Growing My Creative Business

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with all the creative business choices out there. I’ve been researching about the art sales funnel, modern artist business models, studying print on demand, drop shipping, etc. Simply put, I want to find ways to create passive income streams without selling cheap garbage to people. Is it possible? I don’t know yet.

I’m a product designer so coming up with ideas to transform my artwork into merchandise is easy. What’s holding me back? I need to decide whether  I want to pursue the traditional business model or embrace the new digital way.

Traditional creation cycle and income stream
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

Digital Creative Business Income Streams

Let’s explore some of the creative business income streams I’ve been considering:

  • Drop Shipping
  • Print on Demand
  • Online tutorials / classes
  • Patreon / Twitch / Kickstarter / GoFundMe
  • Youtube
  • Advertising (from sites) / Sponsorship
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Podcasts
  • Medium
  • Art Licensing
  • Photos / Vectors / Fonts / Illustration Marketplaces
  • Online Marketplaces / Web Store

There’s always lots of success stories for each of this income stream and makes one want to try it.  When I delve deeper into the reviews or reddit forums, I then become discouraged to try some of them. I’m a bit confused and overwhelmed with my creative business options. I think the researcher in me plans to try each one out and document a case study.  It would be good if I can actually ensure success at it.

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is really setting up an online storefront and selling other people’s products. Your store communicates with the manufacturer and they send the product directly to the client. You have no control on the quality, shipping and customer service. Many people vouch for it as it is low investment – low risk.  It is highly competitive and price becomes a factor.  The manufacturer/production partner takes most of the profit.  Your job is to find buyers, promote and market the products. Many entrepreneurs set it up to be profitable and sell their business.

Print on Demand

Print on Demand is using your images / artwork on merchandise like posters, clothes, mugs etc. Your production partner (site you choose to sell on) will handle all the production, shipping and customer service.  You have no control over quality, inventory, and shipping.  Some sites will help you promote your products with their established fan base. The maker in me is undecided if I can be willing to sacrifice quality control for ease of distribution. The best advantage is low investment/capital to increase your product offerings. Normally, you would need lots of capital to order various product at wholesale prices.  Some print on demand examples are Redbubble, Zazzle, Artist Shops (Threadless) and a few more exist.  I haven’t tried these sites and can’t vouch for them. I found two Canadian options, Notion which works exclusively with Shopify stores and Art of Where. There is another Toronto apparel print on demand that I’m 90% convinced to try who I will share who when I announce the case study.

I can see the charm of print on demand, you create images and they do the making.  I’ve seen a lot of good and bad reviews and that’s why I’m not rushing to any of the more popular options.  I think I would create an image set dedicated for these sites separate from my original artworks.  Do any of you use these services and how has your experience been?  Which one would you try?

Online Tutorials / Classes / Youtube

Yes, I will be releasing all sorts of videos in the next few months.  Video editing requires a lot of hardware storage and time.  I would release a video every week once I can arrange video editing time in my schedule.  I try to record videos as I create – so lots of footage.  Stay tuned for more of my videos.  I plan to buy lots of bubble teas, iced drinks to help me focus to edit.  You can create demo videos, how-to-tutorials or just work in progress.  Youtube,, skillshare, udemy are just some of the potential places to have your videos.  Video is easy way to share information and a great aspect of any creative business.

Patreon / Twitch / Kickstarter / GoFundMe

Once you have a well established fan base, you can use these sites that allows your fan base to support you. Patreon is a membership based system that allows your fans to pay you for exclusive content. I think its a great tool for any creative business. Here is my pattern page, but its on hold for now.

My friends at Walnut Studio have lost so much of their practice and need support.  Their gofundme page is here if you would like to help a group of artist who lost all their work, materials and equipment in a fire last week.  Twitch was originally for gaming and now includes creatives in their streaming.  Since I love to game and create, I considered streaming my game. It’s the last thing I do before heading to sleep, so I probably wouldn’t be streaming anytime soon.

Kickstarter and GoFundMe are two crowdsourcing fund raising sites. I think once I have a solid value proposition for you, I may try my hand at one of these. Will you support me if I do?

Advertising (from sites) / Sponsorship & Affiliate Marketing

Google Adsense, corporate sponsorships and affiliate marketing is promoting products and services on your internet platforms (site or blog, etc).

Google AdSense (advertising), you tend not to have control over what is displayed.  Corporate sponsorship and affiliate marketing, you can select who to support.  On this site, I use affiliate marketing.  I only promote products and services I believe in.  Sometimes I do share where some of the supplies I use can be found.

In a family blog I’m working on, I plan to use Google Adsense and affiliate marketing as we will be offering a lot of free stuff. It’s in the set up stage, will release link soon.  It’s more about family fun and designs.  I can’t wait to share it.

Podcasts / Medium

These are also in my creative business game plan for this year. I’ve already started to release some of my creative writings weekly here on medium. Medium is a writing platform for all types of writing. Podcasts are audio recordings available online on iTunes. They are highly popular and a great way to share information.

Art Licensing

You work with an art licensor to have your artwork on big name products.  You earn a royalty based for any sales.  Know anyone who is an art licensor? It be interesting to research what they are looking for in artwork.  With the scandals of large fashion lines “borrowing” indie designer’s works, it makes you wonder how many companies skip the licensor and just plagiarize.

Photos / Vectors / Fonts /  Illustration Marketplaces

When I first got my D7000 back when Ella was a baby, I was excited and took a lot of photos.  I even was approved to be a contributor to some photo exchange sites.  I eventually took them down as I was really too exhausted to try and work on anything.  But you can sell your high-quality photos, illustrations, vectors and fonts at many marketplaces. I’m considering doing it again since I have a few hard drives of imagery. Only issue is checking and processing each one so that it would be accepted by the quality checkers of these marketplaces.  Time I really should spend promoting my current work.

One marketplace, I want to tell you about is  I’ve been using for years now.  I love the freebies and even bought some of their bundles.  Almost all font marketplace offers weekly freebies but I like the ones from here the best.  I like font bundles and decided to become one of their affiliate.  Every week you get free fonts and new design bundles. They have many packages at great prices, so check back often for new ones or score a great deal.

Online Marketplaces / Web Store

I actually have a few stores online for my work. I’m not very good at promoting them or sharing them.  I need to stop being shy.  I have my work listed at Saatchi Art, Etsy and my own store.  One thing I need to do is keep adding new content, actually promote and market them so people who like my stuff can buy it online.  Right now my work is limited to original artwork, stationery and quote art prints, would you be interested in seeing my artwork on merchandise like clothing or house goods or print posters? Or would you like me to experiment and find new ways to offer you some unique reproductions.


While the internet has increase the ways a creative business can earn income, it all depends on the creative.  I still wage a war internally whether I’m a legit artist if I start selling merchandise vs the designer in me who believes in functional objects.  I think there is no easy answer to how to grow a creative business for anyone.  Most important is to keep creating and find what inspires you.  I hope that I inspired you to look into trying new things or at least follow my journey as I explore the viability of each one.  Let’s explore this world of digital possibilities together and find a way to have sustainable practices.


Much love,





Always helps to hear if my work connects with you.

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