Business Overview

People love their pets, and many pet owners want to memorialize their non-human friends through artwork. Pet portraits businesses create custom portraits of pets for customers. Many businesses are run by a single artist, but businesses can also have several artists on staff. The mediums these artists create offer a different feel than photographs -- which pet owners can take themselves -- provide.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who is artistically inclined and enjoys animals may like running a pet portraits business. For those who like to draw, paint, or work with another medium, doing commissioned portraits is a great way to earn an income creating art. Loving animals helps business owners stay interested in their work even when they’re working on animal portraits several days in a row.

This is a business that can be started as a part-time business. It’s easy to schedule taking orders, working on portraits and shipping completed pieces around another work schedule or a class schedule. Ramsey Beyer, for instance, go into this line of work as a “side hustle.”

What happens during a typical day at a pet portraits business?

According to Art Dog Blog, new pet portraits business owners should spend at least half their time marketing their business. This includes pursuing both national marketing campaigns and connecting with local animal-loving associations.

When not marketing their business, business owners spend most of their time working on portraits. Creating a quality piece of artwork that accurately reflects a pet takes a lot of time. For Tom and Ben of Splendid Beast, making a pet portrait takes about 8 weeks.

What is the target market?

A pet portraits business’ ideal customer is a pet owner who loves their non-human friend and has a decent amount of discretionary income. Such a person may be interested in having a portrait of their pet made, and they have enough money to afford a portrait.

How does a pet portraits business make money?

A pet portraits business makes money by selling custom portraits of people’s pets. How much portraits cost usually depends on a portrait’s medium, style and size, as well as the number of animals included in the work. For example, Melanie & Nicholas have a detailed fee schedule that takes into account the following: whether a work is done with pencil or oil, how large it is, how many animals are in the work, and whether the work includes an animal’s head or full body.

What is the growth potential for a pet portraits business?

A pet portraits business can be as small or large as a business owner wants it to be. Businesses that grow usually do so through marketing channels, rather than by opening galleries or retail locations MyPoochFace is an example of larger company that has hundreds of customers.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet portraits business?

In order to open a pet portraits business, business owners must be able to create artistic portraits. Aspiring business owners who don’t have an artistic background ought to take at least one art class, if not several. Local community colleges and vocational training programs frequently offer drawing and painting classes. There are also many online art courses, such as those offered by Artists Network University, MoMA and the Academy of Art University.

What are the costs involved in opening a pet portraits business?

The startup costs for a pet portraits business are quite low and manageable. Business owners need a website. Having a high-quality website designed and built typically costs between $2,000 and $10,000, but business owners can minimize this expense by using a platform that lets them create their own site.

Business owners also need to purchase art supplies :

  • Pencils: $10
  • Paints: $40
  • Paintbrushes: $15
  • Canvas: $12-100 per piece
  • Paper: $20 per book

These expenses can be paid for after payment has been received from customers, though. It’s common to charge a deposit, which can be used to purchase art supplies. It’s also standard to have customers pay in full before shipping a finished piece, and any shipping costs can be built into a customer’s final bill.

Most people who get into this line of work already have a space to work on pieces, so finding studio space usually isn’t a concern.

What are the steps to start a pet portraits business?

Once you're ready to start your pet portraits business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. 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.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your pet portraits business is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your pet portraits business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  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.
  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.
  7. 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.
  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.
  9. 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.

Recommended: offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a pet portraits business?

Most pet portraits businesses are run primarily online, and there are several reasons for this. Opening a business online:

  • is easy, because photos can be uploaded by customers and then used to base portraits on
  • gives business owners access to customers all over the world, rather than in just their local area
  • keeps startup and ongoing expenses low, since businesses don’t have to maintain a physical gallery

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a pet portraits business

There are many ways to market a pet portraits business to pet lovers both near and far. Search engine optimization and magazine ads can help business owners find customers all over the world. To connect with local pet owners, business owners can:

  • Do charity work in exchange for free exposure
  • Attend local pet-related events
  • Place brochures or flyers at vet offices, groomer’s facilities, and doggy daycare centers

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Pet portraits business owners can set themselves apart from other artists in the industry by specializing in a niche or medium. A business owner might focus on crocheting portraits, for instance, or offer a unique style of portrait. Splendid Beast does the latter well, imposing pets on well-known images.

How and when to build a team

Many pet portraits businesses remain one- or two-person operations. For instance, Melanie & Nicholas are two artists who work together, as are Splendid Beast’s Tom and Ben. Business owners who hire additional artists usually do so only after they have more orders than they can complete. When artists are hired, it’s often on a contract basis as orders come in, rather than as an hourly employee.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet portraits 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 more information about local licenses and permits:

Services Contract

Pet portrait artists may also want to create services contracts, which outline the expectations, payment, etc. of each project.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

How much customers pay for pet portraits varies a lot. Splendid Beast offers paintings starting at $99, while Melanie & Nicholas charge over $9,500 for a large oil portrait.

What are the ongoing expenses for a pet portraits business?

The main ongoing expenses for a pet portrait business include website maintenance and hosting costs, which are typically just a few dollars a month, and art supply and shipping costs. As mentioned, art supply and shipping fees can be built into customers’ payments, making the ongoing expenses extremely low.

How much profit can a pet portraits business make?

Until an artist is established, a pet portraits business’ income may be inconsistent. Once a business is established, though, it can bring in a handsome annual revenue. If Melanie & Nicholas each worked on large oil paintings, they could complete about 12 each year. (It takes about 8 weeks for them to complete a portrait.) At over $9,500 each, that’s an annual revenue of around $114,000.

How can you make your business more profitable?

A pet portraits business can increase its revenue by doing commission work for non-profit societies and veterinarian offices. Human societies, ASPCA organizations, and vets may want murals painted in their facilities.

Next Steps

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