Etsy has this long-running series of articles on their site called “Quit Your Day Job”, where they highlight stories of Etsy sellers who have become so successful at their Etsy business that they’ve been able to quit whatever day job they had and focus just on their handmade business. By my quick count, there are at least 165 articles in this category that resides within their Seller Handbook repository.
When Etsy was still young and up-and-coming, and even today, this series assured handmade artists everywhere that if they worked hard enough, they too could quit that pesky day job and become a full-time creative.
While I recognize the importance of demonstrating that a creative business is attainable (even if focused largely on using their own platform), I’ve always felt like the “quit your day job” theme strayed a little too far to one side of the scales and neglected to acknowledge the diverse types of healthy handmade businesses. And I fear that a lot of makers looking at that series might feel like that’s the only end game worth pursuing for a handmade business. Start on Etsy, get a enough sales to grow, expand a little, then build a business that can support you and your family so you don’t have to work at a pesky job any more. While this is true for some, it’s a deceiving daydream for others.
Running a handmade business, especially doing it full time and supplanting the income that a day job provides, is hard, hard work! What frustrates me about this series of stories is that they’re too often focused on having arrived, and ignoring the blood, sweat and tears that were shed in the name of starting, building, and relentlessly pursuing that maker’s handmade business goals.
They also belie the continued hard work to keep that business going. “Success” as implied by quitting your day job is a rosy, happy place—those who achieve it have “made it” in the eyes of Etsy sellers, and the truth is that there’s a lot more to it than hitting a single editorialized milestone.
The truth of the matter is that handmade businesses are as unique as the people who run them. It’s a spectrum, not a cut-and-dried path to success. There’s no be-all, end-all solution to selling your handmade work and scaling to a defined end goal. Your daydream is YOURS to define, and yours to pursue.
Side note: that’s precisely why we at Academy of Handmade identified four distinct maker business types and developed a quiz to help you identify what maker business type you currently have and what type of business you want to build. If you haven’t taken the quiz to find out your business types for yourself, head over to academyofhandmade.com/quiz (It’s free!)
Let’s get back to daydreaming. There’s nothing wrong with letting your mind wander to the could bes and want tos, the wishes and hopes you have for your lifestyle and even your business. But wishing and hoping only gets you so far—you must act. Daydreams are all well and good, but you can’t dream your way into a handmade business, just like you can’t dream your way over to the grocery store. You have to get dressed, get out the door, and go there.
In the end, you may not actually want to quit your day job, and that’s okay. But you SHOULD quit your daydream and start taking deliberate steps toward achieving your goals. Your daydream isn’t going to come to you.
Episode Guest: Nicole Stevenson
Nicole Stevenson is an illustrator and artist at Nicole Stevenson Studio, writer, teacher and creative business consultant as well as the co-founder of Dear Handmade Life, Patchwork Show and Craftcation Conference. Her path includes time as a street artist on the Venice Beach boardwalk, costume designer, DIY workshop instructor, co-founder of a non-profit that produced art shows benefiting charities, owner and designer of Random Nicole (an art-inspired clothing line carried at over 250 locations) and owner of craft workshop studio and retail store: The Craft Kitchen. She has a BA and MA in creative writing and is currently working on a nonfiction book about her adventures in creativity and entrepreneurship. When she’s not working, you may find her breaking up scuffles between her dog and chickens, couch crafting while watching a film she’s seen too many times to count, playing guitar with her husband, sitting in her backyard with good friends and a margarita while playing Cards Against Humanity, or squeezing in time for a quick trip to a lovely place where people are scarce and trees are not.
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