This Artist Who Made More Than $1 Million Teaching Online Classes Breaks Down How to Earn Big in 2023
Miriam Schulman, artist, author and founder of The Inspiration Place, wants to show you how to make a living off your creativity — because she's done it.
Creativity can be incredibly lucrative — if you know how to leverage it.
Unfortunately, many people with creative talents find themselves stuck in a "starving artist" mentality, convinced that their financial well-being must be sacrificed for the sake of their art.
But that's not the reality. If you're a musician, photographer, painter, writer, dancer, singer or another type of creative, you have the potential to earn big in 2023 and beyond.
Of course, it's one thing to make a life-altering New Year's resolution and another to see it through. The good news? If you're willing to put in the effort, success is well within reach.
"There's never been a better time to make a living from your creativity," Miriam Schulman, artist, author and founder of The Inspiration Place, says. "Because people in this post-pandemic world (if we're in the post-pandemic world) are looking for more meaning. Art provides a very valuable function in society, and people need our art more than ever."
Schulman would know. She's been an artist for two decades, and 10 years ago, she started teaching online art classes after one of her customers on Etsy inquired about it. To date, she's earned $1.2 million in revenue from those classes.
And Schulman's ready to share how you can do it too, no matter your subject area of expertise. Her forthcoming book ARTPRENEUR: The Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Sustainable Living from Your Creativity offers inspiration and practical steps for creative entrepreneurs who want to make their passions profitable.
Entrepreneur sat down with Schulman ahead of her book's release to discuss how she made the leap to "artpreneur" and what other creatives should keep in mind when it comes to launching lucrative businesses of their own.
Related: 10 Things the Artist and the Entrepreneur Have in Common
"I thought all I had to do once I created this online class was put a few posts on social media, and I would fill my class."
Schulman says she "was a very naive grasshopper" when she began teaching art classes online. Though she was already teaching in person and understood what her students needed to learn, transitioning to a virtual format came with a steep learning curve.
"I thought all I had to do once I created this online class was put a few posts on social media, and I would fill my class," Schulman recalls. "Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well — and those were in the days when people actually saw our posts."
So Schulman investigated how other people filled their online classes — and soon realized the importance of building an email list.
It would be a game-changer for business.
"I invested in Facebook advertising, and once I learned those skills, everything took off," Schulman says. "Not just the online classes — but I also [built the email list to] be able to sell more of my artwork."
Now that social media isn't as reliable as it once was, it's even more crucial to cultivate that customer base elsewhere, Schulman notes.
It's also the first of five core elements Schulman unpacks in Artpreneur: prospecting. You have to be able to build an audience of followers who want your offering — and are willing to pay top dollar for it.
Another critical early move Schulman made? Asking for help. She hired a high school student and filmmaker as an intern to show her the technical ropes, including which type of video camera and editing software to use.
Related: Get Your Ego Out of the Way and Ask for Help When You Need It
"'Listen, you have to find 5,000 people to buy that greeting card that you made by hand to get $50,000.'"
Production, pricing, promotion and productivity round out the rest of Schulman's list of essentials for creative entrepreneurial success, with production and pricing working hand-in-hand, she says.
"It's so important that all entrepreneurs, not just artists, take a look at [production and pricing]. There are a lot of people who just don't even do the math," she explains. "What am I offering? What am I pricing it at? Whether that's a good or service. And if I was fully sold out or booked, would that math problem be the income that I'm looking for? So often it's not."
Schulman points to the example of someone setting up a homemade greeting card business.
"Maybe it takes an hour to create a greeting card that they sell for $10," she says. "And then I tell them, 'Listen, you have to find 5,000 people to buy that greeting card that you made by hand to get $50,000.' And when they do that math, that's when they have an aha moment: Either they should be creating something other than handmade greeting cards or [pricing them higher]."
As someone's creating a product, they could be limited by their capacity or the price the item can command in the marketplace, Schulman explains, which might require going back to the drawing board or reevaluating how much a product is worth (another hurdle that comes up with a "starving artist" mindset).
Additionally, effective promotion means attracting your audience in an authentic way, Schulman notes. No one likes feeling like they're being barraged by sales pitches, after all.
And when it comes to productivity? That involves fostering a sustainable work-life balance, Schulman says — managing your priorities and setting realistic goals.
Related: Preparing the Next Generation of Creative Entrepreneurs
At the end of the day, the most important thing might be to reject the proverbial "Kool-aid that people dish out": That you can't make a living off your creativity.
"[That] conditioning [goes beyond] the creative part — and this is true of women in particular, [who are told] that it's not even appropriate to desire money," Schulman explains. "We are conditioned to play small."
"And for people who are of a marginalized identity, that message is even stronger," she continues. "That it's not even safe to take up space in the world. All those things keep people playing small, and, unfortunately, that means people are striving for mediocrity."