When reading about how to start an art business, or any business really, I always had questions that maybe seemed too simplistic or too obvious to cover. These questions might leave some slapping their foreheads, or wishing to slap mine, but I want to cover the basic leg work that needs to be done before you can call yourself a business.
Where do I start?
You should know what your business is about, in this case we are talking about moving from artist to professional artist. A professional artist is simply an artist who gets paid for their artwork. There’s not a jacket to buy or a club to join, you simply decide that the time is right to become a professional.
The step after that is to choose your business name. Most of the time as an artist it will be your own name, but if you are known by a nickname that you like, or feel the need to “pretty it up”, go ahead. Before you get too settled on the name though, I would recommend you do an internet search since a website is a vital part of business you may have to think of a new name if yours has been taken.
Once you finalize your name you need to do two things immediately.
First, buy the domain name at an online registrar. Do this one quick as you never know if a squatter will take it and then charge you through the nose to buy it from them. Do this first even if you don’t plan on having a website for a while. The cost is about $12 for a year.
Second, register your business name with your state. Some states don’t require that you register if you decide to be a sole proprietor and do business under you own name, but since it is relatively cheap, usually under $40, I recommend it just to secure your name. You can usually do this easily online at your state’s website. If you don’t know what it is, search for your state name plus business and it should pop up.
The only other real option for a business structure as a single artist would be an LLC, or Limited Liability Corporation. You can set this up when you register your name as a single member LLC and just put your name in all of the positions that it asks for, such as President, Secretary, etc. The state will usually ask for some sort of Articles of Organization, and this can be a single piece of paper with business address, type of business, members of the business, and who will accept legal documents for the business. Most of the time these articles will be included as a form when you register the business name and can be done simply online. This is the place where I should recommend a business attorney, but since you will be putting your name in every position I can’t recommend the expense unless you are really nervous about it, or have a lot of personal assets. The charge for an LLC is a little more than a Sole Proprietor but usually around $60, though every state has different fees and it might be more or less.
The advantage to both of these is that you will receive a sales tax number in about two weeks. As a Sole Proprietor you can just use your Social Security number, but I recommend getting the tax number so you won’t have to leave your Social Security number with every place you do business with.
One other option you will be asked is if you will have any employees. Since you are just starting out I recommend saying no. If you find yourself needing an employee later on, you can always make a change to your business.
If you’re not sure of which business to start out with, you can always go with a Sole Proprietor and change to an LLC later on. But, if you have personal assets that you want to protect from possible law suits an LLC is the better option, and the one I recommend.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about getting a business license.
P.S. I can tell you my experience, but I’m not an attorney, so following this advice is at your own risk.
Get more information on setting up an LLC at FindLaw.
Just in case you’re in Utah, or want to see what you are looking for, here’s the Utah link to register a business name.