Start a picture framing 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 picture framing 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 picture framing business?
It is important to have a very visible retail location and not be in a low-traffic area. This means you need to have a retail store on a street with high-traffic volume or in a place where there is significant foot traffic. This is expensive; however, without this ability for your store to be seen, your business will probably suffer.
Because your store needs to be very visible and easily accessible, the rent will be very high. Allocate a budget of $1 to $3 per square foot for each month’s rent. Typically a framing store is at least 2,000 square feet. This means monthly rent will be $2,000 to $9,000. In expensive areas, expect to pay twice this amount for your rent.
You need to have supplies as well. Because you can get supplies as needed about $10,000 is average amount needed for those things you want to put on display. Shelves will be needed to display smaller items for sale; however, most of the displayed items will be on the walls or shown on movable panels. Allocate about $25,000 for the fixtures and equipment needed to set up a basic framing store.
It is possible to start in this business with about $50,000 in many cities in America.
What are the ongoing expenses for a picture framing business?
Your ongoing expenses will be rent and utilities as well as the cost for any marketing campaigns. Typical marketing campaigns are the home delivery of flyers that have a discount offer. These flyers are distributed door-to-door by hand to save on postage costs. They are put on the doors or under the doors in the areas with the finest houses in the town. It would be reasonable to budget $500 per month for this effort to get started, which includes the cost of printing the flyers and having them delivered to the houses by hand.
Who is the target market?
The best customers are the ones who come back repeatedly and those that refer their friends to your shop. They may be collectors with a big house or they may be interior designers with a huge list of clientele that need framed artwork. It is also possible to serve local galleries and museums for the art pieces that they need framed or reframed.
How does a picture framing business make money?
Like any retail shop, the minimum markup is between 30% to 40% over the wholesale costs of the materials and the labor used to make the custom framing. For specialized work, using rare and exotic woods, it is possible to charge a lot more. Many framing shops work on a one-time double cost, which means that the price of the custom work is twice the cost of the labor and materials.
The price you can charge depends on the clientele you serve. For those collectors with expensive paintings, they are quite comfortable paying many hundreds of dollars to frame a painting that cost them thousands of dollars.
How much can you charge customers?
The cost to the customer is at least 30% to 40% markup from your wholesale cost for the materials and the labor used to complete the framing job. Many framing shops work on the basis of using 100% markup over costs. It all depends on the clientele.
How much profit can a picture framing business make?
A typical retail store will have gross revenues of about $200,000 or more per year and the profits are around 15% for the owner, after paying all the expenses.
How can you make your business more profitable?
You can sell art and framed photographs as well as the framing services. Have artists do custom work on commission, hang artwork on the walls that are for sale on a consignment basis (you only pay for it, if it sells), and have the artists make in-store appearances to generate higher sales volumes. Work with interior designers and other local art galleries to expand your good reputation. Sell your products at wholesale for others to re-sell at retail. Market your products on the Internet.
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 Picture Framing 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 picture framing 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 picture framing business business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
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.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a picture framing business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your picture framing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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 picture framing business
Opening one store in one market and gaining a good reputation allows you to open another store in a market far enough away not to compete with yourself, but to repeat your success in a new area. It is a terrific idea to open a framing shop in an area with lots of new, expensive, custom house construction that is ongoing in order to serve the rich people who are moving into the new area.
How to keep customers coming back
The best way to attract customers and retain them is to always do a good job, treat every customer with politeness, and give them expert advice. You can put a sticker on the back of any artwork you frame and hopefully the persons buying the artwork will see this on the back and ask you to do more work for them, when they have similar needs in the future. Advertise in the yellow pages and in online directories also.
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 Picture Framing 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?
People drawn to this business have a keen aesthetic eye for the details that make a framed item attractive. They also like to interface with the public and encourage their customers’ personal style and expression in how a customer wants something framed. A custom framing shop is all about serving others to help them make their decorative ideas come true.
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 picture framing business?
You will need to maintain a clean and attractive retail environment in order to attract customers. It should be well-lit and catch the eye when someone passes by the store. There is a huge amount of customer service in this business because the choices are based on the aesthetic tastes of the customers.
Your main job will be to guide your customers in their selections, which should be fun, yet requires considerable patience. You will spend most of the day working with potential customers to help them select how they want items to be framed. There are many choices and sometimes this feels overwhelming to the customers. It is your job to assure them that they are making good decorative choices.
Part of the time you will create the physical frames themselves, which is a skill set like a handy person in that you will need to be able to cut the wooden molding to the correct lengths and at the correct angles. Then, you sand the cut edges and put the pieces together with a nail gun. You will use wax of the correct color to fill the nail holes so they are not easily seen. The next step is to use a razor cutter table device to make the matting the correct size and then put it all together under glass or plexi-glass with the item displayed in a perfect manner. To finish the piece you will add a paper backing to the frame and brackets with a hanging wire in the correct position, so that the piece will hang properly.
This may sound easy to do from this simple description, but it does take a bit of practice to get good at doing this work.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful picture framing business?
You will need to have a love of the artwork or the photos you are framing and want to make them all to look the best you can make them look, with your framing efforts enhancing them.
What is the growth potential for a picture framing business?
As word gets out and your customer base expands, significant growth becomes possible within a single location. Employees can be added and your shop can be expanded. Online sales can also be a great way to generate additional income. There are franchises available so this business can go national. There are already some very successful national chains.
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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
You will need to start with at least one retail store clerk and one framing expert to do the back office shop work of framing, while the retail store is open. You can add more framers when there is sufficient demand for the framing work.
This is a small retail operation and the staffing is usually modest, except when there is a need to produce more framing orders that may suddenly come in. Creating this demand depends on your success in marketing your products to others and the number of daily visitors to your shop. You will build up a team faster if you also capture the attention and gain business from the local art galleries, museums, and clients of interior designers.