Artist Kick Start – The First Baby Steps to Launching a Career as an Artist

So here we are, venturing out into a new world as a self-employed artist. In order to do this right, there’s some business we need to take care of, since this is not just a creative adventure, but eventually, hopefully revenue-producing as well.

Now you all should know that I did try this once before, right out of college, with zero business or marketing skills and a lot of really ridiculous notions of how it might all work. I did mostly commissioned portraits in oil.  I think I did several pets and maybe a few people. And it was fun! But it definitely wasn’t lucrative. Eventually I got a real job, which lead to more real jobs, and lots of great experiences.  Now, over a decade later, I find myself in a position to be able to try making the art thing work again, and although my skills are decidedly rusty in this arena, I do have some business and marketing skills.

So  where do we begin? I’ll break down my process as I’m getting started. Without further ado, here are the baby steps I’ve taken to get this thing off the ground.

  1. Research, research, research.  What type of art am I going to market with? Is there a need or want for my product? Who is my target market? Who is my competition? What is my value proposition (speed, quality, price, service, availability, flexibility, customization, etc)? Do I have a legitimate way to monetize your product?
  2. Write up a business plan. Whew, this one kicked my butt. I mean, this is good enough, right?
    – Step 1: Make art
    – Step 2: ?????
    – Step 3: PROFIT
    I kid. There are a ton of resources on how to develop your business plan. I’ll leave this one here: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s guide to writing up your business plan.
  3. Come up with a business name. 
    In my case, I’m using my legal name. I did consider something more catchy and fun, but ultimately I do want to be known as me, so I kept it simple. Otherwise I have a bit of a secondary brand over on Etsy with my Unprimed Canvas shop. Some considerations may be: Is the business name you want available? In my state (Minnesota), you can check via the state’s Business Record Search.
  4. Decide what type of business you want to form.
    There are several types of businesses you can register as: Sole Proprietor, Limited Liability Company, Corporation, Doing Business As (DBA), etc. For my purposes, I’m keeping it simple and starting with a Sole Proprietorship. Later I can change that if it seems like the right idea. (You can find more info on the differences at legal help sites like NOLO or LegalZoom.)
  5. Register a federal tax ID number/employer identification number (EIN).
    This is pretty easy! Go  to the IRS Tax ID (EIN) Application website. You’ll see a few options, and it provides basic info on what you can do with a Tax ID number. It’ll walk you through the steps, and you can either have your information mailed to you or print it off immediately.

6. Use your new EIN to open a business bank account and/or credit card. This is to help you start tracking your business expenses.  And for that matter, you might want to look into expense tracker apps, or at the very least enter and date all your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet and save relevant receipts.  Things like your art supplies, Creative Cloud subscription, website fees, and anything else you spend on your business are things that can be claimed as business expenses on your taxes. (I’m guessing i’ll do a full post about this sometime in the future).

and so on and so forth. There are plenty of other considerations, but this list seemed like a good place to get a solid start.

Et voila, the doodle of the day.

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