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Time for a change

4 January 2014

I'm trying so hard - artwork by Danah Kim.
Trying - artwork on my office wall by Danah Kim.

It's a shiny new year and this one in particular I hope to be a very important one for me and my handmade jewellery business.

I'm very fortunate in what I do for a living: I get to create beautiful objects with my hands that people like enough that they are happy to buy them from me. And enough people are happy to do so that I'm able to do this work as my full time job. It's a very great privilege and I'd rather be doing this type of work than anything else.

But starting from 2014, my handmade jewellery business has to change. I'd like to share with you in some detail why that's the case, even if the 'how' isn't quite ready to be shared at this point.

The busy season

Let me describe what Christmas - by far the busiest time of year for my business - looks like for me.

I usually start planning and working towards it in around June or July. By early September I'm working so hard on making jewellery and putting plans into action that I can say goodbye to having almost any days off - including weekends.

From the start of September 2013 I had just one and a half days off up until just before Christmas Day. And all of those non-days off entailed very long hours of work. Most weeks I was working at least 120 hours. My days involved eating, sleeping and working and pretty much nothing else - and there wasn't really enough sleeping going on or time to prepare decent meals.

In October I got sick - I had two colds in a row and the second one especially was a bad one. Yet I didn't have a single day off - not even a single hour off. I needed to keep working as hard as I possibly could.

By early November my hands had started going to pieces. I regularly had splits in my skin which were the result of working my hands too hard rather than specific injuries. I'd have to tape them together and keep working. My nails were worn right down and my skin was dry and flaking, no matter how well I tried to look after it. And then there was the RSI - a pain deep in my wrist which I generally had to try to work around or ignore.

By the time the busy season stopped a few days before Christmas I felt completely wrecked, both physically and mentally. And then I had to race around madly in a short space of time to get my own Christmas sorted!

As for the rest of the year, the hours may not be so long and I can be more flexible with my time, but more often than not I work 7 days a week. Plus I often have to drop personal plans in order to work - generally it seems easier to just not make personal plans in the first place.

Again, I love my work and I want to be doing it, but …

It's not sustainable

My life is almost all business, all year, every year - only more so for part of it. I'm sure you can see that this simply isn't a sustainable way to live and work, no matter how much I love what I do.

Working so much harms my health, my relationships and my ability to enjoy the world around me. As I get older this will only get harder.

And in spite of working so hard, like many self-employed designers I'm often barely scraping by financially. I'm luckier than many in that my business is successful enough that I'm able to get by without any other income coming into my household. But my profit is less than the average salary in Australia and things can get very tight and quite scary. If there was even a moderate hiccup in my life, I'm not sure I'd be able to get through it financially.

The problem is that because I'm already working much harder than is sustainable, I have no way to continue to grow the business - it's grown as much as it possibly can within its current structure. And that really isn't enough.

Where to next?

For a few years I've known that all of this has been building up into a major problem and that sooner or later I would hit the limit of the amount of work I could physically do myself. I've now reached that limit. The business wants to keep growing and needs to do so, but I can't manage it as it currently stands.

Something has to change - both for the wellbeing of me personally and my business. And the continued wellbeing of my business will hopefully benefit my customers as well as myself.

As for what the change looks like, well after years of considering various possibilities I think I have finally nailed down a first do-able step which I believe also maintains the core integrity of my business. And I have an idea of how that might lead to other steps.

I have more research and thinking to do before I start telling people about it, but there are changes afoot and I wanted my customers to better understand why that is the case.

In the next little while I'll start talking about what my plans are and how things are likely to change - and I will be asking for your always valued input. So, stay tuned.

PS. Happy new year!



People often like to buy handmade jewellery and it would help you and give you many changes in your business. Prosperous new year!!

GajGallery - 24 April 2014

Happy New Year Simone. Looking forward to hearing about the changes and I hope they help you get some balance in your life. Xx

Rhiannon - 24 April 2014

Dear Simone,
Just read your email and also your Blog and wanted to say good luck and really hope the major op goes ok and you are soon back to normal.
Take care and sending love + a big hug from the UK!
Ellen Boylin

Ellen Boylin - 24 April 2014

[…] Time for a change » […]

Busy! « Handmade jewellery and more by Simone Walsh - 24 April 2014

Thanks for your input, everyone – I really do appreciate it.

It sounds like a couple of you are dealing with similar sorts of issues. Lacy, I’m doing those sorts of calculations too and looking at how I can keep growing, but at the same time make things easier on myself – not an easy thing!

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as to how things evolve.

Simone Walsh - 24 April 2014

Hi Simone!
I’ve admired your stuff for a few years now and I completely understand where you are coming from. My husband and I been operating our business since 2009 and our revenue has doubled every year. In 2012, we started getting commercial contracts for our handmade products and had to invest CASH money into our equipment making our month to month cash flow very limited. In 2013, our sales skyrocketed and we knew we either had to shut down our website (not very professional) or hire help. We ended up hiring one full timer, then 2, then 3, then 4 within a 2 month period. Now we have 3 permanent full time people and we couldn’t live without them. We had our accountant do the calculations for us and he came up with a figure of $60k (US dollars) per year to employ our 3 employees. This means that we they have to generate at least $120k per year to make their employment feasible. We also need a larger space. That means more money! What I’m trying to say, is that whenever a business owner spends a buck, they need to make $2. I sell jewelry and I do about 30% of the revenue. We need a bigger space so we are thinking of purchasing and running a retail establishment where we can operate our machinery int he back, have my jewelry retail/small workspace in the front and we can have that extra foot traffic pay the mortgage.
I know this might not pertain to you, but if it’s something you are thinking about, it might help you get a better understanding of what another small business owner in a similar situation is thinking. It’s hard as heck to write those employee checks out every week but it’s also quite rewarding when we get a large order and we can ship it out within a few days.
Best of luck to you and I do hope things work out for you.

Lacy Hornberger - 24 April 2014

I completely understand where your coming from Simone, As I was reading this I thought I reading about myself. I too couldn’t change my job now as I love it to much but unless you have buckets full of money to throw at your buisness to get you to a certain level to start with its hard work climbing the ladder, It’s like a catch 22. My main goal for this year is to market my brand more, I have a new website coming and really looking to push on but that has it’s problems as well because unless you can make a huge leap in customers and money you still can’t afford to take on any help but you have even more work which means more stress and like you said when those special ocassion days come round its manic anyway. I hope you manage to sort it out and look forward to your future blogs to see how its gone.

Stuart - 24 April 2014

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