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Blog: One Month Later

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since launch. It has been a steep learning curve and I just wanted to share a few of my experiences about starting out that you may find interesting or useful, especially if you are starting out on a similar journey.

Stock Items

I really hadn’t appreciated the advantages of having a 15-20 item stock range in place at launch. This would have helped me start an Etsy shop at launch as well. I have found that pre-made, small items go very well on Etsy whereas larger or bespoke items tend to be easier to negotiate directly on Twitter or via Email. Had I had a range of staple items, I think I would have ‘flitted’ less between several bright ideas and late night fabric spends!

Accounts

I would have been in sheer panic mode without my accounting software. It’s free but it offers me lots of ways at looking at the figures. I have been confused by a few aspects such as the terminology used or the names of various accounts that seem to have been generated. However I have found the help service was fast, efficient and was able to comprehensively support me to answer any queries. If you want to check it out, visit Wave.

Pricing my own labour

Ah the age old question – how much is my time worth? Am I paying myself minimum wage? No. Living wage? No. Why…because it is very difficult to make someone who doesn’t do what you do understand how long it takes. Especially now we live in a world of cheap, fast, mass produced items, it has been really important to show people that they are buying something akin to art than akin to something from the high street. Which sounds exceptionally pretentious. And then we go back to the beginning of this paragraph. I have found live streaming really useful in showing people the process of my work so that they appreciate what goes in to it. Aside from that, I think for now I have to pay my dues and work from there. Tough but necessary to grow.

Illness

I had a very scary, very dangerous bout of pneumonia in January of this year. So when I started getting chest pains and a rattly feeling, I knew I was in a little bit of a bind! It took me out for a week but was luckily caught while just a minor infection (on top of damaged lungs hence it took so long). Problem is, now I work for myself…I have to be really aware that there will be times when I have to put production on hold for illness, emergencies or time with the family. Its really not ideal, as I was in the middle of three separate conversations with different people about orders in different stages! I found being honest was the absolute best way forward – none of my clients had a problem and I took myself to bed for a few days while I cleared my lungs to a point where I could work again.

Post Office

Buying postage online…what is this sorcery!? Post offices in our area are disappearing faster than White House climate change policy, so when you have to go, you have to queue…FOREVER. Therefore I have taken to printing some of my simple postage online. I can then drop it at the post office or, if its little, pop it straight in the letter box. This is very exciting stuff. I even bought little ‘FRAGILE’ and ‘DO NOT BEND’ labels to look especially official. I use recycled packaging wherever possible so its great to be able to use labels and stickers to cover over any old addresses or branding on packaging and make it look smart.

Fees

Merchant fees are a lot more than you realise! Paypal fees, card payment fees, Etsy shop fees – etc etc. I need to either incorporate this in to my client estimates (as part of P&P maybe) or account for this in other ways such as setting aside a monthly pocket of money for the fees that accrue. Realistically, because the types of work that I am doing can differ due to commissions etc, planning ahead can be a challenge as you can’t always anticipate what you will need to put aside.

Streaming/Video work

I have loved live streaming my makes. It’s great to even just have people pop in for the odd 10 minutes to see what you are up to, and I already have a few regulars who do so. It is quite laborious though and I keep feeling like I should be commentating on absolutely everything I do. I think I need to research a little by looking at other creative streams and see how they present. It may be that there is no need to have sound but a background music would be fine. Perhaps just occasional comments. Maybe just chat based communication? I also really want to get on to making some simple YouTube tutorial videos. YouTube isn’t being kind to creators at the moment so I am just waiting a little longer to assess the landscape before jumping in. I don’t want to be spreading myself too thinly.

All in all, my first month has been successful. I made a real life actual (tiny) income. I have networked with loads of other creators and learnt masses from them as well as through my own trial and error. Here’s to the month ahead! (And yes…the featured image is a MS Paint speciality. Seemed fun!)

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Pre-Launch Update 5: All the Things No-one Told You

It’s been bedlam this week. Not only am I trying to organise the arts and crafts for a big church community event this weekend, I’m also trying to finish my costume for said event and cope with a vicious series of migraines. All (apart from the migraines) are super fun things to be doing, but the first time I have done them so its been a learning process. That being said, I’m so close to launch now I can almost taste it (or that might just be fear lol!). 

At this stage of the game I’m hitting the “all the things no-one told you” wall. No-one told me there would be a delicate balance of running a business and running a home and if you got it wrong you would find yourself with no clean bedding, several (in my case) truly spectacular meltdowns and mad rushes to the shops for food, birthday presents and toilet paper. Seeing as I have difficulties in organisation and time management anyway, my husband and I have been working through some strategies to work on this including a system of colour coded post-it notes, to-do lists that pop up on my computer screen, a pin board and by streamlining all of my accounting/invoicing systems. I’m a really visual person so the more colourful things dotted around, the better really.

 

 

Something else no-one ever told me – how to price your time. I can price materials with no problem at all, but time is something completely different. Are people going to pay me minimum wage for hand sewing? Am I over/under selling myself? From my conversations with fellow makers via the Guild of Makers #makershour on a Wednesday night on Twitter, I have found this is a huge hurdle for so many people wanting to start out as well as jargon in setting up and finding your own little niche in the market. I know a good friend and fellow maker Tim Nicholls is hoping to prepare some guidance about the subject of pricing hand made items in the next month or so. I’ll point you in the direction of it when its published. If you are a new maker either as a business or hobby, I’d really encourage you to get involved with Guild of Makers to meet like minded creators and just share the ups and downs of making. You get some really good ideas and inspiration to boot.

 

 

There’s been some great firsts this week. I hit 150 followers on Twitter, send my first bespoke piece estimate, officially registered for my self-employed status and started conversations with a few people about the work they are dreaming of ordering. Fingers crossed. Not long now.  Oh and yes these photos are entirely random – just some nice photos showing a bit of my life outside of the sewing machine for your entertainment really as I don’t have much to show sewing wise today!