It was so nice to meet so many of you and Chat in Last Week’s Creative Career Chat?
One question a reader posed for us was:
This question is normally met with snarky remarks, but I genuinely believe it’s one of the best times in History to make money as a creative. And with that dose of positivity to kick things off, if you do make money as a creative, or if you know, or know off someone who does, can you tall us a bit about it?
As usual, feel free to Freestyle or use these stubs:
One way to make money as a creative is to [..proven idea..]
I make money as a creative by [..personal experience..]
I removed a comment from the thread because it was irrelevant to the intention of the conversation and could discourage further participation, also it was crude, and overall by my estimation would do more harm than good.
This is actually against my philosophy of censorship and free speech etc, perhaps I need to upgrade my philosophy.
I make money as a creative by freelancing. I’ve done this as a designer and architect and am starting to do this as an illustrator. I’m doing this alongside being a stay at home mum, so by no means is it a significant amount - yet! But I can see how it can build up. Once I have a book published I’ll supplement with school visits/workshop.
My goals are to also build up streams of income that allow me to reuse content/products and aren’t necessarily linked to my time Eg. Prints, courses, books.
I'm a photographer. For the last 10 years I've been working as a freelance food photographer. That has been my main source of income. Halfway through I was asked to teach a photography class and to give workshops at a college in London, life became crazy busy and stressful. Teaching died as soon as the pandemic hit. These days I focus on larger commercial projects, teaching and mentoring privately. I have a plan to start designing zines to publish my personal work and to push it here on Substack.
For the past five years I've made money from writing professionally. Press releases, blogs, think pieces, web copy etc. Yes, it's not always stuff that I would choose to write about personally. And it isn't 'creative writing' per se. But it's helped me to hone my writing and storytelling craft. I've certainly been able to flex my creative muscle. And I feel proud that people have valued my writing skill.
My dream is to now focus on writing books. And I'm very proud that yesterday I had my first ever paid Substack subscription sign up. So I have also made a few pounds on Substack!
Thank you for this prompt, Adam.
I also believe that we can choose to see this era as full of opportunities to make money from our art and be independent creators, or we can see it as 'oh it's nothing like the good old days'. I prefer the first one!
I've made money as a creative through craft shows. I'm still pretty new at them but I'm really enjoying them. There a great way for me to meet new people and connect with others.✨
The majority of my income comes from freelance design work. Actually ALL of my income! I'm working to build an illustration portfolio and hope to be able to sell prints and artwork too. I have sold artwork in the past, and exhibited but not for a long time. Feel very much in a transitionary phase!
I make money as a creative by illustrating and working with mainly museums (at the moment). I originally trained to be a curator and worked in exhibition roles for almost 15 years. I then worked very hard to change that and became an illustrator. I now do a lot of illustration work for arts and heritage organisations, which is wonderful as I'm still passionate about museums and their collections. This brings in some money for me, but there is still much to do as I only went freelance last year October. I've started delivering workshops locally and that has brought in a bit more money and it's something I really enjoy. I want to crack retail at some point. When I'm not illustrating for others, I work on my own stories and pitch these to publishers. I have a spreadsheet of publishers where I keep track of who I've contacted. I have spreadsheets for a lot of things!
Making money is easy, I think... 🤔 Making money for the right creative reasons is probably harder.
My main source of income, up to this point, is graphic design, and with some tenacity and general persistence I've slowly grown my illustration portfolio by applying my work, in its current infant form, to existing client work when appropriate.
I’m playing a longer game, but I’ve found it’s a good way of slowly applying and growing those skills, AND getting paid for them.
Would I love to have one of those celebrity Illustration careers…. ? Not sure, but I am enjoying the slow ramp up of this new part of my career. 😺
Writing has always been something I do around the day job, so I've not needed it to be the main source of income. Over the years I've tried various approaches - ko-fi, Patreon, selling indie books on Amazon - and nothing's ever really worked. Writing via Substack has been the first time I've had a properly engaged audience who are willing to support the work.
It's still small scale, but the potential is hugely exciting. So far I've had most success by making everything free, but I'm looking at some paid exclusive stuff later in the year.
I work in media and communications on a freelance basis. I write articles/press releases/etc. about science, nature and equestrian sports for various magazines and sporting events. With my written pieces, I often also provide photography and illustrations. I also assist another equestrian photographer, doing his editing, archiving and sales. I combine my freelance work with that of communications manager for a small nature conservation organisation.
The income from my autonomous textile art, paintings and illustrations is still little. There's some occasional sales of prints and original art, but it doesn't provide a sustainable income stream yet. I'd really love to grow that part of my creative endeavour further, but I feel like I need to enlarge my body of work a bit more first. ❤️🌞
One way I've seen artists in my area make money is to teach classes through community centers or galleries and then apply for creative grants. When a portion of your work goes towards enriching your community it seems to give a leg up (or open up more opportunities) in the grant process. Since I'm already interested in teaching the occasional workshop I plan on exploring this possibility in the future.
This is a great discussion Adam. I started my illustration work doing business illustrations for the NHS, which happened sort of by accident as I worked in finance and did some illustrations for a training course and team development, people saw my work and started to commission me. I did it on the side for a while and then I got some bigger commissions including some murals and worked freelance for 18 months. It didn’t end up being sustainable in the longer term so I’m back working in finance and drawing and writing just for fun for now
Adam, thank you for sharing this thread. It’s been really cool to read other experiences and journeys.
I’ve created art full time and (currently) create alongside a full time job. Though my full time job is about half creative, it’s been a gift to be able to take some financial stress off my creativity. I think it’s enabled me to get some much needed space and slowly find my own way and ideas again. I also teach/mentor throughout the year which has helped provide a more sustainable income while also connecting with other artists which I love.
Love the questions! One way to make money as a creative is working for advertising. I haven't, but some illustration colleagues do, and fees are fine compared to what you get for a Picture Book here in Spain. It's a competitive market, and they look for specific (and trendy) visual styles.
My main income comes from illustration these days. But I've done a lot: craft fairs, stationery, branding (for small companies), picture book, packaging... I'm not very good in the craft fair bit, I've found. But I love doing most things related to illustration. And wouldn't mind designing furniture again (I did that a long time ago, and it was fun). Something I've seen in fellow creatives is that they know how to use those gaps in between jobs for self promotion, for working on their portfolio, for experimental work... I think that's the key for a successful career!
The simple answer is I am not making an money as a creative.
The reason for this, though, is very much internal. I simply don't believe I'm good enough yet. Just not quite there yet. I will practice a little more and then I will put myself out there. I have plans. Just a little more practice. (I have been saying that for 2 years now. There have been people offering me money to draw something for them, and I just couldn't accept, I'm not quite there. Just need to practice a little more).