4 Ways to Turn your Art Skills and Experience Into Income

By Carrie Lewis in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Little as most of us want to hear it, few artists earn a living selling art. Many who do are well aware that the income generated from sales is subject to market trends, the economy, and a number of other factors beyond the artist’s control.

Many artists have found other ways to earn art-related income while others choose employment in an area outside their artistic endeavors.

A lot of artists turn to teaching. They already have the interest in art and sometimes highly specialized skills, so they make use of those skills by teaching others.

Want to know how you can use your specialized art experience and skills to supplement studio income by teaching others? Here are four ideas.

1. Start teaching art classes & workshops

Art classes and workshops are probably what come to mind when you think about teaching. Most of us have attended them at one point or another, after all. So as our skills increase, what could be more natural than leading one?

There are a number of different formats for classes and workshops ranging from three- or four-day or longer workshops to weekly or monthly studio gatherings, when students come to paint with the artist.

What are the differences? I’m glad you asked.

• The artist travels
• Students are local and only attend once (they don’t follow the artist from one workshop to another)
• Often hosted at galleries, art centers, churches, hotels, community centers, or other public locations
• Occurs once at each place—if a workshop repeats, it’s usually at least a year later
• The artist may teach the same information at each location

In -studio classes
• Usually held at the artist’s studio
• Occur once a week, or once a month
• Typically for a core of students who attend regularly
• Cover a variety of topics—from specific techniques, to experimenting with new tools and methods
• Provide ongoing support and instruction

There is the possibility of good income and a wider target audience with workshops, but income is offset by higher expenses, including a lot more travel. That means time away from home and family and usually also means time away from personal painting.

Studio classes require little or no travel for the artist, but the target audience is limited to local artists. Income will be less, but is likely to be steady. A group of three or four dedicated students paying $25 to $50 per meeting adds $75 to $200 to the studio’s bottom line with each class. The group can become more like an art family than workshops, so there is also the benefit of mutual support and encouragement among the participants.

2. Give private art lessons

Private lessons are one-on-one classes between artist and student. Based on the same principle as private music lessons, students usually schedule weekly meetings with the artist. Unlike music lessons, however (which are typically 30 minutes long) private art lessons can last an hour or two.

The artist and student will plan out a schedule that works best for both of them, and often will design the lesson plan together. Lessons may be short-term (just a few weeks) or may be ongoing.

In some cases the lessons are highly structured, with both participants knowing in advance what will be studied each lesson. For other artists, lessons might be totally free form—whatever suits the needs of the student and the working methods of the artist.

Private lessons are generally more expensive than classes or workshops in the long run, but also allow one-on-one interaction. Students can work on problem areas or brush up general skills, and always have the full attention of the artist for each class period.

An experienced and popular artist with a high skill level could get $75 to $100 an hour for private, in-studio lessons.

3. Lead an online art course

Online courses are similar to private lessons except that student and artist may never meet in person. And, like private art lessons, they can be highly structured or not structured at all.

Many artists structure online courses in the same way that they schedule workshops: there is a predetermined start and end date, and the course is limited to a small number of students. Other artists offer work-at-your-own pace courses, where students can begin a course at any time and take from two months to two years or longer to complete the course.

Fees for online courses vary widely and depend upon the level of instruction, the popularity of the course, and popularity of the artist.

Craftsy is a great example of a “university” built entirely online and offering many classes for fees under $50 per course (like this one, which was recently reviewed on EE). Their instructors earn a small fee for each student, but if a class is popular those fees add up quickly.

Many other artist’s charge $200 or more for online classes sharing high-level instruction in specific methods, mediums, or subjects.

4. Consult for clients

Consulting is a one-on-one, case-by-case service. A consulting artist provides expertise and problem-solving skills to the client for a fee. The interaction is short-term, generally lasting only until the problems with a particular project are resolved. The artist is more of a trouble-shooter or problem-solver than an instructor. A highly proficient artist can command $100 per half hour for consulting services.

The artist will need to have developed a reputation and skills commenserate with this type of work, so it won’t be for everyone. For those with experience and good problem-solving skills, art consulting could be a good second income.

Of course, there are probably many other ways to turn your art expertise and experience into teaching income—all you need is the ability to think outside the box and the willingness to try something new. My advice is to start small and local, and see what happens.

Who knows. . . maybe you’ll end up being the next Bob Ross!


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