TL;DR: AI art is taking the world by storm, and you can profit from the wave. Let the fresh crop of marketplaces — plus the legacy stock photo sites allowing AI work — motivate you to think up some profitable prompts.
No art degree needed
AI art creation has become very much a thing, very fast. In case you missed it, art can be made by artificial intelligence based on prompts by humans like you. And since art created or modified by AI art generators can’t be copyrighted, you can sell this art to clients. You might hear this art also called “generative AI illustrations,” even though imagery ranges from painterly to hyper photorealistic.
The major places to create AI art include Dall-E 2, Midjourney, and StableDiffusion. And one of the main advantages of using these platforms is that you yourself don’t need to be good at art or design. Whereas a “portrait” of a car can take hours to do yourself, an AI can create one in seconds. There are plenty of people out there who are making money with AI and creating art daily, while people argue about whether AI is the end of artist revenue as we know it.
There’s a market for literally anything
The avenues for creating AI art have exploded — creating ways for you to make bank selling images and designs created and modified by AI.
What kind of images are we talking about? Stock photos are a great place to start. Even Adobe, the OG of design software, will accept AI art for its Stock collection as long as (1) the art meets its submission standards and (2) you’re not prohibited from using this image commercially. ArtStation is another art/photography/illustration marketplace where you can license AI art. You could also sell the art to friends and followers.
How much does making AI art pay?
Stock collections like Adobe could pay you close to a dollar per download, and if a lot of people are downloading, that’ll add up. On marketplaces, semi-successful AI art creators report making a few hundred dollars a month. These figures are anecdotal for now, so take them with a grain of salt.
So, do your research. See how much similar works are being sold for, and ask friends what they’d pay for a download, a print on paper, even a print on canvas. Strike a balance: Make sure you’re not asking for pie-in-the-sky prices, while also not underselling the fruits of your (and your robot’s) imagination.
Also keep in mind that not everyone’s happy about AI art. Ironically, these programs actually often violate copyright, scraping real human artists’ work without their consent. Don't assume your output is free from IP or copyright violation just because the AI terms & conditions say the images were acquired as such. If you want to ensure you don't have to worry about this, use images that have a creative commons license as your base material.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike
We have some ideas for what you can create. Based on the prompts you give it, AI art platforms can create, customize, or modify:
- Logos and hero images for website homepages.
- Gallery-style portraits of pets, significant others, friends, and family members. You’ll input original photos to platforms like Dreambooth or Lensa, and they’ll render those photos in a chosen style.
- Color images for comics, children’s books, even the black-and-white outlines for coloring books.
- Architectural plans of buildings or maps based on gamer (like DnD) master feedback.
- YouTube thumbnails, profile pictures, and Twitch stream overlays. A lot of content creators don’t want to bother with the visual identity of their brand. Creating a customized, cohesive suite of avatars and overlays could be worth its weight in Cash App.
- Game assets like textures, icons, character portraits, item assets, and 2D avatars that you can create on platforms like Pixelvibe and sell on game development-focused marketplaces like Unity.
- And yes, it’s possible to create NFTs with AI. However, with a crypto winter and an NFT market collapse, we wouldn’t recommend it. That said, you may yet find a client looking to build a large (60 to 100 images and above) portfolio of tokens.
If you’re on Upwork or Fiverr, edit your profile to say you’re accepting commissions and what kind of AI art you specialize in. Just be candid about how the art is made.
If you’re already selling AI art on a marketplace or in a stock photo collection, you’ll start to get a sense of what’s popular — which you can start doing variations on. “Vibrant animals.” “Airy kitchen.” “An astronaut riding a horse on the moon in a photorealistic style.” There are infinite prompts you can create.
If you’re an ace at coming up with prompts that strike a chord, you could sell them on PromptBase, which sells prompts primarily for Midjourney but also for ChatGPT. On the flipside, you could start by buying some prompts for $2 to $5 each to get a sense of what effective prompts look and sound like. This could be a good way to get familiar if you’re new to this world.
Don’t get too comfortable. The world of AI is progressing fast, and a startup could start automating your gig tomorrow. So stay on top of AI art trends and keep sharpening your prompt skills. And keep your clientele diversified.
That means you have to market your work — tout it on social media and collaborate with other artists for some cross-promotion. Use all the online marketplaces you can and not just the AI-centric ones; turn your digital AI art into tangible goods and list them on places like Etsy and Society6.
Ask your current/past clients what they’d like to see in the future. Keep building relationships beyond that first purchase.
Those who do, teach!
Now you’ve reached the final boss level. After you’ve made some money and diversified and feel confident about your prompt chops, it’s time to teach others. With all the growing excitement around AI art, your students will be eager to learn from your experience.
Give glimpses into your process. Use YouTube and TikTok to establish yourself as an expert and to offer paid 30- or 60-minute consultations to help your followers set up their own businesses. You can also offer to “audit” the websites of people and small businesses and advise them on how they can level up their images for better sales.
To get seen on a larger scale, you could create digital templates to sell on popular enterprise software like Figma. Think: AI avatars for teams to use. Or sell templates for physical objects like stationery, canvas art, and more on Etsy. No matter where the robot revolution goes, solutions will never go out of style.