LIFE BALANCE is a big buzz word these days. It’s that happy medium where work, rest and play don’t need to compete for our time. No matter which of these categories you place crafting, juggling it all can often be a struggle. Having suffered a serious illness a few years ago, I am very aware of how easily we can take on too much and get the balance spectacularly wrong with dire consequences.
I asked for volunteers to share your stories on how you fit in your Etsy business with other commitments. Four members of the Crafty Ireland Team with very different circumstances stepped up with helpful tips and advice for keeping on top of things and avoiding burn out.
Fi of Patchworkdelights makes lovely mobile phone covers, cafetiere cosies, baby quilts, pin cushions, jewelry rolls and make-up pouches. She juggles her craft with a full time job and her family. ‘I’d love to do it full time, but it really was a hobby that seems to be growing arms and legs!!’
‘I craft pretty much every day but have to fit it in after work and family life. The kids get bothered sometimes but I try to be fair to them and myself. I try to do it when the boys are in bed. At weekends I sit at my sewing machine if they are watching cartoons, but not until we've done scouts and swimming etc.’
‘I plan in my head, write down in my book what I want to do next, and most importantly, try to only do one thing at a time’ she says. ‘If you are not in the mood, just leave it. I nearly wrecked a quilt because I just wouldn't listen to my body and mind which was saying "not in the mood" but hey I had to find out the hard way!’
Brigitte of Purls of Colour hand knits unique and colourful accessories, made from natural fibre.
‘I'm trying to make some kind of living from it’ she explains, ‘ I also work part-time as a freelance web editor (when I get work) and am looking for other work.’ I’m also very interested in politics and try to keep up with what’s happening.’ Brigitte also puts in a lot of time as Blog Editor for the team.
‘ Job seeking is nearly a day job, so that’s a big 'pull' away from crafting. The lack of money can cause a major drain on my energies. Until I have more money, I feel I can't run the business properly. Handknits take a long time to make, and if there is no success (sales, interest, Etsy Finds), it gets rather frustrating‘ she says.
However, Brigitte is very resilient . ‘I always bounce back. Maybe it comes from my Dad, who was a great believer in ‘'there is a solution for everything'’. I also read motivational books ! To keep focused, set priorities and stick to them...though I'm not a natural at this - I get distracted too easily (see photo of various projects running at the same time). It’s important to keep an eye on the end goal. Don't lose sight of what you really want to do. Don’t multi-task; focus on what you are doing at the time.’
It looks like her hard work is beginning to pay off. ‘I had a successful Souk - well, other traders might not think of selling two items as successful, but I was thrilled. I sold an austerity neckwarmer and a capelet. The latter was bought by some lovely tourists and is going to America!’
Rachel of Balanced creates and sells unique beaded jewellery and home decor full time. ‘I'm very lucky I guess. I only have a husband, a cat and my business to take care of. But, my business does take up 90% of my time. I'm working to balance that out a little more. ‘she says. Rach also contributes to this blog, bringing us the weekly treasury report, no light task, I might add.
‘The most important thing for me is just to remember to take a break. Things pile up very quickly, and if you don't take a break, you risk burning out. And I mean a real break! No computer, no phone.’
To keep on top of it all she makes lots of lists and has plenty of organising materials, like compartmental boxes, dividers, jars, anything you can store things in. ‘Any old box or container will do for me. ‘ she says ‘and I label EVERYTHING. ‘
Ann of Torann (AMG Arts) crafts original collages, guest books, and cards. ‘I take orders for making wedding cards and other cards full time as well as making Wedding Guest books. I try to squeeze in Craft Fairs when I can. I’m studying full time for a degree in Textile Design at N.C.A.D. I have a home and husband, a large garden to keep weed free and three dogs and a cat that need to be fussed over.’
‘I rarely have a spare moment, If I manage to watch a programme it’s because I’m working away whilst watching it. I read my book on the bus to Dublin in the morning and evening and that’s my time out. ‘
Time management is crucial. ‘I plan in my head on the bus what I need to do first, i.e. the most important things out of the way and done first.’ she says. ‘I take shorter lunch breaks at college to get online work done so I don’t sit at the computer when I get home and can spend less time online at the weekends. In the evening I try and keep on top of my college work so I can get the invites and guest books taped up at the weekends. However, I can be up all hours on a Saturday night. Friday evening is my evening to throw the washing machine on and Saturday morning is a quick run around the house otherwise it gets too messy. ‘‘I cut back on craft fairs during the college months to just one during the mid term breaks’
‘Reading my book on the bus or before going to sleep helps me switch off. Playing a DVD on the background in the art room when working away helps keep track of the time and helps me forget the pressure I’m under. It also helps that the other half does a bit more around the house!
As for myself, I juggle my craft and Etsy shop with an almost-full-time job (30 hrs/w) and contribute regularly to the blog. I sell at a market about once a month. I would do well to follow the sound advice above. I can get very tired and headachy. So I force myself to get up and out for a walk to clear the fog and boost my energy. Any kind of exercise is good for this.
It’s important to know when you’re trying to do too much and to learn to say ‘no’ to whatever you can and ought to ditch. I am learning to value my own time and energy and to choose carefully when to go all out for something and when to pull back. When you are passionate about things, saying ‘no’ to your stubborn self can be the hardest!