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Monday, May 23, 2011

Remake Your Business Plan for your Art

Your business plan must continually be revisited and remade:
1) Different realities (personal and business) need to be addressed. Start a new plan.
2) You may have discovered a new market that you want to develop and enjoy.
3) The state or national economy or regulations may be changing and a different position is needed to legally avoid a development that is hurting your business.
4) You are not getting enough customers.
5) Your prices are too high or too low and you need to investigate what your competitors are charging.
6) You are tired of the medium you have invested a lot of effort into and you save acquired new skills.
7) Your advertising program is too expensive and you need to start advertising somewhere else.

More questions and solutions:
1) Find out who your competitors really are and copy them if possible.
2) What is your image and should you change or refine it?
3) What makes you different so that you will stand out?
4) Which competitors are better than you. Which ones are behind you in talent but still seem to be making money?
5) Make yourself competitive in some fashion. Even better phone skills when speaking with customers may be an issue and an easy fault to improve.
6) List the factors that you think that you can't control and find out how to control them.
7) List the factors that you can control.
8) Do you really have a good idea that is going to be around?
9) Who do you want to serve?
10) Are the customers you are attracting now enabling you to be successful?
11)Who should be your target market?
12) Do your existing customers fit into your target market?
13) Get jealous of your time and eliminate unnecessary duties. Family time is not unnecessary time.
14) Make good friends. Make good facebook contacts. Expand yourself through others.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Get Control Of Your Art Business

If you have a unprofitable business that is in truth a hobby, that is one thing. But if you are trying to make a living, that is an entirely different game. The problem with art, gunsmithing, engraving, stockmaking, and other artistic endeavors, is that men love the work and thus work for much less than necessary. This must be avoided. Artists deserve a profit.
Early on in the planning of your business and developing a market for your services you need to address the duties listed in this post with vigor.
In other words, work your arses off in getting this all done or keep your art as a hobby. Don't start a business. Move to whatever State is hiring. Get a job at the plant. Save yourself a lot of grief.
Assuming that you are already developing faceboook friends by taking the advice of the previous post, be sure you are continually following up and contacting new people on a daily basis. Building relationships for your business is in the follow up.
Ask yourself the following: Where do I want to be in one year? In 5 years? In 20 years. Your answers to these questions are your short and long term goals.
Since you can't do a goal but, can do an activity; list activities for each goal. You can do an activity. Constantly refine your activities culling out the ones that are not working and expanding the ones that do work.
Buy the book How To Control Your Time And Your Life by Larkin . Measure your progress. Keep your written goals so that you can relish your successes as you follow the book's advice.
Be aware that there is a difference between estimating a final price and giving a final cost. Setting a price in stone for the customer is not a good idea. What if an unknown arises that you as the artist, has no control over? State on the bottom of your estimate or final bill that all accounts past due are charged a fee of 1.5% per month.
Opening a donut shop in midtown Manhattan is a lot different than starting an art business. Do not write a business plan in order to borrow money from a bank so you can practice your art. If your art hobby or business will not support your business expenses from the beginning, you are not ready to take on a loan.
Warning: When Small Business Administration Loans are guaranteed by the government. Banks are savvy to shut your business down if 3 loan payments are missed. There is no negotiating on this issue from what I've seen and heard. In my opinion, some banks would rather cash in on the guarantee than negotiate with an art business with poor cash flow.
You do not need to buy or rent a building with several thousand square feet of work space. Rent or borrow space from a gunsmith that you can work with. He may have a space in the back of your shop. Trade engraving work for rent. Be an asset to the gunsmith and he will treat you well. Let it be known that if a situation is unworkable that other arrangements will need to made. After all, if you are a full time engraver you will need about the same amount of food and shelter as everyone else. Just because you are an artist, you do not need to be a starving artist.
Lynt MacKenzie related that engravers for Purdey were contractors who simply rented work tables at the factory. An engraver in the United States must approach the contractor issue carefully in order to not be considered an employee of the gunsmith if you rent a room or space from him. There are very specific rules set up by the IRS, and you will need to get a CPA or attorney's advice.
Everything taken in trade, bartered for, and paid in cash MUST be recorded for the IRS. Record all of your income. Know and follow the IRS rules. Be well within the law by reading and understanding the book How To Pay Zero Taxes: Your Guide To every Tax Break The IRS Allows by Jeff Schnepper
If you are have any business involved with firearms you must have a FFL License and in some cases a license in the State you are working in. Call your regional ATF office. The ATF staff will also direct you to the proper State office if necessary. You must also check with your local zoning board.

Promoting Yourself As An Artist

Imagine if there were simple truths in promoting yourself as an artist. Consider the following.
Be great at what you do and be visible. Be visible by becoming a leader in your field. Become a leader by speaking, writing, and teaching.
Ask yourself what skills are natural to you. Are your natural skills writing or teaching? What types of people, skill sets, and environment do you thrive in?
As an artist you must constantly think about expanding your skills, knowledge and networks.
You must have an unquieted lust for more skills and knowledge. Social networking and friendship are the driving force of a career.
The more people you know that can help you, and that you can help, solidifies your network. Social networking increases your ability to develop worthwhile networks of friends. Use facebook and all it's related networking resources to expand influence.
Social Networking on or off the internet is a way of developing trust and professional relationships. You must gather and supply resources, information and more new contacts. Listen to your friends within the network and help them in any way you can.
No excuses. Make the time to make facebook a part of your life. Watch how your friends work their pages and adapt their methods but, add your own preferences and personality.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Gibberish" and Earning A Living In The Arts.

I recently received a frustrated comment from a good engraver who uses a mechanically assisted device. It seems that he is always in a hurry to get his engraving done and concentrate on very narrow matters at hand. My references to William Morris and design were referred to as "gibberish". He is a good man I'm sure and he has some good work by any one's judgement but I riled him.
The frustrated response reminds me of a very well known and capable stockmaker. We both had the same medium format cameras at the time and we were on the phone for perhaps an hour comparing notes.
His business, like mine, is a difficult art form. The amount of frustration and he expressed was only surpassed by his resentment. It seems that there were not always enough men who would pay for the quality he was providing. The amount of money he was able to earn in years gone by seems to have been the major issue that he related to me as far as I could tell. In fact, he was very resentful of his trade.
When a premed student finally reaches his goal of attending a great medical school, he is only at the very beginnings of a very long journey as a resident, an intern, and then passing his state board examination. Many many years are spent in school with minimal sleep and money. Later, as a working doctor, he makes the money he deserves. But even doctors vary in their success in earning a great living.
One member of the medical community that treats me volunteered in the rain forest in Brazil treating patients who had never seen a doctor before. Today he works in a poverty stricken area in a low cost federal clinic. He could be working elsewhere but he works where he works out of choice. Another Md that I went to high school with is now a wealthy doctor in Los Angeles. Both men are happy and have the money they need.
When I was a sales manager for a large firm, the executives conducted an experiment. One district's salesmen were paid 10.00 more per each item sold. The other district's salesmen were paid the same. Surprisingly, both districts had the same sales dollar volume they had before. Apparently the district salesmen that were paid more per sale found the opportunity to work less for the same amount of money. The lesson was that salesmen need to set goals and adjust their work habits to succeed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Engraving at the Gunshop and Sailing in Oswego.

It is 12:37am. I started the day at 6:30am. I started work at 8:00. I took 3 hrs off from 5 to 8:00pm, also a 1/2 hour lunch. When you do what you love is it really work?
Looking back on the last entry on this blog it seems impossible that I last visited this blog in 2005.
I've been busy.
While my engraving studio is no longer in my home, I now live in Oswego NY. I rebuilt an old modular into a house and bought a small yacht for Lake Ontario, which is basicly across the Bridge Street. My wife and daughter started a small photography business in Oswego to help meet medical expenses for a family member. I'm the salesman but, most of my time is spent cutting steel at the Gunshop. Evenings are spent working on my book about Gun engraving.
It is many respects, the most extensive book about gun engraving that has yet to be written.
The issue at hand is that I keep adding to it. Thus the long wait for publication.
The blog is obviously a small part of the book and I will attempt to make it a little more presient.