Posted in Artist's Business Plan, Playbook Strategy

A Business Plan for Artists

EPSON MFP imageWhat does an artist’s business plan look like?

A business plan is a document that ties everything together—what you do, how you organize your work, your pricing plan, promotion and marketing strategies—in one place. It outlines your professional goals and explains how you will meet those goals. It’s like a bridge that will take you from idea to action. If you’re a professional artist or thinking about turning pro, and you don’t have a business plan, now is the perfect time to create your plan. Note: this post will not tell you what kind of business to start. Completing an artist’s business plan can help you decide if you have a good business idea.

Why you should have one

A business plan shows that you’ve thought about your career as an artist. It shows both you and others that you take your career seriously and have a plan for achieving your goals.

Who cares?

Your family cares. It’ll be easier for you to block out time to do your work if your family understands that you need time to do your work. Your friends, colleagues, and potential partners will care and take you seriously. If you want or need money to invest in your art business, banks, investors, and venture capitalists will also care that you have a plan. And if you ever get audited by the IRS, you’ll be glad you took time to create your business plan, because it is a supporting document that will help explain what you do and how you do it.

Getting Started

In yesterday’s post, I wrote a short description of the products and services I intend to provide and who the audience is for those things.

I paint plein air landscapes and do studio paintings for people who enjoy the outdoors in all its seasons and who like to be reminded of places they’ve been to. I teach classes to give people guided experiences that will increase their enjoyment of painting, and I do demonstrations to inspire and motivate people to try painting.

To write this kind of statement, you need to know the general products and services you’ll provide. You don’t need to know details yet. I know my main product is plein air landscape paintings. But I can’t paint outside all the time so I will also produce studio paintings. And I’m not a speedy painter, nor do I have a well-developed list of clients, so I will augment my income with classes and do demos. These things fit with my personal interests, energy level, and values so it’ll be easier to keep my commitments.

If you don’t have a short description of your products and/or services, take a few minutes now to write one. See yesterday’s post for more discussion about step one. Then, move on to Step Two: Identify potential income streams (ways to exchange your product and services for income).

Hint—every income stream needs to accomplish one or more of the following things to benefit you:

  • Provide a networking opportunity
  • Add to your contact list
  • Convert a contact to a customer or patron
  • Result in a direct sale

Step Two: Identify potential income streams

To do this step, you’ll need to draw a very simple tree (a trunk and several main branches). Keep it simple. Spend a few minutes thinking about ways you can get your product or services into the hands of buying customers. Transfer the idea (product or services) to the trunk. Transfer the items in the list you just made to branches, using one branch for each income stream. You might crop off a branch or two, or add branches, as you continue to refine your plan. So relax and think about how you can sell your work.

My tree has nine branches. On one branch, I wrote “online galleries” (DailyPaintworks,com and On another branch, I wrote “Creativity Playbook blog.”

Now, draw a simple leaf (an oval or box is fine, too) at the end of each branch. It needs to be only large enough so you can write a word in it. You might have one or two leaves, but probably not more than four, on each branch. In each leaf, write a word or two to describe what you’ll receive or accomplish from that income stream, for example: Direct Sale, Contact, New Customer, Networking. If you have a different benefit that isn’t listed

Both the Online Galleries branch and Blog branch have two leaves. One for Contacts. One for Clients.

Remembering that each branch must benefit you with new contacts or a new or existing customer, etc., is a good organizing strategy.

If you’re thinking: Wow! This is business is starting to look and feel real! You’re right.

What’s next?

The tree you’ve created will help you make decisions. You may begin to get a sense of how much time each of the income streams will require and which ones are likely to be more or less profitable or beneficial to you. Don’t worry about cutting things yet.

Research all the elements of your business plan (each potential stream). You need solid data and information to help you make decisions as you complete your plan.


  • Try to find information about how much things will cost if you need to buy supplies, pay rent or lease, pay subcontractors, etc.
  • Use your head, not your heart, to make most decisions. Your business is not a charity.
  • Find out where your product or service fits. Do you have a niche market? What is it?
  • Know your audience and its demographics (where and how do they shop? age? gender? etc.)
  • Don’t limit your understanding of you business or where it’s going.

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