With the company of assorted fellow housewives, I have tried many ways to make money from home. I had an eBay store. I sold used books on half.com. I submitted my short stories for publication. I entered novels into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award competition. I pitched screenplays over Skype to Hollywood producers. My total income over the last twenty years from these ventures is approaching the staggering sum of $3000.
The greatest share of this money was for co-writing a story with John Updike. (No one ever believes me when I say that). I did actually win $1000 in 1997 for writing about 500 words of a story (I will never see that kind of money again). The contest was sponsored by amazon.com and called Murder Makes the Magazine. John Updike wrote the first paragraph and then there was a daily contest to write the next paragraph. There would be 44 winners and Updike would finish the story. I was determined to win this contest. I studied the winning entries every morning to see what they were looking for — over-the-top flowery language and a cliff hanger. I could do that. Every night I entered, lost, studied the winning entry and fine-tuned my next submission. I knew I was getting so close. Finally on or about Day 35 I saw my name as the winning entry.
Here are my paragraphs:
I later learned that they received as many as 20,000 entries per day. I am slightly psychic (no one ever believes this either) and I knew that I would write one of the winning paragraphs. This was years before I read The Secret – I guess if I had then I would have understood the power of positive thinking and would have just written myself that check for $1000.
Many years later I met John Updike at a booksigning. The line was long and people were lugging stacks of their Rabbit books for him to sign. I chatted him up for about 4 seconds and mentioned that he went to high school with my father-in-law before the attendant (bodyguard?) moved me along. As I walked away I was kicking myself for forgetting to introduce myself as one of his Murder co-writers. I turned around to go back, but my husband steered me away. “I’m sure he’s tired of people asking them to launch their careers.”
While I have not sold anything recently, I continue to collect royalties from amazon of about 50 cents/day on other stories I wrote. Add that to the corporate pension I receive of $112/month and I can justify eating lunch out about twice a month. I could effectively double that if I merely cleaned my own house (perish the thought ).
So, writing was not generating any income. It was time to try something else. When etsy was developed I thought this was the creative outlet I was waiting for. Every week at our knitting meetings, the knitters would discuss potential jobs and say “I wish someone would just pay me to knit.” Here was that someone. (etsy, for the uninformed, is like an eBay for handmade goods.) We each had a pile of finished projects that none of our family wanted. We could turn that yarn into gold.
I have been surprised to hear that many people think that you can save money by knitting your own clothes. While I suppose that is a logical conclusion, it’s a little like thinking you can save money on groceries by buying a boat and fishing every weekend. It is a hobby, a craft, not a household chore left over from pioneer days. Handknit items are expensive. However, certainly people would pay for our unique output. Who would want a machine-made sweater from Macy’s when you buy a bespoke number from us for triple the price?
Setting up an etsy store appeared quite easy. We just needed a name. I started gathering inventory to see what I could sell as I pondered the store name. Then it came to me in a dream. It was so clear. We were to open a very successful etsy store and it was to be called Lilypad Knits. I woke up with inspiration and ran down to set up the shop before the details of my dream slipped away. Selling the rest of the knitters on the name was tricky. In the light of day it seemed just downright ridiculous. My friends did not believe that I was psychic and that I had foreseen our success with this name. However, as no one else had the energy or desire to set up the store they humored me. Tracey’s dog is named Lilly – so we used her picture in the banner.
We had our recycled sweater felted wreaths:
We had scarves:
I had felted bowls (you knit these and then boil them to turn them into rock hard wool). Notice how artfully I display them in the photo to create ambiance.
I had art:
I had assorted things that we tried to sell at the antique mall
and the felted dogs – which I had finally perfected and in a flash of inspiration threaded a gold cord through their backs and called then Christmas ornaments (if I were really psychic I never would have made these dogs as they would turn out to be very successful. but not that profitable).
In the first (and only) year I sold a total of 3 pieces of part (for about $40 each), two felted bowls and 11 dog ornaments. Absolutely nothing knitted sold.
Curious about our lack of knitted sales, I did a little market research. An etsy search for handmade/knitted/scarves returns 14,827 items. Then there are 27,708 “vintage” scarves. How does one even sort through all of these? I select a random scarf – an ivory long cabled scarf. It is made of wool and has 3 rows of cables. This would take (me) at least 10 hours to make. Misslovestoknit is asking $20. Assuming she got the yarn on sale and knits quickly – this is about $1.50/hour for her labor. I enter her store. She has loads of lovely winter scarves – all $20 each. She has a total of 1 sale and no admirers (I somehow have 8 admirers and I have no inventory?) This seller was not even the cheapest. I found scarves listed for $4. Why?
The dog ornaments sold quickly. However, everyone wanted a custom ornament that looked like their dog. No problem – I just asked them to email me a photo. They were only willing to pay about $25 for these dogs that took me up to five hours to make. They then complained about the spots being in the wrong spot or the hair not being curly enough. My strangest order was for a beagle with a large “organ”. I stopped listing the ornaments when a woman asked for a dachshund and then refused to buy it because it was generic looking and not “special looking” like hers.
One woman wanted a discount if she bought two golden retrievers. I thought I might change our store logo to Hey this isn’t Oriental Trading Company!
So basically, etsy is a sweatshop for housewives. I really should just stick to shopping there. You never know what you will find. For $4.99 I can buy this cute cat cowl with vintage buttons.
Anyway, we pretty much abandoned etsy. There is still the shell of a store there:
What we needed, we agreed, was a real store …