Last year I ran a workshop for a bunch of creative women. All highly talented, intelligent and engaged and all experienced artists with amazing work.

All of them struggling with the ‘how’ of starting a business selling their art.

Like Joy. Joy is an experienced, University trained craftsperson creating beautiful delicate pottery as an outlet from her dreary day job. She has been producing her ceramics for many years, selling informally at an art gallery, not too worried about properly pricing or marketing her work.

Then out of the blue, her boss went bankrupt, and she was out of a job. She decided to take the opportunity to ramp up her pottery sales and build a business.

She felt like she had been spinning her wheels since making the decision to start a business, stuck wih what she needed to do first.

I made up this checklist to help Joy on her first steps to setting up her business and hopefully it will help you too.

  1. Decide on your niche.

As an artist or performer, you may already be lucky enough to know your niche, to have found that one thing you are passionate about. If you are not one of the lucky ones, here’s what you can do:

o   Identify what you are good at.

o   Work out what you enjoy doing, have a real passion for.

o   Research to work out what people need.

o   Research to work out what people will pay money for.

  1. Work out your business structure

Working out your business structure is vital. You need to decide if you are a sole trader, partnership or company. Each one will require a different type of setup and may require assistance from professionals like solicitors or accountants.

  1. Have a plan

You need to have some idea of what your business is going to do and where it is going to go. A business plan is an outline of your business goals, the actions you are going to take to achieve them, and the reason they are achievable, as well as how you will fund the business.

I like to have both a business plan and a business model guide in my plan.

  1. Know your customers

You need to know who your customers are. You will find it hard to market if you say your customers are ‘everyone’. So you have an accurate indication of who you are trying to sell your product to, you will need to refine your customer description or avatar. The information you have gathered on what people need and what they will pay for to find out your niche should help.

  1. Calculate your pricing

Often creative people are guilty of underpricing their work. As a business, you want to make a profit. You will need to work out how much it costs you to provide your product to the market. It includes factoring in your total overheads (including materials and labour), sales and marketing expenses. This will get you on the road to deciding on what price you sell your products for.

  1. Name your business

Naming your business can be hard. As a creative artist, you may decide to use your name or may prefer to have a separate business name. You will need to decide on, and make sure you can secure the social media sites you want in your chosen name, as well as a business name and domain name. You may also want to trademark

  1. Decide on your online presence

In this internet era, people search online for the products and services they need so a good online presence can mean more exposure and sales. You need to research and decide what sort of online presence you need, whether to have a standalone website or use a store platform.

You also need to make a decision on the social media platforms you will use, and have a plan for posting content.

  1. Set up an ABN & decide whether you need GST

You’ll need an ABN if you are going to carry on a legitimate business. An ABN is free and setting it up is a simple task, so don’t be fooled by the many sites that charge you to set it up.

You may need to get some professional advice to decide whether it is advantageous to register for GST. You only NEED to have it when you earn gross income of $75 000 per year or more.

  1. Research business insurance

Insurance protects you against risk in your business, those unexpected events or issues that could cause you financial loss.

There are a range of policies available to arts businesses, so you will need advice on which policies are best for you. Your arts peak body or an insurance broker may be able to assist.

  1. Work out your bookkeeping and invoicing

I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s best to have a proper invoicing software from the word go. I was working with spreadsheets, and an invoice template I had created but quickly found I was double handling and as my business grew, keeping track of my accounts became increasingly harder.

There are a heap of options for bookkeeping, with something in every price range.

So this was my list for Joy. It helped her get started with the first steps to making her business a reality. I hope it helps you too.

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