Posted 29 September 2020
Written by Kei Maye

Three ideas for making extra income from your creative skills

There are plenty of reasons why having a little extra cash flow can be a great thing. No one knows this better than digital creator and founder of online platform Creative Champs, Kei Maye, who has found success with passive earning from her illustration and design skills. So whether you’ve hit a quiet freelancing period, or are just looking to top-up your income, Kei shares some of the methods that have worked for her.

A common myth about the creative industry is that you have to work freelance to make any money as a visual creator. Or that the only way to make a living is by following a client brief and taking on humongous projects.

The great news is, there are so many ways you can break into the industry or top up your monthly bank balance while developing your creative skills, working a day job (until you finally jump ship) and still have time to feed your pets and socialise.

“The great news is, there are so many ways you can break into the industry or top up your monthly bank balance.”

The following examples are methods I have had personal experience with, which earned me some extra money before being able to form a fully-fledged company using my creative skills and experience. These are things you can even build on while you work your full or part-time jobs – without them zapping all of your spare time or energy.

So if you’re feeling stuck trying to get your foot in the door and make a living as a visual creator, here are a few ways you can make some money.

Let’s get into it.

cutestintrovert’s profile on Gumroad

1. Process Videos

Simply put, this is when you record yourself creating something to help others learn how to create something similar.

Take artist cutestintrovert as an example (above). They have recorded themselves drawing portraits, including every click and brush stroke. You’ll often see people selling these on Gumroad or Artstation. It’s a great way to teach others as they try it out for themselves, click by click.

Think of something you enjoy creating – you’d be surprised at the things people would love to learn. The next time the mood takes you to draw something in digital software or design something for a personal project, use Quicktime to screen record yourself while you do it. The footage can help you reach more people while bringing in some extra income.

Selling informational digital content has allowed me to almost triple my monthly income as there is great demand for this type of learning content. Why not turn your own videos into courses or in-depth tutorials? You could also take this one step further and turn your process videos into educational resources.

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Tracie Andrew’s profile on Redbubble

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Tracie Andrew’s profile on Redbubble

2. Print on Demand

Print on demand means that an item is only printed when it is sold. It’s a great option for photographers, pattern designers, illustrators and surface designers.

When you upload your designs or photos to print-on-demand websites, they will print, pack and ship items to customers, and you are paid a percentage of each sale. A couple of examples include: Society 6, Redbubble, Printful and Printify.

Typically, most websites will pay you anything between 5% and 15% of each sale, so it’s a great way to start out and test the waters while still earning a little extra cash. When I started selling patterns, I used to make around £300 a month through my Society 6 account. It was on this website that Urban Outfitters came across my work too, which opened a few more doors, as a great way to start out in this field.

You could always take this a step further and set up your own online store. This means you’d be able to sell your own custom-made products, manufacture, ship and deliver them yourself.

If you do go for this option, I just have two small words of warning:

Watch out for the small print!
Some print on demand websites offer ‘coupons’ instead of money – or will only pay you once you’ve reached a certain amount. These websites aren’t likely to make you any money, so watch out for details like this in the small print.

Make sure it’s original artwork
When selling or creating content using artwork, they must be original pieces, created by you. Print on demand sites crack down on those who try to resell or produce artwork from others. And the last thing you need is a lawsuit on your hands!

If you’re hoping to use elements of work from other artists, you can only do so if they are in the public domain, or have a creative commons license (for more on this, click here). Without this, you run the risk of violating copyright, regardless of whether the artist is dead or alive.

3. Creative Sets and Visual Assets

Creative sets are collections that customers can buy from you for either business or personal use.

These types of visual assets are absolutely needed, especially by small business owners, companies and apps. It’s a great option for graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and pattern designers, so if you are able to produce relevant content, go ahead and secure the bag!

Craftwork and Growwwkit are two examples of websites that sell collections of illustrations, icons and other design elements, charging a fee for use of each individual collection. Craftwork also offer unlimited access to all material for £99 a year, and currently have over 30,000 subscribers using this model (so you do the math!)

You can sell creative sets on your own website if you have one, but you can also use platforms like Gumroad, Creative Market and Graphic River.

Ultimately, there are many ways you can create a living for yourself within the visual arts. These are just some of the options you can explore, build upon or experiment with, as you go on to live your best creative lives!


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Written by Kei Maye