I am the owner and illustrator of Gingiber. I have been an illustrator for 11 years and have successfully sold my artwork across several categories such as art licensing, wholesale, direct to customer sales, direct downloads, books, teaching, and more. I cannot wait to teach you how to do the same!
Today I want to pull back the curtain when it comes to Leveraging my own Art! What does it mean to Leverage Your Art? For me, it means you make great art and then use that art in multiple ways that lead to income. Let’s dive in to my income streams as a thriving artist.
So, for instance, when I could not do craft shows or trade shows in 2020 when the world was shutdown, I still had products and art licensing and wholesale to count on for income.
But what does it look like in my business, 13 years into running Gingiber, when it comes to creating income as an artist? What are my most profitable income streams? Which ones are my favorite? Let me pull back the curtain on my business.
Art Licensing, Products, and Custom Work
Most profitable, favorite income stream
Art licensing is the income stream that I stumbled into about 3 years into running Gingiber. My first art licensing deal was for a magnet company, and it suddenly occurred to me that ALMOST ALL PRODUCTS HAVE ART ON THEM! So there must be other companies who would want to put my art onto products, right?
Since then I’ve licensed my work for Crate and Kids, West Elm, Moda Fabrics, Chasing Paper Wallpaper, Chronicle Books, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and countless other brands.
Admittedly, it can take a bit of time to build up a portfolio filled with art that works on product. Then, you have to learn how pitch your portfolio to companies and manufacturers. You’ve got to let people know who you are and what kind of art you make.
I’ve had so many people ask me how to break into Art Licensing that I created a course all about it called Leverage Your Art.
BUT the overhead for Art Licensing is like SO LOW, especially when compared to creating products yourself.
And, once you get a licensing deal, you start to create passive income. Last month alone I made 5 figures from Art Licensing contracts that paid out quarterly or annually.
Print on Demand is also a form of art licensing, but instead of pitching your raw art to clients, you put your art onto products and sell them on POD Sites like Tee Public. I don’t put a lot of energy into POD anymore, which, if you want to make POD work for you, you have to fill your store with HUNDREDS of designs.
Art Licensing Income accounted for nearly 10% of my art based revenue in 2021. It is worth mentioning now that in 2021, Gingiber was a 7 figure business, so that will help to give a range for what my percentages represent.
Most labor intensive, but easiest to scale
Before I tell you about my own product based business, I think it is worth mentioning that the art that I license can also be used for products I produce myself! This is what “leveraging your art” is all about, getting as much bang for your buck from your artwork.
I started as a product based business back in 2009, and art was at the center of everything I was creating. I focused on making and selling products that looked best with the type of art that I made. My art was simple, just illustrated icons with no background. So I put my art on tea towels, art prints, tote bags, and eventually put it onto calendar, cards, and more.
OF COURSE all of this required purchasing inventory. And when I first started I didn’t have a lot of money. So I handmade items, I bought a printer, and I started small. BUT, when I listed the items I made I marked up my products enough so that when they sold, I had a great profit margin. And that profit margin is what allowed me to eventually get into…..WHOLESALE!
Wholesale is when you sell a product that you’ve manufactured at 50% of the suggested retail price to other retailers. Those retailers sell the products to their customers. Retailers purchase in bulk, so even though your profit margin is smaller than DTC, you move through inventory faster, so you can order larger quantities, which in turn leads to an improved profit margin. HUZZAH!
And finally, after I licensed products, I was able to purchase those products at a wholesale price and then turn around and sell them to my own audience on my own website.
Products, sold online and wholesale, accounted for 85% of my art based revenue in 2021.
Takes the most time, but can have bigger paydays than regular product sales
Sometimes I want to do something out of the box, like print a limited edition run of block-printed artwork, or take pet portrait commissions. Sometimes we get asked to take existing artwork and personalize it, so we do that with an up-charge to the customer. On a larger scale, commissioned work can mean painting murals, getting hired for branding work, or even doing REALLY BIG products for collaborations where the artwork can never be used again except by the client you are designing for.
I don’t seek out custom work at this point, but when I am approached and if the project is something that I’m excited about and fits into my schedule, then I say YES!
Custom work accounted for 5% of my art based revenue in 2021.
These are the legs of my art business. I didn’t speak about online education, affiliate marketing, and Skillshare, because I don’t actually group that income as a part of my art based business.
I want you to know that you can build an AMAZING art based business that serves you and brings you joy and purpose. You don’t have to go into online education to make a good living as an artist. Although, I definitely love teaching, it does bring in steady income. But until 3 years ago, teaching wasn’t even on my radar.
What questions do you have about ways to make money as an artist? What income stream are you most interested in pursuing?
P.S. You can download my Ultimate Income Stream Guide which goes over even MORE ways to make money from your art. Click HERE to download it.