Show Me The Money!
Now that we’re all working online, how can we translate that into making a living? Artists deserve to be paid for their work, but finding your audience and getting them to pay you takes some strategic thinking.
Platforms: Think of all the tools at your disposal. These could be your website, Instagram, Etsy, Facebook Live, Patreon, Twitch, and numerous other platforms. How is your platform of choice integrated with monetization tools?
For example, do you want to sell artwork or digital products online? If you don’t have a website but create physical objects or PDFs, perhaps selling on Etsy would be well suited. Or if you create digital illustrations maybe Society6 or Spoonflower could be an option for selling your work online. You could also create your own online store using Shopify or Squarespace, for example, using their built-in ecommerce platforms. Maybe you already have a website but it doesn’t have a sales page or shop, you can add an ecommerce plugin such as Woocommerce. In each of these cases you can add your shop to your Facebook and/or Instagram page to help engage your audience with your work and generate sales.
Maybe you don’t sell products but teach workshops. In that case you could try creating a Skillshare course or use Teachable. You can add a purchasable class to your website ecommerce store and upload your videos and PDFs directly to your website.
How do you choose? It might take some trial and error to learn which platform and system works best for you. First, consider the size of your audience and the capacity you have to devote to these online revenue systems. If you want to teach workshops but you don’t have a large online following, using a website such as Skillshare has some benefits. You can upload your class and draw from the millions of students that are already learning on Skillshare. If you create amazing digital illustrations but aren’t sure how to print them onto products, a website like Society6 manages that element for you. Each option has its pros and cons. You will need to assess what your goals are and which options are best suited to help you meet those goals.
Think Big: Working online may open up new opportunities to reach potential audiences. Previously you may have focused on serving your local area, but now you can reach a global audience with greater possibilities for income. Even after returning to in-person work, you might want to continue online or hybrid offerings as an ongoing revenue stream. A great example of this is using platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live or Twitch to bring your teaching, performance or artist talks online. These platforms can allow you to monetize these events. YouTube, once a certain number of subscribers and views have been met, will allow for videos to be monetized with ads. Twitch will also allow for the monetization of live streams once a certain threshold of subscribers is hit.
Offerings: What goods or services can you provide that people will pay for? They could be workshops, performances, an online store, subscriptions, commissions, memberships, or digital downloads. Can you create evergreen products that you can sell time and time again with little people-power behind it?
Bundling: Assess what you already have. Can you build around your current offerings to create a bundle? Can you build a package of resources that encourages the purchase of more than one item? For example, if you want to offer a performance, can you bundle it with a resource guide for teachers, an online workshop, or a t-shirt that you’ll mail to them?
Charge A Fee!: Your audience wants to support you! Don’t be shy about asking for funds and letting them know how they can contribute. You can raise money by accepting donations (even small donations through websites like Buy Me a Coffee) or sponsorships, or running fundraiser events such as online auctions or crowdfunding campaigns. You can also consider setting up a profile on a website like Patreon in order to generate a monthly income. Always, always, always say thank you. Try to make any purchases a one-step process, ie: an immediate digital download is easier than having to put something in the mail.
Research: Where you live will determine what grants you can apply for. Start locally by looking at your municipality or local arts council, next explore provincial funders, and finally explore national funders such as the Canada Council or the Department of Canadian Heritage. There are also foundations of all sizes which offer funding.
Eligibility: Read the eligibility requirements carefully. Is the grant available to Individuals, collectives, not-for-profit organizations or charities? Many funders offer both project and operating funding; operating funding is typically available to established organizations who have already received project grants. Read the funders’ strategic priorities; is your project a good fit?
Plan Ahead: Start early! Grants are competitive and you want to give yourself enough time to put your best foot forward. Many funders use their own online application portals; you may have to register and be pre-approved to apply, which can take time. If possible, look at the year ahead and work backwards from when you want to execute your projects. Many grants have a long turnaround time (4-6 months). Make sure you give your project a generous timeline to include the time it will take to do reporting and wrap-up.
Speak to a Human: Behind every grant application is a granting officer whose job it is to answer your questions. Make an appointment to speak with them. Confirm your eligibility and talk over your project. Building a relationship with these humans is very helpful.
Get Informed: Many arts councils offer workshops on grant writing.
Documentation: Make a habit of documenting your work as much as possible; many grants require support material such as photos, video, statistics, testimonials, assessments or participant reflections. Remember that you are sharing the story of who you are, what you do, and the impact you have.
Write It: When working in an online portal, copy the questions into a Word document where you can draft your responses to minimize the risk of losing your work (you still have to press ‘save’!). Ensure you answer all questions in full and pay attention to word counts as these are often quite strict. It’s useful to have these grants in Word format to copy/paste/adapt re future applications.
Budget: Consider starting your grant writing process with creating the budget, as this may dictate the size of the project. Ensure your budget is feasible and realistic, and that it matches the rest of the plans detailed in your grant. Funders like to see that artists and arts workers are getting paid a living wage; refer to sources such as CARFAC or artist unions for current rates. For community arts organizations, check with colleagues regarding current rates. Budget notes are really important, and a place to provide the assessors with additional details – don’t leave them guessing! Remember to include administration costs of 10-20% of the budget.
Hit Send: Ask someone you trust to proofread your application. Submit your grant before the deadline in case there are technical difficulties.