The number one question I've been getting from everyone lately is “Hey, what's your side hustle? I'm DYING to know!”
I didn't realize that I was creating this big of a mystery! It truly wasn't my intention.
At first, I wasn't ready to share it.
Then…… I didn't want to talk about it until I was on firm footing and making some money.
Then I went on vacation for most of two months and got busy.
But now…… Now I am ready to share!
My side hustle is……..
I know, it's not the “typical” side hustle of financial coaching or doing taxes for people.
But I really enjoy it and it's very soothing for me to do after work or on the weekends.
So much of my day job at MegaCorp is sitting in a chair, staring mindlessly at a computer screen as I move electrons around.
This is real, physical work. I can see my progress as I work on it. I like the immediate feedback. (Even if that feedback is me swearing loudly as I crack a piece of glass that I really needed or the sharp pain of the glass slicing through the skin on my hands.)
I also really enjoy the creative process that goes into stained glass. Thinking up an idea (Flying keys from Harry Potter book One? Sure!), sketching it out, figuring out the pieces, cutting, shaping, grinding, swearing, sweating, soldering it all into one piece….. I love it all. I am apparently a lot more artistically inclined than my history of sub par art projects in school led me to believe.
Turns out I'm not great at drawing, painting, or shaping pottery but I can do all sorts of other creative things!
My mom actually mentioned one time she was thinking of taking a stained glass class at the Art Center downtown and that set the wheels turning for me.
Once I moved to a bigger city, I looked up classes in the area and lo and behold! There was one starting up in just a few weeks. That was last fall. I took the class and was hooked. I made a few pieces in class that looking back aren't the best stained glass ever made, but the recipients of all three pieces LOVE THEM and that's what matters.
It took me a while to start the process again, but I'm glad I took the leap and did it. One thing that held me back from starting up again was the lack of a workshop space. I couldn't do it at home in my apartment because glass shards, tender kitty paws, and carpet do NOT mix. The last thing I want to do is unintentionally hurt my cat and have to take him to the vet. He gets enough exposure to glass at home anyways with the 2 glasses, one mug, one bowl and one plate he's broken. He's a 15 lb fluffy cannonball.
Then one day I remembered my apartment complex sent out an email advertising their shop space. It's heated, but there isn't any air conditioning. That made it a bit difficult to be operating a soldering iron when it was 100 degrees out (38 for you non-Americans) but I managed.
I like stained glass because the cost of starting up is relatively low. I scoured Craigslist for a few weeks and was rewarded with two amazing deals. One lady was getting rid of her basic set of supplies because her family was growing and she was too busy to continue. Score!
The other amazing deal was a guy cleaning out his garage and selling everything he'd ever collected to work with stained glass. I got a big (HEAVY) box full of his stained glass, every tool ever imaginable, and all the other little doodads that come from having a hobby for 2 decades. Every time I think I might need something, it turns out I already have it! All of that was for $75! The guy at the local stained glass shop was super jealous.
I did end up having to buy a few things off Amazon, but the total cost was negligible compared to what I could've spent buying everything brand new from Hobby Lobby and the local stained glass shop.
Depending on what color of glass you buy, it can be either super cheap or ridiculously expensive. The local shop has basically every color you can imagine. I also managed to get lucky, as my aunt and uncle live very close to a stained glass factory. My mom went to visit them and came back with two huge bundles of glass for approximately 30% of what it would cost at the local shop. SCORE!
Stained glass makes for excellent gifts. The cost of the supplies are relatively low compared to the finished piece. I can use $1 of stained glass and charge $15, $20, or even $25 for it depending on the pattern. The biggest cost is the time involved. The more complex the pattern (either with curved edges or just lots of little pieces) drives up the time which in turn drives up the price. I recently finished a beautiful snow-covered pine tree about the size of a standard piece of paper. The glass was part of the Craigslist deal, but I would estimate it cost $5. I can only sell the finished piece for $25 max, but I spent almost 15 hours worth of work on it.
Clearly that's not the best use of my time.
Or is it?
Those 15 hours I spent on the tree would've been spent sleeping, playing video games, or trolling Reddit. I'm not getting paid any money to do those things (sadly), so I consider it a net positive. Not to mention, I'm practicing, and building my skills. If I keep this up (which I will), I can expand my skills after I retire and have more time to devote to it.
Right now I'm focused on small pieces. The nerdier, the better. My short-term goal is to sell seasonal items at a craft fair. My midterm goal is to go to a Comic Con and sell nerdy stained glass pieces. My long-term goal would be to get good enough that I can replace windows or custom design panels for doors or other big pieces. I'm still waffling on creating an Etsy store. It'd be the best way to get my pieces out in the world, but shipping heavy, fragile stained glass pieces make me incredibly nervous (and it's expensive). If you'd like to contact me about potentially making something for you, shoot me a message via the contact form or my Facebook page.
Money spent so far: $1525
This includes renting the workshop, all the supplies, antique skeleton keys for the Harry Potter pieces, and other little odds and ends. (For instance, I had to buy a special kind of solder to put the key wings on the key. The key metal didn't work with my normal solder. That was a pain to figure out!)
Money made so far: $30
I've sold two keys (both to a coworker), with one more on order for a friend. I hope to sell a few of the seasonal pieces I've made in the past few months, but we'll see if I can get them made before I have to pack everything up for a move.
So there you have it! My side hustle/hobby has been revealed! I've included some more pictures below that didn't fit in the post. I'll be sure to share my future pieces on my Instagram!
What do you think? Do you have a side hustle or a favorite hobby?
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