How to Make Money from Your Art – A Unique Way

You’ve been creating art for a while, joined art clubs, created and sold pieces, did commissions and participated in shows.

Maybe you’ve gotten your work into galleries as well. At least, you’re getting a sale or a commission occasionally.

And maybe you’re lucky enough to be making a full-time income. But maybe it’s a part-time income or less.

If the latter sounds like you and you’re frustrated, perhaps you need to think outside your art box.

Allow me to offer another way you can make money doing art.

(Here is a link to another post I wrote about selling your art. Click here to read).

Sharing the Joy of Art

If you love art and want to share that love of art with others, why not consider teaching art? OK, I saw that eye roll!

I don’t mean going back to school to become a teacher.

No certification? No problem. There is a segment of the population that is rapidly growing and welcomes doing art—that is our respected seniors.

I have been an art instructor since 2011 providing art classes at senior living facilities (both independent and assisted living). Not only do residents of these facilities appreciate creating and enjoy learning something new, but they also enjoy the social activity aspect as well.

In addition, these classes provide mental and physical stimulation which can increase the overall well-being of the participants.

Also, I cannot speak for all senior living facilities, but the ones in my area do not require certification in art nor any specific degree. However, I do have the experience of being an artist for many years before doing this. And I’m guessing you may have, too.

Aging Baby Boomers

Keep in mind, if you were to get started providing this service for retirement homes, it’s likely you would have income for many years to come. The senior population is increasing, due to the aging baby boomer population.

According to the Census Bureau, by the year 2030, all the baby boomers will be older than 65 and this will increase the proportion of seniors to other residents to 1 in 5.

Also, a related article from the Census Bureau stated, ” Between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population…… In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012.”

Obviously, this rise in the aging population will translate to more people in senior living facilities. And these facilities often look to provide meaningful, purposeful and engaging activities for their residents. That’s where you come in, offering to provide structured art classes.

10 Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Make a list of names and addresses of all available independent and assisted senior living facilities.

2. Develop a few small art pieces seniors would enjoy (no larger than 8 1/2 x 11)—landscapes, florals, still life—in a medium that’s not too complicated to show as an example to facilities. (I use colored pencil and watercolor pencil.)

3. Develop lesson plans for them (plan out step-by-step how you would teach them).

4. Create a business card promoting yourself as an artist/instructor.

5. Create a mailer—a cover letter, a flier explaining your art instruction, and pictures of a couple projects.

6. Send out mailers to all on your list of places (preferably to the activities directors directly).

7. Follow up with phone calls, asking to speak to the activities directors.

8. Offer to schedule a “meet and greet” to present your program to residents. You may have to do this “pro-bono” to prove yourself or offer a “discounted rate” for the first time. And limit class size to 12 (8 or 10 for assisted living).

9. Purchase materials for class(s).

10. If all goes well the first time, ask for a small commitment of 6 classes to start with. Trust me, it will most likely result in more beyond the 6. Again, you just have to prove yourself.

Must-Have Materials

Here is a list of supplies you’ll need to get you started if you are providing a colored pencil art class.

Hint—you will be much more marketable if you bring your own supplies for your classes.

1. Crayola colored Pencils 24-pack

2. Vellum Art Paper

3. Sharpeners

4. Erasers

5. Cups for pencil shavings

6. Electric Sharpener

You may add to this, but this will be enough to get started. Plan for a count of 14 of everything (a class for 12 plus 2 extra -one for you!).

Tips for Smash-Hit Classes

Actual artwork from one of my classes

Although it’s really not difficult to be successful in this type of work, the following advice is worth mentioning so you can determine if this would be right for you.

1. Primarily, having compassion for seniors is first and foremost. Understand that our elders have “paid their dues” in life and have contributed to society in various ways—working, raising families, volunteering, etc. They are to be treated with the same respect that any one of us want to be treated. (The Golden Rule)

2. In addition, patience and understanding is paramount as well.  Some folks (especially in assisted living facilities) will have various cognitive and/or physical challenges that may hinder their ability to render the art they way you would have them do it. But remember, it’s about the process not necessarily the outcome.  Some may need a lot of assistance, too.

3. Likewise, do not force the guidance during the lessons—encourage instead! Even if a picture is totally off, that’s OK; do allow for individual expression!

4. Also, be reasonable in your starting fee. You can always build up from there. Remember, you have to establish your worth and the value of the activity to begin with.

5. Keep it light and make it fun. Share stories or funny anecdotes. And remind them this is their art project, that you are there for guidance but there is much room for artistic license.

6. Similarly, help establish camaraderie through individual recognition in the group by always taking time at the end of each class to have “show and tell”. Have each participant show their artwork for appreciation and a show of support from the group.

7. And lastly, always, always thank your participants for coming.

Final Thoughts

In summary, I have found teaching seniors to be a wonderfully rewarding and enjoyable experience. And the seniors themselves enjoy this type of activity. Many amaze themselves that they were able to create artwork, many for the first time in their lives.

And don’t be discouraged if you only get one place who hires you at first. That’s all it takes. If they like you, they could provide a reference for you.

This is how I started—with one account and have built up to many facilities that book me regularly—most of them once or twice/month.  And many of the folks in those facilities that I see regularly are like family to me. I really enjoy their company as well!

Also, don’t overlook senior centers and libraries who welcome these kinds of programs as well.

Most importantly, this will be a business and will need to be nurtured and built up over time. It will be at least a part-time income for you and could be more if you work hard at marketing yourself.

Truly, it is a great way to become an entrepreneur—you will be your own boss and will be providing wonderful experiences for those your serve and for yourself as well!

Here is another article from e-how on this topic of teaching art to seniors. Click here to read.

Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or questions about doing this for a living, please leave them below. I would be more than happy to answer them!

Have an artful day!





2 thoughts on “How to Make Money from Your Art – A Unique Way”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this it has helped me a lot I am a artist of many years and I would love teaching other seniors


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