Archive for category Subject: Business

Here Comes Mr Cass || Wilfred Cass

Self-published autobiographies normally suffer from a wide range of disadvantages: if their story was really interesting, a commercial publisher may have taken it up. They can be self-congratulatory; not least, they lack an editor who can remove details that, while fascinating to the author, and maybe even their family, are meaningless to the wider public.
This is different because the subject is the founder of the Cassart chain of art shops and the Cass Sculpture Foundation. He also has a gripping story to tell, which he relates readably but, above all, modestly.
The Cassier family (as they were) were industrialists and art collectors in Germany. Being Jewish, their position became dangerous in the 1930’s and Wilfred’s parents took the decision to leave, along with many others. Families that are determined to succeed will usually do so anywhere and the Casses, as they became, were no different.
Wilfred recounts, without self-congratulation, the course of how he became absorbed into the English educational system and his subsequent life in business. There’s quite a lot of archival detail that is probably of more interest to the family than anyone else, but it doesn’t intrude and you may well find that it fleshes out the narrative nicely. Overall, it’s a fascinating and heart-warming story.

This is a thoroughly readable account of the development of a major art business and the Foundation that its liberal-minded founder built up.

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The Artist’s Guide to Selling Work (second edition) || Anabelle Ruston

I was very impressed a while back by the companion volumes to this, aimed at craftspeople. The same detail and rigour appear in this volume, which has been updated to take account of the growing importance of the internet and of social networking websites.

Published in association with the Fine Art Trade Guild, this is an authoritative and informative guide that has been written for the creative practitioner rather than the business specialist. There is plenty of basic information, such as the importance of record-keeping and ways in which to do it, as well as suggestions for ways in which you can market your work and how to set your prices. A series of case studies also includes a selection of sample agreements to cover a variety of situations.

The advice given is practical, understandable and above all reliable, making this an essential tool for anyone seeking to make an income from their work on anything other than the most casual basis.

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Setting Up A Successful Jewellery Business || Angie Boothroyd

This is another in Black’s occasional series that looks at the business side of art and craft.

It could be said that a business is a business and that it doesn’t really matter what you do within it. The basic principles of premises, staff, marketing, costing and record keeping are all the same. It’s also true that it’s as important that you run your business well as it is that you’re good at the process it supports. Make stunning products but fail to control your costs or get behind with your tax returns and the business will fail as surely as if your work is rubbish but your records exemplary.

So, do you need a book on running a jewellery business, or just a good accountant? Well, the truth is that it’s a lot easier to understand the common requirements when they’re presented in the context of what you’re familiar with than it is if they’re just abstract. If you make jewellery, it’s unlikely you’ll be setting up any other business, so it makes sense to buy this book rather than any other. And, anyway, what you learn in this context will apply if you turn your hand to pottery (more or less) and you can apply the lessons you’ve already learnt.

There’s plenty of meat here and Angie Boothroyd starts from the very beginning – whether to be a limited company or a sole trader, choosing a name, opening a bank account, etc. She also gives a helpful list of the things you absolutely need, such as a workplace, a computer and business cards. Those new to business have a tendency to over-invest in this area, so this is a particularly useful section and could save you a lot of wasted money.

From here, Angie looks at pricing, including wholesale versus retail, an important area to consider if you’re going to get maximum value or if you’re planning to sell to other outlets. Once again, beginners often make the mistake of under-pricing at the outset and this can hamper later development.

In the section on selling she looks at the various markets, including individual sales, fairs and the development of a website and thus online sales. Under the heading of presentation she offers sound advice on branding – giving yourself a recognisable identity – and the PR that protects and develops it. The final section covers the basic business skills of time and money management.

All-in-all, this is a nicely worked guide that should give you the confidence to start your own business without making many of the easily-made and elementary errors that bedevil the inexperienced. At £12.99, it’s excellent value, will probably pay for itself if the first few minutes, and could be your first business expense. Actually, the sale-or-return agreement in the sample documents at the back probably merits the cost alone.

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Starting Up A Gallery And Frame Shop || Anabelle Ruston

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

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