No don’t tell your boss he has coffee breath and a bad comb over, especially if you are self employed.

Being a stay at home mom, like thousands of other women, I’ve scrambled for ways to make extra money.  Some run home daycares but I’d rather be a bouncer at a biker bar.  Others continue on part time at their old jobs but that wasn’t  possible.  There are home parties but I couldn’t sell ice in the desert.  What did that leave?  I read through the books on at home jobs.  The typical advice seemed to be to go with my talents and passions.  Unfortunately no one was willing to pay me to watch sci. fi., eat natchos and hang out with my girlfriends.  During the early years of motherhood my husband traveled a lot as well as upgrading his education so I found I spent a lot of time alone.  As an outlet I began to sketch, refinish furniture, and make jewelry.  When I started to ask people for ideas as to how to make money I received encouragement to sell my jewelry.  “Oh did you make that? Where do you sell? Oh I love that.” I learned later that compliments don’t necessarily correlate to sales but that bit of wisdom came with experience.

I started making jewelry and selling at craft fairs.  Sometimes I made a few dollars and other times I paid the entrance fees only to have dismal turn outs and poor sales. Throughout the years I have sold baskets, earrings, pendants, sculptures and even papier mache sculptures.  The question is, did I make any money?  There is a lot to consider if you are going to try this.  Are you going to sell at fairs, through stores, or online?  The markets either charge a table rate or a commission or a mixture of both. I found the best ones are the commissions so that for the organizers to make money they have to work at advertising.  I made the mistake of doing one house sale where there were only four other sellers and a grand total of 6 customers as the rather flighty lady had neglected to advertise except by a recipe card posted at the local market.  She got her fee in advance and was happy to sit back. One of the worst I remember was a certain bead and jewelry show that had a $400 booth fee. An artist traveled from the Interior of the province, paid for gas, food and an overnight at the hotel and only made $170.  She ended up being out hundreds of dollars for the privilege of giving away her jewelry. Ouch.

To sell you need to invest in ways to display your wares, packaging, business cards, marketing material and stands.  You also have to create enough products to sell. What you do not sell can become a costly investment and leave you with a drawer full wasted materials and time.

If you are going to sell retail they will either take your work on consignment or buy it outright.  Once again if it is on consignment you tie up a portion of your inventory, and the store owner is not as invested in displaying your wares. Selling outright is the dream.  That requires a fair bit of door pounding. The other way is online either through your own website or a site like e-bay, etsy, or artfire etc. To run your own site you pay for the site design and web hosting, and have to maintain it.  You need to be continuously photographing your pieces to update the site. This all costs upfront and ongoing money. To sign up with one of the other sites costs money per post and possibly a commission per sale. The good part is that you do not need to carry excess stock. Unfortunately you do not get the impulse buyer and then you are involved in shipping and methods of payment.

You also have to consider the costs of the materials, the marketing products, the time in manufacturing and selling, and fees. Do these equate to what you can make? What about incidentals like gas, parking, food while on site, classes to learn techniques, books, and sometimes accomodations.  When I sat down and did the math I realized that between the different materials (clay, findings, clasps, chains, gold leaf) and tools (dremels, mold, textures, buffers, sanding paper, finishing)  and marketing info. like business cards, card stock for the individual pieces, bags for each item, the time, and the fees, I was giving up my evenings and weekends for little profit or to break even.

Bottom line:You have to honestly account for all of your expenses.  If you are not making a profit after your costs then you may be indulging in a hobby rather than a business.

Now I hold a couple of private sales a year or do commission work. When people ask where I sell I tell them I can’t afford to sell as it costs too much.  I will continue to do my sculpting and rug design for exhibition work and education because I love it but as far as a money maker, unless I am sure of my costs versus my profits, I am further ahead to stop working and save money.  Now where are those nachos? Oh cool, a Godzilla marathon on the Space network.

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Comments on: "Stop Working and Save Money" (4)

  1. Thanks for writing this Deb.I have been pondering many of the poinst you have written about and you also included a few things I haven’t thought about. I have displayed at a craft show in over 4 years and when I was doing them I rarely made much profit. I was condsidering attendign a single show this year but have decided its not worth my time and effort. I have however created a Facebook page in hopes to sell some of my boxes. I know this will require work to share it and update with pictures. Intially I will focus on local sales so I avoid shipping costs. The one shop where I do show my work is on comission and the shop is very quiet and I make infrequent sales so its definetly not worth it for me.

  2. pennypinched said:

    I hear you. I think you are rather brilliant in setting up your Facebook page. You are getting the word out to people specifically interested in your work, you are keeping your cost down by having web access for free, and you can keep your inventory low because you have photos of past and current stock. People can custom order pieces based on what you have produced. No wasted materials for you.
    For me I do one show a year at my mom’s house. It is one day, Nov. 24th, for four hours. The ladies that make the effort to come almost always buy. I don’t pay rent or advertising or commission. The ladies bring their friends and some collect my pieces. Through this I started selling baskets as well as jewelry. I used the baskets to display the jewelry but the baskets sold first! I now have baskets in Beirut and Abu Dabi. Having it around the same time each year makes it tradition and the place I reveal my new line for the season. I am doing one craft fair this year on Nov. 17th as it is at my son’s school and only cost $20. The funds go to supporting orphans in a village solely supported by the school so it is a win/win. I will see how this goes, but as always the goal is to have our profits beat our costs. Best of luck. You do beautiful work.

  3. Very interesting, and well timed, post, Deb! I’m in this very process of wondering how to start a business and what is the best way to go about it…or to even do it at all!
    PS> have you ever considered teaching through Continuing Education? I don’t know if there is a good profit margin there, but I think you’d make a fun teacher! 🙂

    • Good for you Lori-Anne. I know I have tried a lot of things based on what I could do but hadn’t taken the time to see what it would cost me. Sometimes I hit he profit column but too often I ended up not even sure, after all the real costs, if I broke even. Supplies are only the beginning of the costs if you are pursuing a crafting business. I’d love to talk to you about your ideas and maybe we can find an angle that would give you the maximum profit potential.

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