Five ways digital artists make money online
The internet has created so many opportunities for Digital Artists to make a living online doing what they love.
Every new technology has created new categories of art, and now artists have the most powerful artistic tools of all: the internet and integrated circuits. Together, they’ve made digital art possible, and increased by orders of magnitude the opportunities for artists to sell it.
In the past ten years alone, more than 50 million creators joined the creator economy, and every day millions of people are now selling digital art. But the landscape is so diverse, and changing so fast, it’s often hard to know how digital artists make money online.
This article answers that question and covers:
- What a Digital Artist Is
- How to Earn Money from Digital Art
- How to Sell Your Digital Art Online
- How to Price Your Digital Art
- How to Balance Creating and Selling Your Digital Art
Let's get into it!
What is a Digital Artist?
A Digital Artist is an artist who uses technology to bring their artwork to life.
Art was made in physical forms before the internet, with paintings, sculptures, and other hand-crafted items. While traditional art still exists today, many artists realize the power of the internet to leverage their artwork.
Most digital artists work in visual effects and animation. They commonly hold jobs in film, software, design, advertising companies, or are self-employed as freelancers or creators.
The Top 3 Benefits of Becoming a Digital Artist:
Digital Artists are continuously debunking the “starving artist” myth. With the rise of people joining the creator economy, many people realize the benefits of becoming a Digital Artist:
You’re More Efficient
A Digital Artist can create sketches, designs, and illustrations in minutes.
With design tools (like presets) available at your fingertips, exposing your art to thousands of people has never been easier. When artists have the right tools in place, they can live their dream: getting paid for their work.
You Have Freedom of Location
You’re not limited to creating in an art studio.
You could be at a coffee shop, co-working office, airport, or anywhere! Whether your goal is to travel the world or to work in pajamas (we don’t judge), designing from your laptop is the only thing you’ll need.
Your Artwork Scales
Traditional artists need paper, easels, frames, canvases, and many other types of physical equipment.
Digital Artists can create artwork once and sell it twice. This phrase applies to all digital products sold online. You can sell digital art to consumers and market to attract high-quality clients.
How to Earn Money from Digital Art
1. Use Social Media to Showcase and Sell Your Digital Art
Social media is a great way to build your online portfolio.
The social media platform you pick needs to showcase your work. Because you’re selling visual art, Instagram, Pinterest or Tiktok are great platforms to show off your work to others.
For example, Jimmy (@jingsketch) uses his Instagram to share his illustration work to hundreds of thousands of people. He uses Gumroad to give people access to his illustration collection and he also creates tutorials for those who want to learn the basics of digital painting and lighting.
Jimmy also provides accessibility to those who might not be able to afford his complete brushes collection. So, he offers a part of his collections for free or for a cheaper price through Gumroad. Jimmy currently sells his digital products from $0 - $80, and it includes a combination of illustrations, brushes, and tutorials.
- Use your Instagram bio to showcase your expertise and let others know where to buy your products.
- Use behind-the-scenes of your creative process as a way to build your online brand and true fans base.
- Use social media to collaborate with brands, companies, and creators to build your network and net worth.
2. Sell Your Digital Art Knowledge
Besides selling your own art, you can also sell your knowledge through tutorials in different forms.
Ergo Josh is a YouTuber and a digital artist who believes that creation should be fun and not frustrating. His YouTube channel is full of valuable tutorials on becoming a successful online digital artist. Online tutorials are great for creators who want to help others follow in their footsteps after accumulating some experience in the industry.
You can sell your knowledge through ebooks, online courses, and memberships. In addition, you can:
- Create multiple price points of your digital products for accessibility.
- Create different types of products depending on what your audience might want.
- Allow people to pay you if you want to give your product for free in the beginning.
3. Sell Plugins, Brushes and Designs as Digital Downloads
Digital downloads are one of the best ways to scale yourself and your product.
Vegalia is a full-time Digital Artist who showcases her Black-centric illustrations on Instagram and TikTok. She sells digital brushes that can be used by digital artists using CSP, Procreate, and Photoshop to help them save time when creating art. Vegalia has successfully used social media to build an influence with a mission to help misrepresented individuals express themselves using art.
By selling digital products that she deeply resonated with, she was able to realize her dream of becoming a full-time Digital Artist.
Another example of a digital artist is Jama Jurabaev (@jamajurabaev). Jama is a professional concept artist, illustrator and art director working in the film and gaming industry. His work has been featured in popular movies like Star Wars, Ready Player One, and more. Jama currently sells 57 digital products on Gumroad.
4. Become a Freelance Digital Artist
If you're not ready to launch your own thing as an artist, becoming a freelance digital artist is one of the ways to step into the world of entrepreneurship.
Being a freelance digital artist means working on short-term projects if you can't give up your present job or need extra income. One the easiest way to start your freelancing career is getting experience on freelancing platforms.
Here are some examples of the freelance platforms you can use to build your portfolio:
3. LinkedIn ProFinder
Industry-Specific Job Sites:
Finding Work As a Freelancer (Without Platforms)
While freelance platforms are a great way to start your digital artist journey, it might be hard to stand out with all of the competition.
To help stand out, Vanessa, a professional freelance illustrator specializing in making children’s books illustrations, found proactive ways to find client work.
In this video, Vanessa shares three tips on how to find work as a freelancer:
Find brands and companies you want to work for and send them a personalized email of the type of work you can do for them. If you don’t have a professional portfolio, use your social media to showcase your work. Even if you don't have a professional background and you’re self-taught, some companies are open to giving you the opportunity as long as you deliver on what they need.
Newsletters aren’t just for writers. As an artist, you can also use these to leverage your work. Collect emails from people you think would be interested in your work. Ask them if they would like to get updated illustrations (or digital artwork) once or twice a year. This way, you can keep in touch with your past and potential clients so that you’ll never run out of projects to work on.
Work with an agent
This works for artists who don't want to spend time marketing themselves and looking for work. Agents earn a commission for finding your projects, but they save you a lot of time. You can focus more on your art rather than finding clients, which we know many digital artists struggle with.
If you value your freedom, independence, and have amazing self-management skills, then freelancing could be a great option for you to consider.
5. Sell Your Digital Art Through Online Platforms like Gumroad
You can sell your digital art through online platforms.
Using online platforms to sell your digital art has many benefits.
For one, you can reach so many people by simply uploading them onto online marketplaces like Gumroad.
Here are the main benefits of selling your digital products on Gumroad:
It's easy to set up
Gumroad is known for being easy and fast to set up. We know that you don't want to spend time on the business side of things, so we make things easy for you. When you decide to start selling, your customized Gumroad website can be ready in 2 minutes.
You get a website without having a website
Even though you're using Gumroad, you can still customize your store. You can use your brand themes to get coherent branding of your online presence. This way, you can send a direct link to your audience instead of sending them to other marketplaces where there's a sea of competition.
You can sell anything you want (within the terms of service)
We're not kidding. Whether you want to sell merchandise, coaching services, memberships, online courses, an e-book, or anything else you might think of.
Customers can find you
If you’ve enabled Gumroad Discover, more people can find your products, which can mean an increase in sales.
It's super affordable
Gumroad is made for creators by creators. So, we want you to keep as much of your profit as possible, which is why getting started on Gumroad is free. We only take a small cut for each sale. And the best part is, the more you make, the less we take. It’s a win-win situation.
How to Price Your Digital Art
There are many ways to get paid as a Digital Artist:
You become a commissioned artist when someone is paying you to make art for them.
As a commissioned Digital Artist, the most common strategy to get paid is getting paid hourly.
Calculating your hourly rate can be challenging depending on how simple or complex your project is.
The best way to calculate your hourly rate is:
Take your desired monthly salary, and divide that by the number of hours you’d like to work in the month.
Don’t forget to add your profit as well.
Remember, your profit is what you keep after covering your overhead costs as an artist (rent, bills, and materials).
When you sell your digital art online like Gumroad, you can sell your product at scale.
One of the methods you can use is to look at other digital artists’ prices for their work. This approach will help you determine the market price (i.e. what the consumers are willing to pay for that product) of your digital product.
Gumroad creators sell different types of Digital Art products ranging from $0 - $200+:
How to Balance Creating And Selling Your Digital Art
As a digital artist, creating is where your expertise lies, and sometimes selling is a burden you find yourself too much to carry.
Here are three tips on how to survive and thrive as a Digital Artist who wants to get paid well without burnout:
1. Time block your day
Your creative work won't be the same as your typical 9 - 5 job.
Time blocking is one of the most popular productivity tools you can use. This technique helps you stay focused within a block of time. There will be times where you will accomplish work within 2 hours, and you'll need to complete your work through different times. Time blocking allows you to focus and prioritize important tasks during the day.
For example, you can block sketch time in the morning and editing time in the evening. In between, you can do other tasks that don't require the same energy level when you spend time on your work. According to a Scientific American article, research suggests that brain downtime increases productivity, replenishes attention, and encourages creativity.
Time blocking your day helps you manage your time and energy effectively.
2. Have theme days and batch your tasks
Day theming is when you batch a group of tasks in a day.
If you feel that your attention is divided between multiple tasks or projects, choosing days to work on them solves this. For example, you can choose to spend time creating on Monday to Wednesday. And on Thursday and Friday, you can do the administrative tasks of your business.
Rather than mixing your creating or administrative tasks, also called context switching, you accomplish more by grouping tasks together. You can lose about 20 - 80% of your productivity when you switch between two different tasks. Having theme days can feel inefficient at first, but you reduce your overall cognitive load when you focus on one task.
3. Use technology to help you automate your business
There are so many tools to help digital creators get more done, in less time.
As a digital artist, you will be responsible for creating, marketing, and selling your art. So spending some time learning about different tools that can help you save your time will be so beneficial for yourself and your business.
For example, as a digital artist who needs to keep your presence on Instagram, using a software scheduler can help you plan out your posts in advance. Spending a couple of hours scheduling your posts means that you don't have to publish every single day.
There's no better time to become a Digital Artist.
We hope this article helped you on your journey to becoming an in-demand Digital Artist.
If you're ready to get known for your work as a digital artist, create a Gumroad account and start selling today.
To your success,