Guest Post by Cecily Vessey
Cecily Vessey is a successful London based designer-maker who sells a range of prints and homewares featuring her city illustrations. Cecily recently took part in Crafty Fox Connects - our mentoring programme for new designers taking part in Crafty Fox Markets. She is a mine of useful information! Here, she shares some really practical tips on planning for the year.
When I started my business I read so many bits of advice that I quickly became bogged down in the boring bits like admin and accounts. It was easy to forget what drove me to start in the first place. Here I have outlined the areas of planning that helped me to make a success of my first year as a full time self-employed designer/maker.
Start out with a basic timeline and fill in as much as you can then keep adding to it over time. Once you have completed a full year of business, you can make adjustments based on experience. I don’t work in seasons (i.e. spring/summer) but instead key events are important to me. If seasons are important to your products then plan your work around them. As a general rule preparation/design for seasons should start 6-12 months before launch.
Be clued up on how long things take to be made. If you are using a supplier, add on 2-3 weeks for errors and delays to the quote you are given. If you are making items yourself, ensure you will have all the materials you will need at the ready. It’s so much better to be early rather than late and miss the boat.
If you have seasonal products plan your launches. Who are you going to tell about the new items? Work backwards, how long does production take, add on time for photographing, uploading to online shops and preparing any printed matter (lookbooks, postcards).
Key Press Dates:
Different types of press have different timelines here are some examples.
Bloggers - 1 week/next day
Daily Newspapers -1-3 weeks
Weekly Magazines - 1 month
Monthly Magazines – at least 3 months
Send out your press releases at the relevant times, they are more likely to get noticed.
This is so essential. In my first year of business I became a work obsessive. Having a whole weekend off is still a novelty so I find taking an afternoon or two off during the week a great way around this (and London is much quieter then).
Time to design and be inspired:
Running your own business means you do everything and it’s easy to get stuck with the admin chores. I use the odd afternoon to go to a gallery, or visit shops I would like to be stocked in. Go armed with lookbooks and business cards as you never know who you’ll meet. I find that after an afternoon out of the office, the next day is always very productive.
Takings will vary month to month. After a year in full time business I now have a better idea of the slower months, the months when stockists order and the months when I have to pay bills and pay for stock. I use the slower times for designing new things and getting ahead. It's worth thinking about how to stretch your pennies during those months. Last year I pushed my freelance work and did drawing commissions to help keep the piggy bank topped up.
Analyse stock regularly:
It’s unlikely that you have a fancy electronic stock system. Oh, how I wish I did! Keep an eye on your stock. I always have a rough idea of numbers in my head and I write on the outside of my boxes what and how many items are in there. Note when and what you reorder and bring together a list of your best sellers, having this info on the tip of your tongue is great when talking to wholesale customers.
Value your peers:
Each time you do a market or trade show keep in touch with the people you meet. I find these friends invaluable. They help me out of creative ruts, give me confidence and can also answer questions about areas that i’m not so good at. Schedule in time to catch up every couple of weeks.
Don’t be afraid to dream:
What are your 2 year and 5 year goals and dreams? Do you want to open a shop or have a separate studio? How many stockists would you like? Maybe you want to show at your first trade show or even do an international trade show. Once you have your year plan sorted, extend it. Even if they are just dreams put them on the plan and aim for them.