PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for My Craft Business

Professional Design vs Hobby Design

If you’ve ever considered upgrading your craft/design hobby into a business, this post may offer an interesting insight, as I’m now both a professional designer in one field (crochet) and a hobby designer in another (knitwear), so I can speak to both sides of this.

12 knit sweaters project

My Hobby/Pro Designer Experiences

I’m really enjoying my journey as a knitwear designer – I get to design, make and wear my own clothes, and that feels like a pretty amazing process. Every now and then, I feel a little wistful that I’m not parlaying my designs into a new income stream by selling patterns for my sweaters. It may seem like an obvious next step, but there are many reasons why I don’t want to do this.

Knitting is my hobby. I enjoy doing it for relaxation in between my crochet designs. I like making clothes for myself, that fit me and in colours I’ll wear. I can take months or years to finish a design and it doesn’t matter. If something isn’t perfect I can fudge it to make it good enough to wear.

Crochet is my business. It’s how I earn my living. I enjoy the challenge of developing new designs – and I love the things I design! – but there’s always a voice at the back of my head thinking ‘How well will this translate into a pattern? How can I explain this technique? Can I simplify anything to make it more enjoyable to crochet?’ Every new design has to be as good as I can possibly make it, and, while I never hurry an individual design, there’s always pressure to have regular new pattern releases, to keep PlanetJune in people’s minds and keep my business going.

PlanetJune Accessories 2018 Shawl crochet pattern collection

Support. I’ve built an extensive website full of tutorials to help crocheters successfully follow my patterns. I don’t have the time or inclination to do that for knitting techniques. At best, I could provide links to other sites that offer tutorials, and that’s not the level of service people expect from me.

PlanetJune Crochet Video Tutorials on YouTube

Fitted garments. I intentionally don’t design fitted garments in crochet. When I design and knit clothes for myself, I make them to fit me (short and pear-shaped). There are so many different body types and shapes, and it’s important that your clothes fit your shape as well as your size, or they won’t look or feel good on you. And I love making knitwear for myself that makes me feel good when I wear it!

silver thermal pullover by June Gilbank

If I designed a (knit or crochet) garment in the style I like as a pattern for sale, I’d have to:

  1. design it for ‘standard’ body measurements
  2. make a standard-sized sample (that wouldn’t fit me well!)
  3. find a ‘standard’ shaped lady to model it for the pattern photos
  4. either accept that ‘non-standard’ bodies (i.e. most people!) won’t be 100% happy with the result of my pattern, or offer extensive customization advice for how to modify the sizes to fit your own shape

The other option would be to change my design style to create very simple, non-fitted, rectangle-based garments that will work for most people as-is, but that’s not a style I’d enjoy either making or wearing. (There are also plenty of designs like that already, so I probably wouldn’t even make any money from trying to sell something I didn’t want to make in the first place!)

My Decision

I’m sure there are many more potential difficulties I haven’t even thought of, but just these few are more than enough to keep me from starting down the path of publishing my knitwear designs.

I know I don’t have time to start a parallel second career, and certainly not to run a knitwear pattern business with the level of quality and support that (I hope) people have come to expect from PlanetJune.

So, at least for the foreseeable future, I’m keeping my knitting (and garment design) on a purely hobby level. But I do love sharing what I’ve made, and I hope my projects will inspire others to try knitting (or crocheting, or sewing) a garment. It’s a very empowering feeling to be able to make your own clothes, and so satisfying when you get it right and it actually fits!

12 knit sweaters project

Hobby or Business?

Finding a way to make a profitable business from your hobby may sound like a dream come true, but it has the potential to suck all the joy out of your hobby, and, at best, it permanently changes your relationship with your craft.

I’m endlessly grateful that I’ve been able to build a successful business from my crochet designs. I try to keep innovating and developing new techniques to keep my designs fresh and exciting – both for my customers, and for my own enjoyment and improvement in my craft!

PlanetJune pattern selection

But, even so, I do sometimes miss the freedom of being able to create more complex crocheted art pieces that wouldn’t make a good pattern. Keeping my knitting as a purely creative outlet, with no motive other than making things I want to make, has given me that freedom back. It’s a way to balance the pressure of creating for my business with the joy and relaxation that only comes with making for fun.

WIP cardigans - knit and crocheted - by planetjune

So, the moral of the story is: there’s no right answer as to whether you should try to turn your hobby into a money-making venture:

  • A hobby gives you complete artistic freedom, relaxation, enjoyment, and personal satisfaction.
  • A business reduces all those things in exchange for the possibility of success: happy customers, recognition, more financial freedom, etc.

Having a hobby can give you a release from the stresses of everyday life. Turning it into a business adds to those stresses, but if you’re willing to put in time, hard work, and the determination to keep going even when you don’t feel like it, turning your hobby into a business can be very rewarding.

Or you could keep it more casual – instead of aiming to start a serious business enterprise, you could have a ‘hobby business’, where you sell a few things you’ve made to pay for your craft supplies etc, but don’t try to scale it up into a full-time business.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the pure joy of making just for fun! Maybe you should keep your craft as a hobby, like my knitting- it’s important to protect the things that make you happy. πŸ™‚


So, what’s your experience? Have you ever considered turning your hobby into a business? Have my words made you think about doing (or not doing!) it? Or have you already tried, and how did that change your relationship with your hobby?

I’d love to know! Please leave your thoughts in the comments below…

Comments (6)

2018: year in review

Today marks the first day of my second decade of full time self-employment! I’ve just read back over all my previous Year in Review posts and it’s been an epic journey so far. I sometimes forget how much time and heart I’ve put into PlanetJune to reach this point, but I’m pretty proud that here I am, 10 years later, doing exactly what I set out to do – making my living at the intersection of my passions for crafts and nature, through designing, creating and writing…

Over the years, these annual review posts have formed a clear record of what I’ve accomplished, and writing them each year helps me to think about what I’ve learnt each time and what I’ll do differently next year.

2018 Achievements

This year, I published a range of new crochet patterns that included something in each of my design categories – animals, plants, accessories and seasonal:

2018 PlanetJune crochet patterns

I’ve added to my tutorial library with a few new tutorials:

2018 PlanetJune tutorials

I rebranded my YouTube video tutorials with a fresh new look and created an animated logo that I’ll be using for my new crochet videos:

PlanetJune crochet video tutorials

I also rephotographed all my PlanetJune Accessories shawl and wrap patterns, so now the photos all have a cohesive look and you can see the designs more clearly:

PlanetJune Accessories shawl and wrap crochet patterns

Behind the scenes, I’ve been improving the backend of the business, with new payment and processing systems, sales tax collection, and adding to my library of responses to common questions.

And I’ve made time for more making in 2018 – both crafting and cooking (although I don’t want to get into food blogging – my food always tastes better than it looks, anyway!) I’ve been enjoying experimenting with some new (to me) materials and ingredients and creating something useful or beautiful or delicious or just fun with them:

2018 PlanetJune crafting

(And there’s a little sneak peek photo above for two projects I haven’t blogged about yet: my giant amigurumi gingerbread man and a new handknit sweater! I’ll tell you about those soon…)

For most of the year, I’ve also been working on a big project – a crochet ebook – that hasn’t launched yet, so between planning, writing, editing, making samples, photographing, editing photos, page layout, project managing and more, I’ve been pretty busy! I’m in the last stages (final edits and cover photos) now, so it’s coming soon.

Settling In

Although we arrived back in Canada at the end of 2017, the first half of 2018 was filled with moving into our new house, sleeping on the floor of an empty house until we finally got all our belongings back, selling our old house and jumping through hoops to try to get permission to move the money out of SA, and Dave changing careers. All of that took a lot more time and energy than I anticipated, and now it’s all over, I’m still feeling a little shell-shocked from the whirlwind of all the move-related stuff.

I also completely underestimated the way that mental health works. You may have noticed that I like to do everything myself (like running all aspects of PlanetJune), but that just wasn’t working in this case – although my panic attacks dropped off as soon as we reached Canada, I still didn’t feel right and I couldn’t snap myself out of it. I finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder as well as the PTSD.

Although there’s no magic cure, I feel so much better now that I’m getting professional help, so I want to put my experience out there in case it can help anyone else: mental health is at least as important as physical health, and there’s nothing weak about asking for help.

Looking Forward

I am so happy in my life now – I still don’t 100% believe it’s real. It’s been a long stressful road to get here, including receiving my Canadian citizenship in tears the day before leaving for Africa with no idea if I’d ever return. But this long journey has led to me being so grateful for everything I now have, and an appreciation of how fortunate we are.

I’m still struggling with my energy levels, and I have a host of relatively minor but inconvenient health issues, but I’m trying to give myself grace when these interfere with my business plans. I know I need to look after myself first, and PlanetJune second, so I have to plan carefully to make the best use of my time and energy.

I want to focus this year on designing amazing new patterns and creating high quality video tutorials. My biggest problem is deciding which of my many ideas to try: I’m trying to work out if there’s a way to balance being productive with following the flow of creativity and allowing the best ideas the time they need to blossom. (My bestselling patterns of 2018 were the new Succulent Collections, and they wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t given myself months to research, develop and prototype to build the collections.)

After closing my crochet tool shop last April, I’ve been investigating options to be able to offer limited runs of my Detail Stuffing Tools in future, and I think I’ve found a solution that will work – more on that later. And I have some ideas for really fun new products too, but we’ll have to wait and see if I have time to develop those any further in 2019 or if they’ll have to wait for the 2020s(!) – I’m determined not to let myself get spread too thin.

Last year, I wished for peace, calm and quiet strength, and re-reading those words now, that’s exactly what I’ve been building for myself all year, although I hadn’t realised it until just now! My attitude now is to take time to appreciate what I have and what I can accomplish, and not dwell on what I can’t.

My wish for this year is a continuance of that: focus, determination and acceptance. I wish all those things for you too, and a very, very Happy New Year!

Comments (6)

PJ Accessories Shawls and Wraps update

In preparation for the launch of my upcoming 2018 PlanetJune Accessories crochet pattern collection of shawls, I decided to revisit my older shawl and wrap pattern photos. When I published my first collections of PJ Accessories patterns in 2010-2012, I didn’t have a mannequin, and the old photos (with me modelling the shawls) don’t really show my designs at their best!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve washed and reblocked all my older design samples, and photographed them all on my mannequin. And here’s the result – all the PlanetJune Accessories shawl and wrap patterns to date, with three styling ideas for each one:

PlanetJune Accessories Shawl and Wrap crochet patterns (2010-2017)

Ahhhh! Don’t they look good?! I’m thrilled with how much more clearly the new photography shows my designs, and how much more cohesive the range now looks.

If you’d like to see any of these shawls and wraps in more detail, click here to see all my shawl and wrap patterns. Or, if one in particular has caught your eye, here are the direct links to all the pattern pages (clockwise from top left in the above image):

* patterns with updated photography

All these patterns (and many more other accessories) are available as part of my Custom Set of any 3 PlanetJune Accessories patterns for a special price. Click here to mix-and-match your bargain set now!

PlanetJune Accessories crochet patterns - new covers

(By the way, only the covers of the patterns pictured above have changed, but, if you’ve already bought any of these patterns and would like the latest version with the updated cover photos, you can of course re-download the new versions from your PlanetJune account.)

Sneak Peek Time…

Next week I’ll be adding my 2018 collection to the PJ Accessories range – here’s a quick teaser to whet your appetite for the new additions:

PlanetJune Accessories 2018 Shawl crochet pattern collection (teaser pic)

The new shawl collection will include three different shawl shapes, and they’re all very versatile: as well as making them in the same size and similar yarn to my samples, you’ll be able to choose to use pretty much any yarn weight and customize them to any size, if you prefer.

Check back next week, or make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter to get a reminder so you don’t miss the launch discount for the new collection πŸ˜€

Comments

Closing Sale: PlanetJune Crochet Tools

This is your last chance to shop from the PlanetJune Crochet Tools shop before it closes forever…

PlanetJune Crochet Tools: Detail Stuffing Tool and Stitch Markers

I’m selling off my remaining stock of Detail Stuffing Tools and Stitch Markers for Crochet with deep discounts if you buy multiples of the same item – I recommend you get some spares, as they are so easy to misplace, and the discount will help offset your shipping costs:

  • 10% off when you buy 1
  • 20% off when you buy 2
  • 30% off when you buy 3
  • 40% off when you buy 4
  • 50% off when you buy 5 or more

The discounts are automatically applied – just select the quantity you’d like and add the item to your cart, and you’ll see the lower prices there.

This is also your last chance to grab a free signed bookmark! Tell me who to sign it to and add it to your tools order at no additional cost.

I’ll be closing the Crochet Tools shop at the end of April, or sooner if everything sells out before then, so please don’t wait if you want to place one last order of Stuffing Tools and Stitch Markers before they’re gone forever. I only have a hundred or so of each item left, and, once I send out my next newsletter, this message will reach many thousands of people, so they may sell out quickly…

Click through to the Crochet Tools shop to place your order now. πŸ™‚
 


As I like to run PlanetJune transparently, I’ll also share the reasons why I made the decision to close my Crochet Tools shop. Keep reading if you want the behind-the-scenes view!

In January, Canada Post eliminated their Light Packet option for international shipping, meaning that the lowest price to ship a small packet out of Canada is now about $6 (USD) to the US, and about $8.50 internationally (and those prices are much higher if you want tracking and insurance).

I investigated alternatives to make that cost more reasonable for my customers, and found that I could cross the border to mail my packages from the US at far lower rates, or pay a reshipping service to do that for me.

If selling my tools was the focus of my business and I had hundreds of orders per week, something along those lines could be a good solution. But the crochet tools are just a tiny sideline for me – the money I make from them only represents a fraction of one percent of my income. I’d lose money if I tried to reship in small quantities, or I’d have to raise my prices to compensate.

So, the only remaining option is to pass the new high Canada Post shipping costs onto my customers. They’re far too high for most of my customers to be happy to pay, so I made some estimates of how many sales I’d lose as a result of the increased shipping cost. Based on these, my best guess is that I’d make only approx 1-2 orders per week in future. The cost of time and fuel to make the trip to the post office every week, just to ship a single low-value order, would leave me making a loss on every order unless I raised my prices significantly, and, again, I don’t want to do that.

The upshot is that there’s no way for me to run my Crochet Tools shop any more without losing money, and so the only sensible business decision is to close it down. But I didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch, hence the closing-down sale as a last chance for anyone who hasn’t got around to buying their tools from me yet!

I love my crochet tools line. They’re cute and colourful, and so useful. I’m keeping a dozen spare stuffing tools for myself, because I don’t know what I’d do without one – I’ve tested all kinds of alternatives and I’ve found nothing that even comes close for stuffing small amigurumi pieces.

But nothing lasts forever, and my crochet tool shop has had a good run. This decision will be a good thing for PlanetJune in the long term – further simplifying and streamlining the business will leave me with more time to concentrate on innovating with new designs, and creating new tutorials to help you perfect your crochet technique.

So, please click through to my Crochet Tools shop now and grab any tools you need before it’s too late! I don’t want you to miss out…

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2017: year in review

2017 has been very far from the year I was expecting; when I started another year in South Africa, I didn’t dare to dream that I’d be back home in Canada by the end of the year. And yet, here I am – yay! ♥

An Unexpected Turn of Events

Things seem to have a habit of going in different directions than I’d anticipated, but at least the advantage of keeping my business small is that, without anyone else on the PlanetJune team, I can easily change plans and switch directions on the fly, to adapt to circumstances.

  • I invested a big chunk of time towards the end of 2016 in updating my Commissions system, but then decided that it was time for it to be retired (and, a few months later, I don’t regret that decision at all).
  • With a goal to concentrate on my YouTube channel in 2017, I invested financially in new video recording equipment and editing software, but a minor-but-ugly thumb injury that’s only just healing now has meant I haven’t been able to make even one new crochet video all year. (I’ve managed to keep making patterns through a combination of careful hand positioning and photoshopping, but neither of those are practical for videos!)
  • And, of course, the big one: I didn’t start the year expecting I’d be planning and coordinating another move halfway around the world, and have to simultaneously plan how to bolster my business to weather the storm of having no office/studio or equipment for 3 months, so no way to produce new patterns…

2017 Achievements

Wearing my web developer hat, I’ve completed some dull-but-necessary tech projects:

  • Added a privacy policy page to comply with privacy and disclosure requirements.
  • Converted PlanetJune to HTTPS (so you can tell I’m 100% trustworthy by the green padlock in your browser’s address bar).
  • Added credit card processing in my shop (finally!) so you aren’t required to use PayPal any more.
  • Updated my shop to also allow payment in Canadian dollars, and to prepare for the sales taxes I’m going to need to start collecting from Canadians from today onwards.

Wearing my designer hat, I’ve been splitting myself in two this year, and squirrelling away half my new designs so I’ll have some new releases to get PlanetJune through the lean winter months while I can’t create new patterns! Despite that, I’ve had some strong pattern releases this year and made some good decisions that have helped PlanetJune to keep growing.

2017 PlanetJune crochet patterns

I’ve always said that quality is more important than quantity, so I’m not disappointed in my 10 new patterns (plus one re-release) this year – especially as so many of my latest patterns include multiple designs. Count up all the different options here and you’ll see I actually have 25 new pieces you can crochet – that’s not a bad number at all!

And, despite my thumb injury, I added a few new helpful crochet tutorials:

2017 PlanetJune tutorials

Planning for the move hasn’t left much time for creative pursuits this year, but I always try to keep some time free for crafting and personal development:

2017 PlanetJune crafting

I’m still knitting sweaters, I’ve played around a bit with needlefelting, and I’ve also started to teach myself Japanese (although I’ve let that slide a bit over the last couple of months – my brain has been fully occupied with more pressing matters!)

Lessons Learnt

Although this year has been anything but easy, I got through it and now I’m at the point where I’ve accomplished the move, and have the next 3 months of PlanetJune designs ready to publish! All this has proved to me that I can still be strong when I need to be, and that simplifying things is the key to dealing with major challenges. I’ll try to remember these lessons when things get overwhelming in future:

  • Don’t be afraid to make big decisions if they’ll bring you closer to your dream job/life/situation.
  • Know that even the best plans need to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Keep moving forwards, even if you’re sometimes moving at a crawl.

I think these wise words can apply to anything you’re trying to do – especially a goal that feels like it may be a bit too ambitious or unattainable.

Looking Forward

It’s tempting to think that, now my move home is complete, I should be able to plunge right back into working hard for PlanetJune, to make up for lost time and get business booming, but the reality of a sustainable one-person business is that you have to balance building the business with caring for the person behind the business.

Although I haven’t talked much about this since it happened, I’ve struggled with my health for the past 3.5 years since the trauma of my home invasion experience. It profoundly affected me, and the PTSD hasn’t gone away.

I hope that now I’m back in Canada, my life will start to stabilise and I can concentrate on rebuilding myself. I think the distance will help me to finally recover from the mental trauma and give me enough energy to also start to rebuild my physical strength after being a virtual prisoner in my own home for years. It’s only been a few weeks and I’m already feeling much better, so I’m confident I can achieve this in the coming year.

You may have also noticed the absence of local wildlife posts since my bad experience – I couldn’t even find the courage to go into my garden alone without bringing on panic attacks, so sitting peacefully in nature with my camera is something I’ve sorely missed, apart from on our occasional holidays to safer places. But now (and especially once winter is over) I’ll be able to get back outside and enjoy nature again!

As for PlanetJune, I still absolutely love what I do here – designing new patterns, developing new techniques, and teaching people how to make beautiful things. I’m very motivated to keep doing all that, and I don’t need to set any specific goals to know that’s how I want to spend my time and earn my living.

I don’t know what the coming year will hold and how much time and energy I’ll have available for all the ideas I have for PlanetJune. As I can’t predict the shape of my life this year, I’m going to keep my business plans very simple and free from anything even remotely resembling a deadline. My overall goal is to work to the best of my ability with the time available to me, to explore, design and create new patterns and supporting tutorials.

For 2018, I want to dial way back on the excitement and build a strong foundation for the future, both personally and professionally. My wishes for this year are for peace, calm, and quiet strength. I wish those things for you too, and a very Happy New Year!

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    June Gilbank

    Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!

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