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5 Things to do Before Starting Your Fine Art Painting Business

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Why should you think about these things? Because thinking about your art making/selling like a business can change not only the work you are creating but what you can charge for it and the ease in which you can sell it. We all want things to be easy!

I know – I know… You could just sell an occasional painting for cash and never take any of the following advice, but you could kick yourself at the end of the year for not doing things differently too (or next year). So, take a little advice from someone who has done things and then kicked themselves! LOL

Paint Brush in one hand and a computer in the other

Here they are - the five things you should do BEFORE starting your fine art business...

  1. Have a dedicated workspace for painting and an office space.

  2. Speak to an accountant to understand how to optimize for taxes.

  3. Consider your business name.

  4. At the very minimum get a DBA.

  5. Set up a checking account for your business and get a method for collecting debit & credit cards.

Hi, I'm Tonya, I've been painting for almost 50years and operating a fine art business for nearly 30years. I didn't always do it "right" because I didn't know how, and I didn't know what I didn't know. Back then there wasn't Google to help us out either!!

I basically winged it. When I discovered that I was doing something "wrong" I fixed it and moved on. Yet I knew a lot of artists that let "not knowing how" cripple their ability to earn a living with their art. Fortunately for you I'm willing to share what I've learned and shorten your learning curve.

All you have to do read on, learn, and don't allow anything you read or learn to stop you from moving forward because everything is figuroutable!

Tip #1 - Have a dedicated workspace for painting and an office space.

If you want a hobby in painting, you can do it any

way you want. Pack it in a closet and pull it out when you are full of enough excitement and paint a little. Here is the thing though if you think you’d like to build a career as a painter. You need a dedicated workspace.

Have you ever had an idea, grabbed your painting supplies from the closet, set it all up, then lost the essence of that idea? Let’s switch that up a bit. Have you ever had the enthusiasm to paint something, grabbed your painting supplies from the closet, set it all up, then lost the inspiration to paint? Or how about this one? Have you ever had someone ask you paint something for them and had to get all your supplies out to get started and then had to set it all in corner when it came time to put dinner on that same table you paint at?

If you have a dedicated workspace for your painting, you are ready to get started when you have an idea, the enthusiasm, or a commission. It doesn’t have to be a whole room. I could be an easel with a Taboret table next to it in the corner of the dining room, a kitchen nook, or in the basement.

In addition, I strongly recommend a dedicated space for “office” work. Remember that marketing your art is going to take as much if not more of your time than painting. So have some sort of file folder or cabinet and a desk or table for your computer.

Tip #2 - Speak to an accountant to understand how to optimize for taxes.

Notice that I said speak to an accountant, not hire an accountant. This is an important step to take if you want to go from hobby painter to professional painter. But before you do, you should take some time to consider what you want from this business.

Are you wanting to add a little extra income to your bank account? Are you wanting to make a living from this adventure or are you wanting to create an empire? What you want will determine the questions you should ask and the answers that you’ll get.

Here are some questions you might ask:

  1. What business structure do they recommend: Sole Proprietor, Partnership, LLC., S-Corp, C-Corp?

  2. Do you need a business plan? An account can help you determine financial risk, startup costs, operating costs and if you need financing, can help you create a business plan.

  3. What is the best way for you to manage your bookkeeping?

  4. What records should you keep and what can be considered an expense?

  5. What do you need to do to be compliant with tax laws and regulations.

  6. How will this business impact my personal finances?

  7. At what point in your business life should you meet with them again?

Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical. - Claude Bissell

Tip #3 - Consider your business name.

Your business name matters and should be considered at length. Once you choose a name, you’ll want to stick with it. Every bit of marking you do will have this name on it. Which means that if you change it all your marketing efforts are wasted, and you’ll have to begin again. Your time is the most valuable asset you have, make it count!

What’s in a name? Way more than you can imagine. Don’t get cute or silly with it. Make sure it’s easy to understand what you do. For example, if you are a wildlife artist, consider using the word wildlife, wildlife art, or wildlife artist.

Consider your long-term goal here too. Are you wanting a little extra cash flow? Or are you building an empire? Will your business name convey a mom-and-pop shop, a specialty shop, or will it convey a big box store?

Tip #4 - At the very minimum get a DBA.

At the very minimum you’ll need a DBA (Doing Business As). A DBA can give your business added credibility, especially for sole proprietors who don't want to use their own name. It helps separate you from your business and gives you a name you can use to market your business.

If you plan to remain a sole proprietor (not recommended if you plan on building an empire!) I can recommend that you use something like “Yourlastname Art” “Yourlastname FineArt” “Yourlastname Studio”. Or if you have a specialty like I mentioned before, maybe you go with “Sam’s Wildlife Art”.

Here are some reasons why you would want to do this:

  1. Your DBA allows you to set up a business checking account.

  2. The name you choose cannot be used by anyone else in your county.

  3. You can eventually use it to create your LLC. (no one else in your state can use it)

  4. It makes you more professional.

Tip #5 - Set up a checking account for your business and get a method for collecting debit & credit cards.

You might not realize why setting up a checking account for your business is so important. So let me explain. You want to make it very clear that you are not your business!

Setting up a separate account for your business separates your personal dollars from your business dollars. Even if you are a sole proprietor (or especially if you are a sole proprietor = those who most often fail at this). Separate your money.

Your business bookkeeping needs to clear and if you are mingling the funds with your personal dollars’ things getting very muddy. Your tax preparer, your bookkeeper or accountant, your lawyer, and the IRS will not like that at all. Let them explain to you further why this is so important, so again, make sure you speak with someone prior to getting started.

Once you have a checking account dedicated to your business income and expenditures, find a method for collecting debit & credit card payments that link straight to this new account. This method should also only be used for your business income. Don’t use any account or method that you have been using for accepting or submitting personal funds.

Keep your business “clear” of personal dollars.

In Short

If you have already been selling a few paintings, started thinking of yourself as professional, and/or basically have started a new fine art painting business and you skipped any of these steps. Start right now and do them. Do them ALL (or mark your calendar for when you will do them).

Get these things completed ASAP and then For More Fine Art Painting Marketing and Business tips JOIN my FREE Facebook Group Today!

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