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7 Business Models For Artists


Many artists in the world would love to be able to spend most of their day creating works of art that they can share with the world. Whether it is painting, music, photography, digital graphic art, or even film, artists express themselves through their works. However, many artists still need to pay the bills and need income to support their passion. This is when an artist should begin to find ways to make money from their artwork. A step in that process is to choose the right business model.

A business model is a method used to generate revenue from a product or service. In artistry terms, it is the way an artist can make money from their creations. There are several types of business models available for all kinds of businesses. Understanding your business model is important for many reasons. One of those reasons is that when you understand your business model, you are also closer to answering many other important questions about your business. When your business model is clear you get a better idea of who your customers are.

Many artists don’t think of themselves as business minded. However, for skilled and talented artists, it is very possible to turn their passion into a business or full-time job by selling their works. The good news is that in the modern age, there are several business models for artists to choose from. In this article, we will look at the most profitable and popular business model used by artists.


The Commission-based Model

One of the first ways artists made money from their work was by using the commission-based business model. This is a traditional model where artists create artwork on commission for clients, such as portraits, landscapes, or still-life paintingsThe artist charges a fee for their time and materials, and the client owns the artwork. This model dates back thousands of years to the Roman empire and was widely used during the renaissance. During the Florence renaissance, wealthy patrons such as the Medici Family, as well as the Catholic Church, commissioned social, political, and religious art from artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

These days, everyone from governments to individuals, to businesses is commissioning artwork. The commission-based model involves artists creating custom artwork for clients in exchange for a commission fee. This model can be attractive to artists who enjoy the process of collaborating with clients and creating bespoke artwork that meets specific needs and preferences.

To make money from the commission-based model, artists typically need to establish a strong reputation and portfolio of previous commission work. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with clients and manage the process of creating custom artwork, including setting deadlines, managing expectations, and ensuring client satisfaction.


Licensing Model

Artists who want to keep ownership of their work tend to utilize the licensing model. Using the licensing model, artists can license their artwork to manufacturers, publishers, or other businesses for use in products or promotions. The artist receives royalties or a licensing fee for the use of their creations. However, unlike the commission-based model, artists still own their work. 

Although this type of model is more popular with photography artists, creators who sketch, paint, and create digital art can also utilize this model. We’ve even seen licensing artwork on products, such as clothing, home decor, and stationery. For artists, this is a particularly attractive business model because of the potential for passive income.

The key to using this type of business model is negotiation. An artist must negotiate licensing agreements and understand the legal aspects of licensing, such as copyright and trademark law. Graphic Artists Guild reports that typical royalties for artwork licensing are between 3-10% of revenues, with the rate rising to 15% for brand and character licensing.

However, it is important to note that licensing can also come with risks. Artists may need to give up some control over how their artwork is used.


Direct to-Collector Model

The direct-to-collector model involves artists selling their work directly to collectors, bypassing galleries or other intermediaries. This includes selling their art through art shows, galleries, social media, their own website, or online marketplaces.

If you’re an artist that is wanting to maximize profits for your art, this model is ideal. Art commissions, dealers, and galleries can take up to 50% commission from a sold piece. Using this model, an artist can keep the majority of profits instead of sharing them with a third party.

Another benefit to this model is that artists have more control over their artwork. Unlike the previously discussed licensing model. This artist’s business model does come with some challenges, however.

One is that artists are fully responsible for marketing, selling, and shipping their artwork. Many artists must also invest time and other resources to build a fanbase online to sell their work to their followers. However, if an artist is also willing to put in the effort to drive sales to their art, the direct-to-collector model offers a higher rate of return than most other models.


Subscription model


Instead of making money from their art, this business model is best for artists that would like to make money from their artistic skill set. Using the subscription business model, artists can sell access to exclusive content. This model can be particularly effective for artists who create digital content, such as videos, tutorials, or behind-the-scenes access to their creative process.  

To implement a subscription model, artists typically need to create a dedicated platform or website where subscribers can access their content. Or they can use established platforms like YouTube to gain subscribers and Patreon to sell their subscription services.

Artists may offer different tiers of subscription, with higher tiers offering more exclusive or valuable content. For example, a basic subscription tier might offer access to a monthly video tutorial, while a higher-tier subscription might include personalized artwork or a one-on-one consultation with the artist.

The subscription model is usually an internet-based business model. If you’re an artist wanting to create a reliable recurring source of income, this model along with the licensing model, are the most effective. Click here to learn more about the pros and cons of the subscription-based business model.


Gallery Sales Model

One of the more traditional models for selling art is the gallery sales model. This is the art world’s version of selling an original product at a retail location. But instead of a store, the art is sold in an art gallery. Typically, galleries will take a commission on artwork sold, usually between 30-50% of the sale price. The rest goes to the artist. For example, if an artwork sells for $1,000 and the gallery’s commission is 40%, the gallery will keep $400 and the artist will get $600. Galleries also offer other services that artists can pay for such as marketing and promotional services.

However, gallery sales is not the only way to make money from this type of business model. Some galleries may also offer artist residencies. This is when a gallery provides artists with a stipend or housing in exchange for creating and exhibiting artwork.

To sell their work in galleries, artists usually need to have a strong portfolio of high-quality artwork. Brand-new artists will rarely have their work featured at a gallery without a portfolio. Having a strong reputation within the art community or receiving a lot of press can also help an artist land a spot in a gallery. Building relationships with gallery owners and curators is an important part of this model. So is networking within the art world and participating in group exhibitions or art fairs. All of this can help artists increase their visibility and sales potential.


Prints & Reproductions Model

Another revenue model artists can utilize is creating and selling high-quality reproductions of their original artwork to collectors, fans, and other customers. These reproductions can take many forms, including prints, posters, giclees, and other forms of digital or physical copies.

It is important to know the difference between a print and a reproduction. Prints are copies of original artwork that are made using a printing process, such as lithography, etching, or screen printing. A reproduction, however, refers to a copy of an original artwork that is made using a different process. For example, using photography or digital scanning. Reproductions can be made in a variety of formats, including posters, postcards, and prints.

You’ll need to invest in the production and marketing of their reproductions to make money from this model. This can include working with printers or publishers to produce the reproductions. You’ll also need to market and select sales channels for the creations This means promoting through social media and online marketplaces like Etsy.

If you’re an artist that wants to create some exclusivity, you can sell limited-edition prints. These are prints that are signed and numbered by the artist and produced in a limited quantity. Limited edition prints can often command higher prices and be more valuable to collectors than open edition prints.

Selling prints and reproductions can be very lucrative. But, it’s important to balance this with the value of their original artwork and the exclusivity that comes with owning an original piece. Some artists choose to limit the production of their prints. Or, they only offer them for sale after a certain amount of time has passed since the original artwork was created.


Crowdfunding Model

Crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money to fund any project. Musicians, entrepreneurs, directors, and, yes, traditional artists have been using this model to fund anything from movies to businesses. Even though the most successful campaigns of recent history have been blockchain related, this model can still allow artists of all kinds a way to fund their passions.

The key to succeeding in the model is in the campaign. Good campaign execution can help make your dreams come true. A bad campaign can doom them. Here are a few things to do to help make your artistic crowdfunding campaign a success.

  • Memorable and catchy campaign title-Make sure the title of the campaign is something that grabs people’s attention and describes the project at the same time.
  • Compelling video-Use video to tell the story of the campaign.
  • Your “why”-Make sure to explain the reason and passion behind your project.
  • Goals and Timelines-Give potential donors a timeline and milestone goals so they know what to expect.
  • Transparency- the costs associated with the project so donors know where their money is going.

Crowdfunding campaigns can also help artists to build a community around their work and gain exposure to new audiences. Successful crowdfunding campaigns can also serve as proof of concept for investors or publishers. This can help artists secure future funding or publishing deals. Artists can use crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for their projects or to support ongoing work. They offer rewards to backers in exchange for their support. 



Being able to create beautiful works of art is a gift. But, learning how to make a living from your creations is a skill. Evaluate your plan to turn your artwork into a business. Examine which business model works best for you. You can always mix or even change your business model if it isn’t working. Then, you can do the work you love while being able to live the life of your dreams.

Ralph Paul on Twitter
Ralph Paul
Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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