Today we are addressing a rather sensitive issue – what happens if people do not take your job seriously because your job is somebody’s hobby… It has been brewing on my mind for a few months ( years really!), and … Continue reading
Romantic era ( late 1820s and 30s) is a rather, well, ‘interesting ‘ period, fashion wise. Men’s garb is superb – nipped in waists, tailcoats, cravats, waistocats galore – very smart, very dashing. Women’s fashions are – a bit extreme. … Continue reading
You are a creative person and would like to run a creative business full time. You have read the success stories, you have chatted to friends, and everything looks peachy – so you are leaving your mundane day-job and are … Continue reading
This will be a little bit different from my usual posts, and possibly a little controversial, but I feel some things simply have to be said. Running a business has its ups and downs, pros and cons, its challenges and its rewards. I love running mine – and the only thing that sometimes makes me pause is the interaction with some of my potential clients. Usually online, sometimes at trading events. I feel I have been very lucky in general, and my customers are at least 90% lovely people (I became friends with many of them), but over the years there have been enough of the less-than-perfect kind to make up that the 10%.
To be honest, in most cases people simply behave in a particular way because they are oblivious to certain facts about the way of that life people in my line of work lead. They simply do not realize how rude they can sound – I believe if they did, they would be mortified! True, some people are dicks and nothing can change that, but most of them are simply unaware that their behaviour can cause offence.
This is not simply my own opinion – quite a few folks running small craft & art related businesses have experienced similar treatment, and probably for the same reason; I suppose that other small business may have been on the receiving end, too.
Below I am going to list the most common ‘faux pas‘ that I have personally come across. Usually small things, but small things do accumulate and can lead to a very negative client experience. And, hopefully, small things are also easy to amend. Some of the interactions mentioned may only be perceived as less than pleasant from my personal perspective – as a very happy introvert I tend to have a very specific perception I suppose – things that make me want to turn around and run away may make another costumer jump for joy, for example – but I think some of the situations are relevant no matter what your personal traits may be.
So without further ado, this is my private list of ‘issues’ – and how they may be avoided!
*Being polite matters!
Polite clients are a pleasure to deal with, and as a result I am willing to go the extra mile for them. I either offer a discount, or a free postage, or do additional high quality finishing work, just because they have been a joy to work with. If you are rude to start with, I am unlikely to accept your commission in the first place – despite what everybody seems to think, people in the creative industry rarely do sit around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for some work to miraculously happen to them, and are not therefore simply happy to accept anything from anyone – and so:
*Remember that written word can come across much more harshly than when spoken.
*I understand that nowadays formality tends to be often forgotten, but please when writing to me try to address me by my proper name, and not diminutives or ‘ huni’, ‘sweetie’ etc. This is a personal pet hate – I understand that some people just use endearments automatically, but neither my family, my friends nor even my husband call me ‘sweetie’ . For a complete stranger, in a strictly professional situation, it is simply off-putting, at least for me. My name is Izabela – please use it and we will all be happy.
*Please do not ask me to copy the work of another designer; especially if you want it at a fraction of the original price, (more on the cost of bespoke, art items and pricing in the industry can be read about in the this post – A Queen on a Budget, please.) Also, do not be offended if I cannot take your order because it is something that we do not make – in such cases I will attempt to provide links to other people who specialise in that area, (shoes, fantasy and fancy-dress costume, etc), I simply know my limits and if I decline to accept an order, it is for a good reason. We specialise in historically accurate clothing – if you need a fancy-dress Victorian costume with medieval sleeves and Regency silhouette, in lycra, we may not be the best choice – but we probably know people who can make it for you, so we will endeavour to provide you with an alternative solution if we can!
*Book well ahead – I tend to be booked up to 6 months or more in advance. Yes, I can sometimes have an emergency slot available, but often I simply cannot provide you with a full Regency finery for ‘next week’ – it is nothing personal, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do the work – especially since those rare emergency slots are already digging into my personal time and rest.
*Be prepared to sign a contract and don’t be offended when we ask for a deposit; It is simply a part of running a business in a proper and effective manner, and avoiding running at a loss. More on running a business here – and even more, especially on contracts, here.
*Do not be offended if I do not accept your friend request on Facebook. I may be old fashioned, but I keep my personal account for family and friends – which means people I have met, interacted with, liked, and deal in person often. Having an item made does not make you a friend – yet. Over the time if we meet often enough and find we like each other that may change, (and often does), but since we are starting from a professional footing, simply keep in touch through my page until such a time comes when we may change the status quo.
*also – I do not offer a free advise/tuition/consultation service via fb or email. We do provide the service if needs be, but it is a hourly paid job. At the moment, if I was to answer every message/ email asking me for advice, opinion, etc i would probably not have time to do anything at all – we get about 10-120 on avarage. Per day. So nothing personal, but I cannot help you unless you book us in advance for a specific thing, billable by the hour… and the fact that you masquarade your request for help/ free advice its by putting a few sentences about how much you admire my work, does not really change it. Sorry!
- my Youtube channel visitors… 80% of your messages and questions is answered in the credits of the video. Watch them, please, before asking. I am happy to answer more in depth/ interesting questions, but if you wish to know where I get the cotumes from (sic!) or my shoes from, all the information, with the liks is in the credits at the end. Also, google…..
- also youtube – please don’t write to me demand that I make videos on a topic/ era you would like to see. I am happy to take commissions for videos on demand, but they won’t be cheap – research, making specific clothes, shooting the video, editing etc – it will take several months and will cost around 2-4k ( GBP). I make the videos you can watch for free, using stuff I have available to me at the moment. If you want me to spend more time doing that, do click on a few adverts – takes a few seconds but makes a difference to my revenue! ( since monetising my videos, I have become more aware of how many people out there rely on their online revenue, so i do click on stuff as well, helping other online artists:-)
Dear customer, when you are coming to me for a fitting, please remember that I work from a small studio, with basic facilities, and not desgned for hosting guests. And so, please:
*Do tell me how many people are coming along – unless otherwise specified I expect only you. I need to know if there are more people as there are problems of space as well my personal issues. To me, the sudden invasion of 5 people when I was expecting 1 is just like a punch to the face. Suddenly instead of the controlled, serene environment I am used to working in, the situation is changed into chaos, when everybody is everywhere, all talking very politely no doubt, but nevertheless very distracting. I do need to concentrate when I am fitting toiles, taking measurements and discussing designs with the client. Loud chatter, however amicable, is not helping.
*Ditto children – my studio is not at all child friendly – there are lots of sharp objects around, lots of antique stuff, expensive silks- so unless you can keep your offspring under control (which means another person to do so while you are busy working with me), preserving any Health and Safety rules will cetainly be tricky – in which case I would have to decline the commission. Please let me know beforehand so that we can come up with appropriate solution to the situation.
*Do not ‘pop by’ without an appointment. Not only may I not be in, but I may be busy, either working on urgent stuff or working with another customer, (who may be in a state of dishabille), so I would have to turn you away from the door. Again, nothing personal, but it may feel like rejection, so please always ask when is a good time if you need to see me in person.
*Try not to be late. I usually have 2, 3 appointments on any fitting day, usually, for efficiency’s sake, one after another. If you arrive late, it may impact on another appointment, so please call to let me know if you are running late. If you want me to put aside a whole day, or afternoon just for you, that is fine – but my time comes at a cost. You don’t pop round to your lawyer, doctor or dentist more or less at the time that suits you, so please extend me the same courtesy; working from home doesn’t mean that I am any less busy!
* don’t expect me to work on holidays/ weekends. I often do, and I do suggest weekends to my customers who cannot make it otherwise, but please remember, that our line of work means we are usually away at the weekend. So if your contract says that the fittings will take place, as agreed, in the beginning of a month, please make sure you are available. We can adapt – but all summer we are away weekends, working at events, so if you forget to book a day off it may be another month or more before we have a weekend at home!
- please understand that we usually cannot come over to you for fittings. Unless previously agreed on and arranged it is smply not possible as I will need to carry my tools with me ( and believe me, the machiness are not light) and there will be additional charge for travel cost and time used.
- Don’t be offended when I cannot offer you your drink of choice or other refreshments. Being a small studio room, it has basic facilities – there is a a look and a tiny kitchenette where I keep stuff i use for myself – fruit teas, coffee etc. I don’t use milk or sugar, I don’t keep biscuits around – so i wont be able to offer anything else I already have.
- Ditto wifi – I opted out of wifi at work to limit procrastination – so don’t be surprised whn I cannot provide you with a free wifi access for the duration of your visit…
*I am always delighted when people who follow me on social media come to have a chat at the markets. However, please remember that unless you comment/like/interact with the page, I will not know your name. And even if I do, I may not recognize you, if your profile picture features a fluffy kitten or happy puppy. Please introduce yourself and then everything will be fine – I know who I am talking to and will try to remember for the future 🙂
*Also, the mere fact that you follow me on facebookPA/twitter/ insta, etc, does not make you eligible for a discount at the stall…. or in the online shop. Sorry…
* Please remember that at markets, I am working. You may be visiting for your leisure or for business – though for majority of people the former is the case. You may want to come and have a good time, chat and exchange experiences tips etc – it is all fine, but , as I said, I am at work and need to treat everybody the same – which generally leaves very little time for idle chatting, am afraid. There are a few relaxed moments but usually the markets we attend tend to be heaving with public, and we have little time for lunch, let alone relaxed talk. So however much I might love to do so, I need to earn my living and serve paying customers instead 😦
Talking of lunch – please, let the stall holders have their lunch in peace! Trying to answer your questions with a mouth full of bagel is not a nice experience for anyone! We usually have one of us or a helper to front the shop when one person is eating – but people still manage to dodge them and sneak in at the back of the stall to talk to the person who is currently enjoying their lunch.
*Do not ask me to work for free. Whatever tips and advice on costuming I can give I will, and a great deal of information is on the blog here anyway, but do not ask me to provide an ad hoc workshop/lecture for your benefit, for free. This happens quite a lot – a recent one was in Bath, during the market there; let me quote it for you..
-Two women were spending quite some time looking at the stays/corsets and other items, and by looking I mean taking off the hangers, turning upside down, inside out etc. After about 5 minutes of them discussing how the things go together (and meanwhile blocking access for other interested customers) I asked politely if there was anything I could help them with. The answer was:
Yeah, actually, we make stuff like that ourselves, for us and sometimes for sale, and we tried these styles before and they didn’t really work well, so we are just trying to work out the construction details – could you please explain to us how you put these together? Oh and these ones too? (at that point one of them took a notebook and a pencil out).
I looked at her and asked – ‘What do you do for a living madam?
‘Why, I teach the flute’.
‘Could you please explain to me how you play the flute? Could you teach me now, just the basics?
She looked at me, completely taken aback.
‘Why, well, I could, but I charge for my lessons!
My response? ‘So do I’….
She actually saw the point and was rather embarrassed, and apologized, but it sort of sums up the fact that a lot of people do not take what I do for a living seriously and assume it is ‘just ‘ a hobby – I suppose other people running craft or art based businesses are often faced by a similar situation.
*Another point – you don’t generally go to let’s say, a baker, or a carpenter, have a look around, finger the goods, sneer and announce that you can do it better than they, and/or possibly cheaper. So please refrain from doing it to stallholders at the markets. Even if you indeed, can make the items better and at a lesser cost. Just incredibly rude.
*please ask before touching the clothing. And make sure your children are under control – especially if they are eating at the time – we did have a few mishaps involving children, dogs, icecream or a burger….
And finally, some interactions from the online shop.
To start with, let me quote some of the messages/emails directly
* am interested in the blue dress, but it is not my size, can you re-model it so that is 3 sizes bigger?
* am interested in the blue riding habit, I clicked on the link but it takes me to the shop based in the UK. Can you please post the link to your USA branch? Otherwise I would be unable to purchase as shipping and customs duty are expensive.
* am interested in the grey skirt, i clicked on the link to the shop but it gives price in pounds. Why is there no Euro? I don’t like working out the conversion rates myself.
* are the measurements American? How many centimeters in an inch?
* I like your corsets! I want one but in different colour, and in my size – can you make me one for this Saturday? Would the price be the same?
* I love the pink Victorian gown in silk, but is too expensive! I can spend max £150 on a thing like that, would you consider selling it for £150 (postage included), or making me a bespoke one for that price?
* the riding habits are lovely, but why are there only 2 available? and why not in a range of sizes, and colours?
* am interested in the medieval Burgundian gown, but can purchase it in July only – can you keep it for me? I am not saying I will buy it, just considering and would like to know it is still available in July.
* I want a bespoke one, when are you able to make me one? (my answer – am now booked till October) – whaaaatttt!!!! October??? this is ridiculous, I need one for June! how can you run a business like that! Can you not shift other people so that mine can be made first?
Here I feel the very fact that we have an online shop may be put to blame – people simply assume that we are a much bigger business than we are – and flattering as that may be, it often causes awkward situations.
Also, people assume that our ideology is the same as that of big chain stores and find it difficult to understand that we do not carry a huge stock of the same items in a range of colours and sizes. Our field is quite narrow, and I like to think that I specialise in unique and individual items – so our stock items, though usually in ‘generic’ sizes are still unique. I have no desire to create the same dress in 6 different sizes and 3 different colours – this would not only kill the joy of making an individual item to me, but poses a question of stock control, space, cost, etc. We are a small business, and I have no particular desire to grow into a huge one. Might happen – might not. At the moment I take pleasure in making items unique – even our stock corsets have individual touches that make them unique. Nowadays, many people are motivated by finance alone – and whereas, as a business you have to be, to some extent, I am in the happy situation where I can make what I want to make and enjoy it – and I treasure the enjoyment coming from creating one specific item much higher than profits coming from mass producing shirts.
And as for being booked well ahead – well, we often are booked for more than 6 months in advance. Asking me to move other clients around so that your stuff can be made earlier is not only disrespectful to me but to other clients as well – imagine that it is the the other folks who are asking me to shift you around…. just not professional. And it doesn’t mater if you are a Russian princess, a celebrity, local theater, or an individual – once the contract is signed, your order is treated in exactly the same way as everybody else’s. Full equality.
Well, that’s about it, I think – a bit of a rant, maybe, but as I have said, a lot of the problems stems from misunderstanding of the industry, and not malice. I do not wish to offend anyone and I think there are few people who go out of their way to offend others, especially if they want to develop a professional relationship, so I think maybe this post help both parts to understand each other a bit better.
And if you run a home/craft based business and you have experiences similar situations, or have something to add – please comment!
Over the last few years I had a few people asking me about doing costuming as a business – and since in the last 3 months I have had several graduates and future entrepreneurs ask me the very same questions again and again, I have decided to deal with them in one place – so that everybody who thinks of operating a business can benefit.
Just a short background note first – I am a self-taught costumier – my adventure started in 1997 or so, after spending a summer with historical interpreters from Past Pleasures. I first made a few medieval things for myself for a Christmas party of my group (I was taught the basics of sewing at school and my mum ), and although the garments were, to be honest, quite horrid, I soon had friends and other members of the club asking me to make them kit too.
Within a few years, I made loads of outfits for friends and re-enactors, and after 3 years of serious stitching and even more serious research and costume education, I had a side business established, adding a few good zloties ( I still lived in Poland at that time) to my normal income. For 5 years I ran it with a friend, making mostly medieval clothing for clients in Poland, Scandinavia, France and Italy.
When I moved to the UK in 2005, I had to start anew, more or less – and the first year or two I spent most of my professional time working, teaching in the colleges, getting more teaching qualifications etc. But then I got the bug again, and started attending more events, and as a result, was asked for more kit.
Prior Attire was born in 2009 – as a supplementary 1 woman business. In 2010 I was able to switch the college workload a bit, and work 80% – leaving Friday and the whole weekend to costuming and teaching the rest of the days. In November 2011 I left the college stint for good – and never looked back… It hasn’t been easy but since then I am usually fully booked up 3-6 months ahead, sometimes more – and although I do work more hours than ever, it is worth it!
If it all looks great and peachy for you – well, don’t be deceived. It does take years to establish a good customer base, find a niche in the market, and invest your time, money, resources… I am doing the job I love, and am quite good at (false modesty aside), but it was not an easy path – and it not so easy to maintain and grow either….
Still, hope this helps a bit – find below the questions I am asked most often:
* Do I need to have a degree?
Not necessarily – I read English at University, and it encompassed the history of the language as well as usual history. It did come in useful, as, being able to decipher Old English or Middle English texts during the research, it provides you with more data. So a related uni or college degree would be very helpful – but with or without it, be prepared to do a LOT of studying and learning on your own as well. and if you want to maintain your business, you will never stop learning….
* Had you already done a lot of work before you started bespoke historical costuming?
Yes. Yes. Yes. – as mentioned above I was sewing for years before I was able to dedicate my career to costuming entirely. It helps if you can phase it out, but it usually takes years. Work also means research – and when I was starting research meant actually going to museums, travelling to other countries to trawl the libraries, galleries etc. Nowadays, with the internet it is much easier!
*How do you advertise and get clients?
You can advertise on Facebook (not worth it, unless you study the algorithyms and can use it to your advantage)), google adverts, magazines, fora, etc. Not really sure how effective that is – for me the greatest advertisement proved to be – well, wearing my work! Due to my academic background, I am also an interpreter, and I wear historical costume for work. Seeing the clothes worn, on a person, is one of the best adverts you can get, in my experience – be it at an event, or a market, a gown on a person is much more interesting than a small add in a magazine.
And the same goes for my clients – 60 % of my customers find their way to me via word of mouth – usually seeing my work on another client.
Professional social media and internet presence is essential too – that’s the rest of the customers accounted for, mostly. Here you do need to put some time too – learning fb algorithms, posting regularly with quality content, engaging etc – but it is all worth it.
Do you work by yourself?
Yes, I am a 1 woman business. I have a loving and long suffering husband who helps at the market (he possesses much better people skills than I do!), but apart from that, all I do is just me and my needle pricked fingers! Recently I have started hiring a workshop space and some help for the busy periods when I need to make lots of simple stock fast though – and it proved not only fun but profitable too!
Do you work normal 9-5 hours?
Ha! Nope. My normal working day may start more or less at 9, but it does not finish at 5 – I do take breaks for lunch, to go training in the evening, etc, but it is often that I am still doing some stitching at 11pm, watching a telly or playing scrabble.
Weekends – yep, same applies. In fact I do need to plan my holidays better – in the last 5 years I had much less holiday than the national quota…..
I do like keeping busy though and cannot imagine it any other way – but you will need to manage your time efficiently (see my article on that here)
Did you research the market first?
Not much – as I started by making clothes for myself, to be able to work as an interpreter and for living history demonstrations, the market research was done more or less on the go. But it is essential if you are starting with a clear business purpose in mind. You do learn what people need and how much they are willing to pay for it if you are a part of the community – the basic supply and demand laws of economics apply. You might be making lovely Viking dresses, but if people don’t need them, you won’t make much profit! But if you have a particular product or line in mind – yes, market research is essential. Learn what events are popular, what periods, and how it works with your area of expertise. I would love to make more late 17th century mantuas – but there is scarcely any demand for them as there are almost no big events in UK for this period – so it doesn’t matter if my mantuas are exceptional pieces, if people don’t have a reason to wear them, they won’t buy them.
Still, I made one just for fun…. just in case, you never know…. 🙂
*How big was your profit in the first year? (Yes, people do ask that!!)
To be honest, forget about any profit for the first few years at the very least. For me, whatever I earned that didn’t go towards taxes, bills, living expenses etc, was spent right back on improving the business – getting more stock, making more samples, getting better websites, banners, courses, equippment,books. If you are after a quick profit, well, that is not the business for it, it seems! It does get better though, as you are becoming more established – I can now afford occasional treats now… ( read – more silks….) ;-0
Who are your customers?
Mostly re-enactors, historical interpreters, both professional, part time or hobbyists, museums, heritage sites, event companies; less often film and theatre; used to do bridal and Steampunk stuff too, but in the end decided it was not my cup of tea. Really varies!
How to you work out the pricing?
There are many ways to do it, but the general thing is – make sure you charge what is right for you – the cost of the material, the cost of time, research etc. Remember that undercharging just so that you get a sale is not a good strategy – but neither is overcharging. If you are an artist and price your items as unique masterpieces – be prepared to earn like one – and yes, from time to time there will be a person who would pay several thousands of pounds of a dress just because it has your name on it. But this is not a reliable income that would pay your mortgage and bills…. If you are in a happy situation that you don’t need to rely on your business to survive, that’s great – but very few of us are!
Generally my prices are mid-range – I don’t really do cheap stuff, and people who expect to pay £20 for a corset or £100 for a dress are simply not my clients. If I accepted such prices, I wouldn’t even begin paying up the costs of the materials in some cases, let alone time and profit! I sell off the peg items cheaper than bespoke – I don’t have to go through the measuring, consultation, fittings etc process – so they take much less time. Bespoke stuff is more expensive – but then you get a much more personalised item – my prices can be found on my website, if you want to get a feeling for it.
It is really important to learn to work fast and precisely. Not in a hurry, mind you – but if you take months to finish one dress, it won’t pay your bills. But with experience, you will be able to speed the process up with no loss of quality – my first bustle cage took me over a day, as I was puzzling out the construction, playing with design and pattern. Half a year later and a few cages more, I was able to make one in 6 hours. Nowadays I make one in just under 2 hours, maybe 3 is it is a fancy one – mostly because I know the process so well and don’t need to ponder on what goes where…
*Do I need to do my own marketing?
Hell yes…. As mentioned before, you need to be visible – have a separate page, website, Instagram account, update it often, learn Facebook algorithms to manage the reach of the posts – and yes, it does take time, and yes it is a part of the job. Set up promotional photo shoots, invest in making showpieces – it all pays up. When I was developing the bridal side of the business we set up 4 seasonal photo shoots in one year – I made about 20 gowns for these, in between work on historical items. It was an investment – in time, resources, fabric, organizing the shoots around the country, finding models, MUAs, and photographers – and it was worth it. Most samples sold anyway, and the commissions I got on the strength of my portfolio paid up more than once over the original investment.
At the same time – do not go over the top and over market – There is nothing more irritating than a starting company who is trying to sell in an overaggressive manner. Steady, moderate and tasteful – yes, loud, in-your-face, incessant – not so much…
*Do I need to have contracts etc?
Absolutely. Contracts protect you and the customer alike – they specify what is to be made, the deadline, the fittings, pricing, deposit, all terms and conditions. And yes, especially important when making stuff for friends. Always specify the non-refundable deposit (either a percentage of the labour prices, or the cost of fabrics etc) – if the client defaults, you will at least have something, as it may be too late to book another customer in the suddenly vacant plot. Also specify payment options and what happens to unpaid/uncollected items.
Remember the contract binds you too – so make sure to allow for enough time to make the garment…. It doesn’t matter if you produce a fantastic Victorian gown two weeks after the ball the client needed it for – they won’t be coming back to you, and will make sure their friends don’t either.
Some general points and advice…
*quality – goes without saying, strive for the best you can do. Always. And be proud of what you make – don’t cut corners on fabrics, styles etc if you don’t have to – well made outfit in quality materials will bring you more customers. A poorly made one, or one that sports inferior fabrics, finish or fit will most likely lose you some potential business.
*communicate – make a point of answering emails in a timely manner, keep people informed about the development, and if you have a problem – talk about it. It won’t go away just because you are ignoring the messages, phone calls etc. deal with it. Be reliable, finish things in time – the reputation for reliability will be crucial in obtaining new customers.
*Mistakes – accept that you will make them. Everybody does. So be prepared to deal with them and learn from them. If it means that you need to start stitching anew, and buy an extra length of fabric out of your own pocket – so be it, shit happens. You will remember next time.
* Don’t stop learning. Ever. There is always something new to learn, a new technique to muster, more in-depth research to do, a new pattern to develop. Don’t accept that this is it, you have made it and know it all, no need for more learning. As you learn, your skills will improve alongside with your reputation. I think we have all been there – we look at an outfit we made a few years ago, and we thought then it was brilliant, the pinnacle of our achievement – and yet now you see how much better you are able to make things now. I look at my past garments and cringe – there is always something I now know I could have done better! But that’s ok, next time I do similar style, I will make it ever more perfect.
Read articles, go on courses, watch how to videos on youtube even – and experiment. It is time well spent.
*invest in good quality. Good quality sewing equipment, good quality fabrics, boning etc – it will pay off.
* manage your time to avoid procrastination, digressions and distractions. Plan for every outfit commissioned, and plan well in advance.
* It helps if you have a unique product you want to sell. But remember that may not be enough. Also, if your product is not unique but your service is (you deliver on time, exceptional quality, etc) – it will work too!
* if you are an introvert, like me, markets, networking etc will be double hard. I am lucky in having my hubby to share the workload at the markets, but even then it takes me days to recover ! Still, it has to be done – but try and share your work at markets with a friend, spouse – or hire help, if necessary. Dealing with people is necessary – sometimes fun, sometimes hard work – but it is people who buy your products, so treat them right!
* be flexible. Some years you will find demand for different items is greater – the last few years it was mostly Regency, Titanic and WWI era – because there are events planned to go with the anniversaries. It meant I had to do more research on those periods, play with patterns and invest in shoots, etc – but it was worth it. I would never have thought that in the last few months our greatest earner would be a Victorian and 1914 style corsetry – but hey, so it is. No doubt a few years on, something else will be in fashion, and more research and learning will be needed – but hey, that’s fun!
*Network. work together with other people in the industry – help them out, learn from them, enjoy working together.
*Have fun – don’t forget you started your business because you wanted to do what you love doing. Yes, it may take a few years when you may be stuck doing 50 boring shirts – but this is your bill money. In time you will be able to choose the commissions you want to do, but before that simply award yourself by working on private projects – make a gown you always wanted to make , spend a day or two just on lace making, embroidery, simply re-affirm your love for the craft. If you have made a gown of your dreams, wear it – have a photo shoot in it, go to a ball in it, invite friends for a tea in kit !It will keep you motivated and keep the costuming joy going.
Do comment if you have any other questions you’d like answered!
And if you want a more in depth information on all the aspect of running a creative business – check this little book, Craft a Creative Business by Fiona Pullen. It covers all the basics and more in an accessible way, presents you with a nicely develop points and business strategy and offers invaluable advice on marketing, legal matters, planning – a must to read!
p.s. – part 2 of this article, answering more questions and dealing with time management, contracts etc is now available too – Running a Costuming Business part 2; we are dealing with perception of your own work in part 3 – The Art of Objectivity, and finally saying what it takes to make a successful business that lasts in part 4. Getting Real.
We have recently been on a short holiday – well, sort of holiday – not much rest and rather a lot of work with 5 planned photo shoots, 4 of which we actually managed to shoot ( weather was uncooperative on one occasion)….. the last day, jut before packing up, we got a bit of a drier spell so could shoot the vikings – just a few pictures showing some of my old kit, and Lucas’ new bits… We forgot to take loads of funky kits with us ( my new clothes, jewellery, knives etc), but thought it was worth giving it a shot…. so a coat was finished in the morning, and the minute the last stitch was made , the rain eased off and we packed up and drove to the beach…
We shot at Freshwater West beach – and the cold wind made it rather challenging, especially since the photographer was also to model the kit…
but finally we got the equipment working and we could snap a few pics!
So, a pretty basic set of kit, no riches here, but i think we got a few nice images – hope you enjoyed the post!
costumes: Prior Attire,
linen braids on Lucas’ coat and my overdress – Nordulf
my shoes – Slawek Rokita
photography – PItcheresque Imagery