10 Art Commission Business Ideas You Can Start This Weekend

Learn My Craft | 21 April 2023

artist desk with watercolour paint, brushes and paper

There is no shortage of artists. If the last year or two has shown us anything, it’s that so many people are using their free time to express themselves creatively. We all have a different perspective and a different way of expressing ourselves. This leads to one thing, lots of amazing art!

Art is a wonderful hobby, but what if it could be more than that? With so many people looking for a side hustle to make some extra income this year, maybe tapping into that creativity is the way to go? We’ve put together a list of 10 innovative art business ideas to get you started.

1. Paint people’s wedding bouquet

colourful bride wedding bouquet

Brides spend a lot of time picking the perfect bouquet for their big day, so why not help them make it last forever and turn it into a piece of art? Brides can send you a photo of their own bouquet for you to create a beautiful artwork from, in your favorite medium.

2. Draw classic cars and motorbikes

car sketch

Classic motor vehicles have a huge following of very dedicated fans who spend thousands restoring and enjoying their classic cars, trucks and motorbikes. Tap into this market and offer to draw their vehicle in your unique style, giving them a bespoke artwork for the garage wall.

3. Customize clothing for bridal parties and groomsmen

three women wearing bride squad tshirts

The market for bespoke wedding items keeps growing because people love a personal touch. Customize matching clothing and accessory items with your artwork for wedding parties, Batchelor and bachelorette parties and events like graduations and birthdays.

4. Draw or paint people’s houses

watercolour painting of a house

We all know people who love their home, why not offer them the chance to have a painting or drawing of it that they can keep forever? The combination of their beloved home and your amazing art style will prove irresistible to customers, and you can start with your very own neighbours!

5. Custom wedding or events signs

custom wedding sign this is how our story begins

Weddings and events are big business, and most couples are looking for unique ways to enhance their event. Creating custom handmade signs for things like parking, restrooms and the bar is a great way to use your artistic skills creatively, and they advertise themselves at events too!

6. Make custom baby name blankets

baby blanket name sofia

Baby showers, Christenings and birthdays all create a need for unique and meaningful gifts. Put your sewing skills to good use and create one of a kind baby blankets that feature details like the name and date of birth. Your creativity is the only limit.

7. Create unique pet portraits

Labrador holding empty food bowl

We are a nation of pet lovers, pets are quite simply part of the family. Immortalize people’s beloved animals using your art in creative ways. Paint portraits onto Christmas ornaments or bespoke food and water bowls or use wood-burning or paint to create beautiful toy storage boxes featuring their face and name.

8. Paint bespoke maps

map of europe

We all have places that are meaningful to us in some way, how about painting beautiful handmade maps of places meaningful to your customers? This works really well if you have an illustrative artistic style, and can be used to capture anything from the place they proposed to where they had a dream vacation. A unique framed hand painted map with meaningful details will appeal to customers everywhere.

9. Paint or draw people’s sporting photos

four ballerinas performing swan lake

People are passionate about their sports and hobbies but rarely have the chance to express that through art. Offer artworks featuring them enjoying their favorite sport, from taking a swing on the golf course to horse jumping or dancing. With your unique artistic style and their passion for the hobby its sure to be a huge hit.

10. Paint people into famous paintings

van gogh wheat field

Humour is a great way to connect with people, especially during gift giving! Offer to paint classical or famous paintings but paint in your client or their pet as the main character! This works especially well for digital artists too. Your work will delight people everywhere with a whimsical take on tradition.

Getting started with your commission-based business.

What is stopping you from starting? If you’re already trying to sell your work, what’s preventing you from connecting with more customers? So many people say they want to become a professional artist, so what is holding them back?

Most people have a reason on the tip of their tongue. Either it’s too expensive, or the market is saturated, there is too much competition or it will take too long.

99% of these ‘reasons’ are simply excuses. Anybody can start and validate their art business idea in just 48 hours by sticking to a few basic principles. A creative approach and an open mind help too!

Don’t get me wrong, you might not have a fully developed, fine-tuned business by Monday morning but this is about getting started, validating your idea and most importantly getting your first paying customers!

Let’s go.

Firstly, find an idea that people will connect with

We are going to focus on commission-based art businesses, and here’s why. Think about why people commission a piece from an artist, it is because it already means something to them on an emotional or intellectual level. That connection is what all forms of marketing are trying (and spending big money) to create and tap into. With a commission product, it already exists. For instance, people commission pet portraits because they love their pet, the artwork will already have great meaning and value to them.

Your best chance of finding an idea that connects with people is to go straight to the source. Head over to Reddit or Facebook Groups and look at two things:

  1. What people are evangelical about, what are their hobbies, passions and deep interests. Think golf, or horses, or classic cars. These all have huge and very engaged followings.
  2. Major sentimental life events. Weddings, new babies, funerals etc. These are things people care deeply about and are willing to spend money on.

Look up the most popular posts in each of these categories. What are people raving about? Which things in particular really resonate with them? What about that thing would they like to remember forever or have completely customized by an artist?

This is a great way to come up with ideas for your art business, as it starts with something there is already an engaged market for, that people feel an innate personal connection with. This works with any art style, any medium or any craft. There is always going to be something you can create that will connect with people.

Next, put together a pitch

Once you’ve narrowed down on an audience to target, put together your product offering. Be specific with what you are offering and don’t ask them what they want you to create. It’s much easier to approach people with a specific offer than a vague list of services. Try and stick with an idea you can start using the materials you already own so your costs are minimal at this stage.

Think of a product that will appeal to a majority of people within that niche. Try to be original, people love to express their passions in unique ways that haven’t been seen before. What can you do with your medium that will resonate with them?

Next, create a way of showing people what it is you’re offering. For some items, this could be a complete finished example, or samples of techniques and finishes you will include. If what you do takes a long time, a well-presented mock-up or sketch is more than enough to get the job done. Showing people rather than telling them is a very effective sales technique.

Make sure the numbers work

Don’t forget this very important step. These can be a back of an envelope type of calculations as long as they are done.

Your calculations should include the following:

  • The cost to produce and deliver the finished piece (materials + time + shipping)
  • The price you can sell it for (what will customers actually pay?)
  • The profit you’ll make per order

Never undersell yourself or sell at a loss, it’s counterproductive and usually harms your brand more than it helps you. Realize the value you’re creating, and work at better communicating that value to your customers.

If you’re struggling to work out how to price your work, try our artwork calculator tool.

Lastly, Get some orders

OK so you’ve got your idea, you’ve got your pitch ready and now its time to get out there and find some people willing to pay for your services. This is what will validate your idea.

Easier said than done, right?

This is your time to shine. As an artist you have a unique perspective and huge amounts of creativity. Finding customers will rely on you tapping into that passion and communicating it with other people.

First things first, let’s go back to the source of the idea. Go back to Reddit and FacebookGroups and tell people about your offering. Show them your mockups, samples and examples and say that you are taking commissions. Be super authentic and excited, most of these communities love to buy products but hate to be sold to, so tell stories about what inspired you to create and build a connection before talking business.

Next, tap into your own network. This is something people don’t do enough for a number of reasons, but those friends and family orders will boost your confidence and give you valuable experience and validation. Most of us have at least a few hundred followers across our social media channels. Hit them up, show them what you’re going to create for people, and ask if they’d like to commission you. Contact everyone in your phone contacts and your email contacts. Tell friends and family and ask them to tell theirs too. You can very quickly build awareness of your art among hundreds or thousands of prospective customers by doing this.

Explore your niche online and get more involved in the community. Now that you have an idea, its time to really delve into the world surrounding your niche. Identify the big forums and message boards, the biggest social media groups to join, and the places people who love that thing hang out online. Which are the big marketplaces where people already buy products for that thing? You need to be there showing people your art.

Create listings on freelance and marketplace websites. List your commission service on Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Upwork, and other websites where people go to hire artists online. This is an easy way to put you in front of your target customer.

This isn’t the time to be shy, you’re going to have to be brave and put your work out there to see what response you get. If you’re on the right track you will receive positive or constructive feedback and inquiries for artwork commissions. If you get no response at all from anyone, it might be time to go back to step 1 and explore a new idea.

What do to next

You officially have a unique and profitable art business idea on your hands, so what’s next? Now is time to really build out your idea and figure out what works, what doesn’t and how to keep delighting customers. As you grow, don’t forget to test and validate your ideas for free. If something clearly isn’t working, go back to the drawing board (ignore the pun!). Work hard enough and you can build a business in the medium you are passionate about, so don’t let it stay a dream.

All you need is 48 hours.

I hope this article has given you lots to think about and inspired you to start your own commission-based art business.

The best time to start is now!

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