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Mural painters are artists who specialize in painting works of art on such physical structures as the interior walls, ceilings or floors of private, corporate, nonprofit or governmental settings. Muralists can also work on the exterior sides of buildings, or on gates, roofs or other surfaces.
Who is this business right for?
Muralists should be talented artists who can (usually, but not always) work in oversized imagery. You should also be able to sell yourself on the basis of your talent and portfolio.
What happens during a typical day at a mural painting business?
Most of your time will be taken up in the actual work, since a mural can involve several weeks or more of full-time work. For this reason, it is essential that you constantly self-promote your service. You must regularly update your portfolio and website, communicate via social media, and attend expos, shows, and exhibits where you can showcase your work and connect with prospective clients. You will also need to complete the necessary tasks of buying art supplies, invoicing clients, paying bills, and promoting and marketing your business.
What is the target market?
That will depend on your niche or niches. Some mural painters work exclusively with residential clients, in which case you’ll deal with homeowners who want to beautify a nursery or other spaces. Other muralists might focus on corporate clients, non-profits, civic planners or building owners. Regardless of who you’re trying to reach, your prospective clients are people who want to improve the aesthetics of their interior or exterior space. Or, in the case of corporate clients, they might be looking for a unique way to promote their message -- such as with their logo or new campaign imagery.
How does a mural painting business make money?
Mural artists generally charge in one of two ways for their work: by an hourly rate or by the square foot of painted space. Since you’ll have to give your client an estimated cost before starting the job, you shouldn’t charge by the hour unless you have the ability to accurately estimate the time commitment. If you greatly misjudge, you might end up working quite a few free hours. It is normal to request and receive half of the estimated cost as a down payment before you start the mural.
What is the growth potential for a mural painting business?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016 gave the Craft and Fine Artists field a “slower than average” job outlook for the 2014-2024 time period. As with any sort of home or building improvement project, clients are better positioned to contract an expensive when the economy (or at least their economy) is good.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful mural painting business?
It is essential to put together a portfolio of your works that will prove to your customers that you have the necessary talent and ability to adequately complete the job the want you to do. Having a social media page or website can be a creative way to expose yourself to new clients.
What are the costs involved in opening a mural painting business?
Your business can start slowly, with a minimal cost investment. Here’s how your start-up costs might break down:
- Paint supplies and equipment -- $200 or less. This includes the brushes and other basic painting supplies you’ll need to get started. Once you get an assignment and the upfront half of the fee, you can buy additional equipment necessary for that specific job. However, if you’re going to work primarily outdoors, you’ll need ladders, scaffolding and more paint than if you’re painting a residential room. You can rent scaffolding and get started for probably as little as $1,000 in this scenario.
- Website, portfolio and business cards -- $750 or less. You might hire someone to create your website and hire a professional photographer to shoot your portfolio pieces. Designing your own business cards and other promotional materials can help you save on marketing costs, and it can also show off your artistic talent.
- Storage space -- Zero to a few hundred dollars a month. Depending on the scale of your work, you might be able to store your paint and other equipment in your own home or apartment. However, if your focus will be on such large-space projects as exterior walls or roofs, you might need to rent self-storage or warehouse space for your ladders and other supplies.
- Show attendance as an exhibitor -- A few hundred to several thousand dollars.The determination here is how often you exhibit your work at expos, fairs, home shows and other events. Start small by attending one show and gauge your success rate.
- Travel and expenses -- At least several hundred dollars. Again, this is variable. One determining factor is your market region. If it’s a large area, you might have to travel relatively far and perhaps stay overnight. You should either build these costs into your estimate or charge extra for such expenses.
What are the steps to start a mural painting business?
Once you're ready to start your mural painting 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 mural painting 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 mural painting 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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How to promote & market a mural painting business
In the beginning, it’s doubtful that you’ll have an appropriate portfolio unless you’ve worked for another muralist. Consider painting murals in your own home and asking friends and family if you can paint their homes or businesses for free, just to add the work to your portfolio.
Google “artists online portfolios” for free or low-cost digital portfolio access. Here’s one such example. Also, make good use of such visually oriented promotional vehicles as your website, online portfolio, Instagram and Snapchat. Most of this is free and a great way to promote your work. You might even consider hiring a videographer to film your work to put it on YouTube.
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How to keep customers coming back
Here’s an example of a portfolio especially for muralists. There’s an annual cost of as much as $200 for placement here, but it could be worth it for the visibility. You’ll also meet prospective clients at home and garden or baby shows. Some such websites will give exhibitor costs, or call for more information. Additionally, ask your clients for referrals and permission to add their mural to your portfolio.
How and when to build a team
Though you can initially work alone fairly easily, once business starts to pick up you should consider whether you need to hire interns to help with the painting or the scaffolding, or commission sales people to help generate additional business.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a wall mural 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.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. 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.
Mural painting businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service 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.
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How much can you charge customers?
Some muralists price their work to generate an hourly rate of at least $50-$60 per hour. Others work on a per-square-foot basis. Either way, consider the time and difficulty when pricing your services. Will you be working on tall surfaces, which will slow you down? Will you require paid assistance? Are there windows and multiple doorways to add difficulty? Consider this source for pricing your services.
What are the ongoing expenses for a mural painting business?
Your largest ongoing expense will be for paint, painting supplies, and travel to and from jobs. If you price your work accurately, your fee will cover these expenses.
How much profit can a mural painting business make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives a median pay rate of nearly $50,000 for crafts and fine artists, but this includes many other categories of artists besides muralists.
Your earnings will be set by your reputation, the rates of competitors, your marketing zeal and ingenuity, and even such factors as your region’s climate if you primarily work outdoors.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Do not be afraid to cold-call building owners to market your business. If you see a building that could be beautified with your work, contact the landlord. Reaching out to advertising agencies can also result in your being commissioned to paint large billboards or walls for corporate clients who are willing to pay more for a mural than the average residential client.