Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Self-Employment Update

As you may already know, a bunch of months ago, I rather suddenly became self-employed. Some of my super-sweet readers have expressed an interest in hearing how life as a self-employed person is panning out. So here is a little update of where I find myself several months into it...


Brighton Craftaganza

This aspect of my self-employedness is currently at the forefront of my mind because our next craft and handmade market is looming close and I am eye-ball deep in the organising and promotion stages. My activities include:
  • Writing and scheduling posts for the Brighton Craftaganza blog, in particular there are lots of 'Meet the Seller' interview posts at the moment to give visitors and other sellers an opportunity to learn more about the people who will be selling their work at the event.
  • Co-promoting and co-hosting our new Craftaganza Live free creative meet-ups. These are monthly events (we just did our second) to provide opportunities for local creative types, very often designer-makers, to meet, have a drink and a chat. Each event starts with a talk by a member or members of the crafty/handmade scene about their work, business and inspiration. Past speakers have been Amy and Claire from Super+Super HQ and TheBigForest
  • Pat and I have also created a workshop called 'Sales for People Who Hate Selling' which we have presented for a room full of designer-makers interested in improving their face-to-face sales technique in time for the festive selling period. The first date sold out of tickets super-quick so we lined up another which takes place this week. 


Teaching

You may well have seen before on this blog my announcements for the 'Introduction to Commercial Sewing Patterns' class and Vest Making sessions that I've been teaching at Super+Super HQ. Both have been going well, but some more attendees wouldn't hurt! I just freakin' LOVE teaching sewing and pattern related stuff. I get to talk to lovely people for a few hours at a time about the subject I am most interested in and get paid (a bit). In the New Year I plan to expand the range of classes I teach in Brighton at S+S, including a clothing alteration and mending class which there has been call for recently I've found. 


I have also begun assisting with a pattern cutting class at Sew Over It in London. In the New Year I will be teaching that Intro to Pattern Cutting class solo, alongside a 40s Tea Dress class (pictured above) and a Trouser Making class. It's pretty fabulous working at Sew Over It. It's a beautiful space with all the equipment you could possibly need, and cake in abundance. 



Hat-Making

The local sewing machine repair man Richard (who shared a heap of his knowledge in this post) who knows everyone in Sussex with a sewing machine, domestic or industrial, phoned me up shortly after the TRAIDremade studio closed down saying he knew a woman who was looking for a part-time machinist. When I became self-employed my income dropped to basically zilch so I contacted her with haste. 'That woman' was hatter Jill Corbett, I went for a trial and now I work for her between one and three days a week. 

Generally, I make her pork-pie (pictured above), fedora (AKA Snatch) or trilby styles in leather, canvas or moleskin using mental-looking industrial machines. It's been a real education learning how the pieces go together. I'm still getting used to making the leather ones: thick, tough leather really doesn't want to become a 3D shape! All her hats are made to order for specific customers across the globe. 

Random fact: milliners create hats for women, hatters create hats for men.



Making Stuff to Sell

This is quite a small category of activity because I'm not taking it super-seriously. Basically, I've been making lots more of the recycled wool mittens I made last Winter to sell at a couple of craft fairs on the lead-up to Christmas. I'll be sharing a stall with my mate Kirstin at this event and I'll be present (and hopefully festively tipsy) at this festive selling soiree at Super+Super HQ.

To be honest, I get a bit jealous of the sellers at all the craft fairs I visit and organise. Plus, having been thinking lots about selling due to the 'Sales for Peops...' event Pat and I have been working on, I thought I'd give selling a whirl this festive season. I won't, however, have a stall at my own event. I've learnt that at Brighton Craftaganza I need to be getting people inside the venue and checking all the sellers are ok (and eating sausage rolls), which doesn't fit well with trying to man your own stall and concentrating on making sales. I'm really excited to be the other side of the table and putting into practice the techniques I feel I've learnt. I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, and if I don't sell many, I'm all set for Christmas presents to give!!! 


Conclusion:

Being self-employed is wonderful but really hard work. I kind of imagined it would be both those things of course, but until I was actually living it, it is impossible to actually visualise how my new life will be. I thought I worked a lot when I had a full-time job and organised Brighton Craftaganza, blogged, sewed and made patterns on the side. But now I find myself working even longer hours; there is no cut-off between 'work' and 'being at home', especially after the acquisition of an iPhone, even though I have a desk space where I theoretically can walk away from. It's confusing knowing what task I should be concentrating on and when with no-one else to ask. Plus, taking time to plan for the future, even just a couple of weeks ahead, can kind of get forgotten. I'm trying to improve in these areas though. 

When I announced my self-employedness, lots of people left comments of their own experiences of redundancy and/or setting up on their own and their financial concerns. I can totally relate to many of these now. I'm making very little money right now, but I have two things I am very grateful for: 1) I live in a country that (currently, just about) has a welfare state that provided Pat and I with some housing benefit assistance that helped us out when we needed it most, and 2) Pat's recent book has been doing well, and he received a royalty cheque that meant we can keep a roof over our heads and food on the table for the foreseeable future. PHEW.

So, thanks masses to everyone who wished me well when I wrote about all this stuff previously. I'll get back to blogging about pretty dresses and refashioned T-shirts soon, promise!

26 comments:

Scruffybadger said...

Zoe, this is fascinating, so interested to get a glimpse into your self made self employment. It sounds like you've got so many opportunities that you're throwing your positive energy into....that's a fantastic attitude to have and I'm sure it'll see you through to success. That, and your humumgous skills- fancy sewing hats being added to your repertoire!!

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Way to go Zoe!!! It IS hard to be your own boss, having to impose your own structures and set your own deadlines. Sounds like you are doing really, really well! I'm suffering a bit from income depletion syndrome too since going self employed, but it is SO worth it. Money isn't everything eh :)

NAAN POCEN said...

You have a good attitude about it too. Good for you and good luck! http://stellulastyles.blogspot.it/

Kirsty said...

Sounds like things are going well! Yay!

tialys said...

Sounds like you are manically busy but enjoying it too. If I still lived near Brighton I would be signing up for your classes like a shot - that tea dress looks super cute.
Good luck with your craft show - it will be really interesting to be on the other side of it but I'm sure you'll get it all organised.

Donna said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I'm glad you're able to keep your head above water and stay positive. And that's so cool that you're working for a hatter too! I didn't know know there was a distinction between a hatter and a milliner, but it makes sense, just like a tailor and a dressmaker/seamstress I suppose. :)

Kestrel said...

Interesting to hear how you're getting on and sounds like you have some exciting stuff coming up. Good luck!

katherine h said...

Thanks for sharing all of that in a post. Hopefully the process of being self-employed gets a little easier in time. Good luck on your continuing journey.

Jane said...

I never for a minute thought you'd be sitting around twiddling your thumbs Zoe, so it's great to hear you've been getting some bits of paid work as well as doing what you love. Good luck my love! x
ps. fascinating milliner/hatter fact! x

Christina said...

Thanks for sharing this! I can relate to that so well. Especially getting my priorities right and not forgetting to plan ahead are my favorite challenges about being self-employed.
I love having a part-time job where I get my tasks served on a silver plate for that reason (and for the social contact and for the money)...
Keep your head up: there will (hopefully) always be a way!

Tors Grantham said...

Wow, you are busy! I love this post, it's really interesting to see how another self-employed person's life is going and how it all fits together. I hear you on the always working front, I'm always sat at my computer now so I always feel like I'm working. Day off, what are those?! ;)

I hope it all goes incredibly well for you, you've certainly got the drive, passion and skill to make it work for you and I'm loving the different pies you've got your fingers in, I'm sure that makes it all much more interesting! Good luck with the Craftaganza!

Tilly said...

Ooh Zoe, this is all so exciting! I can imagine it can't be easy juggling all those plates, but if you'll allow me to extend the analogy, they are beautiful, handmade plates, rather than Tesco plates printed en masse in a soulless factory by mistreated orphans. Erm... not sure if that makes sense, but the point I'm trying to make is that you are boss and you are contributing so much value to the creativity of the world and making it a more beautiful place. Hurrah! xxx

Kay said...

You go, girl! It's very much like you to go find all those opportunities lurking around and show them what Zoe is made of!

Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your life! Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Tasha @ Stale Bread into French Toast said...

Sounds like you've got a lot of things going, which is a good way to be, you never know which one will turn into something really great.

I was just thinking last night that being self-employed may mean that I'm still working at 10pm, but it also means no one can tell me I can't have a beer while doing so - in other words it's a hard life sometimes but a good one! I hope it continues to be so for you guys, congrats to Pat on the book, that's awesome!

EmSewCrazy said...

Thanks for sharing your self employment journey! It's nice to know I'm not alone and it takes awhile to get things figured out and make ends meet. I find myself making endless lists to keep myself focused on what to do next. I also have a huge calendar on my desk so I can scribble in upcoming events and deadlines.

Wish I could hop across the pond and visit the Brighton Craftganza. Sounds like an amazing time!

I don't know how else to tell you so I hope I'm not breaking some blogging etiquette or something but I have written a post about how you and your nautical refashions have inspired me. http://tumbleweedsinthewind.blogspot.com/2012/11/those-who-make-smooth-sailing.html I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for having a great blog!

Crab said...

Zoe, you're awesome! You have so many exciting things going on. Thank you for the exciting and honest update about how you're doing with self-employment.

Adrienne said...

Holly guacamole Zoe, you are amazing! As ScruffyBadger says, your positive attitude is probably my favourite part of this post. I look forward to seeing your projects and your blog grow!

Phil said...

hi Zoe, I was one of your original commenters as my husband had just been made redundant too. We set up our own business as well, and I can very much relate to the fragmented nature of self-employment as you describe it and the lack of boundaries between home and work. I have now set up separate email accounts and try only check work emails before dinner and never on a Sunday! But to be fair our business is not as creative as yours. Btw those hats are AWESOME! & you are getting so much transferable experience in organising as well as making. Well done you X

Meg said...

Zoe, congratulations on all the opportunities you have created for yourself, for juggling all these projects and deadlines. It is fascinating to read your frank but positive update. Only yesterday I spotted on the Sew Over It website that a Zoe Edwards would be running the trousers workshop and wondered whether it was you.I am toying with doing the trousers or the tea dress class so hopefully I'll meet you soon. Good luck Meg x (ps a newbie p-t milliner rather than a hatter)

velosewer said...

Zoe, it's great to see that you're doing lots of things and doing lots of the things that you love too.
What you're doing to create a new life for yourselves is wonderful.

Amy said...

I'm so glad to hear that, though hard work, self-employment has generally been good to you. You definitely seem busy! I have every bit of faith that your talent will take you great places!

gingermakes said...

Glad things are going well! Hope they continue to get better and better for both you and Pat!

didyoumakethat said...

Zoe, you are basically my heroine. You have faced so many challenges over the past few months and you've more than risen to them, you've knocked everything into the back of the net. Yes, you have done amazingly well and I can see your work ethic is so strong. You've found work, organised fairs, got married - you know, just a few things!!! Stayed sane! You're brilliant.

jessica said...

Ah, I was just thinking about emailing you and asking how things were going and if you wouldn't mind sharing, but it looks like others have beat me to the punch! Sounds like a lot going on, but in a good way. Just curious, what do you do with all the garments you post about on Fridays? Given your penchant for a pared down wardrobe, I can't see you wearing all of them.

I know that I, personally, wouldn't mind a regular installment, every now and again, of how self-employment is going for you. In some ways, I find it just as inspiring towards the movement that (I believe) you are contributing to, as the refashion ideas that you post regularly. Many of us might not be at a point where we step out of employed-by-others, but cheering out friends on as they go through it makes it just that much less intimidating to contemplate for ourselves, some time down the line. I believe we all have causes and inner creativity within us that we wish we could pursue, or wish we had the courage to pursue, but sometimes what we need is to see that it is doable. And, of course, we all want to cheer you along as you go!

anne82 said...

I really admire your guts to be self employed and the way you practice it!
I love the tea dress, is there a pattern avaliable some where? Since i live in the netherlands, following the class is not really an option, sadly.

Zoe said...

Thank you all so so so much for your lovely and supportive comments. It really blows me away by how lovely the readers of my blog are.

xxxx

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