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How to start an art business

Updated: Apr 26

Looking to start a creative business but unsure where to start?

How to start a calligraphy business in 2022 - tips from a professional calligrapher

Starting a calligraphy business (or any creative business) can be daunting if you've never done anything similar before. You not only have to gain the confidence to put your work out there to sell but work out all the logistics that go with it.

To stop overwhelm, I'm going to break it down for you in a few simple steps:

  1. Decide what to do

  2. Decide on pricing

  3. Make a plan

  4. Refine!

Let's start with step one...

Decide what to do

Seems simple right? But as you become immersed in the world of calligraphy you quickly realise how many ways there are to make money as a calligrapher. If you haven't got that far yet, I recommend reading my post on ways to make money that aren't related to wedding calligraphy and getting a feel for which niche you would like to start with.

How to decide what niche to do before setting up a modern calligraphy business

Because there are so many niches it's easy to get a sense of FOMO but you shouldn't feel as though you're missing out, remember that niches don't have to be forever!

A simple way to decide on your niche is to ask yourself what you like to do, for example:

  • Do you like creating calligraphy for hours?

  • Do you prefer talking about calligraphy?

  • Do you like to create new designs?

  • Do you like meeting new people?

Asking yourself questions like these will help to guide you towards a niche.

Once you decide on a niche area, you'll need to be more specific. Yes, you may want to teach but what would you like to try first? You could create a workbook or teach your first workshop for instance. Don't try to take on too much at once otherwise you're likely to quickly become overwhelmed.

To-do list for this step:

👉 Read this post if you are unfamiliar with the ways to make money with calligraphy

👉 Ask yourself what you actually like to do

👉 Commit to launching a product/ service within a niche for the next three months


Now that you've decided what you want to do, you need to price accordingly.

Have a look at competitor offerings, what are fellow creatives charging for similar services/products? I recommend looking at 5-10 competitors to get a feel for what the industry standard is. If you look at Etsy take pricing with a pinch of salt, particularly as prices can often be lower than the industry standard.

Don't just look at the price tag though, consider the details within that price. For example, if you research calligraphy workshops, you would ask yourself:

  • How long is the workshop?

  • What supplies are included?

  • Are refreshments included?

Something to bear in mind is that you don't know what costs there are behind the scenes, e.g. how much the venue costs, how many hours they invested in designing the workbook, etc. Considering these factors, what you should do now is write a list of costs that you expect to incur to be able to launch your offering.

Finally, you should decide on a starting price for your offering. You need to ensure that the price you've settled on at a minimum covers your costs + a living wage, though you should remember that calligraphy is a PREMIUM service and therefore don't be scared to charge accordingly (it's scary I know!). If you don't know the accurate costs yet, set an inflated price and revisit it later, adjusting if necessary.

To-do list for this step:

👉 Research 5-10 competing services/products

👉 Write a list of the costs you'll incur to launch this product/service

👉 Decide upon your starting price

Make a plan

Now that you've decided what you'd like to focus on, you should make a plan for the next three months. You'd be surprised how much you can achieve in this time.

Make a business plan for your calligraphy business

The reason you should look at pricing first is because I recommend announcing to friends, family and your audience (if you have one) that you're launching your offering, making sure that you have something set up so that they can register their interest.

This brings us onto the three key questions that you need to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a place to actually sell your product/service?

  2. How are you going to get the word out about your offering?

  3. Are there any logistics to figure out such as tech or packaging?

Expanding on the first question, this seems simple in principle but is something that you need to consider. I highly recommend creating your own website long-term but this isn't necessarily something that you need to do to launch your first offering. You may choose to utilise a platform such as Eventbrite for events, Etsy for products or PayPal/forms for custom commissions.

Before you announce that you're launching, have a platform to sell/register interest first. ConvertKit allows landing pages which could be a great option for registering interest (please note that this is an affiliate link and I'll earn a commission if you opt for a paid plan).

Onto the second question, how will people find out about your offering? Posting to Instagram once a week may not be enough unless you have a larger audience. For example, some of the ways people have found out about my workshops include:

  • Instagram and Facebook posts (using relevant, local tags)

  • Instagram stories

  • Posts in my own Facebook group about learning calligraphy

  • Posting in local Facebook groups

  • On the Eventbrite site

  • Via posters and chalkboards put up at the venue

  • Via my mailing list

  • Facebook ads (don't do this much)

  • SEO because of my website

  • Word of mouth

  • My personal Facebook page (don't do this much)

Now I hope that you don't read this long list and get a sweat on, if anything, I hope that inspires you. There are lots of ways to advertise your offering that aren't just posting to Instagram.

Finally, are there any logistics that you need to work out to be able to offer your product/service. For example with a workshop, you need to work out how to create a workbook, where to get your supplies from, where to host the event, etc. If you were launching a greetings card range you'd need to consider which software to design the cards on, how and where to get them printed, the packaging materials, how and where to ship out your products, etc.

Top tip: fear is more likely to stop you than the logistics. Don't let those fears get in your way!

Once you understand which steps you need to carry out to launch your offering, set a final deadline e.g. event / launch date, and then work backwards setting additional deadlines for each step you need to take. This will help to keep you moving.

Speaking from personal experience fear of logistics has been the key reason I have procrastinated on starting something new. For example, I procrastinated on launching my first online workshop FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR because I was so scared about technical difficulties. Eventually, I got so fed up of procrastinating that I started selling tickets for my first online workshop before I'd worked out how the tech works because I knew that I would work it out with a bit of pressure and guess what? Not only did I work it out, I went onto teaching multiple online workshops later that year and even taught a month long course!

Why am I telling you this? Because I've been in your shoes and I genuinely emphathise with what you may be feeling. I'm here on the other side of that fear to tell you to make that jump. You can do it, I promise!

This is also a good time to shout out my Facebook group for Calligraphy Business Owners. This a community for those fellow creative business owners to meet other calligraphers and ask for help when you get really stuck. Come and join the group, we'd love to have you join.

To-do list for this step:

👉 Setup a method of accepting orders/payments

👉 Write a list of where you plan to market your offering

👉 Write a list of the steps you need to take to make it happen

👉 Set a deadline and work backwards to set smaller step deadlines

Now refine

Once you've done the hard work of launching your first offering take a moment to celebrate what you've accomplished and reflect. You should ask yourself:

  1. Did you actually like it?

  2. Are there any processes that you can automate or improve?

  3. Can you upsell your offering?

Refine your processes after launching your first calligraphy product

The first question - "do I actually like it?" is a critical question to ask. Why would you waste your time growing a business model that you don't actually enjoy? You have to look past the initial setup hiccups and challenges and focus on the core aspects of working in that niche. For example, if you found working out how to create a workbook and finding a venue stressful but enjoyed the actual teaching element of workshops, you can sit more comfortably knowing that working in that niche will only continue to become easier. However, if you enjoy designing products for example, but hate the pressure of regularly packing and shipping out products you may need to revise your niche.

Also consider whether you found something uncomfortable because it's outside your comfort zone and new to you or whether you genuinely didn't enjoy it. If it's the former, stick with it for longer and see if you can work through the discomfort until you gain more confidence in that area. Niches don't have to be forever, but you need to give yourself a chance to see if it's a fit before shaking things up too quickly

Moving onto the second question, write down every step that was involved in launching your offering. Work through that list and ask yourself whether this is something that can be either automated or improved. Let me provide some examples:

  • Save your copy (writing) that you use to promote your work so that you can copy and paste the words rather than re-writing each time

  • Buy a larger amount of supplies rather than having to re-order regularly (this may also make it cheaper per item!)

  • Standardise thank you / reminder / follow up emails and see if you can setup an automation so that these can be sent out without you having to manually rewrite emails and send them out each time

The last question is something that shouldn't be underestimated. You've put in all this work to launch something so it's important to consider whether you're utilising your work fully. For example, if you've designed greeting cards rather than selling individually, you should consider only selling in packs or even selling wholesale. With a workshop, you may want to offer more in depth learning resources such as bigger workbooks or a more in depth course.

To-do list for this step:

👉 Ask yourself whether you like what you're offering and answer honestly

👉 Write a list of the processes involved in running your offering

👉 Work through that list and note whether (and how) you can automate or improve that process

👉 Write a list of ways that you can upsell your offering and decide whether you're going to do them

To sum this up

There are four key steps to starting a creative business in 2022 - deciding what to do, working out your pricing, making a plan and then refining process. Obviously there's more steps within those larger ones but thinking of the four steps feels more attainable.

If you would like additional support in setting up your business, check out the Creative Biz Success Society, a membership for artists starting their businesses.


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