Learning to run your own business

Once you have started your business you might find there is more to do than you first imagined! Learning to run your own business is not just about knowledge, but learning what it entails for you and making adjustments to suit you that also develops the business. It may have been 100 metre dash to get started but running a business is about managing your energy and creativity to go the distance. 

First principles 

The first point is obvious – the business’ resource is you. You are the source of ideas, the deliverer of the service or product, and the manager and marketer. You only have a certain amount of time and energy to do everything so acknowledging your own rhythms and working with them will give you a head start and avoid frustration. Structure your days around your own rhythm to maximise your productivity and creativity, and plan meetings and seeing clients in the time frames that suit you as much as you can. Don’t work all the hours of every day, it will lead to tiredness, mistakes and burn out. Be realistic with clients about timescales, and manage your energy in order to provide your best, professional service. 

Second thing is the management of the business itself and its organisation. It will bring its own rewards in feeling on top of things and reducing your stress: 

  • Set goals for the business (and yourself) annually and review mid year – what do you want to achieve, and in what direction do you want to go. For example, one goal in the first year may be to secure a strand or two of constant income to keep your business ticking over 
  • Plan out a year or so in advance in detail particularly if your industry or business has seasons. When do you need to order stock, plot delivery of work for clients (when is the deadline and work backwards to when it needs to start), and mark in annual leave, training days and if you plan to exhibit it or showcase at a trade show plot out the work required in the run up to that 
  • Set time aside each week to promote and market your business, and to update your books, ensure invoices are issued and check payments are received, pay your own bills and keep receipts up to date 
  • The main thing is to cost your work/service/product so that it returns value to you. Don’t be afraid to state the price, as doing work for less will negatively impact on your business and eat up your time – time that you could have costed out at a positive for your business 

And remember, the business resource is you, so make sure to schedule to take time for yourself, to recharge your batteries, to reflect, develop, and be inspired. Join a creative network, learn from others, share what you have learned and get energised by other creative people. 

Development and growth 

As the business develops, opportunities appear, word of mouth grows, reputation develops, and orders increase as will the management workload. At this point it may be possible, and in your best interest, to review the tasks that could be undertaken by someone else as a service provider. Such as: 

  • Bookkeeping – engage a self-employed bookkeeper for a few hours a week, or using accountancy software that issues invoices etc and that an accountant can compile your annual accounts from 
  • Marketing, web and social media updates 
  • Manufacturer – engaged to make or assemble part of the product you make or all of your product orders, although this may seem a big step for a designer/maker, once you have reached your own personal making capacity to keep pace with orders there is no more growth possible and every day is a full-on making day 
  • Licensing your product 
  • Employing a manager or working with another creative to share the workload 
  • These are just a few of the many options you could consider depending on the nature of your business and what you prefer. In making decisions, remember you are not alone, there are always business support services, fellow creatives and established business mentors who will be happy to help you explore your options or provide expert advice   

In this short video, previous Fashion Foundry participants Hilary Grant, Kirsteen Stewart, Pea Cooper and Laura Spring, share their experience of setting up and developing their businesses:

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