Ian lives in the Scottish Borders and has always been interested in photography. The hobby changed into something more significant, about 5 years ago. He was at a show, looking at exhibitions of work and hearing seminars led by some of the leading lights in outdoor photography. A number of Ian’s friends were keen to point out that his shots would certainly not look out of place amongst the work on show. Although not a person to push himself forward, this encouragement led Ian to exhibiting some of his own work. Things moved on and, following a photographic holiday and the trainer’s good advice to join a camera club, Ian is now the Chairman of the Galashiels Camera club. He has won prizes for his work and achieved LRPS (Licentiateship Of The Royal Photographic Society) in 2003. Since then he has worked on producing another series of images which will be submitted in the near future to achieve the ARPS (Associateship Of The Royal Photographic Society).
With the opportunity on offer to take an early break from his career with Scottish Water, Ian was looking for ways of selling his photography. He specialises in mainly landscape and other “art” photography: he had already had interest shown in his work from the tourist industry as well as people viewing his on-line gallery. Framed pieces must certainly be more valuable? So all he needed to do was find out how to do the framing. Scottish Water makes provision for employees to take up training in areas that will support a career change, especially where redundancies are concerned. Ian spent time on an ADOBE Photoshop course before finding DIYframing, when searching for information about framing. Using the same funding, he was able to join a Photography Framing Weekend in Beaconsfield in 2005. These two days encouraged him to see the possibility of, not only adding a new dimension to his own work, but he could also start to build up the framing side as another income stream.
Having already met with his local Business Gateway team, Ian was, therefore already, planning for the future when he joined DIYframing’s Business Development Week in Glasgow, April 2006. The course helped to develop the practical skills needed for a whole range of bespoke framing projects, as well as crystallising his thinking on ideas relating to marketing his own artwork and simple, practical issues like setting up a workspace.
The outcome is that Ian made a clean break from Scottish Water, before starting to work on his new business. Now, several months later, he sees himself as a photographer and framer with a strong business portfolio which also includes web design and some commercial photography for catalogues (and web work). The official launch was in October 2006. He renovated his garage, lining the interior with insulation, cladding and installing a double glazed window. The main framing kit he bought was the DIYframing Series 52 Pro Workshop, which has served well so far: biggest order 15 frames in 4 days. In addition, he also bought a “table-end” guillotine which enables him to cut to size large sheets of mountboard and backing board. This is useful not only for his framing business, but also when preparing large quantities of his own shots for exhibition. The work tables, storage and work surfaces he built for himself, having first considered how he could best use the space available. He has created some storage space in the workshop, but as he tends to order in materials as needed, this is kept to a minimum and so problems with damp have not really arisen: a simple oil filled radiator keeps the chill out anyway. He does use some specific mouldings more frequently, for his own frames, which are therefore ordered in bulk. Storing the 3m lengths can be an issue, but as he lives in a first floor apartment, the stairs provide a useful space for any outstanding lengths.
The business launch came shortly after completing the workspace. An open “weekend” allowed friends, family and local contacts to see what was on offer. In fact, that was enough to start the work coming in and, in many ways, a massive publicity drive has not been necessary yet. It has always been Ian’s intention to allow the order book to develop. This makes growth manageable and sustainable. The alternative, a huge initial interest after wide publicity followed by a gradual tail-off, could be very demoralising. His framed photography has received continued interest with a good flow of sales following on. This has been more than matched by the bespoke framing projects he is undertaking.
Other ploys for marketing work that Ian has used include developing a range of greetings cards (example right): cost-effective to produce, looks very professional, the web address and name become known, and cards are simply, good value for customers. He has also produced leaflets for distribution through local shops along with the usual small-ad cards. He has attended the occasional craft fair, but has been careful to choose ones where people are looking specifically for artwork rather than more general crafts. Again this exposure has paid off in terms of raising the profile and people contacting him after the event itself. In the future he aims to exhibit his framed images using local hotels and shops with wall space available. This is likely to be on a sale or return basis with commission for the host exhibitors. Ian already has one contract lined up to produce a website for a group of holiday chalets as well as providing framed landscapes as part of the interior design. Once the chalets are open for rental, visitors will be able to purchase his work “from the wall” as a souvenir of their holiday.
In short, the work is coming in steadily and the plans for growth are clearly in place. Very importantly he is ahead of where he thought he would be in terms of sales of his own work and of framing orders. Ian is the first to point out that this way of working will not make him rich over night. However, with a good product, well researched and targeted marketing, not to mention a bit of lateral thinking, there is no reason why you cannot achieve some success right away. And of course Ian is another example of someone, now able to work in a sphere that is more about enjoyment than nine to five.
We all wish Ian the very best of luck with his business and thank him for sparing the time to talk to us about his experiences. If you would like to see more of his work, go to http://www.ianoliverphoto.com/