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1. How to start an art business step-by-step

How to start an art business: A beginner's guide to success

Have your dreams of becoming a professional artist always been hindered by the fact that you have no idea how to break into the art world?  Maybe you're afraid of becoming a "starving artist" or feel like the glory days of art ended with the Renaissance.

But the truth is that as long as there are blank walls in the world, there will always be customers in search of great artwork. If you feel ready to get your art in front of viewers beyond your own family members or visitors at local art fairs, then it may be time to take your art career to the next level.

You'll quickly discover that turning your talent into money doesn't always have to mean starting your own art gallery or selling obscenely priced paintings to wealthy art collectors. If you are able to achieve either, then more power to you!

But here, we'll focus on how to start an art business online by partnering with a print on demand (POD) company like Gelato. POD suppliers make it possible to sell prints of your artwork on anything from canvases and posters to phone cases and clothing, all without ever having to purchase any merchandise until it's already been sold.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Partnering with a print on demand service is an easy way to start selling your art online.

  • By selling prints of your artwork, you can enjoy selling the same piece to multiple customers all over the world.

  • Print on demand services like Gelato also makes it possible to offer your art on everything from apparel to phone cases.

  • When a customer places an order, we'll print your design on the desired products and even take care of order fulfillment.

How to start an art business step-by-step

start an art business

These days, there are many ways to start an art business, from selling art in coffee shops and at art shows to creating art for children's books or greeting cards. The business plan we're going to look at today involves using a print on demand provider to sell your artwork to multiple clients.

Here's a quick overview of how it works:

  • You create your brilliant artwork as usual, whether it be a painting, drawing, or digital design. As long as it can be reproduced as a print, the sky's the limit.

  • Once your piece is complete, you'll want to find a way to turn it into a digital file, assuming it isn't one already. Taking a high-quality photograph or a scan of your work are two of the easiest options.

  • Upload your designs to your POD supplier account and choose which products you'd like to give customers a chance to have them printed on.

  • Connect your POD supplier account to your website or other online storefronts, where you'll announce which products are available for sale and at what prices.

  • Each time customers place an order, your POD provider will take care of printing your design on the chosen product and shipping it to the buyer for a percentage of your profits.

By cutting out the need for inventory management or order fulfillment, POD makes starting an art business a simple process. You get to stay focused on making art and bringing in potential buyers while your POD partner handles the rest.

Another cool perk is that you can sell your artwork to multiple clients instead of selling paintings or designs one by one. If you do have a piece that becomes incredibly popular, it will likely only increase the value of the original, which you can always sell if you choose.

1. Define your niche

The first step towards starting a business of any sort is to decide which niche you plan to focus on. For artists, a great deal of niche selection will come down to things like the subjects or nature of your artwork, as well as your unique style.

For instance, do you want to focus on digital art, illustrative drawings, paintings, or mixed media? Does your work tend to focus on nature, animals, cityscapes, or any other unifying theme?

Narrowing down your art style and the themes featured in your work can provide helpful clues when it comes to finding your target audience. Your target audience, aka target market, is essentially the type of people who are the most likely to buy your art.

Understanding your audience is a foundational part of learning how and where to market to them. It can also lead to inspiration when it comes to the type of art your customers might like to see in the future.

2. Develop your brand

brand development

Part of launching a successful art business is creating a unique look and identity for your brand - both of which should be right up your alley as an artist! Come up with a unique and memorable business name, and use your skills to create a sleek logo.

Consider the type of color scheme you want to use for your branding carefully, and select a few key colors that complement each other well. Then spend some time thinking about the type of personality you want to infuse into your new business.

3. Obtain a business license

In order to become a professional artist, you'll want to look into any licenses or permits that may be required by your state. Requirements vary from state to state, so your best bet is to visit the website of your local clerk or courts or the Department of Revenue site for your state.

Even the IRS website can provide helpful tips and tricks when it comes to licensing requirements and expenses that you can use as deductions. At this point, you may be wondering if this step is really necessary.

The answer isn't always an easy one and depends on how much money you intend to make as an artist. Many artists don't bother with it when they are first starting out and are just selling a few paintings here and there.

But if you do go on to launch a successful art business, it's important to make sure you make things legit for your own protection. The good news is that it's actually pretty easy to establish yourself as an LLC or sole proprietor online.

Sites like LegalZoom and Zen Business make it easy to choose the best type of license for your art business and get set up within minutes. Online banks like Oxygen even offer to help you establish your own LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp alongside your new business bank account.

No matter which resource you use, you will want to set up a business banking account that you keep separate from your personal expenses. This will make things a lot easier when tax season rolls around.

4. Find a print on demand service

POD service

If you've chosen to incorporate the print on demand model into your business plan, then it's time to find a great supplier that you can depend on. When vetting potential POD suppliers, you'll want to consider things like:

  • Do they offer a wide variety of high-quality products?

  • Where are they based, and what locations do they ship to?

  • Do they offer reasonable pricing?

  • Do they have integrations that can easily connect to your own website or online store?

  • What type of customer service options do they provide?

At Gelato, we work hard to ensure that we check all the right boxes when it comes to high-quality materials, fast shipping, and dependable customer service. We work with over 130 local producers in 32 different countries to ensure that we can create and ship your products to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

5. Create your art products

Now comes the fun part - deciding what products you want to feature your artwork on. You'll quickly discover that it's possible to showcase your art on a large range of different products, from traditional wall art to apparel.

Here's an overview of some of the many products that artists who partner with Gelato can choose from:

Wall art

One of the most obvious choices for artists is selling wall art.  At Gelato, we can print your work anything from traditional canvas to aluminum, wood, or a variety of different posters.

If you want to go all out, you can even come up with your own wallpaper designs. We can turn your work into anything from silk wallpaper to peel-and-print wallpaper.

Photo books, cards, and calendars

Offering photo books that feature a large collection of work make a great addition to any art website. Choose from hard or soft-cover books filled with your favorite pieces.

Offering your work on things like greeting cards and calendars can also be a fun way to offer your customers inexpensive options for customized gifts. They can also be a great choice for drawings or smaller works.

Customized apparel and accessories

Depending on your target audience, you might also consider working other key products into your business plan. At Gelato, we can print your artwork on a full range of high-quality products, including:

Not only do we offer plenty of different products, but we also have several different materials and colors to choose from. Don't be afraid to get creative and develop as many or as few options as you like, risk-free.

6. Choose a sales channel

choosing sales channel

There are now a variety of different ways to sell your art online, from creating your own artist website to selling on ecommerce platforms or online marketplaces. Gelato offers easy integrations that can connect your POD account to a number of different sales channels, such as Etsy, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, and more.

When making your selection, be sure to take into account any subscription costs or profit percentages that your sales channel may charge. Remember, the key to becoming a successful artist is to make sure you set your prices in a range that allows you to cover any overhead charges.

Just make sure you don't go overboard and set your prices too high. Checking out the stores of other artists in your niche can give you a good idea of what price ranges are considered reasonable.

Once you've connected your POD supplier account to your chosen sales channel, take some time to customize your site or store to align with your brand. Then set up your payment processing and shipping options, along with a clear refund and return policy.

Now upload high-quality images of your products in all their glory! Most artists order at least one sample of every product they intend to sell, both to make sure they look perfect in person and so that they can photograph them for marketing and sales purposes.

Be sure you also help your customers avoid surprises by including detailed descriptions of each product in your store. Using relevant keywords in your product titles is also a good way to increase the odds that your products will enjoy a higher rank on search engines.

7. Establish and promote your art business

Now it's time to launch your successful career by promoting your products online! In the long run, establishing and maintaining a strong presence online is one of the most important keys to attracting potential customers.

Make sure your art business has a dedicated page on the social media sites that your target audience uses the most. Tap into your inner content creator to engage with your followers through regular posts and take the time to network with other artists and influencers in your niche.

It's never a bad idea to create business cards featuring your social media handles to hand out at craft shows, art fairs, and anywhere else people are buying art. Participating in such events can be a fun way to promote your products and meet potential customers.

Creating an email list can also be a great way to promote your artwork, as well as share news about new designs or special sales. Running discounts, BOGO sales, or other promos from time to time can also be a helpful way to drum up extra business.

Make a profit from your own art business

Ready to take your art practice to the next level? Sign up for a free Gelato account today to explore what's possible!

By partnering with Gelato, you can enjoy selling art prints and other products featuring your work without having to worry about keeping up with inventory or shipments. Our customer service team and production partners are standing by to help you turn your art into a new stream of income.

Art business FAQs

What do you need to start an art business?

Much like art itself, there are an endless number of approaches when it comes to starting an art business. Integrating print on demand into your business plan can be an excellent way to reach a larger audience and make more money from your work.

To get started, you'll need a reliable POD supplier, high-quality art designs, a selling platform, and a solid marketing strategy. You'll also want to research whether there are any legal requirements to start an art business in your area and keep good records of any business-related expenses.

Can you sell art as a beginner?

Absolutely. Even if you are a first-time artist with no major contacts in the art business, it's still possible to set up your own small business and start selling your work online.

Consider following professional artists on social media and visiting their websites for inspiration. The internet has made networking easier than ever before, so don't hesitate to reach out to online art communities for tips and advice.


Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato