Individuals starting out as entrepreneur visual artists need basic business survival skills. Organizations teaching visual art should consider including business survival skills as part of their curriculum.
Diversified ART is a free resource. There are businesses who sell information that is available for free through non-profit organizations. This is a simple guide to help you understand what the business of visual art entails.
- Purchasing Art Supplies Art supplies range in quality and price from student grade to professional (archival) grade. If you have a resale license you can buy bulk supplies at wholesale prices. Resale licenses are available through the state you live in.
- Marketing This is a full-time career in itself. Where to market your work involves a great deal of research. Digital photographs, websites, artist statements, and knowing the art market and your audience are just the beginning. Keep abreast of current trends in the local and global art markets.
- Framing Should you hire a professional framer or frame your own work? Framing is either archival or non-archival. You can cut the cost of framing in half by doing it yourself, but it is an acquired skill that takes time to learn. Where to buy frames, the style, mats, backboards, glass and how to assemble all need to be considered.
- Installation There may be times when you have to deliver and install your own artwork. Understanding how curators hang and arrange art will come in handy.
- Shipping Should you hire a packaging company or pack and ship your own work? Shipping art so it arrives safe and intact involves boxes, crates, packing materials and freight. Shipping overseas is more costly than domestic shipping.
- Commission This is the percentage a gallery or other organization gets from the sale of your work. This can range anywhere from 20% to 50% depending on the organization you’re dealing with. There are standard visual art contracts out there so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.
- One time fee vs. royalties Understand the difference between these when your work is going to be reproduced for someone else’s profit.
- Accounting Knowing basic bookkeeping skills to keep track of business expenses, deductions, self employment tax and retail licenses are important for IRS and state tax records.
- Copyright The U.S. copyright website has publications that explain how to copyright visual art. There are also links on our resources page that can help with this.
- Ethics Do not assume people or organizations share the same ethical standards as you. Use business contracts and check into the reputation of the organizations and individuals you deal with. Unfortunately there are predators who will exploit creativity, naivety, and disability. Understand your legal rights as an artist. We offer a list of non-profit organizations that can help with this. Also read Creativity & Making Positive Business Choices.
- Pricing There are a variety of pricing methods for visual art. Most importantly, set the price of your work after you figure in all the above time and expenses.
We maintain a list of non-profit organizations and links dedicated to helping visual artists with and without disabilities navigate the business aspects of art; all the organizations we list provide FREE information for artists.