Running a business in FranceMany of us dream of making a living from our creativity, but France is not the easiest place to run your own business, let alone in artistic work. So how can you make it succeed?

Annaliza Davis talks to Nathalie Dérouet, a ceramic artist who has been running her own workshop in Brittany since 2004, to get some top tips for success.

  1. Be confident in your ability

Even if you’re thinking about an artistic business, you still need to be sure you have the right skills, and this isn’t just about talent.

“You can be a very creative person naturally, but you will probably still need training of some sort,” says Nathalie. “There are technical aspects to most artistic work. I trained for seven years, in fine arts, ceramic work and then glazing. Getting the right training will help you to feel more confident and will ensure you start on the right basis.”

  1. Invest in a great website

“I have a beautiful location for my workshop, just near the sea in Douarnenez, and I have a shop-front here, but I soon realised that I needed a website. These days, even a small business needs one, to help people find you and to reassure clients of your credibility.

“Keep your website simple and user-friendly, and although your work might be artistic, your website needs to look professional. If it’s possible with your work, you should consider an online shop, too. This is probably far more cost-effective for most artists than the expense of a physical shop-front, and it’s often more convenient for customers. There’s a reason online shopping is booming!” 

  1. Diversify and adapt

“Firstly, you can diversify your client base. Over recent years, I’ve offered workshops to those who want to learn ceramics. Teaching is a different skill and you need to be able to explain your work to share it, but it’s a good contrast to working alone.

“Secondly, you can diversify what you produce. I’m known for both my tableware and my decorative, sculptural pieces. It’s good to branch out, not only to attract and develop new markets, but also to challenge yourself and find new inspiration. Experimenting with different types of pieces means that I can work with many diverse clients and it keeps my work fresh.”

  1. Develop partnerships

“Running your own business doesn’t mean you always have to work alone. Look out for opportunities to develop partnerships with others, including sales partnerships. My work is on sale through a gallery in London, which opens a different market for me, but I also promote my work through exhibitions.

“Also be open to partnerships with those in other fields. Since 2011, I have worked with Olivier Bellin, an incredibly talented chef in Brittany who has won two Michelin stars. My tableware is used in his restaurant, L’Auberge des Glazicks, and it’s a partnership that is positive for both of us.

“What we do is very different, of course, but he shares my perfectionism – if he has chosen my ceramics as the best way to present his dishes, it adds credibility to my work.”

  1. Keep going and keep growing

“Keep on top of everything, including the paperwork. Keep going with the invoices, stay up-to-date with orders and your professional payments.

“Equally, every business has to evolve. You have to develop and that takes courage when you work for yourself! I’ve just launched a new e-boutique, which took time and investment, but it’s attracted clients from America and Germany, and I’m moving to bigger premises next year to develop a bigger shop.  It’s going to take time and energy, but if you believe in your work, you should believe it can keep evolving. Sometimes you have to take risks, but stay positive and dedicated, and you can be successful even in a creative business.”

Nathalie Dérouet Ceramics is based in Douarnenez, Brittany. To celebrate the launch of her new e-shop, Nathalie is offering free delivery on all orders over €50 in France an over €100 to the UK.

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