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New Art Business Ideas for the New Year

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Ready for more income streams for your art in 2019 by exploring new art business ideas? Finding new avenues to support yourself through your artwork is easier than you think. Surveying the arts industry, we’ve compiled the top 4 alternative models for profiting from your work as an artist through a selection of art business ideas that can free up your time to allow you to make more work in the studio. If creating more artwork in 2019 was one of your new year’s resolutions, continue reading below for the best ways to use existing artworks to supplement your existing income as an artist!

Commissioned Work: Portraits, Murals & More

Have long-standing admirers of your work you’ve cultivated who admire your work and always about your artwork? Does your skill set include portrait painting or studio photography? Have you worked with paint in a large-scale format or aerosol paints? Perhaps you should be more active in pursuing commissioned work, whether that be custom-made to fit a collector’s new home, a commissioned anniversary portrait or an outdoor mural for a local business. Examine your skill set more closely, and ask around to see whether your existing collectors and patrons would want any specific artworks created to honor a special occasion or loved one. If thousands of other artists can support their studio practice through commissioned works – live painting, pet portraits, or wedding photography – then so can you!

When considering art business ideas related to murals and commissions, be honest with yourself about your level of experience, available time and your enthusiasm for the gig: if repetitive brush strokes for a cat portrait don’t interest you, but you relish the thrill of capturing the spirit of the moment, perhaps live wedding painting is more your speed. Love the thrill of seeing your work in public and frequently documented on social media channels? Start chatting up local businesses, hotels and other similar companies who need murals and commissioned art for large spaces. Have a friend who is an interior designer? Even better – make a deal with them to get a (reasonable) discount to propose your artwork for client projects. Partnering with someone who needs what you are able to provide only makes both of your jobs easier!

Whether you explore commission opportunities for personal portrait painting or creating large-scale murals, make sure you have relevant works documented in a readily available section of your website or PDF. If you’re an Artrepreneur member, you can even create a special portfolio for specific types of artwork! This creates a special selection of your art that you can assign a custom name to and send on to potential clients so that they can consider commissioning you for their specific needs.

Working with Online Agencies + Art Licensing

Take a closer look at your portfolio: is there any aspect of your practice that you could make available to online agencies who are seeking illustrations and/or compelling designs and photographs for their clients? Corporations often outsource visual elements – design motifs, illustrations, etc – to agencies who represent qualified visual artists. Examine your portfolio and run online searches to discover the agencies who represent the type of artwork you create.  Some agencies, such as Agent Pekka, exclusively represent illustrators while others, such as the renowned Magnum Photos, exclusively represent photographers. Start within your immediate networks: know of others in your field who already have representation through an online agency? Take them out for dinner and get their perspective on what concrete actions led them to secure this representation. Rather than striking out your own, some art business ideas require leveraging your existing artwork and/or meeting client needs in order to secure new clients who can support your ongoing artistic practice. Partnering with an art agency to secure more business is one avenue to increase revenue, while art licensing is another.

Is your existing artwork compelling enough that consumers would want to wear it or have it in their homes? Licensing your work for commercial products is another option for designers, illustrators, graphic artists, painters and photographers. Even sculptors can create molds for high-end consumer products. Licensing your work to print onto clothing, prints, even plates can provide you with another source of revenue. However, be careful about estimating the time you have available for this type of work. New-York based artist Jamie Martinez notes of licensing artwork that it is ultimately a calculated risk. “By licensing artworks you can make money, but it can also hurt your career depending on where you are in your career and how much licensing you do.” By strategically approaching how you license your artwork, and who you partner with, you can create new avenues of exposure and additional revenue streams. As with any art business ideas, your focus should be on ultimately growing an audience for your work while providing yourself with a stronger support system to develop your artistic practice.

Art on Loan

What if you create original artworks and have little interest in creating designs for private clients, or working on commissioned portraits? Loaning out your existing artwork is a compelling method for netting more income without requiring substantial effort. TV and film sets have a consistent need for artworks in the background of their scenes. Different settings will require a variety of artworks, and set designers are always seeking new artworks to create a defined look for a scene. Independent curator and art advisor Jenny Mushkin Goldman notes that artists can achieve two distinct goals, gaining more exposure and income for their artwork, by loaning their artwork to film production companies. “By loaning their work, artists can have exposure for their existing artwork inventory which will be returned within short period of time;  this brief loan also won’t affect [the artwork’s] ability to be sold later.”

How can you tell whether your work is the right fit? Have a look at what online agencies offer film production teams already to see if you have similar artworks available, or if you work in a vein similar to artworks already being loaned. One place to start is on Art for Film, where a variety of options are available for set designers to peruse. Mushkin Goldman notes that artists should work with the film industry pending working with an intermediary who can secure two things: a contract and a certificate of insurance. Similar to working with the film industry, real estate companies often seek out art for their lobbies or various floors of office buildings. These buildings often need art temporarily, and were often happy to let the artist sell the work should they receive a request from someone looking to purchase it. One place to start is by taking a peek at Turning Art, a full-service company that handles all aspects of art install and transport for their clients. Take a peek at their existing projects, and see if you have work that could fit their client profile.

Stay focused and don’t be discouraged: there is a wide range of art business ideas out there to fit your artistic practice. Continue pursuing your practice while identifying the best side hustles to support you through alternative revenue streams!

Have actionable advice on new art business ideas you want to share? Tips or tricks related to portrait painting, lending your work to movie sets, licensing your art, or more? Feel free to share below in the comments!

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