How To Start A Digital Art Business – The Complete Guide

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Written by Juha

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Have you ever dreamed of being an artist full time? Today, you can start a digital art business with a laptop and an internet connection.

The road that lies ahead of an artist isn’t always the easiest, but there are a few tips and tricks along the way that will increase your odds of success.

With new players like Patreon, Redbubble, and Art Station emerging onto the scene, artists now have more mediums than ever to make a profit from their art.

But before you dive into the nitty-gritty of selling your art, take a moment to evaluate your own personal art style and allure as an artist.

Define Your Art Style

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One of the most important steps that artists fail to take is to define their art style. If art is the product you are selling, then it’s wise to follow some of the rules that commercial businesses live by. In other words, if your product isn’t unique, then it’ll have a hard time standing out.

Products also do exceptionally well when they’re nestled in a niche, as this attracts an exclusive audience. As an artist, you can take time to define your art style and add a unique flair to your art. You can use the subject matter of your work to appeal to certain audiences, taking care not to drift far from your own personal tastes.

What Do You Like To Draw?

Defining your art style is easier said than done. First and foremost, what do you like to draw? As soon as you start drawing just to please the crowd and not yourself, then your art begins to lose its authenticity. Take what you love and run with it–strategically marketing it towards others with the same interest.

Understanding what you love to draw and what you seek to get out of your art will enable your passion. That passion will spark your drive and motivation to sell your art and keep your business going. If you’re particularly interested in a subject, say anime, then begin researching the micro-communities surrounding these art styles.

Put In The Time And Effort To Your Art

It’s easy to lose hours in the business side of your art career. More often than not, this leads artists to lose focus on their craft. Never stop putting time and effort into your art. You should always be continually developing your skills, honing in on your strengths, and reflecting on your past work.

Not only will this help you keep sight of what truly matters, but it will be meaningful to your fans as well. If you’re serious about starting a digital art business, make it a priority to put more time and effort into your art than ever before. Working on your art daily is key to sharpening your skills and improving your product.

Grow A Following

Take a note from influencers and grow your following on social media. Direct engagement and interaction with your followers have the massive potential to increase your sales.

Not only that, it helps reach your target audience and gain recognition. It’s actually easier than you think to navigate the jungles of social media, especially as an artist.

Now, there are specific communities online for artists to connect with each other and their fans. Having a social media account or two is a great idea because you can easily promote your sales channels and even run ad campaigns. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular social media sites for artists.

Instagram

You can’t do much better than a social media site devoted to sharing pictures. But Instagram comes in handy for artists not because of its image-sharing features but because of its ability to target niche audiences instead.

It may sound cliche, but hashtags are a great way of boosting your posts to specific audiences or interests. There are even quite a few tools online to help you make the most of your hashtags.

Instagram is also great for directly engaging with your followers. While the site is prone to bots and “ghost” followers, regular interaction with those who like and comment on your posts will ensure that your followers are genuine.

A thousand genuine followers are superior to a hundred thousand ghost followers (although you can “buy” these ghost followers to make your profile seem more legit).

YouTube

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Youtube is another great option for artists looking to get their name out there. For one, you have the ability to monetize your videos and make money from ad revenue. But Youtube is also home to its own unique communities, and there are quite a few artists on the platform.

Users on Youtube are more likely to subscribe and keep up with their favorite Youtubers, which means the site is fantastic for engagement.

There are even options now for a “community” feature and memberships, which give your subscribers exclusive access to unique content. Even if you’re just a digital artist, having a Youtube is a great way to connect with your fans in a more personal way. Consider creating art tutorials or doing a Q&A.

Art Sites

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Finally, there are several social media platforms strictly dedicated to art, and artists often have a lot of success on these sites. Sites like Artstation, Behance, or Dribbble are great not only for connecting with fans but with fellow artists as well.

You can list your digital assets for sale and engage in the artist-to-artist marketplace (and that makes up quite the bulk of some digital artists’ revenue).

Sites like Fanbox are exclusive to the anime and manga art styles and offer access to a dedicated and perfectly curated audience. Sites like Dribbble allow artists to upload their portfolios in a sleek and professional manner, which will increase your odds of landing contracts with businesses in need of digital art.

Create Products

The products that the typical digital artist offers are more varied than one might think. A digital artist might sell resources for other artists, digital downloads, art books, online courses, or commissions.

If you’re looking to maximize your profit as a digital artist, it’s important to diversify your portfolio by offering a varied assortment of products.

Over time, you can identify trends and which products are selling more than others. It’s a good idea to start with quite a few different products to test what your audience is looking for and then direct your efforts to those specific products.

Digital Art Resources

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Many digital artists create digital art resources in automation. You see, when you draw and create your digital art, let’s say in Photoshop or with Clip Studio Paint, the by-product is digital art resources. Resources such as PSD-files, high-resolution images, progress shots, etc.

And if you record your drawing process, you are creating a video that you then sell for your fans and customers.

You see, creating digital art has many benefits, and the beauty of digital art is that already the normal creation process will yield resources that you can then sell in stores like Gumroad, Cubebrush, or Patreon.

Online Courses

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Online courses are in high demand during the pandemic. People want to learn how to create art as much as they want to buy it. You can do a one-off course on how to do a specific technique or use a certain tool. Or, you can create an in-depth course on the fundamentals of digital art.

Either way, you can include subtle references to your own products as a way to bolster your brand. Always include links back to your social media and online storefronts. Also, consider giving your Patreon members and online followers an exclusive discount for your online classes.

Digital Art Prints

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Prints are a fantastic product for any digital artist to sell. They have a high-profit margin, as the cost required to produce them isn’t much. Sites like Redbubble or Society6 can produce these prints for you on-demand and even frame them for the customer.

You can simply upload your own designs, and the customer can choose which product they would like your art on.

Printful and Inprnt are other great sites to use for selling art prints and offer on-demand production and delivery. If you have success with art prints or canvases, consider adding some hoodies or mugs to your product line.

Digital Art Books

Sale
The Art of Guweiz
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wei Gu, Zheng (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 152 Pages - 09/15/2020 (Publication...

If you don’t want to do anything but make money off your finished art pieces, that’s certainly okay. Many digital artists have produced beautiful collections of their work in books. Self-publishing is an excellent route, although you might consider working with a publisher like 3DTotal.

You can offer an eBook download or a physical copy of your book. In particular, art books are popular as display pieces or coffee table material. Through companies like Amazon and Printful, you can offer on-demand printing of your books, so you don’t have to invest in a ready-made stock.

One other option is to turn your online courses into a tutorial book or even transform your art into a coloring book!

Market Your Digital Art Products

Creating and offering products is only half the battle. Marketing is key to the long-term success of your business. Many social media platforms have built-in tools to help you market your art business through ads and sponsored posts. However, you don’t need to sink in large part of your budget into marketing.

There are other ways to push your products and gain awareness of your brand without paying for advertising. This is called organic marketing and is a strategic approach that many online businesses use today.

Organic Marketing

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Organic marketing involves mentioning your products, pushing sales, and offering discounts through your existing social media posts. You can do this overtly or more subtly by encouraging followers to click through a link to see something.

For example, if you’re offering a digital asset like a brush, you can do a youtube tutorial on how to use it.

Or, you can make a video of your progress on a piece and use that specific asset during the video. Offering your followers an exclusive discount is an important strategy to securing a sale. Using hashtags and posting in communities can help you make the most out of organic marketing.

Facebook AD Campaign

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Facebook has a user-friendly ad campaign center. Identify your target audience and area, if applicable, and describe what kind of business and products you are promoting. You simply set a budget, and the algorithm will suggest your posts to people in your desired parameters.

When you sign up, you’ll get some free credits to experiment with the platform. You’ll also be able to track who viewed your ad, what country they’re from, and other demographics they have. Each click will cost you so many cents, and your campaign will run into your allotted budget is gone.

Facebook is great for gaining followers on other platforms or getting sales on specific products. You can also advertise to people who have liked or expressed an interest in a topic, such as art or anime.

YouTube Video Campaign

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Youtube is another platform with easy-to-use ad campaigns. You can advertise your video or channel on related videos, and users can click through to your social media. Even a five-second ad is a great opportunity to lure customers in and showcase a sale.

With enough exposure, your brand will begin to get recognition and familiarity among people in your audience. One other idea to pursue? App campaigns. Have your business advertised through a banner or ad in art-related apps. This will help narrow down your audience even more.

Sell Your Digital Art Products

Once you’ve got your supply of digital art products ready, where exactly do you list them for sale? Places like Etsy are well known for selling hand-made products, but you’ll want to take your storefront elsewhere.

Sites like Gumroad and Cubebrush are geared towards digital artists and are regularly perused by those in the art community.

Other options include Patreon, Teachable, and Makesplace. These marketplaces tend to focus on a specific type of product, but you’ll be able to list all of your assets (or at least link to your other platforms).

Gumroad

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Gumroad is one of the more diverse platforms for artists to sell their wares. There’s an amazing staff and support system for artists as well. Gumroad allows an artist or freelancer to create their own storefront and allows full customization of the look and feel.

Recently, they’ve implemented a membership feature similar to Patreon. Gumroad makes a great “home” for your store or brand, whether you plan on selling to other artists or just to fans. Connect your store to your other platforms and sell things like resources, courses, and more.

Cubebrush

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Cubebrush is a huge online marketplace that has thousands of digital assets for sale. Popular items include reference poses, 3D models, rendered objects, stock photos, as well as materials and software brushes. Here’s an idea to get attention as a new artist: list some of your assets for free.

People will follow your store, and if they like what they’ve downloaded, they’ll be more likely to purchase your other content. There are quite a few free resources to get on the site, which you can pick from yourself. You can also list your tutorials and courses for sale.

Patreon

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Patreon is an essential platform for every artist. In fact, artists comprise some of the top earners on the site. Patreon is free to start, and they only take a minor percentage out of every membership you get. You can offer different tiers of membership with accompanying awards.

For instance, you can entice your fans to sign up for membership by offering a free tutorial, brushes, resources, and more. Add more exclusive content for higher tiers. Be sure to check in with your Patreon followers regularly, however.

If you don’t give them enough content, they may cancel their membership. Most artists have great success on Patreon, however. And I, for example, see Patreon as a great way to get supported for making digital art.

Teachable

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Teachable is one of those trending sites that is enjoying a huge surge in traffic. Teachable is home to online courses of all types, including courses on graphic design, traditional drawing, digital drawing, and art fundamentals.

Some of the courses can go exceptionally in-depth and last for 20+ hours. But you can list something as simple as a short youtube video and begin earning revenue.

Try listing your first courses for free and the more advanced courses for a fee. And, wherever you post your art, be sure to link back to a tutorial so your followers can create digital art just like you.

Makersplace

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Makersplace is a unique concept that aims to bring the exclusivity of traditional art to the web. Using blockchain technology, Makersplace allows digital artists to sell individual editions of their artwork. These digital downloads are authentic and signed by the artist and are only available in limited quantities.

It’s like an art gallery gone virtual, and some of the pieces go for high dollar. You can accept offers on your pieces and even list things like gifs or videos as well if you’re a CGI or animation artist. This platform is rapidly growing and drawing attention, so it’s a great idea to be apart of the boom.

Freelancing

As a digital artist, you have a familiarity with art software and programs often used by businesses or graphic designers. Consider adding freelancing to your revenue streams. You can offer commissions or help design logos for businesses.

If you work with photography, consider taking some stock photos or offer to draw unique designs for businesses. Eye-catching ads and banners are in high demand as social media marketing grows more popular. If you’re new to the idea of freelancing, try browsing sites like Upwork, Fiverr, or Toptal.

Fiverr.com

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Fiverr first began as a freelancing marketplace where you can offer your services for only $5. Now, it’s expanded to allow more expensive services and upcharges, but the vibe of the platform remains the same. If you’re experienced with photoshop, consider lending your services for a small fee.

Other popular services include concept art, vector art, logos, tattoo designing, OC illustration, and vectorization. While Fiverr is home to many freelancers offering quick and cheap services, don’t undervalue your work. Offer simple services for a low fee, and raise the price for more intensive work.

Toptal

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Toptal is another freelancer marketplace, but they thoroughly vet and check out each freelancer before they come in. This is really appealing to businesses because it takes the hassle out of searching for the perfect freelancer.

If you get in, you’re bound to be front and center of some top businesses. Website and graphic designers are popular on this platform, as are logo creators. You can’t lose anything by putting yourself out there, so it’s worth a try.

Create Your Own Website

Try not to get overwhelmed with so many profiles, platforms, and accounts. One way of simplifying things is to create your own website. Creating your own website gives a professional look to your brand, as does your own domain.

It gives you full creative liberty over how your site looks and what you list for sale. In some cases, it can even help you maximize your profits.

Create A WordPress Site

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You don’t need to be HTML or UI/UX savvy to design a professional website. WordPress, a blog hosting site, is popular among artists. They have ready-made designs that make it easy to display your portfolio and connect your own domain. It’s also free to start, and you can publish whenever you’re ready.

WordPress site also acts as a hub for your digital art business. You can have a blog in it, links to products, an about page for deeper connection, and all in all, a hub for everything your business has on offer.

While many new online entrepreneurs don’t set-up their own website, I do recommend getting yourself a website, just to have that hub and branding in place.

Set Up A Squarespace site

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Squarespace is another web hosting service that is exceptionally user-friendly. Squarespace is a popular choice for online stores and artists selling products. That’s because they have an integrated online shop feature that handles everything from payment to invoices.

It’s also integrated with services like Mailchimp, so you can create a mailing list and keep in touch with your customers. In terms of convenience, Squarespace has everything covered so you can focus on your art.

The Louvre Wasn’t Built in a Day

Having a career as an artist can get overwhelming very quickly. No art career was built in a day, so start small and work your way up. And most importantly, put your art first. Your passion and motivation is what will ignite your career.

If you ever feel stuck, remember that online sales often come in waves. Take advantage of sales, and check out to see what similar artists are doing. Over time, you will experience some rewarding results that will inspire you to keep going.

Don’t forget to share with your friends!

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