Mei: Tell us more about you, Stacey.
Stacey: I’m Stacey and I wear a lot of hats. I run my own company called Fresh Stitches. On Fresh Stitches, I sell crochet patterns that are digital downloads, as well as craft eyes. I also run Ami Club, which is a monthly subscription service for crochet patterns – so that’s one hat I wear.
I’m also an author and teacher. I travel around the country teaching knitting, crocheting, and other crafty things. I also teach business classes at industry trade shows – that’s another hat.
I’m the creative director for Louet North America, which is a yarn, weaving, and spinning supply company. I do lots of fun things there and then I also do social media.
That’s most of what I do. Just three or four hats.
Mei: That’s a lot of things. And I want you guys to get used to Stacey because she’s one of the few friends I have.
Just to give you a bit of a background, four years ago she moved to Minneapolis and almost right away we formed a mastermind where we’re talking about everything around how to make our businesses better. We met twice a month, sometimes even more frequently than that, and we’ve been through a lot together business and personal wise. I would venture to say we’re really close.
Stacey: We’re besties!
Mei: Yes, that’s right!
Stacey: News flash!
Mei: Well we haven’t said anything official about it. I don’t want to make any assumptions there! I might think you’re my BFF, but if you didn’t that would be very awkward.
Stacey: We need one of those half-heart necklaces. I want a half of a waffle necklace!
Mei: Stacey is a super cool person and from what I’ve heard from other people, everyone wants to be friends with her! You guys are lucky that we’re having her share her experiences, knowledge, and all her stories. It’s rare to find someone who’s running their handmade craft business full-time.
Stacey: Yes, it is. It’s really hard to get advice as well because you have a lot of people who have businesses but also have a full-time job. You can have a full-time job, but if you’re not earning a salary from your business it’s hard to get advice if you want to have it as a full-time job. I’ve found it rare.
Mei: Yes, that’s right! The perspective you have from needing to make an income with your business is going to be very different from someone who’s just running their business as a part time income or hobby.
Stacey: I’ve met people who say: “I just love my business so much! As soon as I have a spare second I work on my business.” Nine times out of ten when you ask if it’s their full-time job they’ll say no. They feel completely differently about how their business interacts with their life.
Mei: Running a full-time craft business. What does it mean? It’s not all sunshines and rainbows, but at the same time it gives you a lot of freedom. You guys travel once a year and take a month off, right?
Stacey: Yes, more than that. Last week, my husband was in in Italy. We have a two-year-old so we can’t both be out of the country at the same time, unless she comes with us. Today, I’m leaving to go teach for four days. We travel a lot, some for fun and some for work, and that’s the type of flexibility I absolutely love. I love doing what I do, but I want to work for myself and have flexible hours more than anything else. I could be running a scrapbooking business or anything else – I’m not so precise about needing to design crochet things. I just want to work flexible hours. It does mean a lot to me, but at the same time, flexible doesn’t mean light.
Your turn! How do you decide what you want to do in your business? You’re making up how much you want to be doing. You can decide to start a subscription club or to put out a new product. How do you balance your time versus what you’re adding to your schedule?
Mei: That’s a hard question. I feel because we don’t have kids, I have that flexibility to just work every single hour I’m awake.
Stacey: But still, you only have so many hours. You can’t just release 10 new products this week. You’re probably doing different kinds of things in the same week, because it’s easier to record a podcast and then do some designing later, because they take a different amount of time.
Mei: I think it’s just been kind of through experience. Sometimes I feel like I have job envy, wishing I would just have a regular corporate office job so I wouldn’t have to make my own decisions. Running your own business full-time can sometimes be very hard. I’ve come to really realize that I value getting to set my own hours and doing what I want when I want to. If I want to go get lunch at the mall, I can just do that. If I want to take a day off I can do that, but it means I have to work extra hard those other days of the week.
I like to work in batches, that’s just how my brain works. I’m not very regimented and I’m also not very disciplined, so I like having kind of a free flow schedule. That means I have to work in chunks, though.
I’ve come to learn that the maximum hours I can spend creating little charms is four hours. That’s not even close to an eight-hour work day, but by the time it’s four hours I’m super tired, my body is really achy, and I just need to stop.
Stacey: That’s a really important point. When you’re making your business there are all these things you have to do and you just said four hours is your maximum for maxing jewelry. You can’t make a business that requires you to be at your desk for four hours a day. When people design their businesses they almost forget what their personal limitations are, so they might say: “Oh, it’s easy! I’ll just make jewelry for 10 hours a day and I will make x amount.” Sometimes, that’s not possible physically. If you have to also respond to emails, but you’re making jewelry 10 hours a day, you won’t have enough days to run your company. I feel like people forget about that aspect too, because there’s so much other stuff that goes into running your own business that isn’t just doing the production.
Mei: What else do you like about running your business full-time? We’ve talked about having the flexibility to do really cool things (like travel).
Stacey: There are different types of flexibility. I can take time off or I can be whenever doing most of my work. I create what I think is important for my business and then I just do it. For example, I don’t make Pinterest graphics because I don’t want to.
I’m currently reading a book, which I can’t recommend because I’m only a chapter in, but it’s called Take Pride and the author talks about how humans are always striving. We need that to survive. There are so many stories of perfectly healthy people who are making enough money at their job and have everything they’ve wanted, but they’re just so unhappy. You have to strive and do something and I feel like having your own business automatically makes you strive.
Mei: That’s a good thing to bring up, because I’ve always thought that I am an achiever, I always want to be better than I was yesterday, but you’re absolutely right that running your own business is a great vehicle for people who are like that. It’s interesting what you pointed out, a lot of people just settle and they get really comfortable in a life that doesn’t push them forward or makes them grow. That way, life becomes really boring.
Stacey: I was listening to someone on the radio from Denmark and he was saying: “We’re a wealthy country, but we have a 10% depression rate.” And he said it was because of a lack of continuing education. Most people need to keep striving to be really content, so I think a business is a really easy way to do that. On one hand it’s great. I’m doing new things and growing, but on the other hand you have to keep growing in ways that aren’t always fun. You have to do it though, unless you find someone else to do it for you.
Mei: That’s something that Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project wrote about in her book – basically how to stay happy. This was her yearlong project, just pursuing happiness. In it, she talks about how you need to keep learning and growing.
For me, I like that running a business doesn’t have a cap for how much money you can make. If you have a banking business you have a salary and that’s it. For me, I want to do cool things with the rest of my life. I want to travel around the world, but in order to do that I have to be in a good place financially. Running your business and not having a limitation on how much money you can make, makes a lot more doable.
Stacey: I have to be the devil’s advocate. The other side is, you also don’t have a minimum payment. At a banking job, usually when you show up and do your job well enough, you’re probably going to get your salary each year. You have sick days and health insurance, but when you’re self-employed you could make absolutely nothing. It depends on your personality and what you feel comfortable with. I agree with you, but I want to play the other side as well because I think more people are in that position. You’re starting out, struggling, and you don’t even know if you will make a thousand dollars this month to cover rent.
Mei: Yes, stability is definitely something that being self-employed doesn’t come with. But hey, we also have a way to make that seem not so scary. Stacey and I both run subscription products and that makes it a lot less scary. You cannot expect a certain income.
I’ve always been lucky to profit every month, but I recall a few years back I had one or two months during which cash flow was negative and it was very scary.
Stacey: Yes, but it’s also that, for example my husband can’t do anything else to make more money. Let’s say we really want to go on a great vacation. He can’t teach extra classes to make more money, but I could put out a new product for some extra income. I was thinking, what do you do in the normal world if you’re having financial problems? If you’re self-employed you just hustle. You have to put out a new product, service or start teaching, which isn’t always possible if you’re in banking.
Mei: I think people with regular full-time jobs just get a part-time job on the side and work midnight shifts or something. In a way, this goes back to being flexible. We can be flexible with our numbers. If we needed more money we can deliberately see what we can do for it.
Stacey: I think that working a part-time job isn’t making your full-time job any better, but we go out and make our businesses better.
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