online art business tips

how i created an additional income stream by selling my art online | my entrepreneurial story

05.23.20
helloitspaulina how to make money as an artist online photo

eight years ago, i started my wedding photography business. i was in my last semester of college as an undergrad at USC, and it was my dream to be a full-time wedding photographer. though i took a detour along the way (which is a story in and of itself, trust me), four years later, i manifested a thriving career as a full-time wedding photographer among other dreams (hello boyfriend, puppy, apartment, & car!) that launched me into experiencing as my daily reality, the life i could only dream of during some of my darkest days, years prior.

five years ago, while in the process of building my wedding photography career, i uploaded some of my travel photography art on society6. i’d purchased a few items from their site before, and thought it’d be a good idea to have a presence there but didn’t think too much of it otherwise.

then, the following year, i received a request that ultimately changed the course of my business and my life: one of my photography blog readers had seen my posts about my first time visiting joshua tree, and emailed me and asked, “can i order one of these images as a print for my wall? oh, and i’m looking for a 40×60”…”

i was mind-blown.

someone actually wanted my landscape, non-client work as a piece of art on their wall? like, huge art??!

soon afterward, i began selling my artwork on society6, on etsy, on my own website, and even on amazon. i became obsessed with ecommerce, invested in numerous courses, and learned how to run a shop through education and experience, that continues to grow year after year.

eventually, when i decided to shift out of wedding photography and into full-time design work, my print shop served as a source of additional, part-time income that helped to support me during that transition. if we’ve learned anything during this season, it is so important to diversify your income and create multiple streams of revenue for yourself and your family. even the revenue i earn from selling my prints is diversified (but more on that in a future post). 

my print shop changed my life, because it became a source of income for me that was not tied to my calendar, that didn’t require me to commit myself to working on a given date anywhere from 9-18 months in the future, that didn’t care how many hours a client would book me for, that didn’t require me to carry tens of pounds of equipment every weekend for hours on end, that didn’t require my giving up personal and family time nearly every weekend, and for so many more reasons.

starting my print shop showed me that i could create something once, and earn money from it over, and over, and over again. as artists, THIS is the true power of what it means to be a creator. even THE US LAW recognizes the value of art, because it is legally considered an asset. and yet we as creatives grossly underestimate the value of our art all the time. that piece you create, if you choose to sell reproductions, has the power to be valuable to an infinite number of people, an infinite number of times, in an infinite number of ways. isn’t that incredible?

my print shop showed me how to make my art work for me, instead of requiring me to work for my art. i am still earning revenue from pieces i photographed 5 years ago! a concept i learned from joanna penn (an author who sells books and courses), is that every piece i create is an employee in my business. it has the potential to resonate with someone. and when it does, it serves them and supports me. a win-win. (and it becomes a win-win-WIN when that person then gifts my pieces to someone else.) that is the true energy of business. 

and don’t get me wrong: my shop is NOT 100% passive. most online business owners will tell you that the idea of creating a product and putting it online and setting and forgetting it is a myth. it absolutely takes work to create and run a shop, 100%. it is a business, after all.

but it’s a business that helps support my life, that helps create freedom in my revenue streams, can be done from home (or anywhere), has the potential to be scalable, incorporates my skills, talents, and passions, and provides value for the hundreds of customers i’ve been blessed to create for over the past few years.

why am i sharing this?

within the past couple of years (and even more so in the past few months, especially given current circumstances) i’ve had numerous photographers reach out to me, asking me how i run my shop. my peers and friends in the wedding industry have had their income postponed (or worse, cancelled). i realized that there is a true need in our community for advice, guidance, and inspiration when it comes to realizing the value of creating an additional stream of revenue, and the nuts-and-bolts of starting a print shop that makes money for you.

you don’t have to run your print shop full-time (i do not, and i have too many other goals and projects to be a full-time art print seller, as i imagine you do as well). but i’ve created a stream of revenue that produces income for me on a consistent basis, and people have taken notice and have asked me for advice (and let me tell you, waking up to sales is the *best* feeling!). so here i am, showing up. 

now, i want to hear from you! what questions do you have about starting a print shop? what’s the biggest thing or challenge holding you back from selling your artwork online? leave a comment below & share your thoughts!

how to make money as an artist by selling art online photo
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One of my favorite weekend trips was when I ventured out to Joshua Tree National Park with my boyfriend Tyler. I’ve lived in Southern California for over 10 years and had never been to Joshua Tree- can you believe that? On our trip, Tyler took me camping and rock-climbing for the first time! Both of those things are pretty out of my comfort zone (heights, eek!), so it was fun experiencing new things with my guy. Read More