50 ways to make money in the arts

Deborah Stone

The more income streams you have, the more opportunities you have to make art. The most successful artists can check many, if not all, all of these funding sources.
50 ways to make money in the arts

 Image via piximus

  1. Reapply to Australia Council

    Despite two years of cuts and the controversial movement of funds to the Ministry via Catalyst, the Australia Council still distributes about 90% of the Federal Government’s art grants. Only about a quarter of applicants receive funding in any given round but Australia Council frequently stresses ‘unfunded excellence’, which means applicants who don’t receive funding are often considered good enough: there just isn’t enough funding to go around. The best chance for Australia Council funding – apart from a good application, of course – is to keep trying.

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    Read: How to write a grant application

  2. Have a foreign affair

    The Government recognises the value of the arts in ‘soft diplomacy’, building cultural connections as a foundation for political and diplomatic connections. There are a variety of programs and international festival opportunities but your best chance is if you are making work connected with – or to be performed in – one of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s current target countries.

    Read: Soft power: the arts of diplomacy

  3. Know your State Government’s policy priorities

    State governments like to use culture as a differentiator, to promote other policy agendas as well as a tourism drawcard. In Victoria, the ‘creative industries’ push finds strong expression in supporting of the moving image, animation and gaming. In NSW there’s a current push for arts in health. In WA, the arts are an important way to support remote communities. Funding is put behind each of these policies, often through a department other than the arts department.

  4. Use your capital city council

    Central city councils are relatively rich, with established assets and rates from businesses to spend. They all have programs to activate city centres which provide funds for cultural activity including public art, festivals and space activation programs. Some also have associated charitable foundations, such as Melbourne’s Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. 

  5. Explore local government opportunities

    There are 561 local government councils in Australia and most of them have some kind of allowance for cultural activity. Grants, street festival gigs and local government venues are available and you don’t usually have to live in the area – just be prepared to do your work in the area.

  6. Apply to a community foundation

    A community foundation is an independent philanthropic organisation that aggregates donations from individual donors to create an endowment that gives grants for a geographic area. According to Australian Community Philanthropy, there are at least 57 community foundations in Australia  including the Australian Communities Foundation, Sydney Community Foundation,and Queensland Foundation as well as for many smaller centres. Again, it’s about work that helps the community rather than where you live.

  7. Apply to philanthropic trusts

    For tax reasons, most significant donations from private sources come through philanthropic trusts. There are at least 300 philanthropic trusts in Australia. Not all of them make donations to the arts but some like the Sidney Myer Fund, Ian Potter Foundation, Thomas Foundation and Harold Mitchell Foundation have strong arts programs. Consider buying Philanthropy Australia’s Directory of Funders to get details.

  8. Ask about private ancillary funds

    Private ancillary funds allow relatively small donors (with $500,000 or more) to set up a tax deductible vehicle for making donations to causes of their choice. There are about 1200 in Australia giving away more than $165 million a year but they are hard to find. If you know someone to be a high net worth individual, it’s worth asking, ‘Do you have a private ancillary fund?’  If they do, you have the opportunity to open a discussion about their willingness to support your next project.

    Read: How to tap the new philanthropy dollar

  9. Connect with a cause

    Many philanthropic trusts and public sources of grants have specific interests such as the environment or social justice. The Scanlon Foundation, for example, is committed to giving grants the improve social cohesion, the Banksia Foundation focuses on the environment and the William Buckland Foundation on overcoming disadvantage. Arts projects that advance these goals are eligible for funding and there’s plenty of evidence on the power of the arts to effect social change to advance your application.

    Read: Proving the real value of the arts

    Read:  Plugging the gaps in arts value research

  10. Find an organisation to auspice you 

    Many foundations and some government programs, such as Catalyst, will only fund organisations and sometimes only if they have tax deductibility status from the tax office. If you are an individual artist or small group, connecting with a not-for-profit in your field willing to auspice your work. This support will give extra credibility to your application and make you eligible for additional sources of funding.

  11. Go to the bank

    Taking out a loan is certainly an option but you need to be sure your income will cover not only repayments but also interests. Banks can be more useful to artists in other ways. All the major banks and many smaller banks have community grants programs. Applications are usually straightforward and all the information is online.

  12. Find a corporate partner

    Big corporations such as Telstra, BHP and Qantas sponsor major arts organisation such as the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia and the National Gallery. But some also have community grants for smaller arts organisations. Or consider connecting with a local business that will sponsor your exhibition or show for promotion to a local audience. Creative Partnerships Australia is a core resource and provides matched funding in some cases.

  13. Take a school residency

    In some states, artists in schools are funded through the Arts Department or equivalent but in others they are funded through the Education Department or through arts organisation such as South Australia’s Carclew. Private schools often have their own sources of funding and will take on artists, especially in association with capital projects. Participatory projects and anything that supports curriculum – not just in the arts subjects – are looked on favourably.  

  14. Work in health care facilities

    NSW is leading the country in arts in health with a new Ministerial task force to promote arts in health settings but it’s a trend likely to be picked up around the country in coming years. Mental health facilities, children’s hospitals and hospices already use arts programs extensively and chronic health settings are beginning to incorporate the value of arts to get patients moving physically and mentally. 

    Read: New taskforce to promote arts for successful ageing

  15. Work with seniors

    The ageing population means older people are a dream demographic for getting work and there is increasing recognition of the importance of creative ageing in keeping minds and bodies active. Seniors centres, retirement villages and nursing homes are ideal settings for your work and there is often money to pay for your services. State governments are also starting to fund this kind of work through health and human services departments.

    Read: Arts are key to redefining ageing

  16. Work with kids

    From theatre for babies to portraits at high-end Sweet Sixteens, the children’s market is huge. Childcare centres, kindergartens, after care and holiday programs, party entertainment and the gift market are all ripe for creative offerings.

  17. Sell tickets

    It’s easy to get so caught up in the grant cycle that we forget people value what they pay for. Even if it doesn’t entirely cover your costs, audience contribution should always be part of your income calculation. Don’t forget too, that audiences are not only interested in the finished product. The opportunity to watch you in rehearsal or to visit your studio can be a marketable product.

  18. Consult to corporate clients

    Creativity and innovation are buzzwords in the business world and there’s an increasing recognition that the creative artist’s lateral world view is something business needs to learn.Drumming circles for team building, graphic interpretation of in-service training, drama games for conflict resolution: there are any number of opportunities and a vast potential client base.

    Read: Landing lucrative corporate gigs as an artist

  19. Make merchandise

    T-shirts, baseball caps and CDs are a given. But a browse through any arts centre or art gallery shop will prove that smart artists are thinking much more widely. A mosaic nose rest for eyeglasses, creative clocks and sake glasses with erotic Japanese woodcuts are among the arts merchandise we have seen.  You can sell at markets, online through stores such as Etsy and Redbubble or at your own exhibition or performance.  Merchandise is both a product and a promotion so it’s double value.

  20. Crowdfund

    Perhaps the biggest growth area in funding is the opportunity to crowdsource donations from family, friends and fans.  There are now half a dozen crowdfunding platforms available to Australian artists, some specialising in the arts. Conditions and costs vary. Some have ‘all or nothing’ models that depend on you reaching a target, others charge fees and some provide  matched funding opportunities . Research suggests success will depend on strong social media penetration.

    Read: Which crowdfunding platform is best?

  21. Create work for anniversaries

    It’s a quirk of government values that while both state and federal governments have generally cut arts funding in recent years, they have found large lump sums to support cultural programs around specific commemorations.  A case in point is the $4 million over four years the Federal Government is channelling through the ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund Public Grants Program.  The Canberra Centenary in 2013 similarly provided rich opportunities for artists.  There’s always someone having a birthday. 

    Read: Has the ANZAC centenary driven arts funding off course? 

  22. Teach

    Lessons to children have long been the mainstay of many artists’ incomes but the opportunities are much broader than teaching school. Increasing adult leisure, shorter working weeks, longer retirement and a burgeoning understanding of the importance of creative engagement for mental health all add up to a big demand for courses in the arts from all age groups.

    Read: You can do but can you teach?

  23. Get a residency

    Government, educational and philanthropic interests offer residencies, providing board, travel and sometimes a stipend to artists. There are beautiful historical properties but also gigs attached to museums, hospitals or schools and many run by local councils.

    Read: 8 top Australian creative residencies

  24. Chase copyright

    This should be a no-brainer but there are plenty of artists, musicians and writers who have the right to copyright royalties and are not receiving them. Join a copyright collection agency such as AMCOS for musicians or Viscopy for visual artists, Google yourself and chase up people who use your work without permission. You may be surprised how much more an old piece of work can earn.

  25. Be the star attraction at an event

    Corporate launches are theatre for business. Weddings and big birthday bashes are personal stages. Turn your creative skills to providing entertainment or decoration for events and you will have a budget to spend on pretty much anything you like as long as it feels good. There’s a whole industry out there of caterers, venues, party shops and event organisers to target.

    Read: Events management:  the new stage

  26. Move out of the city

    Whether you are ready for a tree change or are just looking for project opportunities,  get out of the city – especially the inner city – and make work for and with suburban, regional and remote communities. The Regional Arts Fund has about $16.1 million to spend annually on work that supports sustainable cultural development in regional communities. Develop a project that develops a community and you are in with a chance.

  27. Leverage identity funding

    If you are white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and Anglo-Celtic you might need to skip this paragraph. For everyone else there’s a good chance that your minority status can be leveraged into support through a multicultural program, gay festival, disability support program or women’s art prize. Look outside arts-specific programs for those that encourage community development, education and cultural expression.

  28. Busk

    You are not either a professional or an amateur. There’s no reason why you can’t have a paid gig one week and have your hat out at a farmers’ market the next. There is serious money to be made by high quality buskers in the right spots and it’s the perfect stop-gap job – mobile, flexible and forgiving. Just make sure you check the regulations and get a license when you need one.

  29. Find festivals

    Obviously you’d love a gig at one of the big ones but until the Melbourne, Sydney or Perth Festival recognises your particular brilliance, there are lots of other options. Get to know every fringe, ethnic and specialist festival out there well in advance so you can tailor a project to suit their remit. Or start your own.

    Read: How to start a new festival

  30. Get into advertising

    Advertising is a hardy annual for artists working as designers, writers providing copy and actors using voice-overs to pay the rent. Creative agencies need creative people and it’s sad but true that you are more likely to get the budget and support to create a stunning piece of cinematography if there’s a car in the frame. 

  31. Access a small business incubator

    Artists often don’t think of themselves as small businesses but that’s exactly what a freelance artist is. Like all businesses you are either providing a service  or a product and like all business your success will ultimately depend on following Mr Micawber’s dictum, ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.’ Governments – state and local – and some business associations have a range of services available for emerging businesses including mentorships, workshops, subsidised premises and innovation funding.

    Read: Why the innovation agenda needs the arts

  32. Enter prize competitions

    Don’t disqualify yourself before you get started with the belief that it’s not worth entering because you don’t think you will win. Judges’ decisions can never be predicted and the never exercise of entering helps you develop the skills that increase your chances for the future. Cast your net widely for prize opportunities and enter as many as you can.

  33. Utilise new technology

    Funding organisations are like small children when it comes to new toys. If it’s shiny and unfamiliar they want it. So work presented as an app or game or virtual reality interactive anything has access to new buckets of funding from governments that want to be seen as innovative, universities that want to attract young people or telecommunications and electronics companies who want you to put their products in a new creative light.

  34. Haunt libraries and museums

    Libraries and museums are heavily engaged in redefining themselves as community hubs with a much broader cultural agenda. To retain and grow audiences they are investing in participatory art programs, hosting exhibitions and performances, offering residencies and fellowships, and holding education programs and festivals. While the biggest opportunities are the state museums and libraries, there are lots of smaller programs now being offered by local libraries and specialist museums.

    Read: $83.1m to transform library into cultural hub

  35. Add food and drink

    Food and beverage service is the oldest trick in the book for arts organisations trying to increase their profit. If you are hosting your own show, include some food and drink options – even it is only hot chocolates and Tim-Tams. The mark-up is a boon. But for bigger opportunities, team up with a local eatery,  get a gig at the pub, develop a theatre restaurant night at your local bistro,  or ask a new café to display your paintingsWherever people are eating or drinking, there is an opportunity for them to be looking at or listening to you.

  36. Target new developments

    In some places, such as the City of Perth, there is a formal 1% for art policy which requires developers to spend 1% of their budget on art commissions. But even if there is no legal requirement, new developments are often ripe for statement works and content to fill their new spaces. Cultural activity is the best way to counter the soullessness that is the enemy of new housing developments and the cost of art is a drop in the bucket when a property developer or government client is investing in capital expenditure. 

  37. Go to university

    Universities are not just educational institutions. They are businesses engaged in a competitive market place to attract students and community hubs with some of the best cultural facilities in the country.  There are teaching and tutoring opportunities, performance and exhibition venues, and built-in audiences for your work.

    Read: $45 million performing arts centre sounds unique

  38. Construct a portfolio career

    There are few jobs in the arts sector that will earn you a full time salary, but many that can earn you a piece of one. Stop thinking in terms of a single job, broaden your skill set and put together a portfolio of skills that complement one another. Combine a part-time role in arts marketing, a creative gig and some teaching on the side. Or take commercial work for a creative agency on a freelance basis when you don’t have commissions for your own work.

    Read: How to build a portfolio careers

  39. Follow fashion

    We are not suggesting you dump your originality and slavishly follow trends. Rather, connect with the fashion industry and look for opportunities to display your wares. The fashion industry has money and it loves to party. Link up with a high fashion brand and you have an outlet for all kinds of creative work, from design ideas to fashion show choreography. Clothing and accessories are walking exhibition opportunities for visual artists. Fashion parades and launches are big stages for performers.  Plus the exposure to wealth and celebrity will offer excellent networking and follow-up opportunities.

  40. Tap into science

    STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) is getting all the attention and funding at the moment but thoughtful scientists recognise the value of using arts to promote, explore and explain, bridging the gap between the laboratory and the public. Health and environmental sciences are strong contenders here. The University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre recently offered a $100,000 fellowship for a creative writer.  The University of Melbourne has employed former Powerhouse Director Rose Hiscock to establish a Science Gallery dedicated to the space where art and science collide. This will be a growing field.

    Read: Playing the art science petri dish

    Read: Fat opportunity for creative writer

  41. Create a side project

    A personal project is a way of creating your own dream job instead of waiting for someone to give it to you. Set yourself a brief and create the work that will showcase your skills and prove you have what it takes to deliver an extended project. Side projects are a version of ‘Build it and they will come’. It takes effort and faith because as a money-making venture the rewards are chancy but it’s an increasingly popular path to making your art a viable commercial proposition.

    Read: Why you need a project

  42. Promote a product

    The businesses that make your art materials, audio equipment or dance wear need users to endorse and experiment with the capacity of their products. Come up with a creative idea that makes impressive use of a product and you may find the manufacturer is ready to pay for it. While celebrity helps, businesses are also interested in showcasing what their products do and are keen to employ experienced users in-house as trainers ,  sales reps , even the occasional resident artist.

    Read: New technology catches colour fugitives

  43. Present

    Conferences are big business and some pay speakers with appropriate expertise. Festivals, arts centres and writers’ centres all hold panels and pay speakers. Radio and television needs experts to speak about all kinds of creative topics and there are any number of schools and colleges looking for speakers who can provide an incursion or a guest spot. Being able to talk fluently and entertainingly about what you do is a great way to get a little extra money to keep doing it.

  44. Trade

    Okay, trading isn’t technically money but if you can use your art to pay the dentist or get a free meal it may as well be. Offering a work or free tickets to your show in exchange for something you consider of comparable value is well worth a try. Just be careful to have a good sense of the value on both sides of the exchange.     

    Read: How to trade art with your dentist

  45. Connect with a big name

    When a major performing arts centre or gallery puts on a big event with a major name they often supplement with side shows. Keep an eye out for upcoming events that relate to something you do and pitch to the producer or venue. Merchandising associated with the blockbusters is also an opportunity. As well as licensed product from the core exhibition, gallery and arts centre shops will often sell work from local artists that evoke the mood or style of the headliner.

  46. Apply for a scholarship or fellowship

    Both within and beyond the arts funding sector there are many opportunities for stipends, touring funds and lump sums through scholarship and fellowship programs. Traditionally these opportunities were often for emerging artists but there is increasing recognition of the need to support mid-career artists. They are also a very good option for artists who work in arts management. The Australia Council has arts-focused fellowships but many artists and arts managers often access Fullbright scholarships, Australia-Harvard Fellowship, Churchill Fellowships and others.

  47. Take tours

    Tourists are open to experiences and to spending. By introducing them to your cultural environment, you can not only earn tour guide fees but also tell them about your work. If you have merchandise to sell, consider offering a free introductory tour to your area that finishes at your shop or studio.  If you have a show to sell, you could package it into a dusk food tour of the area. Link up with tourism providers and use tourism sites such as Tripadvisor to promote your wares.

  48. Pop up

    Take advantage of a temporarily empty shop-front, set up a tent or caravan at a festival, establish a stall or street stage in association with a sports event or community day. Wherever people are gathering and space can be found there is a potential audience.

  49. Repackage

    Look at the work you already have and consider how it could be repackaged for a new audience. Every novelist dreams of selling film rights but there are lots of less grand ways to repurpose your content for a new audience. Bring old content online, team up with a writer to turn images into a picture book, take an adult show and reimagine it for a teen audience – or the reverse. Make the creative content you have work harder so you make more money out of each work.

  50. Get the right day job, 

    We left this one until last because we know many artists regard a day job as a failure. But the reality is the vast majority of artists earn their bread and butter outside of the arts and the good news is that’s not necessarily a bad thing for their art. Art making is a solitary occupation. Being in another world not only inspires your creativity but also broadens your contacts and every contact is a potential customer.

Read: In defence of day jobs

Read: 10 best day jobs for artists

About the author

Deborah Stone is Editor of ArtsHub.

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