Start an art consulting business by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your art consulting business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an art consulting business?
One of the best things about an art consulting business is that it takes very little money to start. Functionally, you will often be working from home, on the road, in an artist's home, or an art gallery. That means that you don't need to lease a separate space or pay for special supplies. You can effectively start this business for $2,000, with $500 of that going towards the design of a professional website and $1,500 going towards a mixture of traditional advertising (such as local newspapers, radio stations, and possibly cards and fliers at relevant art venues) and online advertising.
What are the ongoing expenses for an art consulting business?
Aside from paying for any of your travel expenses and providing more marketing for yourself (both of which are variable costs), your only real ongoing expense will be the hosting upkeep of your website (about $100 a year). The low cost of starting and maintaining this business means that it can function well as a part-time job for someone to try before they make it their full-time gig.
Who is the target market?
The target market varies based on the clients. For instance, art gallery demographics can vary wildly based on the tastes of the art director and their own specific niche. For art collectors, a surprisingly growing audience is affluent millennials, as they are likelier to see art purchases as an investment rather than a luxury. As for the artists themselves, they will typically be young artists who are fresh out of art school and looking to make a name for themselves.
How does an art consulting business make money?
Typically, art consultants make money by charging different fees for their different services. For instance, you may charge a flat fee for acquiring works of art for collectors, or you may negotiate a percentage fee in which you receive a certain percentage of its overall price. Similarly, in promoting the works of artists, you may charge a flat fee for particular services (demographic research, marketing consultation, and possibly marketing design), or you may function more like an agent who receives a certain percentage of profit from sales.
How much can you charge customers?
The amount you charge clients depends on the service you render and who the client is. For instance, if you are helping an artist or gallery to sell a work, it is reasonable to charge them between ten and fifteen percent (like a typical agent) as a commission. If you are helping a collector to procure a work of art, it is reasonable to charge them between fifteen and twenty percent as a commission. Typically, you will negotiate a rate by considering the intended price of the work of art and calculating how much time it will take you to buy or sell the item, allowing you to insure you are properly compensated.
How much profit can an art consulting business make?
Obviously, the exact profit of this business depends on how many clients you have and how many works of art you help to sell for artists and procure for collectors. For the related field of “Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average income is $127,650. Your initial years will probably reap far less than that, but once you have a steady array of clients from whom you are getting ten to twenty percent commission per artistic work, it's easy to develop a steady cash flow.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Don't ignore the social aspect of your job. Organizing community events for artists and art lovers (such as a happy hour at a trendy bar or an informal exhibition at a coffee house) can help you grow your network and expand your influence. Consider helping young art majors put on their first exhibitions and sell some of their first major woks: this allows you to discover talent early and possibly become their representative for many successful years. Finally, consider expanding your sphere of influence: as many of your customers (both artists and collectors) will be millennials, they are likely to be comfortable working with you remotely. This allows you to help people throughout the nation and across the world, greatly increasing your chances of developing steady (and affluent) clients.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Art Consulting Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your art consulting business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an art consulting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an art consulting business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your art consulting business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Art consultant businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
Informed Consent Agreement
It is recommended that you provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market an art consulting business
In addition to the advertising methods mentioned earlier (including newspapers, radio, website, and online advertisements), you should create social media pages for your business on platforms such as Facebook and even Instagram. The art world is a visual medium, and social media helps you reach your ideal demographics while also giving you the perfect venue to highlight the work you are helping young artists sell.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to advertising, you might consider becoming a member of local art clubs and to familiarize yourself with any local university art scene and galleries in the city. This gives you a chance to pinpoint talented artists who will need representation to get noticed. To find art collectors, one solid method is to visit the same kinds of art shows, auctions, and galleries they are likely to attend, which gives you a chance to break the ice in an easy and familiar setting.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start An Art Consulting Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Needless to say, this job is best for those with an artistic background. This includes practicing artists and those with a formal education in subjects such as art and art history. This provides the necessary background to understand both how the art world and artists themselves function.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an art consulting business?
Because of the multiple roles an art consultant plays, any given day may be different from the one before it. For instance, you may spend some days conducting demographic research and coordinating with advertising firms to help promote the work of an artist. On other days, you may spend a lot of time browsing online and offline art auctions in order to acquire specific works for art collectors. On other days, you may be contacting artists on behalf of art galleries and negotiating the commission of unique works of art.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful art consulting business?
As mentioned before, any experience in studying, creating, and selling art is invaluable in this business. Aside from the raw experience, any existing networks you have of fellow artists, art directors, and art collectors can help provide you with resources to get things started quicker. Finally, your own experience collecting art can be a big help, as you will already know an assortment of tips and tricks to find the best works of art at the most competitive prices.
What is the growth potential for an art consulting business?
The growth potential for this business is modest. While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not track art consultants specifically, related fields such as “advertising, promoting, and marketing managers” are projected to grow by nine percent between 2014 and 2024. Combined with the fact that you have three different types of clients (artists, collectors, and galleries), your business can safely diversify and grow in whatever area is more profitable at the time.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an art consulting business?
One way to help your business take off is to pick a particular niche to focus on. For instance, the world of decorative art is very different from the world of corporate art, which itself is very different from the world of art galleries. While being able to work for different kinds of clients is a strength of this business, you will have an easier time focusing on one niche and then expanding. Another way to hit the ground running is to reach out to your existing network of artists and art collectors to see if they need your services or if they know of someone else who does.
How and when to build a team
Art consultants typically work on their own. This helps reduce your overhead, maximize profit, and underscore the personal relationship you have with clients. If you ever choose to build a team, it should organically come from your own success, meaning that you now have more clients and prospective clients than you can reasonably handle on your own.