As I’m contemplating a crafty business, I run into the same obstacle I have run into before in an erstwhile moment of enthusiasm in which I attempted to start a soap-making business with absolutely no resources (but that was the least of my problems). In my opinion, the biggest obstacle in a successful craft business is this: can I sell my items at price at which I could conceivably make a living wage?
Of course, I don’t expect to be able to pay myself much or anything in the beginning, nor turn any kind of profit at first. I know I can’t just go quitting my day job, the question is ‘could I ever?’ If I try to steer my life in a craft-business direction, I will have some very interesting choices to make about the value of my free time, the value of yarn money (business and personal), the value of working at home and being my own boss, and the value of my benefits package from my current office job.
Presently, of course, those things are kind of irrelevant since I haven’t launched anything yet. But they are in the back of my mind as I look at what items I could make and sell, and how efficiently I could do so.
The soap-business experience made me extremely cautious about having any craft business. It’s not that I had a bad time of it. I sold a few hundred dollars in soap in just a few months, which I felt good about as a little side-business. And I dutifully paid my sales tax under my vendor’s license. I was very proud to follow every bit of protocol and labeling requirement.
But I quickly learned that to make the kind of beautiful and unique soap that I enjoyed making, I could not streamline the process enough to make a real profit unless I paid myself (the value of my labor) absolutely nothing. This was fine for a college experiment, but no good for a career in the real world. (Professional soap-makers, please understand I mean no disparagement of your business enterprise, I know there are more efficient soap-making methods than mine that create soaps just as beautiful, it’s just that my methods at the time were a business dead-end.)
Since those college days, I have been promising myself that some day I would think of a better plan to have a craft business that I could make actual money at but that wouldn’t end up causing me to compromise my vision nor make a favorite craft incredibly boring through repetition. I am working on the latest scheme now, and my dear sister has offered to lend me her knitting machine so I can start a new business-experiment.
With all this in mind, I ran across a timely tidbit in the Ravelry forums. It’s a tongue-in-cheek listing for a pair of handmade socks at a realistic price (she also has additional musings on the subject of selling handknit wares on her blog). I had to smile. That’s exactly the kind of calculations I get wrapped up in. Let’s just say that selling hand-knit socks is definitely not one of my plans…