For many years I struggled to build my reputation and career as a painter, without seeing much success. I became discouraged by my lack of momentum and seeing just a trickle of income from a few sales a year—and I know that many of you have probably felt the same way.
So today I’m going to I share how I found an income stream that not only supports the cost of making and marketing art, but also adds to my reputation, builds my brand, and improves my skills as an artist in the process.
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This magic key to my success? Teaching art online. Here’s how I got started:
My simple YouTube art lesson
In 2011, I uploaded a video to YouTube, demonstrating a favorite watercolor technique. Honestly, that video was nothing special. . . filmed at an awkward angle, on a cheap camera while children interrupted with playful background noise, it certainly couldn’t compete with the pros who were already running art-themed channels.
However, people seemed to respond to my style of show-and-tell technique demonstrations and after a few months, I monetized my channel, which now contained at least a dozen videos. Within 6 months I was earning $100 per month in ad revenue, a welcome paycheck for any struggling artist.
Seeing my YouTube views & subscriptions grow as viewers gobbled up the free content, I started thinking about setting up a structured course, something I could charge money for that would enable me to interact more directly with students.
I started researching online learning sites,and launched a short watercolor course on a site that already had some art related courses. They paid me a commission on every enrollment, and increased the commission for students coming directly from my referrals.
It was exciting seeing enrollment grow, and motivating to realize that I was finally starting to make a living through my art.
Fast forward a few years
Since my first foray into online teaching, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve improved my filming technique and equipment. I say “um” on camera less often. Best of all, I’ve moved on from that first site to develop my own school at learn.angelafehr.com.
I have seven watercolor courses, ranging in price from free to $99, and over 3000 students from all over the world registered. I’m growing my influence as a “watercolor expert,” receiving inquiries on teaching workshops in different parts of North America, selling more art and seeing opportunities all over the place.
What’s more, as I develop new courses, learning better ways of demonstrating and explaining watercolor techniques, I grow as an artist, strengthening my own skills and understanding of artistic technique and theory.
Even if teaching art isn’t for you, I think the most important takeaway from my experience is that as artists, we need to be actively growing our careers, looking continually for ways to use our internet culture to promote our work and sell our art.
The internet and social media is always changing, and what worked last year won’t necessarily work today. So don’t be afraid to experiment, try something new, and find your “marketing angle” based on your own personal strengths!