How to run a creative business while having a day job: Sophia Wiik from Stichfest
Hello and welcome to a new Creative Boss Interview series! I'm so excited to be talking to other creative business owners again - and this topic is super special! It's something I know a lot of you are interested in, but where I can't really speak from experience so I decided to ask people who are doing a damn good job at it: How to run a creative business while having a day job.
I have a series of really cool interviews lined up for you with amazing people from the fibre world - from knitwear designer and online shop owner to indie dyers, we're going to be glimpsing behind the scenes and learning a lot about how to juggle a day job and a creative business.
First up is Sophia Wiik, the owner of Stichfest, her blog and e-LYS ("local yarn store"). I loved her interview not only because of the super interesting combination of very female- and very male-driven industries she works in, but also because of her wonderful advice on knowing your worth. Make sure to read until the end!
This is Sophia (or "Fia") about herself:
Fia… hardly anyone calls me otherwise
stichfest.net … my wooly empire
#1984 … a great year
Skandigerman … dual citizenship NO & DE
educatedintheworld … SE, IT, US, SYR I loved it!
Knitmonster … hardly ever seen without needles
dogperson … Moshe Dayan goes (almost) everywhere with me
fiathebuilder … built a house in the countryside
love2bake … there may be bread or cake - let’s eat both!
addicted2music … spotify, radio, something has to be playin’
multilingual … and always multi confused
And now on to the interview! I'd love to hear how you like the new series - did you like it? Please leave a comment down below so I know!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! What is your creative business and what is your day job?
Hi, my name is Sophia, the creative mind behind stichfest.net , my blog and little e-LYS. I am an economist by training, and literally ended up in the creative world by accident: In 2012 - while living in Berlin - I had an accident that ended up changing my life completely. Originally I had broken a few bones, but due to a nerve that somehow got damaged, I woke up from surgery in excruciating pain that just wouldn’t stop. It took over a year on crutches, two on heavy duty pain medication, and extremely good doctors to get me back on my feet.
Being on narcotics and pretty much unable to move, I couldn’t do any of the usual things to keep me busy. Work was out of the question, and even reading required more focus than the drugs permitted. In the end, for whatever reason, I found a few balls of yarn at my mum’s house, turned on youtube and taught myself how to crochet and eventually how to knit. Having hours upon hours at my disposal, I started experimenting, becoming more daring, and eventually making up my own patterns. Finally, after weeks of forced idleness, by the end of every day I could see again what I had spent the day doing.
Eventually, I discovered blogs, pinterest, instagram, etc.. Since I am half Norwegian and went to school in Sweden, I was naturally drawn the most to the world of Scandinavian knitting.
All this turned into me starting a blog as well as a small yarn store.
Last year, I added to that a part-time job as a product manager for overhead conveying systems in intra logistics. Huh? Exactly. The company I work for builds solutions for warehouses and factories, where products have to move around a lot. My team is made up of only men, and they are all computer guys or engineers.
What is your main reason for keeping a day job? Do you foresee that changing any time soon? Would you even want it to change?
My main reason is probably that I was offered this job and it sounded fun. They knew about my knitting business and I got all kinds of concessions that make doing both possible. So no, probably not changing anything :-)
As to my reasons: To some degree, I am probably proving to myself (and everyone who got so used to having to take care of me) that I’m well again.
Also, it’s extremely nice to use that side of my brain again. Working with only men half of the day is also a nice balance to dealing with 99% women in the knitting world.
Actually, working with the guys who plan steel constructions as well as computer programs is even quite an asset when planning knit constructions sometimes. Like when a lot of math is required, I usually discuss my patterns first with the non-knitters these days :-)
I’d love to dive a little bit deeper into the nitty-gritty. How does a typical week look like for you? How much time to you spend working your day job and how much time do you spend working on your own business?
As I said, I am extremely lucky with my day job. Technically, I work 20 hours / week for them. But most of that I do from home, at whatever time works for me. Since my colleagues are traveling to construction sites and client HQs around the globe, they don’t miss me at the office either. We meet regularly, but trust me… not by chance in a hallway or elevator - we are all meticulous time-and-place-matchers. This way I am able to travel quite a bit myself - either for them, for my own business, or for pleasure. I try and spend a week every month in Berlin, so at this point I am an expert in packing and unpacking both my „offices“. The last few months were a bit chaotic, since I needed to find my pace, but I am hoping for things to calm down and for me to actually be able to build some routines again.
Do you have any systems in place - organizational (like a planner / bullet journal / etc.) and supportive (friends, family) - that help you juggle both?
Oh yes!!!! My iCalendar is a complex work of art! Color-coded and neatly partitioned. Since I spend so much time traveling, physical journals don’t really work. I do keep a little notebook in my project bag for spur-of-the-moment-ideas, and I have a chalk board for when I am at home, but other than that I’m a digital woman. When it comes to my support system, I couldn’t do it without my mother, who takes care of my dog whenever I leave town (i.e. a lot!). Well and obviously everybody in my personal and professional life makes it work by accepting that I am not always available.
Does your day job inform and influence your creative work - and vice versa? If yes, would you like to share how?
Yes and no. No because I use it as a counter balance. Rational engineering versus creativity.
But yes, because you’ll find many of my designs are rather geometrical anyway, as logic and symmetry appeal to me both in knitting and my day job.
To some degree it also works the other way around, because blogging and experimenting in my little corner of the internet has taught me a lot about things that weren’t part of my econ degree. Product presentation, using emotions in marketing, but also experiencing real-life entrepreneurial challenges first hand is definitely a bonus for my day job.
What are the main advantages that come from running your own business while working a day job?
Entrepreneurial thinking. Even though I am a trained economist and come from a family with a long line of business men (and women!), nothing changes your perspective more than standing on your very own two feet and having to juggle more balls than you ever knew you could. So I make sure to reign in my perfectionism in favor of value creation. Sometimes a product doesn’t need to be 10000% perfect for everyone, it might be more important to get it out to the 80% who really want and need it.
Another advantage for my employer is that my knitting business makes me communicate with a lot of people from all paths of life, and all kinds of different professions. These past years have taught me to adapt my communication to audiences that are completely different from myself, and that turns out to be a superb skill to have when you try to explain machinery and concepts to people who haven’t got a clue of intralogistics - and that is pretty much everybody who doesn’t earn their living with intralogistics ;-)
What are the main challenges?
The main challenge over the past few months was that I myself didn’t know the first thing about intralogistics in general and overhead conveying technology in particular. None of my colleagues really had time at hand to answer rookie questions, so I spent a lot of time reading and researching, trying to understand the products while already preparing the market launch of the newest addition to the portfolio.
Starting this job right in the beginning of knitting high season was not perfect timing.
If you were to give advice to someone who’s starting out their own creative business while working a day job, what would your number 1 tip be?
#1: If you’re not up to learning to do all things from computer-ing, taxes, laws (!) and negotiating, then stick to your day job. The crafts business is tough and it’s a lot of work. But if you’re up to it, it is so rewarding to create your own business and you get to learn so much!
And on a little feminist note: Make sure you sure know what you’re worth. Don’t offer your craft for cheap. Most of us crafters are women and we’re not used to asking bold prices for the things we make, but we actually have to!
Even if you don’t have to depend on an income from your craft, some other woman out there might, and you’re making it infinitely harder for her to ask for a fair price if you’re asking for too little.
I know you enjoy your craft, and you probably have to pinch yourself every now and again that people are actually willing to give you money for your hobby, but trust me: If this was a male hobby, it would be called artisanal handicraft and price tags would show how proud boys are of their skills. Be proud of yours!