How to Run your Professional Art like a Small Business

Business. The word alone used to send icy shivers down my spine. But, to be a professional artist, as in be able to write “artist” or “musician” or “dancer” or “actor” on your annual tax forms (aka more money coming in than going out) you must understand your talent or product IS your business. Perhaps it was my childhood, growing up lean, but I’ve always had a healthy respect for money and when I began cashing checks, I thought of my voice work/acting as my business. But when I began running my voiceover gigs like a small business, I noticed a huge shift. And took it to the next level.


I had the advantage of watching and learning from my husband who studied Commerce at McGill and ran a successful recycling business for a couple of decades. His bizzy side rubbed off on me and this is what I learned one should do to take on that small business mentality and apply it to your art/dancer/musician/acting business.


Kim Handysides Voiceover Run your Professional Art like a Small Business

Credit: Alexander Milo



Goals – set them.

Start long term and work backward to short term. What do you want to have accomplished 10 years from now, 5, 2, and in one year.  Break them down as much as you can by filling in steps you will need to take to accomplish them.




Business Plan – come up with one.

To create a business plan, you forecast what sales you will be able to make. This is part of your goal setting, but now you are putting it in another form. How much you will make in sales, how much you will reinvest in your business (skills, equipment, conferences, coaches, product materials, promotional materials, subcontractors, etc.) You create kind of like a budget, and estimate not only how much you’ll pay out and how much you bring in, but where your sources of work will come from, how you’ll budget your time, including whatever equipment/resources you need to make it work.


Sales – make them.

Kim Handysides VoiceOver Run your Professional Art like a Small Business

Credit: NeonBrand

Easier said than done? Sales goes hand in hand with marketing and its set of related tools you’ll need to create your marketing plans/materials. If you’ve never done sales before, it’s a great idea to either read up on it and/or make one of your supporting jobs in something like retail sales. You have a product (or service), your client has a need, you want to close the deal. It sounds so foreign to an artist, but when you substitute the words of our trade, it makes more sense. You have a song (or audition piece, or sculpture), your client (or producer or director or dealer) has a need (to sell your song, cast his film, showcase your work) and you want to close the deal. Make sure they pick you. So, you can make money at your art and then go make more of it. Closing the deal often involves more than your talent. It involves finesse. Respecting the other person’s position and time. Letting them know that a you understand there’s a bottom line to your work that you value. I asked one of my clients once why they regularly hired me as the voice over actor for their advertising campaigns, and they said, “Because we know you deliver the right read, in the time frame, on budget, every time.”


Marketing – make it reflect you.

Twenty years ago everyone needed to have business card. Perhaps business post cards. Five to ten years ago, to be considered serious, you needed to create a website. Even one page. The must-have now is a video on your website. That’s just so you can be found. There are social media sites to consider. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Pick one and make it yours. Don’t forget one-to-one marketing communications. People who market in the arts appreciate creativity. So have fun with your marketing plan. Although now somewhat out of date, a couple of decades back, in order to break into my local major market advertising agencies, I hired a fellow actor to accompany me Signing Telegram Style along with my commercial demo and complimentary coffee and chocolate biscotti. The theme was “listen to the demo on your next coffee break” and by the way, here’s some coffee and cookies to supply you with on that next break. The campaign was successful. We were never turned away. My client list went from 3 to 30 within a few weeks.


Kim Handysides VoiceOver Run your Professional Art like a Small Business

Credit: Anthony Intraversato

Financial Control – keep it.

Your dollars in have to be more than your dollars out. As an artist, one of the ways I have been able to thrive is to squirrel away money for the slow times. Learn about money so you can make what you have grow, and be smart where you spend it. My car is always second hand and that’s ok. It means I can afford the kind of vacation I want. I make my own coffee and pizza and reinvest in equipment, marketing materials, courses and coaches.



Discipline – develop it.

Yes, with your craft. Work on it every day. But also work on the more practical aspects. Your invoicing, your banking, your marketing, your taxes. Doing a little every day will avoid the spring dread and horror of a week to ten days of sifting through receipts and sorting out your tax stuff. If it helps, enlist a partner or group to help keep you on track. In my accountability group, we check up on each other and hold the rest accountable on 5 weekly goals: financial, craft, marketing, equipment, and physical (cause healthy body, healthy everything else, right?) Build yourself a schedule. A flexible schedule, if you like, but make it as unshakable as brushing your teeth or putting on deodorant everyday.


Start thinking of your art as your small business and acting like it is one and see if it doesn’t bring you greater returns, more joy and more time and love for your art and craft. And let me know how it goes!


A voice actor, coach and narrator extraordinaire, Kim Handysides loves expressive arts in pretty much any form.



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