Whether you are receiving benefits or not, it will be useful to follow this step.
Contact your local enterprise agency, to find your local one either phone Business Link on 0845 600 9006 or visit the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies website. Please find a list of supportive business organisations in the Advisors Section, Creative Business.
Enterprise Agencies, some of which are creative industry focused, can offer free training and advice to start-ups. A small number even distribute small funds or offer loans. It is highly advisable that you attend a short course or seminar at an Enterprise Agency about the issues in setting up before you register. If you are claiming benefits, Enterprise Agencies can still help you.When you decide to go freelance/self-employed you will need some basic knowledge of marketing, accounting, financial and legal matters, tax issues and invoicing. Learning other practical skills such as negotiation and selling are vital. You also need to find out about legal areas such as copyright, contract law, artist resale rights, e-business regulations, trading standards, British Standards BSI, CE Marking, insurances, licences and health & safety.
There is a great deal to learn and this is why seeking advice is vital, not only in the beginning but during your business lifetime, from experienced artists or designers, accountants, business advisers, and solicitors. Valuable experience can be gained from creative mentoring schemes that run periodically, which can be very valuable. Please visit Artlaw for listings of other legal advice services.
If you are starting a business you will also need to write a business plan.
Writing a business plan may seem rather irrelevant to the notion of artistic endeavour, but it will make you think through your ideas and identify weak points in the future before they become ingrained in your business. Think of it like this; you wouldn't start a journey without planning a route, arranging stop-off visits and acquiring money and food. A business plan is like planning for the journey you are about to make in commerce, and it pays to think about it carefully and thoroughly. It could take between six and twelve months to develop one properly. Don't let the thought of this put you off - many artists and craftspeople develop a new insight to their practice and creative abilities through undertaking this process.Equally, if you plan to form a collective, work as a partnership or form a company it is vital that you and your partners should have an agreed vision for the project or business.
The business plan must demonstrate the idea is viable, that there is a market/public demand for the artwork, products or services. The plan must include detailed research, a promotional strategy, that legal matters are understood, costing, pricing and financial plans, e.g. cash flow or sales forecast for at least twelve months.
During this time you will establish what kind of business you are going to be. For example, you may be a sole trader (individual), a partnership (two to fifty people), a co-operative or a limited company. More information on how to set up an organisation is in the Setting up an Organisation article on the Artlaw website, and business related legal advisors are in the Legal Advisors section.
There are many useful business start-up courses run by local colleges and universities targeted at creative people. You can find such courses at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in the interdisciplinary section on their website, or telephone them on 020 7514 7015 for information on short courses for business start-up. Chelsea College of Art and Design, and City University are all recognised as being helpful. There are also established arts advice organisations that provide free or inexpensive courses for artists such as Artquest, Space, ACAVA, and Shape
If you are under thirty years old, contact Shell Livewire as they can assist you in the research and funding of your enterprise. The Princes Trust is focusing on helping people with low academic achievement. However they may still be able to help you if you are in difficult circumstances or have a disability.
Alison Branagan (© 2002)