Museum consulting is the business of assisting museums in attracting customers and developing captivating spaces and exhibitions. Museum consulting businesses offer their clients consulting services that are relevant to the museum. The scope of museum consulting can range from museum planning, exhibition development, and interior design to marketing support, project management, and a litany of other tasks.
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Learn how to start your own Museum Consulting Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a museum consulting business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Museum Consulting Business
- Form your Museum Consulting Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Museum Consulting Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Museum Consulting Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Museum Consulting Business
- Get Museum Consulting Business Insurance
- Define your Museum Consulting Business Brand
- Create your Museum Consulting 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 museum consulting 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 a museum consulting business?
In this business, your greatest asset will be industry knowledge and contacts. Many consulting firms work out of small offices or from home initially. Startup costs are low to start, with overhead costs increasing as the business expands and the scope of the projects increases.
You will need to budget for a few items when building your business strategy:
- Permits and licenses - varies by state and county
- Computer, phones, Internet
- Business insurance
- Professional website
- Travel expenses - consider traveling to various conferences as part of your networking and marketing strategy
What are the ongoing expenses for a museum consulting business?
Since much of your time will be spent meeting with clients, both physically and virtually, travel and technology will factor heavily into your monthly expenses. Monthly costs will fluctuate greatly, and range between $2,000 and $7,500.
This will include:
- Dependable vehicle and fuel
- Airplane tickets/travel expenses
- High-speed internet and communication devices
- Mobile devices
- Lease - $1,500 to $5,000 monthly
- Business insurance
- Payroll and taxes - to save on this ongoing expense, consider hiring some of your employees on a freelance basis
Who is the target market?
Much like your duties, you will have a very diverse customer base. Their passion and support of art will be the commonality. Your consulting firm will act as a resource for the global art community, including galleries, museums, auction houses, et al.
How does a museum consulting business make money?
Museum consulting firms make their money from the many services performed for their clients.
How much can you charge customers?
Consulting fees will vary, depending on the scope of work and length of time working. Fees can range anywhere from $200-$1000 per day.
How much profit can a museum consulting business make?
Depending on the number of clients your firm is currently consulting, monthly revenue will vary. Anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $10,000 per project can be made in this profession. Factoring in related business expenses, an annual profit of $100,000 or more is attainable, once established and sought after. Make sure you do your research on the front end to determine if you have enough of an art community within (at least) your regional area to give you a start and sustain you.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One of the best tools for increasing profits is to network and market your previous work and overall industry reputation. Many of your clients will come from other museums and art houses, who have seen your work, or hired you in the past. Reach out to various organizations and art appreciation societies. You may even consider offering services for artist management or art buyer consulting.
You can also interact on social media to increase your media presence and overall reputation through:
- Webcasts and podcasts
- YouTube videos
- Art community forums
- Guest spots on industry blogs and in magazines
- Art appraisal
- Represent clients in art auctions
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 Museum Consulting 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 museum consulting 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:
- 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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to open a museum consulting service. 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 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.
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.
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 a museum consulting business
The art and museum community is a close knit group. Most professionals in this industry will know and talk to others in the industry, so your reputation is critical. Establish your reputation through extensive networking, successful project completions, and customer referrals. Your best assets will become the positive words of others. It is also recommended that you get involved in the art community on a local level.
It’s advisable to be aware of trends within the art and design communities. Be an innovator in your field, as well as an excellent listener and visionary. When a customer approaches you about re-designing their museum or adding a new exhibit, make sure you are respecting their wishes while adding your own flair. Join related museum groups and stay active within their social media circles and share the projects you have successfully completed.
How to keep customers coming back
Network and connect with other museums, consultants, and art industry professionals. Much of your success will be based on your reputation and previous work. Your personal marketing and testimonials from prior clients will figure greatly in your overall success. Be personal and professional and listen to the desires of your customer(s).
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. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 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 Museum Consulting Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
This profession is recommended for those with an understanding of the art and design world. If you possess this knowledge, as well as a keen eye for style and forward-thinking trends, museum consulting might be your niche.
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 museum consulting business?
As a museum consultant, your responsibilities will vary, depending upon the client, the project you are working on for them, and the timeline you have to work with.
Your duties will include:
- Meeting with potential clients - this will be to determine the parameters of the project and your role
- Coordinating with client, artists, art dealers, and contractors
- Delegating responsibilities to project team members
- Traveling - consultants often work with clients all over the world
- Researching the latest trends in the art and museum industry
- Marketing your consulting business
Additionally, you will have a number of administrative duties to tend to. When building your team, consider hiring someone to take over these tasks.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful museum consulting business?
To realize long-term growth and success for your firm, you must possess strong networking and interpersonal skills. This will serve both your consulting firm, as well as your customers, as you work to turn their vision into a reality. In many cases, you will serve as the project manager, so motivational and delegation skills would also prove beneficial.
You should also be keenly aware of the trends in design and marketing for museums and art houses. Stay connected with a network of professionals and potential clients and look for opportunities to show your knowledge and skill set. The American Alliance of Museums offers a wealth of information to help navigate the intricacies of running a business and in keeping up with the latest trends.
What is the growth potential for a museum consulting business?
Currently, the museum industry is experiencing a change in how to connect and engage with customers. Because of greater technological advancements, drawing customers to museums is becoming more difficult. Museums are also revamping their exhibitions in order to connect with a younger, more tech savvy, audience. Therefore, creative museum consultants are a hot commodity, especially ones with innovative ideas for a modern audience.
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
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 museum consulting business?
Leaders in the museum consulting industry offer the following advice:
- Extensive experience in the museum industry or expertise in the art world will be beneficial.
- Cherish and protect your reputation; it is your calling card.
- Bid on smaller projects you can complete successfully, to start. You want to present successful work, in order to get larger jobs in the future.
- Be personable and professional with clients. Learn to listen to the client’s ideas and create complete plans which bring their ideas to life.
- Become involved with the community you’re working for. Show a true passion for the work and the art.
How and when to build a team
Developing a team for museum consulting will most likely be a slow process, at first. You will have to establish your business’ reputation and monthly workload to understand how much help you’ll need. Ideally, your team should also be well-versed in art, marketing, interior design, graphic design, and public relations. A good team member should be personable and enjoy meeting and networking with clients and peers.
- American Alliance of Museums
- California Association of Museums
- The Museum Group
- Discover more Consulting based Business Ideas
Real World Examples
- De Lorenzo Art and Museum Management and Consulting
- Museum Hack (Museum Consulting Section)
- Museum Management Consultant, Inc
- Museum Market (list of Museum Consultants)