I can't speak for every artist, but it would be my dream to be able to make a living doing nothing but creating what I want. If I could be paid a seven-figure salary crafting beaded costumes and headdresses and photographing myself in forests, all on my own terms and on my own watch, that would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, that dream has yet to come to fruition, so in the meantime, I have learned a few other ways to make a little money doing what you love:
1. Sell prints of your work.
This one is the most obvious, but also one that took me a while to figure out how to successfully do. If I had it my way, I'd print my work the size of a small wall, frame it, and sell it to a collector for thousands. Unfortunately, most people are not shopping Etsy looking for a print to spend a thousand dollars on weird fantasy shots of women in castles. Therefore, I chose a few favorites of mine and some that I knew were loved online, and had a handful of each printed in sizes ranging from 5x7 to 8x12 or 8x10. I've come to learn that more prints sold when they were not framed, since most people like to go out and buy a frame that matches their personal decor. It also means it's less expensive for them to purchase my art on the spot at art fairs or online. Therefore, I cut foam core to the size of each print, carefully laid the prints on top, and then put them into archival plastic sleeves and sealed the backs with tape. These kept the prints safe from bending, and was a very cost efficient alternative to framing.
2. Create jewelry out of your prints.
An item that consistently sells well at art fairs are my print necklaces and rings. There are numerous websites that sell kits for creating necklaces, rings, charm bracelets, and keychains (definitely do keychains for those who don't wear jewelry). You can either use a regular chain for the necklaces, or you can get even more creative and make chokers or necklaces out of lace or leather strips. If your photography has a certain brand or vibe, it can be fun to channel some of that in the type of jewelry that you make and the materials with which you make it.
3. Design coasters or other home decor with your artwork.
In 2016, I created a series called The Castle Window and it featured 4 women each standing in a castle window and holding a historical or mythological weapon. I decided to turn this series into coasters to sell as a set, and found some 4x4 stone tiles that similarly matched the stone in the castle walls. These coasters were an awesome hit, even though they were pretty labor intensive for me to make. I had the images printed 4x4 from a local fine art printer, mounted them onto the stone tiles using varnish, and then poured and cured resin on top. Resin can be quite challenging to work with, but the results are really amazing. Should you choose to try this process, do some research beforehand, and allow yourself a few practice trials to figure out what works best for you. Also, the stone tiles make these coasters nearly impossible to ship without spending quite a bit of money. If you plan to sell these online and offer shipping, I do not recommend stone. I would use wood or any other lighter material.
Using a similar technique to the coasters, I create magnets out of wallet-sized prints. If you would rather not make them yourself, you can also have magnets made online using your artwork. When I make my own, I use wood instead of tiles, and poured the resin on the top, creating a glass-like surface. These have been a really big hit since it allows my art to still go into homes for a much lower price than a large print.
5. Calendars, Agendas, and Journals
A popular gift around the holiday season are calendars and I have seen numerous fine art photographers selling calendars featuring their work. I haven't tried this approach myself, but it may be one to look into for your art. If you aren't a fan of wall calendars, you could look into what it would cost you to have some personalized planners or journals with your images as the covers.
6. Metal, wood, or glass prints
Get creative with the type of print that you sell! Many printers will now offer to print on metal, wood, or glass. It will most likely be a significantly more expensive option to paper prints, but the result is usually quite impressive. Metal prints, for example, will bring an iridescent sheen to your light tones in the image, giving it an extra magical look.
7. Blank Cards
Offering items that are more affordable is a great way to open your work up to a larger buying audience. One affordable and popular item are greeting cards with your art on the front, and a blank interior so any message can be written inside. You can sell the cards individually, or package multiples together as a set.
8. Sell your skills
Selling your fine art prints is only one aspect of your awesome talent that is marketable. If you notice a lot of people asking "how did you add that smoke?" or "how do you do your composites?", consider opening an account on Patreon, or other website where you can offer tutorials or training for a monthly cost. Do you have a collection forming of various stock images that you've collected of cool skies, ocean lines, smoke or other images that you use for compositing? Gather them all together as a PNG bundle and sell them as overlays for others to use in their art.
Hopefully these tips spark a little inspiration for various ways to make some extra (or a lot of) income off of your fine art. Have any other ideas? Please comment below and tell me!