I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning around my business lately. Not about patterns and KALs and sales, but about the business as a whole. Specifically: is it viable? Is it worth my time to continue this business, or would my time and energy be better spent on something else?
This is something of an involved question: surely there’s more to get out of a job than just money? Yes, I hope so. But while I love designing patterns, it’s also a lot of work (some of which I don’t particularly enjoy, like grading or translating charts into written instructions, for example) and expense (tech editing, sample knitting, software, website, etc.). Would I get as much enjoyment out of simply designing things for myself when the mood strikes? Perhaps.
Yes, I want a job that’s rewarding and enjoyable, but I also want a job that is worth all the time, energy and investment.
So today I decided to crunch some numbers and see what I’m actually paying myself vs what I should be paying myself. This isn’t an exact science, but here’s a rough picture:
Current work schedule:
M-F: 1.5 hours/day = 7.5 hours
Sa: ~7 hours
Su: ~4 hours
TOTAL: 18.5 hours/week
Some weeks I might work more—if we have both weekend days free of plans, for example—and some weeks less, if my kids have school holidays, so 18.5 seems like a good average.
Assuming I take 4 weeks of “vacation” each year, that means I’m working roughly
18.5 hours/week x 48 weeks = 888 hours/year.
Am I earning a “paycheck” that’s worth those 888 hours?
I looked at it three ways: based on the current minimum wage in my state, the widely proposed federal minimum wage, and the estimated livable hourly wage for my state and county.
(Ignoring for a moment that skilled handcraft should definitely be paid more than the bare minimum!)
· Current Maryland minimum wage = $10.10/hour
o Estimated income/year: 888 hours x 10.10/hour = $8,968.80
· Proposed nationwide minimum wage =$15/hour
o Estimated income/year: 888 hours x 15/hour = $13,320
· Current estimated livable wage for Montgomery County, Maryland = $16.81/hour
o Estimated income/year: 888 hours x 16.81/hour = $14,927.28
And guess what? I’m not even making the lowest number on this list, let alone the highest.
What prompted this exploration is that next fall (assuming Ollie can transition to Kindergarten on schedule, which is not a guarantee), both of my children will be in full day school. That means I will be able to work something closer to a full time job—9:30 - 3:30, more or less, or 30 hours/week, in 6 hours chunks each day, not a few hours in the morning, an hour in the evening, a few more hours on the weekend, etc.
So I need to decide whether it makes any sense to dedicate those ~30 hours to pattern design, or if I should focus on something else—specifically, translation, which is flexible, fairly paid, and I can do from home.
If I’m already working nearly 20 hours a week and not making even minimum wage, it seems rather unlikely that I’ll be able to do significantly better working 30 hours a week, right?
On the other hand, if I could earn a decent income through pattern design, I would be much happier doing that than translation work.
The trouble is, I have been actively working to increase my income for the last 2 years and have seen steady but slooooow progress. At the current rate, it might be another decade before I’m paying myself a fair wage—and who knows what will be going on in the fiber arts industry by that time.
So, with 2018 rapidly disappearing, here’s where I landed:
1 more year.
I have 1 more year at home with the kids, so I will give my baby—MediaPeruana Designs—one more year (plus a few months just to round out the calendar) to become a viable business.
If I’m not earning at least minimum wage by the end of 2019, then I close the book on this chapter and start a new one.
This is not a decision I take lightly—I love owning my own business, the creative work, and connecting with knitters—but I also need to be practical and consider what’s best for my family.
And for me. Aside from the money issue, to be honest, watching designers who’ve worked in this business for far less time than I have become “famous” while my sales hold steady at a trickle and my patterns hover around a few hundred Ravelry hearts is a bit demoralizing. They’re being invited to teach at VKL and doing meet-and-greets at Rhinebeck while I’m struggling to find sponsors for a knit-a-long. In the long term, I cannot continue to pour my heart and soul into a business that may never succeed. Just because I love it doesn’t mean it loves me.
So, another year.
Now, I need a game plan: concrete steps to take to try to increase my income over the next 14ish months—both to increase sales and decrease expenses.
More on that next time!
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