Turning Art into Business: A Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs

Tinna Lyngholm Thomsen
5 min readMay 23, 2023

Don’t know where to start?

A lot of people want to make money from their art or using their creative skills but don’t know where to start. I get that — it’s challenging when you’re a creative without a business background, and it’s perfectly normal not knowing how to navigate this. I want to help creatives pursue their passions by addressing the business side of things. I’ve created a guide to assist you in thinking about the business aspects, which can often be considered taboo among creatives.

Importance of entrepreneurship in the creative industry

Art, creativity and innovative design are important for society to evolve and improve. The creative economy has been identified as one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, as highlighted in United Nations report ‘Creative Economy Outlook 2022’. In 2020 the global exports of creative goods reached US$ 524 million, while the world exports of creative services reached US$ 1.1 trillion. It’s essential to recognize these figures because they demonstrate the potential for establishing a business within the creative industries. However, it is equally important to note that approximately 90% of startups fail. Being aware of these facts are important so you don’t start a creative business blindly. While you are a creative and want to do what you’re passionate about, remember that you’re also a business owner, who must treat your business accordingly. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to assist you if business management isn’t your strong suit.

Finding Your Creative Niche: What story do you want to tell?

First, you need to identify your specific creative skills. What make your skills unique? What stories do you want to tell? What do you feel is important to share with others?

Many successful artists have a story to tell. They draw inspiration from society or experiment with different mediums to develop their own unique style. When people buy art, they seek something more than just aesthetic appeal. They want a story, a cause they support — something that reflects their individuality and authenticity.

If you have some creative skills, consider how you can make best use of them. What is the essence of your business? Why do you believe you are the right person to start this specific business?

Developing a Business Plan: How will you make money?

If you’re unfamiliar with creating a business plan, a helpful place to start is to learn about the business model canvas. It provides a structured framework of essential aspects to consider when launching a business.

When you’re trying to figure out how to make money using your creative skills, it’s important to recognize the different possibilities available. I recommend researching various business models used by other companies for inspiration. Keep in mind that what may have worked for another company, may not necessarily work for yours.

Here are some of the obvious ways to make money as a creative entrepreneur:

· Selling your creative skills as a freelancer (locally or remote)

· Selling your product through your own store (online or physical)

· Selling your product through another company’s store (online or physical)

· Creating a workshop or providing one-on-one teaching your skills to others (online or physical)

· Delivering talks or workshops for companies or schools

· Consider collaboration with other creatives or freelancers to offer combined services to companies

· Exploring the potential of your skills for creating a software company or an app

· Assessing if your skills can be used for a subscription-based model

· Working as a consultant for companies

These examples represent just a few possibilities, so go ahead and research various business models. Realistically, it may be necessary to create multiple products initially to generate sufficient income to sustain your livelihood.

Finding your first customers

How do you find your first customers? Your personal network, including friends and family is a great place to start. The most suitable strategy for your company will depend on what kind of company you’re creating. Selling your work to people who are familiar with you is often easier, making networking a valuable initial step in finding your first customers.

Marketing

To begin with, keep things simple: Establish a website and select one or two social media platforms to explore for your company. The choice of platforms depends on your product and target audience. I think it’s important to understand that marketing is essentially an experiment. You need to create some content first to assess what works best for your company. Don’t be afraid to try out various platforms before settling on a final decision. You can always make adjustments later if you’re not achieving optimal results. The same principle applies to branding your company — just get started and refine it over time through experience.

Pricing, Financial Management and Contracts

When establishing a price list it can be helpful to examine the rates charged by others for the same product. However, don’t overlook your own expenses. You need to generate more income than what you’re spending. Obviously. You can find a lot of financial templates online, which can be really helpful, intimidating and confusing. Remember that starting with a simple approach is perfectly acceptable. The key is to effectively manage expenses and keep track of income. Ignore complex financial templates as they are likely unnecessary for your needs.

Regarding clients you need a strong contract. Investing in the assistance of a lawyer to ensure the solidity of your contracts makes sense. It may be expensive, but it is definitely worthwhile.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of things you need to consider, but it provides a foundation to make the business aspect less daunting for creatives. Building a business requires significant effort and comes with uncertainty. There’s no guarantee of success, but if it’s something you feel compelled to do, go ahead and give it a try. However, remember to be mindful of not investing more money and time than you are comfortable losing. Personally, I believe it’s worth taking a chance, but it may not be suitable for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine too!

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