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Artist Business

Being an Artist is Being an Entrepreneur

Not many people realize, including many artists, that becoming an artist is most often also becoming an entrepreneur.  Unless you are an artist that works for a company full-time on a salary or hourly pay, you are an entrepreneur.

That means as well as doing what you are good at, you also need to do everything that other entrepreneurs do, running their own business.  And if anyone ever tells you that is easy to do, they are wrong.

This article is an introduction to the business side of being an artist. So what do you need to consider to run an artist business?

Artist Business Plan

Just like any other business, an artist business needs to have a plan.  A full thought out business plan is best, but even if you can’t bring yourself to write out a complete business plan immediately, create a strategy for your business.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you plan your strategy:

  1. What are your goals for the month/week/year?
  2. How do you want to spend your time?
  3. Do you want to just create art or run the business side too?
  4. Who is going to track your accounting?
  5. What taxes do you need to submit, and how will you track them?
  6. How much money do you need to make a month to survive, and to prosper?
  7. Are you good at selling?  If not, how will you sell your work?
  8. How will you organize your time?
  9. Where is your studio and office?
  10. Remember to consider overhead costs, ie. rent, gas, electricity, phone, etc.
Pear by Paula Atwell is available in print form from
Pear by Paula Atwell is available in print form from

Artist Business: Dealing with People

An artist business can be extra difficult to run because art is a personal experience for both the artist and the customer.  In order to sell art, an artist needs to be able to take a step back from their work, and deal with the customers that critique it, whether the customers are informed or not.

Learn to not take comments personally.  Remember that customers are not judging you when they critique your work, they are giving their opinion of the art only, and often they have no idea the hours of work that you put into the art or the cost of the materials.


Artist Business: Act Professional

Even when you don’t feel like it, as a business owner, you need to act professional.  What does acting professional mean exactly?

Professionals come in all shapes and sizes.  You do not need to dress in a suit and tie any longer to be considered a professional.  Business owners dress in a manner suiting their business type.  However, if you attend a business meeting of any type, dress in a clean shirt and pants or skirt that is appropriate to your business.  As an artist, do not come to a meeting in paint stained jeans.  Non artists will not understand this kind of dress.

Be confident that you know your business best.  Your business is your art, and no one else can talk about your work with the passion and knowledge that you do.  Take that confidence into any interaction with other people.  Your confidence will make you sound professional.

If you are more of an intuitive artist, and most artists are, I recommend doing some research on the materials that you use to create your work.  Be able to explain why your work costs what it does.  Are the materials expensive?  Why is that?  For instance, if you use red glass, that is more expensive than other colors because it is usually made with some gold.  Be able to talk about the details of your business.  Knowing what you do helps build belief and trust in you.

Snowy Owl by Paula Atwell is available for sale at
Snowy Owl by Paula Atwell is available for sale at

Artist Business: Carry Business Cards

It is important to have business cards in a standard size. Business cards is the way the majority of people still remember you. Many entrepreneurs still hang onto business cards to connect your face with your business, and they may even hand them off to other people looking for a business like yours.

Don’t succumb to the urge to make round, or other types of business cards that are not standard size. People just don’t know what to do with them, and they often end up in the trash. They don’t fit into any kind of binder that people keep their business cards in, or a wallet either. They cost more and are not at all worth the time or cost.

If you want creative business cards, and as an artist that is completely acceptable, design your cards yourself, and use both sides. Make them colorful, and memorable.

I recommend getting business cards professionally printed because they are the first lasting impression most people have of you. An inexpensive and good company is Vista Print. They often have promotions that give you free business cards. You can print the business cards yourself, but they always have the bumpy edge that shows they were self printed.

Dichotomy by Paula Atwell is available as a print on cards, t-shirts and gifts at
Dichotomy by Paula Atwell is available as a print on cards, t-shirts and gifts at Zazzle

Don’t Run Your Artist Business Alone

Being an artist can be a lonely business on any given day because artists usually work alone.  Being an entrepreneur can also be lonely because most people do not understand the entrepreneurial spirit or the special circumstances that owning a business create.

Don’t do it alone.  Every city has organizations to help local business people grow their businesses, and interact with other like minded people.  If you are in an area that is far from a city, then find people online that can help you.  There are forums, and websites devoted to helping people from all areas of business including art.  Most of them are people just like you, struggling to run a business, and create work at the same time to sell.

In the United States, there are many government organizations that offer business mentoring services, grants and loans, and other business help.  There are also private organizations that will help mentor new business owners to help them write business plans, and these kind of services are usually free.  Often retired business people are the mentors.

Morning is available for sale at
Morning is available for sale at Lake Erie Artists Gallery

Remember That You Are an Artist First

Be an artist first.  Spend the bulk of your time creating your art.  This is your primary money maker, and what you are best at.  Being an artist first may mean that you need to hire someone to do your accounting, sales, and other mundane tasks.  This is a decision that you have to make based on your resources, but one you should definitely consider as your business grows.

Artist Business: Take Others’ Advice But Trust Your Own Judgement

Artists often make gut decisions about their art.  This applies to business as well.  It is important to do your research before you make vital business decisions, but in the end it is your business, and you must do what is right for you.

Even if the decision ends up being wrong, you can add that decision to your learning experience as a business owner.  Making mistakes is part of being in business, and every business owner makes them.

Trust in yourself.

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  • Article by lakeerieartists

    avatar Paula Atwell (aka lakeerieartists), the owner of a small local gallery, Lake Erie Artists Gallery, in Cleveland, Ohio, is an artist, author, and a lover of all things vintage. You can follow Paula on Twitter.
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