Business advice and planning

Where can a small creative business start-up get some planning and business advice?

Contact your local enterprise agency to find your local one either phone the ‘Business Support Line’, Tel: 0845 600 9006 www.gov.uk/Business 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. Due to cutbacks over the years the nature of many of the workshops have changed as they are now often sponsored by banks for instance or are no longer free. So you might not appreciate the generic or corporate nature of the workshops. If this is the case you might wish to contact a local creative industries Hub or enrol on a business start-up course more tailored to your needs.

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. Much valuable experience can be gained from creative mentoring schemes that run periodically. The Crafts Council’s ‘Hothouse’ Programme provides 6 months of intensive business support for successful applicants. There are also ‘Hothouse Taster Days’ which are brilliant one day business start-up conferences, to find out more about these events and how to apply for the programme please visit The Crafts Council website. Please click here for more information. Please also visit the ‘Legal‘ section of the Artquest website for detailed information and useful websites. A really useful organisation to join is the FSB Federation of Small Businesses for more information please click hereThe Design Trust and a-n are other extremely useful subscription arts practice and design business  information services for artists, makers and designers.
Writing a Business Plan

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 or 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.

With the interference of technology, such as apps and social media for instance, it can be tempting to start your business by simply reacting to opportunities. It is important to make a proper plan, the route may change as you get going, but it is vital you avoid running your arts practice or design business in a totally chaotic manner. Chaos brings with it many problems of its own, and though all businesses have chaotic periods, it shouldn’t be the default setting!

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 and social media 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 Forming an Organisation article in the Legal Articles section, and business related legal advisors are in the Legal Advisors section. There are numerous online shops and portfolio portals such as Etsy, Axis, Bouf, Not on The High Street, etc. where artists, makers and designers are either selling products directly or showcasing work to attract commissions. These are vital to explore as part of your market research. However, it’s important to understand if you are selling artwork, creative products or services and have started to earn money from these portals then you really should register as a sole trader (aka self-employed) with the HMRC. See Step Seven: Registration

There are many useful business start-up courses run by local colleges and universities targeted at creative people.


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