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Art lessons may target one demographic (such as children, teens, or adults) or be offered to all demographics. Similarly, your lessons may focus on a single specialty (such as painting or ceramics), though it is in the artist's best interest to teach in as many disciplines as they can.
Who is this business right for?
Obviously, this business is ideal for veteran, practicing artists. It is also educational in nature, so it is good for those who have formal or informal experience with being a teacher or teacher's assistant. Finally, it's a job that is best for a “people person,” as your entire business model revolves around prolonged contact with strangers, so being able to engage and connect with them immediately is crucial.
What happens during a typical day at an art lessons business?
In no particular order, your daily activities will involve correspondence with current and prospective clients, organizing and cleaning your studio space, and conducting the lessons themselves. Spare time is typically spent finding new ways to advertise your business and otherwise grow your customer base, all while honing your own artistic abilities when you can.
What is the target market?
In some ways, younger children will be your best clients. Their minds are simultaneously open new ideas but receptive to direct instruction, and they are less likely to be overly critical of their own work. This is not always true of teenagers and adults, which can sometimes disrupt your lessons.
How does an art lessons business make money?
Obviously, a business focusing on art lessons makes money by charging clients for the art lessons. The exact amount you charge will vary based on subject, lesson time, venue, and whether it is a completely private lesson or not.
What is the growth potential for an art lessons business?
There is modest growth potential for your business. Art as a field is projected to grow slowly but steadily over the next decade, and communities will always have new would-be artists of varying ages for you to instruct. This is one business where the increasing popularity of both visual social media such as Instagram and the market created by things like Kickstarter and Etsy may lead more clients to your door who one day hope to achieve popularity and profit from their artistic skills.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful art lessons business?
While there is no formal education required to conduct art lessons, your own exposure to different instructional styles and artistic methods can be a big help. Thus, a bachelor's in an art-related field and even a Master of Fine Arts can be useful. Additional valuable skills include good old-fashioned networking, as you can lean on existing relationships within both the artistic and educational communities to help find new clients and get started quickly.
What are the costs involved in opening an art lessons business?
How much it costs to open your business hinges greatly on where you will be conducting lessons. For instance, many people teach out of their home if they have enough space to do so, and this will completely eliminate the need to pay for an additional monthly rental payment. If you do rent out a different space, consider renting a small apartment that is inside a house. This lets you have the benefit of a separate space for far less than leasing commercial property, and while prices vary based on region and size, you can likely rent such a space for less than $1,000 a month. One artist reported that renting and renovating such a space costs her $5,000 initially, but that this included a fair amount of painting, cleaning, and plastering, all of which she paid professionals to do on top of things like security deposits to secure the location. Beyond paying for a space, however, your only real costs are the costs of your materials, and while this varies based on what you'll specialize in, you should be able to get started for less than $500. You can create a webpage for free if you desire, though most of your true advertising will be done via social media such as Facebook and Instagram, and such advertising can be completely free.
What are the steps to start an art lessons business?
Once you're ready to start your art lessons business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your art lessons business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your art lessons business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- 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.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I 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.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting an art lessons business?
One insider tip is to hire professionals to help set everything up. This may range from people helping you renovate a space to an accountant helping you set up your business. Another tip is to use those first months to figure out what your area wants and potentially tweak everything from lesson times to prices. Finally, don't be afraid to ask happy customers to spread the word about you and your business, as this is one business where word of mouth is still the most effective form of advertising.
How to promote & market an art lessons business
As mentioned above, some of the best ways to digitally market your business include Facebook and Instagram. These allow you to engage with your wider community and also to show off the work of your students, which is one of the absolute best forms of advertising. A web page is good to have, if only as a formality so people can quickly find your contact information and look up other key info. Depending on your community, advertising via the newspaper and radio may be a viable way to reach customers as well.
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How to keep customers coming back
One way to retain customers is to model your lessons after more academic classes. That is, you may teach certain subjects in Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert levels, so someone who starts at the lowest level and sees their skills develop will keep coming back for the more advanced classes. You may borrow a tip from the corporate world and offer people some kind of discount or other benefit if they successfully refer a new client to you. Finally, always be an advocate for your clients: proudly display their work offline and online and try to engage with them as people, not just clients. This helps establish the personal touch they are looking for.
How and when to build a team
Most artists offering professional art lessons do so on their own, as this makes things easier to manage and guarantees that you get all of the earnings. However, if business is booming to the point that you cannot see everyone who regularly wants instruction, you may decide to create a team. Keep in mind that if you are working from your own home, you may now need more space, and that renting a separate facility will greatly increase your monthly overhead.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an Art Lessons 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, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more 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
An art lessons business is generally run out of a studio. 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 studio 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 lesson 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 studio 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 lesson business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
In order to play music in a business setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.
An art lessons business should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize the risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
How much can you charge customers?
In time, you will figure out the best price that works for your individual area. However, a good rule of thumb is to charge between $40 to $100 for an hour of one-on-one instruction and between $25 to $50 for an hour, per student, of small group instruction. If you are willing to travel to clients, you should either charge extra upfront or simply bill them an additional amount for miles driven or traveled. Finally, you should consider a business model where you offer several weeks of lessons and charge a lower rate (between 25%-50% lower) per hour; this makes it financially more attractive for people to be your clients for a longer time, and ultimately benefits your bottom line.
What are the ongoing expenses for an art lessons business?
Arguably, the best thing about this business is the lack of true ongoing experiences. As mentioned earlier, a great number of art teachers teach from their own homes, so your only real expenses come from materials and mileage, both of which are completely appropriate for you to charge clients for. Thus, your only true out-of-pocket costs may come in the form of traditional advertisements you choose to make and the fee for any professionals you continue to employ, such as an accountant for your business. This means that, with enough clients, this can be a very profitable venture.
How much profit can an art lessons business make?
Depending on your amount of clients, this can be a very profitable business. If you imagine a “standard work day” of teaching for eight hours and charging students a lower end of $50 an hour, then the job can easily net over $100,000 a year, with very little overhead and the ability to control your own hours and do what you love. The freedom of your schedule means you can also supplement your business income by selling your own art and/or teaching at local colleges (which is another way to effectively advertise yourself as well).
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make sure that your business name is catchy and that your social media pages are engaging and vibrant. Keep your home or other studio space warm and professional. Never forget to show your students how much their skills are growing in-between lessons; this develops your rapport with clients even as it validates their decision to hire you to help them develop their skills.