Should I take my craft business full-time?

Unfortunately, there is a no one-size fits all answer to that question. It really depends on your personal situation.

I’m a member of 3 very different craft business development groups (ICAP, Craft Industry Alliance and Make Sell Grow).  The leaders are quite knowledgable and while yes, they do want to sell you their services, they really want to see your business grow and succeed. Quite often, you are encouraged to take your business full-time and the group leaders introduce you to individuals or provide case studies of those who have done exactly that. Always keep in mind, however, that these examples are the exception, rather than the rule. 

Most people with a craft business have a day job or another source of income – savings, retirement income or spouse/partner. I found this article mentioned on the Fractured Atlas blog to be quite enlightening, even if it discusses theater rather than the craft industry.

Examples just from my local quilt/craft community:

  • A former teacher colleague bought a well-known LQS 5 years ago. She has several p/t employees and she works f/t; yet her husband is still working f/t a large company because they count on the income and benefits from his job.
  • One of the t-shirt quilt companies (the competition) has p/t employees, but she still works f/t as a nurse.
  • Another quilt shop owner worked f/t as a nurse until recently. She has several part-time employees and a now retired husband.
  • A pair of fellow quilters recently started an online quilting show. One works f/t as a manager for a large IT company and the other is between jobs (but her hubby works f/t).

    There are several other examples I could give, but the common thread is they don’t rely on their craft businesses as their sole source of income.

According to this article that appeared in Forbes, two-thirds of all small non-employer businesses (sole proprietor or single member LLC with $1k or more in annual revenues) reported less than $25k in revenues in 2011. That’s revenue, NOT profit. The average revenue for all companies in the non-employer category was $44,000.  Chances are your “take home” portion of that will be about half. Will $22,000 provide you with enough income?  Only you can decide that.

Perhaps you are in a situation where the day job disappeared and you don’t have a choice but to take your craft biz full-time. Another LQS owner did just that – complete with SBA loans, biz plan like no other craft biz I’ve ever seen and knows exactly how much revenue per square foot she needs to be profitable.  She started her biz from scratch four years ago and I have a feeling it will still be in biz a decade from now.  Her husband recently retired and she has stepped back some and turned over the day-to-day running of the shop to someone else, yet she remains on top of things.

This time last year, I seriously considered leaving teaching to roll out my after school craft clubs 3x a week with a day spent teaching at a homeschool co-op. I would make up the rest of the needed income by doing loose-leaf filing at downtown law firms 2 mornings a week. This would wouldn’t replace my teacher salary, but it would keep me busy, which was hubby’s primary concern. Fortunately, a job transfer came through at a site closer to home. I haven’t hung up my school librarian hat just yet, but it is definitely getting closer!

So, if you want to run your craft biz full-time – get out there an do it! But don’t feel like a failure because you choose to run your biz on a smaller part-time scale. Relax, you’re in good company.