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The Ultimate Guide to Starting & Running an Art Studio Successfully

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to start and run an art studio successfully. Depending on where you are in your journey, feel free to read all the way through or jump to the sections that are the most relevant to your needs.  

If you are looking for more support in running your art business, Sawyer can help. Schedule a free demo with our specialists today.

This guide is part of the Sawyer entrepreneurship series and business plan contest. Our goal is to help more children’s activity businesses get started. Learn more about how Sawyer can help you start or grow your business.
Updated on
August 17, 2023
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How to open an art studio

A lot goes into opening an art studio, but it is so rewarding in the end. Art has so many positive benefits for children and adults and watching your students grow as artists and people makes each step of the process worthwhile!

We will go over each step in the process so that you will get a full understanding of the timeline, necessary funds, and legal requirements you need to follow to open an art studio and start teaching art classes to children and adults. 

If you are looking to start an art studio, then you have come to the right place. The team at Sawyer has worked with hundreds of businesses to create and build art studios and other children’s activities all over the country. 

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Requirements to start a business teaching art to kids

There are so many moving pieces when it comes to starting an art studio. Before you think about lesson plans, space, and supplies, you need a business plan, budget, and so much more to get your business off the ground successfully. And remember: When you start a business you need to check and meet the legal requirements for businesses in your state, city, and county. 

Art studio business plan

Writing a business plan should be the first step when you want to open an art studio. A successful business plan includes your goals, market analysis, financial planning, and more. Plus, if you are looking to apply for funding assistance (small business loans or grants), they often require a business plan as part of the application.

Business plan template

  • Executive summary: The first piece of your business plan is the executive summary. It gives your reader a quick overview of your business and goals. The executive summary should outline the problem and how you are going to solve it. You should also include a brief summary of who you are and the necessary financial information about your business.
  • Description of your business: What are the services you’re offering at your art studio? Will you be teaching just children or adults as well? Are you planning to offer private lessons, group classes, and open studio time? Will you have after school classes and summer camps? Also include information about how you are planning to operate as well. What state are you in? Are you an LLC or a non-profit? Give your readers a detailed explanation of who you are.
  • Market analysis: Outline your target audience and how you’ll deliver your services to them. Are you looking for families in your community? Or maybe customers you can reach virtually in different cities? Can you connect with schools and push in to their programs? In addition, take a look at what your competitors are doing to get a sense of the market.
  • Your team: Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur running your business and teaching activities or a room full of incredible instructors, it’s important to talk about the team! How is your business organized? Who manages each type of role and responsibility? Why are they right for those positions? Include their credentials and background so readers can learn more about them.
  • Financial plan: This section should be a detailed overview of all of your finances. What is your budget? What do you project your profits will look like? What are your overhead costs? A precise section of your financial plans will help you forecast your growth.

Use our guide for more support on creating your business plan.

Business budget and investment

As you likely know from your personal life, keeping a budget is important. For your business, building and staying on track with your budget helps you to reach your business goals and objectives.

What to include in a business budget?

  • Income sources: The first step towards building your business budget is tracking your income or projected income. Income is how much money you are bringing in (projected income is how much money you expect to bring in). Make sure you take into account all of your revenue sources. For example, if you teach classes in-person and online, if you sell supplies, or if you provide private lessons. If you tend to see seasonal trends in sales, make sure to take these into account for the respective months. Everything should be tallied in this section. 
  • Fixed costs: Once you know how much money is coming in (or expected to come in), you need to figure out how much money you are spending. We recommend that you start with your fixed costs because they stay the same. Rent, utilities, insurance, salaries, and platform subscriptions are examples of fixed costs. 
  • Variable costs: Unlike fixed costs, variable costs change. This makes them slightly more difficult to budget, but equally as important. Consumption-based utilities like gas and electricity, travel, commission on item sales, holiday gifts for employees, and shipping costs are examples of variable costs. Keeping track of these costs will help you determine seasonal averages and which months are stronger for your business.
  • One-time costs: If you have any planned one-time costs, like buying a new computer and microphone for better online classes, then you can include that in this section. However, it is still very important to include some money in the budget for one-time costs that are not planned. For example, broken equipment, damage to your studio, slow months because of a global pandemic, or something similar.

Review our guide for more information and guidance on building your business budget.

Art studio license

When you start a business, you need to follow the legal guidelines and obtain the necessary licenses. In addition, regular adherence to tax laws and other regulations are, of course, necessary to starting and successfully operating your business.

  • Company registration: Your company must be registered as a legal entity before you can open your art studio. A small business is usually registered as an LLC while larger businesses and franchises are usually C Corps. You can also register as a nonprofit if you plan to run your business not-for-profit.
  • Employee Identification Number (EIN): The IRS issues an EIN to all businesses after they register.
  • Certificate of Occupancy (CO): Once you have acquired the space for your studio, you will need to ensure it passes inspection and receives a CO.

Registration and management software

Even though software is an added cost at the start of your business journey, it is worth it. Utilizing a class registration and management software like Sawyer can help your business get started on the right foot. 

First impressions are important. Rather than relying on manually accepting bookings over the phone or via email, class registration and management software like Sawyer lets you take bookings 24/7 so you never miss a sale. Plus, software helps you make schedules easily, keep track of important student information, seamlessly take payments, and analyze financial reports.

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Art lesson plans and curriculum

Once you have all of your legal and business requirements finalized, you can turn your attention to the fun part: building an art curriculum and writing lesson plans! Success in the studio is dependent on strong lesson plans that keep your instructors and your students on track. 

How to write an art curriculum

Planning your curriculum puts you in a great position to establish your goals, write lesson plans, and come up with exciting hands-on activities for your students. Use these curriculum development and design tips to get your planning off on the right foot.

  • Establish goals: Before you begin developing your curriculum, you need to determine your goals for teaching. As you think about your curriculum goals, make sure to plan around the topic you are teaching, the age of your students, and the amount of time you have. Choose realistic goals so that you can set yourself, fellow instructors, and students up for success. 
  • Sketch it out: Once you have determined your goals, you can begin to sketch the course out. How many sessions do you have? How long are your sessions? This information is important as you begin to write your curriculum, and later, your lesson plans. When planning an art curriculum, make sure you give yourself and your students enough time to understand each element before moving on. 
  • Review previous lessons: If this is not your first time teaching, go through what has worked (and not worked!) in the past. Where have students struggled when learning this style of art or type of activity? What has really helped them master it? Use these experiences to inform your new curriculum. If you are a new teacher to this topic, use the Internet to see what others have done to teach it or speak with other educators to get their advice.
  • Write lesson plans: Once you have your curriculum structured, it’s time to write the lesson plans for each class. Each lesson should also have its own goal, which will help you accomplish the overarching goal of the curriculum. You should also include information about how you will assess and evaluate your success for each class so you can keep track and stay on target. Use our guide for more details on how to write a lesson plan, including templates and examples.

More questions on how to write a curriculum? Use our guide!

Art lesson plans

Lesson plans are important for both the instructor and the student. A strong lesson plan provides the necessary scaffolding for effective and efficient learning. A strong lesson plan has a learning objective for the session, a list of the materials and supplies needed, the activities you will be doing and the time allotted for each one, and space for assessments and evaluations. These are the sections of an art lesson plan to keep in mind.

  • Lesson objective(s): In this section, determine the goal for the lesson. What are the students going to learn or be able to do at the end of the class? Make your lesson objective(s) as action-oriented and measurable as possible because this is how you will measure progress before moving on to new lessons. For example: create a self portrait  or learn the basics of pottery.
  • Materials needed: What materials, supplies, books, films, etc are needed to teach this lesson? 
  • Lesson activities: Break your lesson down into individual activities that will help your students learn what you want them to learn. Try to incorporate games and fun elements to keep them engaged. 
  • Timing: Include a time estimate with each activity so you can stay on track with the time for the class. It is best to add a little extra time to each activity in case students are having difficulty mastering something.
  • Assessment: It is helpful for instructors to include an assessment in their lesson plans, even if it is not as formal as an exam. The goal is to help the instructor determine if the lesson actually helped students meet the objectives. This can be as simple as running reviewing the students’ artwork at the end of the session or asking them what they learned that day in class.

Review our guide with even more information about teaching art to children for art activities and best practices!

Art lesson plan template

Ready to get started on your own art lesson plan? Fill out our editable art lesson plan template so you can start creating.

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Marketing your art studio

It’s time to get your name out there! With the right marketing strategies, you can let your community know about your offerings and start building your customer base. Marketing helps you get them in the door so you can wow them with your exciting activities and classes.

Email marketing for art studios

If you already have a list of email addresses from reaching out to the community or running programming in the past, email marketing is a good starting point. The key to successful email marketing is keeping it short and highlighting your value. Use these tips when you plan your email marketing for your art studio.

  • Use an enticing subject line. Email marketing does not work if they don’t open your email. Create a sense of urgency, intrigue the reader, and/or showcase your value with a strong subject line. Here are a couple of examples:
  • ~Only 10 spots left for beginner watercolor!
  • ~Book now! Art summer camps are almost full
  • ~See what families have to say about our art classes
  • Provide incentives. If you can offer incentives like discounts or early access, email is a great place to do that: Especially in the subject line!
  • Keep it short. You are competing against hundreds of other emails per day. It is important to get right to the point with marketing emails. Tell them why you are emailing, show them your value, and give them an easy way to purchase.
  • End with a call-to-action (CTA). At the end of your email, use a CTA that encourages the reader to make a decision. Sometimes, the decision will be registering for your classes. However, other times it might make more sense for the CTA to be “schedule a call” or “learn more” if the reader is not yet ready to make a purchase.

Review our guide for more in depth information on email marketing for small businesses.

Social media marketing for art studios

Social media is a very important platform when marketing art classes for children and adults. Did you know that Pew Research reports that 72% of all adults in the US use social media? Plus, when it comes to parents, they found that number to be even higher: 83% of parents are actively using social media. Therefore, social media is an important medium for reaching potential customers. Consider these recommendations when establishing a social media marketing strategy for your art studio.

  • Highlight high quality photos. Smartphone photography is all you need to get high quality images for your social media marketing campaigns. These images are the first impression a customer will get of your classes, so make sure they are full of smiling faces! And if you use photos of children, remember to always get permission from a parent or guardian beforehand. 
  • Showcase user-generated content (UGC). Millennials trust UGC over brand created content. Ask customers to share pictures in photo contests, reshare positive reviews, and get the excitement flowing with social media takeovers. Check out our full guide on user-generated content to see even more ideas.
  • Make connections with potential and current customers. Social media is such a great tool because you can easily interact with your community. By making connections, you are increasing the likelihood that they sign up for your classes and refer friends. 

For more guidance on social media marketing for businesses, check out our article, which includes helpful information about setting up business accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

Advertising for art studios

Google Ads are a great marketing tool for new businesses. Google Ads follow a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model, which means you bid on search terms and only pay for the clicks your ads receive. There is no spending requirement, so it can be a very cost efficient strategy. Follow these steps when setting up your Google Ads campaign.

  • Start with research. First, you need to decide which keywords to target. Keywords are the words or phrases that people search for on Google that trigger your ad. Research which keywords your competitors are targeting by searching those words to see what ads appear. This will give you an understanding of your competition.
  • Choose your level. Google Ads have two different levels. The first is campaigns, which is the higher level and the second is ad groups, which is the lower level. Creating different ad groups for different keywords will help your ad be more effective with customers. 
  • Plan your budget. You need to consider two different elements that go into your account’s overall spend: Daily budget (the amount of money you spend on each campaign each day) and bid (the cost when someone who searches for your keyword actually clicks on your ad).
  • Pick the keywords. Google Ads has a free Keyword Planner tool, which you can use to generate a list of keywords. The Keyword Planner helps you see if certain keywords are too expensive and helps you refine where your ads appear. 
  • Choose your devices. Do you want your ads to appear on mobile, desktop, tablet, or all three? In our 2022 Children’s Activity Business Trend Report, we found that 60% of parents booked activities on mobile, 39% on desktop, and 1% on tablet.
  • Write the copy. You don’t have a lot of space, so write something catchy and enticing with the keywords. Plus, be sure to add a call-to-action (CTA) like “Sign up today” or “Learn more”.
  • Activate and monitor. Turn your ads on and then see how they are doing with Google Analytics, which is free and connected to Google Ads. For more advanced tracking, you can also install a Google Ads pixel on your site. 

Looking for more details on setting up Google advertising for your business? Check out our guide!

Making connections with schools

When you teach classes to children, making connections with schools can help you build customer trust, increase your enrollment numbers, and find new families in your community. Here are some of our top tips to help you make connections with schools.

  • Find the right people. Try reaching out to members of the school board, school administrators, and/or the PTA to start the conversation.
  • Write a strong email. Catch their attention with your subject line, then in the body, introduce yourself and explain what you are offering. Be straightforward but polite. Let them know why the students would benefit from your classes and how you can make life easier for the school, too. End your email by thanking them for their time and let them know how they can get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
  • Use our outreach email generator. With our outreach email generator, you can easily input the above information and create an email that will help you make strong connections with local schools.

Use our guide to learn more about how to make connections with schools.

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Common challenges of running an art studio

As you continue on your journey of setting up and running an art studio, you might be wondering what other elements should you consider that you might not be thinking about from the get go? 

Luckily, at Sawyer we work with children’s activity business owners every day to make starting and running an art studio more simple. We’ve outlined some of the common challenges of running an art studio and how you can solve them to help you get grooving.

Managing rosters

If you are planning to run a lot of different types of classes, managing rosters can be one of your biggest challenges. But, rosters are so important to your success! Rosters help you and your instructors keep track of everything: Registered students, attendance check-in and -out, and important information like pronouns, allergies, and more. If you do not have a system in place, rosters can easily become overwhelming. We recommend using a class registration and management software like Sawyer to keep your rosters organized. 

Auto-generated rosters

With Sawyer, once a student is signed up for a class, they are automatically added to the roster along with all of their information like parents’ names, pronouns, birthday, allergies, t-shirt/costume size, and more. Instructors and administrators can also track attendance at drop-off and pickup online on the roster or by exporting and printing. And if something comes up, instructors can email everyone on the roster to keep them in the know. 

Learn more about how Sawyer can make managing rosters simple for your dance studio.

Managing waitlists

When the demand for a certain class is higher than the space available, that’s a good sign. You can capitalize on this situation by utilizing waitlists. You get to see which specific classes resonate with your audience more strongly and ensure you don’t leave money on the table!

Sawyer provider Oh! Canary, which offers art camps and extracurricular activities for young children in New Jersey, explains that waitlists are beneficial because they also act as a growth projection and planning metric, providing insight into the interest in each class. Lacey, founder of Oh! Canary, explained that “waitlists are helpful because we can really see in real time the demand for our classes. In some weeks, our camp waitlists are up to 70 kids! It shows us the potential of what could be possible.” Read more about how Sawyer helped Oh! Canary grow and scale in our case study.

Taking online registrations

Millennials are digital natives. That’s why it is important to show that your classes can be booked online, 24/7, without the need to make a call or send an email. In our 2022 Children’s Activity Trend Report, we reviewed 7.2 million activity bookings and found that 42% of parents book outside of typical business hours (9am to 5pm). Plus, over 60% booked on mobile! To capture this business, you need to be available for online bookings and mobile optimized.

Selling semester and drop-in options

By offering registration options for customers, you can increase your enrollment numbers. People have busy schedules so they are looking for flexibility when they book activities. However, it is difficult to offer options like semesters, camps, and drop-in classes unless you work with a class registration and management software that has these capabilities built in.

With Sawyer, you can choose to offer semesters and summer or school break camps as well as drop-in classes. You can even offer multiple options for one class, so some customers can choose to pay for the whole semester or month while others pay by week or even by day. 

Allowing transfers

Class management software makes transfers and last minute booking changes an easy process. You can allow customers to choose whether they want to transfer into a different class or program or request a refund. With a few clicks, the booking has been updated, saving you and your team time!

Getting the information you need

If you do not use registration and class management software, you need to ask each customer to print and fill out registration materials, waivers, consent forms, and other documents before they can participate in class. Then, you have to file these papers and keep everything organized. With a class management software like Sawyer, you can seamlessly collect information about each student as they register and access it easily from anywhere.

Custom form fields

Require custom forms for registration to keep track of important responses about medications, allergies, and pronouns, consent and waiver forms, and emergency contacts. This information is then exported automatically into the roster so that instructors and staff have access to everything in one place.

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Do you need to use class registration software?

Class registration software makes starting and running an art studio successfully much easier. Rather than relying on phone calls and email, handwritten forms, and spreadsheet rosters, you can have everything organized and accessible. (See how Sawyer helped Shredder get organized so they could manage their six locations). 

Software keeps you and your staff more organized and efficient. In fact, class registration software Sawyer can save you 28 hours per month on administrative tasks, so that you have more time to spend planning lessons and activities, growing your business, working with your staff, and teaching your students.

Features to look for in class registration software

How can you tell which class registration and management software is right for your business? Here are some questions to ask yourself and features to look for so you can find the perfect class registration software for your art studio.

  • Why do you need software? Do you want to improve staff experience by freeing up your team’s time to focus more on connecting with students? Do you want to appear more professional to your customers and provide an easier way to register? Are you looking to process payments or dive deeper into business analytics? What is the goal of signing on with a class registration and management software for your business?
  • What do the reviews say? Check reviews on sites like Capterra to hear firsthand from business owners about their experience with certain softwares.
  • Do they have great customer service? Customer service and onboarding are incredibly important when you start with a new software. Do they help with onboarding and continued education? When and how can you reach out to the customer service team? These are important questions to ask when considering a registration software.
  • Can they help you grow? How will the features and options on that platform help your business grow and scale? Do they accept customer feedback and make changes so that they grow with you? You don’t want to be stagnant and neither should your software.

Check out our guide to learn more about how to find the perfect registration software for your camp.

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Still not sure if starting and running an art studio is the right decision for you? Making the jump is a big decision. Check out these frequently asked questions about running an art studio to see if it is the right choice for you.

How much does it cost to start an art studio?

According to Newfoundr, it costs about $6,000, on average, to start an art studio. This is spread among rent, licenses, insurance, supplies and materials, registration software, and furniture. New art studio owners can reduce some of these costs by renting space at a studio that is already set up. 

However, it is very important for new business owners to look at their own expected expenses and income to determine the cost of running a studio for themselves.

What licenses are needed to start an art studio?

There are a few different licenses that are needed to start an art studio. First, you must register your company as an LLC, C Corp, or nonprofit. Once this is done, you will be issued an Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, which is also necessary to start a dance studio. Finally, you will need a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) after your studio space is approved.

How much do art teachers make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary of an art teacher is $53,463 or about $26 per hour. However, this number is not set in stone. Expenses, location, and other elements should all be considered when determining salary.

Where can I buy art supplies?

When purchasing art supplies for your studio, we recommend looking into wholesale options. Try Oriental Trading, DollarDays, and Business Prime from Amazon to get started. If you are looking to buy in smaller portions, you can buy direct with Discount School Supply or even Staples. Review our guide with more information on where to buy art supplies.

When should I invest in class registration software?

If you want your art studio to take off with flying colors, you should invest in class registration software like Sawyer from the very beginning. Your first customers should have a great experience when they register for classes so they keep coming back for more. With a class registration system, you can ensure your bookings are seamless, payments are always taken, and important information is organized.

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to start and run an art studio successfully. At Sawyer, our mission is to help children’s activity businesses thrive. With our suite of tools and helpful resources, we can help you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with your students. Want to learn more? Talk to a member of our expert team and see how Sawyer can help your business grow.

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