At some point, I plan to write a book chronicling my road to becoming a self-employed artist, but until then I'm happy to share bits and pieces. Maybe this information will be helpful to you on your journey.
One of the tricks to making a living at painting is generating multiple income streams. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it when it can make me feel like on of those Ed Sullivan balancing acts of old where a person runs around spinning numerous plates on sticks and getting them down again without breaking any. (I ask you, why was this considered entertainment??)
This feeling of plate spinning especially hits when someone purchases a note card with one of my images from a print-on-demand site, and my profit is a whopping 23 cents.
But then, out of the blue, a congressman from Colorado decides to have framed prints made of your painting of the Capitol sent to seven of his most generous donors and your profit is $60 per framed print. Score!
The point is part of my mission is to have a piece of art with my name on it in every house in the world, and I can not begin to make those all originals. Why not let Print-on-Demand sites help me with this mission. And whether my profit is 23 cents or $420, it's still profit and it still helps me fulfill my mission. The painting is painted anyway, so the only extra work is photographing it and uploading to to the site. They take care of absolutely everything else. And many of them will allow you to sell your originals on the site as well.
So which Print-on-Demand sites to choose?
Additionally, I have accounts with....
ArtistBe.com (This site only lets you post 12 images for free. Paid accounts are available, too, to add more images)
And then there are more to choose from....
The list seems endless!
The sites I've chosen were based on 1)reputation of site when interviewing other artists, 2)free to use for the artist, and 3) ease of use. Once you discover how many sites are available, be aware that some require that you be juried in, some require annual fees or commission percentages, and others have a minimum owed before they will pay out and even then your profit is paid in the quarter following the quarter the minimum threshold was met.
I also like that I can choose what merchandise the images of my paintings can be printed on. For example, I may only want to sell notecards and prints. Or maybe I don't care if the image is printed on other merchandise such as a shower curtain. And I don't. A professional violinist purchased a shower curtain with the image of a violin I painted and the product produced was beautiful.
The list of merchandise available for printing is deep.... yoga mats, thumb drives, clocks, dresses, pillows, t-shirts, duvet covers, tote bags, laptop skins, coffee mugs, silk scarves, travel tumblers. The list grows periodically and you'll never know what will be added next.
To Get Started...
You'll need to have a Paypal account established before you get started. Most Print-on-Demand sites require direct deposit to pay your profits, and I feel using Paypal is a safe choice.
You'll need good quality, high resolution photos of your work, cropped without frames. This you can do yourself with a cellphone camera or iPad and good lighting.... either by a window with lots of natural, indirect light falling on your painting OR outside on a sunny day with both your camera and the painting in the shade. Ideally, you will want to use a tripod to keep the camera as still as possible while snapping the photo. For this you will need a tripod and an adapter to hold your phone or ipad to the tripod. (I use the SLIK brand, but there is no magic in the type of tripod you use. I also use an adapter for my iPad.)
And lastly, you'll need TIME. Unless you already have a Shopify e-commerce store to import all of your photos and information about each painting, you'll have to do this the old fashioned way.... one at a time. Many sites allow you to set up universal information, like the medium you use or the size of your paintings, but unless you always use one medium and always paint on the same size canvas, you'll have to modify each entry individually.
If I could only choose one...
If I could only choose one Print-on-Demand site I would choose Fine Art America. They do some marketing for you and make it easy for you to share your images and account on your own social media platforms. Additionally, Fine Art America has a partnership agreement with ABC and Disney for artwork needed for TV set decorations. If you agree to the terms of the agreement, your artwork is marketed to TV producers and set designers at both ABC and Disney. If your artwork is chosen, not only will ABC/Disney purchase the print from FAA and you get your commission payment, but they will also pay you $100 for a licensing fee so that you agree your art can be seen and used on sets of TV shows that may be seen around the world and may be seen for years to come if the program goes to syndication. It's time effective, efficient, and economical for the producers and set designers and it is profitable to Fine Art America and their affiliate artists.
I hope you choose to share your work with the world using this channel. And keep in mind, it's just one way to increase your art revenue with very minimal effort and virtually no cash investment.