Start a mural painting business by following these 10 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 mural painting 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 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 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.
Who 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.
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.
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.
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 Mural Painting 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 mural painting 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.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported 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 guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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 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, read our article, 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.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your mural painting 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start a Mural Painting 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?
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.
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 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 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 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.
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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.
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.