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    How to run a business with your partner

    how-to-run-a-business-with-your-partner-emma-clark-gratton

    By Emma Clark

    For some couples, working together makes perfect sense. You have complementary skillsets, share a passion and vision and you obviously like them as a person and enjoy their company. Why not build on that and start a creative business together?

    If you can make it work, setting up shop with your favourite person allows the kind of freedom, flexibility and work-life balance that creative people dream about. My husband and I run a bespoke timber furniture and joinery company, which allows us the flexibility to raise our young sons together. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing and there has been plenty of roaring arguments negotiations to get to where we are now. Here’s our advice to keep your business and relationship on track and out of the divorce court.

    Be 110% sure it’s right for you
    Going into business with your partner is both a personal and professional investment, so think hard about your relationship and goals before working together. Relationships and careers can be difficult enough without combining the two, and a strong marriage doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful working relationship. Remember that in thirty years the business might not be there but the relationship will.

    The financial risks can be significant, too. Having both partners working in the same business can be a case of putting all your eggs in one basket, so be sure to do your due diligence and be aware of the financial ramifications in case the business doesn’t work out.

    That said, working together can be a great joy: it can strengthen your relationship, provide more flexibility and improve work-life balance for both of you, especially if you have kids. After all, you get to spend time with your favourite person and create something spectacular together!

    Have clear roles
    It is unlikely that you both have exactly the same skills, so identify your strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly. For example, my husband is an amazing woodworker but struggles with dealing with clients, whereas I love chatting to people but don’t have the same trade skills, so I do the bulk of the client communication and he builds the actual furniture. We both enjoy the collaborative process of designing, so we work together when sketching new designs and bouncing ideas off one another.

    A big part of having clear roles is to trust the other person. This is much easier said than done! Don’t try to do their job. Sure, you can offer advice and help each other out, but try to step back and let them have the final say. Constantly ‘checking in’ on the other person is exhausting and undermines their ability to get the job done. The answer is to know your role and stick to it.

    Communication is key
    Keep talking! This is important in all relationships, not just for business or creative partners. Constant communication with each other is imperative in order to stay organised, happy and sane. Be your partner’s biggest fan and celebrate even the smallest wins together. If my husband and I aren’t in the workshop together, we are constantly sending pictures to each other of what we are working on or what he has been building. It’s an easy way to stay in the loop and to keep the creative process moving.

    Regular date nights, even if it’s just takeaway in the backyard after the kids are in bed or a quick drink on the way home from work, can go a long way to reaffirming your relationship as a couple. Even if you have spent the working day together, asking, “How was your day?” or “How are you feeling today?” will go a long way in ensuring the other person feels supported and heard.

    No shoptalk as pillowtalk – and vice versa
    This is a hard one. When you work with someone all day, or even just part time, it can be hard to switch off at the end of the day. It’s easy to mention a frustrating client email while you are eating dinner or remember a forgotten invoice as you are both brushing your teeth. While this is inevitable up to a point, try your hardest to keep work at work and mentally switch off at home. Above all, you are romantic partners, not just colleagues.

    The opposite is true as well. It is easy for squabbles and bickering to carry over from home to work, which, coupled with the daily frustrations of running a business, can lead to resentment and seriously affect your work and relationship. Try to leave your bickering at home, especially if you have staff or other people around. Nothing is more unprofessional and awkward than being trapped between bickering spouses at work.

    Share the same vision
    Don’t assume your partner shares the same business goals. If one partner is aiming to have your products stocked on department store shelves and the other wants to focus on craft markets, your business will struggle. It is a good idea to map out a clear plan of what you imagine your business and lifestyle will be like. Having the same goals and vision for the business is the best way to ensure it continues to grow and evolve.

    Having a shared vision for your work/life balance is helpful too. Sorting out all the practical issues such as working hours, childcare, getting to and from work and wages will help you to align your expectations and help ensure you are both feeling in control.

    Emma Clark is an interior designer, writer and podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runs Gratton Design, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmamakesthings.

    {Photo by Ben Vella at Shoot Everything}


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, creative collaborations, how to | Comments Off
    Posted on

    My Advice: How to deal with competition

    By Lizzie Stafford

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    I’ve always experienced some form of jealousy when it comes to my career and that of those around me; I think you have to be pretty confident not to. It’s almost impossible not to compare your achievements (or perceived lack thereof) with those of your peers when social media was basically invented for bragging. For artists, it can be seeing people doing ‘better’ than you, or work that is very similar. For writers, it’s seeing people getting their byline everywhere; and don’t they ever sleep?

    Recently I experienced a terrible bout of anxiety when a business very similar to mine opened on the next block. For months before they opened I worried that I would never survive. I oscillated between wanting to be their friend and wanting very much to egg their shop (not even kidding… I didn’t, and the feeling was only fleeting. I’m just being brutally honest here). So it was with open ears and much anticipation that I awaited the response of these three women whose businesses I greatly admire, and whom I was sure had experienced something similar but handled it much better than myself. I was right.

    And in case you are waiting for the end of my story; my shop is still going, I am indeed friends with the other business and, as it turned out, we are different and great in our own way. Competition is a very good thing if you know how to use it right.

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    Stay true to your values and don’t get too caught up in what other people are doing

    Daniele Constance, Suitcase Rummage founder and arts practitioner.

    When I was asked to write about dealing with competition, I think I felt my blood boil a little! In my work and practice I have had many ideas borrowed, collaborated with, copied, stolen and all of these experiences have had a different impact and brought with it varying emotions.

    In general, I think a bit of a competition is good; it’s healthy. It keeps you motivated to push your ideas, push your practice further and I think it’s really important not to get complacent – particularly if you’re starting to do well and seeing some success. Learn from other great ideas, great thinkers, get inspired, and put all of that into your own work.

    While I am a big advocate for collaboration and finding ways to work with and support others, it is important to stay true to your values and not get too caught up in what other people are doing. Facebook and social media can be so valuable, but I’ve also found it to be crippling. I’ve spent hours trawling through photos, posters for events, blog posts, reviews …. but it’s only as useful as you make it. Don’t get caught up worrying up about what other people are doing, if their work is better, more successful (whatever the list is). My Dad always used to say to me, “Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Focus on yourself.” And he makes a good point. You can’t control what other people are doing and how successful their businesses will be, but you can control yours.

    More recently I have had the experience of others repeatedly using IP and branding that doesn’t belong to them, and I think that is really wrong on so many levels. I’m not sure what it’s like for other people, but for me it feels like the biggest betrayal. I’m not sure that I deal with it in the best way, but as artists and creative people we’re always going to have that happen to some degree. And to some degree, we’ve all done it, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s an excuse on some level for those out there who clearly can’t think for themselves (and god I hate it when someone says, ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’), but it’s also realistic too.

    I think my way of coping with it is to write the angry email I want to send, but keep it in my drafts. I come back to it a few hours later and edit it – or write a fresh one that leaves the emotion out. I’ve also found it useful to seek advice from lawyers and other creative business owners in how they deal with IP and copyright issues (almost everyone has their own story about it).

    At the end of it all, it’s about finding a balance, a place where you can use the competitive nature of business to move you forward, not backward. That’s how I try to think about it, anyway; even when the emotions and stakes are high!

    Come up with fresh ideas and stick to your own game.

    Jess Barty, owner, Sunday Social

    If I’m being honest, I can say that I used to struggle a lot with competition. But one day the penny dropped and I realised that worrying about it wasn’t doing me, or my business, any good.

    Nowdays I don’t compare my business to others. Sunday Social has always been about being unique and fashion forward, so I just try to keep coming up with fresh new ideas and stick to my own game. I guess it keeps me on my toes and ensures I do my best!

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    You better check yourself before you wreck yourself – Ice Cube.

    Jenica Smith, founder of Notely and Design Montage, and graphic designer

    I recently finished reading #GirlBoss by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso. She has an excellent quote that really stuck with me with regard to competition. “Compete with yourself, not with others. Judge yourself on what is your personal best and you’ll accomplish more than you could ever have imagined.”

    It can be really overwhelming flicking through Instagram and seeing all the gorgeous photos in your feed. I started noticing myself getting down about how nice everyone’s photos look. This led me to get into a habit of only going on there when I have something planned to post. Even though that sounds hard, if I have a day or two, or even just the day to consider my post, then when I do jump on there to post, I feel really excited about participating as I’ve done mine for the day.

    The same trap can happen with reading blogs. You could read blogs all night long and then not actually write or plan any articles for your own blog. Perhaps if you are feeling affected by the rabbit warren of social media, then have a couple of days or a Monday to Friday week away from it to get back to your own thoughts.

    Another quote I like to remind myself with is Ice Cube’s “You better check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self.” Even writing this it makes me laugh! If I notice that I’m being more fleety and trying to check my Instagram or Facebook too often, I like to move those apps to the last app panel in my phone so it’s too hard to keep flicking to them to be able to check them on impulse and to see what everyone else is doing.

    Lizzie Stafford is a lifestyle and entertainment writer and owns and runs Künstler, a magazine and bookstore in Winn Lane, Brisbane.


    Posted by: Lizzie Stafford
    Categories: business tips, my advice | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Meeting deadlines with kids underfoot

    meeting-deadlines-with-kids-underfoot-by-jasmine-mansbridge

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    Picasso once said that; “our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”. I don’t imagine Picasso frantically making kids lunches, rushing to get out the door by eight in the morning, so he could then get back to his studio to paint in a three hour time frame, but I do like this quote as there were never truer words spoken. Basically if you add raising children to any plan that’s when the challenges truly begin.

    Deadline stress is unavoidable and it seems that kids have inbuilt sensors which make them difficult when you least want them to be. So considering how to best manage your family as well as your creative work commitments will help you achieve maximum output with minimal stress.

    I am a painter and a mother of four children, aged 3 to 17 years of age (with a baby due any day). So I have a broad range of needs to work around. I try and avoid overloading myself with commitments, but when an important date looms (for me that is usually an exhibition), there are things I do to make life easier for myself and my family.

    I don’t recommend making a life out of living this way though. Seasons of work, and then rest, benefit everybody in a family. The wheels would come off my wagon if I did the things I am about to suggest all of the time. But, here goes: some things that work for me when facing deadlines with my business.

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    Simplify your wardrobe.

    Get a “uniform”. Mine for a while now has been black converse shoes, jeans and simple T shirts. I just add a jacket or scarf if its cold. This means dressing requires little thought in the mornings and I can get ready in about ten minutes. I save dressing the way I want for weekends and when I am going somewhere “nice”! This also goes for hair, whats happening up there? If it takes you a half hour to dry and straighten it, maybe try a messy bun when you’re flat out. You don’t have to look unkempt, but streamlining your weekday wear will ease you into a busy day and give you time for other stuff.

    Plan simple food.

    I generally think about food for the week on a Sunday afternoon. Although I am not a menu planning/spreadsheet kind of girl, a little thought and a quick shop will make a big difference to your meal time stress levels for the week. When I mean simple food, I mean things such as one pot dinners like roasts and pastas. Children can get involved in making food which is also a great help. Lazy meals like soups with bread or slow cooked meals means you can put them on and forget about them until its time to eat.

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    Fill the fridge with fresh, easy to use ingredients.

    When it comes to kids snacks, I cut back on baking and other foods that are time consuming to make. Instead I buy tubs of natural yoghurt and hommus, then for easy morning and afternoon teas I just have to add fruit or muesli to the yoghurt, or savoury biscuits, carrots and celery to the hommus. This keeps everyone full and healthy, without lots of preparation. It will stop you having to resort to the convenience of take away and it also saves money.

    Negotiate with your partner/husband to share or take over bedtime and other household duties.

    For example, when I am busy painting I can get so much more done if I can at least share the kids bedtime routine. If I can start working straight after dinner at night, I find that I have a lot more energy to paint and I am a lot more productive. If I wait until the kids are down for the night, I find it so much harder to restart my energy flow. Also, negotiate for weekend working time. My husband is really good at helping me get over the line when I am busy, but it does take good communication and verbalising your needs for this to happen. It is also about give and take, so be prepared for some compromise. When my husband is busy with his own work, I do of course try and pick up the slack and do the same for him.

    Have an “in bed” and “out of bed” time for yourself!

    When I am painting late into the night, I usually get a second wind at about eleven o’clock, even though I might have been exhausted at nine. So, I make myself go to bed by 12:30pm. The times I have broken this rule and stayed up half the night, I have paid for it by being very weary the next day and then I am not able to work the following night. I really have to be out of bed by seven to get everyone ready for school and to be prepared for the day ahead, so sleeping in is an impossibility. I seem to be able to function pretty well on seven or so hours sleep, so my set hours work for me, (though its still a commitment to work long hours). Work out what works for you and try to stick to it. To keep a bit of balance, I usually give myself a night off on a weekend, to watch a movie or do something with my husband.

    Get a cleaner in on a regular basis, at least once a fortnight if you can.

    If you have a busy life, this is probably my number one de-stressing tip! Having a cleaner won’t mean you don’t have to do housework, but it does ease the pressure on your household while you go AWOL into your creative workaholic zone. If you are worried about the cost of a cleaner, try tallying what you might spend on coffee, wine, or other extras, and all of a sudden a cleaner may seem cheap, (but be warned they are equally addictive).

    Source some kind of childcare.

    Childcare is a tough one I know, and it can be expensive, especially if your not making any money up front from your creative work. I have had different help at different times. My mother in law is wonderful and has had my youngest children many times when I have a deadline to meet. But mostly I have had to just work with my kids around (not ideal, but necessary at times). I have also paid my teenage children’s friends and other friends to play with and entertain my small children, (picnics or games in the back yard work for a couple of hours). I have used occasional childcare, in the form of two hour sessions available at my local gym. It does take focus to switch in and out of creative mode so quickly and work when you have limited time or you are sharing your head space, but it is better than no time to work at all.

    Try and find creative ways to let your children work alongside of you, some of the time.

    In my studio I have a couple of tubs of basic crafting materials. Pencils, colouring books, glue etc… My children don’t find me painting that exciting, as they are used to seeing me do it on a daily basis. This means they are happy to take up a corner (or half the studio) with their activities while I paint. Age is obviously a consideration, but stick some tunes on and you might get an hour or so of work done and they will get to use their own imaginations. It does take patience and tolerance and a certain kind of head space to make this work for you. If you have a deadline though, a couple of hours will be invaluable. If you are stuck for ideas, the internet is full of age appropriate kids activities, so get Googling!

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    Don’t take it all to seriously.

    This is my last tip, and its because it’s probably the most important. While on the one hand it takes a hell of an effort and consistent commitment to pursue creative success and also raise a happy family, on the other hand , your family will always be your greatest measure of success. So, if you’re having a day when you feel like you are banging your head against a wall and getting nowhere, or if you feel tired, frustrated and worn out, then the best thing you can probably do it take a deep breath, call a friend and head to the park or the beach, or somewhere that is not at home or your studio for a few hours! When I do do this I come home recharged and refreshed, my tank full again. Remember being a creative person should be fun! (at least most of the time).

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to four (almost five) kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.

    {All photos by Jasmine Mansbridge}


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, guest blog, women in art | Comments Off
    Posted on

    8 Tips for Market Stall Success

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    By Monica Ng

    You open your inbox and you see a new email from the market you’ve recently applied to.

    “Congratulations! Your application was successful!”

    You ogle at this sentence and you begin to buzz with excitement. You do a happy dance, Elaine Benes style to celebrate your success and show off your rad moves to the four walls of the room you’re sitting in. Yaaay!

    My jewellery shop, Geometric Skies has participated in a variety of showcases and markets including some specialty designer markets such as the Sydney Finders Keepers, the Etsy Interactive Exhibition at the Fracture Gallery in Federation Square as part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, RAW Artists’ first Sydney showcase, The Makery and the fashion markets at Bondi Beach and Kirribilli.

    I started from scratch as a complete newbie and through these experiences over the past year, I’ve gained some insight and learned some tricks that may help set up your market day for success. Regardless of whether it’s your first time, or if you’re a seasoned stallholder, here are a few pointers to help you prepare for your next event.

    Think about your display
    Dedicate some time to how you want to set out your work. This is especially important if there’ll be a lot of other stallholders selling similar types of items, like jewellery. I’ve seen a lot of jewellery designers at markets lay their pieces flat on tables, which may make it more difficult for customers walking by to see the work from afar.

    Ask yourself:

    How can your display be different to other stallholders?
    Can you arrange it at different levels? Use busts? Racks? Trees?
    Will you be buying these props or will you construct them?
    What materials will they be made from?
    What do these materials say about your brand?

    Try to be consistent and use the same materials to display your goods, as this gives your shop a cleaner and more cohesive look.

    Also, consider using a mannequin. I use a half body mannequin, so customers can see from afar how some of my more adventurous pieces like ‘The Lily body chain’ looks and fits. Often, this draws in customers who wander up to my shop to have a closer look and to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’.

    How will you display your shop’s logo? Laser cut on acrylic, wood or another material? Painted or printed on canvas? Wooden or metal letters? Sounds like a fun DIY activity!

    Will you be bringing your own table or will you hire one? If you’re using a tablecloth, make sure it’s wrinkle free.

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    Bring marketing materials

    What if the customer doesn’t buy today, but wanted to show their friend first before making a decision? How will they ever find your work again? What if they do buy, and want to share your other work with their friends and family?

    Be sure to bring business cards, postcards, a mailing list sign up sheet, branded packaging, or an iPad with photos of your work and a slideshow of press clippings. These are all great items to promote your shop. If you need help designing these, why not ask your friends and family to see if there’s someone who can help you?

    Printing business cards doesn’t have to be expensive as there are some inexpensive online options like Moo, Vistaprint, or Print Together where you simply upload your design, and they’ll print it and post it straight to you.

    Also, prior to the event, remember to publicise it! Speaking of publicity…

    Tell everyone about your event!
    Tell your friends, family and colleagues. Even if you think they won’t ever buy from you, they may forward the news of your event to people who will. Let your existing customers know too!

    Publicise your event through different channels such as your blog, word of mouth, newsletter and social media.

    Be a “yes” person and set up future sales
    Is the size too big, too small, too short or too long for your customer? Offer the option for customisation.

    At the market, consider offering a free shipping or discount coupon to customers for their next purchase.

    Running a competition can help direct traffic and add new followers to your blog, mailing list and social media channels. Why not try partnering up with a blogger to help increase your competition’s outreach?

    Be prepared for all weather conditions
    If the market is outdoors, bring warm clothes, hat, sunblock, snacks/drinks and a chair to keep you going during the day. If business is super busy and you can’t get duck away to buy some food, at least you have some snacks to keep you going.

    Also, sandbags for your gazebo are a lifesaver (in case it gets windy). I’ve seen some gazebos blow away before and not only is it dangerous to yourself and others, it could also result in property damage. If weather conditions become too dangerous, it’s the organiser’s discretion whether trading can continue. Safety first!

    Pack!
    Pack the night before (or even earlier), to save yourself a freak out the morning of the event. Use the checklist below so you’re not kicking yourself at the event for forgetting something.

    • Stationery/admin: blu-tack, pen, notebook, measuring tape, screwdrivers, drill, receipt book, bull clips, plastic bags, duct or masking tape
    • Sales: Sufficient change in your float, credit card machine, mobile phone, phone charger
    • Furniture and accessories: tables, chairs, trolley, gazebo, sand bags
    • Props/display: Stands, mannequins, table cloth, signage, business card holder + extra business cards, price tags, mailing list sign up sheet, packaging
    • Enough stock to sell (always better to take more, than less)
    • Personal: Mini first aid kit, snacks/drinks, hat, sunblock, warm clothes, umbrella

    Network with other stallholders
    Get to know your neighbours and become friends! Gather business cards so you can remain in contact after the event. You never know when a collaboration opportunity might pop up and you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting their contact details.

    Have fun

    Sometimes business is so crazy, before you know it you’ve sold out of everything. Congratulations! On other days, business may not be as well as you hoped it would be. Perhaps it’ll pick up later on in the day or the next person that stops will shop up a storm. Stay positive and enjoy the experience.

    Good luck!

    monica-ng-market-stall-success-1

    Monica Ng left her accounting career at the end of 2013 and began studying a two-year jewellery and object design diploma at the Design Centre, Enmore in 2014. She blogs at www.geometricskies.wordpress.com and you can also find her on Instagram @geometric_skies, www.facebook.com/geometricskies, and her Etsy shop

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, guest blog, my advice, resource | Comments Off