How to Start a Picture Framing Business

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Quick Reference

To start a picture framing business, you should have a good eye for design and woodworking and metal skills unless you hire someone to do it. Your customers will seek your artistic expertise on frame style, mat size, and color to complement their print, artwork, or an important document.

Owning a picture frame shop can be a great way to use your creativity and meet people from all walks of life. It is also flexible and could also be a good part-time or retirement business.

Industry Summary

According to IBISWorld, the picture framing business has declined since 2015 since frames are mass-produced and sold online or in chain stores like the Michaels craft store or Hobby Lobby. However, preservation or custom picture framing services are specialized and require hands-on craftsmanship a chain store cannot offer.

There may be frame decorating opportunities with the rise of Zoom calls and the uptick in home sales.

 

Related Industries

Gift Shop
Photography

 

Industry Trends

Stay competitive by following interior designers through Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, and email newsletters to keep up with the latest design and frame trends.

Target Market

Doing some market research and defining your target market will determine the best location for your shop to meet their needs. For instance, if your storefront is in a college area, custom framing is probably not a service college students are looking to get. On the other hand, if your store is in a neighborhood with a household income of $100,000+, they will likely seek out custom framing and expect an expert in the field.

An optimal location may be in a mixed work and residential neighborhood to broaden your demographics and accessibility.

Additionally, potential customers of custom frames can be restaurants, office spaces, and custom home builders, as is selling frames to local art galleries, professional photographers, gift shops, and other retail outlets.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful as in Running a Picture Frame Shop

Frame Shop experience. As a custom frame shop owner, you (or your staff) need woodworking and metal skills to build frames and an eye for design to make the framed work aesthetically pleasing.

Managing a small business requires multiple skill sets to run the day-to-day operations such as marketing, sales, employees, customer service, and financial matters.

Knowledge of Industry Trends. Keeping a watchful eye on your competitors and interior design trends will help you maintain a competitive edge and provide the high-quality look and products your customers are looking to get.

Pinterest and Instagram are one way to monitor trends and consumer interests.

When trends change because of consumer tastes or technology, so should you, or your business will become stale and lose market share. The advantage of being a small business owner is the ability to be agile and pivot quickly.

Customer service skills.  Running a frame shop involves interacting with customers daily. A shop owner who can provide excellent customer service and experience will encourage customer loyalty and be on the road to success.

Management experience. Previous management experience is probably not essential since a frame shop is a simple business model and does not require many employees.

All areas of a business are essential for success, but employees are the face of the company, and they should be happy. Treat your employees with respect and kindness to foster a happy, productive work culture that will shine through to your customers.

Costs to Starting a Picture Frame Shop

Starting a picture frame shop has low startup costs, low risk, and it’s easy to get started quickly. Many frame shops start because the owners were making frames as a hobby and had already purchased many of the tools, lowering their initial expenses. While these tools may have served you well, they may not be up to the volume of work, so don’t be afraid to invest in better tools, especially if they are being used every day.

Here is a list of startup equipment:

  1. Metal, wood, and plastic to make frames and cutting equipment.
  2. Glass and glass cutting equipment.
  3. An assortment of mat material and cutting equipment.
  4. Worktable.
  5. Hand tools; Wire cutters, pliers, wrenches, drills, knives, etc.
  6. Miter vice.
  7. Supplies such as glue, nails, sandpaper, etc.
  8. Packaging supplies.
  9. POS system.
  10. Computer.
  11. If opening a retail store, furniture, fixtures, and signage need to be budgeted as well.

Be sure to stay updated on the latest tools and equipment to keep your business running efficiently.

 

Steps to Starting a Picture Frame Business

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting a frame shop should be to write a business plan. The business plan will make you focus on all aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, and much more.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

Related:

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Name the Business

Most people search online to find a business, but the algorithms won’t see your business if the words people search for are not included in the business name. The goal is for your business to appear on page one of an internet search because most people don’t scroll to the second page.

Consider using SEO (search engine optimization) when deciding on a name to make it easy for the internet algorithms to find your business. You can do this by using keywords that people would use to search for your business, such as -picture frame shop.

Companies that choose an ambiguous name like Nike, Google, or Apple require a massive marketing campaign to achieve brand recognition.

Related: Tips for naming a picture frame shop

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from: the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

Rental costs will depend on the shop’s square foot size, location, and amenities. A shop in a high-traffic area will cost more to rent, but it can also generate walk-in business and general public awareness.

Careful thought and consideration should be given when looking for a location so that you reach your intended market. For example, if your shop specializes in museum-quality framing, you probably work with museums and art dealers and don’t need a storefront to attract customers. A 2nd-floor location should be suitable, and you will save considerably on rent.

Many picture framers will operate out of their home, workshop, or garage, at least initially, in order to keep costs down and build clientele. It is a very viable option as costs are much lower. Working out of the home presents some limitations as the business is less visible.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

A business owner will need to obtain specific business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations a frame shop may need, includes a sales tax permitEmployer Identification Number, and Occupancy Permit.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a frame shop is another. To get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and invest 15-25% of their money towards the total startup costs.

Consider leasing equipment to minimize startup costs.

Crowdfunding is another option to fund a business by pre-selling a product (frames) to raise money and build awareness. Running a crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work. Make sure you have a product people will buy to make it worth your while.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the company.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Do not underestimate the strength of marketing to drive revenue. It’s essential to set aside a marketing budget in your startup costs and implement a multi-channel marketing strategy.

The advertising strategy will depend on the customer you are trying to reach and the type of frame shop you have, i.e., storefront vs. non-storefront, mass-market vs. custom.

A website is essential for any business because this is where most people go to learn about a company. Building a website is easy these days with drag and drop templates offered by Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace, to name a few.  A website can also be set up for online sales, potentially expanding your marketing reach outside of your local area.

Especially since frames are used to hold beautiful photographs and works of art, marketing on social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and others are a popular and low-cost way to visually show the quality of your frames.

Special offers and discounts are a popular way to market a framing business. Be careful not to rely on discounts too often, as customers may wait for your next sale.

Setting up at art galleries, trade shows, home shows, and other events will also be effective at getting more people to know about your new business.

A marketing strategy should be implemented on day one, if not before, so your business can be off to a running start.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

A picture frame shop needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

  • General liability insurance protects the business from expenses like medical and legal bills that it could face if a customer is ever hurt while on the business’ property.
  • Commercial property insurance can cover expenses and losses that the business could face if the shop is damaged or destroyed by a fire or other event.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a shop might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

Insurance policies will vary in cost depending on factors like the shop’s location, the value of its inventory, and the number of employees on staff. Request quotes from multiple providers to get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance. When comparing the quotes, consider the premiums and how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need.

Step 10: Hiring Employees

The number of employees you need for a frame shop depends on how busy the store is, but for a typical startup custom frame store, you will need a print framer, salesperson, and manager (you?).

According to PayScale, print framers earn an average of $15 per hour. Frame shop retail managers make approximately $16 per hour, while warehouse managers earn about $18 per hour.

In addition to salary costs, a shop’s budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a shop will need to cover when hiring staff.

Staying compliant with the various government agencies collecting these fees can be time-consuming. Do yourself a favor and hire a payroll company like PayChex or ADT to manage payroll, or hire a bookkeeper. Treat this area of your business seriously, or you may face penalties and legal implications.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your frame shop is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes keeps the business out of trouble with the government, but the numbers can track and monitor trends and cash flow to ensure you maximize profits.

Learn to love the numbers and obsessively monitor your profit and loss reports so you know where to make adjustments in the business. If your profit margins are too narrow, you might want to compare vendors to get better pricing. Or if payroll is too high, maybe you are overstaffing.

Review your accounting reports regularly to understand the business’s health, and then act accordingly.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Picture Frame Shop?

How much revenue a frame shop can generate depends on the type of shop, location, and region (urban, rural, suburbs, towns) for potential traffic.

A business plan’s profit and loss statement is an excellent place to estimate costs and determine how much revenue is needed for the business to break even at the very least.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Picture Frame Shop

Does the daily work environment of a frame shop appeal to you? Will the income be sufficient to meet your living expenses and lifestyle? Are you a people person? Do you believe in giving exceptional customer service? Are you a problem solver and resourceful? (Traits needed to be an entrepreneur) If so, this may be the business for you.

Resources:

Professional Picture Framers Association

Fine Art Trade Guild

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