The starving artist is a myth: how to sell digital art (+ make a profit) in 2022

By Susanna read
The starving artist is a myth: how to sell digital art (+ make a profit) in 2022

I’m sure you’ve heard about the myth of the starving artist.

Well, let me tell you something:

It is a myth for a reason. No, really—in today’s world, you don’t have to be a starving artist because, thanks to the internet, anybody can make 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 creating digital files to building a store and licensing your art.

As a bonus, you’ll also 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 2021 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, if you’re into graphic design, then 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 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 customer.

So, as long as you have followers who love you and your 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 Clint English sells a whole bunch of graphic design resources as well as mockups to other creators.

clint english graphic design resources

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

Art prints 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 printable wall art 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 art online

To sell your art online, you will need to have your own website or an eCommerce store like Sellfy.

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

In addition to that, Sellfy has powerful sales and marketing tools, beautiful pre-made store themes, an intuitive store customizer tool, built-in store analytics, including print-on-demand service.

Sounds good? Then, let’s move on to preparing your digital assets for selling online!

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 product—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.
  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 such as Clint English or 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 Etsy vs your own online store

To sell art or not to sell art on online marketplaces? That is the question that many artists will have when they’re looking for a place to sell art online.

Some artists will even go so far as to sell on both—a marketplace 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 (their cheapest plan is $29/month).

shopify pricing plan
Shopify’s cheapest pricing plan.

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)
sellfy new pricing plans
Sellfy’s pricing plans.

Charging money: how do you price digital art?

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

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

Here’s why:

According to a study conducted by 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 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.

Generally, artists will not (and 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 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.

Some more ways to actively fight digital art piracy with Sellfy:

  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 pre-determined 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 art 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 art as NFTs 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 2021 and that the total sales value peaked at 11.16 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 NFTs. 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 NFTs or crypto art, I recommend the 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 files
  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 [email protected] at any time.

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.