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3 creative online business ideas for artists (+ 16 examples)

Whether you want to be a full-time entrepreneur or are looking for a side hustle, these business ideas for artists can turn your creativity and talent into income.

TL;DR

Turn art into income by sharing your talent

Whether you’re interested in starting a new business as a full-time entrepreneur or just want to bring in some extra cash, there are endless opportunities to make more money without stifling your creativity.

Here are three small business ideas for artists looking to make money online:

  • Sell digital downloads. Write an ebook about your artistic expertise, create printables featuring your art, or upload templates that make artists’ lives easier.
  • Build an online community of artists. An online community brings people together and creates a support system to share their ideas, offer feedback, and learn together.
  • Create online courses and art tutorials. Teach others how to succeed as an artist by sharing your valuable experience and authentic journey.

As an artist, you have unique talent, creativity, and style. But whether you dabble in woodworking or turn blank walls into beautiful murals, turning your skills into regular income can be hard, often frustrating work.

The good news is that you don’t have to limit yourself to selling physical artwork to make money as an artist. It’s never been a better time to start an online business and join the creator economy.

Creative entrepreneurs are earning their first online dollar by the millions. And they’re doing it by selling digital products like digital downloads, community memberships, and online courses.

Whether you’re interested in starting a new business as a full-time entrepreneur or just want to bring in some extra income with an online side hustle, this guide is for you. We’re sharing three art business ideas to help you make more money while loving what you do for a living.

Along the way, we’ll highlight 16 different artists who are using Podia to share their talent, connect with other artists, and grow their online art business.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Sell digital downloads (Printables, templates, and guides)

If you’re new to online entrepreneurship, creating and selling digital downloads is a great place to start. Digital downloads can help you showcase your art, share your expertise, and make money.

Why digital downloads?

For one thing, they’re far more scalable than selling physical art. You have lower startup costs because you don’t need to pay for printing, set up a fulfillment process, or secure inventory space.

That scalability also makes digital downloads a stellar opportunity to bring in passive income. Once you create and upload your download, you’ve put in the same amount of resources, whether you make one sale or one million.

Some of the most popular digital downloads to sell online include:

  • Ebooks and guides on your area of expertise

  • Templates, presets, and fonts

  • Graphics, illustrations, stock photos, and digital art

  • Video tutorials and webinar recordings

  • Printables, from wedding invitations to worksheets

Ebooks are one of the most popular digital downloads on the market. The global ebook market is expected to grow by $6.93 billion from 2021–2025.

You can make money selling ebooks on your own website — no Amazon listings or publisher required.

Pro furniture maker Norman Pirollo of WoodSkills does exactly that.

On his website, Norman sells ebooks on all things woodworking, including:

  • An overview of hand tools

  • A guide to starting your own woodworking business

  • A chronicle of Norman’s journey from a tech career to self-employment as an artist

Stacy Spangler is another artist selling helpful resources on her Podia site. With Stacy’s guide to acrylic painting supplies for beginners, new artists don’t have to feel overwhelmed at the art supply store and can set themselves up for painting success.

If you have an eye for interior design, you could follow Lovely Home Academy’s lead and help homeowners perfect the layout of every room. The Find Your Style Workbook aims to help readers discover their unique decorating style and choose their home decor with confidence.

Maybe writing isn’t your cup of tea. Don’t worry — you don’t have to write an ebook to sell digital downloads. Instead, consider selling printables featuring your own art.

Here are just a few printables currently sold by artists on Podia:

Last but not least, you can also use your creative skills to help other artists run a successful small business.

Graphic designer Angelique Duffield sells ebook and worksheet templates for Canva, making it easy for entrepreneurs without her graphic design expertise to create their own digital download PDFs.

Marketing pro Ally of Ally B Designs offers a wide range of marketing templates for photographers, from Canva social media templates to a collection of email templates.

Ally’s entrepreneurial and artistic experience makes these valuable resources for people looking to grow their photography businesses.

For more advice on selling printables, ebooks, and more, check out this complete guide to selling digital downloads.

Before we move on to our second business idea, there’s one more question to answer: Where should you sell your digital downloads?

When selling your digital downloads online, you have two main options: List them on a digital marketplace like Etsy or Amazon, or sell them on your own website.

At first, selling your digital products on a marketplace might seem like a no-brainer. The technical work and website design is done for you. All you have to do is upload your content and start making money, right?

Not quite. Selling art on a marketplace has some significant disadvantages.

First, massive marketplaces make it hard to stand out in a crowded niche. For example, there are over 4.4 million printables available for purchase on Etsy right now.

Second, marketplaces tend to have complex fee structures and often make creators jump through hoops to get paid.

For example, Etsy charges sellers:

  • A $0.20 listing fee

  • A 5% transaction fee, plus a payment processing fee

  • 15% offsite ads fee for ads that Etsy posts outside of your control

If selling on a marketplace doesn’t seem like the right fit for you, don’t worry. Selling digital downloads from your website isn’t as technically tricky as you might think.

In fact, with the right platform, it’s simple. Podia’s all-in-one platform makes it easy for creative entrepreneurs to build their own websites and start selling digital downloads.

All of the digital download examples we’ve covered so far are sold with Podia. Turn that inspiration into income and try it out for yourself with a 14-day free trial.

Overall, selling digital downloads is a fairly hands-off way to bring in passive income as an artist. Our next business idea takes a more social approach.

2. Build an online community of artists

Sometimes, art can feel like a solitary endeavor — especially if you work fully remotely.

A study on remote work from Buffer shows that the top two struggles of working from home are collaboration and communication and loneliness.

How do you connect with other artists if you don’t share a studio space with others or have in-person art classes?

You join — or create — an online community.

An online community is a space where people with similar interests, like a particular artistic medium or style, can come together. Members of a community have shared goals, challenges, and values.

For example, artist and teacher Tara Leaver’s Happy Artist Studio membership is dedicated to helping artists “become the artist you really want to be.”

When they join the Happy Artist Studio, members get access to:

  • All of the online courses and learning materials Tara has created over the past nine years

  • A guide to help them figure out where to start

  • A growing library of Q&A videos in which Tara answers members’ questions

  • Tara’s support and feedback on their work

  • A private online community for connecting and working with other artists

One member describes the Happy Artist Studio community as “an everyday support station/connection to a creativity-boosting-source”.

By creating a brand community around her products, Tara lets her students connect over a shared experience and help each other overcome creative block.

Working through the same online lessons creates a sense of community, which in turn helps members get more out of the Happy Artist Studio membership. That’s a win-win for Tara’s business and her members’ customer experience.

Another excellent example of an artist community is Casey Cole Corbin’s membership group for fluid art teachers.

An art consultant and life coach, Casey sells three membership subscription levels:

  1. CommUNITY: Access to a supportive online community, a guided course curriculum experience, and partial access to Casey’s content library.

  2. Accelerated: All of the above, plus access to the entire content library, live Q&A sessions, live coaching calls, and an expert-led mastermind group.

  3. Retainer: All of the above, plus lifetime access to all content and up to eight individual coaching sessions.

Offering three different membership tiers means there’s something for aspiring art teachers at every budget.

When you run a niche community like the examples above, you can open up valuable discussions and build connections with your members. Ask specific questions in your posts, then reply to comments to make your members feel heard.

Here are some conversation starters you can use:

  1. What are your biggest challenges right now as an artist?

  2. What do you want to learn more about?

  3. Whose work currently inspires you?

  4. What was your biggest success last month?

  5. What advice would you give other artists who want to achieve that same thing?

Of course, to build a strong membership community, you need the right platform.

Many creators end up cobbling together separate tools, like Facebook Groups, online course platforms, and payment processors. But these patchwork solutions create a gap between your community and the work it’s built around. Your work.

That’s one of the big reasons that nine out of ten creators we talked to want to move their online community to a new platform.

It’s also why we built Podia’s community feature.

Podia makes it easy for you to connect your audiences and your work. Community members can:

  • Purchase your products

  • Consume your content

  • Post and join discussions

…all in the same place.

You can create a variety of topics and posts to encourage conversations. Your members can follow topics, comment on discussions, and create their own posts.

Because they’re already logged in to purchase your products or consume your content, they don’t have to log into a standalone platform or get distracted by Facebook. That’s a better experience for you and your members.

Learn more about creating an online community with Podia.

3. Create online courses and art tutorials

Teaching can be a rewarding — and profitable — way to share your creative talent with others.

The market for online courses is growing fast, with self-paced e-learning expected to grow by over six billion USD by 2024.

Selling online courses and tutorials is another (mostly) passive income opportunity for artists. You build your online course once, then all that’s left to do is find potential students and promote your course.

To plan out your course content, start with the end result you want students to achieve. Make it a goal that you’ve achieved as an artist. Then, create a step-by-step plan that shows them how to reach that goal based on your experience.

Take Jessica Walker’s course, The Card Maker Business Course, for example.

Jessica started her own greeting card shop with no business experience. Now, she runs a six-figure greeting card business. To help other business owners follow in her footsteps, her online course features Jessica’s design tips, marketing strategy, and business plan.

Sunlight Tax School also helps artists build successful businesses with their courses on taxes and bookkeeping for artists.

Taught by a working artist with 15 years of experience, their goal is to arm artists with the knowledge and skills to save money.

“I started Sunlight Tax to give back to the creative community that has nurtured me. When artists stop making work, the reason is usually financial,” their website explains.

“So when I’m able to give other creative people the money tools they need to be financially stable, I’m supporting this critical work.”

Another top-notch online art course is Sketchnote Academy from Emily Mills. Emily is a professional sketch artist and author who has created visual notes — AKA sketchnotes — for major brands across the U.S.

In her Sketchnote Academy workshops, Emily teaches artists of all skill levels how to create sketchnotes and build confidence in their drawing abilities.

Learn Brush Calligraphy’s Beginner Brush Calligraphy Course is also designed to help aspiring artists gain confidence in their work.

The course includes over four hours of video lessons, exercise prompts to apply each new skill, and downloadable worksheets to turn beginners into skilled calligraphers.

If you teach in-person art classes, consider creating a digital version to sell online. Zea Mays Printmaking is a studio in Massachusetts that offers “studio access, workshops, residencies, internships, mentorships and contract printing services” in person.

But for those who can’t make it to their physical location, Zea Mays sells video tutorials on several different printmaking skills.

By selling online tutorials, Zea Mays reaches a wider audience of aspiring printmakers, which means more customers and more accessible art education.

Learn how you can turn offline classes into livestreams in this article, and check out this guide to bringing offline students online.

Before we wrap up, remember that there truly is an online business opportunity in every niche.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at Mr. Dave’s Online Store. Dave Henderson is a sculptor, entrepreneur, and faux rock contractor.

He sells online courses on all things faux rocks, from building a faux rock waterfall and slide to landing more building contracts. Dave is passionate about faux rocks, but he’s also passionate about helping other artists — and that’s what teaching an online art course is all about.

Podia makes it easy for Dave Henderson, Zea Mays Printmaking, and all artists in this section to host, launch, and sell their online courses. Tune into our weekly demo to learn more about selling online courses with Podia.

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No matter what path you choose, I’m rooting for you, and I’m sure it’ll be a work of art. 🎨

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.