Whether you create your own art or have a collection of others’ art that you want to sell, the good news is that there is profit to be made by selling art online. The even better news is that getting your new art business started isn’t as difficult as you might think.
As an art lover, you may be more comfortable in the creative space, and feel a little overwhelmed by the details involved in building a business. We promise it’s not as daunting as it sounds, and we’ve got the expert advice you need to get started.
So get out your favorite notebook and pen, follow the 10 steps below, and let’s get that business rolling!
10 Steps to Start an Art Business
You have the art. People out there want to buy it. You just have to find the right way to connect with them. The steps below will guide you on how to set yourself up to help potential buyers find you and make it easy for them to make their purchases and Pay you online
1. Make a Plan
No business should exist without a business plan. Before your creative brain starts panicking, this doesn’t need to be a formal document. In fact, you don’t even have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to.
Think of your business plan as a roadmap that you’re designing in order to figure out how your business will get off the ground and grow.
Here are a few questions to consider when starting to craft your business plan:
- What are you planning to sell?
- Who do you plan to sell to?
- What are your overall business goals (short term and long term)?
- How do you define success?
- How will you manage your inventory?
- How will you package and ship the art pieces to your customers?
- What systems and tools do you need in place?
You can either find a business plan template to follow or adapt to your own needs or just start writing and let the ideas flow. This is a living document that you’ll refer back to as your business develops. In fact, you’ll most likely come up with more things to add to the business plan as you go through the other steps in this guide.
2. Identify Target Customer/Market
Knowing your target customer and understanding the market will be crucial to your business success. Art in particular is rather subjective and you’ll need to find the customers who are interested in the type of art that you’re selling.
Do your research to find out who buys the type of art you sell – where do they live? How much money do they have? Where do they hang out online (i.e. which social media platforms do they frequent)?
Part of understanding your market means getting the scoop on your competitors. Do some online searches to see how many others are selling the same type of art as you and see how you can make your creations better and more desirable.
3. Understand Your Finances
Having a strong handle on your finances is another cornerstone to your success. One of the upsides to having your own art business is that you have an element of control over your costs. You can decide how much to invest in materials if you’re creating your own art or how many pieces you want to buy to resell.
Make a complete list of all costs – both the fixed (e.g. studio or office space rent) and the variable (e.g. materials) and try to predict what your costs will be each month. This will then serve as the groundwork for you to identify how much you need to sell to cover your costs and earn a profit.
Keep in mind that one of your biggest costs may be shipping the art to customers. Depending on what you’re selling and how big or fragile it is, it can be costly to buy packing materials and ship. You’ll probably also want to insure each shipment, which is another cost to consider.
4. Set Prices
Establishing pricing for your artwork can be tricky. If you’re selling someone else’s work, it’s somewhat easier because you can simply add a percentage to what you paid for it and there is your profit.
When dealing with something of your own creation, however, it can be hard to take the emotion out of it. You may feel that it’s difficult to put a price on something you created out of love and inspiration, but the cold, hard truth is that you’re running a business and you need to make a profit.
When setting your prices, consider who your target market is and where your products fit into the grand scheme of the market as a whole. Are you going for a higher-end or more affordable product? Will your prices include shipping or are you going to charge for that separately?
Most importantly, your prices must cover your costs. At the very least, determine how much profit you want to earn and then add that to your costs per product and voila… that is your selling price. Alternatively, you could decide on an hourly wage that you want to pay yourself and then base your price on how long it takes you to create the piece.
In order to make your art business official and legal, you will need to register according to the local rules in your geographic area. Again, don’t let this bureaucratic step scare you. In most cases, you will set yourself up as a sole proprietorship which just requires filling out a few forms.
As part of this process, you’ll need to choose an official name for your business. Make sure you choose something unique that isn’t already taken – when you officially register you should be able to search against a database to ensure that no other company already has your name.
At this stage, you may also want to set up a separate bank account so you can keep your earnings and expenses separate from your personal finances.
6. Set up a Payment and Ordering Structure
Once you know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to, you need to be sure you have a system in place that will enable your customers to place their orders and pay you. A service provider like Pay.com can be your one-stop shop, providing everything you need to start accepting payments.
Of course, you will want to make it easy for customers to enter their payment information online, but if you have customers that prefer to pay over the phone, Pay.com can help you with that too. Alternatively, you can send direct Pay Links that customers can simply click on and then enter their details.
Your payment system should also enable you to keep track of orders and provide you with financial reports and insights.
7. Build a Website
This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous step, so you might want to work on them simultaneously. Having an online presence will enable you to showcase your art and let your potential customers browse to see what they like.
Your first site can definitely be something simple. There are plenty of easy-to-use website builders with templates you can choose from, or you can go all out and design something more complex. If you want to let the art speak for itself, though, you probably want to keep the general site design fairly simple.
You’ll want to integrate a stellar checkout page that customers can use to enter their credit card details or choose an alternative payment method. Also, make sure you include contact information and links to your social media accounts, as this will help you with the next step: building your community.
8. Develop on Online Presence/Build Community
Just building a website probably won’t result in traffic and a steady flow of customers. For that, you need to build some buzz and create a community of dedicated followers. Especially because buying art is often not a “one and done” but rather a collection-building process, nurturing your customers can encourage them to keep coming back.
The real conversations are more likely to take place on social media like Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok as opposed to on your website itself. Depending on your target audience, you’ll want to set up social media accounts on the relevant platforms and be active. Post content, but also be sure that you respond to comments and generally engage with your audience.
You can choose whether you want to also sell directly from your social media accounts or if you want to use them to drive traffic to your website for sales. Adding a blog section to your website that you update regularly can also increase the number of visitors to your site and allows you to share your knowledge.
Finally, maintaining an updated email list will give you an easy way to keep your audience updated on what you are working on and when new pieces are available. Unlike social media accounts, where your followers belong to the platform, an email list is yours to keep, making it a very valuable community-building tool.
9. Get the Right Tools
We’ve already discussed signing up for a payment system, but there are other tools you can have in your arsenal that will also help streamline your business processes. These tools can include things like inventory management, contact management, calendars, to do lists and more.
Choosing these tools comes down to personal preference – sometimes having too many systems in place results in not using any of them! Sit down and make a list of the key tasks that you do and then you can determine whether there are technological tools that can help automate or manage those tasks more efficiently.
With everything in place, you’re ready to go. Launch your business into the universe and start selling your art!
The Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Art Business
No matter how much you love art and how committed you are to turning this love into a profitable business, it’s very important to consider the pros and cons before you start.
- Full control: If you’re the artist, the level to which you take this business is in your hands – you can treat it like a side hustle or a full-time gig. As the owner of your own business, you don’t need to report to (or share profits with) a gallery owner.
- Customer relationships: Art is subjective, and people love getting to know the artist. You have the opportunity to develop true relationships with your customers and offer them something truly unique, even creating custom work on commission for those with something specific in mind. Once they develop that relationship, they are more likely to keep coming back to you rather than shopping around.
- Little capital investment: You don’t need to lay out a large sum of cash in order to get started. You may already have lots of your work lying around, just waiting for you to start selling.
- Unlimited market potential: Selling online means you’re not limited by geography. The world is literally your oyster and as long as you can ship somewhere, you can sell there.
- Sensitive market: Artwork is often a luxury, not a necessity. In times of economic uncertainty and downturns, there will be less of a demand.
- Time consuming: Curating your website to make sure that all images are uploaded in good quality and are always updated is a time consuming manual task.
- Constant hustle: Selling art online is probably not a business that you can set up and let it run on the back burner while you do other things. It requires a hands-on intense level of proactive work. You will need to be reaching out to customers, sourcing and/or creating new pieces, and always promoting yourself.
The Bottom Line: Is Starting an Art Business Right for You?
I hope this guide has given you insight into what you need to do to get an art business up and running. Now the decision is yours – if you love art and are ready to put in the effort necessary to start and run a successful business, then why not go for it?
If and when you decide to take the plunge, Pay.com is here to help relieve some of the burden and make it super easy for your customers to purchase the art of their dreams and you to get paid. Click here to find out how you can make it happen.