How We Went From a Side-Hustle to a Full-Time Gig For Two
In 2014 we were flat broke.
For over a year I had been unable to work in Canada while my paperwork to become a Canadian permanent resident was being processed. When it finally went through we were officially broke and in debt, over a year of living on one income (Steve's fast-food manager salary) will do that to you.
Even without money, I couldn't go without giving anniversary and birthday gifts. I needed to get creative, so I tried my hand at some handmade gifting.
For our first anniversary, I made Steve a gift filled with vintage map prints of the places that meant something special to us as a couple. The piece included where we met, where we were from, and all of the places that were key to our love story (including the route the train would take from Philadelphia to Ottawa when I would visit him).
Things were tight and we desperately needed a second source of income to pay off our debt and ease our anxiety. So in 2015, I turned to Pinterest and DIY’d my way into a side-hustle. I made burlap bunting flags, decorated mason jars, created canvas art, and screen-printed tees. However, it wasn’t until I circled back to the map art I made Steve and combined it with my favourite medium of embroidery that my side-hustle started to feel like something viable I could grow and do full-time.
Now here we are 5 years later and Steve’s anniversary gift has become his full-time job. We’re both working from home in our small Little Italy apartment in Ottawa embroidering away and being our own bosses.
Somewhere in there, we went from my side-hustle to a full-time gig for two.
Here are a few steps we took that led to where we are today that you can use to take your side-hustle to the next level:
1. Etsy is Key
You already have your products, a name for your biz, and maybe you’ve even set-up an Instagram or Facebook business account. You think Etsy might not be the right avenue for you and you want your own site instead, or you might think the fees are too much $$$.
I’m here to tell you (and I love you so please don’t be mad at me) I think you’re wrong.
Etsy is the best selling platform to start with and to continue with even after you’ve set up your own e-commerce site and following.
Let me start by saying that people flock to Etsy to shop. It’s a marketplace that, with the click of a mouse, a complete stranger in another country can find you and your handmade goods. How cool is that? You are paying Etsy fees but once you set up your listings, tinker with SEO, and finish your whole bio Etsy does the rest (unlike your own website where you have to drive the traffic/sales).
Even now with our own website and over 50 wholesale clients in North America, I’m so thankful to have Etsy as supplemental income. We’ve had over 2,300 Etsy sales and most were to people who would have never found us otherwise.
If you’re still hesitant to invest here’s a link to get 40 free listings! (full disclosure this link will give us 40 free listings, too)
However, as much as I love Etsy it wasn't the only answer to turning our side-hustle into a full-time gig.
2. Weekend Craft Markets
It’s crazy to admit but I signed up for my first craft market (that’s me↑) in June of 2015 before I had even sold a single product. I took pictures of my handmade pieces and crossed my fingers that would be enough. To this day I still owe the lovely ladies who hosted the Ottawa Makers Market so much for taking a chance on me.
I made $200 that day and it truly changed my life. I know, it may sound crazy, but it gave me confidence knowing that people wanted to buy something I made with my hands. It’s also where I found out that our most popular item was the original hand-embroidered heart map! We had about ten map locations that first show and since then we’ve grown to over 1000.
Here’s what you need for your first craft show:
- A table (unless supplied) and tablecloth
- Business cards
- A card processor (We use Square!)
- A selection of your products
- And last but not least….a quick and fun way to describe your products to customers!
(Check out the very first business card I made in Vistaprint featuring a silly Beastie Boys quote 🙈)
Even if you don’t make money at your first craft show DO NOT GIVE UP. That summer I did a craft or flea market every weekend often on both Saturday and Sunday. I would wake up at 4 am on Sundays to set-up at the Rideau Carleton Fleamarket. I would say yes to almost every show and sometimes only sell one thing in two days. At most markets that first summer we made under $100, and at one we sold not a thing. But that first $200 gave me the confidence to keep going through the hard times and I eventually learned which craft shows were worth the time and energy. It also taught me which products to focus on – and led to us focusing solely on our hand-embroidered maps before the year-end.
Hot tip: The Square card processor is free to get in the mail and perfect for a side-hustle (we still use it 5.5 years later). If you are new to Square, use this link for free processing on up to $1,000 in sales during your first 180 days (which we’ll get, too): https://squareup.com/i/SADIEJUNE0
3. Work After Work
For a year and a half, Steve and I came home from our full-time jobs, parked our butts in front of the TV, and worked on Sadie & June until we would go to bed. I would stitch so long my hands would hurt - until I taught Steve how to stitch and then we would both stitch until our hands hurt. When we found out we were accepted into Toronto's One Of A Kind Show & Sale in the spring of 2017, Steve asked me to teach him how to stitch. This allowed him to quit his job and help me scale up the business – he actually went full-time before I did! I can sum this step up into one amazing quote from the queen shark herself:
“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week” - Lori Greiner
I soon realized I could make the same amount of money doing something that I loved as I did at my current full-time job that I had fallen out of love with. My mind was set. I made sure I had five months’ rent plus utilities saved, I gave a month's notice to my boss, and I said hello to my new life working side-by-side with my husband. Now, almost four years later, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.
I hope that you can implement these tips to grow your business and both me and Steve wish you the best of luck!
Have any questions? Comment below.