Report Finds Only 54% of Artists Were Able to Sell Their Art NFT Last Year


“NFT” has evolved rapidly from little-known acronym to mainstay in the cultural lexicon. For artists, though, “non-fungible token” is more than a word—it’s a vessel to engage their passion, amplify their brand, and hopefully help pay their bills. According to a Saatchi Art’s 2022 report Making a Living as an Artist, though, only 54% of artists were able to sell their art NFT over the past year.

The finding serves as a reminder: Even amidst fervent enthusiasm for non-fungible art, the typical artist must find innovative ways to market their work. Effort or quality of work is no guarantee that an artist will be able to make a living—or even sell their most prized creations.

NFTs present a number of unique challenges to artists, even those with experience working on a digital canvas. An artist who hopes to sell their NFT will need to determine which NFT marketplace suits their needs. They’ll also need to account for the cost of transacting on blockchains, as fees known as “gas” may actually lead an artist to lose money even if they sell their NFT. There is also a chance that an NFT sale doesn’t go through, another variable that NFT art creators should be aware of.

Again, we find that marketing and business savvy is, for most artists, just as important as the art itself. Long gone are the days when creating a mesmerizing work of art was enough to assure a sale, let alone provide a comfortable living. In many cases today, knowing how to sell one’s work is even more important than the art-specific details. 

In a marketplace inundated with physical and digital art, Saatchi’s report revealed that only 49% of artists are earning a “steady, stable income” through their art, despite investing 31 to 40 hours per work in their art on average. Understandably, many artists are looking at the hysteria around NFTs and asking, “why don’t I give it a try?”.

Nearly one-third of surveyed artists have considered creating a work of NFT art. Logistical and promotional concerns—how do I create an NFT and who will promote it?—are leading reasons why artists refrain from entering the NFT marketplace. And, considering that 46% of artists who do create NFTs don’t sell them, this wariness seems well-founded.

And yet, artists say that the possibility for royalties and exposure to new customer bases through NFTs is highly appealing. 19.9% of surveyed artists are taking steps to maximize the launch of their NFT, enrolling in courses to learn about the technology and creation processes behind NFTs. In conducting pre-launch research, these artists are hoping to join the 54% of creators who actually sell their NFT after bringing it to market.

Other best practices for artists creating NFTs include:

  • Be smart about copyright and smart contracts in general, as the purchase of an NFT doesn’t necessitate transfer of copyright.
  • Get involved in the crypto community and stay engaged so that you can understand the technology and the ecosystem you’re joining.
  • Support other NFT creators and share best practices, as everyone learns and grows with this new technology.
  • Choose the best minting and selling platform for your work and evaluate which platforms are going to help move your career forward.
  • Safety and security are key, and to keep your personal information and wallet information safe. Don’t learn this the hard way. 

Though the portrait of the “struggling artist” is often romanticized, the reality is far less romantic for those living it. The reality is that, passionate as they are, artists cannot keep the lights on or support a family with fulfillment alone. Like all professionals, artists want to be paid fairly for their time, effort, and the beauty they bring to the world. 

Artists like Lana Denina—who sold over $300,000 in NFTs over a ten-month span—have shown that NFTs can be a lucrative outlet for digital artists. However, Saatchi’s findings suggest that research, planning, and calculation are absolutely necessary for artists to successfully launch an NFT.

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