Today I am talking about one of my favourite subjects: putting together a Business Plan For Artists. It’s almost a given that a good percentage of people reading this won’t have any type of plan, business or otherwise. Even if you’ve set some Goals that’s just the start, you now have to plan how you will actually achieve them.

For this you will need a simple but effective Business Plan. And of course not just any type of plan, but a Business Plan For Artists. Although based on the same general formula, I have tweaked it to fit this specialised market.

One of the biggest mistakes artists make (and many other small businesses too), is not creating an active Business Plan.

I also presume that if you are reading my blog, you are also passionate about making a living from your art or creativity? So once you have an understanding of what you need to do, and break it down into simple bite-sized chunks, it then becomes a whole lot easier.

Here Is My Simple 6-Step Business Plan For Artists:

Step One: Start With Your Life Goals.

I like to start by asking what my Life Goals are: what I want my life as a whole to look like, where I want to live and with of course with whom. This creates a nice base on which to work.

Here I would also set a really Big Goal and even create a large Vision Board to have up in my studio space. To serve as a daily reminder of where I am headed. It’s also very important to fully associate yourself with your end goal. How will you know when you’ve got there? Allow yourself to dream in full colour the sights, sounds, tastes and smells, as well as how you will feel when you’ve achieved it.

Ask yourself this question: What will it take for me to get there?

For example: Your goal is to have your own Arts Centre, gallery and café space somewhere hot and sunny in 3 years time.

Asking what it will take gives you some chunky stepping-stones on which to build. You might need to raise some funds, find a location, find business partners or a group of people to help, have regular sell-out shows, create a large following online etc.

Step Two: How Are You Funding This?

The next step, whatever your Goal, is to fully work out your finances (starting at home). Most businesses go bust due to cash-flow issues (and yes if you want to make a living from your art, then you are a business). Make sure you know your required breakeven.

For example: You need $2,000 p.m. to cover all your outgoings at home.

So ideally before you start out, make some decisions on how you will structure your money. You’ll want to fund yourself for the first 6-12 months, before needing to take an income from your business.

Here are some options*:

  • Existing income, either yours or a partner’s.
  • Part-time or full-time job.
  • Maybe you have some savings.
  • Or you borrow some capitol.
  • Leveraging credit cards can also work.

*Please note these are educational suggestions, as I am not authorised to give you financial advice – so please seek out an expert to assist you if needed.

Whatever option you use, you must have a full business plan in place to show how you will do this. So next work out, or estimate your business expenses (paints, canvas, exhibitions, website etc.)

Example: You need $1,500 p.m. for your business expenses.

Now I like to add in an extra amount for cash flow and extras: so you’re total required each month is: $4,000 or $5,000 p.m. in Year One.

Now you have your financial basics done, you can work on how you will get there.

Step Three: Your Business Basics:

Now you’ll want to take some time to work down this list, do some online research and compile everything into a Word/Excel document.

  • Your market (For example: luxury or collectables).
  • Your niche/USP (What makes you stand out).
  • Your ICA (Your Ideal Customer Avatar).
  • Your products and services (For example: acrylic abstract canvases).
  • Your competitors (Do the research online).
  • Your keywords (What people type into Google to find your work).
  • Your business model (For example: offline, original art only, bought via a gallery; or fully online business selling artwork and prints via various websites).
  • SWOT (Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats).

Step Four: Big Picture Planning:

OK so this is how I do things, and it’s been the most effective way that I’ve done over the many years I’ve been in business. Take an A1 sheet of paper and divide it roughly into four.

With coloured pens write in answers to the following:

  • Quarterly targets (artwork sold, new galleries, workshop created, customer list growth etc.).
  • What’s important in each quarter? (Maybe it’s to develop a new collection or style, enter a competition etc.).
  • Income goal (yes it’s the money).
  • How many (For example: 2 x original paintings at $X, or 100 prints at $x).
  • Focus (what is my focus on that quarter, maybe I’m going to write a book, get my Etsy shop ready etc.).
  • Events (list out any art fairs, gallery openings you have on).
  • Milestones (anything else that is of particular importance).

Having done this, you may want to just cast your eyes over everything and make sure you can physically do what you’ve written down. Sometimes we over-estimate what we can achieve in a month or quarter, but under-estimate what we could achieve in 3 years.

Step Five: Sales & Marketing:

Now it’s time to work out how you will get there, in terms of your sales and marketing plan. Write out the answers to each of these:

  • What activity? (Facebook Ads, YouTube videos, Email Marketing, Pinterest, PR and Newspapers…)
  • When will this get done? (When exactly will you do all this, 2 hours in the morning every day…)?
  • By whom? (Will you be doing all the marketing, or can you delegate?)
  • Results and tracking (keep a record of where each of your buyers come from, so you can see what is working and what isn’t).

Now this is a MASSIVE subject, and I tackle each piece and break it all down into bite-sized chucks.

Step Six: Massive Action:

Lastly, it’s all about taking daily, consistent action towards your goals. Now you have a rough road map to help you get there. You’ll find things will change along the way, that’s ok, just alter the plan to fit and keep focussed forwards.

I recommend working to a rough timetable in the week if at all possible. Now I know we don’t want to kill the creative flow. But I find doing a blog a day very first thing in the morning, followed by 30 minutes of Social Media is a good chunk to get done, then moving into the studio, or on to coaching clients if that’s what I have that week.

Whatever and however you work your business plan for artists, I hope you’re inspired to take the time to get this done. I promise you will see the benefits.

Please post your comments or questions below.