Dear Design Doctor
Four years ago I graduated as a jeweller. As it was financially very hard at the beginning of my career, I had to take on a full time teaching job and developed my own work on the side. I have been selling through Etsy mostly, and done some craft shows too.
I love teaching and inspiring my students, but something is missing.
I trained as a designer jeweller, I want to create and I want to make my living as a jeweller! But I am scared to make the jump. Although it doesn’t pay that well, it pays regularly and covers the basics. Will I earn enough from my jewellery alone? When is the right time to go full-time?
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine November/December 2014 (page 22) where it was titled ‘Taking the great leap forward’.
‘Exciting times indeed!
And I would be surprised if you wouldn’t be scared to be honest!
This is obviously a big decision for you and your career.
At the same time I want to remind you that your career is an ongoing journey, often made up of many small and bigger decisions along the way.
There will be challenges and opportunities along the way, and it depends on how you create and respond to these ups and downs that will define and make your career.
To take some of the immediate anxiety out of your dilemma, I would suggest that you start to think about your current situation in the long term, to give you some perspective.
Make a list of the positives of being a teacher: What does it do for you?
Make another list of the positives of earning your living as a jeweller, what do you gain then?
Then make a list of the negatives if you would decide to continue your teaching job.
And lastly (a very powerful question): What would be the negatives if you would decide not to be a full-time jeweller.
Take your time to do this exercise.
What did you learn?
Money is obviously an issue, but there are also other motivations and feelings at stake here.
At present your worries about your financial future might be clouded by your emotions, rather than facts.
It will really help you to do a financial forecast:
Start with your current situation and write down in detail your income and expenditure for the current year.
Then create a financial forecast as a full-time jeweller for next year.
Start with your expenditure (as that’s easier to predict).
Go in depth:
- What are your studio, material and marketing costs?
- How much ‘salary’ would you like?
- Which shows do you want to do?
When you know more about your annual expenditure, then start to look at how much income you need to generate:
- How many pieces do you need to sell, and at what price level?
- How many commissions?
- Think about different price levels and where you want to position yourself in the market.
- How will you be selling your work – mostly online, or do you need to do better and more shows, approach galleries in UK and abroad?
Really think it through, and work out what the financial (both income and expenditure) implications are.
What would be possible but realistic if you are able to work full-time on your jewellery business?
Doing a budget in this way will allow you to start thinking about your income streams, your marketing and sales channels, your ambitions.
Instead of a vague idea of ‘going full-time’ this will help you to make your plan more concrete and realistic.
Giving up teaching doesn’t mean you can’t utilise your educational and communication skills and passion. Rather the contrary!
Reinvigorate and focus on working with your kind of dream students to create new and creative income streams for yourself:
- Look for freelance teaching work, as commercial organisations and universities now often offer technical evening courses or Summer schools.
- Run jewellery making workshops from your own studio.
- Could you develop and promote online training yourself or through organisations like Mastered?
Your teaching job has obviously created a financial safety net in the last couple of years, which has been essential as financial worries manage to kill of your creativity dramatically.
But making the jump and taking a (calculated) risk might just be what you need right now.
I have seen it happen many times before with my clients: they worry and procrastinate about this decision (understandably), but the vast majority of them say afterwards: ‘Why didn’t I do this much earlier? It gave me the push I needed to take myself seriously.’
What’s the worst that could happen?
Be brave and show the world what you are truly capable of, become more professional (and be seen to be more professional!), and gain confidence in the process.
The reality is that nobody can tell you when the right time is to make the jump to becoming a fulltime jeweller.
You don’t need me to tell you that.
It’s true: your income will probably dip (for a short period), it is riskier, you will need to be more pro-active.
But think far ahead: your 80th birthday:
What kind of life and events do you want to look back at?
What do you want to have achieved as a human being and jeweller?
Let THAT be your guide at this current cross road in your life and career.
And no doubt too at the many future crossroads that will follow.
Take charge and enjoy your journey!
Let 2015 be the true start of you and your jewellery business.’