Are you looking to start your own art business or side hustle but just need a little boost?
If you talk to any entrepreneur, getting started is one of the hardest parts of launching your own business.
There are many things to consider, such as:
- Validating your business idea
- Setting up your business structure
- Launch ideas for your business
- Determining your marketing strategy
- And much more!
In this detailed guide, we lay out all the steps to help you get started and run your business successfully.
💡 Introduction To Starting A Art Business
Is Starting A Art Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a art business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a art business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Little startup costs required
The cost to start a art business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 1,242 to 58,669.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet or get to work with for your art business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• Pick & choose the clients you work with
Art Businesses have the ability to choose the clients they work with. You have the freedom to work with only a few loyal clients or with hundreds of clients!
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 7 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
• Rewarding work
Starting a art business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
• You are your own boss!
With starting a art business, you are the one to make decisions for almost all of the operations. Calling the shots can be empowering and liberating!
• Local Community
One of the best parts of starting a art business is that you can develop a local following by selling your products at craft shows, farmers' markets, or even local storefront businesses! This gives you access to additional revenue streams and loyal customers.
• You can sell your product in various places!
There are various different markets to sell your product, which will help you reach different audiences and revenue streams.
• Simple business model
A art business has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• Greater Income Potential
When you start your own art business, you have the ability to make as much money as you want. You no longer work for someone else where at any point, you could be let go or get a pay cut.
• You get to do something you truly love
With starting a art business, you get to put your energy into something you are truly passionate about! You'll find yourself devoting as much time and energy as possible into the business to make it successful.
• Daily physical activity
Art Business's typically involve a much greater degree of movement than other lines of work. Most days, you will spend your day walking, running errands for your business, and performing a multitude of tasks. This can have a positive impact on energy levels and your overall health.
• Minimal experience required
Starting A Art Business requires little experience and no specific certifications or qualifications. To be successful, you need hard work, determination and the desire to achieve greatness!
Cons of starting a art business
• Work is not always glamorous
With starting a art business, you may need to get your hands a little dirty. Although it may seem glamorous from the outside to start this business, the work can require a lot of physical activity and repetition.
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your art business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
Often times, as a art business, you typically work alone and do not have much face-to-face interaction with other team members.
• You may need to charge sales tax
If you are selling your products in various states, you may be required to charge sales tax. Although this may not impact your financials specifically, it can be a headache to create a process and procedure for this. To learn more about sales tax, check out this article
• Time commitment
With starting a art business, all responsibilities and duties will be in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, it's important to understand that your work-life balance may be a bit unbalanced at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• Difficult to build trust with your customer
With a art business and any online business, there is little physical interaction, which means it can be a lot more difficult to establish trust and clout with your customers. You'll need to go the extra mile with your customer to grab their attention as soon as they reach your site + assure them that your brand is legit and trustworthy.
• Work can be repetitive
You may find creating the same product over and over repetitive and tiresome. One way of avoiding this is to diversify product lines and revenue streams - this will keep things interesting!
• You might struggle financially (at first)!
If you bootstrap your business or choose not to pay yourself (or pay yourself less than you were making at your corporate job), this can be financially taxing. It's important to adjust your lifestyle and set a plan for yourself so you don't find yourself in a stressful situation.
• Learning Curve
When you start your own business, you no longer have upper management to provide you with a playbook for your roles and responsibilities. You should know the ins and outs of every aspect of your business, as every decision will come down to you.
- University of Colorado Boulder (2.36K Alexa Ranking)
- 中华网 (6.94K Alexa Ranking)
- ARMTV.org All New Armenian TV Series Online (73.2K Alexa Ranking)
- The Art Institutes (104K Alexa Ranking)
- RaleighNC.gov (123K Alexa Ranking)
- Astrography - Revenue $12K/month
- sarahpaintspets - Revenue $4.5K/month
- Innerglow Art - Revenue $4.3K/month
- URSULA BARTON - Revenue $3K/month
- Justin Erickson Art - Revenue $876/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for art over the last year:
How To Name Your Art Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your art business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your art business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your art business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your art business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your art business:
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How To Create A Slogan For Your Art Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your art business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your art business:
Simple Nonrepresentational, Beyond Artistry
Bold Art, We Take Care Of You!
Get Your Confident Art
More Tasteful Art
Amazing Art, Take A Seat
Beyond Superior Skill, Quality Graphics
Timeless Simple Art
Bold Art, Our Care
Your Luxurious Art
The Most Quality Art
Tasteful Art, Let's Get To Work
A More Tasteful Art
Bold Artistic Production, Quality Nontextual Matter
Luxurious Gallery, Beyond Artistic
Confident Artistic Production, Classic Artistic Production
Your Brilliant Art
Simple Art, We Care
Classic Art, Redefined
Lush Prowess, Creative Prowess
Luxurious Artistic, Classic Artwork
The Brick & Mortar Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a art business, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want (brick and mortar, eCommerce, or both)!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a Brick & Mortar store:
If you do plan to open a physical store, it's important that you find a spot in a high-traffic area. This is a great way to gain exposure for your business and also get new customers.
It's also important to consider the higher costs associated with operating a physical store (ie - employees, rent, utilities, etc) and the long days/hours associated with running a store.
The main benefit, however, is that customers love being able to see products in person. It's important to recognize that although some people enjoy shopping online, there will always be the shopper persona that likes to touch, feel, and see the product they're buying.
The eCommerce Business Model
One of the main benefits of operating online is that you are exposed to the entire world, versus just one local area. Rather than depending on foot traffic, you have all the tools at your disposal to create exposure for your store online.
Additionally, there are much lower costs to operate an online store - fewer employees, you can operate from your home, and you get to create your own schedules (yes, holidays included!)
Although you are operating online and have the ability to connect with people all over the world, it's important to consider that you will need to invest marketing money upfront in order to promote your store to the right audience.
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains the 3 reasons why she decided to build an online store:
I wanted to find something I loved but also allowed me to stay home at the same time. While I was working at this local boutique, I realized that there was a lot of sitting around during the day when other people were out working. Therefore, an online business seemed like the best route for a few reasons:
- We didn’t have the extra funds sitting around to pay sign a year or two-year lease at a brick & mortar location.
- I realized the opportunity to reach a wider audience online compared to the audience of this small local boutique. For us, it seemed like hitting two birds with one stone.
- And finally (maybe the most important of all), running it as an online-only business would allow me to stay at home with Riley!
🎬 How To Start A Art Business
Startup Costs For Your Art Business
If you are planning to start a art business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a art business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,242
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $58,669
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a art business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your art business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|IT Support: You may find yourself needing IT support when starting your business. It may not be possible (or necessary) for you to hire someone full-time, but hiring on a freelancer platform such as Upwork is a great way to save money and resources.||$0||$500|
|Other Employee Expenses: Aside from payroll and benefits, there are other costs associated with hiring employees. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any potential turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$0||$1,000|
|Employee Reward Ideas: It's important to recognize and reward employees - whether they hit their goals or are doing an exceptional job. This doesn't have to cost you a lot - simply taking them out to lunch, giving them a gift card or offering a pay-check bonus are all ways to recognize your employee! Here are 65 ways to reward your employees.||$0||$500|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$6,000 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Cleaning Supplies: To get started, you may want to consider getting basic cleaning supplies. Note, that you may not need to buy all the cleaning tools and supplies at first. You can consider purchasing in bulk down the road.||$25||$500|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$525 (min)||$5,500 (max)|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Designer: If you have the necessary skills to design your website, then it may not be necessary for you to hire someone. However, if you do decide to go that route, make sure you establish an understanding of upfront cost, design and what the ongoing costs will be to manage the site. Here is what to expect when hiring a web designer.||$0||$6,000|
|Register Your Domain: Once you decide the name of your business, you will need to make sure the URL is available and purchase the domain. You can check availability and register your domain here.||$12||$75|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Server Hosting: To start a art business, you will need to set up and manage a server. The cost for this is typically billed monthly and depends on the platform you choose (typically ranging anywhere from $0-$50/mo).||$0||$50|
|Website chat function: If customer service is a big piece of your business, you will want to consider implementing a chat bot on your website. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and some businesses even offer freemium services. To find what chat software is best for your business, check out this guide.||$0||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$32 (min)||$6,375 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your art business.||$50||$700|
|Trademarking: Filing trademark registration will protect your brand and prevent other businesses from copying your name or product. USPTO has several different types of trademarks, so the cost to apply can vary (typically anywhere from $400-$700).||$0||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Obtain a patent: Securing a patent can be a very valuable tool, but it's important that you are 100% sure this will be a smart business move for you, or if you may not be ready quite yet. A basic utility patent typically costs anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to file. Here is a great resource to walk you through the entire process.||$0||$10,000|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business + which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$15,400 (max)|
|Retail Business Expenses|
|Shop Decor: If you plan to operate a physical store, you may want to consider decorating the place with wall decor, furniture, plants etc.||$0||$5,000|
|Utilities (storefront business): This refers to the cost of monthly utilities for your storefront location, which is typically based on a per-square-footage rate.||$0||$1,000|
|Building improvements and remodeling: If you plan to operate a physical location, you may find yourself dealing with building improvements and remodeling costs. Even if these costs are minimal, this is something to consider when renting/buying a physical location.||$0||$950|
|Storefront Property Rent: This refers to the storefront space you rent or buy for your business. The cost depends largely on the city and the size of the space. Keep in mind that other costs may be involved with your base rent and your lease will define additional expenses you are responsible for.||$0||$8,000|
|Total Retail Business Expenses||$0 (min)||$14,950 (max)|
|Training & Education Expenses|
|Online Learning Sites: With a art business, you and your team may not know all the steps for starting and growing a business. There are plenty of resources out there to help you, such as online courses or learning platforms, but they aren't always free! Starter Story is a great resource for case studies, guides and courses for starting your business.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Training & Education Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,000 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: When starting your art business, it's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software is used to track your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your art business, implementing this in the beginning may set your business up for success and save you a lot of time later on. For a full list of best CRMs to use for your business, check out the full list here.||$0||$250|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your art business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your art business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,044 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A art business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Networking Membership Fees: Joining local networking groups or your chamber of commerce is a traditional yet effective way to promote your art business - but these fees add up! It's important to choose the right group(s) that align with your business and help with growth.||$0||$250|
|Local fairs and festivals: Attending local fairs and festivals is a great form of marketing for your art business. The cost for these vary depending on location, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $25-$500 or a percentage of gross sales (around 7%)||$0||$500|
|Signage: Signage is a key component when starting your art business. The cost for this depends on the materials used for the signage (ie. material, size, # of colors, durability, complexity, and installation challenges).||$0||$850|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Facebook & Instagram Ads: With Facebook and Instagram ads, you set your budget and pay for the actions you want (whether that be impressions, conversions, etc).You can learn more about pricing based on your impressions here.||$0||$350|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$3,100 (max)|
|Labels & Packaging: A critical step in starting your art business is getting the package and design right. This will be your customer's first impression of your brand, so it's important you spend time and money getting this right from the start.||$50||$500|
|Distribution costs: Depending on what distribution plan you choose, expenses such as renting vans, hiring delivery drivers and gas costs can add up. If you are looking to save money upfront, you may want to consider conducting distribution on your own.||$0||$750|
|Total Inventory Expenses||$50 (min)||$1,250 (max)|
|Credit Card Processing Fees: If you process credit cards then you will need to deal with interchange fees - which is usually around 3% of total charges. These fees are often forgotten about and can hurt cash flow if not taken into account.||$0||$300|
|Time!: Time is money! When starting a business, think about how much time you are spending on certain tasks that could be delegated to another team member or automated. Additionally, spending too much time on tasks that aren't associated with revenue is a hidden cost of running a business.||$0||$500|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$800 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$1,242 (min)||$58,669 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Art Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your art business:
You may not need funding for your art business.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed For My Art Business?
With a art business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Whether you are the one designing the product or the decision-maker for the product, an eye for design is critical when starting a art business. Here's what this looks like:
- Creative Thinking - the ability to develop or design different products or ideas
- Visualization - being able to imagine or visualize how the product will look
- Articulation - the ability to communicate what the design will look like and how it will be executed
- Detail-oriented - paying close attention to all of the small pieces when designing or working on a project
- Some technical skills - knowledge of the design software you are using to create the product or build prototypes.
Other skills that may be valuable to have when starting a art business include digital marketing skills, branding experience, and basic business knowledge.
Business Savvy Skills
When starting a art business, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting a art business.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Whether you are on the creative side or the business side of your product, crafty and creative skills are a must for starting a art business.
Here are a few skills that are important to have for starting a successful art business:
- Knowledge of materials and their skillful use: It's critical that you are knowledgable about art supplies and able to get the most out of everything.
- An open mind: The best art business's are the ones that have a unique perspective and an open mind on life and art.
- Patience: Some of your work may take weeks, months or even years! This combined with starting a business will involve a lot of patience and trust in the process.
- Energy & Focus: Starting a art business means you will need to have a great deal of both physical and mental energy to think creatively, reflect, and focus.
Advice For Starting A Art Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a art business:
Ursula Barton, founder of URSULA BARTON ($3K/month):
I learned more about myself and about business in those six months than I learned in four years of college.
Read the full interview ➜
Sarah Miller, founder of sarahpaintspets ($4.5K/month):
Understanding the WHY of what you’re doing is the most important thing. Your purpose will guide you forward because without having to question yourself, you are free from fear and doubt holding you back.
Read the full interview ➜
Emily Sayer, founder of Stib ($/month):
Learn to walk alongside doubt. If you wait for the doubt to pass, you’ll standstill. Even on the bad days, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Read the full interview ➜
Justin Erickson, founder of Justin Erickson Art ($876/month):
It is so important to become part of your local community. I’m introverted so I wish I learned this one a bit faster. I have gotten more work from attending random events and talking to people than I have through digital marketing or social media.
Read the full interview ➜
Sarah Hickey , founder of Innerglow Art ($4.3K/month):
When strangers were noticing my art and asked if I had a website, business card, etc., it really pushed me to start the business.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your art business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Art Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Art
One of the most challenging and critical pieces to starting your art business is determining how much to charge for your art.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your art, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your art so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your art may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your art, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your art business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your art is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your art fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your art, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Understanding Your Costs
Example from Ishan, founder of Ugly Duckling
First objective: profitability
Our profitability is OK at this point but definitely not where it should be yet. To this day I have not paid myself a regular salary yet...and it’s been 4 years!
The problem is not the cost of goods which are well under 20% of sales, which is good by any standard. The problem is fulfillment costs. In 2018 we transitioned from our first fulfillment company to a much bigger company. We did this because we wanted to provide faster shipment speeds and a better quality of packaging. In hindsight, we chose a company which would have been more suitable for a larger company with bigger volumes. We ended up being tied in with some pretty large minimum monthly payments. So currently fulfillment costs are currently around 45% of sales...way too high.
We are now looking to transit to another fulfillment center. Our target is to get our fulfillment costs down to around 30% of sales which I believe from what I have researched, is possible.
Just to be clear, when I say fulfillment that includes transportation costs also - FedEx, USPS, etc. Not just storage, picking, and packing. I am pretty sure that it is possible to get fulfillment costs down even lower, and I suspect that some large pro sellers on amazon.com work with around 20-25% of sales.
So our target P+L for 2020 looks something like this:
- Cost of goods, including inbound freight and clearance - around 22% of sales.
- Fulfillment - around 30% of sales.
- Digital Advertising & Promotion - around 15% of sales.
- Other marketing and office costs, including salary costs - around 10% of sales.
- That would leave us around 23% of sales - enough to pay me a liveable salary and for the company to make a profit and finance future growth.
That's the first objective for 2020: to right-size the P+L so that we are profitable at our current sales level
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Art
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your art business.
Please input your figures below:
Design A Prototype
Turning your idea into a reality can feel like a daunting task - but it's critical that you have an idea of what your product will look like (even if it's just a sketch) prior to finding a manufacturer.
Here are some common ways you can design your prototype:
- Draw Your Initial Design on Paper
- Form pieces of fabric together
- Consider Taking A Generic Product And Putting Your Own Brand On It
- Try Making the Product Yourself
- Consider Building A Prototype With A 3D Printer
To learn more about how to design and prototype a product, check out our latest guide here.
Ursula Barton, founder of URSULA BARTON dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
Creating a product line on a part-time waitress salary had limitations, so I kept it simple.
I focused on getting high-quality paper so that my product was elevated, not just a print on printer paper, I needed it to read as quality art even though I was printing everything myself out of my very small art studio that I shared with another artist.
My brother had built a website for my artwork, and knew that if I could sell a $2.00 postcard to the right person, that postcard could turn into a bigger opportunity if I made it easy for them to find me online. That's when I ordered business cards and a rubber stamp with my name and contact information. I made sure my information was on everything that left my studio.
If someone resonated with my unique process, my love for Portland, or my color sense, I wanted them to be able to reach me. This worked, first on a small scale, people reached out wanting large custom prints for their homes, and now on a larger scale for mural projects, collaborations, and interviews.
I realized the easier I made it for my customer to reach out or learn more, they were more likely to, and this helped me get to know my customer better. I still enjoy when people reach out on Instagram or on my website to give me feedback about my work, or a product they would like to see in the future, that kind of feedback is valuable, as well as a great opportunity to build community.
I was doing all of the production, packaging, marketing, and designing by myself for the first 4 months until my friend shared a link to a printer in San Francisco who had very competitive prices for what I was creating in house.
It was important to me to have everything made in the U.S. so I started outsourcing production to this printer in San Francisco and my products became higher quality and much more consistent. Until the ownership changed and I never received the right order at the right time, and I had to find a more reliable option.
I also wanted to keep it local and use a printer in Portland, so I did a bunch of research until I found a printer in northeast Portland who could not match the previous pricing of the San Francisco company, but they got close enough to where their location and customer service was worth the additional cost.
Packaging was its own research black hole. Not creating waste is important to me, I wanted biodegradable wrappers and bags, and recycled backing board whenever possible, but I also wanted to keep my prices approachable.
I never want my work to become classist, this is a problem I spent a lot of time researching in order to find the right balance and the right profit margins. The answer for me was bulk buying. This takes storage space, and luckily I had moved into the space I am in now that is able to accommodate the bulk packaging found a paper company in Portland who has recycled chipboard in huge amounts that can be laser cut to my desired size, and an online company Clearbags.com that sells bulk amounts of biodegradable wrappers.
It wasn't until years later when I notice my art was being ripped off by a film festival poster, a cell phone accessory store, and even a large hospitality chain. This is when I realized that I needed to be serious about copyrighting my work, all of it. This has made it easier to sleep at night, and always worth the high copyright fees. Luckily I have been able to resolve most of these cases with an email, but I did have to get a lawyer for one case that was quickly resolved in my favor because of my copyright. I highly recommend copyrighting your work early in your process of building your business.
How To Find A Supplier For Your Art Business
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier/manufacturer:
Know your design
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your design/product will look like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
To get started, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start drawing - or if you are working on a virtual/software product this can be a diagram that outlines the user interface or experience.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
Where to start your search
Once you have an understanding of what type of manufacturer/supplier will be best to bring your idea to life, there are several areas you can start your search:
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your art on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your art.
Leslie Eisen, founder of AlmondClear discusses how to manufacture products in house
If you want to start a line of unique products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.
I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.
I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!
First, you have to tell the chemist what kind of product you’re looking for, the ingredients that you want to include or leave out, and what you want the final product to look like/feel like/smell like, etc.
Then, the manufacturer sends you the first sample, you try it out or give it to others to try, and then provide feedback for revisions. In my case, the first two products came together fairly easily because I only needed to make small changes to stock formulations.
There are many, many rules and regulations around cosmetics and skin care products. If you want to sell products that contain FDA regulated ingredients then you have to register and get a permit.
My products aren’t FDA regulated, so I didn’t have to go through this step, but I did have to be aware of the many guidelines and standards around labeling and safety warnings. Some people hire a lawyer to help them through this process, but my manufacturer was able to guide me through the regulatory process.
The entire process, from researching labs to work with to having the first finished products shipped out to me, took around six months.
Purchasing Inventory For Your Art Business
When first starting out, it's important to start small with your overhead to get a gauge for what people want.
Just remember - if you order a line of items that don't sell, it's nearly impossible to recoup the money lost.
Buying the right inventory takes research and planning in order to get it right.
- Identify your target audience: Identify the age, gender, annual income that you will be selling to. This is a defining factor in ordering the right inventory that will sell.
- Research your competition: Conduct market research and identify the different types of styles, price points, and materials being used. This will help you see what's trending and ways that you can improve/stay ahead of the competition.
- Create an inventory wishlist: Identify what you need for the launch of your business and create a budget that you will stay within. Remember, it's okay to start small.
- Find a supplier Make sure to first compare prices and analyze different options.
- Delivery timing: Schedule the inventory delivery to match with seasonality and trending buying seasons
Pro-tip: It's easy to become biased based on your own fashion preferences on what types of shoes/apparel to purchase. This is where a lot of fashion businesses go wrong. It's important to base purchase decisions on current buyer behavior, trends in the market, and specific to your niche.
Erin Hooley, founder of Bailey's Blossoms tells us how poor inventory projections led her to lose over $2M
When we first launched Peyton Bre we did so in a social or direct sales model.
Through poor inventory projections we were forced to change models but only after losing $2 million dollars.
It was a devastating time for us and one we were not sure we could survive.
I have since become very intentional about the way that we project our inventory needs and we continue to refine that quarterly and even monthly. We have created a KPI for the cost of goods sold to help us hold ourselves accountable.
Ultimately, the better we manage our inventory the less we have need to discount and the healthier our profit margin becomes.
This is, of course, a very high-level overview of the importance of inventory control.
To see the full breakdown on how to manage inventory, check out my guide over on my blog..
🚀 How To Launch Your Art Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Get Press Coverage For Your Art Business:
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
There are various different marketplaces that you can effectively sell and promote your art business, whether that's local or online!
Here are some of the most common ones:
- Your own website! Shopify is known to be the best for e-commerce stores
- Local places! Gift shops, farmers markets, festivals, grocery stores etc
- Etsy - E-commerce website for craft supplies
- Craft is Art Marketplace to buy and sell handmade crafts & fine art
- Aftcra Online marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade products
- Storenvy Marketplace for authentic brands
Etsy Tips From Founders
Etsy is one of the most common marketplaces for this business type, however, there are some tips and tricks from other founders you'll want to consider prior to listing:
Financially speaking, Etsy is a really great way to start a business because it’s essentially free until you start selling. It cost nothing to launch besides my 20 cent listing fees.
Etsy has been encouraging free shipping with a lot of pushback from sellers, but I built everything into our prices about a month ago and introduced free shipping shopwide, which seems to have improved conversion rates and search visibility already.
I honestly attribute the bulk of my success to photography. I was a photographer first so obviously very lucky to have no issues launching with great images and it’s something I consistently produce.
With Etsy especially, there are a ton of mediocre amateur photos so it was an easy way to set myself apart from the start, and I don’t think Etsy themselves would feature my products and market them so often otherwise. We’re also able to compete fairly well on price because 80% of customers are American, and our dollar is much weaker.
One big mistake I’m seeing from other people selling handcrafted items is regarding Etsy. I’m seeing people do one of two things:
- Under-utilize the platform
- They are solely using the platform
What I mean by this is that I’m seeing a whole lot of handcrafters that only use Etsy because it’s easy. But referring people to an Etsy page as your webpage isn’t as professional as a dot com webpage, plus, Etsy’s fees are much higher than Shopify. Also, when Etsy makes changes to its marketing structure, I’ve seen people who have no other website get absolutely screwed and their shops go under.
The other camp is those that refuse to use Etsy at all. Etsy is a marketplace, with a built-in audience that is often searching for exactly the product you make! Both camps are making the mistake of not diversifying their markets. Use Etsy, it’s an amazing sales tool, but don’t rely on it solely.
Launch Strategies For Your Art Business
There are various different ways you can launch your art business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your art business.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your art business, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your art business is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Ursula Barton, founder of URSULA BARTON dives deep into the process of launching the business:
I never had a ‘launch’ as much as I decided on my approach once I had a website my brother built and an Etsy shop that I built (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ursulabarton?ref=shop_sugg) I would try to get my website and Etsy shop onto every single thing that was related to my artwork and offer three different price points: $2.00-$5.00, $20.00-$40.00, and limited edition prints for $100-$200. If someone really liked my work, regardless of their income, they had no reason not to buy it, once my artwork gets into someone else’s hands it gets in front of a new audience.
If that person shows their friend and that friend can go onto my etsy shop, and they buy something, that single customer became two customers with me exerting the same amount of energy and resources. I paid close attention to the patterns of what sold well and what didn’t, and I evolved my products with this information in mind, making sure my website and Etsy shop was on every single one.
Becoming active in the market scene took my product line to the next level. Once I had a decent amount of products and many different price points I started setting up at the Portland Saturday Market, the Portland Night Market, and some of the street markets around town. This helped me meet my customer and start growing my community beyond what my wholesale and consignment accounts could do.
My consistent success at these markets gave me the capitol I needed to grow and hirer help. Hiring help was something I should have done earlier in my career. I was so excited to be learning all aspects of my business, learning applicable skills every day, and meeting my customers, that it had never occurred to me to not do it alone. Now I have a business partner and an employee, and our reach has never been better. We are able to do up to three events in one day making as much as $2000-$3,200 in that day.
The women I work with always have new perspectives, a new efficient system, and a new creative way to get my artwork out into the world. I enjoy working in a team, for me this was essential for reaching new customers and growing my business while maintaining and improving the quality of my products. Because some months were slower than others I did get a business credit card early on with a $5000 limit for ordering bulk packaging and large displays. This made everything less stressful, and allowed me to use the kind of quality materials and displays I wanted my brand to reflect.
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your art business is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my art business stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Sheets & Giggles explains the motive behind their "Premium Unboxing Experience"
I had a particular vision for our packaging centered around one goal: because we were a DTC company and wouldn’t do physical retail in year 1, we needed to focus entirely on an incredible unboxing experience that made the product feel as premium as possible.
Outside: a white box, nice wax coating, logo front and center with no other copy, easy to open, nice and sturdy.
Inside: make people smile from the get-go, have a social call-to-action, include free extra surprises (a knapsack that wraps the sheets and an eye mask), put funny copy all over the place, and add a donation bag that people could use to donate their now-defunct cotton sheets (sheets & blankets are the #2-most-requested item at shelters behind socks).
🌱 How To Grow Your Art Business
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to art business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Host A Social Media Giveaway
People love free stuff and love competition. Giveaways and contests are a great way to create awareness for your brand, grow your email list, and eventually convert leads into customers.
If your goal is to gather email addresses, make sure the entry criteria is to "enter your email." You can do this by leading customers to your landing page where they can then enter their email to be in the giveaway.
One of the most important aspects of promoting a successful giveaway is having an amazing prize. The better the prize, the more engagement you'll get.
This doesn't necessarily mean choosing an iPad or an expensive/trendy watch, but instead a prize that is actually relevant to your brand/target audience.
Giveaway Example and Tips
Example from TJ Mapes, founder of RIPT Apparel
Our most recent successful giveaway was when we gave away a PS4 + the new Spiderman game. I hosted the giveaway on our site and then let our audience know about it via email/social channels.
Entrants earned different amounts of entries for entering in different ways (tongue twister!), for instance; enter via email, get 10 entries. Follow us on Facebook, get 5 entries. Subscribe on Messenger and get 25 entries.
I also built out a drip sequence in Klaviyo that contained four emails to encourage entrants to take more action, like referring friends and liking us on social.
Email #1: Thanks for entering!
Email #2: Explained how to earn bonus entries:
Email #3: About us
Email #4: Coupon for entering
This last email in the sequence just thanked them again for entering and also included a coupon to a specific (related) collection of designs with an expiration date on it to incentivize purchases.
(this screenshot is actually a flow from when we gave away an xbox, but you get the idea - huge open and click rates 💯💯💯)
PS4 Giveaway Results:
We ran it for 2 weeks and recorded results in a meticulous spreadsheet to analyze the data. Here are some of the highlights:
- Giveaway page pageviews - 67,355
- Total entrants - 26,137
- Conversion rate - 38.80%
- Total entrants in Klaviyo (not suppressed) - 24,515
- New emails acquired - 16,363
- Emails we already had - 7,521
- % of new emails - 66.75%
- Cost of item - $350
- Instagram visits - 10,618
- Instagram followers gained - 3,496 ( total followers lifted by 6.9% )
- Twitter followers gained - 4,194
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Cory Stout, founder of Woodies ($250K/mo) provides us with specifics on how to rank better on amazon:
Our main product is walnut wood sunglasses that I sell for $25 on Amazon and Woodies.com.
I dedicated myself to becoming an Amazon expert. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could find. Shoutout EcomCrew I took the basic fundamentals that are out there and I added a couple of my own twists.
Amazon brings me, 100 brand new customers, every day for very little acquisition cost. If I tried that on my own, it would take a TON of work and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as Amazon, so I took the easy road on this one.
Here's an article I wrote on how to rank better on amazon (30+ Tips):
- Beautiful images (minimum 5 images) especially lifestyle images I use UpgradedImages.com for product photography (hey Ken!)
- Keywords in your title (but it still needs to sound human)
- Competitive price (contributes to high conversion rate)
- NOT having 1-star reviews
- DON'T STOCKOUT: it's such a killer and if you DO stockout, definitely DON'T raise your price right before you do, if anything LOWER your price for the last 10-20 units before you stockout, each ASIN has a 'memory' for when you do get back in stock so that will help you regain ranking quickly
- DON'T VIOLATE AMAZON TOS: just don't
- Perform QC on your stock before you send it in (I sent in a wrong box once and I had to 'remove' over 3,000 pieces so I could sift through them and remove the 150 contaminated pieces 0/7 would not recommend
4/5: Pretty Friggin Important
- Minimum 10 5-star reviews (do this before you do anything below this)
- Well optimized PPC campaigns (could do a whole post on this, keep ACOS under 40%) here's a screenshot of some of my campaigns I use a combination of manual campaigns with exact phrases and high bids...and auto campaigns with a broad range of products and very low bids
- Turning on FeedbackGenius for auto review requests (it's not as good as it used to be, but it's still worth it)
- Get a trademark and get Brand Registry, this protects you from hijackers and other unscrupulous sellers
- Quick response to customer messages (under 12 hours) here are my stats my mom does all my customer service "Employee of the Year" status
- Drive outside traffic (amazon loves outside traffic because they don't have to spend so much to acquire customers) Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords are the usual suspects
- Use ocean shipping to save mucho $$$ on unit costs (use flexport)
Read more about amazon tips here.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Art Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Art Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your art business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your art business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Ursula Barton, founder of URSULA BARTON dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
I do not have a business background. I have a Bachelors in Art. I didn’t know what analytics were when I started, I have never taken a business class. I used what knowledge I did have: customer service.
I had almost ten years of customer service experience, my first job was working part-time in a bead store when I was 13 (mostly in trade), and I started working in restaurants when I was 18. I learned a lot about how people feel when they pay for something, and how they justify the purchase. Most people are not excited to spend money they worked hard for (me included) especially when the product they are buying does not serve a utilitarian function like a blender you need, or food because you are hungry.
Art’s function is to bring you joy/curiosity by connecting you to your humanity. This is not an easy sell. Most people who like my art are not sure why they like my art. This is why I stress different price points. I don’t have the time to change anyone’s mind on the value of art if they only see it as a surfurfulouse decoration that they don’t need. But I can continue to make work that is authentically mine and put it out into the world with attention to quality and consistency with excellent customer service, and have a price option for any point of view on the value of art.
If you think art is worth $2.00, get a postcard.
Many people who have bought and framed my postcards end up coming back for a larger print or even commission an original painting years later because it makes them happy, it makes their home feel better. This is experiential value, something I have not been able to quantify or manipulate, my job is to create the opportunity for the customer to find this experience on their own. My sales technique is to offer as much information about my products and about me so that the customer can make an educated decision for themselves. This is how I like to be sold to, so this has been my only model for the past 7 years.
When I did start to grow past my abilities to understand business and organization, about four years in I put an add out on Creg’s List looking for an intern. I had a great year learning how to work with someone, it was very valuable to have to explain my process and system, or in my case lack of one, to someone else, and she was a pleasure to work with.
Unfortunately, both of our needs were not being met by what skills we had to offer each other after the first year. That’s when I found Bethany. I originally hired Bethany to help out with markets almost two years ago, but it was clear early on that her talent for marketing, and e-commerce was well beyond mine so I hired her to completely redo my website and Etsy store. I gave her the freedom to invent her own systems and strategies. This quickly proved to be the right move.
Going back to my original philosophy of making it easy for my customer to learn more about my work and add to their collection, I had not updated this concept to any of my online platforms for over two years and it showed. Getting a fresh look from someone with the skill set to execute it on a high level using updated technologies made a big difference on my online sales and my website interaction (about a 30%-50% increase over two years). She has over ten years in retail management experience and can fluently speak the language of marketing and business on a high level in a way I can’t.
I also started to become more consistent and thoughtful about my Instagram account. I welcome feedback and critique, it's something I miss from college, and Instagram is an easy way to reach out directly to share new and in process work. I noticed that the more in process work I shared, the more interaction I got with my customers and collectors. I really enjoy this, building community is my main sales technique.
Not that I am only talking to people to get money out of them, I am sincerely curious about them, I want to get to know the people who resonate with my work, I want us to be invested in each other. I don't just want to sell my work to anyone who will buy it, I want good homes with curious people who feel something when they look at my ink drawings, and I want to talk to them about it. I am lucky that my natural curiosity for people and my propensity to build community also leads to more sales on my online shop and more custom commissions.
If this were not the case, I would not own a business. I am the kind of person who wants everything to be as fun as possible, if I was not interested or invested in the people who buy my work and support my business, none of this would be fun for me, and ultimately I would not have stuck with it for 7 years.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
How To Crush The Sales Process For Your Art Business
You may find yourself in a spot where you're ready to hire a few (or many) salespeople to support the sales conversion process.
Regardless if you have one or thirty salespeople, it's critical that you assign them specific roles and responsibilities to nurture the client and provide excellent support.
Mike Korba, co-founder of User.Com walks us through the entire sales process and which teams are responsible for what:
User.com Sales Process
Each user and account is qualified with a specialist. For business leads, they are handled by the sales team, and if they are qualified we give them a demo, more than often at the end of their fourteen-day trial. If they’re happy they’ll add a payment, and get an account manager, so a customer support and success team who will help implement the solution and to use the technology.
Sometimes, users will convert naturally on their own, after using the freemium product and finding it to be something that they will find beneficial.
After they convert, we help with onboarding, give them some personalized tips for their specific business or industry to grow plus all kinds of support, for whatever they need - something we take huge pride in.
The team is right now more than 30 people, with more than half working on the IT and product side, and the rest are in three teams: Support, Marketing, and Sales who all work together very closely.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a art business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your art business.
- Platform tools such as Amazon, Etsy, Wayfair, Wix.com or GoDaddy
- Email tools such as MailChimp, Gmail or Whatsapp
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest or LinkedIn
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads
- Reviews tools such as Product Reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor or airbnb
- Design tools such as Canva, pixlr or Adobe Suite
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox or Trello
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Square or Venmo
- Blog tools such as WordPress or Squarespace
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks
- Shipping tools such as USPS, UPS WorldShip or DHL
- Stock images tools such as Getty, Unsplash or adobestock
- Podcast tools such as SoundCloud, Podbean or Spotify
- Art Of Candle Making Business Startup
- How To Start An Art Business In 2020
- How I Started My Art Business At 16 (Pricing Art & Commissions)
- How I Built Two Successful Small Businesses As An Artist
- Sarah Miller Started A Business Selling Her Own Artwork Online
- How We Started A $12K/Month Business Selling Cosmos-Inspired Fine Prints
- On Developing A Career As An Independent Artist And Graphic Designer