How to Sell Your Art and Book Clients as a Traveling Artist
Do you dream of doing what you love and making money from your art while exploring the world? As a traveling artist, you get the best of both worlds.
When I started traveling, I was ‘only’ a photographer first – by now, I also started taking on illustration commissions while traveling full-time. Over time, I explored different ways of selling my art while traveling and I learned how other traveling artists are doing it.
Below you will find ideas and tips on how to get jobs as a traveling artist and how to sell prints from anywhere, so you can successfully manage your art business while traveling full-time.
How to get jobs and make money as a traveling artist
1 – Offer your services wherever you are
There are many ways of making it known that you are a traveling artist wherever you go. The golden rule, of course, is: Talk to people! No one will know what you have to offer if you do not let them know.
Chat with people that you meet along the way and show them your work. Let them know that you are offering photo shooting, self-made jewelry, custom illustrations, or whatever your talent may be.
If you are not looking to get hired by fellow travelers, reach out to the local community. You could advertise your services online or send emails to local businesses you would love to work with.
In any case, planning helps! Let people know early that you are coming to town, for example by announcing it through your social media. I know a couple of traveling tattoo artists for whom this works fantastically – wherever they go, they already have their clients.
If you work this way, it is, of course, recommended to stay for a while in each place you visit. It takes a while to build local connections and maybe you need several sessions to complete your job.
2 – Base your business around being a traveling artist
If you build your business identity around being a traveling artist or a traveling photographer, you might get hired for exactly that.
A lot of elopement photographers, for example, get paid by the couples they shoot to travel to beautiful locations. If you’re an outdoor photographer, brands might send you on a mission to capture your next adventure. Some painters get flown around the world to decorate local businesses with hand-painted murals.
Being a traveling artist does not have to be a struggle – it can be your unique selling point. A lot of clients love working with creatives who are free to travel to wherever they are needed.
3 – Get booked online
The internet, golden well of opportunities! There is so much creative work to be found online.
The first option is to look for work on local pages for the places you will go to and contact people directly.
Or the second option, let people find you. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork enable remote work for artists – people can contact you from anywhere to book the service you are offering as a traveling artist.
A good idea is also to advertise through social media. Target your campaign locally to make people aware of your art business coming to town.
4 – Trade your services
As I was just starting out, I would often offer my photography skills in exchange for accommodation and food. When I wanted to stay in a hostel for longer, I would simply ask if they needed new photos of their rooms or events and work out a deal with them.
Also if you are volunteering for community projects, for example through Workaway, art skills are often needed. People are looking for mural artists, photographers, designers, … Even though many of the opportunities are unpaid, there are a few paid ones, too.
Trading your skills is a great way to build your portfolio and get work experience, especially when you are just starting out. It may not bring you the big money but definitely lower your travel expenses. And, bonus point, you get to make a lot of people happy with your art.
How to sell prints as a traveling artist
1 – Sell your art on the road, literally
One thing you see many artists do is to sell their art in popular places and pedestrian zones in bigger towns and cities. It seems to work especially well for painters and jewelry artists and I have met a few who managed to completely finance their travels this way.
Is it perfectly legal to sit down wherever you please and start making money as a traveling artist? Well, in most countries, no. It is a personal decision you need to make whether you want to accept the risk of having to sneak away from the police once in a while.
However, there are legal ways of selling art on the street. If you have a business license and local permits, you can also join bigger art fairs and street markets to sell your art.
2 – Run a print-on-demand shop
As a traveling artist, carrying and shipping large amounts of prints is not impossible, but a bit of a hassle. But did you know that you can run a print shop and never touch a single print? Print-on-demand services allow you to sell art without having to carry your stock with you when you travel.
You can conveniently connect print-on-demand services like Printful to your online shop on your website or an external platform like Etsy. Some selling platforms, like Redbubble, are already set up to work as a Print-on-Demand service and shop in one.
To the buyer, it will look as if the print is coming from you. However, the personalization of the packaging is limited. If you want to package everything sustainably with a personal thank-you note, print-on-demand might not be for you. (Read on to see which other options could work for you.)
3 – Have someone at home help
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends… or family… or employee. Depending on the size of your business, you might get some help with running your online shop. If you are only selling few prints, maybe some friend or family member might be willing to help out with packaging and shipping, in return for whatever makes them happy.
If you are working on a bigger scale, hiring someone to do it is always an option, of course. You can prepare your stock and sign your artwork before you take off, then let someone else handle it while you are traveling.
4 – Open your art shop only temporarily
Even if you are a full-time traveling artist, at some point you will probably stop moving for a little while or return home. If that is the case, you can use that time to order some prints and start a temporary print sale.
Having your prints available only once in a while can also be a great selling strategy. Your fans will be excited for the next time your art is on sale and prints might be gone quicker than they would in a permanent store.
It is up to you for how long you open your art shop. It could be as little as a couple of days or up to when your stock is sold out.
5 – Travel with your art
So, the product you are selling is very small, or do you simply have a lot of space for carrying stock? Then you could actually consider traveling with a stock of your art and ship it to your customers from wherever you are.
Since I am in the process of converting a van right now, this for sure is an option I will consider. I would love to have a small stock of my photography and illustrations with me, even if it is just to show people.
Shipping from some countries can be adventurous, so make sure you are somewhere with a well-functioning posting system before you send off your valuable art.
6 – Have shops sell your stuff
If you do not want to bother selling your art yourself (or if you are looking for an additional stream of income), consider working with local retailers. That could be just around your home town or even internationally.
Of course, you need to figure out how to resupply your sales partners, but ordering and shipping prints or merchandise to them directly is not too complicated.
Local businesses that might be interested in working with you could be cafés, bookstores, gift shops, boutiques,… Have a walk around town and don’t be shy to ask!
7 – Sell digital downloads
My last tip for making money as a traveling artist is to sell digital downloads of your art. Huh? Let me explain.
If you are a photographer or illustrator and are looking to sell wall art, you can simply offer your artwork as high-resolution downloads online. People can buy it, download your digital artwork, and then print it at home or at their local printing service.
Digital downloads are actually gaining quite a bit of popularity. As a traveling artist, it is the easiest way of selling your art online. As a customer, you get your artwork way quicker than waiting patiently for it to arrive. Convenient for both sides.
You are now ready to become a traveling artist
As you can see, managing an art business while traveling may not always be the easiest – but it can be done. As a reward, you get to live the wildly creative traveling life you have always dreamt of. I can tell you it’s worth it.
Chase every opportunity you can and, well, be creative. The opportunities are out there, you only need to find them.
Are there any other tips you have for fellow traveling artists to make money on the road?
I’d love to hear about your experiences – and if you are just starting the journey, good luck!