The Artist as Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship Awareness

Introductory Lesson: The Artist as Entrepreneur

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the artist as entrepreneur. The artist is an atypical entrepreneur. Where entrepreneurs generally recognize an opportunity or a niche that would appeal to consumers, artists create what they like and hope that consumers will share their vision.

Business Planning

First Steps Toward your Goal

In this lesson, students will take the first step in defining their career as an artist entrepreneur. Students will define their goal as an artist.

Getting Down to Business

In this lesson, students begin to develop their business plan. This task will take place over several lessons. The students will learn that the business plan provides a road map that will ultimately help them achieve the goals they established in an earlier lesson. The first step will be to develop a business description. For the artist, this contains not only a description of the business but also a description of the artist’s work.

Getting Down to Business- Next Steps

In this lesson, students will write the first few paragraphs of their business description by carefully analyzing their current body of work and how that work will be expanded. They will accept and provide critiques of their current body of work. They will consider the types of training that will be necessary for them to expand their work into marketable areas.

Getting Down to Business - What's My Market

In this lesson, students will continue to develop their business description by carefully analyzing their customers. This will require that they consider the type of art they wish to produce, the price range for that art, and the type of competition in the field. They must also state factors that will set them apart from others producing similar work.

Getting Down to Business: Get Organized

In this lesson, students will take the final step in writing their business description by examining the different forms of business structure and choosing the one that is appropriate for their business.

Is This is Hobby or a Business?

Many artists must maintain either full- or part-time employment in addition to their art activity to earn income. In this case, artists may find it difficult to claim expenses related to their art as business expenses because the IRS may consider the art activity to merely be a hobby. The artist, then, must be aware of the IRS criteria for establishing their activity as a business. In this lesson, students will learn what the IRS criteria are and list ways they might be able to demonstrate that their art activity (present or future) is actually a business venture.

Do I Get a Job or Make a Job?

How frequently an artist must pay taxes, the amount of taxes an artist pays, the number of deductions available to an artist, and how an artist must report his/her taxes all depend on the artist’s employment status. In this lesson, students will determine which artist’s activities reveal the artist to be an employee of someone else and which activities are those of an independent contractor.


Bookkeeping 101

Entrepreneurs dig right in to the production and sale of their product. The product is the fun part of the business. For many, if not most, the bookkeeping is the necessary evil. This is particularly true for artists. After all, there is no room for creativity in accounting! This lesson stresses the importance of keeping accurate expense records, and suggests simple methods the artist may adopt.

Good News and Bad News: Income and Taxes

It is important for high school students to have an awareness of income taxes, not only to better their knowledge of the government goods and services that are funded by taxes, but also to build their knowledge of personal income tax filing and payment.

In this lesson, students will examine Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040, citing particular line items that are pertinent to an artist acting as an entrepreneur. They will also learn about various sources of income and the importance of keeping accurate income records.


A Meeting of the Minds

At some point in everyone’s life, they are faced with the need to negotiate. This is an awkward and uncomfortable exercise for many people. In this lesson, students role play a negotiation and cite strategies that were used in the negotiation to create a win-win agreement.

You Say Tomato, I See Tomato

Most ads for employment these days contain some sort of statement alluding to the need for the candidate to possess excellent communication skills. Generally, this means that a person in the advertised position should be able to write and speak well. However, we communicate in many non-verbal ways, and other people’s understanding of what we are communicating may be peppered with their impressions gathered from our non-verbal communication. This lesson furthers the art of negotiation by exploring the messages we send and those we receive through non-verbal cues.

Are You Listening?

This lesson should follow the lesson, You Say Tomato, I See Tomato. In this lesson, students study non-verbal communication. Developing communication and negotiation skills is particularly important for the entrepreneur, and may be daunting for the young artist who wishes to build a business in the arts. This lesson provides practice in “hearing” what is being communicated through appearance, movements, and voice.

Arts-Related Law

VARA-Visual Artists Rights Act

In this lesson, students will investigate moral rights (droit morale), the recognition that an artist’s work is an extension of himself, and alterations to the work can be a violation of the artist’s rights. Students will read case studies of artists’ lawsuits under the Visual Artists Rights Act and then will discuss the merits of fictitious cases where artists might consider a lawsuit.

Know Your (copy)Rights

Among the many innovations found in the U.S. Constitution is the right given to Congress to enact laws designed “to promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” (Article I Section 1 Clause 8) This lesson explains how copyright law allows artists to profit economically from their creative endeavors.