Why I don’t often recommend the “prints = passive income” art business model

By Jessica Craddock

Oct 16

Something I hear a lot from people who don't know me very well, is that, "it would just be a miracle if I could create a passive income stream selling art prints." I get it.

That's that's the goose that lays the golden egg, the creme de la creme of a lot of artists' perfect vision of their life. However, it is not something that I teach for a couple of reasons.

1. You have to put in the work to be everywhere all the time.

What this business model actually looks like is that you are getting so many page views that those eventually convert into sales. Which means you are having to put in the work to be everywhere all the time. Or at best, you have a really amazing keyword strategy. But even then that requires you being the queen of Pinterest or the queen of Google keywords. And in order to do that, you have to be creating content for those keywords to hook on to. So even if you are really focused in, on keywords being your main strategy you still have to do a lot of marketing. And by a lot, I mean you have to be a content creation machine.

Generally the people who are telling me they want that passive income are not interested in that. They want the passive income because they just want to be able to go make their art. They don't want to have to worry about marketing, selling, connecting, all the things that it takes. 

2. You need a lot of eyeballs on your website to get one sale.

A lower end of the standard statistics is that 1% of the people who come to your website will join your email list, and 1% of those will actually end up buying something. That's a lot of eyeballs that you need in order to get one sale.

3. Prints have a very low profit margin.

If you sell a print for $30 and it costs $15 to print it and $5 to ship it (and that's usually being generous) that means you get $10 for that one sale after you needed the approximate 10,000 eyeballs to get that $10.

That's a lot of work for not a lot of return.

If you are a person thinks you want that passive income prints model, what I would recommend you exploring instead as an alternative are galleries. Not just any galleries, but galleries who are going to do the majority of the marketing, the outreach, all of those kinds of ideas and handle that for you so that you don't have to.

Find an alternative business model where you have a higher profit margin and someone to do the work for you. Yes, They're going to take about 50%, sometimes more, sometimes a little less, but that saves you from having to do all of that work that you are not going to like.

Now the other side of the coin there is that maybe, just maybe, having a business is something that you would actually decide you like. Maybe there's a little wiggle room there that you can feel.

In that case, I would recommend you find a course, a class, a book, something that shows you what it looks like on the inside and see how it feels. Take a couple of action steps. See if it turns you on.

Maybe it will, maybe it won't. And you'll go back to the drawing board and you'll say, you know what? That's just not going to work for me. I'm going to try something else.

But I don't want for you is to spend your next four or five years working really hard behind the scenes on something that you don't have all the facts on. That you think if "I just build it, they'll come. They'll buy it. No big deal. I can just make my art. All I have to do is list it somewhere and it will sell." 

You might sell some, but it's not going to be that passive income stream that allows you to do what you want with your life. There's a good chance thousands of dollars a month are not going to be rolling into your bank account unless you are willing, able, and eager to create the framework for that to happen.

So next steps, if you're not sure if business is for you or is not for you. I've created a worksheet that you can go ahead and download below. That will help you work out some of these ideas in your head.

Follow your gut. Your gut knows the answer. Okay, listen to it! It's smart. It knows what's best for you. It knows what's best for your life.

And there's always a way to get there if you listen to it.

I hope this was helpful and informative, not a total buzz kill, but more of something that is going to give you the facts and information that you need.

Go ahead and sign up below and I will send you that worksheet.

Have a beautiful day. 

Do the work & create your luck,

About the Author

I’m a mentor for intuitive visual artists to sell more work, more consistently, at higher prices — with better work/life balance. Founder @ The Artist Market Co.

  • Stephen says:

    Thanks yes – this was helpful
    I am not the queen of Pinterest, IG or Google Keywords – or anything really – (o:
    And I do have a print channel in the business model I am developing – though I am not pinning all of my hopes on this being a vast flowing river of income.

    I like your comment on following your gut.
    My gut tells me there is a revenue stream in the art I am doing.
    But also that it requires discipline – as well as the hard work I am doing.
    I have added to this gut-feel an overlay of the business model (Strategy Map) I have been using in my consulting practice.
    This has been helpful
    But the nuances in what makes an *Art* business work – and where to spend my hours best – remain the arena for growth
    Many many decisions to make

    thank you for this input

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