How to Start an Art Restoration Business
An art restoration business restores works of art for clients, such as paintings and sculptures. These businesses focus on repairing damage and degradation of art and usually attempt to return art to its original condition. The damage may be due to an accident – such as someone falling through a painting – or due to time and natural causes. Some of these businesses serve the general public, while others work for museums and similar organizations.
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Learn how to start your own Art Restoration Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start an art restoration business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Art Restoration Business
- Form your Art Restoration Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Art Restoration Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Art Restoration Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Art Restoration Business
- Get Art Restoration Business Insurance
- Define your Art Restoration Business Brand
- Create your Art Restoration Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
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 restoration business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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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 restoration business?
Most of the initial costs of starting an art restoration business are educational costs. Completing a graduate degree in conservation is expensive. During your education, you are going to purchase a variety of art supplies to do your work which is also costly. Fortunately, starting your actual business will not require too much additional investment if you are doing it on your own and out of your home. As long as you have the proper art supplies, you can market yourself fairly inexpensively using online options and social media.
What are the ongoing expenses for an art restoration business?
The ongoing expenses for an art restoration business include rent for space (if you aren’t working out of your home), art supplies and equipment, staff wages, marketing costs, and association dues with the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). Other expenses include the cost of lab work and similar services, but these are costs you can pass on to the client directly.
Who is the target market?
The target market is anyone in possession of art that needs to be restored. These include private owners and larger institutions like museums. Many museums have restorationists on staff, so they may not be interested in hiring other businesses to do restoration work for them. However, there is always the chance that the restoration staff will need help so don’t rule museums and similar organizations out completely.
How does an art restoration business make money?
A small art restoration business can expect to earn between $50,000-$100,000 a year, depending on what types of clients it serves and how well established it is.
How much can you charge customers?
Many art restorationists charge $100 per hour or more for their services. The work is something that only extremely skilled artists can do, so it makes sense that the cost for restoration is high. And if you are restoring something more precious, such as a historically significant piece of art for a collector, you can charge much more. The size of the job plays a big part on the cost as well. While a small painting may cost around $1,000 to restore, a large painting may cost $10,000 or more.
How much profit can an art restoration business make?
A small art restoration business can expect to earn between $50,000-$100,000 a year, depending on what types of clients it serves and how well established it is.
How can you make your business more profitable?
You can make your business more profitable by developing a strong reputation for your services. When you are just opening your business, you will probably be doing more work for clients that do not have a lot of money to spend on your services. For instance, a family that wants to restore a painting grandma made when she was young. However, if you steadily demonstrate your knowledge and skill – and form strong relationships with others in the industry – you can gain the attention of clients with more money to spend, such as wealthy art collectors. It will take time, but the same is true for most businesses.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your art restoration business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
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?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
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:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
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
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report 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 best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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.
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.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market an art restoration business
There are two primary ways to promote your art restoration business – word of mouth and online. The art world is surprisingly small, particularly the part that needs restoration work done on high-value art. You are most likely to get work from them through word of mouth referrals, so be careful to maintain good relationships with everyone you work with as much as is possible. Online promotion is also important, though, because a lot of your work may come from private owners, including people who want personal art (that has sentimental value instead of monetary value) restored. Build a good website, stay active on social media, and strive to be accessible to the average person to attract the most business from everyday people.
How to keep customers coming back
To build a strong business, you need to make sure your customers are happy. With art restoration, making them happy means meeting expectations as much as possible. Show clients what your goal is – what it will look like when you are done – and try to deliver what they expect. Things don’t always go as planned, but if you are careful and persistent you should be able to restore pieces and leave clients fully satisfied with your work. That satisfaction will keep them coming back.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
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.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
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. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Art Restoration Business in your State
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Is this Business Right For You?
This business is right for someone who loves art and has extensive knowledge of art history and artistic techniques. Art restorationists usually complete post-graduate degrees in subjects like art history and conservation, although you don’t necessarily have to have a degree to get into the business. You do need to have a deep passion for art, science, and history because the work is often challenging and the hours can be long.
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What happens during a typical day at an art restoration business?
A typical day at an art restoration business includes a lot of time spent restoring works of art – but it also includes other less exciting tasks. Art restorationists who run their own business need to spend time meeting clients, determining estimates, surveying artworks, marketing their services, and more. Often, the day time will be spent handling these various tasks and the evenings and nights will be spent on restoration work.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful art restoration business?
You must have the necessary artistic skills to recreate the works of art you are asked to restore. Proper training in the right areas – such as painting if you are restoring paintings – is a must so you can do your work with confidence. Understanding the science of the art you focus on is a must as well. For example, you want to be capable of identifying what materials were used in the original piece, what chemical reactions have occurred to cause degradation, and how to correct the degradation without compromising the underlying materials.
What is the growth potential for an art restoration business?
The art restoration industry has remained relatively stable and will likely remain so. The number of artworks that need to be restored may not increase suddenly, as the market for new tech often does, but the number is also unlikely to decrease drastically, either. Museums and collectors will continue to need the services of art restorationists as time takes its toll on older works of art and accidents happen.
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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.
Learn from other business owners
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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 restoration business?
Clients that come to you for restoration services are going to want to know that you have what it takes to do things right. That’s why it’s a good idea to complete your education in restoration and learn as much as you can about the process. Once you graduate, spend a few years working for other, well-established art restorationists to get more experience. You want to attract high-paying clients – but those clients expect you to know what you are doing and are unlikely to hire you straight out of school.
How and when to build a team
It’s impossible to do everything on your own when you are restoring art. At the least, you will need to send out samples to labs so you can identify what you are working with. But you will likely need more help than that if you want to serve multiple clients at the same time. It’s helpful to have a team that can take photographs, produce documentation, contact clients, create reports, and do all the other things that must happen before you can start restoration work.
Before you open for business, consider what kind of team you might need and where you might find them. If you can get the funding to hire some help, you are more likely to develop momentum and build a client base sooner rather than later.
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