It’s 11:47 PM, and there’s yarn everywhere. The couch is covered in different colored skeins, a few strands hang off the cushions and lead to balls on the other side of the room, and there’s scraps all over the coffee table. I’m so lucky to have a boyfriend that deals with the craziness. I’ve pretty much taken over our living room with my crochet projects. Thankfully he has his own space in our second bedroom, but I still feel bad for the takeover! But that’s how my holiday season looks! Chaotic and messy.
I’m sure makers everywhere understand the chaos. Especially those who make orders as they come through. This year the majority of my orders have come through as custom made to order items. I’ve created everything from cozy crocheted socks to embroidered Baby Groot dolls, and in the midst of holiday gift orders coming in, I was preparing for a craft fair. And on top of all of that, I work full time, and October was the busiest work month I’ve ever had.
Everything going on is really good and very exciting, but I learned a lot about being organized. I was always used to working on orders in my free time as I could. I always had time for them. But then all of a sudden I didn’t, and I had to learn how to organize and fit my side hustle into the rest of my life.
The first thing I figured out was when I would fit everything in. After a handful of custom orders came through, I sat down and figured out how much time each would take me and when my deadline was (if there was one). After that, I looked at what I needed for the craft fair I was preparing for. Thankfully I had a lot of inventory from previous craft fairs, but I wanted to switch things up this year (of course I did, right? :)). I figured out how much of each new product I wanted to make, and I layered that into my list.
One of the most valuable things I learned from my first job out of college was to budget my time. I can be really good at blocking off time for certain tasks. After I figured out how much time I needed to finish everything, I looked at my work and personal schedules. My new job has given me opportunities to go to events and volunteer after work, and I really value my time at the gym, so I looked at each week and filled in work time wherever I could. Think of it like scheduling a shift at work. “From 7:00 PM until 12:00 AM, I have to crochet. Otherwise, I won’t finish this order, and I’ll let down my customer.” That thought process really helped push me through nights where I was pooped and didn’t want to crochet. That didn’t always happen, but we all have those days when we don’t even want to do the things we love to do.
I knew with such a crazy work schedule that I would run into days and nights where I would have something come up (I did), a friend want to grab a drink (I did), or where I would just come home and flop right into bed (I suuuuure did). Because I know myself, I built in wiggle room days. That helped a lot too.
Another important thing I made sure I did was communicate and be transparent with my customers. I had one order that came in September, and right away I let her know that I was preparing for a craft fair that would take up a lot of my time. I asked her when she needed her order by, and she told me she didn’t need them until just before Christmas! She told me to take my time and that there was no rush. I was so happy that I asked! If I wouldn’t have asked, I would have put extra stress on myself to crank them out ASAP. Of course I would have loved to, but I knew that I realistically couldn’t do that. I have always been afraid to ask for deadlines or to say that I’m too busy with other orders – or just life – but that one small conversation taught me that I should have those conversations.
In addition to setting expectations right from the beginning, I made sure to check in with my custom order customers throughout the process. I did this by sending them a note about where I’m at in their order (usually with a photo!) and letting them know I was getting close to finishing. In some cases, to get my own butt going, I would give them an exact date of when I would be shipping them out. That helped me stay on track and finish up orders while keeping my customers happy.
In addition to all of my custom orders, I’ve had a busy season in my Etsy shop! My velvet scrunchies have been very popular, so I have been busy filling orders too. This is pretty basic advice, but to make this go as smooth as velvet (hehe), I always made sure I had envelopes and materials to easily put together shipments. There’s one major thing I have failed to set up to help things along. I haven’t printed any shipping labels at home, which would save me so much time! I know, I know. But unfortunately we have a horrible printer, and it hasn’t been high on our list to replace. I pass the post office on my way to work, so it’s not a huge deal for me to stop by.
Things have started to settle down for me as far as custom orders go. I have a few things to wrap up this week, but other than that I am focusing on my Etsy sales. Because of how busy I’ve been, I haven’t set myself up for success like I would have wanted to with building up awareness and traffic to my Etsy shop, but I’m okay with that. I don’t rely on my crochet sales for a living – this is all for fun! And to help pay off my student loans a little faster… But I have some free time in the coming weeks, so lets hope that the effort results in a few extra holiday sales!
Good luck to all the makers out there this holiday season! Whether you do this full time or as a little side hustle – it takes a lot of work, and you are doing amazing.