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8 ways to make money online as a creative (that you might not have thought of)

make money online artist
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Making money from your creative work might be easier than you realise. Because if there’s one thing the internet values, it’s creative work. There are over a billion websites online as of 2020, and almost all of them rely on creative professionals in one way or another. From the blogs you love to read to the cat pictures you scroll through, every type of content that makes up the internet is built from creative effort.

For a professional artist or designer, there are plenty of ways to make money online. Before you get started, though, you’d want to be prepared. Launching your own website is a great way to attract potential clients (see our best website builders for help), while the best cloud storage can help you efficiently manage all your digital assets from one place.

From becoming a video game streamer to offering lessons over video calls, here are the eight best ways to make money online in 2021. Note that not all of these options will be suitable for everyone, and some freelancers won't like uploading their work to some platforms. Be discerning, but also experiment, too. You never know where you might end up creating a new revenue stream for yourself – see our other ideas on ways to make more money and see these awesome nail art designs.

01. Sell your work on Etsy

make money online artist

Etsy is an ecommerce platform specializing in creative items (Image credit: Etsy)

Etsy is an ecommerce platform specialising in creative items. With everything from vintage board games to handmade home decor, the website is an art collector’s dream. If you’re someone who makes handmade products, Etsy can help you earn a sizable income. 

Etsy acts as an intermediary between buyers and sellers; much like eBay, it doesn’t manufacture the products it sells, but like any intermediary, it charges a fee for listing your products. The cost of one listing is $0.20 per every four months. There’s also a 5% fee applicable per transaction.

Setting up your store on Etsy is very easy. Just head over to the website and sign up for a new account. Once done, set up a storefront by choosing a name for your shop and adding a few listings. Whenever someone makes a purchase for one of your listings, you will be notified to begin the shipping process.

02. Teach courses on Udemy

make money online artist

Udemy allows creative professionals to offer courses and expert lessons (Image credit: udemy)

Udemy and Coursera have been gaining a lot of traction lately. These sites allow creative professionals to offer courses and expert lessons to students of all skill levels, for a small fee. You can teach anything from web design to languages.

Courses are offered over audio and video. And the best part? They don’t even have to be live courses. You can create a professionally designed series of lessons for your students to watch whenever they see fit, after they have paid for the course. 

Courses sell for anywhere between $10 to $199.99, with thousands of potential students per course. Each course needs to be at least 30 minutes long and consist of five separate modules.

03. Stream games on Twitch

make money online artist

Twitch is for those who are good at playing video games (Image credit: twitch)

Are you good at playing video games? That’s right, it’s playing, not making. If you like video games and are good with an audience, you may consider opening up your very own streaming channel on Twitch. 

Twitch streamers can earn money in a variety of ways. The first, and most common, is through displaying advertisements under your videos. Another way to earn money is through sponsored brand placements within the videos themselves. Donations and subscriptions are other ways of making money with Twitch.

Twitch streamers, unlike YouTubers, are required to host regular live streams and chat with their viewers. It’s more spontaneous when compared to other streaming platforms and therefore requires less finesse. 

04. Freelance with Upwork

make money online artist

Upwork offers writers, designers, and developers a chance to sell their services in a freelance capacity (Image credit: Upwork)

If you are a writer, graphic designer, or developer, consider offering up your skills in a freelance capacity. There are plenty of companies that outsource work to talented individuals these days instead of handling them in house or paying an agency to do it for them.

There are plenty of websites where you can freelance. They are mostly marketplaces that connect freelancers with those who need their services. While a lot of these marketplaces are known for attracting dishonest buyers or offering cheap rates, Upwork has a strong anti-fraud policy for buyers and sellers alike, making it one of the better offerings. 

The rates are reasonably good too. To get started, just sign up for a new account and create your freelancer profile on Upwork.

05. Design assets for Envato

make money online artist

Envato is an online digital asset marketplace (Image credit: envato)

Are you a web developer? Do you design websites? Have you got experience with WordPress? Do you draw or sketch digitally? If you said yes to any of the above, you can list your work for sale on Envato

Envato is an online marketplace for digital assets. From themes and plugins to stock videography, there is nothing that you can’t find on the site. The idea is simple. You upload your work and allow people to purchase user licenses to your assets. With these licenses, they can use your work for their own online projects, both personal and commercial.

Envato also allows you to sell creative services for a fee. By offering a fixed rate on things like designing a logo or creating a website, you can attract buyers who are in need of a more personalised offering.

06. Sell printables on Redbubble

make money online artist

Redbubble is a print-on-demand marketplace for custom-designed artwork (Image credit: redbubble)

Redbubble is a marketplace where you can buy custom-printed artwork. From designer T-shirts to printed phone cases, you can find anything there. All of the artwork is created by independent artists, which opens up a lot of avenues for creative professionals. 

Since the website is print-on-demand, Redbubble doesn’t require a huge initial investment. You upload your designs to the site and wait for someone to place an order. Once an order has been placed, you get an email on the amount sold and the royalty made. 

That’s right, Redbubble doesn’t require you to print or ship your own products. You need only upload the design, and they will do everything else.

07. Take photographs for SmugMug

make money online artist

Smugmug is a stock photography marketplace (Image credit: smugmug)

Smugmug is a stock photography marketplace where you can upload images you took using your own camera. You can sell your pictures both digitally and in print. In case of the latter, SmugMug connects you with its own network of printing partners to automate the process. 

SmugMug is incredibly popular and receives 100,000 or more visitors on a single day. It even allows you to add watermarks and branding to your work for maximum visibility. You can also use the site as a secure image-sharing and image-hosting platform.

SmugMug takes 15% commission on your work, which is generous for a photography marketplace. If you’re an amateur photographer looking to transition into professional work, the site provides a perfect gateway into the industry.

08. Publish books on Amazon

make money online artist

Kindle Direct Publishing lets you sell books without worrying about publisher approval (Image credit: Amazon)

Writing a book no longer involves wooing powerful publishing companies thanks to Amazon’s extensive self-publishing platform. You can write your own ebook, publish it, and market it however you see fit.

Just head over to Kindle Direct Publishing. Once you have signed up for a new account, enter your ebook details, upload a cover image, and choose the distribution rights. You can price it however you want or even offer it for free – KDP will have your ebook up on Amazon in just 12 hours. 

Don’t expect to get a huge number of sales on the first day unless you already have an established reader base, though. With Kindle, your ebook will be listed on Amazon, but it will be pretty low on a list that features thousands of other ebooks. To make the most of the platform, you will have to market the book yourself. You can try offering it for free for the first few days or take advantage of social media marketing to get people to know about your book. While it won’t make you rich, it can still help you earn a decent amount over the years if you do it right.

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Ritoban Mukherjee

Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India. His work has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro Portal, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss. Ritoban is also a member of the National Association of Science Writers.