The Business of Being an Artist

An Introduction

This ArtMakers introduction provides an overview to the business side of being an artist.

It includes some useful links to the government’s HMRC websites plus Jargon Busters. For more detailed information please register to see ArtMakers information pages.

For most artists the idea of being a business is a long way from the top of any agenda. Creating work, getting people to see it, and hopefully selling it, or obtaining a commission is the main way artists approach their work, and their business. Yes, that line of action is a description of a business – a B2C business, business to customer, in the jargon.

Creating the work depends on your own individual or collective approach.

Getting people to see it – is marketing. You may not think of it as MARKETING.  However, this is what marketing companies and people definitely define as marketing – making sure potential customers are aware of what you create.

Marketing is dealt with in some detail in these ArtMakers information sheets,

            Creating a website

            Using Social Media




and in our Dirty Martini marketing packages.

This leaves us with Selling and Commissions, again dealt with in ArtMakers information sheets.

So is this all there is to the business of being an artist?

Sadly no.

In addition, there is the questions of

What type of busines are you, or are you going to be? – see below

How will you manage your finances? – see ArtMakers Managing Your Finances sheets

Legals and Insurance – see ArtMakers Legals info sheets

What Type of Business are you or will you be?

HMRC lists all the different types of social enterprises you could possible set up as HERE

In this ArtMakers information sheet we will look at the basic information on the most common forms of business used by artists and makers.

            A Sole Trader

            A Limited Company

Both of these options are open to single person operations i.e. freelancers.

OR      A Community Interest Company

Jargon Busters

Sole trader (Self-employed)

If you’re an individual, and run your own business, you can register as a sole trader. This means you can keep all your business’ profits after you’ve paid tax on them. You’re personally responsible for any losses your business makes.

HMRC offers a calculator to help you budget for your tax payments as a sole trader, and  how to set up as a sole trader

A limited company

Limited companies often operate under a trading name which is usually the name of the business.

A limited company can be classified as limited by shares or limited by guarantee.

A limited by shares company usually operates for the purposes of turning a profit, has shares and shareholders and can keep any profits it generates after paying tax.

NOTE: You can be the only shareholder!

A limited by guarantee company has guarantors rather than shareholders and invests profits back into the company. These organisations are commonly known as ‘not for profit’.  NOTE: Community Interest Companies are also seen as ‘not for profit’ companies.

HMRC guidance on how to set up a limited company provides you with a step-by -step guide online of how to do this.

Community Interest Companies (CICs)

A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.

To set up a CIC, you’ll need:

  • a ‘community interest statement’, explaining what your business plans to do
  • an ‘asset lock’- a legal promise stating that the company’s assets will only be used for its social objectives, and setting limits to the money it can pay to shareholders
  • a constitution – you can use the CIC regulator’s model constitutions
  • to get your company approved by the community interest company regulator – your application will automatically be sent to them

The CIC regulator has guidance on setting up a CIC.  This is the more complex form of business registration noted so far but may work for you if you are a collective focussed on benefiting a particular group of people or a community.

So, this is the overview – more detail is available in the ArtMakers information sheets noted above.

If you want more detailed information on all these topics and examples of worksheets on running a marketing campaign etc and templates as to help with business plans etc please register with Artmakers.





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