Who doesn’t want to do something they love every day and get paid for it? That’s the dream – we all want to wake up, excited to get to work on something we’re passionate about.
There’s always a chance you’ll find a job you love out in the corporate world, but creative souls like us aren’t always content with just love what we do…we want to be passionate about what we do!
Because of that desire to create passionately, there’s a natural thought that pops up sometime in your journey as an artist: “should I start an art business”?
In this edition of Pour it Out, we’re going to look at when you’ll know you’re ready to start your own art business and why you need to make sure you’re really ready!
Can I Make Money as an Artist?
Yes, but also, no. Like anything, being a professional artist requires a lot of commitment and tough skin; you’re going to realize pretty quickly that constant compliments turn to criticism pretty quickly when you start to ask for money for your work instead of giving it away for free.
You need to be extremely dedicated in order to be an artist. Being a professional artist means you need to:
- Practice your techniques and perfect them
- Source affordable art supplies that art still quality
- Network with other artists so you can get support if you need it
- Figure out the logistics of setting up a virtual or physical storefront
- Apply for any licenses and register as a business in your state or country
- Understand what is needed to file small business taxes, because no matter whether you’re a part time side business or a mega-corporation, you still need to pay taxes on the money you make
If any of those things seem too overwhelming, the short answer is, you’re not ready to open an art business yet!
Once you’ve got all those steps under control, you need to figure out how to price your paintings; what is your time worth? Are you charging per square inch, or based on your time/effort/mood? Overpricing your art will repel customers, but underpricing will make you look cheap. There’s a happy medium in there, and in order to find it, you need to research your particular market (local or digital) and find out where you belong.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Profitable Artist?
Realistically? A while. There is a legit reason why the phrase “starving artist” exists; it’s not metaphorical. You aren’t going to make enough money to support yourself fresh out of the gate!
Unless you have a massive stroke of luck and everyone is lining up to buy your pieces, you should not expect to make enough money to live off of for a few years; This is the case for pretty much every business. Think of the bills you need to pay, and how much money you need to make to live comfortably.
Then, be honest with yourself – is your goal to just live comfortably? Probably not; You probably want to be able to grow financially with your business, which is reasonable! Now, suppose you were able to sell 15 pieces per month at an average of $75 apiece. That comes out to $13,500 per year. If that’s enough to sustain you, it’s not going to be enough to also buy art supplies and pay for your website or brick and mortar location.
This shouldn’t dissuade you from starting a business – but we believe in realism. In order to be a profitable artist, you have to be honest with yourself about the time you can commit, the money you have for supplies, and how much you can charge; Without having a real and true picture of all these things, you’ll quickly be in the red.
So, Where Do I Start?
If you want to start a business, don’t jump in head first. Start out slow and do a few things to get your business rolling; once it’s rolling to the point that you have a steady, somewhat dependable income from your business, THEN do some jumping!
- Make sure you’re a part of every related art group you can find. We might be a little bias, but we think our Acrylic Pouring group on Facebook is pretty great! In these groups, you’ll be able to network with fellow artists and pick up some new techniques along the way.
- Figure out who you are as an artist. What’s your niche? You’ve got to figure out what’s going to make you stand out in the crowd, and the way to do that is by connecting your art with something you’re passionate with. For example; If you love animals, maybe you’ll embellish your pours with painted animals, or if you like the ocean, you might add resin waves or seashells.
- Don’t cut corners. Produce pieces that you would buy. You can’t expect people to want to pay hundreds of dollars for a piece of artwork that you yourself wouldn’t pay for.
Starting any business is intimidating if you’ve been working in the corporate world for awhile. It seems exciting to be your own boss, and it is! But you have to have the discipline to keep a realistic budget, while being open to new creative opportunities.
With time, effort, and a little bit of crying, you can definitely become a profitable artist; the question is, do you have the passion to push through the obstacles that come your way? We believe in you!
If you haven’t yet, make sure to join our Facebook Group so you can network with other artists – many of them have their own businesses and love answering questions about logistics.
Sara Wagner is an author and artist from Upstate New York. She is the owner of Studio Blackwater and can typically be found covered in paint, cats, or her two young daughters. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram as @studioblackwater.