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.
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Learn how to start your own Pet Portraits Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a pet portraits business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Pet Portraits Business
- Form your Pet Portraits Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Pet Portraits Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Pet Portraits Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Pet Portraits Business
- Get Pet Portraits Business Insurance
- Define your Pet Portraits Business Brand
- Create your Pet Portraits 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 pet portraits business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
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 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 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.
Who 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.
How much can you charge customers?
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.
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 Pet Portraits 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 pet portraits 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 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, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
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.
Pet portrait artists may also want to create services contracts, which outline the expectations, payment, etc. of each project.
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 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
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.
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 2023 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 Pet Portraits 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?
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.”
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 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 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 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.
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 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
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.