Tips for launching an arts business

Joe Roberts of Columbia College offers tips for artists on running a business
Joe Roberts is professor of arts entrepreneurship at Columbia College in Chicago

Launching an arts-based venture requires planning, producing and selling.

SmallBusinessChicago asked Joe Roberts, professor of arts entrepreneurship at Columbia College in Chicago, and Barrett Baebler, director of entrepreneurship and nonprofit management at Webster University in St. Louis, to provide tips for artists on running sustainable business ventures.

Setting prices

Consider more than the cost of supplies when determining prices, Baebler said. Factor in the time spent learning the craft and all expenses incurred, he said.

Or, as an alternative, calculate monthly living expenses, determine how much you re likely to sell during that period and set a price accordingly, Roberts said. It brings it down to earth and makes the cost more tangible, he said.

Finding a target market

Making art is one thing, but selling it is a different game, experts said. To determine what to make and sell, consider who will likely buy it, Roberts said.

Ask colleagues and customers for advice and criticism, Baebler said. Consider taking your art to other markets, such as craft shows or exhibitions in other cities, to expose it to a different audience.

Diversifying product offerings

Look for opportunities to cultivate new buyers without drifting too far from your business objectives. If you decide to offer lower-priced items in addition to your traditional work, clearly distinguish between the two to avoid being stuck at a lower-price point, Baebler said. The same risk applies for lowering the price of your traditional work to attract more customers, he said.

— By Hallie Busta