If you’re like most artists, you likely put your heart and soul into creating amazing new pieces. However, while the love of the craft may hold you over for a while, eventually, the desire may grow to make money from your work. If this describes your ambition and you’re excited about selling your masterpieces, it’s important to first take a step back and think about what goes into starting a business. It’s more than just putting prices on canvas. While your art may be on point, you must learn how to form a company, create a plan, make a marketing strategy, and more.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll discuss everything new artists need to know to start their own art business and the mistakes and missteps to avoid along the way. While you likely won’t become a success overnight, this plan can help you achieve long-term success.
Avoid Common Mistakes
You may have heard the statistics about how 20% of small businesses fail within the first year — an art business is not immune to this possibility. The issue is that many people get really excited about what they want to sell, so they start pushing their products without thinking through their actions. This situation can be even worse for folks in the younger generation because they may still need to gain experience to help their companies succeed. The fact is, many people fall for the same small business mistakes.
For example, many new business owners tend to underestimate the costs associated with getting their idea off the ground. Of course, your art is no exception. Sure, you may think you’re just selling some pictures you can hang anywhere or sell online. However, there are many costs you may still need to consider, including:
- Marketing costs.
- Price of supplies.
- Rent you may have to pay if your business expands.
- The potential need to pay back a business loan.
Of course, you can’t forget the big one, which is the quarterly or end-of-year taxes that can seemingly come out of nowhere. Research the money you’ll require; if you’re short, either hold off on the business or consider a small business loan.
Costs are just one consideration in your overall business plan. You’ll need to think about every detail of your growing art company, including:
- How you plan to sell your art (online or in a physical location).
- The additional products you plan to sell.
- Your target demographic (who you plan to sell to).
- Your marketing plan.
- How much profit you’ll need to make to stay afloat.
If you’re still working out the answers to some of these questions, then you may want to start smaller from home.
Starting In Your Home
You may not be a “starving artist,” but if you’re like many new business owners who start on a budget, you may need to start selling your work from home, and that’s okay. An arrangement like this helps you to keep your costs in check, and you can control your surroundings. However, it’s easy to get too relaxed when we’re at home, so you’ll need to learn to stay productive. You’ll likely want to work near your studio so you can continue producing art as you sell online, but keep other distractions at a minimum so you can focus on taking calls and reaching out to vendors who may agree to sell your work.
You have many options for selling your art from home, including having office hours where people come to view the work in your studio. The other option is to build a website. If possible, translate it into different languages so people can visit from around the world and pick and choose the pieces they want to purchase. Since your art will always evolve and you’ll always have new work on the site, it’s wise to have an easily visible contact form where customers can enter their email. You can reach out to them when new work becomes available. If you go to art shows or meet people at functions, hand out business cards that mention your website and tell them to check you out.
Dedicate one part of your website to an art blog, where you can talk about your work and all things related to your craft to attract more potential buyers. When writing your blogs and designing your website in general, you can draw more attention by using SEO basics and smart keywords that relate to your work, so when people search for it online, they find your site.
Show Your Work In The Best Light
While your work is surely exceptional, you aren’t the only artist on the block, so you must ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when producing your art. First, invest in professional and high-quality canvases, paints, and materials, so they’ll last the test of time. By selling work that you can stand behind, you can make a name for yourself while also avoiding the possibility that a customer may want to make a return and you lose out on that sale.
Now that you’ve got the best materials, you should invest in a photographer or good photography equipment to take great pictures of your art for your website, which is especially important if you don’t have a studio where customers can come and see your work in person. You don’t want anyone returning an order because they don’t think they got the same quality print that they saw on your website.
Setting Your Prices
A big part of starting a new business and selling your art full-time will involve setting your prices. It’s essential to strike a balance when it comes to prices because while you want to make money and succeed if you go too high, you may not be able to sell much until you become more well-known. However, going too low may result in an inability to pay the bills.
The solution is to be realistic. Look at your current costs and determine how much you’ll need to earn to cover those expenses and make enough profit to afford to live. Since you also need to make new art, you’ll need to factor in the hours it takes you to create your masterpieces so you can solidify your hourly rate. You’ll also want to factor the cost of your materials into that number. Figure out the total of those costs and use it to set your prices, and don’t hesitate to adjust them as time goes on.
Market Your Art
While you would like your art to speak for itself, if you’re not getting the sales you’d like, you may need to start more of an effort to market your work. It’s natural to feel skittish about marketing at first since your art is your passion. You don’t want to be part of the corporate machine but think of it as a way of sharing the beauty of your work with the world.
Marketing can be as simple as sharing your work on your social media channels so people get a bite-sized taste of your work. It’s easy to show off screenshots of your art and a link to your website so people will check it out and make a purchase. You can also use the tools available on many social media platforms, like Facebook Ads, to direct your posts to specific categories of people, like art lovers and people of a certain age who live in your area.
You can further pinpoint your target audience by thinking about the specifics of your art. Do you gravitate towards a specific medium or subject that you know a particular group of people will enjoy? Do you paint using a specific style or medium? Think about these questions and then direct your marketing to the people who may like what you produce.
You can continue to build your brand by making it a point to meet new people to extend your network and keep people talking. Attend art exhibits and fairs, showcase your art, speak with other artists, and form relationships. Another idea is to join artist organizations, like the Oil Painters of America or the Portrait Society, introduce yourself, and see what opportunities come.
Since you likely won’t be flooded with customers overnight, you should take some time to try to make a name for yourself in the community. You can talk to other artists and ask to collaborate on a project that can bring notoriety to everyone involved. Then, submit your work to art websites and competitions, so even if you don’t win, you get some attention. If you post your work online, talk to influencers and ask if they can discuss your art on their channel and see where it goes.
These are the tips and considerations when you’re trying to start a new art business from scratch. Before you open your doors, make a business plan and account for all potential missteps to have the best chance of success.