5 Ways to become a starving artist

The starving artist myth needs to vanish.

Starving artist beliefs stop many artists from succeeding. Unfortunately, the term “starving artist” has become synonymous with art. It's such a common misconception, that it creates a horrible inner dialogue within the minds of artists.

Let's talk about some of the common myths you might face.

I faced these exact myths, believed them at first, but then after creating a business in art online for a while, learned these myths were just those myths.

Common ways most artists stay starving

1. Completely ignore the business side of making art

If you want to take on art as a business, you need to think of it as a business.

As an artist you are making products you need to sell to a specific audience.

There is a strategy and method for selling your art online.

Creating a business around selling the art you make is no different than creating any other type of business. At it's core, you art business is simply creating art for a target market, building familiarity with your audience, and inviting your audience to collect your art.

2. Think you have to sell expensive art to make a living

The truth is, it’s easier to sell art that is affordable (around $50 – $100) than it is to sell more expensive originals and prints. This is also true for selling your art anywhere – face to face or in a gallery.

It’s possible to sell art online at higher prices, but you have to build-up to it – it’s a process.

Luckily it’s a process that can anyone can do, but you have to understand two things about selling art online:

  1. Art sales happen on your art newsletter
    Very rarely will someone come to your website for the first time and purchase your art. It's only after they've signed up for your art newsletter and have gotten to know more about you and your work will they purchase your work. Even then, you have to use art launching strategies for selling art in a way that's predictable.
  2. You'll make most of your sales from past collectors
    When someone purchases an affordable print or original work from you, they’re more likely to purchase a more expensive original or other types of product from your later. These affordable first purchases are a great way to bring your collectors further into your creative world.

This is what's called a collectors list.

Essentially, you’re ONLY inviting people who've taken an interest in your work. Either by signing up for your newsletter or have purchased something from you before. To collect your work through launch strategies. (More on launch strategies later)

3. Think you have to be “famous” in order to sell your art online

One of the biggest myths about being a career artist is that you have to be “famous” or have THOUSANDS of followers on social media in order to sell your art online.

The truth is, you can make art sales from your art without the holy blessing of the “art world”, the “general public”, or being “famous”.

Personally, I don’t sell through galleries, dealers, go to art fairs, or even spend much time on social media.

You won’t see write-ups on me in Vanity Fair about my new show at the LACMA.

You won’t hear about one of my drawings generating millions in bidding war at Sotheby’s.

I barely spend any time on social media.


Because I focus on establishing relationships with my future art collectors first. Sharing my creative process and behind-the-scenes of my sketchbook to those who sign up for my email art newsletter.

Then every so often, I’ll invite my art newsletter subscribers to collect my art. But only after they’ve become more familiar with who I am and what my art is about.

I use ConvertKit to run my art newsletter.

4. Limit yourself to one income stream

There are a variety of income streams you can create as an artist.

Just like any business, it's smart to diversify how you earn from your art.

Luckily, with art there are multiple ways you can generate income. From working commercially as an illustrator in a variety of different fields and industries, selling your art online, applying to grants, licensing your art, and teaching.

I do all of these and love it. Each of these streams of income have opened the door to each other.

For example, a few of my illustration clients have turned into licensing contracts.

Also selling courses online has also accelerated additional art sales online.

Try not to completely rule out a stream of income. I never thought I could teach, but have connected with artists all around the world because of my online courses and tutorials I share online.

5. Believe that selling your art taints you as an artist

This couldn't be further from the truth. Unfortunately I get emails from artists who say they are afraid to try to sell their art online in fear of sending the wrong impression to their audience.

What's going on here?

Essentially, when you're new to ANY business, there is an innate fear of marketing and inviting people to exchange money for what it is you're offering.

This innate fear and belief that marketing and selling is bad comes from very real beliefs. Beliefs I completely understand because 90% of the marketing we see in “interruption” marketing. Just walking around outside we're constantly be sold to. There are signs, billboards, and other marketing messages infiltrating out day to day lives.

Fortunately, as an artist, we don't have to resort to these “interruption” types of marketing. Instead we can authentically share our creative process in a natural, storytelling way. Building up real familiarity with our audiences, then inviting them to collect our art in a chill and confident way.

Final thoughts on how to become a starving artist

The term starving artist is unfortunately synonymous with being an artist. The root cause of this is that 99.9% of artists let two things get in there way from making money with their art.

  1. They completely ignore the business side of making art.
  2. They believe that selling their art in the first place somehow deteriorates them as an artist.

Don't let these two myths stop you from being an artist. If you do, you will surely be a starving artist.

You have a skill and a talent. You make great work.

There is absolutely nothing from with exchanging money for your art.


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