Today I'm happy to share the insights of Starship Captain and knitwear designer, Joeli Caparco. Joeli designs classic, practical knitting garments and accessories that are road-tested for life's adventures. She also is a knitting pattern tech editor and creates online courses to help people discover the secrets of tech editing themselves. Find these patterns and courses plus her podcast at joeliskitchen.com
People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time maker. But what's a normal day for you really like?
I still have my youngest son home with me, so I'm not quite a full-timer yet! Mornings are spent with my son until he goes to preschool at 1pm. I then work until 4 or 5pm. Once a week I work from 1-9pm and to be honest I work a other few evenings as well, sometimes until 2 in the morning. When I'm working I could be answering emails, writing a blog post or newsletter, doing tech editing work, designing, or podcasting. Sometimes a work day is spent knitting whilst watching a movie and sometimes I'm stuck in spreadsheets the whole time. It really varies. It's also quite challenging to be flexible and accept that sometimes one kid or the other will be sick and need me and I have to give up my work hours then. I need to be sure there is flexibility in my deadlines or if I want to take on a big project with a strict deadline then I need to be sure that I communicate with my husband to make sure he can be on kid-duty that week should something happen. (He's totally supportive but also deals with project deadlines at work and it can be difficult for him to take time off.)
There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?
I'm doing it by being really aware of our expenses and making sure we can meet the essentials with just my husband's salary. This was simple for us to do because we started our family straight out of university and so we never got used to having two salaries. My work hours have varied massively throughout the years — I started out working just one afternoon a week and at one point built up to 3 full days (and a couple evenings). That felt too stressful on our family, though, and came with a hefty childcare bill – so I cut all the way back down to two afternoons a week. (For the full story about that and how not-so-easily I took that change, you can read this post here: My Journey to Fearlessness.) I'm building my hours back up again but doing it slowly and mindfully.
I also have a wide variety of sources of income — I have my tech editing, online courses, knitting patterns, craft shows, in person teaching, as well as consistent work from a couple publications that I work with. I find that having a variety of work means that when one thing is a bit slow another thing is picking up. It also means that I can spend time on things that don't directly provide me income (working on my website, doing the podcast, etc.) because I have other things that provide a stable income.
What new thing are you exploring now?
Right now, I'm working on ways to grow my YouTube channel. I really enjoy making videos and so I'm working on making tutorials and doing reviews as well as keeping up my normal podcast. I'm also really fascinated by Periscope and am exploring live streaming my podcast as I record it so I can interact with the audience in realtime. I've been watching gamers do livestreams for a while now and would love this to become more popular amongst knitters.
What's your definition of success in your business?
My definition of success is sustainability. For me that means making a reasonable hourly rate. I track how many hours I work in a month as well as my monthly income. As long as my hourly rate is the same as working the checkout at the grocery store then I feel good about my business. It's not about overall income numbers because sometimes the kids have school holidays and I don't work (and therefore earn) nearly as much as I do in a typical month. I want to be able to take that time off and enjoy their holidays with them and so I can't focus on monthly targets. Looking at an average hourly rate gives me personally a much better indicator of how well my business is doing.
What's the next destination you're working towards?
Eventually (next year) both my boys will be in school and at that point I would like to be looking at getting a studio space and using it to start teaching knitting, spinning and weaving classes to people (especially kids) in my local community. Until then it's keep doing what I'm doing and enjoying the little successes!