At the start of the pandemic, I was putting in 80-hour workweeks for two full-time marketing jobs. I earned a combined salary of $129,000 a year.
But a part of me felt something was missing. I always had a passion for making art, and I wanted time to pursue it. So in April 2020, I quit one of my jobs to start a side hustle. I wanted to see if I could really make it as an artist.
I called my brand DomoINK, which is a play on my name and the materials I use. I create original artwork using crayons and markers, and print my designs on everything from socks to laptop cases to sneakers.
There were a lot of sleepless nights, but investing in my talent has paid off. I’ve got the chance to collaborate with big companies like Disney, Samsung, Lowe’s and the LA Lakers.
Today, I make $22,000 a month selling art online through my website, my Etsy and Society6 shops, and retail stores like Target and Home Goods.
Creating artwork that shines a light on important topics
Growing up, I was often the only Black kid in my class, and I found it hard to find things that represented my background.
My father and I would go out of our way to find greeting cards that had images of Black families on it. We’d buy them from individual sellers because many retailers didn’t carry them.
I never limit myself when it comes to experimenting with ideas.
For example, I created a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. with crayons. My Tik Tok showing my process went viral and led to a collaboration with Bleacher Report to draw UNC basketball coach Hubert Davis in the same style.
And this year, I was hired by Bath & Body Works as an illustrator to create an image of what Juneteenth means.
I work less than 2 hours a day on my side hustle
During the weekdays, from 8:00 am to 5 pm, I work from home as a marketing manager.
After I log off from my day job, I switch gears and create artwork. I spend about 10 hours during the week, including weekends, on DomoINK.
For about an hour, I’ll go on TikTok or Instagram trying to find trending videos, and then put my own spin on those trends to advertise my shop.
Growing my commercial art business
When I first started out, every painting and product was made to order. Since I never worked on any projects unless I had a commission, I didn’t have to worry about costly inventory.
My prices range from $18 socks to a $5,000 painting called “Reflection” that sold just a few days after I put it up for sale on my website.
To keep costs down by not investing in ads, I’m currently focused on doing organic reach through social media.
In addition to my Etsy sales, I earn money by licensing my artwork non-exclusively on platforms like Society6, which I set up for free. The drawback is that I only get a 10% commission on the products I sell.
My ultimate goal is to make DomoINK a lifestyle retailer that can be a source of representation for those who are underrepresented.
The feedback I have gotten from people who feel seen by my work has been incredibly gratifying, and it inspires me to grow my business even more.
Dominique Brown is an artist and the founder of domoINK, a lifestyle brand that contributes art, apparel, and home decor in celebration of diversity and empowerment. Follow her on instagram and TikTok.