How to Start a Picture Framing Business
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.
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.
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.
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.
Checklist for Starting a Picture Framing Business
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. Here is a checklist to help get started.
Step 1: Write a 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
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 and your city.
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, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a picture framing business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
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 framing shop may need, includes a sales tax permit, Employer 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 framing service 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.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
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 for 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 framing 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 popular ways 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
Every business is going to need a logo. Make a professional logo in no time with the free logo makers from BrandCrowd and Canva.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a picture framing business. A few of these include:
– 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.
The cost to insure a picture frame shop will vary depending on a number of 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.
Step 10: Hire 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. Picture framers and 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.
How much does it cost to start a picture framing business?
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 common startup equipment for a picture framing business:
– Metal, wood, and plastic to make frames and cutting equipment
– Glass and glass cutting equipment
– An assortment of mat material and cutting equipment
– Hand tools; Wire cutters, pliers, wrenches, drills, knives, etc
– Miter vice
– Supplies such as glue, nails, sandpaper, etc
– Packaging supplies
– POS system
– If opening a retail framing 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.
How much does a picture framing business owner make?
How much revenue a frame shop can generate depends on the type of shop, location, and region (urban, rural, suburbs, towns) for potential traffic.
Custom frames sell between $100-$400 on average depending on the size, matting, type of glass, etc. Selling 10 frames per week at an average price $250 per frame, would bring in $130,000 annually.
Are there grants to start a picture framing business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a picture framing business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What is the NAICS code for a picture framing business?
The NAICS code for a picture framing business is 321999, which is classified as All Other Miscellaneous Wood Product Manufacturing.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Picture Framing Magazine
Professional Picture Framers Association
Fine Art Trade Guild