Money matters.

If I had worked out how much I was comfortable being paid (or needed to draw) earlier; if I’d worked out how much I could earn by not investing a lot into the beading enterprise; it would have been a quicker path to the realization that this maybe should be a second line of income, for me…not my primary one. Looking at the salary ranges I can earn as either a freelance Writer or a professional Librarian, I see those paths can be much more lucrative, but more factors (like quality of life) are at play than simply financial.

$40-$50/hour — as one can earn as a Librarian for the City of San Francisco — is well above a San Francisco living wage. Considering that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the country (and I would think, the world) to live…that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even depending on the skills gained in my Bachelor’s Degree, which for a long time I have dismissed, I can earn around $50/hour being a professional Freelance Commercial Writer.

At a $20/hour wage (as I earned as a Library Assistant), beadwork does look attractive. However…I would think there to be an upper limit as to what the market will bear. I also need to understand the relative financial access of the people who have encouraged me: I have mostly been working alongside working-class people, and paraprofessionals. (There was a clear organizational and social hierarchy in my Library.)

If I had delved head-on into my beadwork sooner, I would have realized that creating multiple pieces of the same pattern of jewelry — not to improve upon it or modify it, but just as piecework because of demand — was not quite what I wanted to do. This is at 8+ hours a day, every day (or at least, so long as I’m awake). I’m pretty sure this could get traumatic with the wrong mindset, which is why I’ve backed off of it recently.

I’ve continued my investigation of the prices of woven earrings — particularly, those that are a bit unusual, like the ones I’ve been designing. I haven’t clicked through to many individual sites (other than Etsy’s), and I have not looked into “branded” merchandise — but I have found a good number of designers on Instagram who have Etsy shops, whom I wouldn’t have found without the social media platform. A good number of these people produce patterns to sell, as well as (or instead of) finished merchandise.

My findings from last time (also analyzing the Etsy Marketplace) still hold, though I have not performed any data transformations — I haven’t gotten that involved. (In any case, Google’s algorithms would probably skew my retrieval of data sets, meaning I’d need to use more than one search engine.) It seems that $45 is a good average price for something like mine, and $65-$75 is high-end.

Right now, I’ve got to wonder if I do make “high-end” jewelry, for the Craft Jewelry category…it certainly looks that way. Especially seeing that I have aimed to use actual nice metals (sterling, gold-fill) for my work, not only for parts which come into contact with skin…and, I’ve been doing this for a while, so it appears I have a broader skill set than many.

The cost of labor on one of the earring sets I’ve analyzed (at $15/hour), makes up around 75% of the total cost (not price to the end user: cost, to me). Out of the materials cost (the remaining 25%), about 64% is in metals — but I haven’t yet factored in the time or materials needed to hand-fabricate gold-fill earwires. At $15/hour, I can keep my overall costs down and still keep a decent wholesale price. I can also tinker with the wholesale markup, which in turn, tinkers with the retail markup…

I was just looking at my spreadsheets again, and made a pie chart to visualize how much of the cost of said pair of earrings is in labor, as versus beads or metals. After the base cost (not including overhead — such as image editing software, a P.O. Box, etc.), we have the markup to Wholesale, then the standard 2x markup of Wholesale to Retail. That means…the markup to Wholesale not only covers my costs, but nearly doubles my income — but I have to take an owner’s draw for that additional cash, as versus what I’m normally paying myself. Retail goes even further: even if I do provide Shipping, it’s worth it.

Maybe I’ve been looking at this the wrong way — maybe I don’t have to charge a salary comparable to the one I had at an entry-level job; I just have to be willing to pull equity from my company in order to live (although I’m not sure if that is good business practice). And maybe I can charge less for my own labor, than I thought I would have to (although I believe it would be in my own interest to charge at least minimum wage: just in case I ever need to hire someone). The issue of salary looks different, that is, between being a business owner and being an employee. Of course, though: it makes things a lot more stable if I am also or primarily an employee. Or a freelancer.

In other words, my hope is now not entirely squashed. I’m still going to read about becoming a professional Writer, though. Also probably, I should get back to my reading on Cataloging, and take the classes I have lined up. Maybe I will like Bookkeeping. You never know.

I…did not think I would reach that point, tonight. I’m still not sure the amount I’ll be able to pull with my beadwork (and/or patterns, and/or kits: I still have not narrowed this down) is enough to survive on, unless I’m living with someone else or relocate to a less expensive area. At the very least, I could contribute a substantial chunk of rent…

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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