I spend a lot of time crocheting and knitting, particularly toy animals for charity (have a look at my other blog here). But I’d never thought of trying to sell the things I make until recently. Partially because I didn’t think anyone would actually pay money for the things that I make, but also because I didn’t want the faff and scrutiny that comes with having a business (it’s taken a year but the student loan company are finally satisfied I’m not frauding them because I no longer have a job, for example).
A friend asked me to make a rainbow Unicorn for a colleague who’s big into LGBTQ things. I had a look for patterns online but couldn’t find anything that I liked or matched. Having spent the best part of a year making animals, I decided to design and make one anyway- most animal patterns start the same and have similar shapes in, so I was able to do this quite easily based on what I already knew. After I’d made it, I posted it to Facebook, like I always do, and a lot of people asked me if they could buy one. Which got me thinking ‘hey, maybe I could make some money from this!’
Except you can’t just (or shouldn’t) put things online that you’ve made and sell them. I’m well aware that lots of people do break the rules and sell without doing the ‘proper’ things, but that’s really not me- I like following the rules. With the help of my mum, I registered with the HMRC, completed the testing and risk assessments I needed to do in order to be able to sell toys (like the unicorn), sorted out some insurance and a few other necessary things, and, this week opened up an Etsy shop.
Here’s the link to it if you’re interested in having a look:
It’s a bit tricky to start off with because you can’t really sell anything until you have reviews- I know I wouldn’t buy anything that hasn’t got reviews- but you can’t get reviews until you sell something. I’m not sure how to get around that yet. I have sold things, like unicorns, to people, but not through Etsy yet, hence no reviews.
Setting up as a small business took a bit of work, but that’s why I got my mum to help. The advantage of being a small business alongside having a chronic illness is that I can do things at my own pace. If I have a bad week, I just don’t do anything to maintain it for a week, or mark my Etsy shop as me being ‘away’ so that people know to expect longer shipping times. If it gets too much, I can walk away and close it down quite easily. Yeah, I’ll lose sales but health is more important. There’s no pressure basically. But it does mean that I can earn a bit of money which will help pay for some of my treatment (not all of mine is available on the NHS and costs me about £250-£300 extra a month). Some people might think ‘if she can do that, she can go to work’. Wrong- I’ve been sitting in my pjs crocheting anyway, and I like making simple things like snowflakes at night when I can’t sleep because it calms my anxious mind, I’m just selling what I’ve already been making, rather than me having a million snowflakes to make my home a grotto. This is how many I made in 2 weeks, crocheting when I can’t sleep, when I was having a particularly rough time:
And I have help with the admin side. How many employers do you know who let you take naps, food breaks, go to the toilet millions of times a day and take 2-3 days to complete something that most people can do in 2-3 hours? Oh, and turn up as and when you feel like it? No one.
It also gives me a bit of a boost. I can tell acquaintances I meet at events that I have a small business rather than I’m unemployed due to sickness. I can say I design and create things. It gives me a bit of pride back. Even if I don’t sell anything, I can feel a sense of accomplishment that people are viewing things I’ve designed and made. All of these things are important for self esteem, which is something that’s really hard to be positive about when you’re unwell and unable to do things for yourself.
So I don’t know how successful I will be, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. I don’t want to be the next Apprentice or look to expand my business. I wanted to do it for me 🙂 .