In working with artists and other creative professionals I find that they are in a wide range of phases with regards to their art businesses. Some are just starting to think about starting an art business while others have a more or less fully developed enterprise. Many who are selling their art still need to complete some of the basic steps in forming and running a business. Here is a checklist to help you get some of the basics you will need to move your art business forward and minimize problems down the line.
While these items are necessary for starting your art business they are not a substitute for having a well thought out business and marketing plan. These items will not tell you how to do them or what choices you may need to make. I advise that you dig in deeper to each item and make the right choices and appropriate strategies. A good place to start is The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox by Neil McKenzie. The book is available as a softcover and eBook from major book sellers. There are also many articles on the Creatives and Business LLC website that will help you in starting your art business.
If you just started to sell your art or have a show coming up in the near future here are some things you need to address:
Business Identity / Formation
- Choose a business name that does not infringe on others and is descriptive of you and your business
- Register your business name with proper authorities, usually your State’s Secretary of State
- Choose your form of organization – sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. Don’t forget to look at LLC or LLP options.
Accounting & Finance
- Develop some kind of record keeping system. This could be a shoebox to hold your receipts, a computer accounting system or help from a bookkeeper or accountant.
- Open a bank account
- Secure a merchant processing service such as PayPal or Square. These will allow you to accept credit cards.
- Develop receipts or invoices to give to your customers. This can be as simple as a word processing template or going to an office supply store and purchasing blank receipts.
- Obtain the necessary State and Local sales tax licenses and permits.
- Consider obtaining a Federal Employee Identification Number also known as an EIN. You may also be able to use your social security number instead – talk to your accountant.
- Insurance – if there is any possibility of liability you will need some form of business insurance. Many venues such as art fairs or festivals may require you to carry insurance. Talk to your insurance broker to find out what is appropriate for your art business.
Marketing & Sales
- Your Story or marketing message – how do you describe your art and your business?
- Business Cards
- Web Presence such as a website, Blog, or third party site such as Etsy.
- Social Media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin etc.
- An email address, preferably one linked to you website – free email accounts such as Gmail may not give the right impression of your brand.
- Business phone number – your personal number is fine but make sure that it also identifies your art business
- Brochures and other marketing materials such as signage
- Packaging and labels
- Pricing that will cover ALL of your costs including your time producing the art
- An inventory or selection of art to sell
The bottom line(s).. + Free Worksheet
OK, here are the basic things you will need to start your art business. Remember that these are things that you need to accomplish. How they will look and when they will be accomplished should be carefully thought out in your business and marketing plan. You can download a PDF of the Art Business Startup Checklist here: Creatives and Business Art Business Startup Checklist I invite you to share this article with your artist and creative friends. Good Luck!
Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver.
Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto