The starving artist is a myth: how to sell digital art (+ make a profit) in 2024

By Susanna read
23 Mar, 2024
The starving artist is a myth: how to sell digital art (+ make a profit) in 2024

Do you want to make money online using your creative skills? 

Well, let me tell you something:

The concept of the starving artist is a myth for a reason. Indeed, in today’s world, you don’t have to be a starving artist. Thanks to the internet, anybody can earn money online.

So, if you’re a designer, an artist, or just a creative person looking to sell art online and build a passive income stream, then keep on reading.

In this article, I’ll show you how to start selling art online without any hassle—from building a store to licensing your art.

We will also guide you on how to attract sales through a platform that offers essential features such as embedding, a customizable storefront, and no payment threshold.

As a bonus, you’ll get examples of five different ways to make money online with art, including my thoughts on NFTs. Are you ready to become the next myth-buster?

Is there really a market for digital art?

Yes, there absolutely is!

According to Statista, digital art purchasing skyrocketed in 2022 and, in the US alone, the art market was estimated at $13.3 billion. I think it’s safe to say that the positive trend of selling art online will definitely continue.

So, whether you’re into traditional art or graphic design, now is the perfect time to jump on the trend and start stelling to:

  • Social media influencers looking for branding kits
  • Old companies interested in re-branding
  • New businesses in need of business branding
  • Web designers looking for graphics
  • Art collectors, art lovers & online galleries
  • Other artists & designers
  • eCommerce stores

Is selling digital art online profitable?

The short answer is yes! Art business owners can earn anywhere from $50 to six figures.

In fact, you don’t even need to have a large audience to make a profit—according to Gallup research, 70% of economic decision-making is emotional and only 30% is rational. In other words, profit depends entirely on getting to the heart of your potential customer.

So, as long as you have a following that adores your digital art, your chances of making a profit are pretty much guaranteed.

Also, the sheer volume of digital art posts and successful artists on Instagram is just more proof that art is and always will be in high demand.

digitalart hashtag

5 digital art products that artists are making money with

To give you some passive income ideas and inspiration, let’s go over at least five different examples of artists selling art online.

Premade Twitch emotes, overlays & bit badges

Take Sellfy creator SilverLyons. This California-based digital artist offers premade emotes and bit badges—some for sale and some as freebies—for streamers on Twitch. So, if you love graphic design and gaming or streaming, why not combine both hobbies and sell something similar?

silverlyons store

Instagram or AR filters for social media platforms

If you know how to create artistic AR filters, then this could be a fun way for you to earn passive income. For instance, digital artist Wonder Milk makes money from selling Instagram filters to her fans and other IG users on her Sellfy store.

wondermilkme

Branding kits or graphic design resources

Alternatively, you can also sell custom art or graphic design resources such as premade logos, wallpapers, backgrounds, digital portraits, etc. For example, graphic designer Super Unknown sells a whole bunch of graphic design resources as well as mockups to other creators.

Web fonts

Fonts play a serious part in web branding, which explains the growing interest. For freelance graphic designers, this might be the best moment to jump on the bandwagon and offer creative fonts for sale. Take Sellfy store iwantype that specializes in creating and selling unique Arabic and Latin fonts.

iwantype

Digital art print or party decorations

According to research analysts, the global home decor market is steadily growing by almost 20% a year. So, why not use this to your advantage and start selling digital prints or party decorations? For example, Sellfy store Fresh Birthday Designs sells digital art prints for birthday parties, baby showers, etc.

fresh designs store

How to sell digital art online

If you want to sell your digital art and graphics online, you will need to have your own website.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to launch an online store with a user-friendly solution like Sellfy—something I wish I had done back in the day when I was managing a WordPress blog and struggling with WooCommerce.

Sellfy is an easy-to-use eCommerce platform for artists looking to start an online business. You can sell anything with Sellfy (not just art!): digital downloads, subscriptions, physical art, and even print-on-demand merch with your art.

In addition, Sellfy has powerful sales and marketing tools, pre-designed store themes, and built-in analytics.

pixelsao
Sellfy has a beautiful set of pre-made store themes for every type of business.

1. Prepare your digital files

With Sellfy, you can prepare as many as 50 files per digital asset—you don’t have to upload each product one by one. Or, if you’d prefer to offer your product as single or multiple folders, you can create compressed .zip or .rar folders.

Sellfy also supports all static file formats, and your file size can be up to 10 GB per product. Plus, we have unlimited bandwidth and storage!

2. Open a Sellfy store to make money & sell art online

Now, the next step is to open a Sellfy store so that you can sell your art online. I’ll show you how to build and customize your store in less than 5 minutes!

cindyworks
Sellfy art store example: Cindy’s Base Store.

Here’s how to start selling art online with the easiest eCommerce platform ever:

  1. Sign up for one of Sellfy’s paid plans, or start a 14-day free trial—all you need is a valid and verified email address. If you need access to more features, you can always upgrade to a paid plan later (the cheapest plan costs $29/month).
  2. Choose one of our premade store themes, or use Sellfy’s Store Customizer tool to create your store design from scratch.

3. Upload digital products & generate mockups

Now that you’ve set up your own website, you can start uploading your art! Locate the option to add digital products under your dashboard’s PRODUCTS section. Then, click Add new product and start uploading your product files.

Once you’ve created your products and added your designs, you can generate mockups with Sellfy, use your own product images, or mockup resources like Placeit.

Creating mockups with Sellfy is super easy—we provide product images that you can preview and download on the Edit product page.

digital products

Selling on a marketplace like an Etsy shop vs your own online store

What are some of the best places for beginners to sell art online? This is a question that many artists may ask.

Some artists will even go so far as to sell on both—a marketplace (e.g. Creative Market, Saatchi Art, Artist Shops, Etsy or Fine Art America) and an eCommerce platform—to maximize their profits.

However, I wouldn’t recommend that for the simple reason that you’ll just end up paying more fees. And, if you’re only just starting out, you will want to optimize your expenses as much as possible.

So, what’s your best option? Well, the easiest way to figure that out is to look at the pros and cons of each option. So, let’s start with selling on online art marketplaces first.

The pros of selling on an online marketplace:

  • An already established market
  • Large customer base
  • An international reach
  • No restrictions on what types of files you can sell

The cons of selling on an online marketplace:

  • The list of built-in marketing tools is poor
  • Product pages are barely customizable
  • Almost impossible to integrate external services or apps
  • The pricing is quite steep
  • Over-saturated & hard to stand out against competitors
  • No actual control over your own store
  • Delayed payouts
  • Restrictive marketplace rules

Another thing to consider is that a lot of these platforms come with hidden fees. For example, Etsy will charge a hefty percentage of your online sales, while Shopify will charge a hefty fixed price.

Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of having your own online store or website.

The pros of selling with an online store like Sellfy:

  • Fully customizable storefront
  • Built-in marketing features & SEO
  • Effortless & quick setup
  • Mobile-first design
  • No hidden monthly fees
  • Instant access to earnings
  • Advanced VAT & tax settings
  • Multiple payment options
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Complete control over your own store
  • App integrations

The cons of selling with an online store like Sellfy:

  • Building organic search traffic takes time
  • No customer base (since it isn’t a marketplace)

Charging money: how do you price digital artwork?

So, how much can you sell digital artwork for? I’d say it’s entirely up to you since prices tend to vary wildly from one artist to another.

But, overall, a value-based pricing strategy tends to work best for art or just about any type of digital download in general.

Here’s why:

According to a study published on ResearchGate, value-based pricing is the most suitable approach for an artist aiming to make money and optimize profitability.

With value-based pricing, you emphasize quality over quantity. So, instead of pricing your art according to the cost of production and distribution, you price it according to its actual worth or value.

pixelsao pricing
Sellfy store Pixelsao Templates uses value-based pricing for products with exclusive licensing.

In other words, you can price your art above the market average, which will help you earn more profit in less amount of time. And, that’s because, for a lot of people, higher pricing implies higher quality.

But, to really make this strategy work for you, you will need to convince your customers first, and ensure that they have a clear understanding of what value you are offering. You can do that by highlighting what’s unique or different about your art.

Ask yourself:

What makes my art stand out from the rest? Why should people buy my art instead of somebody else’s?

Licensing your art & why it matters

Another important topic when it comes to selling art is licensing.

Here’s why it matters:

  • An art licensing agreement makes it clear that you as an artist will retain full copyright ownership of your original artwork.
  • It also grants permission to a customer to use your artwork for the purpose intended in the listing they bought.

In short, an art licensing agreement will clear up any confusion or misunderstandings on how to use your art.

So, the agreement should inform your customers whether the artwork is meant for:

  • Personal use (e.g. using your artwork as a desktop wallpaper, etc.);
  • Commercial use (e.g. distribution, promoting a brand, print-on-demand business, etc.).
art licensing agreement
Art licensing agreement example: Sellfy store Pixelsao Templates‘ Terms & License page.

Should your customer be able to sell things with your design? Generally, artists should not allow anyone else to resell or duplicate their original art. The rights will always belong to the artist unless the artist has explicitly stated otherwise.

For instance, if a Sellfy creator wants to use trademarked designs with their own print-on-demand t-shirts, they will need to obtain a licensing agreement from the copyright owner (the artist) and send it to our support team.

A lot of digital print shops will ask for the same thing, so it’s a good idea to include an agreement in your product file so that your buyers (and the print shops) won’t have to reach out to you.

Here’s how to create an art licensing agreement:

  1. The easiest way is to google “art licensing agreement template” and add your country name. If you’re in the US, you can go to LegalTemplates, select your state, and download a sample.
  2. Then simply add it to your digital file(s) and upload the product to your Sellfy store. You can also write a short statement about the agreement in your product description.
free licensing agreement
Get a free art licensing agreement from LegalTemplates!

Do this to fight product piracy (4 actionable tips)

Sometimes, people will still find a way to pirate your product despite the obvious licensing agreement.

But, don’t let that discourage you from selling! If you’re using Sellfy, then your art is already in good hands as all products are hosted on a secure cloud server.

Plus, Sellfy has an automatic IP-based security system that will help prevent fraudulent transactions.

More ways to stop somebody from simply copying and pasting an image you have placed online:

  1. Password-protect your artwork. For example, you can send an email with a password when someone purchases your product, or change the password for each buyer (e.g. use a purchase reference). This won’t directly stop people from sharing their passwords with others, but it can still help prevent illegal downloads.
  2. Restrict downloads. With Sellfy, download attempts are automatically limited to 5 per purchase. So, in case any of your customers will try to share the download link with others, it simply won’t work.
  3. Use art product pre-ordering. With this feature, you can offer an art product that isn’t in stock yet but will be available at a predetermined date in the future. This gives your potential customers the chance to reserve artwork in advance before it is available in your store. So, pre-ordering can help prevent piracy as no one has access to the product before its release.
  4. Use PDF-stamping. While most art products aren’t sold as PDFs, this is an option available to you in case you do sell PDF files. This feature will add your buyer’s email address (a watermark) to each page of the PDF they purchased. The watermark cannot be edited or removed.
digital art piracy
Restrict downloads with Sellfy!

Should you sell your digital artwork as NFTs?

Thanks to the rise of crypto, we’re also experiencing an NFT (non-fungible token) boom. Many emerging artists are now asking themselves if they should sell NFT art and make money.

As usual, I think it’s a good idea to look at the statistics:

The Statista Research Department says that NFTs experienced a huge increase in 2022 and that the total sales value peaked at 1.47 billion USD. According to Decrypt, NFTs literally started a digital art renaissance and they’re not going anywhere—they’re here to stay.

Even a quick Google search will turn up wild stories about independent artists’ earnings going from zero to thousands just from selling on an NFT marketplace. So, if that’s something that interests you and you’re already familiar with crypto, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t give it a try.

For example, Sellfy creator and photographer Kaiwan combines his revenue from Sellfy with the revenue that he gets from selling NFTs:

For now, NFTs are my main source of revenue. But, until recently, it was Sellfy.

To convert your art into NFT art or crypto art, I recommend Cointelegraph‘s guide.

Ready to make money selling art online?

As you can see, starting an online business is just a matter of a few simple steps:

  1. Sign up for Sellfy
  2. Create your digital products
  3. Sell art online!

Do you have more questions? Sellfy Help Center has answers to the most frequently asked questions, and you’re always welcome to reach out to our support team at support@sellfy.com at any time.

FAQ: selling digital art online

Where can I sell my digital art online?

Sellfy is a great platform to sell your digital art online. With Sellfy, you can easily create a customizable online store to showcase and sell your artwork. You can upload your digital products, set your own prices, and receive payments directly to your PayPal or Stripe account.

Sellfy’s user-friendly interface, marketing tools, and analytics make it easy to reach a wider audience and increase your sales.

How do you price digital art?

Pricing digital art can be challenging as it is not a tangible product. Factors to consider include the artist’s experience, the complexity of the piece, the amount of time spent creating it, and the intended usage.

According to a study published on ResearchGate, value-based pricing is the most suitable approach for an artist aiming to make money and optimize profitability. Ultimately, it is important to balance fair compensation for the artist with a price that potential buyers are willing to pay.

What kind of digital art sells best?

Some of the most popular are premade Twitch emotes, Instagram filters, branding kits, graphic design resources, web fonts, art prints, party decorations, etc. Ultimately, the success of digital art depends on its ability to grab the attention of potential buyers and offer something unique and visually appealing.

 

 

Susanna is Sellfy's Content Guru with a genuine passion for copywriting, storytelling, and eCommerce. With years of content marketing experience behind her, she helps to create the best possible landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other types of copy. She also keeps close tabs on social media trends and enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology.