Staying connected and supporting makers, craft businesses and organisations
We know that this period of shutdown and social isolation is extremely challenging for the craft sector – from individual makers and small companies, to craft charities, commercial galleries and fair and market organisers.
We are in regular contact with relevant government departments and Arts Council England to make sure they are properly briefed on the craft sector situation.
We have consulted individual makers (the results of our Covid-19 maker survey are here) and the craft sector in order to compile a list of all the main concerns and challenges.
We have answered these below, in consultation with the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group, Creative United, ICAEW and the British Business Bank. If you have any concerns not covered below please email us.
We will post any updates on this page and on our social media channels using #craftbusinessedit and #craftcommunity.
Keeping craft businesses going
The galleries, shops and markets I usually sell through have all had to close - where else can I sell my work?
Check if your gallery is operating an online service, get in touch and ask how they’re handling the crisis and promoting your work.
To sell independently, online marketplace platforms are your best bet – Etsy, Folksy, Saatchi Art, Not on the High Street are the largest platforms. And even though the Crafts Council Directory is not a retail platform it is a great promotional tool.
For galleries that are currently a part of the Creative United Own Art scheme or are seeking to join, please note that the scheme is compatible with e-commerce, mail order and telephone ordering.
Can I set these up online workshops and classes and can I get paid for them?
There are lots of easy ways you can stream live workshops via social media. We’ve put together this useful resource to help get you started. For those looking for a business approach to their online workshops, Yodomo have a new free course to take you step by step through set up.
Services such as Clickmeeting and Zoom include registration system allowing you to charge for your activity, however this often requires a paid subscription from you and price ranges to vary. Another option is to collect payment via Paypal or Eventbrite, then send your customer the code or link to the webinar using free video calling software options such as Google Hangouts or Skype.
For those whose work focuses on craft in different community settings this blog from Creative Alternatives on moving their participatory work online might be helpful.
When can I start teaching or running events again?
It is very difficult to tell when or how the Government will lift lockdown restrictions. You could spend this time working on projects you have been putting off; building up stock if you can; developing new designs and preparing for face to face activities. Be prepared by planning how activity might start at different points over the coming months.
The gallery I sell through is closed and still has a lot of my work which I could now sell online myself, but I can’t get it back – what can I do?
Manage your customers’ expectations and let them know that delivery may be delayed. Contact the gallery and arrange a time to safely collect your pieces or arrange a courier service, but make sure to maintain your relationship with the gallery owner and be flexible to see how you could work together. After all, they will also likely have a loss in income.
How can I safely send orders to my customers?
Couriers are operating contactless collection services. Each has their own clear guidelines on how to engage safely and follow social distancing instruction. Many are experiencing delays to their services so ensure that your communication to customers is clear that delivery will take longer than normal.
If you are unable to fulfil orders make sure you communicate this, update your website, set an automatic message on your email and pin a post explaining your situation on social media. And don’t worry, everyone will understand.
My usual art material suppliers are not open, where can I source materials from to keep making?
Your usual suppliers may be continuing to trade online. Many are still selling online and delivering safely, though with limited capacity.
Think local, the support your purchase can offer a retailer at this time could help that business to thrive. Are there different materials that are easier to get hold of – perhaps this could be a time to experiment? You could also use this time to plan ahead.
How can I get involved with social media selling initiatives? Are there ones I should follow?
The Crafts Council have teamed up with Matthew Burrows’ on the brilliant #artistsupportpledge which supports artists, makers and creative practitioners who have suddenly found themselves with limited sales opportunities. Just post images of work you are willing to sell for up to £200 (exc. P&P) and every time you sell £1,000 of work, you pledge to buy £200 of work from another maker, creating a small but meaningful market.
Hashtags like #shopsmall, #standwithsmall and #supportsmallbusiness are quite active and do tend to focus on craft/art businesses selling through marketplace platforms. Most social media and selling platforms offer a simple to use way to set up accounts and promote your work online. Remember, not all platforms will work best for what you are trying to sell; it is worth doing some research to see which platform works best for your practice. Don’t forget to set up a payment option (such as Paypal) to receive payments!
We’ve also spoken to four makers who sell via Instagram, including Christabel Balfour who says 'Most of my best-performing posts were shot on my iPhone and edited using VSCO (photography app) and Instagram’s in-app editor’.
If you are not sure about how to sell online, there are many companies at the moment offering advice and training sessions for craft businesses, such as The Design Trust; Arts Council Digital Resources and of course our own Talent Development team can help you.
How do I set up an online shop?
There are several platforms to choose from; Etsy, folksy and ArtGallery.co.uk are set up so you can create your own ‘shop’ on their platform and are dedicated to selling arts and crafts.
Building a personal website with an e-commerce function can be time consuming and costly, so look to the experts such as Squarespace, Shopify and Wix for an easy to use website builder.
We asked Sarah Barker, Partner at Lee & Thompson LLP what she would recommend makers should be putting into place now for when sales do start to pick up
“If makers conducting direct sales (and craft focussed galleries) have the time and resources to do so during the inevitable lull, it would be a good time to get to grips with putting in place fit for purpose Terms and Conditions of Sale (for physical and online sales). If they fall within the new Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) regulations for Art Market Participants, they could also make good use of this quieter time by putting in place their AML Risk Assessment and AML Policy and Procedures.
She also suggests being aware of three main aspects of the new digital world:
1/ Your own Terms of Sale: Where “distance sales” (broadly, sales conducted exclusively online and/or over the phone) are being made to a consumer there are important legal factors that must be considered and dealt with properly in the Terms and Conditions of Online Sale (and legal advice should be sought on a case by case basis).
These complex legal factors include (but are not limited to) that consumers must be told (prior to entering into the sale contract) that they have the right to cancel the purchase within a 14 day cooling off period (and be provided with the form of a cancellation notice), and if they are not told about that right, broadly speaking the cancellation period will be extended by a year.
Additionally, if such consumers are not told that they would have to pay for any return deliveries if they exercise their right of cancellation, then the seller will have to pay that return delivery charge.
Sellers should be aware that consumers do have this cancellation right, which would necessitate a full refund to the customer (without any deduction for the seller’s costs of delivery). Where galleries are passing on a share of the sale proceeds to a maker, they might consider only do so after the cooling off period has expired and there has been no notification of cancellation.
Remember that what is said about your artworks for sale online may in the future be interpreted as a term of the sale contract or be deemed to be a misrepresentation, so keep control of your staff creating content and ensure your social media use ties in with your Terms and Conditions of Online Sale.
2/ Using third party social media platforms: Recently there have been some wonderful altruistic initiatives in terms of sharing digital platforms. However, some of these digital initiatives have grown up very quickly in the last few months. When exhibiting/selling on a shared online platform owned and operated by a third party, it would be wise to understand what information that third party obtains when your collector base views your artworks, and what they can do with any such data (in addition to other commercial terms pursuant to which use is provided, such as whether there is a cost for listing or a commission payable on sales).
You may also wish to understand how you can control user-generated content under the platform’s rules. Remember also that anything published online (whether on your own website or on a third party platform) must comply with copyright (in particular, when it comes to the use of images), data protection and privacy laws.
3/ Cybercrime: Finally, thought should be given to cybercrime (including data theft, identity theft and payment fraud) as the risk of it may be heightened by increased reliance upon deals concluded remotely. Take simple steps like calling a known telephone number to confirm bank account details before sending money, or to confirm a delivery address before delivering an artwork, can be an effective tool in the battle against fraud (which is said to be more prevalent during the current health crisis).
Government relief, grants and furloughing
As a self-employed person, what am I entitled to claim for and how do I go about it?
The Money Advice Service provides accessible information about the government guidance here.
Self Employed Income Support Plan (SEISS) is the Government’s emergency response scheme. It will provide self-employed people a “taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years up to £2,500 a month. The scheme will initially cover three months, backdated to March, and be paid as a lump sum in June.”
Self-employed people do not need to get in touch with HMRC as the scheme isn’t yet open for applications. HMRC will contact eligible customers by the beginning of June, inviting them to apply. Carefully read the guidance notes about how the taxable income grant works on GOV.UK here.
Universal Credit (UC) - If you are feeling well but your work has dried up and you are planning to apply to the self-employment income support scheme you (and your partner or spouse if you live as a couple) have savings of less than £16,000 you may be able to make a claim for Universal Credit until the self-employment income support scheme starts.
The government has announced the standard allowance will be increased by up to £86.67 a month from 6 April 2020, plus you may be able to claim elements for other costs, such as housing, caring responsibilities or bringing up children.
Update from Martin Lewis (MoneySavingExpert) on 14th April "If you're self employed and applying for Universal Credit, you can ask that money (rightly) put aside as savings to pay your tax bill isn't counted within your total savings amount for Universal Credit. Eg. If you've £6,000+ of savings (capital) the amount you receive is reduced, if you've over £16,000 you can't get UC. So now tax savings won't count to that."
You may be able to apply for a new Emergency Response Package grant from Arts Council England, a key criterion is that you must be generating 50% of your income through freelance work in production of public culture. At present there are only two rounds being offered, with the second closing on 30th April.
Citizens Advice should be able to offer advice about what benefits you may be able to claim.
The Government grant for self-employed people is based on an average of profit margins from the past three tax years. I have only been in business for 9 months, am I eligible?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. To be eligible for the Government grant you have to have submitted a self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19 by 23 April to be eligible. Check if you are eligible for Universal Credit and Citizens Advice should be able to offer advice about what benefits you may be able to claim.
I have a small business where I employ people, can I furlough my staff and how do I do it?
Furloughing is the term used to when a business is unable to operate or they have no work for staff to do during the pandemic, workers can be put "on furlough", which means they are kept on the payroll and not made redundant. You can find government advice on Job Retention Scheme here, including guidance on whether your business is eligible to furlough staff. If you are you then:
- You must ask your employees to stop working - designate them as “furloughed workers” and notify your employees of this change. Re-negotiation of employee status could be subject to employment law or individual contracts.
- Using the online portal, submit information to HMRC about furloughed employees and their earnings.
I am set up as a limited company, so the majority of my pay is through dividends. This means I can't take advantage of furloughing - is there anything else?
Unfortunately, you will only be able to access the Furlough scheme on any earnings paid via PAYE. The issue has been raised with Government but at this point they have not said they plan to review or change the support offered.
I’m not sure how to talk to my bank about my mortgage / tax / loan repayments – what help am I able ask them for?
The Business Finance Guide is a free and independent source of information on the forms of finance available to business owners produced by ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales) and the British Business Bank – it has produced new content designed to help companies to meet financial challenges resulting from the crisis.
It recommends before talking to your bank you should have a new cash flow forecast – keep it simple and follow the steps suggested here and then recommends talking to your bank sooner rather than later:
“Typically, whoever you are borrowing money from … will have signed up to the Lending Standards Board’s Standard of Lending Practices, which explains how you should expect to be treated by a lender. The Lending Standards Board works to a single, clear remit: to promote fair lending. It wants to ensure that small business borrowers are treated fairly and receive a fair deal from their lender – as set out in the Standard of Lending Practices.”
I don’t want to get out an emergency loan and accrue more debt – what grants are available?
A roundup of emergency funding from Grants Online is here – however much is aimed at frontline services or the charitable sector.
Now might be the time to consider alternative sources of income generation such as crowd-funding through services such as Kick-Starter. If you have a loyal customer base you could ask them to donate or make a purchase to be supplied in the future – if your clients want you to be around after this then they may be prepared to help.
Business Finance Guide ask – “Are you one of the many business owners that classify themselves as a “permanent non-borrower – someone who would not consider taking on finance to support your business”? If you are reluctant to take on debt, or have been rejected by your bank, read our article on rejecting rejection”
I’ve applied for some grants but how do I manage my cashflow in the short-term?
Reviewing your cashflow is your first step - the Business Finance Guide includes tips on how to review and update your cash flow forecast – keep it simple and follow the steps suggested here
The Government has introduced VAT and Self-Assessment Payment deferrals
Chasing for outstanding payments is tricky in the current climate but it's worth checking if a delay is down to a simple admin error or cashflow issues. The Office of the Small Business Commissioner offers support and guidance. They recommend if you need help in chasing late payment, your accountant should be able to help. “If you are concerned that your current accountant is not giving you the level of support that you require, it may be time to think about changing your accountant.”
What is the new ‘Top-up to local business grant funds scheme’?
At the beginning of May the government shared news they are releasing new funds aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. For the craft sector this could be available for those in studios or workshops, etc. This money will be administrated by local authorities. Information can be found here and more details are to be released soon.
Does the new statements about returning to work apply to my studio space?
At the moment there are no specific guidelines that talk about studio spaces or artists workshops. However, if you are able to return to your workspace and follow social distancing rules then this is permitted.
I cannot access my studio as it is not based at home; what can I do?
We have checked the full guidance around business closure from the Government and it says:
“To reduce social contact and help stop the spread of coronavirus, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close." The full list of those businesses ordered to close is here.
With the exception of these organisations, the Government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.
Where businesses continue to open, employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services. If your employees cannot work from home then they can still travel to work, provided they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating."
This means that unless crafts businesses/ individuals are working within any of the categories ordered to close (e.g. in a library) and they are unable to work from home (the preferred option) then they can travel to their workplace.
If you are unable to access your studio focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot do, such as:
- Work on projects you have been putting off.
- Connecting with other makers - can you start a new collaboration?
- Work on building up stock or new designs if you can.
- Create a plan for once the lockdown has been lifted.
I am concerned I will lose my studio because I cannot pay rent; what can you advise?
Some studios are now offering discounted rates since so many makers are facing financial uncertainty - keep talking with your studio managers to see if there are any plans to reduce or remove studio fees for this time. Get in touch with fellow studio holders to explore if a united approach is more effective.
The Government has launched a scheme where commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. No business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June. This is not a rental holiday - all commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent down the line.
You may also need to make the tough decision to cancel your studio at this time. It may feel like a major step backwards in your craft business; but if you don’t have a cash flow you do not have a business, you only have debt.
How can I apply for business rates relief for my rented studio space?
The government is providing rates relief to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England. The eligibility is here. If you are eligible you do not need to take any action the local council will apply the discount automatically.
Some local authorities are also issuing small business grants, look on your local council web pages for additional support.
My studio is part of a bigger complex so not listed with the local council, can I access rates relief or other support from my local authority?
Some local authorities are issuing small business grants; it is worth looking on your local council web pages for additional support.
It is worth contacting your studio manager and asking if they have had business rate relief support and how this they can reduce or stall your studio payment requirements.
Advice for new makers
My final degree show has been cancelled; I was hoping to launch my business in July at New Designers and what do I do now?
Some galleries and makers are holding virtual exhibitions and there are a variety of ways to use your social media channels to spread the word about your new business, the Arts Council Digital Resources has training and advice.
Keep in touch with your course leaders and other students as new activities are being planned all the time. Follow Crafts Council’s Young Craft Citizens on twitter @CraftsYouth for our latest advice and online events.
The opportunities I have applied for have been postponed or cancelled, what can I do?
The Crafts Council share news and opportunities from a huge number of organisations and initiatives – keep up to date:
- Crafts Council Facebook Craft Opportunities group
- We post any craft business-related social content with #craftbusinessedit and #craftcommunity
- Young Craft Citizens is the Crafts Council supported collective of 16-25 year olds interested in shaping the future of craft, design and making, follow @CraftYouth on twitter for opportunities – we have new events currently being planned.
- We have launched a new Slack workspace where professionals working with young people can crowdsource advice
- Arts Thread and dezeen are useful sources of information.
I am unable to finish my qualifications; will this count against me when applying for jobs or future higher education training?
The global nature of this pandemic means that everyone is experiencing it and impacted by it in some way. For this reason, graduates should not miss out.
The Office for Students says, “…universities and colleges must make sure that qualifications awarded to students hold their value over time. We’ve published guidance for universities and colleges that makes clear this continues to apply during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Digital portfolio / CVs – think about using this time in other ways to add to your experiences. Can you undertake any free online courses, create your own content or volunteer?
I am still paying rent on my student accommodation, but uni is closed; what help can I get?
This and the many other issues facing students are covered in this Government blog - University students and COVID-19 FAQ
How can I start a craft business when everything is in lockdown?
The Crafts Council have a number of business resources and top tips on our website.
Online selling is the main option while you aren’t able to sell in a physical space. If you’re not ready to sell just yet, taking the time in lockdown to make a plan of what you want to make; how are you going to produce it; where you want to sell it and most importantly how you are going to pay for this. This is the beginning of your Business Plan.
I am feeling really isolated and lost and concerned for my mental health, where can I find help?
Reaching out to your own personal and professional networks can help make the situation feel more manageable – many others in your circle will be feeling those same feelings of isolation and confusion, so connecting with one another is really important at a time like this.
Voluntary Arts has launched #CreativeNetwork - an online get together on Mondays to Fridays from 9:30-10:30am. For people involved in arts, culture & creativity to chat through these challenging times and make connections.
Other places where creatives can virtually meet, discuss ideas and learn new techniques include:
Resources and links
The Digital Culture Network can help develop your digital skills. They have lots of great resources open to all.
Working Class Artists Group pulled together all the benevolent impact funds for creatives run by unions and organisations.
Connect with us
We are now all working from home but the Crafts Council team is still here to support the craft sector.
Free 1:1 advice sessions with Crafts Council’s Talent Development team are available on Wednesday mornings until end of June. These are free half hour sessions with Caroline Jackman Talent Development Manager or Anne-Laure Cano, coach and facilitator with the Crafts Council to discuss key concerns you may be facing with your craft practice. To book visit our Crafts Council Eventbrite page.
Please note, the Crafts Council are still offering their longer advice sessions of 1 hour followed by 1/2 hour follow up. For May - September, these have been reduced by 50% and now priced at £30.00 please email to book.