What it is really like to be a full time Prop Vendor/ Knitter

Hello Everyone

I  was asked what it is like to work full time as a prop-vendor or knitting/ crochet full time from home, from someone considering this herself.

I really love what I do, and its very rewarding seeing the babies wearing my outfits, but that said, I must warn you that its very hard work, with very long hours.

I work at the knitting and crochet full time. I am a single mom to a 20 year old, so I don't have to worry about caring for small children, and this is my only income. I don't have help in cleaning my house so I have to fit that into my schedule.

My day starts at about 6 am, checking emails and overseas orders/ enquiries that may have come in overnight. I use google calendar to schedule all my orders, so that I can easily rearrange them when I have to, and I can see the calendar on my Tablet and phone too. That way I know at a glance my turn-around time for orders.

I do my own book keeping every Monday, and have an accountant to help with taxes every 6 months.

I sit down to "work" officially at 8 am, and do at least 1-2 hours marketing all over the internet every day. Continuous marketing is key to reaching new people, and keeping your current customers informed of the latest goodies you have to offer.

I deal with quotes and enquiries throughout the day, via my laptop and my phone. People have short attention spans, and if you don't respond quickly,  they move on to the next vendor. I market on Facebook/ Etsy/ Instagram / Twitter / Google+ / my own blog/ website, and every free classified advert that I can find, also tweaking my Etsy shop SEO and so on.

Knitting orders continues from about 8pm every day. I stop to make dinner and then continue working. The advantage is that I can knit anywhere, and still be with my family, watch TV etc. I am always available on WhatsApp and email for customer enquiries, even late at night. I have found that a lot of the moms/ photographers are only able to discuss orders etc after their own kids are tucked in bed .

I try to schedule weekends off, but it is very rare that I actually have a whole weekend without working. There are always customers that need things in a hurry, and I feel that I cant refuse an order, in case there is a slow month.

I have found that there are "low seasons" , International orders drop off during their summer holidays. Local orders drop off during each school holiday (as most moms/ photographers have the extra expense of either hiring extra day-care or paying for kids entertainment), so I try to adjust for these by creating new lines , and streams of  passive income (like the patterns I sell), and by marketing to the countries that are not on holiday
I am also constantly scanning overseas vendors/ photographers and other handmade sellers to see what the trends are. For example the mommy market wants cute animal/ them hats and sets. The photographers all want the "vintage" style props at the moment (but this changes every few months as the trends change) I read a lot of "how to" type of articles while I work so that I can be competitive and stand out among the zillions of other sellers.

There is also as sort of unwritten "rule" amongst local vendors that we don't copy each other, but try to put our own "twist" on designs, and that we try to keep our prices at a living wage, but there are always new people popping up for a few months, who sell their items very cheaply, undercutting our prices. But they soon realise that you can make 100 hats, killing yourself to make a small profit, or make 10 hats and make the same profit, with a better quality product.

OK, with that all said, I don't mean to sound negative, I am just giving you a realistic idea of what the work is like . The reality is that other than when I am sleeping, I am working / learning.

The advantages are that I was able to be at home when my daughter came home from school, I could attend school functions (knitting on the sidelines), and that I am working for myself. I set the pace, and its very rewarding to see the babies wearing my outfits. My daughter has also learnt what its like to be an entrepreneur.

My "reward" for a year of hard work, is that I close shop from Mid-December to the first week of January. By then most orders have almost come to a halt as people are busy with Christmas. So I take a break too.

Hope that this helps and gives you an idea of what is involved.
You are very welcome to ask questions/ advice at any time

Thank you to all the Newborn Photographers who so generously share their darling photos with me. Without you, I would be slaving behind a desk somewhere!

I would love you to join me on Facebook, or visit my Etsy Shop

Tania Dunkley
Crafty Stuff Baby Knits
Port Elizabeth, South Africa