Hobby or Business? How to Decide.


How do I turn my hobby into a business? How do I sell my art online? Should I open an Etsy store? These are some of the questions asked all the time by creative people. The decision you make can be difficult and confusing. This may help you figure out what's best for you and your art.

So you have a "thing" you make and you love making it. People tell you it's great and ask to buy one. They tell you with great authority, "You need to sell these online!" It sounds so exciting and professional. You can't help but start dreaming. Maybe you'll be the next greatest thing in the craft scene. Yes!

We can't help ourselves

Creatives are truly the original serial entrepreneurs. We LOVE to solve problems. How can I get rid of these scraps? I could make a rag rug! This could be easier if I made this widget. This place looks drab, what do I have that I can update and enjoy again? I'm not binge watching all three seasons of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. I'm embroidering quippy sayings to sell!

Mastery is the balm of perfectionists. Multiples are relaxing.

We've got some crazy busy minds. We revel in the infinite combinations of fabric patterns and colors. If you're like me, as soon as I start one "thing", I can't wait to do it differently the next time; "Oooh! What if she wears a cute hat the next time?" Multiples are great for our voracious creative appetites. The mastery involved with doing things 100 times can be the balm to our "what if this one is not perfect?" anxiety. We can get better with each iteration and it feels so satisfying when we have one tweak that speeds the process up by 2 minutes. It's all part and parcel to our awesome, creative brains. If we have so many to do, each one can be better than the next. That's good. It's therapy, really.

We need affirmation

Yes, we do. You know nothing feels better than someone exclaiming, "That's amazing! You're so creative and clever!" It's the crack cocaine high that counteracts our constant feelings of not belonging in the "normal" world. We really want it. If people notice and, better yet, buy our "things" then we are valued. We are okay and special. Even better, if people buy enough, then we get to be creative all over again. The gears can keep turning and we are truly content, even if it's a slightly co-dependent contentment.

We need motivation

Having deadlines and shows to go to are great motivators for production. It's kind of invigorating, isn't it? We feel like we're alive and have purpose. We complain about being up until the wee hours of the night finishing 50 "things" for the weekend's gig, but it's part of the great battle cry of creatives. And we love to be a part of that army of doers.

But not everything you do has to be a business

You know, you don't have to turn that "thing" you love into a mass produced, marketing giantess of a beast. It's okay to just make that wreath for yourself because you want to try a new technique. It's perfectly fine to make your Christmas gifts every year and leave it at that. You can make that felted bunny for your sister as a gift and not worry about how much time you spend on each one (hours) and calculate the cost and in what markets this would sell. You can sketch in your journal without turning it into a marketing strategy. You can paint one tray without planning how you would turn it into a mass produced item. Sometimes, it's okay just to let it be a thing for the joy of making and celebrating your brilliant mind.

Being in a craft business is not for everyone

Turning our craft into a business can encourage us to overcome our fears and learn to be confident. You will be joining a huge community of smart, talented people. You may be the solution to another person's as-yet-unsolveable problem. You will learn, through sweat and tears, how to work through your own problems and learn new skills. It will make you smarter and stronger. It will teach you how to collaborate. It will teach you how to communicate better. It's a Big Deal and it's hard, but it may be the best thing you ever do with your life.

This "thing" you do may be a business or it may just be a special card for your mom. Both are equally important. And it's up to you to figure out what makes sense for you and your art.

Good news from a serial entrepreneur

I have spent a lifetime making my "things" into a business. I was designing stationery at 6. I was making making logos for my jeans at 12. I was selling friendship bracelets in high school. I was offering up my resume design services in college. Everything I've done has been for sale because doing things for a purpose motivates and challenges me. But there have been times when I lost my love for art in the process. After running my stationery store for 7 years, I didn't even believe I was an artist any more. I was just a smiling robotic servant to my customer's styles wants and needs. After 20 years of graphic design for others, I was pretty dead inside. It took a while to redirect that and start making again for the love of making. But I did it. I also found some other creative loves (like writing!) while giving my graphic design freelancer brain a rest. So, there is the good and the bad. But really in the end, it's all good.

You won't make a bad choice.

Deciding is difficult, but I like to remind people that no step in any direction is permanent. It's the act of stepping forward that is key. You can start getting into a business and realize that it's not you're thing. You can pause for a little while longer and jump in later when you're feeling braver, or more stable or more free to do so. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your gut. Know if you're hesitating because you're afraid, and work through that. Or honor your intuition if it really doesn't feel right. Nobody can tell you that but you. Just start today.

If you're needing some guidance on whether you want to be in a craft business or just want to make your things and be happy, join us online and sign up for the newsletter to know that you're not alone.

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