Start a calligraphy business by following these 9 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 calligraphy 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 a calligraphy business?
The exact costs of opening your business depends greatly on how many services you plan to offer and whether you need a separate space to do conduct your business operations. For instance, many calligraphy businesses start by focusing on producing rather than teaching calligraphy. Since producing works of calligraphy can be done from home, your business can start for under $5,000, a price which includes a generous amount of starting supplies, licensing, and modest advertising via traditional channels. If you have the space and you are willing, you can also conduct calligraphy lessons in your own home or even make “house calls” to interested clients. If you wish to lease a studio space to conduct lessons with larger groups, then it will likely add a minimum of $30,000 to your opening costs and greatly increase your overhead; as a result, it is very important that you are certain that you will teach enough lessons to cover the cost of rent and other expenses.
What are the ongoing expenses for a calligraphy business?
The lack of ongoing expenses for a calligraphy business can make starting this type of business a very attractive idea. As mentioned earlier, many calligraphers work from home, which means there is no real overhead for a lease, utilities, and so on. And after the initial investment for supplies, the cost of new supplies should be effectively built into what you charge your clients. Therefore, your only out-of-pocket ongoing expenses should be however much you want to spend each month on traditional advertisements (which will typically be $500 or less, as much of your focus will rightfully be spent advertising via social media).
Who is the target market?
Ultimately, your most preferred clients will be couples getting married. These customers will be in need of attractive and elegant designs to place on invitations and other wedding stationery, and they will be willing to pay you very well in order to make their wedding stationery perfect.
How does a calligraphy business make money?
There are multiple ways in which a calligraphy business can make money. You may charge a fixed price for particular services, such as designing wedding invitations. You may also charge fixed prices for selling pre-made items that customers can use as decorations for events at home or at work. When it comes to calligraphy lessons, you must decide whether you want to charge customers by the lesson or by the hour.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you charge will vary due to both your local market and what services you are providing. Some calligraphers, for instance, will charge between two to five dollars simply to address an envelope. For things like wedding invitations, some calligraphers charge a fixed fee for the designing and printing (such as charging between $1000 to $2000 for 100 sets of invitations, with prices going up as the complexity of printing and amount of colors goes up). You may charge a smaller fee (such as $200 to $350) to design the invitation and have the client handle printing it themselves.
How much profit can a calligraphy business make?
The exact amount of profit your business can make will vary. Sources such as the Art Career Project estimate that the average calligrapher makes about $50,000 a year, though the aforementioned lack of overhead makes that sum more significant than it would be for other businesses. However, there are so many services you can offer (in terms of writing, teaching, or simply selling pre-made products online) that it is entirely possible for your own profit to be far greater than this.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As your business proves its quality and worth, don't be afraid to raise your prices. Similarly, you can become more profitable by branching out regarding the services you offer. For example, being willing to print and deliver the invitations you design, rather than simply creating a design, can help you triple the profit from one of your staple services. Finally, while diversity is good, establishing a specialty for yourself that is underserved in your community can help you generate more profit as you become one of the primary names associated with your business.
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 Calligraphy 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 calligraphy 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.
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 a calligraphy 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 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.
Calligraphy 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. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your calligraphy business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
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 business 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 a calligraphy 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 business 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 calligraphy 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.
Calligraphy 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.
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 a calligraphy business
As mentioned above, some of the best promotion and marketing will come from clever use of social media and occasional public demonstrations. Great public settings in which to showcase your work can include local fairs and festivals, as you can both sell personalized calligraphy to passersby and promote your special event services. The visual nature of your talent may make it worthwhile to invest in more traditional advertising as well: newspaper advertisements, flyers, and custom postcards are great ways to exhibit your prowess in the the art of calligraphy. It is also important to target corporations in addition to individuals as corporations may be in need of eye-catching writing and lettering, and corporations can represent a good source of regular income for you.
How to keep customers coming back
Attracting customers is mostly a matter of following the traditional and non-traditional methods of marketing mentioned above. In terms of customer retention, it comes down to highlighting your future utility to current clients. For instance, if you are designing invitations for a wedding, you may want to remind them that you'll be happy to provide your services for future anniversary events, birthdays, and other special events. This will let you capitalize on existing relationships while showing off your work to more of their friends and peers, which will also help recruit customers.
STEP 9: Establish your web presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. Press releases and Social Media are among the most effective ways to establish your web presence.
Start A Calligraphy 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?
Obviously, this business is best for someone that is highly skilled in calligraphy. Since much of the business comes from designing things like wedding invitations, this job is also good for artists or those with an artistic vision. For both the event-planning and instructional aspects of the business, being a “people person” is very helpful.
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 a calligraphy business?
Much of your daily activities will be focused on writing in calligraphy. This includes writing for clients, teaching clients how to write, and simply practicing your craft. Other daily activities may include procuring supplies, communicating with clients, and attending some of the events that you have designed materials for.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful calligraphy business?
Having a variety of calligraphy skills already mastered (such as hand-lettering and digital fonts) will help you immediately reach a wider audience. Being a very active member of image-driven social media platforms like Instagram can help you reach out to potential customers as soon as you start your business. Finally, membership in an existing calligraphy community can help you build your skills while also determining a niche market for your area that you can specialize in.
What is the growth potential for a calligraphy business?
The growth potential for a calligraphy business is pretty steady. As mentioned earlier, much of your business is tied to special events such as weddings, and the number of weddings per year has been on the rise since 2009. Since your business will be focused on supplying materials for weddings and similar events, the potential for your business to grow will also be in the rise.
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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 a calligraphy business?
Never forget the power of demonstrating your calligraphy skills in public parks, colleges campuses, and other areas where you can show off your talents and recruit potential customers. Be sure to feature your finished work and testimonials from satisfied customers on your social media sites, as this will help you make a great impression on interested potential customers.
How and when to build a team
In most calligraphy businesses, the owner is the only employee. This can help to reduce overhead, establish a brand, and give the impression of a personal relationship with customers. Therefore, if you build a team at all, you should keep it small and choose people who share a similar style and creative vision as you. That way, you can build efficiency by working on the same projects while still complementing each other's work.