LEVEL6 Professional

Commercial Art

Commercial art is different to fine art due to reason it was made. Its purpose. Fine art is made to say something, commercial art is made primarily to be sold in some way, either itself as decoration, illustrations in books or book covers, graphic design, advertising etc.

When I leave university, I would like to be able to work towards being at least partially self-employed, selling paintings and prints, doing commissions. There are a few ways to go about this, such as selling online on places such as Etsy or on a dedicated website or in person at markets or fairs. Commercial galleries exist but I can’t find them, they don’t label themselves this way.

Dedicated websites need you to have a way to bring traffic to them yourself, such as a social media following or seeing people in person at events, handing out business cards etc. there’s also often extra fees, such as in WIX you need to upgrade your account to set up a store and be able to accept online payments through the store.

 Sites such as etsy and other online marketplaces bring traffic themselves. I already have some experience selling handmade items on Etsy and running a shop there. The downside of places like Etsy are the fees that they take, for example last year around a third of what I made on Etsy through sales went to paying the fees etsy takes for advertising, processing fees, listing fees etc.

I went to an exhibition in October, which was more of a niche craft fair aimed at artists who create worked based around taxidermy and bones, and dead things in general, rather than a traditional fine art exhibition. They currently have applications open for artist tables for next year’s events in Nottingham and Leicester which I am hoping to apply for to sell prints and perhaps original paintings.

Part of doing this which intimidates me the most is the steps required for setting us a business. Once you make £1000 or more a year through self-employment you must register as a sole trader and start doing tax returns, keeping records and such.

From the government website,

How to set up as a sole trader

To set up as a sole trader, you need to tell HMRC that you pay tax through Self-Assessment. You’ll need to file a tax return every year.

Your responsibilities

You’ll need to:

  • keep business records and records of expenses
  • send a Self-Assessment tax return every year
  • pay Income Tax on your profits and Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance – use HMRC’s calculator to help you budget for this
  • You’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number if you’re moving to the UK to set up a business.

Naming your business

You can trade under your own name, or you can choose another name for your business. You do not need to register your name.

You must include your name and business name (if you have one) on official paperwork, for example invoices and letters.

Business names

Sole trader names must not:

  • include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • be offensive
  • be the same as an existing trademark
  • Your name also cannot contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression, or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless you get permission.

What records to keep

You’ll need to keep records of:

  • all sales and income
  • all business expenses
  • VAT records if you’re registered for VAT
  • PAYE records if you employ people
  • records about your personal income
  • your grants, if you claimed through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – check how much you were paid if you made a claim

Why you keep records

You do not need to send your records in when you submit your tax return but you need to keep them so you can:

  • work out your profit or loss for your tax return
  • show them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if asked
  • You must make sure your records are accurate.

Keep proof

Types of proof include:

  • all receipts for goods and stock
  • bank statements, chequebook stubs
  • sales invoices, till rolls and bank slips
  • If you’re using traditional accounting
  • As well as the standard records, you’ll also need to keep further records so that your tax return includes:

what you’re owed but have not received yet

  • what you’ve committed to spend but have not paid out yet, for example you’ve received an invoice but have not paid it yet
  • the value of stock and work in progress at the end of your accounting period
  • your year-end bank balances
  • how much you’ve invested in the business in the year
  • how much money you’ve taken out for your own use

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