Turn paint into profit and start your own business. Running your own art business can give you a deep sense of financial and personal freedom. And even if your business isn’t 100% about your art, you can still infuse it with creativity and artistry. For anyone looking to start an art business, or wondering what their next career step should be, here’s what starting your own business could look like for a modern-day artist.
What you need to know about running a business
Number one: it’s not all about freedom and flexibility — it’s also about feeling overwhelmed and having to file your own tax returns. If you go into running a business thinking it’s going to be glamorous, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Running a business is very rewarding, but it’s not for the fainthearted. The pressures of being solely responsible for the legal and financial aspects of your business can take a toll, so make sure that you enter into your business venture with a clear head and a clean slate.
Here are some ways to help you prepare:
- Get a support network around you: you want people who will be ready to field those crazy 10pm phone calls and take you out for some drinks (or chicken ramen).
- Read books about business, especially the dry stuff that doesn’t interest you much now — it’ll prove vital later.
- Clear your calendar and let people know that you won’t be as available as you were before: this way, you won’t surprise or disappoint anyone.
- As well as running your business, set yourself a concurrent self-development challenge like starting a journal or taking up meditation, so that you can hold onto some ‘me time’ during those first few crazy months.
- Be honest with yourself about how you would cope with failure and recognize that not everything will 100% go to plan — change is normal and should be embraced, not feared.
Finding good business ideas
What makes for a good business idea? It can be hard to decide what to do! From online-only businesses like art blogs and online stores to pop-ups and collaborative events like festivals, there’s plenty to choose from! You might even find that you want to work as a service provider (career mentor, marketing guru etc.), or supplier to the artist community. You should talk to your network and have a look at what others are doing — competitor research is key to ideation success.
If you want to move into ecommerce, have a look at website marketplaces to get a feel for which store ideas are taking off (and which ones aren’t). Scour marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy to see which products are selling by checking out the best sellers in all relevant and adjacent categories. For services: do some SEO keyword research to find out what people are looking for online. Social media is an awesome research tool, so be active in relevant groups and start asking questions that could potentially validate your ideas.
It’s worth having a few idea capture sessions, and developing some of your better ideas further over a course of a few weeks or months.
When it comes to evaluating your business idea, ask yourself some questions first. Does it:
- Make something that already exists better?
- Innovate and create something wholly new?
- Cater to a very specific niche or market? Bonus points if they’ve not been catered to before.
Your business idea should do at least one of the above.
Then, think about how talking about and promoting your business would feel? Would you easily find purpose, value, and fulfilment in your business? Would others?
If you are seeking investment from banks or organizations, having to explain your business idea to them and convince them of its feasibility is a great litmus test (same goes for crowdfunding, though the community rules are more flexible).
What needs to go in your business plan?
Once you have decided on an idea, it’s time to put your business plan down on paper. But remember, your business plan is not an immutable document — it’s something that should grow and change with your business.
In the first instance, it’s the place where you set out your goals and targets and start to make careful financial forecasts. It’s a document that should help keep you ‘honest’ and on-track as your business develops, ensuring that you’re meeting profitability targets.
Here are some things you need to put into a business plan:
- Customer acquisition — strategies & costs
- 5 year plan
- Administration — who, what, where & when
- Marketplace evaluation & competitor benchmarking — how do you stack up?
How to grow your business
So now you’ve started your own business, how do you go about growing it?
Once you finally launch, it can be scary and overwhelming to start to market yourself. But without marketing, you won’t have a business to run!
Everyone knows that a big part of selling art online is an associated social media and website promotion strategy, so map out a plan of attack for the first six months, and review your efforts. Even if your business is more offline, the same rules apply. Flyering, events, free samples, influencer collaborations — the sky’s the limit with your marketing.
Scaling up is easier than ever thanks to affordable virtual assistants and the sophisticated software marketplace — you can automate and outsource from day one if you need to.
Letting other people in is a requirement of scaling up, but you may also want to keep things small and streamlined and only invest in a few key team members. Freelance contracts and part-time hours can help control growing staffing costs and responsibilities.
Streamlining or specializing can be a great way to build a solid brand, but other people find that diversification is the key to their business success. It all depends on the direction you want your business to go in — something only you can decide.
In the art world, commissions and highly-personalized work can be extremely lucrative, but working that closely with clients isn’t for everyone. Take on the kind of work that is right for your business — turn away anything that’s likely to be damaging to profits, morale, or reputation.
Hopefully this guide has given you some food for thought and enabled you to visualize your art business idea a little clearer. It takes plenty of grit, determination, and creativity to take a business idea through to completion, so start working on it now. It’s time you got out there and shared your ideas with the world.