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To Sell (Out)?

At the open mic night. | Alice + Olivia Jacki Dress

     For the last 6 years or so I've been very into New Year's resolutions. I like them to be specific, light-hearted and not time-bound (other than within the year) so that you can't have already failed in February. For me, the resolution is usually something that I already want to do but reinforces that it should be prioritized for that year.  Past resolutions have included: start a blog (check), perform at an open mic night (check), learn to sew (check), take a kite surfing lesson (check - turns out kite surfing is not for me) and last year's was: do a pull-up (half-check - I've been getting much stronger and am now able to do one chin-up). 

    One of the resolutions that I have been mulling over for 2022 is to try selling something that I've made. I had a full closet before I ever sewed my first piece of clothing but I don't plan on stopping sewing anytime soon. I like making things as a way to tap into my creative side, have fun and relieve stress. If I keep sewing in order to reap those rewards it makes sense to send items off with other people who might like them, instead of letting them sit unused or infrequently used in my closet (and assuming there are any other people out there that would like them). 

    I've been mulling over the specifics: should I make gifts for people and not charge anything; if a sale should be to a stranger, since I have some nice friends/family who would probably just buy something from me; should I let a friend commission a piece (maybe they pay for the fabric and I'll make them a garment)? However, the current front runner is: have a booth at a craft fair (or if that really isn't achievable because of whatever state the world is in later this year - do a sale through Instagram)

     I could be wrong but I think most smaller craft fairs in the US are open to anyone who will pay the booth fee. That way I don't have to set up a website or drum up business. I'm thinking of doing it toward the end of 2022. That gives me all year to sew the items for this booth and figure out things like pricing, and I'd think the holidays are a prime time for craft fairs. Obviously this may end up being more time and trouble that it is worth, but at least then I'll have tried it and know that, definitively. 

      Relatedly, when I first starting thinking about the idea of selling things I made, I was curious I was simply succumbing to a pressure in our society that the next stepping-stone after passion should be profitability. I read a Vox article last year that spoke to me, in which the writer talks about learning to ride a skateboard in his 30s and how it was a perfect hobby for him because, basically, he would never be good enough to monetize it, so it was allowed to just be an enjoyable learning experience. I've pull-quoted a paragraph, in which he starts by saying that sometimes when people talk about finding their passions...

    "We dress it up with language like “talent” and “passion,” but it’s only capitalism trying to maximize productivityThis sort of pressure has inevitably bled into our leisure time. It’s not enough to clock in and earn a paycheck; we need to have side-hustles and passion projects...When we think about getting into a hobby, we’re inundated with guides to The Best Ways to get into them, or cautioned against making Beginner Mistakes. When it comes to learning something, there’s a push to fast-forward through the awkward learning bits, or better yet skip them entirely. How can you possibly make any money off of your passions if you aren’t any good at them?"

     Obviously, there is nothing wrong with maximizing productivity, but I'd hate for something to make my hobby less fun and feel like less of a hobby. I'm not too worried that one craft fair will do that, but just wanted to pass the article along as I've been thinking about hobbies vs side hustles a bit. 

     If you've been in a similar position with your hobby, what did you do? Anything you are resolving in the new year?

2 comments

  1. This post hits close to home! For years I've heard "you should consider making baking your career" and I'm so glad I didn't. I love it as a hobby, but know I would hate it as a job (the odd hours, the risk, the narrow margins, etc.). I don't have any personal advice as I didn't pursue it, but I do have friends who own small businesses and they almost universally regret not charging enough for their products starting out. I think it's really easy to undercut yourself, so be sure you're properly pricing out your materials, labor costs, and skill (because your expertise is part of the reason someone would pay for something!). Best of luck!

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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