It’s fun to spend hours working on a creative project at home after work, but what if you want to turn it into a business or career? Professional creatives deserve to get paid what they’re worth, like doctors, lawyers or architects. You don’t need lots of fans and customers to earn a profitable living either. In fact, 1,000 might just be enough. In an often-cited essay, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote:
“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version…they can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
Start by identifying your niche or specialty, whom you want to serve and how your talents align with what the market wants. Whatever your answer, an online business is probably the fastest route to getting paid for working with your muse.
If video and film is your thing, you could start a YouTube channel and eventually monetise it through ads. Top YouTubers earn six- and seven figures a month.
If you want to design video games, consider learning how to build levels, mods and add-ons for the games you already enjoy. Video game developers are crying out for talented professionals.
If you like making arts and crafts, consider setting up a store on Etsy. Ceramicist Sally Binard started selling pots on Etsy and was surprised by how quickly her hobby turned into a business. She told me:
“I opened my first Etsy shop in 2012 as a means of generating a little bit of income. It took off by accident. It just grew through social media and the platform of Etsy. At one point this little pottery business turned into 30% of my income. So I started taking it a lot more seriously.”
If you’re a musician, giving tracks away for free can help with finding an audience or clients. Composer Daniel Bordovsky got his start when he uploaded tracks to the Free Music Archive. After one went viral, serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk hired him. Bordovsky told me:
“If you make something and put it out for free and…bring attention to that…that’s the way to start making money.”
If you’re a writer, Medium is a great place to get started. Members of their partner program get paid for writing articles that engage readers. No technical skills are required. Many new contributors earn over $100 a month, while top contributors break five figures.
British scriptwriter Max Marlow struggled with rejection in an industry that’s difficult to break into, so he started photographing life around London. Marlow then posted his work on Instagram and wrote short stories in each caption. His work attracted attention from people in his industry and indirectly led to a mentorship opportunity with filmmaker Ron Howard. Marlow says,
“As much as you want to create, you also need to sell yourself and build yourself as a writer.”
Most creatives teach at some point too, turning their books and insights into courses and coaching. For example, Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, and Deadmau5 all teach their fans via the online learning platform MasterClass.
The days of the starving artist are numbered. It’s easier than ever for creatives to earn a living today if they mix business or marketing with their craft.