Making money out of what you love
by Duncan Reid
It’s a scenario we think many of our readers are familiar with; That gnawing sense of restlessness as you squeeze yourself onto the train for yet another commute into an office that fails to excite, with people that you’re only polite to out of social necessity and for the sole purpose of paying the mortgage. Or it could be that the final chimes of the Golden Retirement Clock Presentation – seriously, does anyone still give those out these days? – have died away and you’re still looking for ways to be actually doing stuff and don’t reckon yourself ready for the scrapheap just yet?
So, listen up. I’m going to utter a phrase that might just make you raise an eyebrow.
Arts & Crafts. Yes, that’s right. You could be on the verge of turning a hobby, passion and your hard-won experience into a new, nice little earner. What’s more, ventures started by the over-50’s have a far higher survival rate than those started by 20-something millennials.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking chintz and home-made greetings cards here. Not that there’s anything wrong with those but did you know that up & down the UK, there’s a growing band of designers, makers & crafters who have turned their previous skills into some awesome sales of forged ironwork, electronics, stylish electricals, paint, photo, print and I even spotted a light sabre on one platform!
With it being a year of furlough, tribulations and reflection for many, what better time to start up a hobby-based side gig, so let’s take a look at what you’ll need to get started.
Being your technology correspondent, you can be sure that we’re going to be selling your creations online but that’s not the whole story so let’s just stop and think about a few things.
There’s nothing better than earning some money from your hobby business. It makes all the hard work worth it and it pays for more supplies & gadgets! As part of choosing your sales platform (we’ll come to that), you might need a Paypal account to link to your online shop but they don’t all ask for that, Etsy, for example, runs its own payments system and deposits directly into your bank account.
But if you’re planning on also selling in the real world at craft markets or collaborative spaces (Top Tip: There are lots of marketplaces springing up where you can rent space with onsite staff looking after customers in return for a small cut – a great way to get your wares out there) then you might want to get a little card reader. Paypal do one linked to your PayPal account but take a look at iZettle & Sumup too. And don’t forget insurance, you’ll need it at many events, but it shouldn’t break the bank.
Once you’ve started making a few quid, you’d better not forget about the TaxMan. He’ll want his cut if you make it into the big time but don’t worry when you’re starting up there’s a tax-free trading allowance so the first £1000 you earn is tax-free – you don’t even need to report it but do speak to your local accountant if you’re going to go over this.
Design or make?
We know you’re a talented lot so the only real question is not what but how? And that only matters in terms of where & how you sell your creations. Because for designers who love to be creative but don’t want to hold stock and have to deal with Joe Public, there’s a great solution in the wonderful World of POD.
Print On Demand is where a third party uses your design and looks after printing each item only as & when it’s ordered and then sending your share of the price tag into your account. It’s great for designers who love to see their designs and photos on anything from mugs to cushions to phone cases.
Start off by creating a store on one of the big platforms, they all have different rates and audiences so feel free to experiment and don’t forget, few of them demand exclusivity so experiment across a couple of different ones and see where you get the most sales. Check out Redbubble.com & zazzle.co.uk to jump straight in or join in the discussions at reddit.com/r/printondemand/
One of my favourite makerspace communities is in the heart of Liverpool’s fabric district at doesliverpool.com. DoES standing for Do Epic Sh*t! Unless they’re talking to straightlaced journalists in which case it becomes Do Epic Stuff! And it’s well worth checking out the makerspace communities close to you. It’s a growing movement and could get you access to electronics test benches, massive laser cutters and CNC machines that are great fun and far larger than you’d be able to wangle at home. Unless you’ve got a huge man cave in the garden, in which case we’re jealous.
Such collaborative spaces can be a great way of accessing community & equipment but whichever way you create and make stuff, you’ve got to think about where you’re going to sell it online.
Everyone’s favourite destination for a spot of alcohol-fueled late night shopping. (Did I ever tell you about the time I ‘accidentally’ bought a projector for my PC. It was big enough to light up a theatre stage. Oops.) But whilst you’ll certainly get masses of views and some people do sell their own creations on there, you’ll be competing with all sorts of tat and price-wise, it’s often a race to the bottom. Potential but exercise caution.
The big kid on the block for anyone selling handmade items, art, collectables & vintage. Like most platforms, they’ll charge you a listing & sale fee but some sellers have been put off recently with additional mandatory fees for online advertising. Etsy says this is optional for most sellers and can actually boost your sales. Massive range & massive reach. This is the platform that’ll get you seen around the World – better make sure what you’re doing is unique though or you’ll be one amongst 124,000 other plant pots…
If you’d prefer a more UK-centric flavour to your sales then don’t overlook Folksy – it’s like Etsy’s smaller, politer, British niece. Based on the edge of the Peak District and we’d bet that it’s only the finest bone china in their offices. They’ve been around a while and like Etsy, have a great community, although with a less international feel. But if you make tables then you probably don’t want to try & ship them halfway around the world anyway. Kickstarting your shop with them gives you three free listings so see how you get on!
We like to give you some choice so take a look also at the smaller numonday.com, based in Glasgow with a nice, quirky feel and no sales commission or the new kid on the block, MadeMe.co.uk who rely on Facebook for their community hangout rather than their own forum.
But don’t forget, you can set up shop in as many different locations as you like so don’t be afraid to try them out – do get in touch to let us know when you make your first sale and send us a picture of the creation process. We want sparks, lots of sparks!
Words By Duncan Reid, a self-professed Internet Geek earning a living in the virtual World when not advising on cybersecurity & information.