In Part I of this series I broke down how many hours it took to design and publish Soundside. In Part II, I dug deeper into the number of patterns I would have to sell to cover the related expenses and then pay myself minimum wage and a local livable wage for the hours put into it. At the time I hit “publish” on that post, I hadn’t even covered my expenses, let alone earned anything.
In the last 7 days I have managed to sell a couple more copies and have officially covered the expenses for Soundside. So at least I’m not longer working for free. I’ve now made $7.20, or $0.16/hour.
Again, I acknowledge that this is an over-simplification of the indie designer income and equivalent hourly wage, but it’s still very telling—any way you slice it, I put in 43+ hours of work on a project and the immediate compensation for that work was . . .dismal. You can appreciate the privilege that comes with being able to invest time in work without immediate results—our family does not rely on my income, so the pressure for fast payoff is lessened.
Still—time spent on work is time spent away from my family, away from what some would consider my household duties as a wife and mother (let me tell you, my house could be a LOT cleaner), and valuable knitting time spent on samples rather than personal knitting (although those things do sometimes overlap). Is it worth it?
A calculation that is perhaps a better picture of the overall situation would be (monthly income - monthly expenses)/work hours—but it is not much of an improvement. Using that formula, my monthly wage in April was about $3.50/hour. In March it was $2.25. In February I earned an absolute king’s ransom at $8.75/hour. For the entire year 2018 I averaged $4.15/hour, which I believe is what I made as a part-time trainee at the movie theater in 1996, when my expenses were gas, car insurance, a pager (yes!) and whatever social life I managed to have.
This is not sustainable, which I’ve previously discussed here. At the end of the day, I may need to face the fact that there are simply not enough people interested in my patterns to sustain this business. That’s just the way it is. Obviously no one’s obligated to buy my patterns, and while I greatly appreciate the loyal customers I have, I can’t keep designing just for them.
But if we don’t need the money, can’t I just do it as a hobby?
For some people, that may be an option.
But for me, it’s not.
For starters, I’m missing out on the things mentioned above—family time, personal knitting time, housekeeping (which I could probably continue to deal with). And while we do not rely on my income to sustain our current lifestyle, earning a decent second income would allow us to make some changes we’d like. Traveling to my husband’s home country, Peru, more often—JJ is 6 and we’ve only been once. Perhaps sending the kids to Catholic school when they’re older, which we’ve considered. Doing more summer camps and sports and extra-curriculars for them. Pursuing more interventions for Ollie, who has 22.q deletion syndrome—insurance covers much, but not everything we’d like. We have an entire room in our that is empty—presumably it was a formal living room for the previous owners, we’d like to make it into a library/study, but can’t afford to furnish it.
And equally important, at least for me, is that while I love designing patterns, there are aspects of the job I don’t enjoy. I hate messing with charts and trying to make them work for all sizes. I detest going to the post office to mail out samples and prizes. Emailing people when they fail to pay me makes me so anxious. Dealing with rude customer emails is so frustrating. And it’s painful to watch a design I put hours and hours of work into flop.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that a fair income can help the good outweigh the bad in pretty much any job. In a job you hate, all the money in the world might not be enough to keep you from quitting, but doing a job you love might not be enough to make up for terrible pay either.
As I announced in October, I will continue designing through 2019, and will also continue to work on expanding my customer base and diversifying my income streams, with the fervent hope that things will work out.
I’ve put a number of years into design and feel like I’ve paid my dues. But looking at these numbers, it’s clear that unless something dramatic changes between now and January, I’m going to have to move in a new direction in 2020.
Some things just aren’t meant to be.