The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers (Essential Guides) is one of the most thorough business books for artists, designer makers and craftspeople around.
It is aimed especially at artists and makers creating art or products, and should be on the book shelf of both recent graduates and more established creative sole traders.
This is a book that you probably won’t read in one go (it’s 255 pages long!). It is more of a standard book that you can dip in whenever you want to know or check something.
The author Alison Branagan (a Design Trust partner) is a very experienced adviser for creative start-ups. She has written various books on this subject, and she has run many creative business start-up workshops, as well as being a Visiting Tutor for Central St Martins College in London. She originally trained as an artist herself, and throughout this book she includes many of her personal experience as both an artist and adviser.
This book has a wealth of detailed information, as well as a practical and very realistic approach to starting and running your creative business as a sole trader.
Alison doesn’t shy away from talking about many artists working under the poverty line, and how you can claim Working and Child Tax Credits. It doesn’t try to paint a rosy picture, but it gives lots of practical advice how to turn your creativity into a business that pays a decent income and beyond.
The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers (Essential Guides) is really strong if you need to know more about the business, finance, money and legal side of a creative business. It is very informative about ‘how to make creativity pay’, ‘how to make a living’, money management, funding and sponsorship.
There are practical templates with detailed instructions for budgets, calculating your start up costs and cash flow forecasts. Alison wrote an introduction to how to start bookkeeping with Dean Shepherd of Tax by Design (another Design Trust partner), which is one of the most easy to understand introductions to bookkeeping I have seen. If you don’t know where to start with record keeping, doing your accounts or self-assessment, then get this book!
There is a good detailed overview of the structure of a formal business plan and the additional information that needs to go in it.
There is a great business start-up checklist to help you plan what you need to work on in terms of skills and knowledge.
And I love the short costing and pricing quiz with questions such as ‘what’s the daily rate for artists?’, ‘what’s the recommended hourly rate for a freelance graphic designer?’.
From intellectual property (copyright, design right, patent, trade marking) to terms & conditions and contract, to health and safety, public liability and insurance. If you need to know more about intellectual property, then this chapter is a must for you to read, and well worth the investment.
One of the strong points in The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers (Essential Guides) are the comprehensive listings of resources, support and advice, with website links at the end of each chapter and the end of the book. A couple of the chapters are presented as mind maps’, which can help you understand the relation between some of the different topics. I also like the couple of interviews with creatives about their own business and their business tips for others. Would have been nice to have had some more of these, as they provide great insight.
Although Alison has really tried to make this book as practical and easy as possible, it still might be a ‘heavy’ business book for some creatives. There is a very strong emphasis here on the finance and legal side.
I personally think that the marketing part is very limited in comparison to the rest of this book (with only 20 pages on self-promotion covered in one chapter, and a bit more on building networks). There is very little info about using social media and the info about how to create your own website is limited. Also you won’t find info here about production, manufacturing or (finding) a studio space.
I also think it would be great if the publishers would provide some online resources with this book, which is starting to become more commonplace. For example some of the financial templates could be created in Excel for readers to download, or indeed to keep the many listings with websites up to date.
This is a solid and practical business book for artists and designer makers who want to know the basics but also need to get to grips with the detail of the financial and legal side of their business.