Most artists aren’t able to support their lives on art sales alone, and even established artists have slow sales periods, or encounter moments when they need more money than art sales provide. Another way to counterbalance the volatility of an artist’s finances is to establish multiple income streams. “When your main source of income—say, your creative practice—has a natural cycle to it, perhaps your side gig has a different cycle,” Empedocles notes. “Those two things can balance each other out, so that you can smooth out the volatility a bit—even a lot.”
Alternate income streams can come in many shapes and sizes. Emenegger suggests pursuing a job that aligns with the world you want to be in—in this case, art. “There’s so much opportunity out there to learn about your practice, to learn about the art world, to seize a networking opportunity—and to simultaneously make money,” she said.
In her advisory sessions with artists, she’s recommended securing teaching positions (whether full-time or part-time) within an artist’s medium of choice, or becoming a studio assistant to a more well-known artist—“anything that can help develop the skills, the language, the networking and mentorship opportunities that can also help support their careers,” she continues.
Empedocles adds that side jobs should pay their keep, while simultaneously allowing for time to pursue a practice. “If your side job doesn’t pay you enough to support yourself and your art practice, that side job is working against you,” she explains.
She’s seen artists successfully take on part-time gigs as virtual assistant, using skills they’ve developed to advance their own careers on behalf of others, such as designing Squarespace sites, managing social media strategy (particularly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), using Wordpress, or creating marketing assets using their design skills—and, what she calls “the secret sauce”: connecting these tools effectively. “For example, instead of just knowing how to send an email newsletter through Mailchimp, they’re able to put up a blog for their clients, help with image assets, share posts in targeted Facebook groups, which attracts a specific audience whose email addresses are collected into Mailchimp,” she said. She also noted that teaching online courses through established platforms like Skillshare
, or courses outside of college or university degree programs, through Airbnb Experiences
, for instance, can bolster an artist’s financial stability.
Norris has also observed her artists, who normally support themselves through art sales, also take on teaching gigs, collaborations with design studios, or public art commissions. She described them not just as side hustles but terrific opportunities for artists to get outside of the studio and into new, potentially inspiring contexts. “After a point of working in the studio day in and day out, the law of diminishing returns kicks in,” she said. “Many artists need to free their mind up, and doing other work can be a good way of accomplishing that.”