Some useful advice about turning your hobby into a business, Part I
Don’t. Sorry, that’s a bit blunt. But seriously, don’t.
I suppose I should come clean, it’s exactly what I’ve done, and yes I make a living at it, but boy does it ruin the enjoyment of your hobby! And you need to find a new hobby. And work seven days a week. Forever.
In this blog, I’ll give you a potted history of how I’ve ended up doing what I do, and in part II next week, I’ll pass on some advice on what I've learnt along the way that might help if you still really, really want to do it!
Back in the 80’s I studied for a BA in graphic design and for almost twenty years I worked in children’s publishing (which I loved) but eventually I got bored of it. I moved city with my daughter and went freelance, thinking it was the office environment that I was sick of. Nope, it wasn’t. Not being someone who can’t sit and do very little, I took up crochet again and in quiet hours during the day I made scarves and shawls and got enough together to sell to some local shops. But it wasn’t satisfying enough, so I looked around for something new to learn, and found a jewellery course that was local, inexpensive and on a convenient morning. A hobby was born.
Fast forward 4 years, and I had taken an NOCN jewellery course at the local art school one day a week, rented a space in a local studio and was selling online. Whoosh! There went the hobby! I gradually gave up the graphic designing, and ploughed all my time, energy and cash into the business. And let me tell you, it costs a lot of all three of those. I had two young children, a husband retraining as a furniture designer/maker and a 7 day a week business. At this point there was no time for hobbies (or much else frankly) and I was passionate about making jewellery - I really did love it. And sometimes I still do!
Seven years ago I decided that what I really needed to do was try to sell direct to customers. I’d tried all the local craft fairs, but, in all honesty, I hated it. Mainly I hated it because at the end of the day I would feel so downcast as I sat next to someone selling her (often gorgeous) jewellery for half the price of mine as she did it as a hobby (yes, one of those) and because I did it as a business, a business that had to support my family, I was charging ‘proper’ prices. It had to stop. So I decided I needed to open a shop, on the local high street and sell direct. So with 5 other brave, possibly foolish, crafts people, we opened a shop, sharing duties and costs, and initially opening 3 days a week and using the space as a studio at the same time.
Now the shop is thriving - but it’s no longer a studio space. We all work from home or other workshops and simply use the shop as a shop! It’s lovely, and creative and inspiring working with likeminded people, and seeing your work alongside theirs, and seeing customers loving the things we produce, and occasionally buying them! It’s not for everyone, it is a big commitment, but we’ve made it work.
Meanwhile I sell online, mainly with notonthehighstreet, and my own website, and I do supply a couple of galleries now and then. I also teach the occasional workshop (at Prema Arts) and sometimes in people’s homes, but mainly I try to find time to sew. Yes, sew. My hobby. And yes I’m making a little money from that too, but I really am trying to keep that as a HOBBY. I have to remind myself of this a lot.You can check my hobby out here!
about the author
After almost 20 years as a designer in children's publishing a short silversmithing course in 2006 prompted a change of direction.
The following year I enrolled on a part-time jewellery course, and found a local studio where I could make and sell my work.
In 2009, together with five other crafts people we found a shop space to rent on our busy local high street, the gloucester road, called Fig. We are open tuesday - saturday, 9.30am - 5pm (except August).