Starving Artist – How to Make a Living From Your Art

  • Have you just started your artistic activity?
  • Are you already an artist, but with insufficient income?
  • Are you just curious about how to improve your visibility and your audience?

For those whom the myth of the cursed and poor artist is not something to dream about, but are yet looking for credible and effective solutions, then this introduction is for you.


The #1 problem for any starving artist: How to make a living from your art?

Internet allows anyone with artistic abilities to publish its art online, very easily, with a wide range of social networks and specialized websites. Nowadays, we read everyday beautiful stories of dazzling success thanks to this new land of opportunities.

However, in all the studies published about artistic income, we can see that most artists are struggling to survive. Dream has a cost. Internet has many opportunities to offer, but not everyone will manage to benefit from it.


A passive income?

As a digital artist, I myself have searched few times on Google for topics like “how to make a passive income as an artist”, and came across many solutions.

What I found in the end was that most of the solutions provided everywhere were more or less the same:

  • “find an artistic agent”
  • “sell your art in a gallery”
  • “make artistic collaborations”
  • even “sell 3D models”
  • “do some translation”
  • or (I really like that one): “create a software or an app and sell it”.

You may guess: it did not really help me.

So, unless I became successful with an insane luck one day, I felt like I had to find another way to put butter on my bread.


The #2 problem for artists: Marketing

I could have entitled this section: the M word for digital artists: Marketing.

Indeed, by browsing the forums and talking to artists, I found that many were rejecting marketing techniques that could help them in their business. The reasons were: “it’s a lie”, or “I don’t have time”, or “I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of selling digital products”.

Any artist hopes that his talent will be revealed by the force of things. It is this ego and assurance that allow us to get into this unusual business and wipe the critics without getting discouraged. But this ego also condemns the artistic practice in the long term, because promotion and creation are linked, and both need practice and time.

I didn’t do any promotion during 5 years for my work. No Facebook Ads, no SEO (I didn’t even know what this was), no promotional strategy, no audience building, no specific use of the social networks. I was following my losing strategy to put my new images each time on inspirational websites, on Behance, Dribbble, like almost everyone, and waiting for the success to come.


What you should learn now

Like I said, internet is a land of opportunities, if you know how to use it. It’s also the land of a massive competition, of lower prices, of many called but few elected.

How many times have I spent days on an illustration, published it immediately, and seen it immediately drowning in the flow of dozens of other creations… It’s like if you were in a concert and everybody was like you: trying to being noticed by the singer. Good luck!

In the end, I had to stop my activity after 5 years (already paused from time to time by food jobs) and go back to a regular position in an advertising agency. I could say that my genius was not recognized at its true value at the time. It’s a more comforting thought. But I could also say that I did not train enough another facet of the job that I liked much less: learn how to promote my creations, how to gather together an audience, and how to sell digital products beside my art activity.


The solution

But then, what should I have done differently? and what could I advise you to set up to avoid the same disappointment?

I think the best answer I could give you is: train yourselves in marketing. Really.

Marketing for me was the devil incarnate. Totally against my values. I studied it a bit earlier in my life, had to practice a bit during a bank internship for school, to know that it was not for me at all. Lying to people and selling them products they did not need was unbearable to me.

On the other hand, I have to be totally honest with myself. If I could jump back to my freelance activity few years ago and talked to myself, telling him that I could bring him a financial serenity, at least a regular income that would help him to continue his activity, how could he refuse?


But what is really marketing?

The definition of it enlightens us: it’s “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”

It is about promoting and selling products and services, and I will add optimized. You do marketing as soon as you deposit your creation on Internet, you do marketing as soon as you give your business card to a customer, or as soon as you speak about your last creation to your friends.

Marketing helps us to learn about effective and proven tactics to attract visitors, communicate an effective and consistent message, build customer loyalty, and ultimately turn them into customers.

So, are you in with me?


Next step?

This is the cover of the free guide provided by Better Digital Artist: Digital Artists, start earning money

You can download this free guide – Digital Artists: Start Earning Money

I did my best to teach you the basics you need to implement to improve your income for your artistic activity.

Reading will not be enough, you’ll require also desire and patience to put everything in place. A Chinese proverb says: “the first step is the hardest”. That’s real

Furthermore, by downloading my guide, you’ll have access to my newsletter, where I’ll explain to you everything you need to know, step by step, to make a successful business.

I advise you to read books and hear podcasts about marketing, because like famous entrepreneurs said: “Leaders are readers”. You’ll find here a list of great resources for you.



If I still haven’t convinced you to start your journey in this new world of opportunities, just remember every time that if your marketing strategy does not exist, it’s the same as if you were throwing your works in a garbage.

But let me be clear: many people are very happy to do illustrations at home on weekends, without any commercial pressure, and I can’t be more happy for them. And this article isn’t meant for them. But if you want to be recognized for your work, live decently, grow up as an artist, and imagine a future for your business, you must act now.