This week I've had my head buried in my end of year accounts. Online submission may not be due until January but I usually like to get mine out of the way as close as possible to the year end, and me being late this year getting going was adding to the stress. I always find end of year accounts stressful, for reasons that I hope become clear.
I knew this year had been a good year, and I'd estimated that my turnover had increased by about a third. In fact, it was more than that - a huge jump of 35% on my best ever year (not the 30% I'd originally thought).
My questimates as to my earnings and turnover are usually optimistic and rarely accurate, and so when the numbers stared back at me and confirmed that I'd done better than I thought, it was a bit of shock to say the least.
Besides feeling ever so grateful for the continued support I receive and feeling pretty chuffed to be doing so well from (almost purely) design work, the biggest feeling of all was relief. Relief that my hard work had paid off. Relief at having that much more financial freedom. Relief at not needing to worry so much going forward.
You'll know that I've written a lot about how hard it can be to earn a living as a creative self-employed sort, especially in an industry that is notoriously underpaid and undervalued. And on top of that, how bloody hard it is to support a family of 3 on that. We've no second income, no state top-up benefits - what you spend on my work is all we have, and it houses, clothes and feeds our family of 3.
I know so few in a similar position out there and sometimes it feels quite isolating, although I try not to show it. It's often been said to me "you do so well!" or "how do you do it?" and what I want to say, but never do 'cos I don't wanna be rude, is "because I have to". When you're in this position, it forces you to make very different decisions. None of this happens by accident; from my deliberate want to stick to small, single, portable, 3-dimensional items in the form of Hats, my insistence on self publishing and maintaining control, and my steering well clear of tangibles.
The pressure of carrying this responsibility, of being the sole earner, has been taking its toll, especially over these last few years. I had strong words with myself recently about doing what I can to take some of the pressure off myself, and we are going to have that holiday to India now. But it's still up to me to make sure we have enough. This person who feels like she's falling apart physically, who battles with her mental health. This person gets frustrated at that and it invariably feels unfair that it's down to me. And over the last few years, that has slowly been turning into resentment.
I'm working hard on not letting this resentment show. I love what I do and would still do it anyway but I'd like to have the creative freedom to not need to publish all the time. I'd like to experiment and explore more. And so that resentment comes out during my weakest times.
Part of the discussions - both private and public - that arise from this are about me trying to find my way in this industry, as I do feel lost and often disconnected. And I try to keep myself in check and not sound like I'm complaining all the time or not constantly be pointing out to people blunt truths about our differences. I don't want to be that person, but it's difficult sometimes.
And just like that, those numbers that stared back at me took an awful lot of this away. They didn't bring any answers, they bought a need to worry less. Those numbers released some of the binding and have given me room to breathe. This has had me in tears more than once this week.
My little Hat design business can now pay Tom a half decent wage for the photography and video work he does. It's paying me the best wage I've ever had from it. It's also allowing me to pay for some admin help. It can afford to pay for professional layout work for my books. I'm finally in that situation, after 12 years of doing this, to be able to carefully invest a little and see a better return for my time and money. My little Hat design business is still growing. We'll still never got a mortgage but owning a small plot of land somewhere on the continent is not the distant dream that it was. Our combined income is still less than what I earnt as a teacher 15 years ago, but in our universe it's a small fortune.
This last year has seen me pull even further away from online discussion groups (with exception of my Ravelry group); I've turned my online activity as far down as I can at times, and have noticeably hidden away. Clearly this suits me. With a good support system in place via the forums and decent email management, I've been able to buy back some time, and you can see what I've done with that. In fact, I've enough designs finished or in the final stages of finishing to see me through for the next year or so, and that's the most amazing feeling, especially as I've spent less time at the computer due to my shoulders! I won't be chasing my tail anymore; I'm hoping it will feel like it did when I first started, that the creative side can be indulged without the business side of things dampening everything.
I know I need to give myself a huge pat on the back for this and allow myself to be positive, and not critical, about what I've achieved. This doesn't come easily, but I do know that I've done good, and I know that I'm strong.
Yet I also know that without knitters trusting and supporting my work, I wouldn't be here. Thank you.