How to make money with digital art: what you need to know

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Whether you’re an artist creating digital paintings or a graphic designer designing pre-made logos or social media templates, selling digital art can be very rewarding.  

From wall decor printables to affirmation posters, people shop online for a wide range of digital art. If you can draw these people to your digital art store, you can translate your passion and skills into actual profits.

Unlike physical art, there are almost no logistics to run your business here. Just join a digital art gallery or marketplace or set up your own store, upload your digital artwork, and you can start earning. Additionally, digital art sales are highly scaleable, in contrast to physical artwork.

If you’re looking for ways how to make money with digital art, this article offers all you need to know. But, first, let’s see if it’s really possible to live off your digital art.

Is it worth selling digital art?

Just like physical artwork, digital artwork has an audience. Since anyone can access and own it, its reach is even greater.

Digital art marketplaces and platforms such as Etsy have hundreds of artists earning good incomes from them. Many artists even run their independent digital art stores.

Making money from digital art simply comes down to finding people who are interested in the type of art you create. You can expect to earn a good income if you create a mainstream digital art product — printable wall decor, for example. Or, print on demand fine art. However, if you only do motion illusion posters, you will reach a much narrower market that can cap your income potential. 

Also, as with traditional art, the kind of distribution you allow and the channels you use influence your earnings. We’ll look at these aspects of how to make money with digital art in the following sections. For now, just understand that if you set reasonable expectations, digital art can be worthwhile financially.

The best part when you create a piece of digital art is that you can keep selling it with little effort, which makes it an actual passive income stream. Regular maintenance and marketing activities take hardly a few hours a week once your basic infrastructure is in place. You can manage this in your free time!

How to make money with digital art in 5 simple steps

Choosing profitable digital artwork to create

Learning how to make money with digital art starts by choosing the right kind of artwork to produce.

Some digital artwork types are more sellable and have more demand than others.

So if you haven’t chosen a type yet, think about one now. You’ve plenty of options to sell art:

  • Decorative and printable artwork (posters, stickers, paintings, etc.)
  • Screensavers and digital image files (for video games, SaaS businesses, etc.)
  • Designs for tattoos
  • Printable patterns (for merchandise like t-shirts)
  • Photography work
  • Other graphic designs like logos, templates, etc.
  • Audio art
  • Video art

Also, to find out how to make money with digital art, you need to get inside the head of your art buyers. You need to understand what motivates them to buy art. This compelling article on the types of art buyers walks you through each type and helps you know how you can position your artwork better.

Understanding how your artwork enriches your audience’s lives makes selling it simpler.

Creating your digital artwork inventory

The most important part of the “how to make money with digital art” mix is your digital art portfolio. In creating your digital art inventory, quality is naturally more important than quantity, but you still need a few pieces. 

Having a portfolio of artwork helps your potential audience see you as a real artist and take you seriously. Art lovers want to know their artists, too — having a body of work helps with this.

Take a look at Etsy stores where artists are selling digital art files for reference. A lot of art pieces are on display in those.

Artists on digital art marketplaces, too, upload quite a few digital files.

And even those who run independent stores post quite a few pieces.

When you upload your artwork, be sure to describe it properly using the right keywords. This can impact how these platforms rank you for searches of your kind of art. Search engines, too, use it for ranking your store. And so do social media platforms.

Making your art digital-friendly

Naturally, if you’re looking for how to make money with digital art, you need to make your artwork friendly for the digital medium.

Ensure that the files you’re going to sell don’t exceed a certain size and aren’t too slow to download for the buyers. But they should still be of high quality.

Also, make sure to convert your artwork into a version that the end-user can easily access. For example, if you create printables, offer downloads in formats like JPEG or TIFF, as not everyone has the tools (like Adobe Photoshop) to view PSD or files in other formats. Make sure to use your digital file as if you were a customer to see how the art looks when printed on the promised materials and dimensions.   

Selecting the right platform(s) to sell your digital artwork

Whenever you think of ways how to make money with digital art, one of the first questions you’ll hit is: Where do I actually sell my digital art? You have a few options.

  • Marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon: Etsy already has an established audience that comes to it looking for digital art. While you can get exposure before this engaged audience, you’ll compete against a number of more or less established sellers.
  • Dedicated digital art galleries: Depending on your digital artifact (graphics, audio, video, etc.), you can sign up on several dedicated marketplaces selling just that kind of art. DeviantArt, for example. Again, the competition is high, but your work can catch the attention of many potential buyers.
  • Your own eCommerce store. Alternatively, you can use an online store building solution like Shopify or set up a storefront with a digital product sales solution like Gumroad or Patreon. If you factor in all the fees and charges, these options get pricey. In contrast, WordPress offers an affordable way.

Why WordPress is the best website/store solution for selling digital art online:

WordPress offers the most cost-effective option to sell digital art online. Just invest in a domain name and hosting, and you’re ready to launch your digital art brand. For powering your digital sales’ logistics (like taking orders, collecting payments, and delivering files), download Download Monitor.

When you start making profits, you can unlock more features with Download Monitor’s premium extensions and take your digital arts business to yet another level.  For example, with Download Monitor’s Advanced Access Manager extension, you can limit the number of downloads for a buyer:

With the Terms & Conditions extension, you can protect your digital art:

The Downloading Page extension lets you create a dedicated page for delivering your digital art. This can help you offer a great brand experience:

Plus, with WordPress, you get complete control over how your store looks. You also get various free WordPress plugins that let you display your work beautifully, add reviews and ratings, build your email list, and more.

Pricing your digital artwork

A crucial step in how to make money with digital art is pricing your digital artwork.

It is difficult for even seasoned artists to place a price on their work. Nevertheless, there are typically two ways to price an art product in this format.

In the first case, you provide a mass-market product such as wallpapers or screensavers or a bundle offering. You can sell these for much less. Just check out what competing products go for, and you can get a fair idea about how you can price yours. It’s the volume of sales that drives profits in this case. Price one at $1, and you might end up selling a thousand copies.

In addition, there are times when your digital art isn’t for everyone. Generally, artwork like this is more expensive and is for people who appreciate art and are willing to pay a premium price for it.

Such art could also be something you create as a limited edition. Because you only make a few of these, exclusivity is a factor when pricing.

Alternatively, you might only create one digital painting every year and charge what you think it’s worth.

These approaches, however, naturally don’t work if you want to sell digital art at scale.

The baseline when pricing your digital art — it doesn’t matter what kind of digital art you produce — is that you shouldn’t undercharge it. Because doing so can lead to devaluing your brand, especially if you’re serious about growing your art brand.

As with traditional art, you can charge more as you grow a following and build a name for yourself.

The fine print: Licensing your artwork

When looking for how to make money with digital art, another thing you must sort on priority is your licensing approach.

You grant your art buyers the right to use your artwork in the manner described in the listing. And not in any other way. Convey these terms of use in a friendly but firm way right on your product page; keep the legalese for your terms and conditions.

Also, look into how you’ll protect your work:

  • Will you add watermarks to your files?
  • Will you digitally sign your artwork? How about using nonfungible tokens (NFTs) for better control of usage?
  • Will you protect your art with the DMCA?

Whatever you do, don’t allow your buyers to sell your art to others. If you wish to allow such reselling, create a separate commercial license.

How to make money with digital art: A few power moves

An essential step in how to make money with digital art is diversifying your income sources.

Sure, you can sell your digital art files on your own website and other portals and make passive income. But if you’re serious about hitting revenue goals, consider these:

  • Offer personalizations: Some personalizations can be done at scale without involving too much time or effort  — adding initials or a note to a printable, for instance. Art buyers happily pay for these subtle customizations. And these can add to your income significantly.
  • Create custom artwork (commissioning): Once you’ve established yourself, stay open to taking custom artwork requests, because there are art lovers who love to own art that’s only theirs! Here, you basically work as a freelancer. As a freelance artist, you can also find potential clients for such artwork projects on platforms like Upwork. Freelancing can bring you a steady income.
  • Diversify your income sources: In addition to creating art, also explore other ways to make money like engaging in brand partnerships, selling digital products (workbooks, step-by-step tutorials, workshops, webinars, etc.), or creating online courses. Note that these monetization methods are more effective for digital artists who have already built an audience.

All these, of course, don’t provide passive income and aren’t scalable the same way that sales of digital art are, but you can do these along with a full-time job.

Wrapping it up… 

The “how to make money with digital art” question ties directly to the market you cater to. So if you’re currently exploring options, research which digital art items have the most listings on platforms like Etsy.

Also, note the average pricing. These can indicate how much profits you could be looking at if you pursue your passion commercially.

Once you’ve done the groundwork, set up a low-cost WordPress store to sell your digital art. Get a free plugin like Download Monitor, and you’re ready to sell, deliver, and track your downloads. And when you’re ready, get some of the pro extensions that unlock even more features.

How to run a successful business selling digital products

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Selling digital products is a great way to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey. If you look up printable schedules, meal planners, or thank you cards, you’ll find many real, profitable businesses that are built by just selling digital products online.

If you can create a digital product with decent demand, you, too, can build a business. Selling digital products is also scalable since digital products require little post-sale service and maintenance. 

Also, unlike businesses that sell physical items, businesses selling digital products don’t need to worry about shipping, order fulfillment, or delivery. This makes running one convenient and cost-effective. Even if the products are low-ticket (like most digital products are), the profit margins are high.

So let’s look at the exact steps you can take to launch a successful digital product business.

Setting up a store for selling your digital products

The first step toward selling digital products is to build an online store or website. To build yours, you have several options:

You can join online marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon. When you join these platforms as a seller, they let you tap into their established audiences and charge a fee for each sale you make on them. You’re a renter and don’t really own your store. Aside from getting noticed, competing with established sellers, and adhering to the marketplace’s terms of service represent some major challenges. Plus, you can’t build your private customer base. 

You can sign up for a service like Shopify or BigCommerce. You can easily create a digital store using these ecommerce platforms. Even though these services are easy to set up, costs add up fast. First, their fees ($29/mo) can feel a little steep to beginners. You also need to buy extensions for simple things like offering coupon codes or building your email list. And you’re still boxed in your platform’s capabilities.

You can go with digital product sales platforms like Gumroad, Payhip, SendOwl, and Podia, among others. These are digital sales platforms that are built exclusively for selling digital products. But most of these platforms offer very limited features; most lack features like a blog. Most of the fully-featured ones are very expensive. The fee on every sale can also be a problem. GumRoad, for instance, charges 5% on every sale. Plus, there’s a charge fee (3.5% + 30¢).

Alternatively, you can start selling digital products by creating your digital product store on WordPress… 

With WordPress, starting out is easy. The domain name and hosting are usually the only costs you have to pay when you first start out. WordPress provides a big bunch of plugins designed to help you organize your files and manage your products.

In fact, to set up your digital products store with WordPress, all you need is a free plugin like Download Monitor. Download Monitor lets you upload your downloadable products to your library and charge a fee for each download. This digital downloads plugin offers a bunch of payment options, including PayPal.

Selling digital products with Download Monitor is as easy as one, two, three.

First, describe your product:

Then upload your digital files:

Set a price:

Publish and done!

Of course, you need to connect it with your payment accounts, but you get the drift.

You also get many ways to organize, display, and track your downloadables.

WordPress also lets you add a blog to your digital product store. This is a valuable channel for driving digital product sales. Plus, you have free WordPress plugins for adding all the functionalities that you need to add to your store — for example, for building your email list, adding landing pages for promotions, and more. 

With WordPress, you own your digital products store — 100%.

Getting to know your target customers

Identifying your real target market is another crucial step to building a profitable digital product brand, as depending on what you create, your digital products could appeal to quite broad or very niche audiences.

For instance, if you develop a Yoga tutorial video series for kids, you could be looking at a far wider audience. 

In contrast, with a digital meal planner, you would be targeting a very niche one.

Similarly, if you sell stock photos or templates to a particular market, such as IT or SaaS, you’d be catering to another very specific type of audience.

You get the idea.

When you can identify a “person” from these faceless audiences, you will be able to drive significantly better marketing results and more sales. Creating a customer persona lets you do this. Your ideal customer persona holds all the information you need about your potential customers and helps you get your branding and messaging just right. It has details about their age, gender, what they do for a living, what they do in their free time, their goals, etc.

Below, you have a customer persona for a flower delivery business. When you know your ideal customers this well, you can better tie your products to their needs and goals. You can also discover additional digital product ideas that might be relevant to them.

To create yours, use the same format and write what you know about the people who would buy from you. Research to know them better.

If you realize that your ideal parent persona is a homely, well-settled male in his mid-thirties, you’ll most likely find them in Facebook groups. So you’ll need some strong Facebook group marketing.

If you identify your digital meal planner buyer to be a 30-something American woman, you’ll probably find her on Pinterest. So you’ll need a good presence on the platform.

If you discover that your ideal IT or SaaS buyers are businesses that are heavily invested in content, you’ll probably have to use content (a blog) to bring them to your offering. You might also want to build visibility on their popular hangouts — by guest posting on popular blogs, for instance. Or you might decide that while you sell IT/SaaS stock imagery, you want to target the high-end web graphic design agencies or the most experienced designers they hire.

Carving your niche

The market for digital products  — just like the market for physical goods — has many segments. And your product can’t be a good fit for each.

For context, let’s say you create digital planners. Now, list the many different kinds of digital planners that there can be. Here are just a few:

  • A minimalist digital planner
  • A feminine digital planner
  • A business digital planner
  • OneNote digital planner
  • A digital planner for iPads
  • A planner for a Mac
  • A digital planner for Windows

And we’re only getting started. 

Your digital planner may be right for only one or a select few of these segments, and not for all.

After you have clarity, your goal is to become the go-to digital store for your type of digital planner. This is also your UVP or unique value proposition  — your single most important marketing message that speaks directly to your target customers.

Entrepreneur and author Steve Blank gives this helpful template for writing a UVP:

“We help X do Y by doing Z.”

To put all this in perspective, look at this UVP for a digital planner:

Notice how this digital planner seller uses a UVP that’s personalized for its customer persona (business owners). The copy, too, reinforces how it resolves the target customer’s pain points. 

Also, because the market for the most profitable digital products is very competitive, you need to think about branding from the very start. A good website, a clear value proposition, and a professional logo can help you stand out. 

See how you compare and differ from competitors’ digital products. And then translate that into better branding and messaging. 

Attracting, building, and nurturing your community

For long-term success when selling digital products, you need a digital marketing plan for your store — one that helps you build a steady and engaged customer base. There are three parts to this; let’s look at each.

Attracting qualified leads to your digital products store

To help people find your products via search engines like Google, use the right keywords inside your website copy (SEO!). Also, use them in your title tags, headlines, URLs, product titles and descriptions, and page meta-descriptions. Optimize your images with descriptive alt tags as well. Also, create a page for every product you sell. To get your site architecture and on-page optimization right, closely follow your top-ranking competitors.

Social media platforms are another source of leads for digital products. To drive digital product sales with social media, revisit the target personas you created and figure out their popular social hangouts. Next, create a presence on each. 

Another effective way to generate qualified leads for your digital goods is through content. Create a blog strategy and publish an article every week on topics your target readers search for. Start by looking at what other brands are covering.

Building your list

Just like any other ecommerce store, you need to build your list too. Emails you collect are actually the leads you can market to. Freebies are a great way to build up your email list. In exchange for their email addresses, you can also offer discounts or coupons.

Your checkout page can also contain opt-in boxes that allow you to contact your customers with cross-sell and upsell offers. Collecting your customers’ emails also helps you collect testimonials from them.

Also, include opt-in offers on your key website pages and blog posts. 

If it makes sense, you can also create a private social media group for your tribe or a membership website.

Creating a communications plan

Regularly reach out to your email subscribers and social media following about the new posts from your blog.

If you don’t have original content to post, you can curate stories from the web that will be of interest to your customers/leads.

Also, plan email marketing campaigns and social media shoutouts around new product launches, updates, and special promotions like Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. 

Creating a product development plan

Just like any other online business, you, too, need a roadmap for launching new products and updates to the current ones.

For products that age (like an annual digital or printable calendar), this is a must. You absolutely have to launch a new one every year.

But even for those that don’t (like a non-dated weekly schedule), this is a nice-to-have. You could launch a new product line and say “Your favorite weekly calendar — now in three more of your favorite colors.” Or, “New designs just in!” And so on.

From time to time, also think of launching customization offers. Choose customizations that you can do at scale and offer it to your tribe at a small fee. 

To get a head start with this, subscribe to your competitors’ digital stores and note how often they launch product updates. You can closely mirror their update timelines.

Keep in mind: your best customers are the ones you have already! These are the easiest to upsell/cross-sell to.

Selling digital products: A few more logistics

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when selling digital products:

Usage terms and conditions: What does purchasing a download from your store entail? Can buyers resell or distribute their purchases? Or is doing so a violation of your terms and conditions? Answer these questions. Also, communicate clearly to your users the difference between licensing and ownership. Digital sales allow users to use your product; they don’t own it. Different types of digital products need different kinds of protection when it comes to usage terms and licensing. 

Pricing strategy: If you price your digital products too low, your potential leads might discount their real value. Price them too high, and you’ll lose sales to your more budget-friendly competitors. So do a thorough competitive analysis when pricing your products. Pricing is naturally more complex for the more complex digital offerings like online courses or software.

Customer service: Don’t overlook this. If you’re serious about generating repeat purchases from your customer base, offer exceptional customer service.  This is especially helpful if the product you sell involves a membership or a monthly fee for access. You can use a free WordPress help support desk solution when you’re just starting out and upgrade as you scale.

Wrapping it up…

Just like physical product makers, once you launch a successful digital product and build a decent customer base, you can launch newer products and boost your profits.

Remember that your store plays a big role in this. So don’t sign up for the quick solutions. Instead, build your own website with a flexible tool like WordPress and scale as you grow. 

Ready to open your digital products store with WordPress? Take Download Monitor for a spin. Download the free plugin and get all that you need to get started and upgrade once you’re ready.