About that "Quit Your Day Job".

I've seen it, you've seen it, fabulous photographs of shiny, lovely people sitting in wonderful studios surrounded by their creative-ness and craft, telling us how it all started for them and then one day, hey, they just Quit Their Day Job, didn't really have to prepare, it all "just happened" and now they're continually surrounded by their beautiful craft and wonderfulness.

Can you tell I'm jealous?

I've been asked a few times about what I think of making a living from knitting (my craft of choice) and yes, it seems by looking at some sites that there are some big-hitter knitters out there that make a living just from knitting, but the reality for me was a little different and I thought I'd share my story (briefly, of course).

Last year I was retrenched from my job in an investment bank in the City of London (I always called this my part-time job where my real job involved needles and some yarn) - perfect, I thought, I'll finally be able to live my dream of knitting day in and day out with the cushion (see what I did there?) of a retrenchment package to keep me warm and cosy.
The reality was a litte different.  The first couple of months were great - especially not having to worry about cash - I was blogging a lot, tweeting (I have a lot to say sometimes), knitting, taking photographs, knitting some more, watching highbrow Japanese films and listenign to more Radio 4 than I dare to admit to, working on business plans, putting together creative stuff, and knitting.  But that all changed when cash began to dry up (ok, an extended trip back to Cape Town didn't help), and I started to panic.  Can I really make a living from some needles and yarn?

Panic led to self-doubt which had a knock-on effect.  It seemed the more I stressed, the less I was able to feel free and be creative.  Knitting, as you know, is a tricky discipline.  It takes time and time is ultimately what you get paid for, but yet, you cannot be priced out the market.  Always a balancing act.  And really, even though I now had all the time in the world, I really didn't have much time at all to do everything.

So the cash finally ran out.  I almost made my rent a few times just from my knitting sales, but it would have meant having to forego the extra glass of champagne and eventually I was forced back into the corporate world (I have a law degree for trade, but am a knitter by heart - sorry, couldn't resist that), but a funny thing has happened, now that I'm not stressed about where my rent is going to be paid, I'm the busiest knit-wise I have ever been (yay!).

I've learnt loads of things and I don't regret my experience at all.  A few things I can say though:

  • Consider what success means to you and from there, work out what works for you to realise it.
  • Do the sums.  Yip, do the sums.
  • If you've done all the preparation, don't panic when things look a little tough.  Keep going until it really isn't feasible to go any further.
  • Luck.  Yip, pretty much without luck, hard work really only goes so far.  The two are not mutually exclusive.
These really are only a few points.  Don't want to bore you as there are so many articles, posts, advisers , naysayers, yaysayers on this very topic.  But I just wanted to share my experiences so far.  Currently, Strikk is exactly where I want it to be and I'm loving the steady stream of orders and the time to offer custom pieces.  There are some changes ahead, but for the moment, this is exactly perfect.

If you have some ideas or comments or experiences, I would love to hear them.  


kernowcrafter said...

What an interesting post!
I have thought many times about whether knitting for a living is feasible. Somehow though I can't see how knitting will pay my hefty mortgage.
As you have pointed out knitting itself takes time and I can't see how you could ever charge for time with larger items and make a profit. I also wondered whether it would be better to produce the patterns as I feel a lot of people want to make the item rather than buy it already finished.
I've also wondered whether changing your hobby into a business make take the fun out of it when you have pressure to pay bills etc.
Although there are a lot of people out there who have successfully made the leap, it is unknown whether they have a wealthy husband behind them or are simply happy to survive on a minimal income.
Personally I would love to think I could knit for a living but I think I will just have to keep dreaming at the moment. At least while I am in my day job it gives me something to look forward to in the evenings and days off!

strikk handknits said...

Ah, thank you so much for your comments.
You are completely correct - it is a little more difficult to make a living from purely just knitting. I think the other things (ie. selling wool, patterns etc) are great, but then you may as well open a wool shop (of course if that's the ultimate goal, I know people who've successfully opened their wool shops and are doing well) - but different market, different business plan.
Went to a business course, told them my business, immediately the facilitator said I should think of getting another hobby whilst building the business. I almost cried... :-)
Agreed, whilst in my day job, I still have the freedom to do what I love the most, and that's knit and right now, that's what makes me happy.

Catherine said...

It's my recurring dream that I will earn my living from knitting. I am lucky in that now I have grown up children and no mortgage. But still I think of the hours it takes to knit things (compared with the pay I get per hour as a lawyer!) But I still intend to give it a go, one day...

strikk handknits said...

Thank you Catherine.
Indeed, you have to give it a go one day :-)

Jo Stirland said...

So refreshing to hear the realities of turning your craft into a viable business. I know what you mean about those Quit Your Day job articles (although I can't stop reading them!). I've often wondered whether they really earn a real living from their craft or whether they have a very supportive partner who is the main wage earner. I'm in the process of exploring different crafts and whether they CAN be turned into a business - although I would be quite happy keeping my part-time evening job and earning an extra income on the side.

strikk handknits said...

Thanks Jo for your comment.
I'd be interesting to hear how things go on your side.
And yes, completely addictive to read the stories. I'm sure many of them are amazingly successful, maybe the next question is, how long can that success be sustained?

Stitchandwitter said...

Great post Tanya and plenty of food for thought for those of us keen to see our crafty ideas turn into business reality. I've long wondered how on earth prices for knitted items such as cushions and blankets can be kept so relatively low considering the work and time that goes into them. I think it's wonderful that you have found a happy balance between the day job and your passion - it will only make for a happier you (and keep you in champers). What's not to like? Huzzah!

strikk handknits said...

Thank you lovely.
Can never have too little champagne.... :-) xx

Frieda said...

It would be so nice to be able to make a living from the crafts we love. Sometimes this happens - look at Martha Stewart. She wrote "Entertaining" and the rest is history. She is the exception to the rule but there is nothing wrong with dreaming. I liked your post and it was thought provoking. I have now read that you have moved to Zurich to start a new job and life. Good Luck and hopefully you will still have time to knit and follow your dreams :)