“So what do you do for a living?”
“I am a handmade business owner.”
*Blank expression* “What is that?”
“I make quilts and sell them”
“Isn’t that just a hobby?”
Now that’s an uncomfortable situation many of us handmade sellers would try to avoid due to our peace-loving nature. 😉 But there are times when we have to stick up for what we do. We have to be let known that we mean business and are in it for the long haul.
Yes it is a hobby, but not just one. Making a business out of your hobby is tough. Pursuing a hobby means engaging yourself in an activity of pleasure in your leisure time. While a running a hobby-turned-business is no less than running a circus. You are the ringmaster, the lion, the clown, the trapeze artist, the elephant balancing on a ball and everything else there is to be. Finding good quality raw material, sourcing it, designing, creating, finishing, pricing, photography, marketing, selling, packaging, delivery, customer service. Phew! Even listing down these things is tiring. Imagine one person having to do it.
Let me also add that all the tasks listed above are multi-layered which means there is a lot more that goes into it than what is apparent.
All of us handmade artists undoubtedly put our heart and soul into each piece that we make, just like a hobbyist does. But we also have to ensure that every single piece is no less than perfect. Even the slightest error can mean discarding it and started all over again. Just like any other professional, we won’t sell anything without following due diligence. After all it is not only bread and butter for us, but also our brand that we’ve built with hard work and patience. We will not let anything tarnish our reputation and that of our work, something that we have put our blood and sweat into.
We have a mission, a vision and a roadmap just like any other business does. We follow ethics and values. We put our customer first, no matter what. I am saying all of this to emphasise that we do not make art on a whim. We do it when the customer demands, when there is an exhibition or art show or when we get new orders. We cannot afford to work on our products whenever we fancy, we have a strict schedule that we adhere to. Most of us running a small business have a stipulated time slot in the day for every task. Imagine how hard it is to deal with constant context switching from sales to finance to design but we still do it. Because we love what we do.
The next time you think we stay up nights, sacrifice family time and spend countless hours at our desk ‘just’ for a hobby, think again. We are doing it because we get paid for it. Don’t get me wrong, the money is not as much inspiration as our art is. But the fact that we have people paying us for our so-called hobby speaks a lot for the effort that goes in. We belong to that small sample size that gets paid for following our passion. Why, you wonder? Because we are really REALLY good at it.