15 TIPS TO START YOUR ART BUSINESS January 22, 2016 – Posted in: For Artists – Tags: , , , , , , ,

After years of going from gallery to gallery, schlepping my portfolio around and getting rejection after rejection, I decided to call it quits.

I stopped. I quit. I threw all of my artwork into the trash and was done.

And that lasted about 2 weeks.

I came back to my senses and remembered that I created artwork because it is what I love to do. I didn’t create artwork to sell it.

That may seem like an obvious statement and almost every artist I know will say the same exact thing but for some reason a light bulb went off. It was a big, bright, fluorescent light bulb. For the first time I really understood that you must draw a line between the time you spend creating art and the time you spend trying to sell your art. The bigger the divide between the two, the better off you will be. Both, in the studio and out of it.


Once I separated these two clearly in my head, I was able to get back into the studio and start working again. That should be the end of the story, right? Not quite.

This clear, mental separation led me to another turning point. The realization that the art world is simply a business. The galleries that rejected me, did so, because they were just watching out for their business. They have bills to pay, salaries to pay, mouths to feed, etc… For whatever the reason, my artwork was not going to help them do these things.

I knew what I had to do.

I had to create my own business.

So, Where Am I Going With This?

This article is not about the “art” part of this story. It is about the “business” part of this story. Quite simply, your art as a business.

On a very regular basis I am asked by other artists for advice on how to navigate a particular facet of selling artwork. The underlying message of all my answers is, “If you want to sell your artwork, you must start treating it like a business and not a hobby.”

Again, this too might seem obvious but if you are an artist who invests a lot of yourself into your work, this idea borders on blasphemy.

Trust me, you will be OK and so will your art.



I thought you might be interested to see a shot of my whiteboard. This helps me keep track of what I need to be doing when it comes to the business side of things.



1.) Throw away all your preconceived ideas about the art world. It doesn’t exist to most of us.

2.) Come to the clear realization that you can sell you artwork and retain your integrity.

3.) Be social! Create your Artist Facebook Page. (Read this for help with that.)

4.) Create an Instagram account.

5.) Create a mailing list. (Read this for help with that.)

6.) Setup methods to receive payments. You can’t sell your art if you can’t collect payments. It is essential to have both PayPal and either Square or Stripe. I am currently using all three. I mainly use Square for all of my invoicing needs. All major credit cards are accepted. There are still quite a few people who want to pay with PayPal, so you will want to be able to accommodate them. Stripe is necessary if you want to use the Facebook shop feature.

7.) Connect a debit / credit card to your Facebook account. This will make it possible for people to pay for artwork directly through Facebook.

8.) Create an online store. It is much easier to sell your art if you have a place for people to buy it. You can always get started quickly and easily with sites like Etsy. There are a ton of different options for this. (There is a whole other article on this topic coming soon.)

9.) Look for all the ways that you can cut your costs. This may be seem obvious but it is worth repeating. How much you make is the difference between what you spend and what you earn. If you can cut 10% of your expenses, you just made 10% more.

10.) Re-invest a % of your sales back into your art business. I bolded that for a reason. This is the most overlooked thing by artists. However, you must do it. Commit to a % and stick with it. Remember, you are trying to change your mindset from being a hobbyist to running a business. Every business has to do this to survive and so do you as an artist. Put a % aside for supplies, office materials, a new printer, scanner, camera, software, etc…

11.) Recycle your packaging materials. Packaging materials are expensive! I do almost all my shopping online. I keep all the boxes and packaging materials from those orders. Heck, my basement looks like a warehouse for Amazon boxes. (Sidenote, don’t be afraid to put a call out to your friends for packaging material. We all know people who shop online and they just toss that stuff out.)

12.) Learn how to archive your artwork. If have smaller work, scan it. If it is larger, get good photos of your work. Getting good copies of your artwork, is the first step to being able to produce your own prints. Here is a link to the tools that I use to archive my work. Producing your own prints is much more profitable than outsourcing them.

13.) Don’t over pay for your supplies! Never pay full price. (see #9 above) Hunt around online for the best deals. Michael’s always has a 40% off deal. Need 3 things. Make three purchases. This probably seems like overkill but if you are just starting out, you need to save wherever you can.

14.) Never pay for shipping. You can almost always find free shipping at the major art supply websites. They are always running deals. Join their mailing lists and wait for the free shipping deal before ordering. Also, some sites have deals like, “Spend $59 and get free shipping.” I always wait to order supplies in bulk so, I can take advantage of these deals. Better to pay for supplies than to pay for shipping.

15.) Compare prices at all online stores. Different online stores price things very different. One store might have a better deal on canvases while another might have a better deal on brushes and paints.

Go forth and make art!

We both know that there is so much more to it than those 15 tips. Hopefully, these are some tips to get you thinking and get you off the ground. It takes time and it takes work. Now, go forth and make art! The world needs you!




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