Artist on a Budget - How to Cut Costs and Keep Profits

By | 2:40 PM

Marinus van Reymerswaele (Follower of) - The Money Changers - Google Art Project
source: Public Domain
Debt is not a fun thing, and art is. Let's agree to keep the two things separated. Here I will outline some of the best practices I have garnered from artists I know. Basically I am going to break it down to controlling the Outflow and the Inflow... of cash that is.


Always shop around. Every business out there wants your money so make them work for it. Go to Groupon and search "art" to pull up deals on classes, art supplies, printing, and framing all at deep discounted prices.

If you frame your art, keep an eye out for rock-bottom sales on the size and type frames you prefer. Also check out garage sales and thrift shops. You can often find them for pennies on the dollar. Sometimes second-hand frames have small flaws which can easily be touched up.

Find stores online that sell some of your staple items in bulk, and comparison shop. Keep in mind that free shipping can really make a big cost difference.

If you want to really go big on building up your stockpiles here are a few tips from my friend Valerie, an online business owner: Contact the manufacturers directly and look into buying wholesale. You may need to apply for a tax exempt number from the state and keep record of the sales tax you collect on the art that you sell but this can turn out to save you so much money it will be worth the effort.

Most people don't know that they can buy wholesale if they are making something to resell and that it can be a huge money saver. According to Valerie, most of the companies she buys from require a minimum opening order of $300-$500 but then re-orders usually have minimums of only $100-$200, which is pretty easy to do when making stuff for resale. You don't have to be a retail store to purchase craft supplies wholesale if you are making items for resale. Many companies will sell to you wholesale... but they will require a tax exempt number that you can get through your state's department of revenue.

Reuse, recycle, it is a an art in itself. Before you throw away packaging, jars, plastic containers, cardboard boxes et cetera stop and think: How can this be utilized in my art making? Use such items; so long as they are clean and in decent condition, storage and shipping uses galore.

The most obvious example is using a glass or plastic container for paint brush dipping water. Find ways to incorporate vessels of a variety of shapes and sizes into better organizing your art studio. This will not only improve your creative space, but the best bit is you will not spend any extra money to do so. And in being organized it will be much simpler to inventory what you have and what you need - which should cut down on accidental duplicate purchases of art supplies.

Keep leftovers. If it is paint, ribbon, paper, wood bits, metal, clay or whatever it is that you have not used completely make sure you seal it up and store it properly for future use. It is just like leftovers from a meal made into new meals: so long as you keep it fresh it has potential to be used again in creating new art.

Marketing if you don't promote it, how will your art ever get discovered? In need of business cards - or just about any promotional item you can think of? - find it on No kidding, this service is touted highly enough and has demonstrated affordability across the board to the point where I must mention it. In case you missed the memo, now you have gotten it.

In marketing (on which whole series of articles are regularly written) if you can invest the time and do it yourself, free will get you a long ways on the internet. Web sites, blogs, communities, email lists, social media - if what you find isn't enough, create your own. Build your brand and expand your artist network by creating a logo and building a website. It is another application of art and design skills if you are up for the technological challenge.


The turn-around, now let's optimize the money you get for the art you send out into the world... first of all, be consistent in your pricing. Do not offer discounts all willy-nilly. You may end up bargaining down your art to the point that you are paying to create it and quickly end up in the red.

When you make sales from your art, have a clear plan on how that income is to be treated. If you apportion it by percentage - say a certain amount goes towards new supplies and a certain amount goes into savings and that will keep you in check. Write down your goals and keep track to see if you are covering your costs and if you are, then vigilantly keep tab of where your profit goes.

It is easy to celebrate a sale by spending it all at once, so set some rules. An idea here is to keep in mind the cost of the materials that went into your work and marketing - those costs can be reinvested into your artistic inventory. The time you spent on it is that which can often be more difficult to define. Consider the rest of that percentage as a wage and how would it be doled out by an employer? If you do not want to measure by hour, then think of it by days and arrive at a number for your time accordingly.

There are many other things you can do if you sit down and think about it. Maybe this adds to your plans or helps you get on a better path financially. Either way, this will always be a step in the right direction to keep on making art.  Do you have any tips to share that have worked for you?  If so please share by commenting below, thanks.

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