So what am I doing these days:
This activity has gone to the top of the list this time because the amount of classes I'm teaching has increased a lot since November and therefore it has become a more significant activity financially:
- I have been teaching quite a few sewing and pattern cutting classes at Sew Over It in Clapham, South London as well as helping them prep and test patterns and instructions (for example the new Tulip Skirt class, pictured above). It's such a nice place to work. Everyone I've come into contact with through that place, both staff members and customers, I've found to range from 'really nice' to 'freakin' awesome'! As you may have noticed in the right-hand side column of this blog, they are now one of my sponsors. This is a reflection of how supportive the owner Lisa is of her staff. However, that's not to say that it is easy-peasy work, obviously it differs from class to class but I put A LOT of energy into those classes. Helping six or seven people through a complex garment project all day, keeping momentum and positivity and dealing with sporadic technical difficulties whilst not letting anyone fall behind definitely feels a bit like keeping plates spinning whilst on stage (I'd imagine)!
- I also have a monthly 'Rework Your Wardrobe' class which takes place at Super+Super HQ in Brighton. These classes are really fun and it's wonderful to see some previously unwearable garments brought back to life. It's great to share the skills, techniques and approaches that a lot of us who have been sewing/refashioning for yonks may have started to take for granted. I also have another 'Intro to Commercial Sewing Patterns' class coming up at Super+Super. Amy and Claire who own and run this lovely space are very open to trying new classes and workshops, so I may rig up some others before the year is out. I love the freedom I have working with Super+Super, but the downside of teaching classes there is that I have to do quite a bit of organising and promoting. I'm totally spoilt by Sew Over It, where I just need to turn up and not worry about getting bums on seats!
My baby contemporary craft market is a baby no more! It is now in its third year. How quickly they grow... Since becoming self-employed, I've definitely been able to devote more brain-space to how I want it to develop and grow. Interestingly, when I very first became self-employed I really tried to put a rocket under it and even researched options for making it monthly rather than quarterly, but I kept hitting brick walls. A few months on I think that was totally for the best and I now feel its strength lies in being less frequent and therefore a more special 'event'. I may have misinterpreted feedback, but it appears to be getting a rep as one of the better, more interesting craft/handmade fairs/markets in the UK. Hurrah for that!
- My main Craftaganza tasks are still organising the actual events themselves. This year we are doing more events than previous years, so as soon as one market has taken place, I have perhaps a few weeks before I need to start it up all over again. Each event takes about three months of fairly intense part-time work, even though to the lay-man who doesn't know me, it may look like all I do is rock on up to the actual event and put some tables out and tell Pat where to hang the bunting! If only they knew... I'm not entirely sure Craftaganza is financially worth all the time and effort I put into it, but I do think we are doing good things for the local and perhaps national handmade/craft scene and by spreading the word that handmade is more special and valuable than mass-produced (which I guess is kind of what I try to do in regards to clothing with my other activities).
- I'm still firmly involved in co-promoting and co-hosting our new Craftaganza Live free creative meet-ups. These are monthly events 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. Last month's speaker was the amazing Eleanor Callaghan, designer of Etsy and Pinterest favourite label 'Dig for Victory' (one of her beautiful creations is pictured below). She's just opened a bricks-and-mortar shop and her whole story was totally fascinating. Tonight's Craftaganza Live will be featuring, umm, me! I'll be talking about my experience of starting up and running a craft market and hopefully imparting some helpful hints to sellers/potential sellers. Wish me luck, I'm really nervous!!!
Sewing and Blogging
The fact that I spend a fair bit of time sewing and blogging probably won't come as a surprise to you! But the reason that I'm adding it to my list of activities these days is because (in the very best sense) I now take blogging more seriously and no longer feel it's an indulgence to spend hours taking/editing photos and writing blog posts. My husband Pat helped me realise that I should be considering it one of my main activities, rather than just a hobby, because this blog is my calling card of sorts. It speaks entirely of my passions, skills and interests and has opened lots of doors for me. For example, I probably wouldn't be teaching at Sew Over It if I didn't have a blog that got me an invite to Lisa's book launch and a chance to put to her the possibility of teaching at her sewing cafe. Also, as mentioned above, I now have a small number of selected sewing-related sponsors that bring in an (albeit tiny) income.
I apologise for the guarded nature of this section, but it is currently too soon to disclose the details of a couple of exciting projects I've got on the go. Maybe they won't pan out, maybe they will. Maybe they will flop, maybe they will be game-changing. All I can currently say is that both are taking a fair bit of my time and brain-space.
One notable absence and lessons learnt...
If you have been paying close attention, you may have noticed that hat-making or any kind of sewing-for-money is no longer on this list of activities. I shall explain... The run up to Christmas was totally stressful. I know it is for most people, but I felt properly snowed under (excuse the pun) with organising the Christmas Brighton Craftaganza market, organising and teaching classes, rigging up some 'Sales For People Who Hate Selling' talks, making stock for some craft fairs I took part in, co-organising and promoting 'Miniclick-aganza' which was a combined photography and craft Christmas party (don't ask, surprisingly it was carnage!) and doing extra shifts at the hat-making job. I knew it was going to be a stressful time, which always has detrimental effects to my sleep, but I thought I saw an end in sight.
I took a couple of weeks off over Christmas to visit friends and family, although I was still sleeping very little. I thought that things would start to balance out in the new year, but they didn't. I had to immediately start organising the Spring Brighton Craftaganza, and the number of classes I was scheduled to teach amped up. For some reason, orders kept flying in at the hat-making business so things didn't let up there. I was struggling to spend time doing the things I love (like sewing and blogging) and I was becoming a physical mess. I actually have a draft of half a blog post saved I tried to write at that time (it was written at 3am or something when I was going through a phase of insomnia). It's such a pathetic mess of garbled thoughts, it helped me realise something had to give.
I think if you are self-employed or freelance, there is a compulsion to 'make hay whilse the sunshines' and push yourself to do as much work/take on as many projects as you possibly can for fear that there will be a dry period just round the corner and you'll be thankful you made as much money as you could when you had the chance. Although dropping one of my income streams was going to make things tricky financially-speaking, I had to take one thing off the pile of activities if I was to get some sleep and leave some brain space for the other things I want to achieve this year (including the mystery projects). So I chose the hat-making as the thing to let go. It wasn't an easy decision to make because my boss is really lovely. But I kind of got to the point where it wasn't much of a challenge anymore and as the one thing that wasn't self-directed, I didn't feel as invested in it. Plus it involves working longer hours for less money than teaching does!
So apologies if this post has gone on a bit long! I'm going to publish a kind of 'Part 2' to this post next Wednesday that will be more directly useful if you are thinking about becoming self-employed/free-lance yourself. Not that I'm any kind of expert, or have even done a particularly good job of being self-employed in the last six months, but I think sharing my experience and some extra info may be beneficial to others.