Since I started my business last July I have learned a lot. I had high expectations and maybe they would have been met had I started smaller and adjusted some of the mechanics of my venture. But learning from your mistakes is an important part of the process. 2012 was busy and everything was going brilliantly.
Sadly 2013 has been less inspiring and more of a reality check for long term success. I am making some decisions which will be for the better but which will require some adjustments to my plan but will help me get back on track.
My big focus at the moment is relocation for both myself and my business. Even the thought of it renews my enthusiasm for life, the universe and everything. But there are a number of key factors I must take into consideration if I’m not to make the mistakes of the last nine months.
For business purposes geography is very important. I need to be central to a number of things including travel facilities and other key towns. I need access to services, suppliers, the right kind of customers for my business and other creatives I can collaborate with but I also need to make sure I’m not surrounded by the competition. Can I find affordable studio space or can I find somewhere big enough for me to work from home?
On a personal level I need access to other kinds of work because let’s face it, it takes time to get established. I am planning on finding a ‘main’ job, so I need to find somewhere with realistic employment opportunities. Is the rent reasonable? What’s the social life like? If I do end up working from home, is the city going to get me out and about?
I don’t want to become a hermit again. Is it financially viable in terms of what I can earn versus what I need to outlay for bills? Can I afford a social life again? If I’m working from home I need to be out and about out of work hours to keep me sane. Can I get regular work or sufficient temping opportunities to cover any short falls or find a rewarding permanent job I can work into my business commitments on an ongoing basis?
I love moving and exploring new places. I’ve moved towns and cities several times and it doesn’t scare me at all. Relocating isn’t about running away, it’s about moving on to new things, adapting and working out what both the business and me needs to survive and be happy. One day I’ll find somewhere I’m ready to settle. But not yet.
Everyone’s suggestion is to go to the big city – London. But I have spent a lot of my time down south. It’s expensive and everyone else is there and I know I wouldn’t be happy there so it really doesn’t appeal. I’ve now lived in Lincoln for almost 5 years and I’ve grown to love the Midlands region as an area of huge creative activity but without the distancing that infects so many aspects of inner city life. Lincoln itself might be a cheap place to live and have all the basics on the doorstep but it is not a viable option for my kind of business and I’ve found it very tiresome as a place to live and make money.
With around 11,000 transient students here it’s a great opportunity for businesses who’s focus is on student life or budget living but they are worthless to a business such as mine as these younger inhabitants have little or no disposable income. Despite being classed as a city, Lincoln is a very small place and the remaining community, already pushed to the limit financially because of the recession do not see my skills as useful or particularly necessary right now.
Lincoln does not have a strong established creative community. I am currently resident in the only artists studio space in the city. It lacks the strength and community spirit I would have expected in a place that’s been established over a year. It’s not the fault of the studio, more the transient nature of many of the creatives here who come and go and don’t put down roots or establish their talents here. Many of the skills fostered at the university will leave once courses have been completed and aren’t remaining here for long enough to put much back in. And that has reflected in the number of events and exhibitions that are held here and have a very poor footfall.
Lincoln does have a business hub and Enterprise centre to cultivate local and regional establishment of businesses but it is not necessarily expecting them to remain in the city itself and the wider region has much better offerings in larger towns and cities.
For my business there are some strong contenders already which provide suppliers for all my base materials and have more affluent and diverse customers. Leicester, Manchester and Leeds are all interesting possibilities with plenty to offer but I am researching their neighbours too. I want to be in the centre of a vibrant community with established creative hubs I can network with and where, within reason, I can expected to get supplies on my doorstep. More than anything I would be happy to be able to establish a part time business with customers I can meet in person rather than via Facebook or have to drive many miles to see.
Now that I have downsized my personal life my studio also needs work. I realise I am unlikely to find a studio like the one I have now that I can afford elsewhere so it’s important to keep things to the minimum. I’d rather be making commissions or one off pieces for sale than backing up a ton of shoot outfits I can’t shift. Styling is not a good money making option anymore. Commissions are where it’s at, but I want to be still be able to design and make my own creations.
It’s food for thought but I am under no immediate pressure to go. My aim is September. Ironically I do have work commitments up to then and I want to go with a clean slate ready to promote myself in a new place with new aims and ambitions.