Making Your Business work
Angela Townsend a Stained Glass Artist
Has a lovely studio in the back garden ( a present from her musician husband) Based in Watford.
Started working with glass five and a half years ago. Her business Red Hen Glass has been going three years but she is still working two days a week at the Institute of Physics so she can pay the bills.
Last year she earned about £700 from her business working 15 hours a week.
Red Hen Glass has a website here which seeks stained glass commissions chiefly for door panels and offers small glass pieces for sale with no dimensions or prices with a link to the Folksy site where there are only sun catchers for sale.
A Folksy store here which sells her sun catchers
A Blog here
We talked about her previous work experience, she has an engineering background and had done an apprenticeship where if something was not right, you had to do it again until you had perfected it. That gives her the patience to master the technicalities of glass work and to be a perfectionist about the finish.
Having been made redundant she then worked in a builder’s merchant. That gives her insight into building projects and how they are organised which will help in the world of architectural glass
She and her husband moved down to Cornwall and she worked in a craft store which is where she learnt how much help customers need to choose products.
Returning to London she re trained as a teacher but was stifled by the limitations of the curriculum but that means if one day she wishes to run workshops she will have a useful background
Architectural glass work
We talked about this piece which she said she would sell for £85 to £90 I asked her how much you would have to pay a tradesman to install that and she thought about £50 Then I gave her THE FACE the one that means you are bonkers. The tradesman is paid better by far than she is.
I got her to describe the commission process breaking it down to time spent Here it is :
- Initial sketches ( face to face with client our heroine travels to them) 90 mins (excluding travel time)
- If the client is not happy another set of roughs are produced ( but lets assume they are bowled over)
- Full scale colour version of sketch 120 mins with recommendations for the glass and colour “I am not a bully but you have to guide people to what is going to work”
- Cartoon drawing 15 mins
- Cutting the glass pieces 180 mins
- Leading 240 mins
- Cement 60 mins
- Solder and finish 30 mins
- So time taken to actually produce this piece 12 hours and 25 minutes.
- There is no materials cost in there and no marketing time allowed.
So the price is hopelessly out and to survive she needs to radically increase it which will mean a change in her clients. She has to go for The Fired Earth customer who pays £450 per square meter for their kitchen glass mosaics ( I kid you not, here is the link Fired Earth)
The sad truth is that people who live in little terraces out-of-town are simply not in a position to commission glass artists to make bespoke pieces for their houses.
My friends, your customers simply can’t be people like you.
I also advised her to take payment in three stages: at initial drawing, at finished drawing and on the completed piece. This does two things: improves the cash flow, and covers you if the commission crashes and burns.
These are for sale on her Folksy store for £18 this size and if there is an extra border around £25.95 Yeah, she got THE FACE again, obviously the price is too low but the issue is the odd amount. It reeks of mass-produced and imported. NEVER use an odd figure artists simply don’t.
Now I really like these pieces I like their Victorian glass antecedents I think they are very different and instantly recognisable. BUT they are sun catchers. Nobody grand has sun catchers therefore you cannot grace them with a hefty price. Also curtains and blinds and window sill depths and window openings make them difficult to place.
So we needed to come up with a different product and dear reader we did! Exactly the same glass lantern picture tile but presented on the square like this
With a stand ( details dead secret but plotted and all can be made in-house) which will allow it to be displayed on the mantlepiece, in the bathroom with a night-light behind, or on a window sill with daylight coming through. Suddenly it is liberated from sun catcher to light and picture with many more options for where it can go in the house. And, better still, an entirely different price potential. I am advocating £60 for the larger tile and £40 for the smaller and a simplification of the design so they take less time to produce.
If I was a footballer I would be running round the field making ridiculous gestures at this point. Angela was wobbly on the price but when we planned her year to come she was converted.
Here’s another they are lovely aren’t they? All handmade, hand painted. You have to like it, it’s very charming.
I persuaded her that she needed two distinct sites and identities Angela Townsend Glass Artist architectural glass site with her hobnobbing with the likely target to be found in the Design Council, Spitalfields Trust, English Heritage, Interiors magazine world and Red Hen Glass selling its fabulous product directly off the already existent Red Hen Glass site and getting editorial roundup mentions to fuel custom. And taking a stall in the likes of Selvedge Magazine fairs and other up market fairs to the Waitrose classes.
The more we plotted and planned the more myriad the tasks became and I said how are you going to get all this organised and she said I feel a Gantt chart coming on. her turn to make THE FACE at me I don’t know what that is, but I do now and its a hell of a useful aid
It turns out a Gantt chart is a glorified to do list with lots of lovely colouring in.
- Angela showed me how this is done in Excel but the principles are simple.
- Down the left hand side you write all the main areas of things you have to do. These are your headings.
- Then under each heading you break down all the elements you need to do to achieve your goal in that area
- Then with in each heading you consider the order you have to do the tasks in. Some tasks will be dependent on others having been completed .
- Then think about how the first tasks under all the headings interrelate. For example on the chart Angela and I started under marketing it says research fairs, well that has a knock on effect for lots of other activities as the chosen fair date will be a deadline for sorting out the product
- Then block up the coming month of work days across the top. Colour in a few spaces for catch up ( as there are always other things that have to be done) and fill in what you want to get done in that time just by colouring enough squares in line with the task to get it done.
- Then consult you chart and beaver away knowing that you have everything covered and you are progressing to where you want to be.
There is no need to follow this exactly adapt it for your own needs
I asked Angela where she would like to be this time next year this is her answer
- To have done craft events put my products in front of the customer and got their feedback
- To have developed a separate architectural glass site and worked out some standard designs
- To sort out the Red Hen website so that it offers the small products and to have a bigger selection of designs to offer
All laudable aims but do you see what is missing? I kept prompting her thinking surely she will see the gap but she didn’t. And that is the hub of the matter she made no mention of INCOME.
Nobody anywhere can get a business off the starting blocks if they don’t think and plan for an income.
You have to work out how can I afford to be the best craftsman in the world?
SO we worked on the money. Angela needs £1000 a month to live on. That money currently comes from her two-day a week job. Her aim has to be to give up that job to liberate two more working days into her glass business. How is she going to achieve that?
My view was she should concentrate purely on the Red Hen side and get that up and earning properly. I think it is the fastest route. We have an adapted product which I thought could bring in much higher prices if repositioned if you remember I advocated £60 for the larger tile and £40 for the smaller. So she would need to sell 20 large tiles a month or 30 small ones to produce £1000 thats a big ask to achieve in a year consistently in fact its near impossible. She just might achieve that rate by the end of the year but it’s not going to happen in the early months.
So move one is MODIFY YOUR GOAL aiming for the unattainable is for idiots. So we dropped the income to be achieved to £500 a month. Which means she has to continue her outside work for another two years. BUT while she does so as her craft income increases she will achieve a reserve to help her through the low times, holidays and illness.
That goal of £500 means selling 10 large tiles a month that suddenly seems possible. She makes her Gantt chart and off she goes. Pushing with a narrow focus on that product.
How will she do? What are my reservations? At the moment she takes quite a bit of the weekend off she is not driven but that maybe because she fears failure if she really goes for it I think she has about a 80% chance.
Up till now her glass making has effectively been a hobby. Will she dislike the business side of things so much that she let’s go of the idea of being a self-supporting craftsperson? Its her determination I question, not her ability. I actually think she has a great and saleable product. Buts its going to be dull for a couple of years, no architectural glass until she can afford to liberate those two days from her outside job.
Heres hoping she will liberate her inner business woman.
Further help in these posts:
More on the customers I am suggesting Angela should aim for Juicy Customer Segment
Your crafts business not making you a living yet? diagnostic Chart to help you pin point where its going wrong Not making a living HELP
Want to read about another glass craftsman who is making a living ? Slump Glass Artist
On the brink of starting out? Check your chances Will your crafts business succeed?
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