Starting a shop

stud d

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 17, 2003
next too you
If someone wanted to open a shop one day, say in two years, would you suggest doing it on the side in order to get going?

I have been doing framing for about ten years. I love it, it will be what I do. I have a good amount of ekwipment, in good shape. I know how to use eveything pretty well. I have been to about a dozen classes by all the best folks.And i have worked in shops for about seven years. Now I want to go on my own.

I have a good job that I can not leave at this time. I need to become more finacially secure. My gal thinks I should start doing some framing on the side-out of my home or a small place, no storefront. I have artists friends that have been after me for a while to help them with framing. I am not under the assumption that I will make alot of money off of them. This is more or less to ease my way into the framing on my own. Get things going then a shop.

Is this a good idea or bad, why?

Yes... I think it is a good idea for you. Get going with your artist friends and yet still have a steady income and possibly health insurance.
The hard part will be when it comes time for you to cut the cord and do a free fall into our own business. Expect a lowering of your standard of living for awhile until the business grows.

The best part of doing it this way is that you get a better handle on how to price out jobs so you actually make money. The more experience you have fine tuning that part of your business the easier it will be when you open the doors for real.

Good luck!!
Seeing as that is exactly how I started, then I'd say a good idea.

Test the water.

I had a day job but it wasn't in framing and I was largely self-taught.

But I wasn't on my own - we were a husband and wife team, with wife having a herd of business experience and me the practical skill.

How much input will your gal give?
Sounds like a good idea - promise yourself that all your profits go into savings towards your goal of a full time framing business. You should be in your own storefront in no time! OK, maybe that's a little optimistic but I know you can do it!
well the gall will have some imput...she does not know framing. although we are always helping each other out with business type stuff. we are very good with being supportive and helping out.

she is pushing me to do this. I am the type that wants it but tends to second third fourth and fifth guess all that I do. Not a procrastinator, but make sure all is ok before proceeding.

thanks for info folks, keep it coming

I did it, and I don't regret it. When I was ready to cut the corporate cord, it just seemed like all things fell into place. Kind of one of those moments where "things are meant to be" Get a handle on pricing and price as if you were in a real storefront - you won't regret it.

my 2 cents after 4 years at full-time retail

It's a great idea. I just started by taking classes so I could frame my photography so I could sell it. Once the word was out to friends and family that I was framing, I got very busy. Eventually my entire garage was dedicated to framing. I knew it was time to open a shop when I would get home from work and go out to the garage to start on the big pile of work orders sitting on my desk.
2 years is a good goal. Once I made the decision to open the shop, it was a two year process to get the doors open. First was Business Plan and then financing, location (it took 2 years for our desired location to become available), and lots of education at many tradeshows (particularly business classes). Still learning every day.
I know there is someone out there that is against this...I am waiting on you to chime in. There are plenty of pros, now the cons. Would love to hear from the opposite end of the spectrum.

They probably filled up the basement framer thread with those :D
Some rhetorical questions for you to contemplate:

(a) If your framing volume is zero today, and you said that you want to commit to a shop full time after you have "got things going", what is the sales volume that you must achieve before you will feel ready to make the full time commitment?
(b) How much effort will it take for you to reach this point?
(c) Between your full time job and personal commitments do you have that much time available?
(d) What are you going to do to achieve the required sales growth?
(e) Do you have adequate capital? You mentioned you have equipment but what about leasehold improvements, marketing, additional equipment, inventory, living expense, etc. More business fail thru under-capitalization than anything else!
(f) Have you really examined the options? i.e. anticipated cash flow and lifestyle as a frame shop owner versus current/expected salary & lifestyle in your current "good job".

Good luck.
Patrick, I framed a few things for friends and relatives before I got my shop going and I was profoundly frustrated by trying to do it 'half-@ssed.' I wanted to have a nice space in which to do business, framed samples on the walls and a credit card machine. I realized that folks were just bringing me work because they thought I would be cheaper, not necessarily better. And it was important to me to feel like I was getting better and more professional as a framer. And it's too much work to not make much money doing it... It might work for you, but it didn't work for me.

Let me know when you quit your good job. I want it when you're done with it...

edie the onlysortakidding goddess
Goddess this job is not happening, I would not want to fustrate someone else. I do get the professional aspect of what you speak. I could see the artists being very slack then real bitchae. I know the types of things I could offer to them, would be different than other customers.


I will try to go thru these.
A. It is not the sales right now. It is getting the money from my job that I need first. The sales will be entirely different than if I had a shop.
B. Goes with a, I would want atleast $30,000 in hand in order to start my business. That is the low end, thinking really around 50K
C. Ihave a good amount of time. That is one of the reasons I want to do it. Do it, see if I can handle it, and the customers.
D.I am going to do the family framing, then try to get involved in art groups. Try to get them to buy some stuff, and not worry about the normal customers at this point.
E. Capital is the downfall of most businesses. I am entirely aware of this. I have an area inmind that I wish to be in, but I know I cant afford it now. I have already checked rents and some of the other stuff. I am not about to throw away the little amount of money I have and be poor and out of biz in a year.
F. I think the first two years would be difficult, but my gal has a good job to help us. I would be willing to work a second job in order to m ake money. I have done it before and am not too proud to do some schlep work for a few dollars. I think I would be the fool for thinking it is all going to be roses and no thorns.

This is also to keep me sane. I am not happy at my job. I have tried to be creative to make it more compatible with my personality. Has not worked over and over again. I love being involved in framing, it is what I will do in some capacity for the rest of my life. That is the only thing I am certain of at this point. I am more than willing to learn everything I can, be it good or bad to improve myself. I wish to avoid the bad that is why I wish to move a little slower at the present time.

Patrick, I think you should go for it. I am doing exactly the same thing right now. I have a semi-full time job, and also opened my own shop. The difference is that my store is more of a store front, and I plan to keep it where it is if I can. I am also unsatisfied with my current job, but it is a job, and framer jobs don't pop up around here too often so I hesitate to leave it. I'm trying to build my business to the point where it will replace what I am making working (which frankly isn't much), and then I will leave my other job. It is tough to do, since I feel like I should be putting more time into building my business, but at this time, this is the best situation for me, until I can get more business through my door.
Best of luck to you, I'm sure you'll do fine.

The only problem that I have, is getting supplies to me, especially matboard and stuff... Since I don't have the volume that most shops have, I have trouble making minimums for delivery. So far I've been able to make it work, but it is always a concern. Make sure you get a sales tax ID #, most suppliers at least need that from you.
“I am not under the assumption that I will make a lot of money off of them.” I think it extremely shortsighted to start with work like this.

“I realized that folks were just bringing me work because they thought I would be cheaper” … “And it's too much work to not make much money doing it… “ - Goddess

Good points Goddess! Patrick this is a trap you also need to avoid. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can make it in a storefront retail business based on the fact that you were busy working out of home selling under-priced framing.

If you eventually want to open a store front it might be a good idea if you plan to frame from home, at first, to price your framing from the start as if you are working out a of a storefront. It will help give you a more realistic idea of your customers and allow you to transition them to the storefront.

I STRONGLY encourage you to work up a truly accurate business plan. Be sure to include every possible cost being specific to your area and situation. Leasing a space, permits, build out, signs, stationery, taxes, withholding, insurance, advertising etc, etc. Don’t get lazy and guesstimate costs. Take the time to call and get hard figure quotes for pricing. Factor in for an employee. Once you calculate a final figure based on real figures add 20% for some of the “unexpecteds” that always occur. Determine the hours you will be open to best serve your customers, does the landlord/lease dictate the hours you must be open. Consider the loss of your current paycheck and what you need to cover your personal expenses. Be realistic in determining how long you can survive with NO income. Not to be crass, just taking a purely business outlook, can you afford to proceed if your “gal” is for some reason not involved?

Talk to all the merchants in the area you would like to locate your store. Before you approach them develop a list a questions to ask them to get the information you need to make an informed decision. Ask them about the landlord, rent, CAM (common area maintenance), customer traffic, peak times etc etc.

"Capital is the downfall of most businesses. I am entirely aware of this" - Patrick This is important thing to acknowledge. It is also necessary to remove as much of the emotion out of the decision as possible and come up with an accurate amount of money needed over both the short and long term to start, grow and succeed based on logical business decisions.

Just a start


I just opened my shop last month, part-time. The circumstances of the acquisition were a little unusual but I did it and glad I did. Like yourself I still need my full-time job (for the insurance). I don't expect much of an income from the shop. If I can make rent and utilities I'll be happy. So far I've got the next two months covered.

Some food for thought. I was advised to figure what hours I could be open for sure and stick to them. Took into consideration other commitments and decided on Tue & Wed evenings 5-8 and Sat mornings 9-noon. Nine hours a week.....Ha! My full time job is literally around the corner. So I stop at my shop before work, during my lunch time, Mon, Thur and Fri after work and even make the 20 mile trip from home on Sunday. Last Tuesday I worked my regular job 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM went to the shop and worked untill 10:30 PM. I typically leave the shop between 9 & 9:30 at night and between 3 & 3:30 on Saturday.

I've been framing from home the last four years. Having a shop, even part-time, is a whole other ball game. Framing for family, friends and co-workers is one thing. Having total strangers walk in your door is totally another. I sense my customers are understanding that I'm part-time and the projects will get done. I have a few projects in the shop going on three weeks. I've ordered and received the materials but just haven't got to them yet. I'm the one not happy with the turn around time. I'm taking PTO from my job on Friday to spend the day at my shop to try and get caught up.

In spite of the craziness, I'm loving it. A few people warned me of what I was getting into but I never imagined it would be like this. Just wanted to share with you my experience as a newbie part-time shop owner. The best of luck.
For friends and family... my suggestion would be..

"This is the level and kind of work I will give you, and this is the price." A wise man once told me NEVER DISCOUNT for friends and family... for bore or free. If it's free, and they don't like it.. they can't complain. Because if they do, they never get anything again.
If you charge retail, and there is a problem, they have the right to complain, and your covered to cover it.

Artists... if they are successful, they want it cheaper. Set a price that gives you a profit to put in your savings. That price would be a possible small discount, or a "commercial rate" on a order of say 30-50 frames. Onesies and twosies pay full bore.

Paying full retail is the price that artists have to pay on their way to being successful business people. They just don't know that, ignore it, or don't want to aknowledge it. They don't get a discount on paint and canvas.
Try it.

Wose case scenario... it doesn't work out and maybe tick off a few artists. That is ok most of them live for angst and now you supplied them with some.

Best case... you frame, you learn, you MIGHT even make a dollar or three.

If you have the time, equipment, space and drive then try it out.

I agree not to charge too little. The customers that follow you to a storefront will expect cheap prices when you open and may push a bit when you double your prices.

Good luck and do it!
I am aware of the price issue with home based or garage framers. It can be hard to be so low that when you get a storefront that you have made a loyal following, however your price structure does not work so you have no following. That makes no sense. At that point you are better off either doing it full time or not at all. It will not help in the end.

This is one of the longest posts from Tim and I appreciate it. You have told me things like this before. Getting all the info to get into a storefront is another reason that I am giving myself some leeway. Is that spelled correct?The gal is my wife...if I screwed that up, I would be a waste.

I have looked into some of this information that you speak of. I have received demographic reports as to the aera that I am looking into. I am not sure that the area will support a shop. So I have a second area that is better suited, but with more competition. Three shops in a 1.5 mile radius. There is a fourth, but horrible location that will most likely not make it thru the end of this year.

Baer thanks for the comments, I will have to pay attention to that, it is very valid, if you give it away then it is not worth as much. I am hoping to look at this as more of the 30-50 range. That might be unrealistic, but I hope I can get a few of these an order some box prices.50% paid upfront. 50% on delivery some my money is not tied up.

I would be more seeking out customers than having them go to a store. Bring some samples get an order, work on it, then bring it back. That is my thought, not mobile framing, but ort of for artists. They may come to the studio to pick up or drop off, but limited. I would go to shows and different functions that I would make contact with more potential customers.

I started my shop inside an antique mall,The owner of the mall wanted a framer and sought me out,so It's cool. I have low overhead with a constant stream of people. I've been framing about 18 years and just got tired of making money for other people. so that propelled me into frameshop ownership. I have been talking about my own shop for years,but it was the low cost that got me out of my secure little world,and it seems once your out there on your own. you'll frame your little butt off so you don't have to go back.