Normally I’m very wary of self-help how-to-run-a-business guides because I feel they can seduce the naïve, the optimistic and anyone who is, frankly, unsuited to running a business. It’s not that I’m trying to be superior, to look down on you mere mortal wage-slaves. Far from it. Running your own business can be hugely rewarding and, for all the frustrations and hard work, you do have the illusion of freedom (I say illusion, because there are an awful lot of bucks and they all stop with you). You’ll have a rotten boss, though!
So, is this an opportunity for anyone with “a bit of interest in art” to shake themselves free and set up on their own? Well, in simple terms, yes it is, but don’t sign that lease just yet. Anabelle Ruston is the Fine Art Trade Guild publications editor and has hands-on experience of the problems that people face every day in this area. Probably worth noting that she keeps her feet firmly in the non self-employed camp, though.
One thing you couldn’t accuse the book of is not being thorough. Anyone even contemplating starting their own business should read the first chapter with the rose-tinted spectacles firmly off, because Anabelle pitches right in with, “Is running your own business for you?” and, “Is your business idea viable?”. Consider these carefully because there are a lot of costs you must incur before you ever open your door, regulations you must adhere to from paying the rent to submitting VAT, tax and PAYE returns and they all apply to you; officialdom will comb its moustache, polish its briefcase and be at your door at 9am sharp! Not to mention keeping track of stock and paying suppliers and we haven’t even served the first customer yet (in fact we haven’t even got them to walk through the door).
This is not to say that running a successful business in any field is impossible, it’s just that you have to be realistic. A love of art is probably the last thing you should have because, although what you work with will be pleasant, maybe even rewarding, all the backup stuff is a hard grind. I think the simple question you have to ask is: Am I in love with the idea of running a business, with all that entails? If you believe you are, then you should decide what sort of business. Do it the other way round and you’re likely to be in trouble from the start.
So, having got that out of the way, should this book be your first business expense? Emphatically, yes. Anabelle covers absolutely everything you’re likely to encounter from bureaucracy to finance, marketing, display and staff. If you get bogged down before the end, give up and find something else to do. If you don’t, then you have the soul of a businessperson and you’ll find all the advice that’s here both a help and a comfort. No one else can run your business for you, but there are times when a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on are invaluable and you won’t get this much impartial advice for as little as fifteen quid anywhere else.
A&C Black 2007