Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Destri is the founder of The Mother Huddle, a mother of two, and a wife of one. With her pattern company set to launch this fall, a book in the creation process, and a boy playing T-ball, she considers herself very busy – but very happy.

Kathreen gave us several subjects to write on, and I had the hardest time deciding on just one. I’m pretty passionate about all of them, but the subject of women using their talents to earn an honest and healthy living is near and dear to my heart. But upon choosing to share with you how I turned my hobby and passion into a business, I realized the process was a little backwards for me. I first wanted to start a business, the business became my hobby, and I discovered along the way that it was only when I was passionate about that hobby could it become a successful business.  

A little over three years ago my husband gave me a computer for Christmas. At the time I thought it was one of those “we need one so I’ll just buy it for you as a gift” kind of things. Outside of an email account I had little experience with them. Eventually I made my way on to the internet following a news article to a blog. Over time I realized that some were making an income from their blog. As a stay at home mom, I was always interested in ways that I could make money working from home. So I became one of millions that set out to make a living blogging. There began my interest.

Without even knowing how to attach a file to an email, I started a website. I spent 11 months developing the concept, deciding on themes, and working with friends to contribute. We all took a different subject and since I had a sewing machine, I decided to write the Sew Be It segment. I have to smile at that now, because that was quite literally the only reason – because I had one. I barely knew how to thread it.

In that 11 months I then became one of millions that learned running a website was actually very hard, and was burned out before the blog had even launched. If I was going to do this I knew I had to find a healthy work-life balance and decided to take a break working on the website. In the six weeks I took off my sister signed me up for a sewing class at her brick and mortar quilt shop. There began my hobby.

I finally did find a healthy balance. I realized that having an ambition all my own was a large part of that balance. The Mother Huddle launched in October of 2009. There began my passion – not my business.

There is something about taking an idea in your head, sketching it onto paper, and then making it with your own two hands that is powerful. To willingly stay up until 3am sewing because something that took 3 weeks to draft is almost finished and you can’t wait to share it with like minds who want to be a part of what you are doing. It changed my life. The passion went beyond sewing too, I loved every part of it; the photography, writing, crafting – so much so that I held off starting a business for fear it would take the fun away and I would lose the passion for it.

When my kids were old enough that I considered going back to work, it hit me. The thought of doing any number of jobs I had done in the past, well –  just didn’t excite me. I had an opportunity to make a living doing something I love, and in the best kind of way for me. If I sewed clothing for a living, I know I would tire from it. If I had to work behind a computer screen all day, I’m certain I’d lose my mind or at least the creative side. But this unique position of writing a blog allowed me to tap into every area of creativity that I loved, and then share it with others – which I have learned is where my ultimate passion lies. There began my business. 

It took over two years to get there, but for me it had to happen that way. Had it been a business first, I would have never found the passion for creating that fuels it. I would have lacked the knowledge that numbers go up and down, and though at times you feel uninspired – if you persevere your blog does indeed grow. I needed that confidence to make it through my moments of doubt or ultimately I would have given up.

I am relieved to find that I really enjoy the business side of blogging. Just as ideas of new projects keep me up at night, so do ideas of how to grow my business. It’s exciting to know that just when it seems everything that could have ever been done has been done, I can think of new ways to make a unique mark in the industry, and I can’t wait to put them into action. I am still learning, and usually the hard way, but little by little I’m figuring it out.

As for resources, there is a video by Danielle LaPorte in the sidebar of her website that has become a daily reminder for me. I have a little book that I take with me everywhere; it holds ideas, dreams, and words of encouragement. I fear if I ever lost it I’d be heartbroken. Everyone should have a book like that. Last but not least friends; very patient friends who lift me up.

Thanks so much for having me Kathreen. It’s an honor to be a part of such an amazing line-up.


Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Diane Gilleland makes crafts, podcasts, ebooks, and online classes over at CraftyPod in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t making things, she’s tending to the every whim of her cat Pushkin, and what’s wrong with that?

Image by Windell Oskay, via Flickr Creative Commons

Hello, Whipup! I’ve been a craft blogger for six years. (And in this odd, still-pretty-new internet landscape, that constitutes a long time ago!) When I started blogging, it was purely a hobby, but within a couple years blogging became the center of my livelihood – and I quit my day job. I think this is a little bit because I was lucky, and largely because I’ve worked very, very hard to develop income streams from blogging.

I’ve learned some valuable things about monetizing a blog over the years, and I thought I’d share some of them here. I hope these ideas give you some real-world advice and useful food for thought!

Where does blog-money come from?
It’s tempting to think that monetizing a blog works like this: you write great posts, people like them, and the money comes in. Maybe you take some advertisers, maybe you create a tutorial and everybody buys it, or maybe you get “discovered” – but one way or another, all you have to do is be worthy and the money finds you.

There’s a tiny handful of popular bloggers for whom that strategy might work, but let me tell you: for the vast majority of us, making money blogging means treating it more like a business. There really aren’t any truly passive income sources for bloggers – that is, if you want to make a reliable part-time or full-time income.

Image by Richard Elzey, via Flickr Creative Commons
Small Income Sources vs. Large Ones

You don’t have to be shooting for a part-time or full-time income from blogging, of course. There are plenty of methods you can use to earn smaller amounts of income through blogging. You can sign up with ready-made ad programs like BlogHerAdsGoogle AdSense and Project Wonderful. You can join a craft blogger marketing program like The Blueprint Social and find opportunities to do sponsored posts. You can place Amazon affiliate links in your blog posts. These are easy-to-implement options that don’t require much upkeep, and will earn most bloggers at least a few lattes’ worth per month, and perhaps more. And that may be plenty for your needs, and that’s great!

Traffic-based income vs. Skills-based income
…But let’s say that you want to turn your blog into that part-time or full-time income. Well, your first decision is a big, broad one: will you make money based on the size of your audience, or will you make money based on selling your skills?

If you have a large audience for your blog, then you have the option to turn that audience into a kind of “product,” and sell exposure to them to companies. You might start up an ad program for your blog and sell space. You might place affiliate ads or links on your blog. Or you might sell sponsored posts. With all of these options, the larger your audience is, the more income you stand to make.

Or maybe you want to get hooked in with a craft company – to be hired as a designer, or write a book, or host a TV show. In that case, you need craft company decision-makers to see your blog, and you can reach out and start conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook to pique their interest. But you also need to cultivate a large audience of crafter-readers. Your readers provide evidence that you’re worth hiring, because you come with a built-in audience.

In order to make that  reliable part-time or full-time income through any of those options, though, you’ll need a lot of audience. It’s hard to put a firm number on these things, but I think your monthly site visits should number at least in the tens of thousands.

What if you don’t have that kind of traffic? Don’t worry! You can always start out monetizing your blog based on selling your skills instead. There are practically endless opportunities there. All you need to do is figure out three important things: 

Image by splityarn, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #1: What are your sellable skills?

What forms of craft do you love to think about, and make, and share most? Usually, knowing your best crafty skills is a good first step to creating money-making options for yourself. What crafts or techniques are you good enough at to teach other people? What kinds of things are you great at designing? What media do you know especially well? What crafts do you do differently than anyone else?

There are tons of ways to spin these skills so they can be sold. You might produce PDF tutorials or ebooks to sell. You might teach online classes. You might teach live classes. You might sell your skills as a designer to small business owners. You might make handmade things to sell. (All of these options require a receptive audience, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

More than likely, you also have several non-crafty talents – skills you’ve picked up at your day jobs, or through your education, or via the School of Life. These skills could be useful in monetizing your blog as well – how can you combine your crafty skills with your non-crafty ones to create interesting products and services for your readers? If you’re great at project management, for example, could you teach classes in project planning to crafty business owners? If you’re an accountant by day and a beader by night, could you write a simple ebook on accounting that creative minds can embrace?

Really, the question of what you sell comes down to our next important factor….

Image by BartNJ, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #2: What is your ACTUAL market for those skills?
This is a somewhat trickier idea. And I’m writing the word ACTUAL in all caps to make a big point: you may love to write about crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for it. You may love to make crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for them.

For many of us craft bloggers, our readership is made up of friends and kindred spirits. And while this is lovely for conversation, it just doesn’t automatically lead to income. In tight economic times, your readers have to make careful decisions about what to spend money on – and more often than not, this means your readers will be interested in buying things that solve some kind of problem for them, or that they have an actual need for.

…So if you want to make a decent skills-based blogging income, you have two options. The first one is to formulate some kind of product or service to sell to your existing readers. And if your readers are other crafters, then you basically need to figure out what those readers actually need. That might turn out to be something very different from the things you blog about or make.

For example, let’s say you’re an expert crocheter, and you want to sell hand-crocheted hats. If your blog audience is fellow crocheters, then they might not be the best market for your hats – they can, in fact, make their own hats. But maybe they’d be really interested in buying patterns for your hat designs, or learning your expert crochet techniques.

Or, if you’d rather blog about and make what you like, then your second option is to cultivate a new audience of people who actually need those things. So if you want to sell handmade items, and you want to use a blog to do it, then the people reading that blog need to be the people who need your handmade items. A classic example: let’s say you make quilted pot holders and embroidered dish towels. Are crafters the best buying audience for those items? Probably not – they can pretty easily make their own kitchen items. But people who love to cook? They’re a great market for your product! So, what kind of blog would appeal to them?

These are great big ideas, but they really just boil down to the same things that drive any successful business: what you sell has to have an ideal customer, it has to solve some kind of problem for that customer, and the customer needs to know it exists. … And that brings us to our third important factor.

Image by Jason Kessenich, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #3: How much time and energy do you have available for monetizing your blog?
To generate regular part-time or full-time income through blogging, you’ll need to invest basically part-time or full-time effort in developing, marketing, and supporting your business. Do you have that kind of time? If not, that’s okay – what DO you have time for? You can always start small (with some of the simpler options I listed above) and make adjustments as your income grows.

It’s important to be realistic in your expectations, and to understand that no matter how you choose to earn money blogging, in order to earn a sustainable income, you’ll be putting in plenty of effort. It takes time to write an ebook, teach an online class, produce a video, or write a pattern. It takes time to write the kind of blog content that keeps your traffic high (and attractive to advertisers) week after week.

You might want to pull our your calendar right now and set aside some regular blocks of time for working on your blog-based income.

Image by kodomut, via Flickr Creative Commons

Stay nimble, my friends
All of this may sound like monetizing a blog is really hard to do. Well, speaking from experience, it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth the effort. If you don’t mind, I’ll add one last slightly-challenging idea. Once you start making income from your blog, it’s no time to rest on your laurels! The blogosphere moves very fast, and it’s very likely that what’s earning income for you now won’t be the same thing that’s earning you income next year. To earn your income online, you have to be ready to keep a flow of new products or services, and change directions when your market changes – and that will happen regularly. Or, if you’re making your income based on traffic, then your nimbleness will involve keeping a stream of content that keeps lots of traffic flowing to your blog. And again, tastes change quickly online, so you’ll likely find yourself needing to change along with them.

All that said, I wouldn’t trade my little blog-based business for anything in the world. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a very satisfying expression of who I am, and what I love doing. It’s worth the amount of effort it took to build up, and the amount if takes to keep it going.

If you want to go deeper into this subject and come up with a customized monetization plan for your blog, you can even take my upcoming online class. I’d love to help you find your best money-making options!


Today I am happy to welcome Fabric Designer Lizzy House to Whipup.

I have designed fabric professionally now for 4 years, and since then, things have changed. When I started approaching manufacturers I was the only kid at the show. 21 years old with a bow in my hair; I was still in school, I’m not married, I have no children, I was an anomaly to the industry in 2006. Quite a few things have changed since then. The market has become much more saturated with “young” designers, giving peeps involved in this Modern Sewing movement a greater opportunity to find fabric that interests them. In my opinion all of these are great things. The one twist, that I’d like to discuss today, is about becoming a designer in this changing climate. Whether it be because of the industry, the scarcity of cotton, or the bumbling economy, manufacturers are taking on fewer new designers.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for you, if designing fabric is something that you want to do. What it means, is that you have to come to the table fully prepared.

Here are a few specifics to help you get on your way:

1. Your work has to be unique and original. Manufacturers are looking for new. It can’t be your impression of someone else’s work. It needs to be fresh and from your perspective. Take a look at what is out there and see if there is something that you can twist to fill a hole in what’s already available.

2. You need to keep a blog that other people follow. Manufacturers are now looking for people with a built in following. As tacky as that might sound, it makes perfect sense. When they are investing time and serious dollars into you, they need to know that you are a safe bet. So work on building up your internet street cred.

3. Beyond having a blog, your work needs to be out there. Whether you are licensing your artwork, printing and selling with SpoonFlower, or selling it in your etsy shop. Manufacturers need to be able to get an idea of who you are, and you want a sales team to be able to get behind you, just by googling you.

4. Back everything up with confidence and passion. If you believe in your work, it becomes easier for other people to believe in it.

These four things are a good start to helping you get your foot in the door in the Textile World in the Quilting Industry. But what about other fields? Say you are looking to publish a book. A publisher is essentially in the same exact position as a fabric manufacturer. They are just printing books instead of fabric. So you can apply these four points to any end of the craft industry for better success.

If you are looking to find out more about the textile industry you can check out my ebook How to Enter the World of Textile Design for the Quilting Industry.

And if you are hoping to become a published author, you can check out this really helpful post from acquisitions editor for Stash Books Susanne Woods on the Sew Mama Sew blog, and a thoughtful podcast about ins and outs of publishing at CraftyPod.


Two wonderful books have recently come my way that I just had to share with you. Are you a freelancer, a home business craft-preneur, a sole trader diyer or trying to make it as an artist? Well you need these two books.

Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Joy Deangdeelert Cho + Meg Mateo Ilasco. Chronicle Books; 1 edition (July 28, 2010).

The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line by Kari Chapin. Storey Publishing, LLC (February 27, 2010).

Creative inc is an interesting informative read for those in the illustration freelance business – whether just starting up or at a stage where you are thinking of expanding and growing – this book is a practical and down to earth handbook for those in this industry. Very useful chapter on getting an agent is worth getting the book just for this alone. Most of the business nitty gritty is pretty universal although the tax stuff is for a US audience – I still think that those in other countries will benefit from reading this book too. With interviews from those working in this industry – there are some real insights into what its really like to be a freelancer.

The Handmade marketplace – apart from being a super cute book filled with wonderful illustrations – this book is also super informative and helpful. Crammed full of advice from selling your wares online to how to take photos and market your products to branding, blogging and building community. Also filled with snippets of ‘true stories’ from real life bloggers and creative types – this book is a must have.


September/October brings change of season, and fresh starts and frivolity and seriousness too. So for a break from whipup realtime I am introducing a few weeks of guest bloggers to liven up your crafty experience. To bring you something fresh, and hopefully invigorate you to make and do and be and think! Its going to be a fun few weeks so come along for the ride.

Today I am really happy to welcome Nancy Langdon, co-author of Sewing Clothes Kids Love (flickr group here) (which we loved and reviewed). Nancy is also the designer behind Fledge and studioTANTRUM, North American distributor for Farbenmix, mother, small business owner and somewhat argumentative wife of the Professor. She does not have an MBA, but she keeps a diagram of Michael Porter’s Five Forces: A Model for Industry Analysis on her inspiration board under her sketches, magazine clippings and fabric scraps. Nancy today, along with a thoughtful and thought provoking essay on why the stay-at-home work-from-crafter has the same experience as someone with a MBA degree, has generously provided also has a free e-book with a pattern and instructions for making a newsboy cap from scraps – she explains more below.

True story: My husband and I were having one of those “discussions”. Nonsensical as it was and who knows how it started, but I recall it ending up here (maybe you are familiar with this marital back-and-forth): His work was more important than mine, while I am “just” the stay-at-home parent to preschool children, plus he was the president of his own company. Some points I had trouble debating, but that last one I could handle: With my computer and a credit card number, I went online and registered my own corporation. Just like that, I was president of my own company, too, thank you very much.

Now that I had a corporation in my name, I might as well do something with it. That bit of passive-aggressiveness has since turned into an active business. Several years later, a nice little sewing pattern designing and distribution gig, and a best-selling book under my belt, I am some sort of sewing muck-a-muck. But with that company, I am also a small business owner. And still a full-time stay-at-home parent: team manager, soccer referee, art education docent, playdate hostess, community activist and all the rest of it.

A 17 February Wall Street Journal article chronicling the difficulties some people were having reentering the workforce after many years at home has been on my mind lately. This article cites U.S. government research indicating that over 80% of the 2.3 million college-educated stay-at-home moms with children under 18 would like to return to the workplace at some time. For some of these parents, however, after a decade or more of being out of the loop, these otherwise highly qualified professionals were unfamiliar with the way business was being done today.

Confidence with emailing, social networking, word processing, accounting software is expected of all sorts of professionals: Lawyers, doctors, salespeople and CEOs alike. Knowing that the hip bone connects to the knee bone is not enough: Physicians need to understand that patients, through the Internet, are better than ever informed (and misinformed) of the latest research and treatments. Customers and clients talk openly about their experiences online. A single eye-roll from a disengaged salesperson can lead to a negative Yelp! review in minutes. Attorneys at law, who could once depend on a comfortable income just passing along information, now realize that Googling works for most people in answering basic legal questions and, therefore, their service scope needs to be more individualized. Secretaries have gone the way of white gloves and crinolines, and today’s Administrative Assistant is about as likely to type and fax a letter in the age of email as he would be to take a horse and buggy to work.

I will venture that if more of these stay-at-home parents had explored their crafty sides while undertaking the very important work of rearing children, they would be well equipped to hit the ground running in today’s workplace. The Internet has permitted crafters to learn, inform others and show off their handiwork. Very quickly, an “Atta girl!” or a “How’d you do that?” can turn into a business opportunity. Enough positive responses on an online forum, a flickr group or article, can light the fire under the crafty crafter and a personal pastime evolves into a commercial enterprise. That was my experience. And I have seen it happen again and again. I’ll bet it happened to some of you. At the risk of singing to the choir, I’d like show you how a bit of crafting can become a homemade MBA.

What starts out as a few sales on Ebay to pay for craft supplies morphs into an Etsy shop with a loyal customer base. And it becomes time to be a big-girl businesswoman. So the journey begins. And these are the things you will need to appreciate along the way:

– An understanding of the determinants of group behaviors and cultures in an online, interconnected world: Reviews on forums and blogs create instant feedback loops that the business-minded crafter better be on top of. Because of the feedback functions of Internet commerce, selling crafters are prompted to offer excellent service and quick communication. The Internet is instantly global, so you’ll need to be aware of all the things a world wide marketplace requires: Sensitivity to cultures, currency risks and language usage issues (I once spotted a cute pencil case on Etsy with a special place for “rubbers”, the British English word for “erasers”. Yeah, awkward.) Happy customers talk and word of your good work gets out. But unhappy customers talk, too. In fact, unhappy customers tend to talk more. Some may call the Internet the Virtual World, but it is based on the real world, and your real world values will surface. My experience? It has probably been about five years since I left one individual with less than a warm and fuzzy feeling. And, oh yes, that individual is still making her opinion of me and my work known to as many people as possible. If I’d only ignored the taunts back then or used more winkie emoticons ;-) Hatchets just don’t stay buried on the Internet, do they? Smilies and winkies all around :-) ;-)

– Establishment of productive relationships with suppliers, employees and strategic partners: As much as you may be running your own creative endeavor, working in virtual teams and in networked communities is essential to your success. On my Streetcar called Designer, I have relied greatly on the kindness of strangers (my apologies to Tennessee Williams). Collaboration with crafters around the globe is possible and probable. Make-it-or-break-it relationships are built with suppliers, collaborators and customers. More than that, one-to-one relationships with early adopters and opinion-makers is accessible to all, so better learn to take advantage of all that is available.

– Creation of a mission and vision and aligning and motivating self, suppliers, customers and partners behind that vision: My mission is this: “Have fun. Make Money. Do Good. Give Back.” I have found similarly minded others, and others have found me similarly minded: We find mutual benefits and our goals align naturally, organically. (I interrupt this blog post for a quick shout-out to Sabine Pollehn and the team at Farbenmix: Thank YOU!).

– A bit of Marketing: The entrepreneurial crafter will want to consider her how her product is presented: That’s called merchandizing. She’ll turn to flickr and learn how to photograph her products more appealingly. Using email blasts, Facebook and blog postings you get the word out. Using online polls and discussions, you gauge customer wants and needs. Pulling actionable information from the responses you gather is part and parcel for marketing science. Definition of a marketing mix and implement measures for determining return on advertising investment: The craftpreneur will need to get the word out: marketing and advertising.

– Hand-in-hand with marketing is your PR: You are asked to do online interviews and guest posts (Howdy! Whipper Uppers!). You buy an ad here and there on different blogs and forums. There is a famous quote that goes “It pays to advertise”. There is also a famous quote by turn-of-the-last-century department store merchant John Wanamaker that goes, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”. With a bit of Internet savvy, there are ways to see how effective your online advertising strategies are. There are bits of Internet Big–Brother magic, especially on Yahoo! and Google, that marketers use to trace the paths customers use to make purchases. We all dislike Spam, Internet and otherwise: But if Spam is served from someone I know and trust and to my taste, I might just bite.

– Identification of niche and mass opportunities and their ROI: I cannot think of a community that reacts faster to new trends and current events: Are Japanese “bento” lunches all the rage at your elementary school? Etsy has the one-of-a-kind handmade bag no one else does. Silly Bandz traveling up your children’s arms? Silly Bandz rolls and holders are found only on Etsy. Hurricane Katrina, Haitian earthquakes and, more recently, the floods in Pakistan have Etsy and Ebay crafters raising money to do good. Again and again and again, a lonely crafter will touch on the greater Zeitgeist and the mass culture soon adopts the look, the creation, the cause. I’ve done it. Sabine Pollehn of Farbenmix has done it. Many, many of you have, too. A focus on return on investment will move the crafter to successful business owner. Development of a brand, brand identity and associations.

– Protect intellectual property: Although many of us have nudged the Zeitgeist and been at the genesis of a new trend, most of us have not reaped the lion’s share of the benefits from our creative inspiration, have we? The time comes when you achieve enough acclaim that it makes sense for you to copyright your work and register trademarks for your commercial identifiers. Perhaps in your creative meanderings, you come up with something so novel, that you should apply for a patent. There’s a fine line between sharing a bit of your sandwich and someone eating off your plate, so better stick a fork in it before it’s all gone.

– Evaluation of economic conditions: Maybe the regulatory environment changes and new regulations throw a wrench in your works. Things like CPSIA, which casts a wide regulatory net over all childrens’ products, including handmade products, may require you to organize with others for political change. Without knowing what to call it, you are battling what the business guru Michael Porter called “Barriers to Entry.” Depending on the economic climate of the moment, you will adjust the focus on the your product to be sensitive it its value, luxury, exclusivity and/or environmental friendliness.

– Accounting and Management: As you chug along, craft and sell, craft and sell, pretty soon you’ll encounter a whole exciting world of admin. Admin, admin, admin. If you are taking in money, you will need to keep the IRS well-apprised of your activities, your bookkeeping better be by the book. You may also need to consider incorporating or forming an LLC to limit your risk. You may consider your risks and buy some insurance. So many things to consider. With success, you may find that you can’t juggle everything and start to find others to do some of the work, maybe some of the administrative work, maybe some of the logistics, maybe even some of the crafting. And now you are outsourcing services or insourcing by becoming an employer: Whodda thunk you would be the boss lady? And such a paper-pusher to boot?

– Finance: When you’ve done things right, your business will grow and change. You may find it’s time to upgrade and invest in a better sewing machine, produce your very own fabrics or buy a vintage letter press, which may involve a bank loan. Better give that business plan a thorough going over before sitting across from the loan officer. Making a workable finance plan is key.

Familiarity with the paradigms and effects of networked technology: Things like CPSIA, which casts a wide regulatory net over all childrens’ products, including handmade products, may require you to organize with others for political change.

Technology: Crafters make or at least administer their own Web sites, forums and groups. How many of you have spent a good many hours setting up online payment systems, formatting blog templates and searching through lines and lines of html for just that one misplaced backslash? Revenge of the nerds: We’re all computer geeks now.

And there is much more to this list, including Cash flow valuation, Capital budgeting, Risk analysis, Monitoring and Resource allocation. Sister, if you’ve done even half of what is listed up there, you’ve covered most of what is taught in any standard MBA program. Just because your annual revenue is probably less than what a Fortune 500 CEO spends during a single lunch in Manhattan, doesn’t mean that you haven’t had to do and consider all the aspects of a business that she does.

What? Don’t believe me? The headers in bold above are adapted from the curriculum of the Harvard Business School MBA program (which, by the way, runs a cool 46 grand a year for tuition alone). Feeling intimidated by all the business-y thing-a-ma-words? If you don’t have the time and 46 thousand dollars to run over to Harvard for schooling in business administration, there is help out there. The Small Business Administration is one of many good places to go ( As far as things like the Small Business Administration and the IRS go, my opinion is, it’s my government, why not let it work for me? I’ve picked up the telephone several times and spoken directly with government employees who understand the nuts and bolts of the things I struggled with. While you may be an expert at a welted fantastic and a double stockinette, your government knows you may need a little help understanding what exactly a use tax is. Those free phone calls and emails have saved me time and money and (knock on wood) kept me out of trouble.

Frankly, the ROI in the handcrafted world is generally rather small. I’m probably not taking my own advice very well, because my own cash flow valuation is pretty paltry. The riches are found for me more in the richness of the experience. The rewards are found in feelings of accomplishment, community and family, and not so much in Euros and cents. Not for most. Nonetheless, I will argue, that in addition to the rewards in your personal growth, a crafting business benefits your career skill set, as well. I came of professional age about 1990, before the Internet boom and during a significant recession. The sheepskin in my hand was no ticket into the profession of my choice. The mantra of Generation X was, be flexible and build a career, not a profession. I want to encourage stay-at-home parents to work on their careers: If you can think like a professional, you are a professional. When the time comes to find that briefcase hiding behind the kids’ old sporting equipment and head off to job interviews, you, the business-minded crafter can confidently and truthfully add many of the above skills to your résumé. (And we’ll keep it just between you and me just how fun you’ve had).

Being a stay-at-home parent requires you to wear many hats. Moving from hobbyist to craftpreneur requires even more. So why not wear this one, as well? For you, friends, a little free e-book of a newsboy cap to make from your scraps. I call it the “One-of-the-Many-Hats-I-Wear Hat”. Juggling as much as we do doesn’t leave a lot of time for blow-outs and curling irons: A bad hair day is a good hat day, right?

And then go ahead and cross stitch your business degree from the School of Hard Knocked Hand Knits. Enjoy!