Organizing and Managing The ‘business’ part of an Art Business

It would probably be truly amazing to art buyers, and even some artists themselves as to how much organization and ‘business’ stuff goes into an art business beyond making art. I thought I’d share a little insight into how I organize and run my business for those who are curious and offer up some tips how to set up a business for aspiring artists.

1.  Either use your own name or register for a DBA name (doing business as)  this protects from having another business take your name, especially after you may have put years into building it up.  Personally I’ve used my own name, as I figured I’d never want to change it.  Registering for a DBA is often done through the county, or in some cases the state.

2.  Apply for a vendor’s license.  This typically is done on a county level.  Look online or call the county up to obtain the necessary paperwork.  Fill it out, pay the fee, send it in and you’re all set.

3.  Get a system of financial organization set up.  Some people use Quicken, some people use Money, some people even make their own spreadsheets. I actually purchased a profit and sales tax manager from Simple Solutions on Etsy, which was nice and easy to use, as well as easy to customize.  I found a lot of other programs were far too expensive and had way more bells and whistles then I needed. Then keep track of all purchases and expenses so they can be inputted into your spreadsheet or program to give you an accurate financial picture of your business.


4.  As mentioned above, keep track of ALL purchases and expenses no matter how little they may seem.  I found it was helpful to check out how expenses and purchases are to be reported on tax forms and group and categorize them accordingly right off the bat.  It saves a lot of time versus sorting through a huge stack of receipts at the end of the year.  I actually created my own little spreadsheet to do so, print it out monthly and actually even handwrite my expenses down then tack the receipts onto the monthly spreadsheet.  At the end of the month, I tally everything up and put into into my main simple solutions excel spreadsheet.  I can then check the running total of my sales, my expenses and the cost of my goods sold.

This is my simple, yet hand little homemade spreadsheet:


5.  Organize your files! A file bin is tremendously useful.  I’m really particular and have mine color coded according to shipping items (labels, delivery confirmation receipts, and other shipping records), sales, expenses (including individual files for different types of fee receipts such as etsy fees, and credit card transaction fees), supply orders, inventory records, and show information. Every year I clean it out though, collect the old records and file them away unless the tax man ever cometh and want to see my records.


Yes, I’m a bit persnickety about organization. Nice and cleaned out and ready for the New Year though here.

6.  Keep track of all your sales.  It’s also important to keep a record of all the sales tax you collect and pay that on time.  Depending on the size of your business taxes, you may have to pay them anywhere from monthly to semi-annually.   I print out spreadsheets of all my online sales, and keep two-part record books at shows.  One record goes to the customer as a receipt, the other is for my records.  I label each book with the date and show, and then tally my sales amounts in the front of the book. I even break down sales according to type of product sold so I can track market trends year to year.


Now most of the financial information is organized and ready to go for the year.  The key once you get the organizational system set up is to use it!  Don’t forget to file those receipts instead of crumpling them up and accidentally throwing them in the wash.  Try to add up figures periodically to see how things are going.  You might be surprised to find out you can order more supplies!  (Or realize you might need to out yourself on a spending freeze)

Once you’ve got all the money “stuff” organized you can concentrate more on simply making art.

……wait….hold up….not quite!

You’ve got to market yourself too and find venues for your work.

1.  Take a good look at your logo, your packaging, and your “image”  and if you haven’t even created one–do so!  It’s always a good idea at least once a year to take a look and make sure that the image your are marketing work under truly fits you and is a marketable image.  This may mean doing some self-reflections, taking an in-depth look at what you are creating, and also trying to get feedback from customers, potential customers and anyone who will offer it as to how they see your work.  If you’ve put a lot of effort into building a solid image, you’ll find that it will stand the test of time  and you’ll rarely have to tweak it much.

2.  Put time and thought into photographing your work.  The better the photography, the more alluring your product becomes.  This is essential for both getting into excellent art shows, and for attracting customers.

3.  Make  a marketing plan. Create a list of media contacts to send samples of your work to (even if it’s just an e-mailed photo or a link to your shop.) Create  checklist of goals and try to meet them.  Creating and ordering business cards, promo postcards, buttons, banners or any other creative means to get your art and name out there falls under this as well.

packagingPart of how I “market” my image

4.  If you want to do the art show circuit be sure to allow time to order photographs or slides as necessary and fill out applications before show deadlines.

appApplications, always more time-consuming then they look.

There’s so much more, but in the interest of not making this blog post a mile long I think it’s time to sum things up…artists have a lot of extra work to do to make art in addition to their art, and on that note…I’d like to go actually make something now!   Off to the studio!