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Whether at an art fair, business convention, or community event, caricatures are a fun way to lighten the mood and get people to laugh at themselves. Caricatures are spontaneous illustrations that exaggerate or “cartoonize” the individual’s features. Initially, this artistic expression was simply done on ink and paper. The tradition has now grown to include digital illustrations, with a variety of printing options available.
Who is this business right for?
Artistically inclined individuals who possess the drive and tenacity to manage their own stable business would be best suited for this business venture. As a caricature business owner, you must be both creative and business savvy, making critical financial and marketing decisions that will help your organization sustain long-term growth.
What happens during a typical day at a caricature business?
Until your business has realized significant growth, your days will be split between administrative and artistic work. When not creating caricatures for a client or attending events, there are emails to be answered, invoices to be dispersed, and client bookings to attend to. While much of your marketing strategy and networking will be hands-on, it will also be necessary for you to promote your business, both in-person and online, ensuring your work reaches a broad audience.
What is the target market?
The earliest recorded caricature art was found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, indicating that this art form has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. Intended to lighten the mood and bring smiles, caricature artists are hired to “perform” in settings ranging from carnivals to weddings and other social functions. When devising your marketing strategy, consider what social functions your art could be most enjoyed.
How does a caricature business make money?
Clients hire caricature artists either by the hour or per person. Fees also vary depending upon materials, such as black and white, color, and digital works.
What is the growth potential for a caricature business?
The introduction of digital technology offers a unique opportunity to modern day caricature artists, expanding their potential client pool to include virtually everyone. Artists who have found the greatest success go on to train a team of individuals across the country, ensuring their business reaches clients in need in every major town.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful caricature business?
The most obvious skill a caricature artist must possess, is artistic talent. Caricatures, however, go beyond just drawing a picture. While the final work will be “cartoonish,” it is critical that it resembles the model. Therefore, caricature artists must have a firm grasp of anatomy, with the ability to pick out a distinguishing feature in each subject. Once you have mastered this, it is all about developing your own style. Aspiring caricaturists are urged to practice as much as possible, in a variety of settings. This not only helps develop a unique style, it assists in fine-tuning the other necessary skills, such as observation, communication, and humor. Since this artistic form requires making creative decisions on the fly, both accurately and quickly, practice really is the most rewarding experience.
While a degree is not required, there are a number of programs across the country that specialize in illustration and cartooning. The Center for Cartoon Studies, located in Vermont, offers a variety of certifications, degrees, and workshops, designed to meet every aspiring caricaturist’s needs. Those who attend a focused school program are able to learn design software such as Adobe Illustrator or ArtRage, create a portfolio, exhibit their work, are able to take part in internship programs, and are provided university support in their job search upon graduation. Additionally, many offer business classes to ensure aspiring entrepreneurs have the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully manage an enterprise.
What are the costs involved in opening a caricature business?
One of the many benefits to choosing this as a career path, is that there are very few start-up costs. Business is generally conducted at events, making this a primarily mobile business. Unless you so choose, there is no need for a dedicated office. Many caricature artists now work with clients across the world, selling their digital pieces, so it is recommended that you create a workspace at home, if at all possible.
In addition to artist supplies, it is recommended that you have a simple website built. This is a great opportunity to showcase your work, attracting clients from all over the world. There are a number of options for entrepreneurs who wish to build their own, free websites. Work with a licensed professional to ensure your insurance policies are up-to-date and include any necessary coverages. Since much of your business will be mobile, make sure you have reliable transportation and an insurance policy that will provide coverage should something happen while you are on the road.
What are the steps to start a caricature business?
Once you're ready to start your caricature 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 caricature 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 caricature 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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a caricature business?
Since accuracy is critical to your success, veteran caricaturists urge those entering the industry to spend as many hours as possible practicing. And, whenever possible, practice in various settings, as you never know what your next client’s needs might be.
How to promote & market a caricature business
Many successful caricature artists get their start working at a fair or carnival. While the initial income is fairly low, $8.50 - $10 per hour, the real world experience and networking connections made will prove invaluable. The art community is tightly knit, so these connections and the reputation you stand to built will set you up for a lucrative career. Aspiring caricaturists are also urged to take an active role in various associations, such as National Cartoonists Society, The International Society of Caricaturist Artists, and The National Caricaturist Network. These associations are not only a great networking tool, many of them offer members an opportunity to showcase their work and list artist services in their online directory.
Your marketing strategy should include both online and in-person actions. Online image directories and book and magazine publishers are an effective way to showcase your work. Social media and a personal blog are other powerful ways to reach a broader audience. On a local level, consider approaching wedding planners, party planners, and large hotels that host conventions. Ask them to keep you in mind for any upcoming social functions. Galleries, design firms, book and magazine publishers, and advertising agencies could also prove to be lucrative partners.
Recommended: A website is essential for promoting your business and attracting customers. Weebly is a great tool.
How to keep customers coming back
In this industry, customer retention comes down to one thing: consistent quality work. Build a reputation as a talented and personable caricature artist and your career will flourish.
How and when to build a team
As you build your reputation, you will want to take care of all artistic and administrative duties. However, as your career takes off and you begin to travel, you will find it increasingly difficult to balance your business tasks. At this time, hiring an administrative assistant could prove beneficial. He/she could handle all booking, scheduling, email communication, and invoicing, leaving the creative tasks to you. A number of caricature artists have experienced such an increase in business, that they hired a team of artists to represent them across the country. Since your name and reputation is on the line, it is critical that you provide personalized, hands-on training to any artist that you add to your caricaturist team.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a caricature 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 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
A caricature business is generally run out of a booth or kiosk. 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 a caricature 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 caricature business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Caricature artist businesses charge an average of $150 to $250 per hour, depending upon whether the customer requests regular or digital caricatures.
What are the ongoing expenses for a caricature business?
Ongoing expenses for a caricature artist business are minimal. Art supplies, website maintenance, and marketing materials should be budgeted for on a monthly basis. Travel expenses, even when only taking on local events, will likely be your largest expense. Should you decide to hire employees, be sure to consider the costs associated with payroll.
How much profit can a caricature business make?
Experienced caricature artist business owners indicate that artists with average speed and skill can bring in up to $600 per day. If you are able to work three events a week, at $600 per event, your business would generate a revenue of over $93,000. Subtract ongoing expenses from this figure and you have a significant profit, particularly for only working three days a week.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As a caricature artist, your business can charge a higher fee for digital work. This method also expands your potential client base, allowing you to reach a much broader audience. Once your work is more well-known, consider approaching syndication companies who might want to feature your work in upcoming newspaper space and want caricature artists who attract subscribers.