Art startups

artist business ideas
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When you tell people you're a professional artist, they might immediately think of the old "starving artist" adage, and believe you'll always struggle to find work and make ends meet. Fortunately, those cliches don't hold true, especially with some growing opportunities in the gig economy.

Here are 11 examples of ways to succeed as an entrepreneurial artist.

3D printer artist

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The rise of 3D printers has brought with it an entirely new class of artists. If you have knowledge of Computer Aided Design (CAD), you can create your own designs and figurines, then bring them to life on a 3D printer. 3D printing artisans sell their goods on online marketplaces like Etsy, at physical fleamarkets and even in their own storefronts and galleries.

The power of technology is opening up new ways for people to express themselves, and with it new ways to monetize their art. Whether you recreate fan favorite cartoons or come up with unique designs all your own, 3D printing is a novel medium for printing your art to life!

Art dealer

artist business ideas
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Imagine making a living finding beautiful works of art and selling them to art enthusiasts. If you have the money to rent space in a high-traffic area, you can open your own art gallery and assist fellow artists get their work noticed. As with any business, building your reputation and niche can be an uphill battle: You'll need expert networking and marketing skills to get the word out. Use social media to your advantage to show your work and meet people in the business to build your contacts. Once you establish a good client base, you'll be rubbing elbows with some of your city's most prominent artists at your gallery parties and exhibits.

Art teacher

Credit: Painting with a Twist
Were you an award-winning artist your tenure as a student? Maybe you were a successful TA in college. Or maybe you create amazing works of art through painting, sculpting and other mediums. Teach classes and impart your wisdom to aspiring artists or novices who just want to learn. This idea is best suited to a part-time business, but you can still make good money offering hour-long classes at local craft stores, community centers or your home. Make sure you have a user-friendly website to display your work and entice potential students.

Paint-and-sip franchise owner

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If teaching a painting class isn't your speed, maybe opening a franchise like Painting with a Twist or Pinot's Palette is. With this trendy business model, participants pay a fee to enjoy a fun and relaxing painting class with their friends while sipping their favorite beverages. Become a franchisee and own your own business, while supporting local artists who can teach the classes.

Custom airbrushing

artist business ideas
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Whether you work on cars, murals or clothing, there's a wide range of possibilities for an airbrushing artist. You'll need to purchase some equipment to get started, like an air compressor, stencil materials, and of course, paints and airbrushes. Airbrushing can be done in a well-ventilated storefront, kiosk or even at home in your garage on a freelance or project basis. You can also create and sell airbrushed paintings online or at local events.

Stained glass/mosaic maker

artist business ideas
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For the crafty artist, creating stained glass and mosaic works can be a great business to start. Work directly with clients to design custom pieces, or, if you can produce a large quantity of items in a short amount of time, consider selling your goods to the public. Online storefronts like Etsy are a safe place to start, since you can display photos of sample products and fill orders for them as they come in. However, if you have a large amount of inventory stored up, consider selling your work at a local craft fair or other community event.

[See Related Story: Do What You Love: The Mosaic Artist]

Caricature artist

artist business ideas
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No festival or county fair would be complete without a caricaturist to draw fun, unique souvenirs for visitors to take home. With online tutorials like, you can learn caricature techniques and begin building a portfolio to display for potential customers. Then check your town or county's website for local events that have booths available to rent. You can charge by the portrait at these types of events—depending on how quickly you can draw, the earning potential is huge. There are also opportunities to do your work at weddings, Project Graduation parties, fundraisers and a number of community activities. Once you earn a reputation, you can offer a flat rate to be hired.

Tattoo artist

artist business ideas
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Some artists use paper as their canvas. Why not use the human body as yours? Working in a tattoo studio can be a lucrative career path for talented artists, but it will require some time and education. Wikihow notes that you need to be state certified by completing an apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist and taking tattooing courses. Once you're certified, referrals from satisfied customers will be your biggest source of business.

Makeup artist

artist business ideas
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A more practical (and far less permanent) way to use people as canvases is becoming a makeup artist. Beauty school isn't a prerequisite for launching a successful makeup business: All you need is a good reputation and a great knowledge of cosmetics. Since beauty professionals often build their business through client referrals, work on friends and family for free or at a discounted rate at first. Once you have a solid customer base, you can offer competitive rates for updos and makeup for weddings, proms and other special events.

Graphic designer

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Graphic design runs the gamut, and you can especially succeed as a small business or a freelancer. According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts, graphic artists create images for posters, advertisements, packages, and other printed matter, as well as information visualizations; graphics for newspapers and magazines. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-third of graphic designers are self-employed, so you can work from home on eye-catching visual projects for brands and individuals. AIGA also provides information on how to land your first design job.

Silk screener

Credit: "Burning Lies Re-Inked" shirt image via Seventh.Ink

Could you see your artwork on a T-shirt? You can go into the silk-screening business and start your own clothing line. Startup costs are relatively low if you don't buy your own printing equipment, and once you build up an inventory, you can sell your clothes through a site like or on your own website. Matthew Johnson, founder of Seventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, reminds aspiring clothing designers that having a unique product and staying engaged with customers are the keys to a successful business.

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Adam C. Uzialko.