Dear Preston: Doing Business With Our Hearts by Preston Bailey (2013)

Book review: Dear Preston: Doing Business With Our Hearts: A Practical and Friendly Guide to Running Your Own Creative Service Business by Preston Bailey (Preston Bailey Media, 2013)

dearpreston

When you run a creative service business, you face a unique set of challenges. Typically you’re passionate about what you do, but you probably struggle with problems common to many creative professionals: How do I balance my talent and ideas with the demands of the client? How do I make a living with my art? What can I do to keep clients from going with my dirt-cheap competitor?

Preston Bailey, one of the country’s top event designers and a leading figure in his industry, answers these and many more in Dear Preston. In an engaging advice-column format, he offers his guidance on the questions he is asked most frequently. Preston skyrocketed to success by running his business from the heart—specifically, relying on his empathy, generosity, and trust—and here he shares that philosophy with other creative service professionals, showing how they can use it to delight customers, maintain profits, and stay true to themselves as artists.

Peppered with stories from Preston’s fabulous, celebrity-sprinkled career, Dear Preston is infused with warmth, enthusiasm, and rich experience. Whether you’re deep into your career or still just dabbling, you’ll be enriched and inspired by this heart-driven approach to selling your talent and ideas.

When I saw this book come up on NetGalley, I thought it sounded like a useful read – what with running a creative service business and all … especially since we’re highly conscientous and don’t like to bullshit people.

Dear Preston is written in a Q&A form, with letters asking for advice on a number of topics. Each chapter tackles something different, for instance one is dealing with clients, another is about finances and so on. This makes it a nice, easy read.

Preston Bailey was completely unknown to me before reading this book, but his background is that he started out as a florist and then worked his way up to event designer, and – which he points out quite a few times – he’s worked with a number of celebrities.

The name-dropping got a bit tedious for me, to be honest, because are his points more valid just because he’s done events for Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump? Or are his points valid because he’s had a few decades to master his trade and obviously knows what he’s talking about? So you’re pals with a celebrity, good for you, but as I still don’t know who you are, I’m reading your book because you’re the expert here and I’m not. I’m not reading your book because of who’s on your speed dial.

Another thing that I felt a little bit disappointed about was the heavy emphasis on event designing, and floristry (is that even a word?). Naturally, the emphasis would be on those areas, because that’s what he actually works with, but there are so many other creative businesses out there that the rest of use risk feeling left out. A lot of the advice can be adapted to the business you work in yourself (in our case, web development) but at the end of the day, it’s not a 100% transfer, and some things won’t apply for everyone.

For instance, when it talks about outlays and getting desposits and things like that, it’s not really that relevant to our business. What outlay do we have when starting to build a new website? Buying a domain on behalf of the client, possibly, which costs all of maybe £10. If the client doesn’t pay, we’ve lost time, but we’re not sitting there with a room full of goods that we can’t get rid of. Things like that.

Still, in Dear Preston, there are many valid points for any business, regardless of if it’s new or has been around a while. As long as you’re out there to do something you love and have the luxury of getting paid for it – as opposed to making lots of money exploiting your talents and ripping people off in the process – there is some very good advice to be had in this book, and I’d recommend a read.

4 out of 5 floral arrangements.

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