One Talent, Multiple Streams of Income

by Julie Rains on 19 September 2009 14 comments

Wondering how to use a creative talent to pay the bills now and build for retirement later? Last week, I spoke with Texas wildflower artist Linda Calvert Jacobson about what works for her. I'll share her strategies so that you can find ways to invest your talents.

Linda runs her business with a relatively low overhead and hardly any cash tied up in inventory. She rents space from a non-profit artist's association, upstairs from the group's main gallery. This space serves as her studio, gallery, art classroom, and site for summer camps and marketing seminars. She also diversifies her income.

Original art

Linda creates paintings of Texas wildflowers and sells them at her gallery and online store. She also displays them at local venues and participates in art shows. Income is generated from these one-time sales. Though some artists also arrange for the production of multiple prints, Linda has opted out of this arrangement largely to avoid investing in print inventory. Instead, she has found other ways of producing income from a single piece of art.

Print-on-demand of original designs

Through her own CafePress shop and similar online shops such as Zazzle, Linda can create and sell collections of embellished ceramic tiles, throw pillows, ornaments, and more. Because these companies collect payments, produce items, and ship products to customers, Linda doesn't have to hire staff, buy production equipment, or rent distribution space to fulfill orders; instead, she pays a low monthly fee for a customized, premium shop.

International licensing of original designs

Licensing agreements allow the licensee to use specific designs of the licensor (Linda, in this case) on specific products in specific countries for a certain amount of time at an established compensation rate, which may be royalties, flat-rate payments, or combination of flat rate plus royalties. Linda struck deals with international licensing companies by running a booth at international licensing shows in New York and California. Currently, her designs embellish limited-edition watches sold in the U.K. and greeting cards distributed in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Though she wasn't opposed to the idea, she didn't have to pay the licensing firms to develop or promote her creative works of art.

Art lessons

Using prior experience as an art teacher, Linda provides instruction in drawing and painting to adults and children. The classes provide a reliable source of income throughout the year and keep her in touch with people in the community. Because sessions are held in her studio/gallery, she doesn't have to spend extra money on classroom space.

Summer camps

After getting lots of inquiries about summer camp from parents of students and adult students with children, Linda decided to start offering day camps during the summer and spring break. She researched camp activities and developed project-based sessions with a variety of themes, such as "Circus, Circus" for younger kids and "Art in 3-D-Real or Not" for those a bit older. The camps have become so popular that this year, she had just a slot or two left open among a slate of 20 camp sessions. Again, she is using the same space as her studio/gallery and offering a valuable service to community members while generating income. Planning takes a lot of time but some camp themes can be repeated so that she can possibly reap income from one idea (plus the hard work it takes to promote and run the camp) for years to come.

Marketing seminars

Now that she has developed multiple streams of income and learned to promote her artistic talents locally and globally, Linda has begun offering marketing seminars to artists. She hopes to show others how to make a living as an artist and build yet another source of revenue.

More ideals

Linda is currently investigating the e-book as a method of conveying her marketing methods to a broader audience and generating income from one creative piece.

Through sales of original art, lessons, and camp, Linda generates income to take care of her needs for the present. By establishing a national and global presence, and entering the world of licensing and royalties, she is developing streams of income that won't depend on day-to-day effort for the future. Linda's techniques can be applied to nearly anyone who wants to turn creative talent into income:

  • Sell locally by tapping into community-based associations and developing partnerships with area businesses that might host special events or promote your work.
     
  • Extend your reach nationally and globally through online sales, licensing, and engagement of outside representatives.
     
  • Create and sell items using your own artwork, photographs, copyright-free material, or copy (I thought this saying was clever though I disagree with the conclusion) by using print-on-demand services.
     
  • Write an e-book or self-publish a printed book using Lulu.com or similar services.
     
  • Teach specific skills or ways of doing things to other people through classes, seminars, webinars, and camps.

 

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Guest's picture

I really got inspired of this article. You are doing what you love but at the same time you are dividing your business into many sources of income.

I really think that this can be implemented in many businesses. You you like to bake cakes, you can earn money on selling cakes, you can sell accessories so that other people can bake cakes. You can also hold a backing course, both online and offline. You can also hold a business and marketing class for cake bakers :) Many sources of income.. sweet.

Thanks again

-Thomas

Guest's picture

Great you are doing what you love One of the most popular successes here in San Francisco is "Kara's Cupcakes." The cupcakes are the best, and Kara is doing great while working at what she loves.

If only there was a good business to make money while watching college football! :)

Julie Rains's picture

On making money while watching college football, I think many people would like to know that as well! I'll mention that my nephew has figured out how to do this: he has a scholarship as a manager for a NCAA Div I team. Meanwhile I convinced my oldest son to take a journalism class in high school in hopes perhaps that he could land a job in sports journalism (specifically, ESPN broadcasting); not sure where that will take him but his writing and grammar have improved.  

Guest's picture

This is a wonderful article and reminds me so much of my own career. I play drums for a living. This includes teaching private lessons at a studio I rent out in New York City and lessons in peoples homes. I also perform regularly throughout New York City as a freelance drummer.

This past year, my group classes have really taken off and I've begun thinking about creating a marketing e-book aimed at music teachers. This is positive reinforcement for me.

Guest's picture
dywan

Congrats , good article.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Julie, you've lit a fire under me regarding a couple of projects I've back burnered. Very nice piece, thoroughly done and very inspirational. I've been meaning to do the Cafe Press store for a while now. I think I'll get cracking on it, or at least the back end research and start selecting images.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Trek Hound.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for everyone's comments. Writing this also made me think about how I earn money, balancing the day-to-day work with projects that may have a larger return but have less certainty and take longer to develop -- I guess I've seen that doing both is valuable.

Guest's picture

I am so glad I found this article. After reading an advance copy of Loral Langemeier's latest book, "Put More Cash in Your Pocket," I've been trying to come up with creative ways to use my talents and make extra money each month. This article really dovetails nicely with what I read in Loral's book. Those who liked this article might also get some ideas from her book. Check it out at http://liveoutloud.com/newcashbook.

Nora Dunn's picture

Similar to diversification in the investment world - if you can diversify your income with multiple streams, then you will experience less dramatic ups and downs in your income. If one of your products falls out of favor temporarily - no problem! You have other projects and facets to pick up the slack.

Great article!

Guest's picture
neverland~

i've always wanted to open a camp for teaching children English in our country, but never took action.Linda is a good example for me. thanks.[img]http://www.photosnag.com/img/4713/n09x0302vnsn/clear.gif[/img]

Guest's picture
Ellen

I think it would be interesting if Linda were to start a blog detailing her experiences through articles filled with tidbits of advice. She could generate further income by including ads on her blog. I would read it.

Guest's picture
BEth

that woman has a husband with a good job, most female artists I know do. I'd be surprised if she breaks even. Show me a real person supporting themselves, not living off their husband

Julie Rains's picture

I like to see how people can think differently and apply frugality to business: 

  • find inexpensive rent
  • use things for more than one purpose
  • collaborate with business owners and other creatives
  • give customers (students) what they want (okay that's not different maybe but a tried and true mechanism of doing something that pays the bills and aids the creative process but isn't purely creative)
Guest's picture
Ronald

Since becoming "unwillingly unemployed" in the past few months, I've been trying to find more creative ways to get out of having to go back to work. Although I've probably spent too much time researching this stuff and not enough taking action (yet), I can already see how it's changing my thinking. Ms. Frugalicious, I'm wondering how you got an advance copy of "Put More Cash In Your Pocket?" I see that it's not out until next month, but I've read Loral's previous books and have found them to be quite useful.