Updated: Feb 24, 2021
How creatives make a living still seems to be a mystery to most people. To me too, lolz. But in all seriousness my income pie chart has pretty much looked different from year to year. It's natural for a creative businesses to have ebbs and flows but throughout the years I have focused on different things, introduced different revenue streams and found more success with some parts of my business some years and some not. I have also pivoted a few times in my career already and I imagine I will continue to do this in the future.
At the beginning of my career my pie chart looked completely different. A vast majority of my income came from my Etsy shop sales and a little from freelance work as I focused on being a shop owner. In the middle of my career the freelance portion of my pie was the largest as I focused on that the most. And now this past year I really focused on teaching because I fell head over heels in love with sharing my experiences and it reflected in my pie chart.
A slight disclaimer before I go into my stats, I am not going to disclose any actual income revenue numbers because talking about money is so subjective. My income could be tiny or huge to you so in order to stay away from the comparison game I'm going to skip it. Also even though I define myself as a full time illustrator because I don't work any other jobs, this past year I worked very part time. I work from home and take care of my baby daughter Tilly (my son Stark goes to preschool) and have only been about to work around 2-3 hours per day. I also didn't include my maternity leave income paid by the state as it's not a part of my creative business and just a major perk of living in Sweden :)
This is what my 2019 income pie chart looked like:
2% Academy. I started EmmaKisstina Academy at the end of the year with the launch of my Airtable for Creatives class and made a few sales, yay! Really looking forward to developing more signature classes.
4% Etsy and other POD sites. I no longer put much effort into updating my Etsy shop and my other print on demand sites (Spoonflower and Casetify) so I'm not shocked by how little this section of the pie is. It's nice to just have a few extra dollars rolling in each month with out doing anything.
11% Agent. I sell and license artwork with my agent Pink Light Studio. This is the first year I am working with this agent and was pleased that I sold a few illustrations, patterns and full collections. I expect and am excited for this piece to grow in 2020.
27% Freelance. I've marked this freelance but it also includes sales for my personal licensing and outright sales contracts as well as commissioned projects. Because I was working only part time this year I didn't take on or pursue as many freelance projects as I usually do. Thankfully by licensing and selling outright I was able to make income without having to put in extra hours creating the artwork as it was already finished.
56% Skillshare. And lastly my biggest piece was from teaching on Skillshare this year. I started teaching as a test to add a little more passive income to my business. But I've gone on to loving being a teacher and I focused on creating many new classes last year. Teaching is also very not passive as I am constantly planning content and for my students. I enjoy splitting my time being creative, working with my agent or freelance and the other half teaching. Both activities keep me from feeling burnt out and incredibly inspired.
Are you a full time working creative business owner? What does your pie chart look like?
There are so many opportunities for us creatives to make a living and to pivot, adapt and change our careers. That's one of the things that I love about being my own boss. I wish more and more artists and designers would share their experiences and pie charts so we could all get a better look at our industry and all the opportunity that there is to be had.
Next Steps! Here are a couple more of my resources that might interest you if you are an aspiring illustrator or surface pattern designer:
• Skillshare Pricing for Creatives Course with me Kristina Hultkrantz. Learn how to price your work, and why pricing your work well and high matters for the entire creative industry.
• Sign up for my bi-weekly creative business newsletter. I share insider information about all you need to know to run, develop and inspire your creative business.
• DIY Your Creative Career. My e-book all about everything you need to know to start your own creative business from your career options, the 12 ways to make money as an illustrator or surface pattern designer, marketing, planning, organizing and more.