Let me start by announcing the grand opening of my clothing line! You can find it at https://www.facebook.com/KristensMerch/shop as well as on this site at https://www.digital-kristen.com/apparel-drinkware/
Now here’s the story of how it came into being…
I have mentioned on this blog and in some vlog episodes that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This syndrome has kinda taken over my world in the last few years. It’s progressive and degenerative to the connective tissues in my body, so I have joints that are literally falling apart. Walking is tough. I don’t run anymore. Ever.
I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom since I had my son 10 years ago.
My husband has a good job with the government, good insurance, the whole nine yards. But, even so, the remaining annual deductible and co-pays have been hurting our budget lately. Couple that with the fact that I now need “durable medical equipment” (walkers, wheelchairs, etc) and insurance don’t even touch helping in those costs, and we’re in debt up to our eyeballs from medical bills. I tried getting disability since I honestly can’t hold down a regular job anymore due to my illness. I discovered that I am 100% ineligible for disability because I haven’t gained at least 5 social security work credits in the last 10 years. Never mind the fact that I have been taking care of my kid full time during those 10 years. AND he actually needed full-time care due to HIS medical needs. But even so, “rules are rules, I’m sorry,” is all I heard.
So, one social security work credit is equal to having paid taxes on $1300 of income in a year. I can earn up to 4 per year. So, I need to make taxable income of at least $5200 per year for two years. Either that or I can apply and get denied, then challenge that denial enough times that I get an actual court hearing in front of a judge to determine if I should or shouldn’t get help with my medical stuff. “As a general rule,” I was advised by a social security attorney, “that process will take 5 to 8 years.” But if I could get taxable income, I could qualify without the whole appeals process within 2 years. Yes, I do think that is all by design. I was also told I could try to qualify for SSI, but my husband makes too much for me to qualify. There are waivers available per county on basis of need. but my county has an annual allotment of 300 waivers and a waiting list of 6,000 people.
I’m severely restricted by life and illness, but I am one hell of a creative person. Surely there is something I can do to make taxable income for two years…
I had used Cafepress for years and years. When I signed up with them and started creating designs, they gave me 30% commissions on all sales of my designs. Not great, but not bad either. It wasn’t a serious business for me. Instead, it was mostly an outlet for some creativity, and I enjoyed making designs that I could later order for myself or my friends.
In recent years, they have gone from 30% to somewhere closer to 10%. What does that mean for part-time hobby clothing designers like myself? My commission payouts went from $30 every month or so to $30 once or twice a year. My sales were up, they were literally selling thousands of dollars of merchandise with my designs, but I was getting diddly.
So, finally, I decided I was fed up with that bullcrap. I need the income and I can really do better than 10% commission.
I’ve been a web developer for longer than I had ever designed clothing. I like to think I’m at least decent at it. I have a web site with a very reliable CRM (content management software – I use wordpress for my site). I have a presence on both facebook and instagram. I have the entire Adobe creative suite at my disposal. Surely I could do this…. right?
So I started. I came up with some brand new designs since I can’t re-use the ones I had previously used on CafePress. (Interesting note: CafePress owns your designs once you upload them to the cafepress system and you can’t use them again on your own for anything else legally). Considering I’m a full-time stay-at-home-mom, full-time homeschooling instructor AND full-time housewife, I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to this project on a day-to-day basis. Yes. Most folks don’t think it is too hard to be a stay at home parent but lemme tell ya… it gets exceptionally hard when you have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and can hardly walk most of the time! Tasks that used to take 10 minutes can now take all day if I can even do them at all! So, needless to say, not a heck of a lot of time for other things. Like life, creativity, ya know… crazy.
I got started on the technical side of things. I had to design a shop and I knew I wanted a social media presence to make my marketing much easier but I couldn’t devote any money yet. Nothing. I looked at Shopify, which would be awesome but it has a monthly fee. IF I could make enough to guarantee enough money to cover taxes and Shopify fees then that would be fine but there’s no promise of having enough sales to start. Once I got started and off the ground, I could totally do Shopify but until then, I have to find something else. I set up a shop section on the site using WooCommerce (an e-commerce add-on for WordPress) and found a print-on-demand company that I liked. No commissions, just a printing company. So I can make a design, upload it to my printing company who supplies me with the product information and photos with my design added for my shop, list the item on the shop on this site and then update to add it in the facebook shop catalog. It’s a lot of steps but I have the technical know-how to do it all myself and thus I don’t need to pay someone else to do it for me.
So now I can make my own designs, list them and when a sale does happen, I don’t get a measly 10% commission. I handle the sale myself. The order is automatically sent to my printer, along with my wholesale cost payment and shipping fee. The design is printed on the desired product and shipped directly to the customer by the printing company, which saves on turnaround time. Anything else beyond the wholesale cost, shipping cost, and sales tax is taxable income to count towards my eventual ability to qualify for social security disability to help me with my medical needs. It took a long time to set it all up. A lot longer than it would have taken me 20 years ago. About a month longer. But it’s done and live! I’m trying to add at least one new design per week and I’m open to creating custom designs for people who want them, just drop me a line using the chat at the bottom of every page on this site! Here’s a taste of some of the things I have designed so far…