It’s not too early to start thinking about how to supplement your winter holiday budget. As I write this, my kitchen counter is lined with custom hand-painted Christmas ornaments in various stages of completion. I’m sure my friends and neighbors think I’m crazy for painting snowy scenes in the middle of June. Yet, I know I’ve hit on something people are interested in. Last year, I completed twenty orders in two weeks. This year I’m set to quadruple that number. (If I wait until November, the painting frenzy will most likely bring on carpal tunnel and leave little time for family during the holidays.) So, I start painting in July.
Each year, I’ve gotten a bit more savvy in preparing and executing this side hustle. If you’ve been thinking about doing something similar, here are a few ideas that have helped me.
- When deciding what you will do, consider your gifts and talents as well as what will sell. Are you a seamstress? Make key fobs, lanyards, coin purses and pet leashes. Do you love woodworking? Make birdhouses, garden signs or step stools. How about painting? I do custom ornaments of people’s homes. I think people’s pets on ornaments may also be a big hit. I’ve also painted on chalkboards and slate. People love anything they can have their name sewn, engraved or painted on. One lady saw me painting at a craft fair and ran home to get her store-bought ornaments. She paid me ten dollars each, just to write her kids names on them.
- Purchase supplies months in advance. My local art shop just had a 70% off sale. As a result of that sale, I was able to stock up on acrylic paint and a few specialty brushes. I love having all my supplies ready so I can dive into my projects when the time is right.
- Figure out how long it takes you to complete your craft or project and price accordingly. Last year, I charged $60 for a 4-inch ornament and $50 for a 3-inch ornament. I’ve realized that the work time is exactly the same, regardless of the size. So this year, I am only offering the 4-inch ornament and have increased my price to $75. Even with that price, I expect to have plenty of work.
- Designate a specific area of your home for your creative process. All crafters know this is crucial for the sanity of your home life. There’s nothing worse than crafts that creep onto every surface, keeping you from being able to sit down for a family meal. Because of the nature of my project, I use bookshelves to line up my ornaments. The books are still there—I just have deep shelves.
- Schedule when you will work on your project. Don’t let projects take over your life. I choose to work in the mornings and then again late in the evenings. This keeps the prime daytime hours available for friends and family.
- Consider an open house over a craft fair. Though craft fairs are the logical place to take your items to sell, the long hours, booth fees and work to create an attractive booth can wear you out and may not bring in the sales you hope for. Open houses are a great way to establish a community presence as an artist. All you need are two or three other friends with quality items to sell. Send out invites advertising a unique shopping opportunity. Encourage people to shop while they enjoy a cup of free tea or coffee. I’ve offered cookie samples and then sold beautifully wrapped ones for up to $2 per cookie. Our chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla monster cookies sold out in the first hour. Be sure to invite at least 100 people in order to get a good turnout. I use electronic as well as paper invitations and follow up with as many personal phone calls as possible. This extra work is no guarantee, but each year your open house will gain credibility and momentum.
- Join a social media group and let them know what you are creating. Last year almost all my customers came from a local FB group called Wheaton Mom’s. When I threw my line out again last week, six orders came in. They are now familiar with my work and wanted to be first in line because of last year’s overwhelming response. They are now great candidates for invites to my next open house.
Well, it’s getting late. My ornaments are calling to me. It’s time to go complete the next phase of painting. Christmas is just five months away. What will you do? I hope whatever it is that it will bring you joy and provide some extra sparkle for your holiday season. Merry Christmas in July!
Joleen Steel is a Canadian who spent her summers at Arlington Beach, Saskatchewan. Joleen currently lives in Warrenville IL with her husband and youngest son. Joleen teaches kindergarten at a Charlotte Mason inspired Christian school. She writes for all three of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine publications and has published several short stories for children. Joleen is the executive director for www.campingstickkids.org. Go to her website to find out how you can hold camp in your own backyard!