I create illustrations and want to monetize my hobby. Explore services for selling digital goods.

Creating artwork can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. However, most artists likely feel it would be great to earn some income from their creative talents.

The good news is there are now more options than ever for artists to monetize their illustrations by selling digital goods online.

In this post, we'll explore popular marketplaces for selling digital artwork, best practices for creating compelling listings, marketing tips to drive sales, and how to track key metrics to grow your earnings over time.

Introduction

Selling digital illustrations online can be a great way for artists and creators to earn additional income from their hobby. With the rise of sites like Etsy, Redbubble, and Creative Market, there is growing demand for unique digital artwork like clipart, templates, icons, and more. This section will provide an overview of selling digital goods online and outline some of the key benefits.

Overview of selling digital goods

Digital goods refer to any files that can be distributed online, rather than physical products. This includes digital illustrations, photos, audio files, ebooks, graphic design templates, 3D models, and more. The internet has enabled creators to easily produce and sell digital goods to a global customer base.

Marketplaces like Etsy, Creative Market and Redbubble let artists upload and sell their digital artwork. You retain ownership while they handle printing & fulfillment. Customers can discover and purchase your designs on a variety of products like apparel, phone cases, wall art and more. These sites have huge built-in audiences of buyers looking for unique digital goods.

Benefits of monetizing your illustrations

  • Additional income: Earn money from your artwork and creative skills. Many full-time artists supplement their income by selling digital goods online.

  • Creative fulfillment: Translate your hobby into a satisfying side business. Achieve a sense of accomplishment by producing artwork that others value.

  • Build an audience: Get your work in front of more eyeballs and connect with potential long-term patrons.

  • Retain rights: Unlike commissioned client work, you maintain ownership over your creations and can continue selling them indefinitely.

Selling digital illustrations provides artists an accessible pathway to generate income from their creative skills while retaining full control and rights over their work.

Top marketplaces for selling digital artwork

Etsy, Creative Market, and Redbubble are leading online marketplaces that allow artists and designers to sell their digital artwork. These platforms connect creators with buyers looking for unique digital assets and print-on-demand products.

Etsy

Etsy is one of the most popular marketplaces for selling handmade, vintage, and craft supplies. As an artist, you can set up your own Etsy shop to sell original digital artwork files that buyers can then use for crafting, printing, and more. Key benefits of selling on Etsy include:

  • Huge existing audience - Over 60 million active buyers browse Etsy searching for special items. This gives your work great exposure.

  • Handmade focus - Buyers come to Etsy specifically looking for artwork and products made by independent creators.

  • Simple setup - Creating an Etsy shop and uploading digital files to sell takes just a few steps.

  • Useful seller tools - Etsy provides guidance and support for setting up your shop, marketing your products, streamlining order fulfillment, and managing your business.

The downside is that competition can be high for some digital product categories on Etsy. But overall it remains a top choice for artists to sell digital downloads.

Creative Market

Unlike Etsy, Creative Market specializes specifically in digital assets for creatives. So it attracts buyers looking for resources like fonts, templates, graphics elements, and more. As an artist, you can sell your original artwork files on Creative Market. Key features include:

  • Specialized marketplace - The audience is focused on creative professionals and hobbyists needing digital assets.

  • Recurring income - Many products can be sold as "renewable" subscriptions that pay you ongoing royalties.

  • Curated collection - Creative Market hand-reviews all work, so buyers trust the quality of what they purchase.

  • Useful creator tools - The site provides guidance on crafting compelling product listings, marketing assets, and improving product photos.

Overall, if you create artistic digital assets like fonts, templates, patterns, illustrations, etc. then Creative Market is worth exploring to monetize your artwork.

Redbubble

Redbubble takes a different approach by focusing specifically on print-on-demand products. As an artist, you upload your designs and artwork files to Redbubble. When a customer places an order, Redbubble handles printing your artwork onto products like t-shirts, phone cases, stickers, wall art, and more. Key perks include:

  • Global production & shipping - Redbubble handles fulfillment and delivery worldwide using production partners close to local customers.

  • Broad product selection - Buyers can order your designs printed on over 70 unique products including apparel, home goods, electronics cases, and more.

  • Artist-friendly rates - Redbubble pays artists a high percentage royalty on each order. There are no fees to open a shop and upload artwork.

If interested in seeing your designs and illustrations printed onto real-world products, Redbubble does the heavy lifting to make this happen while letting you retain your creative independence.

Overall Etsy, Creative Market, and Redbubble each offer unique benefits for digitally selling your original or print-on-demand artwork. Evaluate each to see which best matches your creative business goals.

Creating and uploading digital products

Uploading and selling digital artwork online can be an exciting way to monetize your illustrations as a hobby or side business. With the right preparation and optimization, your creations can find an audience of art lovers ready to purchase your designs.

Optimizing illustrations

When exporting your artwork files to upload online, it's important to properly size and save them in file formats compatible with print-on-demand services and online marketplaces.

  • For images intended for posters, canvas prints or apparel, save your file as a PNG or JPG at 300dpi and sized to the dimensions required by the production partner. This ensures the artwork will reproduce at high resolution without pixelation.

  • If selling printable digital downloads like coloring pages or social media templates, save versions as PNG and PDF files. The PNG maintains transparency for die-cut designs, while PDF allows buyers to open and print your artwork on standard printers.

  • Refer to each platform's requirements regarding accepted file types, dimensions and other specifications to avoid issues or delays when processing orders.

Writing effective titles and descriptions

Crafting compelling titles and descriptions allows you to showcase your artistic style, highlight key details about your creation and optimize the listing for search engine visibility.

  • Summarize the essence of your artwork in the title - medium, subject matter, color palette etc.

  • Elaborate on materials, size, ideal usage and other relevant characteristics in 2-3 sentences.

  • Use relevant keywords that art buyers may search for. This helps your products surface in search results.

Pricing artwork competitively

Researching similar listings for guidance can help you align pricing with buyer expectations in that specific marketplace.

  • On print-on-demand platforms, factor in base product cost + reasonable profit margin.

  • For digital downloads, compare your level of detail, quality and uniqueness to competitively priced files.

  • Consider production expenses, exclusivity of the design and perceived value. Price high enough to be worthwhile for your effort.

With well-optimized digital files, enticing descriptions and fair pricing, your artistic creations can find success online across various print, apparel and downloadable formats.

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Marketing artwork and building your brand

As an artist looking to monetize your illustrations, leveraging social media and email marketing can help promote your work, grow an audience of potential customers, and establish your artistic brand.

Leveraging social platforms

Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter are great for sharing images of your latest creations. Post consistently with relevant hashtags to increase visibility. Include links to your online shops in captions and bios so interested viewers can easily purchase your artwork. Consider paid promotions to expand your reach. Collaborating with influencers in your niche can also help expose your art to new audiences.

Building an email subscriber list

Building an email list allows you to directly market to fans. Offer an incentive like a free digital wallpaper in exchange for signups. Send occasional newsletters showcasing new illustrations, sales, limited-edition releases, etc. However, avoid over-promoting to prevent unsubscribes. Provide value by including artistic tips or behind-the-scenes creative processes.

Creating unique branding

Develop visual assets like logos, banners, and graphics with a cohesive style that represents your artistic identity. Apply this branding uniformly across channels. Write an artistic bio and mission statement that conveys your vision. Take high-quality lifestyle photos and videos to humanize your brand. Be consistent with posting schedules, color schemes, etc. so fans recognize your content.

Tracking sales and improving conversions

Use analytics to identify best-selling items and opportunities to optimize listings.

Monitoring key metrics

You can use Marketsy's built-in analytics to track key metrics like:

  • Sales volume - Number of products sold over a period of time
  • Conversion rate - Percentage of store visitors who make a purchase
  • Average order value - Average amount spent per order

Monitoring these metrics will help you identify your best-selling items and see if people are actually buying after visiting your store.

For example, if you have a low conversion rate, you may need to optimize your product listings and make the buying process easier. If you have a high conversion rate but low order values, you may need to offer higher priced products or upsells.

Here are some sample key metrics to monitor:

- Units sold last month: 2,348
- Conversion rate: 2.3% 
- Average order value: $42.65

A/B testing listings

A/B testing allows you to try variations of your listings to see which perform better. You can experiment with:

  • Titles and descriptions
  • Product images
  • Pricing
  • Calls-to-action

For example, you may test a long-form descriptive title against a short clickbait title to see which attracts more clicks and conversions.

You'd set up two identical product listings, make one small change between them, and see which one performs better over time.

Streamlining purchasing process

To improve conversions, ensure customers can easily checkout when ready to buy. Consider offering:

  • Various payment options (credit card, PayPal, etc)
  • Automatic shipping rates and delivery estimates
  • Guest checkout without requiring account creation
  • Accept returns to reduce buying hesitation

The easier you make your store's buying experience, the more customers will complete purchases without abandoning their carts. Streamlining checkout is key for higher conversions.

Expanding your digital store

Expanding your digital store beyond your initial marketplace can help grow your business and give you more control and higher profit margins. Here are some options to consider:

Building your own ecommerce platform

Building your own independent ecommerce platform gives you full control over your online store and products. While this requires more effort upfront, owning your platform means:

  • You keep 100% of the profits instead of paying marketplace fees
  • You can fully customize the look, feel, and functionality of your store
  • You have access to customer data and can market directly to buyers
  • You can set your own policies around licensing, commercial use, etc.

An ecommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce paired with a payment processor like Stripe can help you get started. Focus on a simple, intuitive storefront and smooth checkout process.

Offering commercial licenses

Consider offering commercial licenses to buyers, allowing them to use your artwork in commercial applications like books, merchandise, ads, etc. Set different tiers of licenses:

  • Basic - for non-commercial personal use
  • Extended - for commercial use up to a certain print run or time period
  • Unlimited - for unrestricted commercial use

Clearly display your licensing terms upfront and integrate the option to upgrade during checkout. Commercial licenses let you earn more per customer.

Opening commissions

Opening custom illustration commissions allows buyers to request specialized artwork just for them. Set pricing tiers based on complexity, revisions allowed, usage rights, etc.

Streamline the process by using an order form to capture key details upfront. Be clear on your policies, pricing, and timelines to set expectations. Completing custom commissions helps build relationships with potential repeat buyers.

Focus on top-notch customer service and timely delivery to cement your reputation. Slowly open commissions to manage demand rather than overcommitting upfront.

Conclusion

To effectively monetize an illustration side hobby, here are some key services and strategies to consider:

  • Use print-on-demand services like Redbubble, Society6, or Teepublic to sell artwork on products like t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, etc. This allows reaching a broad audience without managing production or shipping.

  • Sell digital downloads on sites like Etsy. Offer illustrations as instant downloads so buyers can print them at home. Digital files are easy to manage and enable passive income.

  • Promote work on social media to drive traffic to online shops. Share work-in-progress shots, finished pieces, or speed paintings to engage followers.

  • Consider offering commissions for custom illustration work. This allows providing specialized or personalized art for buyers.

  • Sell art through online galleries like Saatchi or TurningArt. They handle framing, printing, shipping, and have a built-in customer base.

The key is having artwork available on products in places where art buyers naturally congregate. Automate sales through print-on-demand integration while using social media for further exposure. Stay focused on creation while leveraging services for production, marketing, and selling to monetize artwork.

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