Today let’s talk about business formation, copyrights, and building systems for your online art business. Hi, my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice.


When I decided to  make Artist Strong a business, I dug into all kinds of information about business formation. I was pretty worried about making the right choice (or should I say, the wrong choice?). I ended up placing a lawyer on retainer and they were to incorporate my business (recommended s-corp), trademark my brand name, create terms of service and privacy policy for my website, and regularly copyright content from my ecourses and website.

I was living overseas at the time so I also had to decide which state to incorporate in… I ended up choosing Texas because if we were to ever move to the states, my husband’s job would likely bring us there.

Once you are a business you need a mailing address and a registered agent, someone who can collect legal documents on your behalf, since I don’t live in my state of incorporation.

I always invested in the e-course B School with Marie Forleo to give me a comprehensive overview of what it means to build a successful, heart-driven business.

Then came all of the systems. I will list and describe each one separately:

My Website ensured my website would be ad free and after testing other small company website builders I decided to teach myself how to set it up. This meant I also needed a hosting agency for my website to have space on the internet. I started with Bluehost. I also needed a URL so I went to GoDaddy to buy my digital domain. I found a company called Elegant Themes that had lifetime membership to all of their website templates so I could use them for my website design.

All of this remains the same today except I’ve moved away from Bluehost after my website was down all the time and moved it instead to WPEngine.

Email Provider

IF you have a business, you absolutely should have an email list. I started collecting emails from this community using Aweber. Since then I’ve switched to Convertkit. Both allow you to schedule emails as well as create and easily build weekly emails I send out to my students for courses I run. I can even target certain groups of people. This is super helpful because it means I only talk about Better Drawing Bootcamp, for example, to people in our community who have expressed interest in the program.

Payment System

I needed a way to collect payments from my students. I have used: Simplero, Sendowl, Gumroad…now I use something called Samcart and have it integrated with Paypal and Stripe. Honestly, this is one area I’m still left unimpressed with what I find out there!

Webinar software

For a while I hosted webinars using Google Hangouts for free, but I wanted more features to service my audience, such as time zone specific signup and email reminders so I signed up to use WebinarJam.

Computer Camera

I needed to have camera I would use to record my art demonstrations so I bought a Logitech.

Video Editing

To edit my course content I bought and regularly upgrade Screencast.

Social Media Scheduler

I use Meet Edgar. This is been really important for me in terms of managing my FB groups. I want to share daily prompts to get people talking and I’d rather spend my time on the conversation instead of worrying if I posted or not!

Other investments I’ve made include a webinar on FB ads, Earth Class Mail to manage my business mail, e-courses with Melyssa Griffin, Leadpages, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

I also recently hired Nicola Wise-Sturt to help me design a proper logo for Artist Strong as well as accompanying branding imagery.

art marketing, artist business, etsy, art help, art businessSo. Now you have a breakdown. Now let’s talk about how I’d do it all differently.

My number one mistake was to invest in a lawyer so soon. I wasn’t ready to copyright ecourses or trademark or even to incorporate. If I did this all again, I would form an LLC online and buy some terms of service and privacy policy templates from Genavieve Shingle. I’d even consider finding free online templates and do some homework on how to tailor them to my needs (though I’m pretty sure lawyers would tell you not to do that!).

I didn’t really know the kinds of courses that I would enjoy making and that our community would enjoy most. And only now after several years do I really understand how the brand reflects our community. This has allowed me to create signature programs like The Circle and Better Drawing Bootcamp, which will be the bread and butter of Artist Strong.

No joke, I spent over 10K on legal bits and bobs and that money would have better served me in so many other ways! If I were only selling my art and not teaching, I’d likely skip business formation to start and file my taxes in the beginning as a sole proprietor.

FYI here – just in case anyone is confused: I am NOT a lawyer. I suggest you do your own homework and research before taking any of my experience as advice. Everyone is different.

I would absolutely take B-School again. I take it every year since I first purchased the program. Marie Forleo walks you through how to build your website, collect emails, create and market content, and more. Any success I have achieved so far is largely due to lessons learned in B-School.

For my website host I’d start with Bluehost or Hostgator to keep costs low but when organic reach to website started to kick off, I’d consider switching to WPEngine. In terms of web design, I might consider switching from Elegant Themes to Beaver Builder. I’ve played with that recently for my updating artist website and I find it quite nice.

In terms of payment systems I would NOT buy Samcart. Despite my pleas, they have yet to set up the ability to limit the number of items for purchase, which is obviously problematic for original artwork and limited spot programs. I’d likely stick to SendOwl.

One other big change I would make is I would start collecting emails from day one! I was a blog and not a business to start and lost 3 years of opportunity to collect emails from interested artists. I’d start with a simple opt-in or art challenge and promote the heck out of it. Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to sell, I would have been far more connected to this community sooner had I started those conversations years ago!

The last takeaway I have from today’s reflection is I would limit the amount I researched things like “creating the perfect opt-in” or “best strategies to gain new subscribers” and test. I’d let myself test ideas, learn from them, then decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Creating and growing a business can be an organic process that naturally needs an environment of testing. My inner perfectionist definitely got in the way in the beginning. Don’t let your inner perfectionist stop you!

Be Creatively Courageous: How can you treat your art creation as a series of tests rather than “artworks” or “failed artworks?” Let’s start that conversation below this video.

Thanks for watching and see you for Part 3 of this series next week.

P.S. Looking for a quick rundown on creating a successful art business? Check this out this easy 10 Step outline from my friends over at Empty Easel.