Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Economics of Craft, Part 5 - Create Your Own Part-Time Job? If Only.

The indie craft world is so hipster that the dominance of older stay-at-home moms on Etsy blows my mind.

Creative entrepreneurship may be a quest for meaning. It might also reflect a desire for self-determination. Importantly, though, it also seems to mirror a struggle among women to find part-time work.

Some 60% of working moms would prefer part-time work, but just 24% of them actually work part-time, according to the Washington Post. Most moms choose either a full-time job or no job at all, when they'd really like to work somewhere in between. Why?

Basically, part-time jobs suck. Penelope Trunk rips the New York Times
for promoting "shared care." Shared care is when parents split both parenting and income-earning 50/50. Which is to say, both parents work part-time.

As Penelope Trunk points out, downshifting from full-time to part-time work is tough because your income potential drops dramatically once you do -- even if you are self-employed. Two part-time incomes are unlikely to add up to one full-time salary, in the real world.

Skipping around my Etsy favorites list, I am surprised by all the moms out there looking to earn income from the site. Then there are folks like my cousin's cousin Lisa, who was selling her art on Etsy as she waited for a transplant. (Which she has just recently had, and is rapidly recovering from. GO Lisa!!!) The prospect of earning a decent part-time income stream by selling on eBay, Etsy, etc is appealing.

Unfortunately, the average Etsy seller makes about $1000 per year. (How do you get this? $6.5 million in June 2008 sales divided by 442,000 sales equals an average item value of $14. In April, there were 73,478 sellers with at least one item for sale. 442,000 sales divided by 73,478 active sellers is 6 sales per person per month. At $14 per sale, that's 84 bucks a month or $1008 in a year.)

Of course, most people don't earn $1000 a year -- they earn a whole lot more or a whole lot less. For every successful person who makes $20,000 on the site, you might have 50 sellers who earn less than $500 per year.

This is not a criticism of Etsy, nor does it imply that there's any limit on the number of people who might become self-employed or earn decent part-time income on the site. And yet -

Successful part-time entrepreneurship is certainly the exception, not the rule, on Etsy today. And the success stories on Etsy are dominated by folks who are working 40 hours per week (or more!).

Half the work, half the income? Unfortunately, part-time work that truly competes with full-time gigs is still elusive... even in the land of crafty entrepreneurship.

1 comment:

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