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to think it's not really possible to make a decent living from handmade/crafty-type businesses?

(149 Posts)
Tinklewinkle Tue 12-Apr-16 11:57:03

I really enjoy making stuff - knitting, sewing, anything that takes my fancy really.

I've made things for my home, my kids,, as gifts and as favours if people ask me.

I recently made an appliqué cushion for a friend to give as a gift, and off the back of it, I've been asked if I'd like some stalls at some of our local festival/fayre events over the summer.

I'm really proud of myself to be asked actually as the standards at these places are quite high, so as a confidence boost/feather in my cap I'm really flattered, but I'm just not convinced that once I've accounted for the cost of materials and my time, people are willing to pay the true cost of handmade products.

For example, the appliqué cushion - a couple of hours, at the minimum wage, plus a few quid for fabric, plus a cushion pad, we're looking at £20-25.

I recently made a clock and a mirror for my living room, people who have seen them have been really complimentary about them and suggested selling them, but again, by the time I've accounted for materials and time are people really willing to pay £££ for it - I had an old pallet, plus an old mirror and paint already so cost wise it was less than a tenner for a clock movement on eBay, but they took a few hours to made, and I won't always have access to free wood, an old mirror, etc. There are similar on websites like Etsy for £90/100 ish, but it just seems way too much to me - which is why I made them myself in the first place

So, AIBU to think, yes, it's a lovely dream, but when push comes to shove you can't make a proper living at it?

SoupDragon Tue 12-Apr-16 12:00:12

I agree. People simply don't value the time needed to hand make things so are unwilling to pay the true cost.

SoupDragon Tue 12-Apr-16 12:01:34

I think the only way you can make it work is to write large portion of the time off as just being "enjoying your hobby" rather than paid work. However, a career it aint!

There are exceptions I guess but you need to find the right market with people who are prepared to pay/

WorraLiberty Tue 12-Apr-16 12:01:38


Facebook is full of that sort of stuff in selling groups. I really don't see how anyone could make a decent living.

Shoxfordian Tue 12-Apr-16 12:05:20

I agree it'd be difficult to run a proper business making an income but the fact that you've seen similar items on Etsy for £100 implies someone must be buying them for that money.

Maybe set up an account and see or go to the fairs with anything you happen to have made and see what happens. Nothing ventured etc.

OrangeSquashTallGlass Tue 12-Apr-16 12:06:57

Craft fairs etc can make money... for the person who's organising the fair and getting paid by you for a pitch/table.

Really though it is possible to make a wage from it but I think only if you turn it into an actual business. I did etsy etc for a while and enjoyed it and was fairly successful but the money it bought in wasn't comparable to a 'real wage' at the level I did it.

Pootles2010 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:07:58

I'd go to one of those fairs, see what stuff is selling for. In certain areas, people will pay more, it just depends. I agree you'll not get a huge amount, but if you enjoy it, might be worth a punt. Even if just as a way to cover the costs of your materials, if you'd be making stuff anyway. IYSWIM.

RaeSkywalker Tue 12-Apr-16 12:10:24

I was thinking about this the other day. Got my brother's DP some vouchers for her 30th, wanted something nice to put them in.

She loves Alice in Wonderland so found a nice coin purse on Etsy for £5.69 with free postage (very subtle Alice-related print). It arrived yesterday and I cannot believe how lovely it is! It's lined and padded and has a decorative trim as well. I would've happily paid at least double, it must've taken some time to do as well.

I do seek out handmade items like and expect to pay more for them. I think I am in the minority though!

Moreisnnogedag Tue 12-Apr-16 12:10:25

Absolutely I agree. You should read Molli Sparkles blog on the true cost of quilting. He wrote a really interesting series of blog posts about how the cost of time and skill are completely undervalued (and how this relates to the devaluation of women's skills). He also is completely open about his costings for custom quilts and gives a spreadsheet for his projects.

Tinklewinkle Tue 12-Apr-16 12:13:08


I have been to a couple of the festivals before, and while the places are packed, I haven't really seen people wandering around with bags and bags of stuff so I do wonder just how much people are selling.

I think the issue for me is time. I have a full time job which we can't afford to give up, so with that, plus kids, and general life I don't have the time to make enough stock to sell if that makes sense. I'd have to make a proper wage out of it so it's all or nothing.

I do keep thinking about opening an Etsy account, and taking commissions. I should stop dithering and get on with it grin

Laidupwithabrokenleg Tue 12-Apr-16 12:19:48

My Mum is a very talented quilter and has tried to sell some things. The problem is that many people don't appreciate the amount of time that has gone into making the item, the cost of the materials etc, and expect to pay the same for a lovely handcrafted item as they would for something mass made. She also sells quilting fabrics, and again people expect to pay pence for them. On the other hand, my Dad handcrafts walking sticks, which I don't think are that special but a bit niche, and these sell well. Not enough to live on though.

MaidOfStars Tue 12-Apr-16 12:26:09

I crochet. It takes about 20 hours to do a baby blanket. What's minimum wage? grin I'm guessing nobody's paying for me to make a living from it! I have noticed that people sometimes have very little comprehension about what makes a project costly. For example, it doesn't take much longer to create a blanket composed of, say, twenty differently coloured stripe panels than one with a couple of block colours. But people perceive it to be more complicated so will pay far more for it. Same with a lot of stitches. The big showstoppers are easy - it's the delicate, even, unforgiving, small ones that take time.

mudandmayhem01 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:29:45

My mil is a very talented seamstress. She makes dresses, does alterations, it takes her hours and is very hard work. It supplements her fairly meagre pension but if people actually paid her minimum wage per hour worked she would have to double her prices.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:30:42

I agree- it's very difficult to make a thriving business, unless you have a shop and sell the raw materials. But then, Hobbycraft has the niche there, for many crafts.

There is absolutely no recognition of the time/cost ratio. Plus, when you make a business out of a hobby, I wonder if it stops becoming as pleasurable as it was when it was just a hobby.

whois Tue 12-Apr-16 12:31:05

I think it would be very hard to make a 'living' form it.

Loads and loads of 'mummy businesses' in the craft space. businesses never make any money when you account for time but it allows the woman to say she has her own business rather than say she isn;t working!

MattDillonsPants Tue 12-Apr-16 12:34:15

I have friends who do make a living but they're very talented...and what they make is really art more than craft. I think if you obsess and work VERY hard...12 hour days...then you can make a living. But you need to be excellent with social media and a good photographer too.

shovetheholly Tue 12-Apr-16 12:35:39

I wonder if it's easier if you tout it as a bespoke service. So you essentially are designing an item specifically for a person/room/situation.

I can imagine people paying more, say, for a design that is personal and where they have been heavily involved in the design stages. Of course, this would require prepayment in whole or part.

KeyserSophie Tue 12-Apr-16 12:38:37

I don't think many people can make money after accounting for time, even at NMW. However, I think people can clear a profit on the cost of the materials and so can increase family income and that is their rationale for doing so, especially if it's really hard for them to WOH due to childcare costs/ partner works shifts or long hours etc.

BarbaraofSeville Tue 12-Apr-16 12:40:10

YANBU. Unless you can find people willing to pay for quality handcrafted items who can see the value over mass produced items, its always going to be a hobby that earns a little money rather than a job.

Some of the people doing this as a business will be topped up by working tax credits, but once the expectation that they earn minimum wage kicks in, that won't be possible any more.

Well it will but it will be assumed that they are earning minimum wage for their minimum required hours, rather than them being able to say that they earn £40 a week or whatever.

mudandmayhem01 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:42:35

My mil also does the sewing for some very fancy scarves which are sold in the places like the V&A or the Design museum. The designer and the museum makes a lot of profit whilst my poor mil earns very little.

queenofthepirates Tue 12-Apr-16 12:46:09

If you go into doing alterations and repairs, you can do very well is some areas of the country; where I live, there's a shortage. You can charge £8-12 for turning up jeans which takes 5 minutes so there's good money to be made.

MaidOfStars Tue 12-Apr-16 12:47:18

I reckon if you can lever your product into the wedding industry, you could turn a fair profit.

Brides be crazy.

SixtiesChildOfWildBlueSkies Tue 12-Apr-16 12:50:34

It is possible but you may need to widen your range OP. So, rather than just make the items, run workshops on how to knit, sew crochet etc, this is where the biggest part of my income comes from, in the work I do.

I charge X per hour plus materials and travel expenses. It's slow to begin with, and you do have to persevere, but once your name begins to be known it does pick up.

As for Craft fairs, they're useful in terms of you being seen by potential workshop customers. Have plenty of business cards to give out, and use the time to 'sell' yourself and your work.

mudandmayhem01 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:52:12

Maybe mil needs some business advice, I don't think she is on here ( we get on well, she would be shocked by mil threads!) might get her logged on.

Spandexpants007 Tue 12-Apr-16 12:53:03


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