Let's Chat: The Challenges of Being a "Maker"

Sabrina Smelko wrote a fantastic post about the problem with the maker movement, and I recommend that you all give it a read. Being a "maker" has become trendy these days, and although that's a good thing it's presenting a few challenges. 

As Sabrina mentioned, the language describing the "maker life" is cheap and flimsy, suggesting that if you "hustle" hard enough, everything will work out. The fact of the matter is, this trend is giving people a false sense of security. People see what artists are making and think, "I can do that" and start up their own Etsy shops, thinking if they put their own spin on it, they too can hop on the band wagon to an easy job and gobs of money. 

The reality of the situation is that even if you have years of experience working with your hands, even if you are educated about what it takes to run your own business, and even if you have great original ideas, there is no guarantee of success.

It's a difficult road to self-employ yourself in the creative world. You need to have the kind of passion that keeps you going when nobody is buying what you're selling, but your bills keep piling up. You have to be able to stare failure in the face and decide to keep going (because you will fail - I fail all the time). 

As I've said before, if I try to do 10 things, 8 of them will fail (in a row) and I'll feel like I should just take this as a sign to give up. Out of pure spite for the universe I will continue to do the 9th thing. The 9th thing will work out (but only 80%), and I'll be so excited that I'll go on to do number 10 - which, let's be honest, will probably fail too. But I keep going, and I try so many things that a 10% success rate is enough to keep my ship afloat. It's exhausting, but thrilling. My days start at 6am and end around 11pm. Looking on social media it may seem like I just sit around and paint pretty things all day and everything just magically works out, but trust me, there's much more to it. I think this is a fantastic discussion to be had, because the saturation of social media with new crafters every day can make it seem all too easy, and it's an unhealthy way to represent creative careers. 

The Up Side

The up side to the trendiness of the maker movement is that people are getting to experience firsthand what it's like to struggle in the creative space. I believe that everyone should have a food service job in their life, and everyone should try at least once to make something with their hands and find a niche market that will love it - it gives you a greater respect for the hard work of the people that decide to stick it out. 

I hope that the new makers out their aren't discouraged by this, but are educated by this healthy discussion of the challenges you will face when you decide to start your own business. It's not all pretty white backgrounds and pink confetti, or dancing flamingos and cute pineapple prints. Although following your passion is satisfying, it can be very isolating and scary at times. I think the trendiness on social media is like someone telling you "yah! go to college! You'll have so much fun and party all the time, it'll be a breeze, just like the movies!" without warning you of the cost, or the burden of student loans, or the amount of work you still have to do once you graduate to even get an entry level position. 

I would love to keep this discussion going, so definitely check out Sabrina's post and let us know your thoughts in the comments here & on her blog.