Being a professional artist involves more than being skilled with paints or clay—you actually become a small business owner!
So, where do you begin? By creating a business plan, of course! That’s why we’ve come up with an outline for artists to follow, so you can better understand your art business and develop a step-by-step strategy for success.
So when you are ready to carve out a half hour or so, follow along this guide (or bookmark it for when you are ready) and start writing down a plan to take your art career to the next level:
1. YOUR BUSINESS
A. Mission Statement
Figure out what your mission is by asking yourself the question, “why do you want to be a professional artist?” We doubt that it’s all about the money, but be honest with yourself about what it is about. Let this answer, and the passion you feel when you write it down, drive every other aspect of developing your art business.
B. Vision Statement
Your vision statement should describe where you want to take your art business in the future. But, success means something different to each and every artist. Do you want to be famous? Leave a legacy? Change the way people interact with art? Get rich? Do you want gallery representation? The answer is up to you.
Now, depending on your definition of success, develop short-term and long-term goals that will keep you on track. Try to set goals for each of the following: the next three months, six months, one year, three years, and five years. (Visualizing your art career like this will help you see the natural progression of steps to take, erasing the pressure to become an overnight success!)
Take this goal-setting advice from Catherine Orer, business and PR strategist for artists: “‘Quitting my day job to do art full time’ or ‘sell my art’ are not clear career goals.” Instead, Catherine asks you to dig deeper: “What type of career do you want? How much do you want to earn?” Spelling out exactly what you want to do will help you take the actual steps.
2. YOUR CUSTOMER
The next step is to identify who your ideal client is so you can market your artwork in the most effective way possible. Start by answering these questions:
What age group or income level can afford your pieces?
What are your client’s goals and how does your art help the client achieve them?
Where do your customers buy art?
Where do these buyers live, travel, or hang out?
What are their hobbies? Attitudes? Style? Interests?
What type of buyers understand your work?
Why do your clients buy art?
What connection can you find between you, your art, and your buyers?
What kind of marketing would reach them best (word of mouth, email, social media)?
With these answers, you can set up a well thought out plan of attack for your art marketing strategy. You can go where your buyers go, form important relationships, and know exactly how to talk with them confidently about buying your artwork.
3. YOUR COMPETITORS
Much like understanding your target customer, you can’t dive into the art business world without understanding the rest of the art market—and that means who you are competing with.
Take the time to research other artists that are similar to you. Do they have great connections in the art world? Do they need better photos of their artwork? What are their prices like? Figuring out both their strengths and weaknesses can help you develop a plan for your own art business and gain a competitive advantage.
4. YOUR FINANCES
Like any business, you are going to have expenses. But, they don’t have to eat up your hard earned profits if you plan for them ahead of time! In this section of the art business plan, write down the costs of everything you can think of, from supplies to renting studio space.
Once you’ve created your itemized list, you will need to formulate a plan on how you are going to pay for everything at the start of your art business. Do you have savings built up? Do you need to apply for an artist grant? How many pieces do you need to sell to cover all of your costs? Is crowdfunding a good option for you?
The answers to those previous questions about funding will get you thinking about how much you need to charge for each piece to actually make a living as an artist. Check out “How to Price Consistently for Art Sales Success” to learn more about different pricing methods.
5. YOUR MARKETING
Based on the profile of your ideal buyer, settle on the exact marketing strategy that complements your art business. Think about which of these art marketing outlets you should use: social media, email newsletters, art fairs, galleries, blogging, etc.
B. Where to Sell
Whether you target physical galleries, sell online, network within artist associations, or rely on a mixture of opportunities, determine where your potential customers will have the most eyes on your art.
C. Your Story
The next step is to write down your story as an artist. This is one of the most important steps because it’s how you can form a worthwhile connection with your possible collectors. Write your artist statement by answering these 5 questions art buyers have about you.
6. YOUR PROCESS
List out every single step of your art business workflow, from creation to sale. This will help you truly understand how long the process takes and how you should plan your schedule.
Plus, it’s a handy document to refer back to it in case you get stuck on what to do next! Here’s an example of what your process could look like:
Share work-in-progress pictures on social
Take photos of finished artwork
List piece and details on Artwork Archive
Put piece up on personal website
Share on social media
Submit artwork to upcoming show
Print invoice for sale
Record sale in Artwork Archive