Art Business Basics

The business of art is a huge area to cover. This section provides the basic nuts and bolts info that you need to “officially” start your art business. We recommend checking out the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center for information, resources, classes and more.

There are several official things you will need to begin selling your artwork. A business licence for the city you live in, a seller’s permit, a way to accept payment and a bookkeeping system. We also recommend that you have a business bank account that is separate from your personal one. This will make keeping track of your finances a lot easier.

Business Licence:

Every city in Santa Clara County has their own business licence procedures. Please follow the links below to visit the city government page to obtain a business licence.

Seller’s Permit:

If you are going to be selling your artwork or creations in California you need to obtain a seller’s permit. Most art fairs and festivals require one. They are free and easy to obtain through the California Board of Equalization. You can apply online using electronic registration (eReg) or you may apply at a nearby BOE office.

California seller’s permit information and forms

Collecting Payments:

There are several options for collecting payments. Please visit each site to find out the fees and percent they charge for transactions.

Square Up – Works with your smartphone or tablet. They will send you a free CC reader. They also have an option to create an online storefront.

Paypal – Works with your smartphone or tablet.The first reader is free, additional readers are $14.99.

Quickbooks – The bookkeeping software offers their own CC reader and processing options. This option might be good if you are or plan on using Quickbooks for your accounting.

Bank – A lot of banks now have their own options for small businesses to accept CC and they provide readers for smartphones.


Keeping track of your finances is very a important part of your art business. There are lots of options for this. Some people keep a simple spreadsheet of sales and purchases. There are also software and online programs that can help you. Here are a few options.

Wave – Wave is a free online cloud based accounting software that lets you do a variety of tasks including sending invoices, receipt scanning, business taxes, reports and more.

Mint – Mint is another online cloud based program. Mint is more geared towards personal finance, budget tracking,etc. but it also has a small business feature.

QuickBooks – Quickbooks has been around for a long time. They have a desktop version and online options. They are not free and have several price points depending on what options you want. They also have a CC reader option.

Not required but highly recommended:

A business plan
A good business plan is important to know where you are going and to have a successful business. Here are a few resources to help you create one. Some are free templates and some are more in depth processes that cost money
An Artist’s Guide to Making a Business Plan (In Just 6 Steps) – From Artwork Archive
Business Plans for artists – From the Abundant Artist
The Artist’s Business Plan – From Laura C. George
The Right Brain Business Plan

A business bank account
For a sole proprietorship it is not legally required to have a separate bank account but we still recommend it. Here is a great article with 5 reasons to have a separate business bank account.Why Have a Business Bank Account Keep Your Personal and Business Finances Separate on the balance website.

Protecting you and your work
California Lawyers for the Arts
Silicon Valley United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
U.S. Copyright