When the Norwegian Artist was in his 20s, he spent a few years bicycling through South America with another buddy who wasn’t ready to confine himself to an office cubicle either. Because they were two typical young males with zero cooking skills, and because they were traveling light, they stopped at restaurants for their meals.
This sounds exorbitantly expensive until you realize that many of these restaurants were actually people’s homes, the matriarch keeping her own family fed by making extra portions to sell to others. In our tightly licensed, regulated and forms-in-triplicate-to ride-a-bicycle society, this is a foreign concept indeed.
While Colombia, and similar nations, are awash in their own regulatory deluge, acquiring licenses for breathing isn’t necessarily one of them. Setting up a business in one’s home or a small kiosk on the sidewalk – selling food, knitted hats, carved wooden figurines, greeting cards, original paintings – is generally no big deal.
Not so here, and that includes selling artwork – out of your home; on your website or online locations like Etsy or Ebay; at festivals and fairs; through galleries – if you’re serious about making money at this, more than one governmental entity that collects revenue wants to know about it.
One of the first things people wonder about is a business license:
What is it, do you need it, how do you get it, and is that all you need?What is it?
According to the Small Business Administration, “A state business license is the main document required for tax purposes and conducting other basic business functions. Many states have established small business assistance agencies to help small businesses comply with state requirements.” Do you need it?
If you’re out to make money at what you paint, sculpt, carve, or otherwise create, yeah, probably. The Internal Revenue Service makes distinctions about what constitutes a hobby versus what is a business
, but your state or municipality may have different criteria.Where do you get it?
At the Small Business Administration site, check out the handy License and Permit
page, which allows you to fill in your location and business type (I put in General Licensing), after which you’ll receive another page, full of more links and confusing information. You can also click on your state directly and get another, confusing in its own way, page.
You can also Google (Your State) Business Licensing and hit the link that ends in .gov -- .com and .org may take you to for profit sites that sound like the official government site but aren’t, charging you an added fee to act as brokers between you and the government entity.
At Steve Henderson Fine Art
, we have a state business license, which we acquired by contacting our state department of revenue, which was no big deal to get, and which we post in plain sight at the studio in accordance with our state’s regulations.Is that all you need?
Maybe, maybe not. Each state is different, and individual counties and municipal entities may impose additional requirements.
The best way to find out about what you need is