Artist business owner: how to start an art business from home part time

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If producing art is your passion, could you turn your hobby into a home-based art business? This article explores what to consider when changing from an amateur artist into an artist business.

Many people look for new ways to make money, boost their income and change their lifestyle through a part-time business.

Now could be a perfect time for creative artists to make money by starting a business and turning their hobby or interest into a thriving small business.

What is the difference between art and crafts?

While both art and crafts are creative artistic pursuits, art is a unique way of emotional expression through media.

In visual art, the media could be oil paints on canvas, watercolours on paper or perhaps an image on a screen.

Original art is a unique and innate expression from the artist through an artistic medium.

Crafts are also artistic; however, their finished form is a physical product.

Craft products can, therefore, be easily reproduced.

The definition of artist for this article is someone who produces: 

  • drawings 
  • paintings
  • printmaking
  • sculpture 
  • collage 

Artists use a wide variety of techniques, tools, materials, and substrates to make their “creative products or services”.

artist palette and brush for self employed artist

Is printmaking an art?

Printmaking is the name given to creating artwork using a printing process. Printmaking uses a lithographic, an intaglio or a relief printing plate to transfer ink from the plate to a substrate. Mono-colour or multi-colour prints can be produced by multi-pass printing. 

The printmaking process encompasses a spectrum of printing machine designs and sizes. Multi-colour prints are made by passing the substrate through the machine multiple times with different printing plates.

Highly artistic printmaking is due to many variables such as the hand preparation of printing plates, the choice of inks, the hand-inking and substrate, which combine to generate a unique print.

Is sculpture an art form?

Sculpture is a three-dimensional visual art form that creates shapes through carving or shaping, modelling, casting or combining a wide range of substrates.

Classical or contemporary sculpture are broad descriptions within the art.

Are you an artist?

Amateur artists come from all walks of life, but they find their sense of purpose in creative expression. Artists and sculptors have a calling and passion to produce works that inspire or challenge others.

Artists may be innately gifted without any formal education.  While some learn through colleges or university to pursue art careers or an artist residency, others study for personal gratification.

Art camps and one-off classes also provide a means for hobby artists to learn and try new skills and techniques.

Some hobby artists might be active in internet forums, Facebook Groups or have their own Instagram or Pinterest accounts.

Artists may be members of art galleries or art societies and artist network groups who regularly attend opening nights at exhibitions.

In many cases, amateur enthusiasts do not have experience in owning a business although many aspire to being a self employed artist.

The home art studio and artist tools

As a hobbyist you may have a home studio space and you most likely have accumulated materials and artist tools such as: 

  • easel
  • brushes
  • canvases
  • pencils
  • sketchbooks
  • art paper
  • acrylic paints
  • watercolours
  • oil paints
  • gauche
  • pastels and crayons
  • inks
  • wood bonding adhesives, resins, lacquers and sealants
  • art or artist textbooks for inspiration

Most likely you keep your tools and materials in a space in your house or perhaps a shed that is a semi-permanent studio space.

Perhaps you work from photos, drawings or sketches or imagine images in your head.

You probably do one project at a time because of limited time or space.

The advantage of a home studio is that you have accumulated tools and materials and have some confidence to expand upon as you move to become a self employed artist.

What are the differences between an amateur artist and an artist in business? 

The key difference between being an amateur and a professional is fairly obvious. As a professional, running your own business, you need to make enough money to meet all of your financial needs. In this regard, it can be very difficult to make the move from amateur to professional.

If you have your heart set on the quick transition to full-time, some preparation will be required. Think carefully about how long it will take to build the business to the point where it can meet those financial needs. If you are not great with numbers, ask someone who is for help. You can’t afford to get this bit wrong!

If it appears the numbers may not work for you, an alternative might be to start a part-time or semi-professional business. That way your income is not wholly dependent on your the success of your new business.

The benefit of running your business on a part-time basis is the insight you will get from it. Chances are, after a relatively short period of time, you’ll have more clarity around the decision to move from amateur to full-time professional.

Another significant difference between operating as an amateur or a professional is how you allocate your time. Running your part-time or full-time artist studio will require you to spend time managing and growing your business, not just creating your body of work or portfolio. Allocating enough time to both running your business, and the artistic process, is crucial.

There are a lot of other things to think about

Becoming an artist in business may also necessitate a mindset shift on your part. There are a lot of things you’ll need to think about. Many of them may be quite new to you.

Here are just some examples;

  • What are the tax implications of starting a business for you?
  • Would you accept paid commissions?
  • Are there enough customers out there?
  • How would you tell the world you exist and make sales?
  • What prices would you charge and why? 
  • How would you work out your costs and gallery commissions to ensure you make enough money?
  • Are they any local government licences or restrictions that you must meet?
  • How would you get your work accepted into art galleries?
  • How much money will you need to start your business and how much will you need to make from it?
  • What would be the best legal structure for your business?
  • Do you need a website?

What changes might you need to make to your studio?

As a hobbyist or amateur artist, you might handle one project at a time which suits your studio floor area and your free time. 

However, to grow your business, and become an art business studio, you may need to ramp things up somewhat. Review things like:

  • upgrading to professional-grade materials, substrates and tools
  • de-cluttering and re-organising the studio to increase productivity and safety
  • a more significant studio area to cope with multiple projects or storage space so that you can build a body of work for an exhibition
  • a vehicle such as a van or trailer to move your body of work to art exhibitions or art galleries
  • the amount of natural lighting 
  • dust or fume extraction 
  • a fire prevention and escape plan
  • an organised storage area for materials such as paints, canvases, methylated spirits, turpentine or printing inks etc.
  • experimenting with new materials, substrates or techniques 

What things (other than creating art) does an artist business owner do?

  • maintain catalogs of finished artworks
  • regularly update their Artist Statement, Artist Bio, Artist resume or Artist CV.
  • market themselves consistently
  • accurately estimate the costs the business will incur 
  • set prices and work out gallery commissions for each piece
  • buy materials
  • create and maintain copyright terms and conditions
  • produce invoice and receipts for sales
  • work to deadlines  
  • bookkeeping
  • work health and safety
  • obtain any local government regulations, licences or certificates required to run a business
  • arrange and maintain Insurance for the studio, the artworks and third parties
  • produce an artist business model canvas (sorry for the pun)
  • write an artist business plan

Would you like being a professional artist and a small business owner?

This is a very difficult question that many would-be business owners struggle to answer. After all, how do you if you’ll like something you’ve never done before.

As discussed in this article, there are lots of things to do when you own and operate a business. And while you undoubtedly love producing your pieces of art, you may not enjoy all the tasks that a business owner must perform.

You may question if you can be both an artist and a business person. Are the personality, traits and mindset required too different? Can you be creative and focused on business management at the same time?

These are key questions you’ll need to work your way through. Where you sit in relation to these will provide you with some insight into whether you would ultimately enjoy running a business producing Art.

Being a small business owner and an artist is perfectly possible, but it isn’t necessarily easy.

Owning a successful small business requires many things to work in harmony, and it is vital to have a good understanding of them before you leap in. That’s why our Podcast tag line is “Listen Before You Leap!”

  • If you like the idea of owning your own business, the first question to answer is “Should I Own A Business?” The purpose of the Should I Own A Business Podcast, and our specially developed pathway is to help you answer this question.
  • There is some personal preparation that you can undertake that will greatly increase your chances of success. 
  • An episode that might help you is “Your Attitude To Money”.

How do you know whether being an artist in business is right for you?

Owning a business does not suit everybody. We created The Should I Own A Business Podcast to help people who are thinking of owning a business find out what it’s like.

The Should I Own A Business “Pathway” covers the essential things you should consider and how to prepare yourself to be successful.

Listen to episodes such as “You-360″ and “Understanding Your Motivation” which will help you work out if owning a business is right for you.

The Should I Own A Business Podcast explores the reality of being a business owner in plain language.

Here are some other resources you might find helpful:

Our free Entrepreneur Personality Quiz highlights areas you might need to prepare more before starting a business.

Episode 18 is Turning Your Hobby Into A Business which explains the “pressure of the customer”.

Written by Brendan Barrow
Brendan Barrow is the Co-Host of the Should I Own A Business Podcast. Brendan has a wealth of business experience across many different businesses and 3 continents.

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