The other day I was having lunch with a friend, (she also owns a handmade business), and we got on the topic of how we choose to spend our time with people who appreciate the work that goes into owning a small business. When my business was young, I spent most of my time with friends who thought that what I was doing was interesting, but questioned whether it was something that I’d be able to make into a full time career. My family members were either really supportive, though leery, or thought that this was another one of my crazy ideas to stave off having a “real” job. And that’s okay, having a full-time handmade business is not a good fit for someone who is easily dissuaded, so my skeptical friends and family were good practice in toughening up.
In short, being a sole proprietor and working from home can be very lonely at times. When you work in an office environment, you have office-mates and desk neighbors to talk to, but with a handmade business, there are often only cats or dogs, and the conversation can be rather one-sided. When I do step away from work, I am still in work mode, and that means that I may need to talk through a new idea or a challenge that I am facing in my business. And I need the people around me to care about what I am talking about, and sometimes help me process through my thoughts. Those friends and family members who could never really relate, are still around, but just don’t play as big of a role in my life these days. I didn’t consciously pare down my interaction with the people who weren’t taking my business seriously, it just happened naturally over time.
Now that my business is a few years older, and is my full time job, I find myself spending the free time that I do have with friends who can appreciate what it is to own a handmade business. I am also fortunate to live in Seattle, which has a strong craft business community, and I can easily meet with other hand-makers for coffee or lunch on a regular basis.
Social media is also an important component of my creative support system. I like participating in business chats via twitter, browsing and commenting on Instagram throughout the day, and being a member of a few Facebook groups for like-minded creative business owners. These forums have given me a place to ask a quick question, or interact in various conversations throughout the day, much like I would if I worked in an office environment.
While having a handmade business is certainly not unheard of, it is still a relatively uncommon way to make a living. But, I also think this is a really exciting time to start a handmade business. There are so many resources for creative types. Tons of blogs, online and local groups that connect hand-makers, conferences and websites, online classes and workshops, and of course, social media platforms to showcase and connect individually. So, if you are just starting out, and are still surrounded by more people who question your ability than are cheering you on, start connecting online and in your community. I know that I love being involved with other creatives, and I’m guessing if you are reading this, you do too.
Erin “Wren” Duncan is the owner and handmaker behind wrenbirdarts. She is a former bookseller, barista, grantwriter, event planner, and real estate agent with a Master’s in Social Work. Erin is known for her sometimes cheeky, hand embroidered hankies. Her work has been featured on Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Glamour Magazine, and in several local and international print magazines. Erin lives in Seattle, where you’ll find her walking around exploring farmers markets, the local craft beer scene, and scoping out local businesses. You can follow her on social media @wrenbirdarts.