Building a global client base: Fran Barker Design workshop to worldwide

Fran Barker is a UK based jeweller with over 14 years experience in the jewellery industry. Having more than 30 thousand Instagram followers, Fran proves social media has huge impacts on online business and shares her thoughts on the highs and lows of starting your own business and making it a success.

Frans workshop

Diamond Wishbone Ring available on Fran's website.

What is 'Fran Barker Design'?

Fran Barker Design is my jewellery brand. I design and make both my own collections and custom pieces to spec, with gold and precious and semi-precious gemstones.

When did you know you were ready to take 'Fran Barker Design' full time?

I think I just knew. I have taken my business into full time mode twice now. Once, about 10 years ago in its earlier stages, when I felt I was ready to take the risk and wanted to really go for it. My business was very different then and I came to realise that it needed time to find it's feet and that quality of life was of huge importance to me. Once I allowed my business to grow slowly and more naturally it became everything I always hoped it could be. The second leap into full time felt much more like a reward than a risk!

What does a typical working day look like for you?

It sounds clichè but everyday really is different. Not everyday is making, but when I'm in the workshop I get my head down and really get in the zone. If I'm not making I am searching for stones for both clients and for stock...I will spend hours putting together stone combinations. I also am lucky enough to have help one day a week where we spend time planning, improving the website and thinking about how we can improve the business...I love every aspect!

What part of the jewellery process is your favourite? The sale, the gemstone selection etc.

I think, if I'm truly honest...there is nothing quite like the buzz of finishing a piece. Having gone through every process, meeting clients, choosing the stones and design through to creating and setting the stones...holding that final piece all shiny and complete is so rewarding. When it's a photogenic item too, it's even more satisfying!

How do you differ from your competitors?

Honestly...I've always tried very hard not to be concerned about what other people are doing. I chose this path for me, I love it, and I make what inspires me. I am so lucky to be building a client base that appreciate this. So I suppose I differ because...it's just me?

How has social media impacted your business?

HUGELY. What used to seem impossible is now possible! In the past if you wanted to promote yourself it used to be about having a substantial marketing budget or getting your work on someone famous (it's not what you know, it's who you know)...not anymore! Thanks to social media I now have a very powerful marketing tool and a growing global clientele...at the simple cost of my time.

Your website is hosted on Squarespace, does that work well for you?

Yes, it works very well for me! I initially created my website through Squarespace myself, once I got the hang of it I found it fairly straight forward. I now have @katiehamling working with me once a week getting my website to a much higher level, more user friendly and achieving a more professional quality. Squarespace has everything I need and Katie has the knowledge and skills to achieve it with ease...so I am very happy indeed.

What is the hardest part of being self-employed, in your opinion?

Being organised and learning how to take the highs with the lows in order to grow a business that is more consistent. Naturally I am not very organised person, but I have learnt that this is key! In the early stages it was hard, frustrating and unpredictable and there were a lot of things I avoided because they didn't (and still don't) come naturally to me. I am now on top of being organised...this has made for a much smoother influx of business....that I now know how to manage!

What advice would you give to others wanting to start their own business?

If you have the passion for it...go for it! Talk to as many people as possible, even those who's opinions you know you don't want to hear. Whether it's to hear the brutal honest truth...or words of encouragement, this wil help you form your own thoughts and determinations. There is a lot of good advice out there, don't be afraid to seek it out! Listen to feedback, don't ever compromise what you aspire to, but also don't ignore constructive criticism. One of the most important pieces of advice I could give would be...focus on what you are doing, not what everyone else is doing!

You must have procedures in place for shipping, taxes etc. How did you set these up? Did you ask for advice of was it trial and error?

Where do I start...what a palava!!! If someone is willing to share advice on these subjects then take it! This was very muh trial and error, shipping especially. It would help if things were worded so that your everyday folk culd understand. But...it's like anything you don't know, it takes time. I've just picked up as I've gone along. I found there wasn't a great deal of advice out there when it came to international shipping.

How important is photography to your business?

VERY. I have a visual product and the majority of my marketing relies on the images I take. Jewellery is notoriously hard to photograph so it helps that I enjoy it. I love finding the right light and catching shadows on the gemstones which brings them to life. A good photograph will get me noticed on social media and portray my work and business in the way I want it to be portrayed so it is hugely important.

Your Instagram account has over 30 thousand followers! How do you keep on top of this as well as running your business full time?

It's taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but I do love putting the effort into my Instagram account. I don't really see it as something that I need to give a bit of attention to every now and then...it is very much a vital part of my business and something that needs almost as much attention and love putting into it as the making of my pieces. I'm very grateful for all my followers and clients who support what I do, I enjoy the interaction. I enjoy finding new clients and supporters so it's natural to want to dedicate time to this. Posting can be scheduled with varying apps but the best results come from nurturing your account yourself!

What is next for you and your business?

I've never been one to plan too far ahead, I have no long term goals. As long as I am enjoying the ride I am happy for my business to lead me in the direction it flows. For now I am enjoying establishing a fantastic global client base, growing my collections and drooling over beautiful gemstones. Life is good!

See more from Fran:

Website: www.franbarkerdesign.co.uk

Instagram: @franbarkerdesign

Facebook: Fran Barker Design

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