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Owning an Arts Based Business

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Owning an Arts Based Business

Lise Spence-Parsons

This is a re-post of an article I wrote about six years ago for an online publication. It's still as relevant today!

It’s funny how many people look at us crafters and say……..”ohhhhh I’d love to be you and not work any more?”

I always nod sagely and stifle a giggle, if only they knew how much work is involved to run your business successfully and correctly.  I’ve never worked so hard, until I stepped into this mad world.  Yes, it’s fun and yes I do get to stay home, but it’s a 100% commitment job and you never know if the pay check will hit or not……

I’m lucky, this is not my main source of income, as I know my business will never pay the bills and as for food, I would be boiling the beads for supper!

But what are the steps for running a business?

Firstly, I would suggest doing some exploratory work, what do you want to make and design to sell?  What are you good at?  What do you think will sell? Where and how do you intend to sell your work?

Then, you need to think of a name for your business, register that name with your state and then buy up some domain names for future use.  All this costs hard cash, so to my next point.

Financing, do you have start up capital?  Where do you get that much needed cash from?  A bank? Your own private money?  Friends?  Venture capital?  A Kickstart program?  Perhaps all the above.?  It’s complex and depending on how much you need, will determine where you go for that cash.  Whatever you chose you will probably require a business plan.

Again, on the financial front, you will need to keep books for your own benefit and to be able to fill in your tax documents at the end of the year and pay the correct amounts over to the IRS and state.  You will also probably need a business license and a sales tax number to make sales in your state (especially if doing large art fairs).  You will also need all these documents to get a business bank account – a must so that your financials are kept separate from personal monies.

Another biggie, is insurance, you should be insured against all kinds of losses and potential law suits.  What if something you made, hurt someone and they sued you?  What if your canopy flies up in high winds and hits a person or property? You must protect yourself and your business.

So, once you have all this in place, you can begin making your items.  So you have something finished, now to sell it? So, you will need to photograph it and list somewhere online to sell.  So, you need a good camera, lights and a steady hand or tripod, some photo enhancing software and a gift with words to write your description.   

Learn about pricing and costing items and work out how much you need to break even, whilst bearing in mind what others are selling comparable items for presently.  Remember not to under price your work. It's a highly emotive subject and extremely difficult to get right, price too high and your product my be noncompetitive;  price to low and you will soon run into cash flow issues.

Now for the marketing part of your new chosen career, join some teams, and learn about social media,, collect emails and send out newsletters to potential customers.  Hope for views on your items and maybe a sale.   Get business cards printed and hand those all the time too.  At social gatherings, don’t be shy and sell yourself short, when people ask you what you do, do not belittle what you do, speak up and call yourself a designer or artist. That in truth is what you are or striving to be, so tell the truth and be proud and then hand them a card!

Now, don’t forget, as you make items, you are using up your supplies, so you will need to replenish those at the best prices you can, to maximize profits.  So, spend time looking for deals and use your sales tax number to maybe get tax free buys in supply shops, it all adds up.

So whilst you are doing all this you are supposed to be designing new ideas and concepts, so yes, I just smile and nod sagely at those people who say “I’d love not work and be you!”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”
— William Shakespeare