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How I Made $5,000 Without Art Commissions?

Oct 3, 2023

Today, I'm unveiling one of the lessons I learned: How I transformed my art skills into an income (without taking on a commission.)

If you've ever wondered how to earn without trading your precious time for money as an artist, then you'll want to explore this blog.

This is stuff that most art schools often overlook when teaching their art students.

They seek to make us the finest artists, designers, or painters we can be, but sometimes fall short of developing an entrepreneurial perspective, which is just as important for success in any career.

Even my friends who went to elite art schools admitted that this critical component was missing from their education.

But you're in luck today! I'll share the mindset shifts and methods from the real world that enabled me to turn my art skills into a mini business.

Ready? Let’s begin our journey!


Before starting, just to make sure that we're on the same page:

  • This isn't YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) content or financial advice.
  • I'm not a business coach, and I don't have an MBA.
  • This isn't a quick way to get rich.
  • It takes time, consistency, a budget, knowledge beyond art skills, and a lot of effort, and your results may vary based on your situation.

How it Started?

The Start: Sharing my Art Tutorials on Socials

As you know from the previous email, I've had steady work as a freelance illustrator thanks to a consistent partnership with a Japanese agency. Life is stable, but stability doesn't mean we stop growing, right?

So, I just wanted to try something new. Last year, I started sharing art tutorials on Instagram aimed at helping beginners, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Messages flooded in thanking me for tips that saved time and improved their art skills.

This means something to me. I’ve never thought that my art experiences can help lots of people, and this made me really glad that I can help someone.

At that time, I just loved sharing my art process and tutorials on social media; I never knew that it would be the starting point of my mini business.

The Aha Moment: Why I'm Pivoting Away from Commissions

My entire perspective changed after watching a video by Kristy Partridge, a successful watercolor artist and art entrepreneur with fantastic watercolor art courses.

She talked about how artists can evolve their art into a business without relying on commissions, and it got me thinking—hard.

Here's why commissions can be a double-edged sword:

  • Pressure Overload: Commissions can be stressful. You aim to create something your client will love, not just like. In doing so, you might find yourself unable to work on personal projects that feed your soul.
  • Time Crunch: Commissions aren't quick work. From onboarding a client to revisions, creating a commissioned piece can stretch over days or even weeks.
  • Limited Earning Potential: With only so many hours in a day, there's a cap on how many commissions you can take, and thus a limit to what you can earn unless you charge sky-high prices.

Don't get me wrong, I've loved working on commissions and have built some incredible relationships along the way.

But let's talk numbers. I was churning out 4 top-notch illustrations per month for my Japanese agency, on top of 1-2 personal commissions. Each artwork takes between 35-50 hours to perfect, leading to sleep-deprived nights and, frankly, an unhealthy lifestyle.

That's when the light bulb went on 💡: Why not try something that aligns with my passion but offers a better balance?

That “aha moment” is what's driving me to develop my art business in new, exciting directions.

The Building Blocks: Art Skills, Content Marketing, and Personal Branding

It quickly became clear that building a thriving art business hinges on mastering three key areas—art skills, content marketing, and personal branding.

#1 Art Skills

Let's get real: I didn't start from zero. My forte is anime art, and it's a cornerstone in everything I do. While you don't have to be an art god to launch an art business, a solid foundation is essential.

In my own journey, hitting a competitive skill level was the springboard for starting business. It merged two of my greatest passions: creating art and helping beginner artists grow.

If you're just dipping your toes into anime art, you can read my Anime Art Starter Guide ebook for more info about growing your art skills. Or also join our Discord community where you can learn from peer feedback and participate in any events of our art community!

#2 Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategy I use for promoting myself and my products on the internet. It encompasses everything from social media posts to email campaigns and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on website.

For me I use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Discord, website, and email newsletter to showcase my artwork and art tutorials, tell my story, and engage with potential customers.

grow my social media and my online presence by creating valuable, relevant content to attract a clearly defined audience.

This could be blog posts about your creative process, tutorial videos on art techniques, or even a downloadable PDF guide on choosing art supplies.

My secret sauce of making engaging content that leads to sales is  to make the content around these three pillars

Here's an example tutorial from my website. But remember, having a website is optional; you can publish content on your platform of choice.

The aim is to offer something of value that will help establish you as an authority in your field. By doing so, you not only deepen the relationship with your existing audience but also attract new followers who may eventually convert into paying customers.

If you're new to this, pick 1-2 platforms and make them shine. For me, Instagram and my email list have been the magic combo. Tailor your choices to your audience and region and go all in!

#3 Personal Branding

Personal branding or social presence is the way you show up on the social media. Think of personal branding as your digital handshake; it's how you present yourself in the online world.

Here’s my valuable technique you can use:

  • Discover what makes you, YOU
    First step is to understand what sets you apart. Ask yourself, what are my unique strengths, skills, and viewpoints?
  • Personify your brandPicture your brand as a character. What traits define them? Begin by determining your brand archetype. Here's a glimpse of the brand board I used to craft my own unique identity, “Lunarmimi.”

  • Show up and consistently engage with your audience
    Your personal brand is not a one-way street; Use social platforms to create meaningful dialogues. Run AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions, art challenges, or even live tutorials. The more value you give, the more your personal brand will resonate in the hearts of your audience.

In a nutshell, launching my art business hinged on three core skills: I leveraged my art skills as a starting point, used content marketing to broaden my reach, and maintained a consistent brand identity throughout. 🎨✨

How I Sell My Products?

When I decided to monetize my art, I aimed to create digital products. Why? They're scalable and eliminate shipping costs. For more digital product ideas tailored for artists, check out my blog. Then the brainstorming began!

Initial Ideas

Before jumping headlong, here are the fundamental questions I asked myself:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • How can my product alleviate those challenges?
  • What exactly am I offering?
  • Is there genuine demand for my offerings? What sets me apart?
  • Are there competitors with similar products? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will people discover me?
  • What platforms will be best for selling my products?

Clarifying these aspects gives you a laser-focused vision of where you want to go and how to get there.

Product Making

Inspired by the challenges and needs of my target audience, I designed the “Magic Assets Bundle.” Tailored for Clip Studio Paint users, this bundle is a set of beginner-friendly tools.

It eliminates the time-consuming of picking out first set of tools. And reduce the tedious task of base coloring in Clip Studio Paint.

To sweeten the deal, I've thrown in a 10-minute tutorial video that walks through the entire base coloring process using the Magic Assets Bundle.

In essence, it's not just a product; it's a comprehensive solution for beginners who want to fast-track their anime art journey!

Sales Page Making

Content marketing is like sketching out your art, but your sales page is where you add those finishing brushstrokes that really make your work sell.

So, what's a sales page? Imagine a virtual storefront that serves as your product's personal stage. This is where you showcase not just the features, but the dreams and visions that your product embodies.

Crafting a compelling sales page lets you control the narrative around your product!
You can emphasize the benefits that resonate with your specific audience—like how my Magic Assets Bundle helps new artists bypass hours of tool selection so they can jump right into the fun stuff, coloring!

You can even include testimonials from satisfied customers or snippets from the product reviews.

You can check out my sales page right here so that you can see how I design and present my product.

Promoting the Product

Once my product is ready to see the world, I use the power of content marketing I mentioned earlier to share it with my audience. Here's a glimpse into my promotional spellbook:

  • First, I wrote a blog post about how I do base coloring in Clip Studio Paint. Amidst this educational content, I seamlessly introduce my product, like a hidden Easter egg waiting to be discovered.
  • Next, my weekly newsletter acts like a secret potion for engagement. I send out an email that dives into the nitty-gritty of CSP base coloring. At the bottom, I include a golden ticket—a link leading right to my product.
  • Over on Instagram, my stories become a mini-stage for my product. I created a set of Instagram stories that sell and promote my product.
  • I also create IG carousel posts and Reels to spotlight my product's magic, making sure it's the star of the show.

A Milestone Beyond Art Commissions & My Path Forward

For the very first time, I've spread my creative wings beyond the realm of art commissions, and it has been a transformative ride! 🚀

Last year, my digital products didn't just turn heads—they turned into cash. I racked up a total milestone of $5,000. (I haven't quit taking art commissions from my Japanese agency yet but I started to reduce my commissioned work in the past year.)

Now, it might not be a jaw-dropping jackpot, but it's a soul-lifting starting point for me. It's a living proof that there's more than one way to turn your art into a treasure chest

So, what have I learned from this eye-opening journey? A blueprint for converting brush strokes into business strategies.

This revenue report is based on just 2-3 digital products. Imagine the potential if we expand the product line and refine our content marketing strategies! I'm still in the early stages of learning this, but I think it has a potential to leaps towards financial growth.

My next project is beyond my imagination: I'm channeling my art into a community and educational service. I'm talking about the MiMi Family Membership with online courses and art community to fast-track your journey in anime art.

This is an even bigger undertaking for me, and, fingers crossed for my ADHD brain…🥹 If I pull it off, you'll be the first to know every detail of this exciting process. Let's get on the journey together! 🌟🎨

That's all for today, but it could be your reality tomorrow! I hope my lessons inspire you to carve out your own artistic journey on the new trails beyond just doing commissions.

Finally, if you like art tips and content like this, feel free to subscribe to my weekly newsletter: !

I share my anime art tips and experiences in my digital art career in a weekly email. You'll get the insight and behind the scene of the art career! Really recommend if you're a beginner anime style artist. 

Thank you so much for reading this post! I really appreciate your visiting and using your valuable time reading my content!

Much Love 💖

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