beading, Business, career, craft, jewelry, money

Finding a niche?

It’s a little after 12:15 AM in my part of the world, as I begin this entry. I’ve had time to send emails out both to my Vocational program, and to the Career Center liaison for my University. At this point, it’s looking pretty clear that I should be strengthening my Metadata and Cataloging skills, and looking for a job using those skills.

I also should complete the upload and edits for my ePortfolio, given that I apparently did not save all the information from it before taking it down. (Just making it, was grindingly stressful; I’m not surprised that I didn’t even want to look at it, after I had graduated.)

I am feeling pretty optimistic at this point, though. I went over a job skills document from my Master’s program, and have found that “Customer Service” is not a top skill in demand from most employers. I have, that is, been looking in the wrong sector for employment, if I don’t want to have to deal with everyone, all the time.

Of course, it has taken experience and self-knowledge to understand why Public Service is toxic for me: I am not what the general public infers I am, from my appearance. Everyone makes inferences. They’re usually wrong. They usually assume they aren’t. I’ve only had one patron ever correctly guess the origin of my name (taken broadly).

I’ve meant to ask M if not being seen as a person is exceedingly common for people like us (even without gender issues)… I didn’t even know what I was missing until I found someone who let me tell him who I was, instead of projecting who I must be, onto me. I had to have been 18 or 19 by that time.

Even though I am essentially about to lose my job — unless the Union is successful — I’ve not stopped spending money. I am ambivalent about this. On one hand, I don’t want to go into a mindset of impoverishment — especially as making money requires at least an initial investment. On the other, as an individual, I’m going to need some income to tide me through; unless I know that I’m going to be able to be hired before my savings run out.

Becoming wholly dependent on my parents again…could happen. Though I obviously don’t really want that (I’d be in deep trouble if they both passed), I will likely not have to worry about a lack of shelter or food, with them around.

The thing I’m thinking about doing, is selling jewelry and taking classes, building myself up until I can become other-than-self-employed, again. I’m giving myself until late August to get my mind together enough to decide where my next step will land. Right now, I’m still trying to tell where I am.

And unfortunately, I am attached to the jewelry I make. That’s what photos and diagrams and samples are for, though. I think that maybe I just have to remind myself that I barely wear jewelry as it is. The jewelry I’ve bought is jewelry I can’t make, or would rather not specialize in making.

There’s just so much time spent in the design phase, though. Design (and research on techniques), purchasing parts and tools, keeping things organized and findable. The part of beading that isn’t construction of that one piece, itself…do I really want to charge for that time?

There’s also the question of selling my portfolio pieces. I believe I’d have to, in order to make enough money to make continually buying new stock, sustainable — or at least, only a minimal loss. (“Minimal loss” is where I was when I was beading as a microbusiness for my family and friends, a long time ago.) Of course, though: I’m comparing this to a paraprofessional position at 26 hours a week. It shouldn’t be impossible to earn something at closer to 40, even if it isn’t quite that much.

That is the difference between beading as a hobby, and beading as a job: the amount of return I would need. Maybe I should map out how much I would need to continue operations and stay in the black (pay my bills: which are largely for supplies, books, classes and computer maintenance) every two weeks, or every month, and see how much I’d need to sell to reach that amount. I’d need to make more jewelry than will earn that, realistically; and I can’t tell how long it would take for my storefront to surface.

But hey…people do make at least some income off of stuff like this.

Of course, though…if I’m taking classes, and applying for jobs, and reading in my field, I possibly won’t be able to maintain a 40-hour week unless my work moves into evenings and weekends. I’ve heard people who run small businesses say as much; that their weeks are more like 70-hour weeks.

So maybe I should place my emphasis more on finding a long-term position, or just creeping back into the black (as versus the red)? It actually would be more of an investment to study, but it might not pay off for a while, with the economy the way it is.

I think M would tell me to stop overthinking it and just do something. I’m not the best at that…

Business, money, psychology, sewing

Motivation, money, and living

Ah, man. Yesterday, I dove back into mask-making. The system I’ve got is…well, let’s say I’ve got a lot of design iterations. I also had to clarify whom I was making the masks for — myself and those I loved, or those who would pay me for them? Am I looking, that is, for self-fulfillment and productivity, or for piecework wages?

I consulted with M yesterday, who encouraged me to make them for myself. It’s easier for me to work, when I know I can benefit from what I make. I know that I’ve made 10 so far that have gone to other people (who can’t or don’t want to sew), and those were some of my best ones…at the time. As a consequence…I have been feeling kind of like I’m running in place. I don’t mind having given the ones to my sibling, but then I had a surprise order of four (from another person), when I hadn’t even agreed to sew them or sell them.

I feel…also, now, that it’s probably a better bet to keep my day job and use income from that to support my crafting, than it is to leave my job and actually do this to make money (if I have a choice). In an 8-hour day at my job, I can make $160. That’s…not guaranteed to happen, if I am running a micro-business. What’s sad is that where I live now, $20/hour, working full-time ($3200/month), isn’t a lot. It may barely make rent; but rent is exorbitant, here (expect $2000/month). I forget how much of a percentage of one’s salary is supposed to be maximum for going to housing…I can look it up, though. It’s probably not 60%. (Ah: Knowledge Graph says it’s about 30%.)

And yes, I am thinking of moving out of the suburbs and to an agreeable rural area (and just depend upon the Web for purchases and incoming business and metropolitan/global contact). What’s positive is knowing that the Bay Area isn’t the only place I can live, with comfort. There are other Asian-American enclaves in other places in the country. Especially if I’m not going to be visibly transgender (right now I can almost blend in [in the Bay Area, which is ethnically diverse] except for when I speak my mind), I have options.

I will also be able to travel, I should remind myself. I had been thinking of moving out to Tucson, AZ, because of the annual gem and jewelry convention. It draws people from all over the country — and I would think a lot of other crafters live out there. But I don’t necessarily have to live in the desert, to visit Tucson. I could move elsewhere, and fly in for a week. I’m also mostly getting my materials online now, anyway.

I’m actually thinking of moving to the Pacific Northwest, or south to the Central California coast, or overseas. I had thought of Seattle, but I don’t think that would be, financially, much better than here. Then there’s the Southwest, and the Rockies. I’ve been told to steer clear of the Sierras, though I do love it up there: the people, it’s said, can be hostile to difference (though that was said to me in 2001). There’s also Hawaii…but the cost of living there, is also high, and earnings are low (at least on Oahu, which I’m not sure is representative of anything). The trouble with living in Hawaii is getting things shipped to you, and being dependent on that.

There’s also a place in the Appalachians where one can go for intensive craft training…not that I can remember the link offhand, however.

Maybe I should be researching this stuff, before I have to. What I do know is that I kind of don’t want to stay here forever, unless some of the infrastructural and societal problems are addressed. People actually do live in the rest of the world, in short. Probably not surprising to most of you, but for a long time I’ve felt trapped in this area because of the stares my family gets, even just going other places in California. (Apparently, more tolerant people migrate to the large urban areas.)

The most I’m thinking of doing with a microbusiness, at this point, is breaking even. I’ve purchased a lot of fabric. Partially this was because my godmother seriously wanted to buy masks from me, and it brought up the possibility that I could make money off of this, at least in the short term (also possibly in the long term). The problem is, I’d have to first invest in materials. This is where the Economic Stimulus package steps in, much of which is going to favorite ethnic-minority- and/or woman-owned small local businesses.

So…I have a lot of fabric, right now (the scraps of which, will go to my quilting). I’ve been asked if I’m “giving (masks) away”; given that I’ve spent a good deal out of my own pocket and earnings ($420), and it has taken about an hour to make each mask (that’s at least $10 per mask in design, labor, and materials, before markup); no, no I’m not, “giving them away.”

Though maybe I’d feel better, if I did. Then I wouldn’t feel obligated to keep to a timetable (which I’m not following). Luckily, I don’t have to break even, because I am still employed — and living with my parents. How long that’s going to last? I’m not sure.

I’m sounding bitter, I think. But then, my mood hasn’t been the best, recently. It’s likely that I’m experiencing something that has a component of bipolar mania (it runs in my family), which would help explain the amount of money I’ve spent recently, the lack of sleep, and the irritability and anger. I’m not sure if the anti-germ paranoia falls in with it, but not wanting to go back to work (even for a few hours during which I could be exposed), probably does. It’s that whole, “vulnerability,” thing.

Given that, it may be best that I don’t go in to work in a couple of weeks…but I’ll know more about my state as that date approaches. It’s not even a given that the workplace I’m scheduled for will be open at the time I’ve signed up. The issue is that revoking a commitment to work is a big deal, in this system. But in January, when I signed up, COVID-19 wasn’t even on the radar, here. My point was to clear my 12 required Sundays of the year before the most opportune slots were taken, though I have been working so much that I only have one more to go, now.

I think I might be happy working in a small community library, though. I don’t know how it would be…outside of an urban or suburban area. But I’m hoping it would be less stressful. I’m not sure if I should get into detailing, why…

But I hope that it’s different, elsewhere. Because it’s a mess, out here.

And, yeah…well, I do realize that I’m sounding a bit conservative, relative to my past self. It’s probably just related to disillusionment. I think my parents have said they have gone through the same thing as they’ve aged. It still doesn’t mean that I’m anywhere near Republican, but then, even most Republicans probably don’t like where that party is headed. (I work in a Library; I’ve seen it.)

Maybe that’s an upshot to working in a Public Library, huh? You learn to separate people who have emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems from sane adherents of praxes which just differ from yours. Which…makes it easier to consider their beliefs, values, and philosophies as valid (for them, in their circumstances), or to examine the sources of one’s own beliefs, values, and philosophies as one also questions the sources of others’. I do think it actually is a diversity issue, only I’m approaching it from the side of a minority. (It doesn’t make sense to only ask empowered people to do the work.)

I’ve just…been in areas where the people have been ultra-hyper-liberal, and it’s really alienating, sometimes (often — especially when racism’s still present). Of course, I also can get alienated when people don’t see political bullying where it’s happening (because they aren’t women or minorities), as well. So…I mean, I can see why people don’t talk about politics. No matter what, someone is going to go, “guh?”

I have, however, just recently gotten involved in civic participation. It’s kind of empowering, especially when one expects to have no voice. I probably wouldn’t have done that, in turn, without having been a member of a professional association.

I didn’t intend to write about this, today. It just sort of happened.

In any case…yes, I’ve been working on my sewing, again. :) I’ve incorporated the quilting I may have been talking about in earlier entries — a line of stitching about 1/3 of the way in on each side — and yesterday I actually wore the things to test for comfort and fit. I know the best way to tie them, now; that I can wear my glasses with them; and that they are breathable.

They do, however, have to be tied correctly in order to function and not cut off the nasal passages: the upper tie around the nape, and the lower tie at the upper back crest of the head. There’s also some issue with air leaking out of the top of the mask, around the nose and eyes.

However…it’s probably better than nothing. Given that their greatest role is to keep virus from being exhaled/coughed/sneezed onto someone else, they probably work pretty well. I can actually feel the condensation in the fabric…so I know the mask is catching that.

I also found that cutting things to be aligned with the grain of the fabric, greatly eases the task of creasing these things with the iron! Not to mention, that I realized my difficulty with sewing the Kona cotton, most likely had to do with cutting my ties cross-grain: I experimented with that yesterday, and it was fine. Smooth sailing. It’s so crazy.

On top of that…given what I know now about fabric grain, I know to cut along the grain as much as possible (not upward across the bolt), and to get yardage in at least 1-yard increments. 18 inches is just too tight to try and fit in two 9.5″ wide panels, and I don’t want to turn my panel to cut cross-grain, unless I absolutely have to.

Business, jewelry, money, organization

Additional income stream?

Now I am, again, thinking of selling my beadwork. Not because I have to, but because I can, and just probably, should. On top of that, even though I’m getting paid more at work, it’s still not enough to survive on. I still basically have to live with other people, because it costs so much to live here and because of my apparent economic developmental stage. (If someone has used the term before, I’m not intending to use their definition; I’m just saying that I’ve never had a full-time job with benefits and a living wage. I still don’t, and I think that’s something I’ve just got to figure out or experience, and see if I can handle it.)

Over the weekend (well…my weekend, given my schedule), I went to a bead convention and stocked up on…a lot of beads. As recently as two days before the event, I had resolved not to go, because I knew I would spend. Then I was unable to pick up a Substitute position for Friday, and it seemed a bit serendipitous.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Do I miss what I spent? Not yet. I’ll still have opportunities to pick up more work before the holidays, and I still have more than I did at my best times working just above minimum wage.

I also spent about what I would normally spend in two or three trips to the bead store.

I suppose that kind of puts it into perspective.

Tonight, Saturday night, I’ve been logging the actual items I got and how much they cost. Yesterday, I logged my receipts (there weren’t too many). So…I’m beginning to see how I could or might make a database, should I care to. I mean, just for practice and kicks. I could have a table for suppliers, one for receipts, one for my purchases within those receipts, one for sales (that gets deeper, if I want to track and keep clients), one for cost and description of items, likely one or two for taxes…at least, so I think without really writing it down or planning it out or getting back a seller’s permit (yet).

The latter impacts taxes (a seller’s permit allows me to pay taxes after sale of my items, not at point of purchase of materials to make those items; it also can allow me discounts) and also the initial outlay of funds. Then there are other costs, like setting up a P.O. Box and a Web presence, and maybe finding a photographer. ;)

The thing with databases is that in design, I’ve got to look at desired functionality, first. Because I haven’t handled things on the financial side so much, I mean particularly where it comes to taxes on gross income (State and Federal income; M handled it), I’m not totally sure about all sides of this. That is, I’m not sure of all the requirements.

I’m actually not even sure if I should use Etsy or maybe put some stuff up there and have my own web domain, as well. A lot of people I’ve seen, have been using Square for payment transactions, which makes me feel a little better. I had seen a lot of negative reviews for Square as well, but…it is the Internet; not everything is what it looks like. I’ve also historically been looking at web hosts, which is, well, really important. I’ve had one in mind which uses Square, but backed off of it after I read multiple complaints about people having their Square accounts frozen. However…like I said, I’ve seen a lot of people using it.

There’s also the point that I tend to avoid Etsy personally, because my computer sometimes acts like it’s picked up a bug after I visit. It’s a reason I might not sell there, if I can’t even look at things without having to run a series of scans afterward just to get things back to normal. Since adwcleaner also started removing bloatware, I’ve also become wary of using that tool too much or unnecessarily (out of fear it will remove my utilities, although one of mine spontaneously started working again).

But yeah, I guess that’s what happens when you actually use your computer.

Anyhow. Tonight was all about trying to organize the table that looked like a windstorm hit it, and I think I did a fairly good job. I had to log things before I could put them away, or risk not logging them. Thus, not knowing how much anything cost — which kind of puts a wrench into my pricing, by my not knowing if I’m losing money or gaining it. I’m getting better; I’m actually attempting to log quantities now, along with prices. :P (I need both, for the prices to have any validity.)

I feel bad about this as well, but I may have to want to look for additional storage. I know a place where I can get some sweet little boxes which were $0.50 each, the last time I found them. The problem is that…well, what good is storage if you don’t use the things you stored. I mean, it isn’t entirely about collecting. But the things I have in the little boxes are mostly “bead soup” (mixed colors and sizes of bead, in this case), and they are, amazingly, some of the most interesting and inspiring parts of everything I have.

I’ve also got to consider taking out — I mean just taking out some of these vials of beads that I feel I’m never going to use, and re-purposing the vials with things I think I will use, or want to use. The question becomes, then, am I actually not going to use those other beads, or was it just a lack of artistic vision, or aesthetic error which caused me to cull them? Sometimes later additions to a collection will make beads that I thought I’d never use, something I would consider using, in an updated palette.

Then again, that doesn’t entirely justify having them take up space in my main storage. I could just as easily put those 10 grams of beads that would have been in a vial, into a plastic bag, and throw them in a different storage area…kind of like the surplus of size 6/0 beads I got a while back, which came in temporary sealed plastic (can I even call them bags?).

Since, though, I’ve actually bought pairs of earrings which were between $50-$70 from local artisans…I can see that if I make things people want (and don’t want to make, or can’t make, or which wouldn’t be cost-effective to make, themselves), I do have a chance of at least recouping my losses by selling beaded jewelry, if not making a profit. It probably won’t be as large an income stream as I would get just by being salaried, but I could occupy myself and build my skill — and not, you know, just have a total loss from buying beads with what I do earn from my job.