How to Make Extra Money in College as an Art Student

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Let’s face it – Art is one of the most expensive subjects to study out there. You constantly have to be buying art supplies and materials, and these can easily run you into the hundreds of dollars. Not to mention being a student can be pretty hard on your pockets too - buying textbooks, paying student fees, making those miscellaneous purchases, going out with friends- you name it!

However, there are many ways that you can support yourself during your studies while still keeping in the art field and doing what you love.


1) Do Commissions

You spend most of your time sketching, painting and drawing – why not do this and earn a little extra money at the same time?

Display your work on Facebook and deviantART ( a very popular online social network made just for artists) and say that you’re open for commissions. Set up a PayPal account so that you can accept orders from people in other regions and areas too. Also, tell your friends that you’re willing to draw or paint anything they’d like for a small fee. Portraits are especially popular – people love to have their likenesses drawn.

If you are good at them, you can create digital paintings and drawings (done with a graphics tablet and special computer software) and when someone orders one, send them a digital copy of the piece via email (after they’ve paid you, of course). On deviantART, digital pieces are heavily requested, and you will always find someone willing to order one.

If possible, submit some of your work to local art galleries and leave your contact information. If anyone sees your piece, they can contact you for more information. It’s always a good idea to get your name and your work out there!

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2) Do Street Art!

No, I don’t mean graffiti. Sell and create your artwork in the street! This is a great way to earn some money in a short amount of time. This is great for free time during weekends or local holidays.

First off, practice drawing caricatures and portraits. You need to be able to draw them in a short amount of time. There are many tutorials online (especially on deviantART and YouTube) Also, get some quality drawing paper (you can simply buy a sketchbook and cut out the pages) and some pencils, crayons, markers and a clipboard.

Set up a table in a popular area in town (after you’ve asked the correct authorities permission of course) or rent a booth at the local flea or farmers’ market. Make yourself a simple sign saying “Get your portraits drawn here!” or something to that effect. Have a few examples pinned up around your area so that people can get an idea of what their portrait may look like. Invite passers-by to come and have a look at your booth, and ask if they’d like to have their portrait or caricature drawn. Have some envelopes on hand that you can give the customer to put the drawing in afterwards. You can always charge extra for ones done in colour.

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3) Make and sell handcrafted items.

You’ve always been creative and good at making things with your hands – that’s most likely why you’ve chosen to pursue studies in art. During your spare time, you can whip up some items to sell!

Are you good at knitting or crocheting? Try making some scarves, hats and other accessories and selling them. You can also try your hand at knitting/crocheting baby blankets, booties and toys. Take pictures of your items and advertise them on Etsy and Facebook Marketplace, and tell your friends about what you can make.

Make some woven ‘friendship’ and macramé bracelets, and sell them, both in real life and on Etsy. Polymer clay charms and jewelry are also very easy (and enjoyable!) to make and will sell well. Also, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can make clothes, handbags, pillow cases and other items to sell. Handmade iPad/tablet cases and cell phone cases are very popular.

Paint and stencil some original designs onto t shirts and handbags, and sell them. You can also take special orders. Also, offer to customize clothing for people – that is, to add things like paint splatters to shirts, rips and tears to jeans etc.

Etsy is a great place to sell your art and craftwork online – think of it as Amazon or eBay for crafters. Set up an account and post some listings showing some of your crafts or artwork. Give good descriptions of each, and also give your email address so that people can contact you if they have any questions, or are interested in a special order. Remember to always say that you’re open for special orders – feel free to charge a little extra if the order is complex!

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4) Sell your artwork

Have a lot of old drawings that you did in the past that are cluttering up your workspace? If you have friends that love your artwork, offer to sell it to them (Trust me, most art students have at least one friend who is fascinated by everything they create, even if it’s just a doodle!) for a few dollars.

If you have larger items, like sculptures or painted canvases, see if you can submit them to a local art gallery, or even to your school’s gallery, especially when they’re having student exhibitions. Put a price on it, and tell the gallery curators that if anyone is willing to buy it, give them your contact information.

5) Enter competitions

This is not a surefire way to earn money per se, but you have a chance at winning awesome prizes (often including cash!) so why not? Be on the look out for art contests in your area, and also look for online ones. This is also a great way to get your name out there and show off your talent to the world. Plus if you do win a prize that you're not particularly crazy about, you can always sell it!

6) Sell art supplies

Do you know somewhere that sells art supplies cheaply? Buy some and sell them! For instance, you could buy a large amount of drawing pencils and sell them off to your fellow students at a higher price than what you paid for them, therefore making a nice profit for yourself.

Look for stores online and suppliers that sell art supplies in bulk and at cheap prices. You may need some money to start this off, but it’ll be worth it in the long haul.

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7) Be an Assistant or Intern

This is a great way to get some work experience while doing something that you love! Ask around your art department for information on internships – your teachers would be a great source of information. Also, keep your eyes peeled for advertisements in the newspaper and online for openings in your area. Be sure to call and ask questions so you know exactly what you’re signing up for. Also, prepare a portfolio of your best pieces to show them if you're asked to.

You could try asking local advertising firms if you’re interested in the fields of graphic design or advertising. If you love photography, ask some professionals if they need an assistant for when they go out on jobs (assistants would typically help transport and set up equipment among other small tasks)

Some companies and individuals may not pay interns, but sometimes may give them a bonus sum of money, especially if they are reliable and help out a lot.

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