How to launch your fine art business

Dear Art Friends,

Are you a fine artist dreaming of making a living from your art? I’m going to break down the steps I would take to build up my art business and my income if I were starting over from scratch today.

Step One: Evaluate your art.

Before you commit to making consistent income from your art, you need to be sure that the art you are making is strong and that you also love making it. I see a lot of artists rush into trying to sell their art when the quality is not very high yet. And that’s not to say that you can’t sell less-than-great art, but everything you do from showing to selling to talking about your art is going to be much much easier if the art itself is strong. Not only that, but when you get into marketing and selling your art, you’re going to have less time in your studio to develop your work.

So, if you’re not feeling that confident about your art yet take the time now to develop your practice. Develop your technique and your voice until you fall in love with what you’re making and just want to share it with the world. Once you can consistently produce work that you love, that’s the time to think about selling it consistently.

Now don’t think that I’m telling you that your work must be amazing, museum quality before you start to sell it. It doesn’t need to be in the top 1% of all art being made in the world today. But maybe top 30%. And believe me, there’s a lot of art being made out there, so top 30% isn’t that hard. Remember, you’re going to keep working your whole life to make your art better and better. Don’t let pursuit of perfection stop you from taking your first steps. But do make sure you are in love with your practice and in love with what you make before you decide to turn it from a hobby to a source of significant income.

OK. So, step one was really more of a prerequisite. Make good work and then you’re ready to move on to step two.

Step two: Start or refine your Instagram account.

I know. I can already hear you telling me that IG is a waste of time and that it’s really hard to build a following there these days. And I get it. For most of us, Instagram is no longer a place where you can sell out a collection or build a giant following overnight.

But guess what, Instagram is a great place to quickly and easily build a portfolio. Don’t worry too much about building a following. Use your account to practice taking great photos of your work and your process. Meet some other artists. See what they’re up to. I can’t tell you how many connections I still make through Instagram even though the amount of effort I put in there is evident in the size of my following.

So, put a little time into cleaning up your feed to look professional, decide how often you will post (one to two times a week is plenty) and move on to step 3.

Step three: Go local.

The next thing I would've done is start exploring local opportunities to share my work: shops,  cafes, salons, pop-ups, art fairs. These are easy places to get your work in front of people. You will learn so much about what kinds of people actually buy your artwork from those opportunities. After enough of these events you will get a good sense of who your ideal buyer is, where to find them, what they like, and how to get your art in front of more people like them.

Step four: Go pro online.

While you’re exploring these local opportunities, take the time to build a professional website. Preferably one that you can make sales from. You want to have a beautiful website that shows your work well so that you can expand beyond your local market, and put your best foot forward when people find you online. Once your website is ready you can start proactively reaching out to shops, galleries, brands, and influencers online.

Step five: Make a plan.

By now you should have a better idea of what you want to make, who your audience is, and how you want to spend your time. But do you have an income goal set for yourself? If not, how will you know what success looks like? How will you know how many paintings you need to make and sell? How will you fit that work in between building your website and participating in local events?

The answer is you won’t. And so you need to make a plan for your year. Create a simple spreadsheet and outline what you’re going to make, what sizes, and when. And then make it happen.

Step six: Reach out.

Reach out, reach out, reach out. If you take away anything away from this list, it's that you can’t just sit around waiting for someone to discover your art, make you rich and famous, and then live the rest of your life holed up in your studio painting never having to deal with the business side of things.

That’s just not the way it works. You have to be proactive in pursuing opportunities for yourself and your art. You owe your art that much. But the good news is there are a lot of artists who do sit back hoping to be discovered. And so by being proactive and reaching out, you are miles ahead of those artists already.

Part of reaching out is also starting an email list. I cannot tell you what an incredible asset your email list will be. Start one today and gather the emails of everyone who is interested in your art online or at events. Then you can reach out to them proactively when you have new work or new events.

Step seven: Diversify.

The key to building consistent income from your art is diversification. That means you need to pursue multiple places to sell your art, and multiple formats to sell your art in. For example, I sell my original art on my website, in local shops, through interior designers, and at several galleries. I also license print reproductions and sell prints on my website. Not only does my art reach more people this way, but it hits different price points and I have other people working to sell my work for me so I can spend more time in the studio painting

Step eight: Evaluate.

Part of building a sustainable art business is regularly taking a look both externally at your business metrics and internally at yourself.

How is your business doing? How are you doing both as an artist and as a human in the world? Are you enjoying your business? Are you enjoying making art? Are you taking time to rest and see people and travel and exercise and eat good food?

If not, something needs to change. You need to go back to your plan and revise. I do a big evaluation of my business annually, as well as four quarterly reviews. This is so important to be sure your business is growing in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable for the long term.

And that is basically it.

The eight steps again are:

  1. Make Good work
  2. Instagram
  3. Go Local
  4. Go pro online
  5. Make a plan
  6. Reach Out
  7. Diversify
  8. Evaluate

Oh, and I did promise to tell you…the #1 thing I truly believe has contributed to the success of my business is surrounding myself with people who were where I wanted to be. The path to becoming a full-time fine artist is not straightforward, and it can be overwhelming at times. But having someone who has been where you are and can help you along is huge.

OK. So, now you know the exact steps I’d take if I had to start my business over again today. And you know how helpful having a mentor was in my own success. That’s part of the reason I developed my group coaching program for fine artists—Palette to Profit. If you are at all interested in learning more about it, you can check it out here

I hope this helpful to you and your artist's journey. If you want more information on a certain aspect of it let me know in the comments!

All my best,


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