Happy new year, happy new newsletter! It's time to kiss the 2010's goodbye as we soar (hopefully spectacularly) into a new decade.
To kick off 2020, I'm talking about what happens when your hobbies become a business. I'm sure anyone who dabbles in an art or craft has heard the line 'you should sell these!' at some point. It's really rewarding to see what was once a past time for you be purchased by a stranger, but making your personal work public for all to see can be challenging. I'll be sharing with you my top tips for making the shift, and how to cope with losing your hobby.
Coming up this month: changing your hobby from personal to professional and new prints!
Losing your hobby
When I was first building up my Etsy shop back in 2016, it was really just a fun experiment. I printed out some photography zines in my school library, took a few photos and popped them online. Much to my amazement, I actually sold a few! I wasn't exactly rolling in the money, but that wasn't the point. I had taken some photographs and wanted to share them, it didn't really matter if nobody liked them.
Flash forward to today, when I'm printing products on a larger scale there's a bunch of factors to consider. How much is this product going to cost? What profit will it make me? Will anyone actually buy it? The sales figures didn't mean much to me when I was selling £2 zines, but once you start investing into professional printing the costs start to spiral very quickly. With each product released it became more important what people were going to think about it - would they want it on their wall at all?
I've had a few misses with products this way, where I thought it would be fun to draw but didn't consider whether there was a market for it. It's no fun investing loads of time and money into something that doesn't sell. It's here you must accept that your work is a job and no longer a hobby. What you produce matters to your clientele. A good way to think about it is to split yourself in two: you're the manager and employee of your own business. The manager sets the briefs while the employee comes up with the creative solutions. The employee is great when it comes to getting the work done, but only the manager knows whether something will actually sell.
Set some working hours/ boundaries
One of the key differences when your hobby becomes a job is time management. When you're sketching in front of the TV it's a fun activity to wind down after work. When sketching is the work you suddenly have to do it to a high standard consistently for eight hours. The best way to manage this is to do what offices do: give yourself working hours. It doesn't have to be a nine to five (mine looks more like ten to six), but try not to work outside of those times. It's easy to get a bit excited when you're doing your hobby full-time, but the overworking soon takes it's toll.
I spoke about this a bit in newsletter 06, but scheduling out your time is super important. Even little tasks like going to the post office or writing social media posts can quickly get lost, especially if you're working on a big project.
It's also a good idea to set some 'work boundaries' that you might not have had before. For example, you'll want to have a separate email for any work stuff that you only check inside work hours. No one wants to be stressing about online shop orders (or a lack of) when you've clocked out!
Dealing with criticism
Sticking with the boundaries theme, it can be really difficult to process any criticism towards what was once only made for you. Think about it: if someone you knew knitted a toy dog and you insulted that toy dog they'd be pretty upset. They spent hours on that dog and had a damn good time making it! If that dog was suddenly on the shelf in Selfridges (we can dream) the criticism would be entirely justified. If no one likes the dog then that would be a lot of money wasted to manufacture it... okay, I'll stop it with the dog analogy, but you get the idea.
If you're working for someone else, there's always a certain level of detachment - after all they're paying you for every minute you sit at that desk. It's the same mentality when you're getting feedback from clients or customers. Looking back at my shop in 2016, it had a long way to go in terms of products and posting methods. My heart always sunk a little when an item didn't sell well or a parcel didn't get to it's buyer in one piece. But it's only by getting this feedback I was able to improve my shop and tailor it to my customer's needs. Your work's never going to be perfect, and there's always room for improvement if you're open to it.
Find a new hobby
If you're struggling to stop working on your newly found job outside of those work hours we set earlier, then there can only be one diagnosis. You need to find a new hobby. I'm all for catching up on a bit of work on the weekend, but if you've spent all of your time off... not taking time off... you probably need a distraction. I faced this dilemma last year, when illustration went from being the thing I did on the weekends to the thing I did five days a week. What do I do now? I've lost my fun end of week activity! After several months of crisis, I've got some suggestions:
1. Learn a language
This may not sound like a very prolonged activity at first, but languages can be life-consuming if you let them be. It's pretty established that learning anything new requires regular practice. I often fall into the trap of relying on five minutes of Duolingo to fulfil my French practice for the day, but it's only when I dedicate an hour or more of practice that I really notice some improvements. Whatever level you're at with your target language, there's loads of books and videos out there you can use for practice. I started by watching YouTube channels like InnerFrench, made specifically for beginners/intermediates. I then moved onto Netflix shows, meaning I could easily spend an hour or two watching whilst translating any words I didn't know. You can easily loose a Sunday morning practising languages, and reap the rewards amazingly quickly.
2. Gardening/houseplant keeping
It takes a certain level of motivation to tackle a garden. When you first look out into that vast wilderness of over grown nettles and grass the possibilities seem endless. I've never actually done a gardening project myself, but it's always looked like a great way to get some exercise whilst tending to your nursery of baby plants. If you don't have a garden and an allotment sounds like too much effort, houseplants are a great substitute. The joy I get from keeping a houseplant alive is honestly difficult to put into words - there's something so satisfying about watching them grow up, moving from pot to pot until they eventually have plant-children of their own. Sometimes you just need something to look after.
3. Join a class
This is probably going to be the most cliché item on this list, but having a regular class to go to really breaks up your week and gives you something to look forward to, especially if it's mid-week. There's options pretty much everywhere, it's just a matter of seeking them out. If you're looking for something more solitary, going for long walks in a new area is always a good way to kill some time and make new discoveries.
New prints released this month
It's been an exciting month for the shop, with four new prints being released! First up is two new additions to my London Borough series: City of London and Newham. It brings the grand total to ten posters now complete in the thirty-three print series.
Next to launch was A Guide to Drinking Twenty Spirits and Liqueurs, the latest in my line of alcohol posters. It features twenty spirits and a breakdown of their glasses. Each spirit has a description of its taste, ABV (alcohol by volume) and possible cocktails you can make.
Last up is A Guide to Twenty Dog Breeds, featuring twenty dogs and their personality, size, country of origin and group.
It was lots of fun researching for this month's prints - I can't wait to see where they end up!
Some stuff I’ve been enjoying this month
See you next month!
- Georgina :)
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