This time of year, with its slight lull in between Christmas and Hogmanay, and the cold days of January, many of us designer makers are looking to the year ahead. Goal setting and deciding which shows to apply for. What galleries to aim to be in. What new ranges or techniques to explore etc.
But do we ever make time to look back at the past year and congratulate ourselves on a wonderful piece of work, or dare to work out why a certain show was a flop?
Reviewing your year and a small smile at surviving it, is so important. Especially when so many small businesses have faltered after such a recession hit year as this.
I am sure that most of us have moulded and twisted our idea of our own creative businesses in the last 18 months. Faced with a sudden drop in my usual market, I had to diversify, doing different ranges, corporate commissions and started teaching for the first time. Being a sole trader and totally in charge of our business is probably our greatest asset in financially hard times as we are so flexible!
As designer makers who are usually sole traders, we are often working in a studio alone. So who do we get our feedback/ praise/ criticism from?
When I started up in business ten years ago, I had the free use of a business advisor for my first year. It was invaluable. I made the most of the action plans I set myself, and was always determined to show that I had achieved something concrete before my next meeting with the advisor. I even wrote press releases, followed them through and had images in the papers!
Maybe it was partly due to being fresh and eager with my new business, but I am sure that a large part of this effort was because I had someone else to bounce ideas off and to show what I had achieved during the past month.
When the use of this business advisor ran out I looked elsewhere. The Cultural Enterprise Office are a good resource. So was my friend and jeweller, whom I shared a studio with for my first few years. Also my husband, who seems little interested in the business side of my work but has a canny and critical eye when in comes to my designs or actual pieces. It is often hard to hear at first, but he is usually spot on. Annoyingly! But ten years on, I could not tell you the last time I even attempted to write a press release or sat down to make a realistic marketing plan. Who can I turn to for that extra boost and advice?
Our best resource is each other. Who else knows the market/ shows/ design trends so well? Some of us share studios with other designer/ makers and some work on their own, but I think that all of us find it hard to take time out from the daily rush of running a business to take stock. Can we make time and space to ask each other for constructive criticism or to take a step back and look at another’s business, and give advice. Could we set up an informal swap shop of ideas and advice? Or a monthly get together to ask each others opinions? It could be invaluable.