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?
Mrs. Picky Pincher says
It’s funny, I think many nine-to-fivers need some kind of physical activity after staring at a computer screen all day. For me, it’s cooking. 🙂
Holy cow, your apartment has a shop space? That is freaking awesome!!! Man, I can think of all the times that would have come in handy. More apartments should do that!
Well, I gotta say, your pieces look lovely. 🙂 In my mind, hobbies can cost money; if you get anything back from them at all, it’s a win. It’s great to have a profitable hobby, but if it brings you joy and you’re producing something, it’s still wonderful.
Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…The Picky Pinchers’ October Budget Report
Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher! I wish I was better at cooking. Right now my skill level is “enough so I don’t die from starvation” lol!
This is awesome! Not your typical side hustle story. I’m glad you shared all the photos too, some of these pieces are quite beautiful.
TJ recently posted…Experiences vs Things is a False Dichotomy (…and the Evolution of My Relationship With the Internet….)
Thanks TJ. It’s a lot of fun to put them together and very satisfying to see them completed!
Matt @ Optimize Your Life says
This is super cool! I am a firm believer that everyone should have some sort of creative endeavor on the side. Stained glass is not one that I had even considered before, but the work you’re doing is really cool and interesting. And, most importantly, it sounds like you enjoy doing it. Your description of the real, physical work involved reminded me of Nick Offerman talking during his stand up special about his hobby of woodworking. Creating something in the physical world is a really great feeling.
Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Why Have Houses Gotten More Expensive?
Especially as my day job involves nothing in the real world. I like to do work where I can visualize the outcome. Hard to do for me when it doesn’t exist! Thanks for the comment 🙂
This is great. I like seeing the pieces you have made and hearing about the satisfaction you get from creating things.
Also, bit of a tangent, but have you seen Craig Kovatch’s Optimus Prime stained glass panel? It seems like something you would find amusing.
OH MY GOSH I LOVE IT! I want to make one now!
Ms. Montana says
My mother in law did stain glass work for years as a hobby and LOVED it. She finally had to give it up due to her health, but all those lovely pieces she made still remain. I love the idea of having a side hustle that adds contrast to your day job! My mom works a very physically demanding job, and she likes to fill out surveys when she gets home. She only makes a few hundred dollars from it, but it is fun for her and just uses time she would otherwise scroll fb. =)
Ms. Montana recently posted…3 Lessons after 6 months Blogging
I’m glad you’ll have mementos from her! Sounds like the sort of thing that remains in the family for ages. My mom makes quilts for everyone. Long after she’s gone, her grandkids will have those quilts to remember her by 🙂
It’s strange, I didn’t know people even made stained glass anymore. Maybe the UK has enough already? Looks like you are enjoying the process. Can you/do you share the space with other people?
I saw tons of it in the UK whilst I was there last month. Everything from doors and windows on houses to soaring cathedral heights. Someone’s got to take care of all that!
And yes, I could split the workshop with someone but I don’t. It would be nice to save some of that $150 I pay them every month!
Mrs. PIE says
What a wonderful hustle / hobby! I love those pieces, especially the key, what a creative idea!
And thanks for the idea also. I’ve been digging into my hobby / hustle possibilities recently which range from cake decorating ( that I have been doing forever) to new stuff like pottery or glass blowing. I’m fascinated with glass blowing, but I can see that even if I can find a class, I’m not likely to be able to make it a real thing. I have a feeling that stained glass could satisfy my creative glass desires. I’m going to be looking for classes!
I would LOVE to blow glass but I’m super clumsy. I don’t think molten glass and red hot ovens mix well with a lack of balance. I don’t mind losing a bit of blood now and then but burns HURT and last longer. I’ll stick to stained glass for now. I’m glad I could inspire you!
Mrs. BITA says
Very nice! Mr. BITA’s grandfather made stained glass as a hobby his whole life. He died last year and we inherited a few of his pieces. Stained glass is beautiful, just magical in the right light. I love having things about the house that were made by Great Grandpa BITA. I plan to use them as focal points for discussions with Toddler BITA about her ancestry when she is a little older.
Also good job being patient and waiting to score all that good stuff off of Craigslist. I know that when I am starting something new I am so very excited about just getting going that I would find it really hard to wait it out like you did. You got some great deals there. More than the deals, I love the fact that you are reusing someone else’s well loved tools. There is a sense of tradition there, of passing on the baton to the next generation — so much nicer than new stuff from China.
Mrs. BITA recently posted…On the path to financial independence: October 2016
Our Next Life says
I love seeing the photos of your handiwork! How awesome. Sounds like you need to raise your prices so that it’s more worth your while to make things!
It’s a guessing game at first to figure out what prices the market will bear. Fortunately for me I like those kind of games. Thanks for commenting 🙂
How cool! I’ve never heard of anyone who actually does this. I love quirky side hustles. For a while, mine was going to be playing gypsy jazz guitar, but I’ve unfortunately came to the realization that I’m not good enough to pull it off.
MyMoneyDesign recently posted…What’s the Fastest Way to Get Rich? Simple: Save MORE!
It’s very relaxing (except when I break the glass I need. grrrr) I don’t think I’m coördinated for guitar. It requires too much perfection for my life lol
Matt @ The Resume Gap says
Wow, this is awesome! I love the Minnesota one pictured here. I’m with Ms. ONL: raise those prices! 🙂
Matt @ The Resume Gap recently posted…Back on the Road: Montana and the Canadian Rockies
Thanks Matt! The Minnesota piece was a house warming gift to a friend. My favorite part is the seams are where the interstates cut through the state (mostly).
You go bro!
I’m in a similar situation as you and stumbling around on my glass legs too.
Glass work is absolutely fascinating. Your spin of a hustle is unique. It’s important for a glass artist to have a niche, you’re definitely on the right road.
Will anxiously be following your progress
Joan McMinn says
I too started cutting glass back in 1995 and just recently inherited a lot of stuff from a stainedglasser that passed away and daughter wanted to give it to me. I do sell in a crafty shop made up of local artists here in NC but there again I under sell a lot of stuff or make it for friends I just find it totally relaxing. I too have dwindled down to two kitties and two one year old puppies. Cats know when and where to tread if I drop a knife or piece of glass shard pup thinks it’s a gift
Joan mcminn says
If I pass away keep my email and let my family know you would like to come gather up all the glass, grindrs saws and tools if not I am sure it will be trashed
Gwen [Fiery Millennials] says
Or give my address to your family and tell them to contact me 🙂 hopefully that won’t be for many years!