Fundamentals of Starting Up a Professional Framing

3rd Article written for the PPFA

A major benefit of turning picture framing into a business is the apparently low, start-up cost. This is especially true if premises are not part of it. BUT don't let this give you the impression that it is something you can drift into. The key word in the title is "Professional". Keeping a handle on some simple principles will ensure your business works. It's a bit like entering a race.


"On your marks ..."

Starting your own picture framing business can work.

Don't take something on without planning or preparation. For example, galleries and shops, which "look just right", really need closer examination. Remember, you need to be earning from day 1, because you will pay rent from day 1. You also need to know that the business will earn money.

Whether you intend working from business premises, a rented workshop or home workshop, always find out about:

  • Competition - check local shops, galleries, yellow pages, local advertising and web searches. Are you working against successful, established businesses?
  • Actual competitors - visit shops, ask about their services. Can you offer something different or better to win custom over?
  • Potential customer base - gauge spending potential. Does the area suggest people spend on picture framing?
  • Potential business customers in the area - art shops; photographers; pubs; hotels; café / restaurants; smart offices. What do they want from a new picture framers / gallery;

If you intend to take on an existing business examine:

  • Reason for sale - if it's a good business, why sell?
  • Books and trade - is there a profit? Who uses the current service? Is there potential for improvement?
  • Premises - right look, but business is slow, how will you change that?
  • Potential links with local businesses.
  • See who visits the premises.

Finally be practical:

  • Are you up to operating a business - talk to others and find a "mentor" who has successfully done it,
  • Learn how to frame pictures - a range of UK School of Framing courses available
  • Research framing trends, fashions and techniques.
For more, click In Full icon below


"Get Set ..."

Get everything ready and in place for the business launch.Everything must be in place ready for the big start. When the phone lines or gallery doors open, you must have a product for sale. So here's another check list:

  • Business plan - necessary funding ready; monthly income targets set; strategies for developing your customer base;
  • Gallery & show room must be decorated, set out and welcoming - ask a few invited "guests" to try it all out and give feedback;
  • Workshop must have all kit and stock in place;
  • Suppliers organised;
  • If you are taking staff on, they must be trained, ready to go;
  • Routines tried and tested - taking orders, planning projects, ordering stock, safe storage, making frames, delivering;
  • Samples of mouldings and mounts - easily accessible to customers;
  • Admin in place - business cards, brochures, pricing systems; order sheets; invoices etc

Marketing and advertising are essential. Let people know about your business well ahead of the launch - increase anticipation:


  • Post adverts telling people of the big launch - posters in shop windows, newspaper ads etc;
  • If you are opening a gallery or already have the High St premises, place banners in windows counting down to the "Grand Opening";
  • Launch party - also invite local businesses: may not use you straight away but they will mention you to others.
  • Have your website live, well before you trade.
Rule of Thirds

Also plan how you are going to use your time.
- one third doing the practical stuff (framing etc)
- one third, marketing and generating orders
- one third admin ...when you can't manage that, maybe you need extra staff.

The more organised and prepared you are at the start, the better the business will be. Making adjustments at a later stage will be disruptive and can have an adverse effect on trade.


Plan ahead to keep up the momentum after the business launch.The starting pistol has been fired, the business is up and running. The big surge out of the blocks opens up a healthy lead. But, there is a long way to go and the initial excitement will quickly die down. Business can tail off unless you really are pro-active. Anticipate this before the launch and have plans in hand to:

  • First customers - what will make them return?
  • Expand your customer base. Can satisfied customers spread the word?
  • Identify groups not using you and target them - e.g. artists, photographers, hospitality industry.
  • Plan events through the year to maintain interest - discounts for returning customers; sales; exhibitions of featured art work / artists. No gallery? Try restaurants, hotels, pubs, cafés, sport's halls art & craft fairs. You could even contemplate booking a space for a day / week.

Now you are starting to see how things work. Be analytical, look at financial targets. Are you meeting them? Can you increase them, say, by 5% over two months?

One way is to identify an average framing project price and find ways to raise it. Promote specialist services that increase profit margins. Find out how to do bespoke work and be able to suggest a few more creative and dynamic touches. With very little additional material cost you can massively boost the value of framed artwork.

Also look at the materials used, versus the price to customers. Can you charge more, or can you increase the differential at the same sale price by:

  • Limiting waste - re-use more materials; create saleable items - e.g. small frames for sale;
  • Introducing a work plan - order stock once a week - reduces postage and more accurate ordering generates less waste;
  • Maintaining good stock control - excessive stock gets damaged or remains unused;
  • Reducing your costs - look for savings, incentives with suppliers. Balance finding the most economic supplier for equipment, materials and resources against the additional postage and packing costs of using different companies.

I suppose what I'm saying is, that things don't just happen. Good planning, preparation and management are keys to success, along with spotting opportunities and making the most of them. The more creative you are, the more distinctive your business will become. The good news is, all of these ingredients are free, they just depend on you.

And don't forget help from DIYframing and the UK School of Framing is just a click away.

Posted on: 12 Aug 2008@08:03:28, updated on: 12 Aug 2008@08:03:28.