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How Freelance Artists Earn a Good Living

by Davis Porter

We’d wish you an artistic career as successful as Leonardo Da Vinci’s, Michelangelo’s, or Pablo Picasso’s. But, here’s the thing – that would possibly mean making the bulk of your money posthumously. 

Well, that’s pretty much what many talented artists had to contend with for centuries. Even as late as the 19th and 20th centuries, the best artistic works were displayed in salons and commercial galleries. Although some artists lived to see their creations attract global fame, much of the glory came post-obit. 

In the 21st Century, however, we’ve witnessed a rather interesting paradigm shift. The internet is increasingly changing how artists sell their items. Digital platforms are now replacing traditional galleries, freelance artist jobs are taking center stage, and creatives are exceedingly pursuing freelance artist careers. 

But, to what end? Are freelance artists really earning a good living? And, if so, how exactly are they doing it? Plus, what are your options if you intend to join the ranks of successful freelance artists? 

How Much Can Freelance Artists Make? 

The truth of the matter is, yes – freelance artists do actually earn a good living. 

Going by the freelance artist jobs sampled by Indeed, freelance artists in the U.S. earn an average hourly salary of $24.17 to $37.10. 

In the city of Los Angeles, for instance, a freelance graphic artist earns about $4,426 per month, while 2D artists make $5,395 a month. Concept artists, on the other hand, dwarf all that with average yearly earnings of $75,743. 

Neuvoo, another renowned job site, places the average income for freelance artists based in the US at $55,575 per year and $28.50 per hour. Entry-level freelance artist jobs start at $33,443 per year, while an impressive freelance artist resume with years of experience stands to earn you up to $94,478 per year. 

But, it doesn’t end there. While freelance artist jobs offer decent compensation packages, they can’t possibly match up to the raw potential of artwork sales. You see, by 2011, some freelance illustrators in the US were already making as much as $948,000 per year – mostly from selling books, prints, and commissioned pieces. 

freelance illustrator job income

Overall, you could say things have been looking up for freelance artists. What’s more, the industry continues to grow tremendously, presenting new promising opportunities to upcoming creatives. 

It’s worth noting though, that the freelance artist industry is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you stand to make even millions of dollars per year – while, on the other, things could potentially go awfully wrong. We’ve seen the bottom tier of freelance artists earning as low as $754 in 12 months. 

Now, to avoid that, you need to approach everything with finesse. And it all begins by identifying the best digital platforms for kickstarting your career as a freelance artist. 

How To Get Started As A Freelance Artist

Online Freelance Artist Gigs

laptop displaying images

One of the simplest and most convenient ways of earning as a freelance artist is securing gigs from freelance marketplaces. 

And when it comes to that, most people choose to start their search on popular platforms such as Freelancer.com and Upwork. 

Not bad – but, as you’ll notice, both of them are only ideal for general design gigs. Plus, the prospective earnings per project are comparatively low because of the high level of competition between artists. 

That said, the best freelance platforms for highly specialized artist jobs are:

Online Platforms For Selling Art

image of a computer on a sales website

If freelance artist gigs are not your type of thing, you could perhaps try to sell art pieces to interested buyers. 

The most obvious approach here would be selling from your own website. And to create one, you might want to try an intuitive visual-based site builder such as Wix or Squarespace. 

They both offer a wide range of attractive pre-built themes for art-based online stores. Plus, you get to add plugins for processing digital payments, as well as managing your inventory items and customers’ orders. 

Alternatively, you could save yourself the trouble of rallying traffic by simply taking advantage of popular digital marketplaces. Instead of building an independent website, you just set up a basic store on a platform that already enjoys a huge consistent flow of online shoppers. 

Examples include: 

  • Etsy: Offers tools for selling both physical and digital artworks – from collectibles, paintings, sculptures, and wall decor to visual arts and jewelry. 
  • Saatchi Art: Great for selling original paintings, prints, and fine art photographs. 
  • Creative Market: Particularly ideal for freelance artists dealing in digital art items such as illustrations, website themes, lightroom presets, branding kits, business logos, fonts, stock photography, etc. 
  • Getty Images: Popular stock agency that gives you the chance to earn royalties from license sales. You could specialize in stock photography, vector graphics, drawings, and other digital illustrations. 

Sell Directly To Your Followers on Social Media

social media symbols on a keyboard

You can also convert your social media following into earnings. The trick is to leverage a dedicated social selling tool that’s capable of integrating seamlessly with your selected platform. 

Take, for example, shopping cart solutions such as Selz and Sellfy. 

They are both great at embedding ecommerce with your Instagram and Facebook, consequently giving you the privilege of selling art items conveniently from your profile. 

That means even buyers get to check out and pay for stuff without leaving their social timelines. 

Remember Though: Don’t Sell Yourself Short

The freelance artist industry can be quite competitive, especially as you get started. But, don’t let that discourage you. Be patient enough to weather the storm without selling yourself short. Things are bound to get easier with time.

And when you finally learn the ropes, you might want to expand your income streams. 

You can, for instance, pursue a career in freelance graphic design while earning passively from stock image royalties. Or maybe, you could set up a parallel online school for passing on your artistic skills to paying students. 

All in all, whatever you choose to focus on, we wish you all the best in your journey as a freelance artist.

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