Put simply, Geoff Baylis intends to move to Devon in the very near future, set up his photography and framing business and enjoy being his own boss. After 40 years of a daily, London commute, the thought of being able to work from home, choosing when to work on photography and framing is highly appealing. It gives the chance to balance the longer hours and order book demands with taking time off when it suits: the opportunity to be totally in control of that “work / life” balance.
Whilst planning the move, Geoff hasn’t been idle. Having had a career in the IT industry, his interests outside of work have always had a very practical nature: being adept at home DIY projects, taking on a number of bathroom and kitchen projects over the years, as well as the usual painting and papering. This, along with his photographer’s eye for composition, led him to start with the basic mounting and framing courses in February and March this year. He has developed his skills through other framing and photography courses and by building up a stock of sample pictures. The net result is a very strong foundation in exactly the type of business he will be promoting more fully, once based in Devon.
The original idea was to sell his own, fine art photographs: having investigated further, Geoff recognised how hard it is to turn a profit in this area, especially if part of that profit was being lost on a third party mounting and framing his work. The “practical person” kicked in: why not take over the final look of his work? Being on top of quality control, taking over the presentation and construction of framed work, really appeals to what he describes as a “workaholic perfectionist” personality.
And that’s exactly what he has achieved. He currently works from his large, double garage. It’s OK for very low numbers of pictures, but can feel quite cramped, and doesn’t offer separate work areas for frame construction and mount cutting/assembly. Once in Devon the plan is to have a separate workroom, large enough for a more efficient and practical layout. Having said that, even then, the intention is not to gear up for high throughput, as Geoff is very keen to establish a business where quality is of greater interest than volume.
Geoff’s love of photography is the driving force for his business: producing complete pictures, either to a style that he has created, or customised to a customer’s requirements. Hopefully as much as possible of his business will involve his own photographic work, but he is equally at home framing customer’s own artwork as well. He recently launched a website (Geoff Baylis Photography & Framing)to showcase his work, but the initially plans to expand the business through exhibiting at craft shows and similar events. In fact the first one is being planned for November, although he remains a little nervous about whether the investment will bring in the business to make it worthwhile. With plenty of business cards and brochures available, even if people don’t buy there and then, they can take away contact details. There’s no doubt he has a good product to sell, at least equal or better than the competition often on show at these events: so why not take the plunge and see what happens?
Preparations for this sort of event, with the current workshop (garage) restrictions, have required a real amount of practical organisation. Everything takes place on a workbench that’s about 2.0m x 0.8m. Geoff has built racking for mountboard, glass and moulding stock in order to keep everything clean and tidy: this is particularly important, as the same space doubles as his photographic studio. His main pieces of equipment are a Framers Edge 655 mount cutter, Logan Studio Joiner, Logan Pro-Saw and a Mitre Trimmer. He has developed framing expertise through trial and error – and lots of practice in between each course taken, all the time being ultra-critical of his own work and concentrating on improving his perceived areas of weakness.
An additional bonus, as part of early-retirement planning, was being able to take some general courses about starting a business. This provided a real view of the basics of what to expect, along with lots of reference information and ideas of where to find more details. A final part of that preparation was by attending the DIY Framing course: Organising and Planning A Framing Business.
Naturally, the very first piece of commercial framing always adds a little frisson of excitement.
“The fear that a customer will not like what you’ve produced, or they can see faults in your workmanship, is very high; so getting really positive feedback from people that they love the end results, as much as you do yourself, is a very satisfying feeling and good for building confidence in one’s abilities.”
So, on the whole Geoff is very content with the way things are going:
“Life’s good at the moment, particularly as I’m still in the exciting stage of getting the business up and running, and developing new skills. I’m quite happy to keep the business low key at present to ensure that I don’t get swamped with work before I can really deal with it.”
If you are planning on a similar business plan, Geoff has some pointers:
In hindsight there are always things you would do differently: in Geoff’s case his view of the process is simple:
“ I wouldn’t wait until I was 59 to start benefitting from an enjoyable and creative occupation.”