If you’re an artist, you probably got your fill growing up of naysayers who warned you that you will never find a job doing what you love.
Fortunately for us, there are more ways than ever to make money online through your art.
Writers can submit poetry, short stories, and other materials to sites that pay for them.
Teachers can make their own courses and get paid by students to seek them out.
Likewise, you can sell your drawings to a number of different online markets or directly to buyers.
This doesn’t mean you can just step into a virtual money-making chamber, start doodling and expect spare change to fly out of your sketch pad.
There’s no straightforward answer to the question of how illustrators make money. There is a hustle to it.
Here, we’ve laid out 11 of the easiest and most effective ways to get paid to draw online.
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How Much do Illustrators Get Paid?
According to 3×3 Magazine, illustrators in the United States can earn as much as $948,000 each year.
Of course, this is about the upper range limit of the pricing scale and the vast majority of illustrators will have to be satisfied earning far less.
But that is the norm for just about any creative endeavor. Even those earning top wages will have to make up the majority of their earnings from multiple sources.
So, once again, you can expect to have to hustle for your jobs.
For professional illustrators living in New York City, the top of the range average is about $100,000 per year.
That’s not bad, but with the high cost of living in the Big Apple, that amount might not go as far as one would hope.
It must be said that the vast majority of people who get paid to draw make $1,000 per year or less. This is normal of all gig-work around the entry-level.
But the 3×3 Magazine survey also states that the average hourly pay for full time illustrators is about $25 per hour. That’s not too shabby.
Another great source for gigs, and other terrific freelance jobs is Solidgigs.com. They give you access to quality clients with great jobs.
Users say SolidGigs has made life as an online freelancer much, much nicer!
On Indeed.com, there are job listings for illustrators that pay $66,000 a year, but those are in high demand.
Chances are, you’ll have to pay your dues with gig work for some time, build up an impressive portfolio and gather up a decent list of work references.
FlexJobs has been around since 2007, before the financial collapse that sent so many working people to the Internet for new opportunities.
That being the case, they have delivered where the others disappoint with full and part-time jobs, regular employment and freelance work.
But where they really shine is in the much-needed flexibility they offer which is so important as people strive to adapt to a changing economy.
Learn How to Make Money as an Illustrator Online
Before you jump into the fray and start submitting your work to sellers online and building up a branding campaign, you might want to make certain that your work meets the standard.
If there is any doubt about your skill level, you might want to spend some time on Skillshare.
There, you will find art lessons and tutorials on every conceivable type and category of art. Best of all, you’ll get 14 free days of use with a premium account.
That’s more than enough time to decide whether or not your work of ready for the market.
It’s a great way to learn how to market yourself as an online illustrator. But it’s also one of the best ways to master online marketing for yourself or for an organization.
How to Get Paid to Draw
We did a survey of our own, talked to some illustrators we know, and a few others online.
Using what we learned, we were able to compile what we believe to be the 11 best and most reliable ways you can get paid to draw.
#1 Search for Online Gigs
There are many websites that allow artists to sell their work. Some are more friendly to artists than others, but if you search thoroughly there’s a good chance that you’ll find at least one that works well for you. One of the best sites of this kind if 99designs.
Of course, there are many such sites, but what makes 99designs special is that it really caters to the online artist looking to promote and sell art online.
There are a number of sites, (listed below), that do the same thing, but your best bet is to start with the one that specializes in working with artists.
As you search for online illustrator jobs, you can skip Freelancer and Upwork initially.
Check these sites out after you have exhausted all of the more promising options, like the following:
- Hire an Illustrator: This is a very popular and user-friendly site that caters to buyers, but they also work artists.
- Behance Jobs: This site is tailored to the artist and presents you with jobs on their primary landing page. They also cater to buyers to whom you can sell directly.
- Simply Hired: Not dedicated to artists, Simply Hired is a general online employment site with a special place in their hearts for artists.
- Dribbble Jobs: Similar to Simply Hired in that they are a job site that makes room for art gigs, Dribbble is known for hosting an attractive list of jobs for illustrators. Be sure to check back frequently with sites like this since their listings change.
- Guardian Jobs: Similar to Dribbble Jobs and Simple Hired, except that The Guardian Jobs is about filling out traditional workplaces rather than remote gigs and contracts. These are not remote work jobs.
- 99Designs: Find all kinds of artistic opportunities on 99Designs. The landing page is designed for buyers looking for art for websites and branding campaigns. But, naturally, they need artists
- Indeed: A well known online job site like Freelancer and UpWork, with the small exception that they feature job listings for artists much more frequently.
If you find yourself going through this list without any luck, don’t fret.
The listings, opportunities, and buyers you encounter the first time you pound the digital pavement are likely to change.
Persistence is everything.
#2 Art Commissions
To win commission gigs, you’ll have to do some self-promoting and wait for the clients to come to you. There are also a number of websites that can help.
Hunting for commissions is a good way for illustrators starting out in the business to find work.
Artists who feature their work on sites like DeviantArt are known for doing a lot of commission work.
Established and featured artists can expect the commissions to come to them, but in the beginning, you’ll probably need to use dedicated sites for commission seekers.
Some of the top art commissions sites include:
In time, you should not rely on sites like these solely. You’ll need to master the art of self-promotion.
But these are a great place to start while you’re working on your social media presence.
#3 Sell Vector Designs
Selling vector designs is a great way to build up a portfolio of salable work and land even better jobs.
According to Adobe.com vector art is created using vector graphics. They are points, lines, and curves based on mathematical formulas.
They have clean lines and are very popular for use in headers, borders, and other decorative art for websites.
If you have seen neon posters in the 80s, you know exactly what vector art is.
After you learn to create vector art, which is not hard if you’re already an artist, you can sell your vector art creations on marketplaces that cater to vector artists.
Some of the most popular such online marketplaces are:
#4 Sell Prints and Posters
Everyone wants to spruce up their homes with a few pieces of attractive art.
These can be sold to coffee shops and to individuals alike, and there’s no end to the demand.
Posters and canvas prints tend to be inexpensive for the buyer. As such they are well suited to mass production. That means with the right type of exposure, you can make a heck of a lot of money on a popular design.
There aren’t a lot of websites that cater to this type of art exclusively, so make sure your work is high quality before you jump on the following sites:
#5 Sell T-Shirt Designs
T-shirts with attractive, quirky, and interesting designs are always a hot seller.
If you’re an artist with a social media following, you may have a build an audience for your shirts.
If you follow through with the next tip, you just might find yourself with a huge audience eager to buy your shirts.
#6 Twitter, Instagram, and DeviantArt
These are all terrific platforms for artists to market themselves.
If you build up a big following and promote yourself well, you might have people coming to you looking for custom projects.
If you want to do business online, or in general, it is strongly advised to have a robust and meaningful social media marketing outreach campaign.
For illustrators, this is even more essential due to the importance of having your art seen by potential customers.
Oftentimes, featuring your art on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can lead you directly to sales and customers.
But in most cases, these are mostly useful as a way to store and display your portfolio.
If you want to get your customers through social media solely, the best places to do that are likely to be Instagram and DeviantArt.
#7 Enter Competitions
Everyone loves the feeling of winning. Entering contests can be a great way to promote yourself, and if you win, you’re sure to be noticed by someone who appreciates your style.
Being seen is one thing. But if you want to be seen and be seen as good at once, the best way to do this is to enter competitions- and to win them.
In all seriousness, you don’t have to win to benefit from entering competitions.
It is well within the realm of possibility that you can make profitable connections just by being seen by the sort of people who pay attention to illustration competitions.
However, if you manage to win a few of them- all the better- you will be seen as objectively marketable, and that’s a tough position to beat.
#8 Hand Lettering
With the ubiquity of digitally rendered fonts, the Internet is hungry for lettering prints and images that are drawn by hand.
Take our word for it, authenticity is coming back strong.
Not many people will associate hand lettering artists with illustration, but there are many similarities.
Also, many people who begin as illustrators go on to doing hand lettering and vice versa.
If you do one, there’s a good chance that you can sell the other to some clients, making it a good way to improve your income as an illustrator.
Best of all, by working with online merchants, there’s a good chance that everyone you work for will need lettering work done for their online or brick and mortar business.
While you’re at it, if you can draw and print nice-looking letters, you might consider becoming a cartoonist. It’s something to think about.
#9 Create and Sell Fonts
If you take to hand lettering well, you might have what it takes to create your own original font styles. People love using fonts to express themselves.
Some people even identify with a certain font. Imagine the money that could be made if you get yours into a big word processing office suite, like the next iteration of MS Word.
If you are so fortunate as to take to hand lettering well, you might be so inclined as to invent your own original fonts.
This can be harder than it sounds as new fonts must be both original and consistent as well as legible.
But if you keep at it you might create a big seller that will payout for the rest of your life.
#10 Build an Online Course
With the popularity of online courses going through the roof, you’re sure to build up a big following as a creator of high-quality online drawing tutorials.
Arguably, this may be one of the most reliable ways to make money as an artist.
Online courses are extremely popular, and academics and employers alike are becoming more and more accepting of the expertise of those who obtain their skills and knowledge through them.
There are many online platforms that let you create your own courses using written material, video, audio, interactive material, and images to get information across to students.
Over the last decade, more and more people have had to rebrand themselves by taking online courses- including selling their knowledge by creating their own online courses.
Two sites that work well for artists are Udemy and Skillshare.
These are far from the only sites that let you create your own courses, but they are among the most popular and the most versatile.
#11 Draw for Greeting Card Companies
Finally, greeting card companies are among the most prolific buyers of the materials created by writers and artists online.
These companies have an endless appetite for amusing and heartwarming phrases and an even more inexhaustible need for original images.
Many companies will pay for good images suitable for use in greeting cards.
There are so many, in fact, that you’re unlikely to go through this list without some level of success.
#12 Check Out Fiverr.com
Last but not least is Fiverr. Initially designed to be dedicated to online side-gigs, Fiverr, has become an all-encompassing spot to do or sell any product or service you may be able to provide.
Most people have a profession and something else they are good at which other people are happy to pay for. As such, Fiverr is an excellent place to get the hang of selling drawings online.
If your customer service is good, and people love your art, your Fiverr gig just might turn into a full time one.