Big Issue Vendor

Side hustle: How you can make money from your hobby

Big Issue vendor Dave Martin was selling his distinctive art at exhibitions until the pandemic hit. With a little help and a lot of hard work he’s taken his side-hustle online
Dave Martin has set up a side hustle of his own. Illustration: Matthew Brazier

Big Issue vendors have a wide variety of skills and experience, so we bring you the best of their knowledge each week. This week, London vendor Dave Martin, who has sold his art at exhibitions in the city, provides some tips on how you can get started with a side hustle of your own. 

I got into art through The Big Issue. Back in 2016 The Big Issue got me a placement in Northern Trust bank at Canary Wharf [in London], which is where I started doing my art.

Years ago I worked in Bancroft motor factors in Derby mixing colours, and the colour combination ideas come from there. As for the designs, I just thought of them one day. I didn’t realise how popular they would be.

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I’ve done exhibitions and once sold an original piece for £200. I had an exhibition planned recently but it never happened because of lockdown. So the guy who’d arranged it created a website for me to sell my prints. When I first saw it I thought, he’s done me proud. The site echoes my style, but when my prints come out they’re even more vibrant.

I like to think I’ve found a gap in the market

I’ve got 50 designs on there at the moment and I’ve done one or two more through lockdown. I’d never sold this way before so I had to think about packaging. We tried tubing but because of the ink I was worried the print could get damaged so we decided on padded envelopes with foam board to protect it. We use 189gsm archival matte paper, which is thick, quality paper, and we did a trial postage run to make sure they arrive in pristine condition.

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It was difficult to work out prices, but I came up with a figure of £35 and then I found out that’s quite cheap really. You go into the city and for the same print they’ll charge you £200. But working-class people can’t really afford that, so mine are quite reasonable. I like to think I’ve found a gap in the market.

My favourite is Matisse-like, it’s got a blue border, the background is red and then on top you’ve got a black square and an orange square. Now I just need to promote the website. I’m doing some little postcards with the logo and ‘Art by Dave Martin’, so I’m trying it that way. It’s all a learning curve.

Dave Martin sells The Big Issue at Tesco Brook Green in Hammersmith, London. His website is

Dave was speaking to Sarah Reid