[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, a series on young creatives working on their side-hustles. With a focus on making the transition out of traditional 9-5 and becoming your own employer, I’ve been reaching out to my friends who are running their own businesses and asking them what it’s like. I met Rachel eight years ago when we both were still in high school, and now she runs an Esty shop where she sells painted glassware and glass wears. ]
CM: How’s it going Rachel? I forget what city you’re living in these days .
RW: It’s goin’ alright! I’m living in Milpitas right now, right next to all the hills with the cows.
CM: Nice! Congrats on your engagement btw!
RW: Thank you!
CM: So what’s your life like right now?
RW: Well, the general flow of things is, if I’m scheduled at my part time job at Michaels, I wake up at 2 or 4 in the morning and go to work at 3:00 or 5:00 and work for 4 or 8 hours, and then come home and nap, and then do whatever for the rest of the day, like interviews! haha
Usually “whatever” is painting glass stuff which is my other job, my more fun one
CM: Tell me about the more fun one!
RW:Well, a couple years ago, after working an unhealthy web design job for a little over a year, I quit and decided that I wanted to do something more creative.
I already had an Etsy shop on the side called Stuff n Things, where I basically posted things I made and hoped someone would buy them, which very rarely they did.
But I decided to concentrate more on a single type of Thing, and I got myself a business license and fictitious business name and now I own WoodsieMakesThings and sell painted glassware, slightly more than rarely!
CM: Nice! How much are you selling then on a monthly basis?
RW: Well, last year was my first full year in business, and my goal was to make at least one sale every month, which I did! I actually made like an $80 profit which was really exciting for me, since I had a lot of start-up costs. This year, my goal is at least 1 sale a month, with an average of at least 2. So far so good, although May has only just started so … we’ll see.
And a sale can be anything from one $15 pendant to a $70 set of wine glasses, so it really varies.
CM: What is the best part of having this side-hustle?
RW: Well, I think for one thing I’m a much healthier person, especially mentally, than I was when I had a full-time desk job. Having a creative fun thing that also makes money is remarkably validating, and I can decide what to do, when.
Looking back at my entire life, I should have realized earlier that I should be my own boss, because I remember things like swim lessons as a kid, where I quit because I loved being in the pool, but didn’t like being told what to do. And full-time jobs feel the same way to me. It’s nice to have a bit of routine and structure with the part-time job, but the self-employment is a really nice freedom.
CM: Very cool! Tell me about your glassware and the things you sell in your shop.
RW: Right now my tagline is “Hand Painted Glassware and Glasswear,” so I have a variety of things from mugs, wine and beer glasses, and plates to wearable glass things like pendants and earrings.
CM: Do you see your shop as more of a hobby or a business? Would you like to grow it into a full-time pursuit?
RW: All of them are premade bases (I don’t know how to make glass things (yet?) unfortunately), and I paint them with glass paints that I bake on for permanence. Most of the functional things I paint, like the mugs and glasses, can go in the dishwasher just fine, which I really like. Makes my items a bit more accessible I like to think.
Well, at the moment, it is actually a business in the city of Milpitas, so I mean literally it IS a business. Sometimes the reality of it wavers between the two though, especially in instances like last month, when the part-time job was actually 40-hour weeks of hard physical work when we moved into and set up a new store, so I really wasn’t painting at that point.
Sometimes Life just gets in the way, but I’m really hoping to do the painting full-time eventually, as a real stream of income that hopefully gets me more than $80 a year. We’re planning on moving to Oregon sometime next year, and I’m thinking that’ll be a great time to dive in head first and give full-time painting a shot.
A little something special for Mother's Day, a seaglass pendant with painted mountains and Swarovski crystal moon. … … … … … #woodsiemakesthings #handmade #painted #glass #paintedglass #seaglass #mountains #sparkly #little #gift #mothersday #formom #necklace #nature #beach #blue #jewelry #jewellery #accessories #glasswear #unique #oneofakind #🎨 #📿 #👸 #pendant #blueglass #simple
CM: How do you envision yourself bringing in more than $80 a year with this pursuit?
RW: I think pretty much the answer to that is Trying harder? haha
I mean, right now, I have Etsy and my WoodsieMakesThings Instagram account, which is just for the business. At the beginning of it all, I really underestimated the power of Instagram; it’s ridiculous how many more eyes end up on my Etsy page after I post something on Instagram. People looking at your stuff isn’t sales, but it’s certainly better than no one seeing your stuff at all!
So really, I think I need to broaden my avenues of exposure, like learning how the heck Pinterest works, which ways of online advertising are worth it, perhaps finding a physical shop that will sell my items, doing blog interviews (lol) etc.
CM: Haha for sure! Exposure is important. What is the hardest part about running this business?
I think probably artist’s block/executive dysfunction type stuff. I love what I do when I’m doing it, a lot of the time it’s just really hard for me to get started on things or finish them if I stop in the middle. A lot of my favorite and best work has come out of commissions/custom orders, where someone asks me to make a specific item for them. Then I can give them a date for when I’ll have it done and I HAVE to finish it, because I also hate hate hate not following through/being late/etc. Commissions also really break through creative stagnation, because a lot of times people ask me to paint something I’ve never done before, and I have to learn how to do it, which results in me learning I can do a thing I didn’t think I could do, like painting a realistic portrait of a specific dog, or realistic-looking flowers.
CM: Ah commissions sound great! What’s supply and demand like at your shop? Do you have trouble keeping up with orders?
RW: I wish! Haha that would be a great problem to have. I did briefly have a 3- or 4-week period near the holidays last year where I was getting a whole bunch of orders in, custom and premade, and that was a lot of fun. I was always busy (in a good way), and I never had to sit at my desk and stare at a blank mug wondering what the heck to do next. This year I want to try and have premade seasonal stuff ready before it’s too late; I tried but ended up not having any ornaments/lanterns/other cool autumn & winter things when I wanted them. I think probably the beginning of July is a good time to start on that stuff.
I’m also trying to get rid of some of the stuff in my shop that’s been there from the very beginning, stuff that just doesn’t reflect my current styles and isn’t photographed well, so I discounted a bunch of stuff in hopes people will take it off my hands. It’s… kind of worked hah. I might rephotograph a few of them to make them look nicer.
CM: Dope. Last question! What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to open up a shop like yours? Did you learn any hard lessons?
RW: I think the number one thing for me was concentrating on one type of Thing. When people came to my shop and there were like friendship bracelets, knitted cat toys, painted glass and screenprints, as a shopper that makes you feel real weird, like walking into a poorly-organized thrift shop or something. It’s no bueno.
Honestly, I just chose what I thought would be the most cost-effective option of all my hobbies, which sounds kind of sad and boring, but it really worked out. Since I enjoy all my hobbies, it wasn’t too hard to pick I guess.
I think probably the hard lesson I learned was not starting seasonal stuff in time, like, just not realizing when peak times would be for my sort of wares. Which, you know, I’m not too hard on myself about, since I realized at the start it would take me at least a year to get any idea of what trends and patterns are in my sales/page visits/etc. Some people make it big overnight when their type of item becomes in demand or viral, but I never was expecting that and knew it would (and is going to) take a while to really Know what’s going on.
Oo in regards to your question about bringing in more than $80/yr, I just remembered I have a Patreon! so people can support me with a monthly subscription/donation and get nifty rewards. I need to promote that more as well.
CM: Hell yeah! Seems like you’re in that “growth” phase of the business where you’re figuring out where your natural scale is. It’s honestly pretty exciting and I’m glad you have it moving in a focused direction.
RW: I agree!
You can check out more of Rachel’s work and her Etsy shop through her instagram @woodsiemakesthings.