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    Category Archives: regular columns

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    My Advice: The biggest lesson from 2014…


    By Andrea McArthur

    Now that we are well into 2015, I thought I’d ask three creatives – Heleena Arabatzis, Textile Print Artist of Ulterior Motif; Bec Mutch, Coworking space founder of The Cowork Collective; and Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11 - for their ultiamte piece of  business advice based on what they experienced and learned in 2014.

    Heleena Arabatzis, textile print artist, Ulterior Motif

    Heleena Arabatzis
    Upon reflection, 2014 was certainly a lesson-filled year. My top lesson learned was one surrounding ‘working life’. Like most creative’s starting out, the path is pebbled usually in the same pattern: graduate, intern, full time gig, do what you really love on the side, juggle both roles, hope that your talents are taken seriously enough you can ditch the ‘PAYG job’ and focus on the ‘love job’ for the rest of your days.

    Finding the core thing that I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life, and realising that I wasn’t fit for the ‘common’ path was simultaneously liberating & daunting… as was revealing this to my family, partner & boss.

    [I surmised] my career intents are not based on world domination, the masses, the high-rise climb, the trends etc, [and this] manifested an honest search for answers to restore feeling where numbness unwilling resided. After several quiet moments, I effortlessly refined it to three elements: Motherhood, Travel and Creation. The first two are still works in progress but getting back to practising the act & art of creating happened to be a swifter one. I left my textile art-room assistant PAYG job to jet off. As a way of procuring extra savings, I went to market with my Ulterior Motif designs, all made as part my graduation showcase. To my complete amazement, Ulterior Motif products were ver well received by local audiences! It truly is the height of satisfaction interacting with others and just exploring an artistic spin on the world (even if it is just displayed on a cushion). [This experience] has ultimately grounded my feet… for now…

    Finally, with a new found view on (working) life, I plan on having the most fruitful creative year in 2015!

    Bec Mutch, founder of The Cowork Collective

    Bec Mutch

    It’s funny, when you start something new, naivety can be your greatest friend. That boundless positivity it delivers, helping you block out all the naysayers, gloss over the doubts and the voices in your head that whisper of disaster. Without it I’m not sure many of us would launch new projects at all. And so we start, we plan and take steps and commit, and our positivity and naivety feeding us along the way.

    At some point though our vision generally gets a battering, and we are faced with a reality that we may not like and a choice to give up or keep going. I distinctly remember sitting alone at 421 Lygon St on a day when I thought we might need to give up the lease and walk away. I was filled with anger and frustration that my grand vision [of a unique coworking space] was imploding. I wondered what I’d do next if it did all fall apart, and knew that nothing had changed. I still wanted to create a space that felt positive, inspiring and supportive that blended together the best elements of working from home, a corporate office and a creative studio.

    So I kept going, and my family and friends kept offering their support, and I began meeting amazing people whose ideas and encouragement gave me reasons to believe it might all be worth it. The doors opened on December 1st 2014, six months after the lease was signed and the renovation budget had tripled. Although there were times when the adventure felt like a relentless chore, I still knew I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Giving myself permission to do something I really wanted to do was one thing. Sticking with it when things got ugly was a revelation. Now I want to shout from the rooftops that it’s so worth it. That even though the roadblocks and challenges along the way may leave you drowning in waves of doubt, if you keep going you’ll end up in a place far better than the one you first imagined.

    If you’ve got the dream, you’ve got what it takes to bring it to life. Just keep going…

    Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11

    Ilona Topolcsanyi

    For Cone 11 ceramics, 2014 was a year of great beginnings as we developed relationships with some of Australia’s most passionate and renowned chefs. Early in the year we were asked to make an exclusive collection of one-off plates for the Harvest Festival curated by The Gallery of Modern Art, where top chefs including Peter Gilmore, Josh Lopez, James Viles, Dan Hunter and Ryan Squires used our tableware to plate up their amazing creations. From this arose a series of major collaborations that would see us developing tableware for restaurants across Australia. The most significant of these (I’m chuffed to say…) was the making of 250 pieces for the G20 working party dinner at the Gallery Of Modern Art in QLD. Yes – Barack Obama himself has eaten dinner off my plate!

    It was an exciting and prosperous year for us and many of these projects are gently flowing on into 2015. With the excitement of these commissions comes a little stress, a lot of hard work, many failures but an even greater number of successes with many valuable lessons learnt along the way. The most important for me were learning about setting some limits, knowing when to say ‘no’, understanding my boundaries and estimating how much work can realistically be taken on without burning out. Above all I developed a new appreciation for leaving time for a little personal creative play – keeping myself in touch with the love of what I do and the passion that drove me into this creative practice in the first place.

    - – -

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer in Brisbane. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over strategic design. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: Creative, Interview, my advice, regular
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: regular columns | Comments Off
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    A guide to quoting and invoicing


    By Jes Egan

    Having worked in the management side of the creative industry for almost all of my working career, I’ve never really thought about quoting for work or invoicing once it’s done. It has always just been taken care of for me! However, in my current job I lecture ‘business by design’ at Billy Blue College of Design, and earlier this trimester I asked my usual question in the first class: ‘What do you want to learn about business?’. Overwhelmingly the responses were ‘How do I charge for my time?’ and ‘How do I put a quote together?’.

    It struck me that knowing what to charge, and how to charge, is something that creative and small business owners often struggle with. So here is my guide for quoting and invoice for your creative work.

    Determining your rate

    Putting a value on your work or your skills can be a very hard thing to do. My advice? Value yourself and what you do. People pay for you for something they don’t have the skill set to do, so try to give a value to your time. There a couple of ways to do this:

    1. Think about how long that job is going to take you to complete, considering every step and every action. For example, if it’s going to take you 10 hours and you’re charging the client $100, you’re making only $10 an hour. That’s not event minimum wage! Decide what your hourly rate should be and start from there.

    2. Review what other ‘similar’ individuals or businesses charge for their time. Don’t necessarily copy this rate, but use it as a guide. If others are charging between $40-$80 per hour then think about where you sit within the spectrum of skills compared to those people. Are you just starting out and maybe not as experienced as some of those charging the higher end of that range? Then charge a lower rate than those until you become more experienced, or vice versa.

    3. Sometimes (and it should  be only sometimes) you might decide quote ‘low’ just win a job, because it’s for a client that you really want to work with, or you’re trying to crack into a new industry or gain experience or skills you don’t already have. I say that this is okay, as long as it doesn’t become the norm. Remember value yourself and your time.

    Preparing your quote in writing

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a client request something extra during the course of a job (adding to your time or the skills and experience you bring to the work), and then refused to pay for it because the details of the initial quote were ambiguous. When it comes to project quotes, the devil is in the detail. Unless your quote clearly outlines what is and isn’t included for the total price you’re quoting (before any actual work begins), if the final fee is above what the client expects, it can be a difficult conversation to have.

    The key is to be very, very detailed in your quote and if a request for additional tasks or the scope of the job changes after the original quote is approved, then it’s good practise to provide them with an additional quote or ‘change request’ and have this approved also.

    With any quote, ensure you get the client to sign it off and/or supply you with a purchase order before you start the work. I know that sometimes this admin side of business can get in the way of doing the real creative work, but it is important – a few minutes to do this correctly can save you so much time and hassle in the long run.

    Here’s an example of what kind of information I might include in a quote.


    Preparing an invoice

    An invoice is what you send to the client in anticipation of a payment milestone or completion of a job. It details the work that has been completed (or details of a deposit before starting a job) and includes your business details, bank account details, payment terms and other essential tax information.

    Here’s an example of what an invoice could look like:


    While it might be tempting to simplify your invoice down to a single final ‘amount due’ total, I personally find that an invoice which contains almost as much detail as the original quote can alleviate many client queries and objections (and possibly the delay of payment). You don’t have to list a blow-by-blow account of the work completed, but a client will generally appreciate some detail of what is being invoiced for.

    The tax stuff

    An ABN (Australian Business Number) is important to have, although it isn’t mandatory if you’re a sole trader. However, other businesses may be legally bound to withhold almost half of any payment to you for tax if you don’t quote an ABN on your invoice. Half! You maybe able to claim this back at tax time, but in my opinion it is better to apply for an ABN at the Australian Business Register and have this ready to supply to any potential client.

    Registering for GST is another thing to think about if you run a creative business in Australia. If you are expecting to earn less than $75,000 per financial year, then technically you don’t have to register, but if you think you could be nearing that amount then you may need to. Have a look at more info on registering for GST here, and be sure to contact a professional in the area of tax and accounting before you send off your first invoice.

    I know numbers aren’t always the ‘fun’ bit of running a creative business, but they are necessary and it is important to set up good systems from the outset. Of course, professional advice from an accountant, a lawyer, bookkeeper, the ATO or other professional body is always recommended before you jump in head first into quoting or invoicing for your creative work or starting a business – it may save you a whole lot of hassle and pain in the long run. Then you can have some fun with the money that comes in at the end for all of your hard earned work!

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: regular columns | Comments Off
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    New event recordings online


    If you missed any of our events from the second half of last year, here’s some good news: three new event recordings are online today for CWC Members to access. Hear the creative journey’s of Leah Bartholomew of Beneath the Sun, Marnie Goding of Elk, and Pepa Martin & Karen Davis of Shibori over at our podcasts page.

    Note that you need to be a current CWC Member to listen to or download these recordings.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: event recordings, podcasts, regular columns | Comments Off
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    My Advice: Tips for the New Year

    By Lizzie Stafford

    Photo by Karina Sharpe

    Photo by Karina Sharpe

    Two weeks in to the start of January this year I signed a lease on a new shop. The year before was a bit of a ‘nothing’ year, and when I got to the start of January it was one of those moments when you think ‘Right, what is actually going on here.’ I sat at the kitchen table with coloured pens and a sheet of poster board and decided it was time to get real. I wrote down my ‘resolutions’. They had to be possible, but still challenging, and about doing ‘good’ rather than ‘lose 5 kgs’ or ‘get better hair’. Then I just wrote things I really, really wanted to do in large capital letters, like OPEN A SHOP, and I kept the poster visible so it was staring me in the face whenever I went near my desk. For the first time ever, I actually managed to come through with my resolutions. (Okay, most of them, anyway. Nobody’s perfect).

    Normally I wait until the end of January to start to do anything, because everyone is on holidays, or it’s too hot, or I have the rest of the year to do it. And then before I know it it’s December and I’m adding it to next year’s resolutions. But I found getting motivated from the very start, and ticking off as much as I could in the first month, gave me the momentum I needed to keep me going for the rest of the year.

    Of course, everyone’s different, and there is nothing wrong with taking time out in January to reflect and recharge. That’s the advice of one of the creative women when I asked about what she does to get motivated in the new year, and a trip to Europe sounds pretty darn inspiring to me.

    Nick off overseas!

    Elizabeth Bull, photographer and owner of One Fine Print

    My first knee-jerk-reaction response when asked about tips for the new year, about getting motivated and making the most of new beginnings was: nick off overseas! As that’s what I am doing on the 1st of January next year. It’s a completely self-indulgent trip I’ve decided to take right in what historically has been quite a busy time for me! It was also what I did last January. So I thought, really am I the best to comment on this?

    But then I thought about it and considered how time away from the business is actually what I’ve always done to prepare myself for the new year. Very early on in my business I did something that has now become my end of year activity that sets me up for the year ahead and something I look forward to and feel keeps me grounded for the busy year ahead. I go down to the beach for a few days, I sit around in a deck chair and do nothing much. It feels like a great relief after a busy December and year gone by. It really gives me the ability to just sit and think, and to discuss and play with ideas that have been swimming around in my head.

    Now don’t get me wrong; I travel and take breaks all the time. But rarely do I do the relaxing, sit around holiday. But when I do the “sitting around and relaxing” thing in December, I come back in January refreshed and ready to go. Over that period I think about my goals and what I’ve achieved in the previous year. I re-evaluate and think about what I really want out of the next year. Not in a New Year’s resolution type of way; more like a to-do list of what I’d like to achieve and how I could go about doing it.

    A couple of things I’ve found help me clarify my thoughts during this time:

    1) We completely shut down. It’s the only time we do. No email correspondence; just a nice “see you in the New Year” auto responder. This time away from the computer helps me think and have real clarity without any distractions. (I don’t even like cats, why am I looking at this cat video!). I guess it works for me the same way as why the best ideas always come to you in the shower.

    2) Don’t put pressure on yourself to “figure stuff out”. Sit back and relax, and the good stuff will come to you. Surrounding yourself with people who you feel inspire and challenge you helps as well because you can bounce those thoughts around and talk them out.

    3) Put your thoughts and goals into a to-do list that is achievable and manageable. Break down your ideas into small tasks so that when you are back at your desk in January you don’t become overwhelmed and disheartened.

    Set the intent but leave the specifics of it open-ended.

    Karina Sharpe, conceptual artist and product photographer

    At this time last year I was in the process of a big decision. I had been working at my jewellery design business Karina Jean, part-time amongst motherhood, for a number of years and had just had my biggest success with a design called The Pencil Necklace. Yet in the midst of filling all the beautiful Christmas orders, I was feeling a calling to switch paths. It wasn’t an entirely new calling or an entirely new path as I had been making imagery of one kind or another, alongside the jewellery, for some time and had spent much of the previous 12 months feeling torn between the two endeavours.  I knew at my core that I couldn’t actually do both with any noteworthy success. I realise now that sometimes it takes success in something to really test your love of it, and I found my love lay elsewhere. So in January this year I began to make changes from a product-based selling business to an image-based service business / artistic practise. And much of the rest of this year has been about putting things into place and finding my niche.

    For me, 2015 feels like a time for cultivation and creative exploration. In January I will make some plans for the New Year. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense. I don’t go “I’m going to get fit and join the gym”, “I’m going exhibit my art” or “I’m going to make more money”. I choose to phrase things in a way that is based more on the concept or the feeling of the things I want more of in my life, rather than them being fixed goals. So instead I will say things like “I’m going to feel happier in my body”, “I’m going to make beautiful progress with my art” and “I’m going to feel richer in all areas of my life”.

    I like to set the intent but leave the specifics of it open-ended. That is because I believe if it is up to me personally to set the specifics of the outcomes, I can really only set them based on how big I can imagine them to be and that can really only be based on a reasonable extrapolation of what I have already experienced. If I leave things open-ended for the Universe to deliver in its own way then the outcome can be beyond what I could have imagined for myself and things seem show up in amazing, random, and wonderful ways.

    Use charts and lists and schedules, broken down into three simple questions.

    Amalie Wright, director Landscapology

    Charts and lists and schedules come pretty easy to me, but to know what needs to go on all those charts and lists and schedules for 2015 I’ll be taking time to answer three deceptively simple questions:

    1) What is the big aim for this year? This sets the broad parameters for all other decision-making on a yearly, monthly and daily basis.

    2) Who were the most inspiring, engaging, talented and fun people I worked with last year, and how do I get to do more work with them, or people like them, this year?

    3) What are the things I need to do less of this year, in order to achieve numbers 1 and 2?

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

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    Posted by: Lizzie Stafford
    Categories: my advice, regular columns | Comments Off