It’s A Creative Business: Eight Steps to Better Profitability

This week, Katie Turner discusses how to put—and keep—your creative business “in the black.”


Turning your creative business into a profit-making enterprise can be a great challenge. The balance between time spent creating and time spent developing your business is definitely something you’ll be challenged with, but once you get this balance under control, you’ll start to see results.


Here are eight tips that will help put your creative business in the black:


STEP 1: Have a strong, consistent body of works. In other words, display your best paintings and leave the rest home. Not that perfection is the goal, but present a product that you’re really proud of and can stand behind. Ask yourself if you’re presenting a cohesive body of works. Can customers get a sense of you as an artist? When people feel like they understand you and your style, they’re more likely to buy.


STEP 2: Optimize for individual buyers. This is where knowing your customer can really help. Many artists have a variety of sizes and prices, and sell more than just originals. Some artists sell prints, giclees, magnets, bookmarks, posters, scarves, and more. Giving customers options is good for business.


STEP 3: Create daily. Post daily. If you’re creating regularly, you have new work to post regularly. Using social media to promote your product gives potential customers an excuse to visit your shop. (It’s probably not a good idea to post a lot of items at once, though; that overwhelms people.)


STEP 4: Add the tags. When using social media, be sure to use relevant tags and descriptions. What is the sense of having beautiful artwork that nobody can locate? When tagging or writing descriptions, think about what a customer might search for when looking for something like your product. (For example, several descriptive words have been added to the painting listing below.)



A cautionary note: Don’t do “keyword stuffing.” This is where people tag everything just to get a lot of short-term views on their product. Google bots recognize this and penalize you by keeping you out of search results. A potential customer could find your product and see no relationship between what you’ve tagged and what the actual content of your artwork is, and it leaves a bad taste. Don’t give the customer a reason to avoid you.


STEP 5: Share your products. Don’t be afraid to put your products out there on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc. By letting your network know you have great new products, you’re keeping them interested. If you’re concerned about theft, limit your images to smaller sizes and use a copyright symbol with your name embedded in the image. Tutorials are available online to help with embedding copyrights.


STEP 6: Give ‘em what they want. If you’re getting a lot of orders or “likes” on a specific style item, why not keep your customers happy with more similar products? On a side note, remember to put out products that are relevant to the season—for example: back-to-school, college gear, Christmas or holiday times. Work 4-8 weeks in advance in order to give customers time to pick up your product and then have time to deliver it before the holiday.


STEP 7: Have Marketing Materials. This probably goes without saying, but make sure you always have a business card on you. You never know when you will meet a new customer. Hand out postcards of your work and include your website on the back.


STEP 8: Plan your goals. It’s so easy for a creative individual to get distracted. Having a written business plan and daily goals can really help. Setting goals is also a great way to control your time (artistically and otherwise) and you’ll find you won’t waste as much time or money aimlessly.


Making a living off your art can be a challenging job. You’ll end up spending a lot of time hustling the business side of it, but it’s all worth it when you realize you’re doing what you love.


Katie Turner is a watercolor artist in the Central New York Branch NLAPW.  Working in watercolor since the ‘90s, Turner began experimenting with different substrates in the last few years. “I like the potential and challenge of slick paper,” Turner explains. Turner spent many years in the graphic arts field, writing craft articles, publishing ‘zines and working with various media, but she never strays far from watercolor. Visit her website at

Screenshots provided by K. Turner.

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed.  We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.


  1. Sara Etgen-Baker says

    thanks for those helpful tips!