycling isn’t necessarily about turning a bargain into another bargain, or something that no one else wants into something that they might want, it’s about turning a bargain into something useful, something that people need, and even something that people desire.

If you do try the upcycling side hustle, it can be the stuff of social media dreams, especially on services such as Instagram or Pinterest, yes, Pinterest is still relevant today especially if you are doing cool things with a mason jar or a garden.

Subscribers are as good as collectors…

I’m not too sure why we don’t see many artists jump onto the subscription bandwagon, because subscribers are quite literally becoming the new collector. We pay subscriptions for almost everything these days from streaming services to coffee and pretty much anything and everything that you regularly consume.

I’m not talking about Patreon type services here, although Patreon might not be a bad way to start out, having a direct relationship with regular collectors who continuously provide you with funding in return for art.

One subscription model idea might be to charge a reasonable amount each month or two or even each quarter and in return, the subscriber will receive a brand new quality frame each time they pay their fee, along with a number of downloadable artworks which can be swapped in and out of the frame.

A good example might be that the subscriber signs up to an initial bi-monthly plan, receiving the frame at the start of the first month and then a new downloadable artwork every week until the next subscription is due. The benefit to the subscriber is that they get to showcase a new artwork on their wall or create a gallery wall which is a great idea for those who might be short of wall space.

Larger frames, larger artworks, personalisation, or receiving art more regularly might even be useful upsells to increase the available subscription tiers. If you can collaborate with another artist to create new subscriber-only works you could even double the output with half of the work, or you could go down the subscriber-only edition route to provide your newfound collectors with art that you will never make available anywhere else.

Even a low-cost subscription can get people interested in collecting your other works, even if they only have aspirations to own one of your originals today, there is a chance that one day those aspirations will be realised.

vintage computer storage mediums
Storage Wars - each of the storage mediums in my artwork can be reused as they are created individually - meaning you can exponentially grow your portfolio with different images using the same assets!

Create Resources…

I am nervous when it comes to suggesting that you create something like a full-on tutorial course, purely because most of what can be learned already has a tutorial to teach and the bar is set pretty high. Unless you absolutely know and understand your subject, creating tutorials can be challenging, competitive, and bear in mind that the Tube of You already makes most tutorials available for free, so long as you don’t mind the occasional 4-second ad.

There are other ways you can pass on your talent for profit, and they’re all going to be infinitely easier than creating a YouTube channel and learning about almost Hollywood level production quality. Patterns, templates, vanilla book covers for e-book authors, stickers, planners, photoshop brushes, digital textures, are all in demand from other artists.

In the past year alone I spent over $500 on commercial digital brushes, texture overlays for commercial use, and fonts, and I know a heap of other artists who are so time poor that they buy them too, purely because we have so little time to create our own.

$500 might seem like a lot for digital assets but the reality is that I only buy premium digital assets with licences for commercial reuse, so that doesn’t equate to a lot of digital assets at all. I’m happy to pay the premium for quality, as are other artists and it is a niche that needs way more choice.

Digital assets for artists can also be added to subscription models, particularly if you are offering something that is unique to you and it allows you to grow a community that then buy into you, for your creativity.

You can also create resources for e-learning content, the assets that can be used when producing interactive learning, and there is a steady market to feed the games industry with visuals, even product box art.

Rights Free Music…

Video is huge, it has been for years and its growth on social media is exponentially growing. The problem for any creator of video on social media is the issue around using music in your videos. Unless you can demonstrate that you hold the right to use a piece of music, and demonstrating that can be what can only be described as a faff, then the almighty algorithm will strike your post down, or mute it.

A lot of artists have a side hobby that is often just as creative, and many of these hobbies also involve creating and playing music, it must be a right-brain thing or something. If that describes you, there’s a world of potential in creating musical assets that other creators can benefit from.

Artists who create videos for their own social media and YouTube channels, or promotional videos showcasing their own artworks are all potential customers for some good quality rights-free music.

Dry stone wall at sunset
Glow Over A Dry Stone Wall by Mark Taylor - Frames can be a lucrative upsell. 9 out of 10 purchases of this work are purchased with a frame!

Frame it…

How many artists currently offer a choice of frames, or offer bespoke frames and accessories? Mats, frames, hanging fixings, are all simple things that can make a completed artwork feel even more complete. What tends to happen when people purchase prints is that they might decide to buy the frame at a later date, you have an opportunity for the upsell that will take that hassle away from the buyer if you offer them a choice of price points. You can point out the value in adding a frame such as protecting the work, and you could combine the upcycling side hustle by offering buyers a frame that extends the artwork beyond the canvas.

In my experience, if you can provide a worthy value add, people will take it. Here are a few of the upsells I have the most success with:

  • Handcrafted Frames made from sustainable wood
  • A choice of print mediums – from value canvas (but still acid-free and still great quality) right the way through to Somerset Rag, Archival canvas and paper, wood and acrylic block and steel.
  • Personal hanging service
  • Hanging Fixings
  • Collector only editions – only available to collectors who have access to the collector's area on my other website.
  • Commissions
  • Art Consultancy – including authenticity

Beyond that, some of my other side hustles include:

  • Art Rentals (from a consortium of independent artists)
  • Digital Originals on encrypted drives
  • Book Covers
  • Restaurant Menus – Graphic Design
  • Hotel and Restaurant Art
  • Licensed Images
  • Video Editing
  • 8-bit Graphics for vintage computers – including classic retro designs
  • Illustration Work
  • Cover art – from media publications to video games
  • TV and Film prop artwork with immediate clearance – because clearing art is a logistical pain for studios who need a work of art on set that day!

The best thing about having multiple upsells and side hustles is that you have a menu of options that can be mixed and matched to any particular buyer.

The premium side hustle…

A good side hustle should reinforce your brand and even take it to the next level. Equally, it can be about providing value to those who can’t quite reach the financial outlay for your premium option, but you should have in mind that offering a smaller work isn’t about compromising on quality, it’s about the aspirations of the buyer in the future.

You should also consider your own aspirations in the side hustle too, and let’s not forget the aspirations of your existing collectors. Your one goal as a professional artist who relies on selling art to make a living is to get as much monetary return as possible for each piece of work sold. Now that might sound a little selfish, or as if you’re selling out, but the reality here is that this is a great thing for your collectors. If you take a cut in earnings from your work, the work your collectors already own takes a cut in value.

It’s worth pointing out here that there is a single critical difference between buyers and collectors. Buyers want value, collectors want you to increase your worth. Something that is often forgotten when events such as Black Friday come around and you desperately offer crazy discounts to chase the immediate sale, you not only devalue the work you are trying to sell, you devalue the work that your collectors already paid you for and that isn’t a good place to be.

It’s much better to serve the market for lower-priced works by creating something different, perhaps smaller more affordable works, offering your work on alternative mediums, or publishing on less expensive mediums without compromising the quality too much. Again, this is about creating a market of aspirational buyers who will one day hopefully become your primary buyers and even collectors.

Colouring sheets make great gifts - I often create them to give away on social media!

Make sure it’s sustainable…

As for most of these articles that promise a one-stop list of money-spinners that are easy enough to run as a side hustle, it’s as if the writers of such articles have been scratching around for ideas but not necessarily knowing too much of anything about the reality of the side hustles they recommend. The intent is to be helpful I’m sure, but it’s not helpful for an artist to sink hours into something that will either be yet another grind without the potential of any real reward, or a pursuit that can damage the professionalism of your art practice. Art is a funny business at times and existing buyers can be put off if they become confused or feel as if the original art is now the side hustle.

Sure, an incompatible side hustle might reach a short term goal, but it has to be sustainable, not devalue your collector base or future collector base, but more than this, if it’s not fun, it becomes yet another grind.

There is value for every artist in running a successful side hustle, in most cases, it will give you another niche that can add value and open markets so that you can chase that YouTube dream. A side hustle can differentiate you from everyone else, it can make you stand out in the crowd, but you absolutely want to stand out for the right reasons when it comes to selling art.

Having a compatible side hustle can generate new business for your existing work. It should complement what you already do rather than be something a million miles away from it. The key is to turn your mind into that of an entrepreneur rather than chasing the next big thing regardless of what it is.

Until Next Time…

Hopefully, this week’s blog will have given you some food for thought and at least an idea or two about what your next side hustle could be, and maybe you’re now feeling more excited about the possibilities that you have. You are creative, so go ahead and be creative in everything else that you do too. Creativity is wasted if it only comes out in the studio.

Until next time, stay safe, stay well, look after each other and always stay creative!

Mark x

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. My days are filled with art, dog walking and living my best life while still being stuck somewhere in the eighties. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:   and you can purchase my new works, special and limited collector only editions directly. You can also view my portfolio website at

If you are on Facebook, you can give me a follow right here,  You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at


  1. Excellent & valuable information here Mark as always. I have a love/hate relationship with side hustles. I do find them pretty important to keep it all flowing. Thanks for all the work in writing this.

    1. Thanks Colleen, I get that completely! I just look at them as helping out in the slower months and something that keeps me busy, they pay for my art experiments too and my insatiable need to keep up with new tech! Hope you’re keeping safe and well! Xx


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