Posted on Leave a comment

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!)

Posted on Leave a comment

Blog: The Monday after the launch before

Well I wasn’t sure what I expected on launch day but nearly 250 hits on the website in 24 hours certainly slightly exceeded whatever I had in my head. First and foremost I want to thank everyone for an amazing first week. Although not much has been sold as such, I’ve gained around 100 more followers and am starting to build the brand up. All of my branded packaging came through this week as well as my gift vouchers too. They look so professional and I am simply thrilled with what Bison were able to do for me. 

I have really enjoyed broadcasting my crafting on Twitch and beginning to connect with fellow crafter’s using that medium. It’s also a nice way to keep a record of what I am doing without bombarding social media with photographs. This was particularity the case with the Abe piece that got a lot of attention through this joint medium. I also did a quick make of a children’s bow tie as well – very much liking the quick make concept so this might become another good live feature. When the summer holidays are over, I will definitely be able to commit to more in the way of a definitive schedule. 

Knowing where and how to sell pieces is the bain of every makers existence from what I can gather. From pricing makes to selling websites, it can be very difficult to find where the right place is to sell without getting stung on fees or tripping over regulations. I’m leaning towards Etsy as it is THE place for handmade items but getting noticed in a busy marketplace is quite a challenge. Definitely one to keep working on and researching. 

I got some new machine sewing patterns this week in a sale which I hope to have a practice of and add to my repertoire. Some are simpler than others so it will be a case of when and where I have the time available to actually sit and devote the time and concentration space to do this properly. It also helped me recall my hatred of pattern cutting (why is it so cumbersome?!). I need to win the lottery so I can build a big extension with a huge luxurious cutting table instead of using my floor I think!

This week I am very busy but hope to do some quick and small pieces to add to the collection that is available from stock. My thinking is that this will be the best way to open an Etsy store and then if any commissions arise, I can slot those in very easily. Once again, thanks for all the support and for keeping up with the blog. I’m excited for everything ahead, but I often wish there were more hours in the day to get it all done. If you have any tips for staying organised, I’d love to hear them in the comments. 

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Pre-Launch Post 4: Working out the finer points

There hasn’t been a blog this week for a couple of reasons but mainly because its been 30+ Celsius all week long. I didn’t fancy adding to the sweat patches by poring over a hot computer and I was too tired and flustered to sew!

 

 

That being said I have had some awesome deliveries this week. The lovely team at Jaycotts sent me these beautiful patterns which I love and can think of so many ways of working with. I may use some of my scrap box to make some mock ups with as I think buying any more new fabrics at the moment wouldn’t be advised. Its a difficult balance to have enough to show what you can do while at the same time not eating every penny of your savings. I don’t know yet what people will and wont like so I’m trying to be sensible with my outlay.

 

 

 

 

 

I also went hunting on Ebay for more remnants which turned up some lovely Zelda and Pokemon fabrics.

I also got a generic ‘gamer’ motif with a game boy style picture but I’m not sold on the fabric it is printed on. Going to have to think carefully about what that will suit. I must also diversify my subject matter a bit. Always far too tempting to buy ‘safe’ fabrics or patterns!

The Aztec style Zelda print will be used to up-cycle a lampshade which is looking good so far and has been quite a discussion point on Twitter this week.

 

I’ve also been ironing out the finer points in the admin department too. Terms and Conditions are now finalised. I’m waiting for the stationary to go to print as my husband hasn’t had a spare moment to set it all up but its not too urgent (yet!). I’ve started building a pricing structure and have considered a few more product lines as well which is good progress. One of the final steps will be formally registering as self-employed after my contract finishes on 21st July. I’ve been doing some fantastic networking with fellow creative minds via the Guild of Makers chat on a Wednesday evening on Twitter using the hashtag #makershour. I’ve had a lot of insight and support from fellow creators (business owner and hobbyist alike) and I’d really recommend that for anyone with a creative mind. Some of the talent out there is staggering and gives me a lot of ambition.

I’ve a very busy few weeks coming up including a church fun day with a Star Wars theme. The costume is nearly finished so I will show you my creation when it is done. We also have multiple weddings, birthdays and summer meet ups to come so a good work-life balance will definitely be essential. Don’t forget that you can now subscribe to the newsletter to get a monthly digest of makes, competitions, coupons and more. I also have my Patreon running now and would love any support there as an ongoing subscription or you can donate a one off gift via the Amazon Wishlist. All this will help me during my start up period where things are going to get legitimately crazy I think! I also need to plan my first live Twitch Creative stream as I can’t wait to get that off the ground. I do need a second camera for that though and some sort of contraption to dangle it from! If only there were more than 24 hours in a day!!