I've written and even spoken pretty openly in the past about my reality of being self-employed and trying to make a living from my creative and sewing related endeavours. I've been meaning to write an update on the subject for ages. There's been a fair bit written in the sewing community of late about bloggers who make money from sewing, and whether or not their blogs should or shouldn't be used to promote their money-making activities. Sadly, I don't have a fraction of the time I'd like for reading blogs these days so I'm not fully versed in all aspects of the debate. However, reading Karen's fascinating recent post and all the interesting comments that followed, I found it surprising that there was such a clear opposition from some to sewing bloggers making money from their passion.
I don't have the energy to wade in to the debate right now, but I'm certainly not about to stop mentioning things that are related to my income if I feel they may be of interest to some of my readers. For example, if I'm teaching a class on how to Copy Your Clothes (which I am, BTW), for you to decide that it's a class you'd like to take to expand your skills, you're going to need to know that it's happening. And if I've developed a sewing pattern to sell and you're into sewing, how can you decide if you want to buy it if I don't tell you about it and show you versions already made? I respect the emotional intelligence of my readers to engage with and/or enjoy the parts of my blog that interest them, and to click away when it doesn't feel relevant to them.
Plus, I can't help but feel that a significant number of people would like to make at least part of their income from their hobby, so my assumption is that at least a handful of people who read my blog will be interested in me writing about my experience of this. Indeed, from the comments I've received from all those posts in the past, quite a few people are interested in that as a subject, and some even pondered how I'm going to juggle those things with a baby/child on the scene. So here goes...
The main reason that it's taken me so long to write a self-employment update since becoming a mum is that things have been in pretty constant flux. It's only after a year that I feel that things are starting to stabilise for long enough to have a status quo to write about. It's been a hell of a learning curve, in every respect, and it's been both the most amazing and the most difficult year of my life. The majority of the difficulty, I can now see, was perpetuated if not caused by my foolish assumption that I could achieve just as much with a baby as I could without one, with absolutely no additional childcare. That and a lack of sleep!
Before Dolores was born, Pat (Mr So Zo) and I decided that we would undertake all childcare ourselves until she becomes eligible for the free 15 hours per week that all three year olds in the UK are entitled to. That decision was based on a mixture of what we felt would be best to create stability for her, as well as necessity as we live prohibitively far away from any family assistance, and we couldn't afford additional childcare even if we'd wanted it.
This year has been a constant juggling act. We are always negotiating with each other about what time we need, work-wise, and when we can take the baby. At times Pat has had to work full time, so has been around very little during the week and I have had to cram everything I've needed to do into nap times, evenings and weekends. There has been very little family time, to be honest. But I have plans for that to change in the New Year. So what have I been working on?
The majority of the money I bring in is from teaching sewing classes. Which is fortunate because I LOVE teaching sewing stuff. I literally get paid to talk about my favourite subject for hours on end with lovely, engaging people who want to learn and enjoy themselves. The downside is travelling. For financial reasons, we had to move from Brighton to a cheaper town on the South Coast which has made it harder to get to the schools I teach in. But it's fine, time to myself sitting on trains is pretty welcome!
Currently I'm teaching at:
Tilly and the Buttons HQ in West Dulwich, London.
Currently I'm scheduled to teach a Coco workshop, a Francoise workshop and some Copy Your Clothes classes. Check out her workshops page for details here.
The Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, London.
There are plans in the works for lots of classes next year, and currently scheduled are an Emery dress class, a Renfrew top class and a Sureau dress class. Check out their classes schedule here.
Badger & Earl in Chiswick, London.
The new kids on the sewing-cafe block, I'll be teaching a beginner's dressmaking class for making a pair of child's PJ bottoms. Check out that and the rest of their range of classes here.
Sew In Brighton in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex.
As soon as I moved away from Brighton, I picked up a job in Brighton. Genius! Anyway, I can sometimes be found here teaching beginner sewing classes and my very own 'Rework Your Wardrobe' class. Check their extensive list of class options here.
You may have noticed that I released a sewing pattern a couple of months ago! The Dolores batwing pattern has been selling steadily and it's been thoroughly wonderful to see other peoples' versions start to pop up on the internet. I currently have no plans to release any more patterns, but never say never! However, please remember that I have also designed two other sewing patterns which are available here FOR FREE.
See the beautiful poster at the top of this post? That's the artwork advertising the latest craft market event which takes place at our usual location of Fabrica Gallery in Central Brighton THIS WEEKEND!!!! If you happen to be in the South East of England and at a loose end, this event won't disappoint.
From a personal stand point, I've found this year's event much easier and more enjoyable to organise. After the ridiculousness of organising last year's double weekend market around the time I went into labour and then with a tiny baby, I decided more hands were needed on deck. This year I have shared the organisational responsibilities with my super talented friend/jewellery maker Kirstin, and brought in my event-organiser friend Claire to inject some energy and creativity into the decoration.
'Hey Baby Yeah'
For some unknown reason, when Dolores was about three months old, I decided to set up a little baby wear range. Actually I think my reasoning was that I wanted to be a seller at craft events, not just an organiser. Maybe I wanted to spend more time sitting down! (Not that I sit down as a seller, BTW.) Anyways, I developed a simple range of three products: dribble bibs, jersey trousers based on the ones I'd been making for Dolores, and washable breast pads for boob-feeding mamas. Some of my products can be found in my Etsy shop and I've been really enjoying selling at a few craft fairs here and there.
I've met and 'e-met' some wonderful people through having this blog, it's my favourite outlet for self expression (aside from sewing itself) and it has opened up some great opportunities as well. It's been the source of so many good things for me, particularly since I became self-employed. I don't feel I currently have sufficient brain-space to write as often or as in depth on certain topics as I'd like to at the moment, but of course I'm not apologising for that! I'm blogging when I can, and not feeling pressured to do so. Plus, FYI, I'm going to continue organising Me-Made-May for as long as the sewing community wants it to go ahead.
As I mentioned above, it's taken me all year to figure out that I can't pile on the projects and plans like I used to. I used to get a real buzz from having my fingers in lots of metaphorical pies, and plotting and scheming new angles of income. Now I have a child though, I (perhaps unsurprisingly) find it very stressful having lots of things on the go at the same time. With limited attention and energy left for work, I'm worried I'll miss something or end up doing it half-arsed.
So I have vowed to have a new approach next year. Looking after Dolores is my full-time job. Teaching sewing classes is my part-time job. Anything else is extra and must only be undertaken if I am sure it's not going to add unnecessary pressure. Let's see how that works...