Setting Up ShopAt some point during the last month, it dawned on me that if the theatre I currently work in suddenly stopped needing staff, I wouldn’t get a job elsewhere.

I love my job, I love the people I get to work with, I LOVE being on show call – but if I had to start again anew, with people I didn’t know, I don’t think I could. While I had 3 months of unemployment over the summer, I made no effort to find work with other companies because I was so scared. What if they didn’t like me? What if I’m actually rubbish at my job and it turns out I’ve only got this far because of the rest of the team? I didn’t want to explain to strangers that I was deaf, or that I got migraines. I didn’t want to introduce myself to new people.
So I didn’t. And I only got by because I’d saved a lot of money, and because Matt is extremely generous – but that’s not really a sustainable lifestyle. What I needed was a back up plan, something that I could turn to without having to throw myself into a totally new team.

When I returned to work in August, I started thinking about it more so. I wanted to have something that was within the same industry, something that I still had full control over, and something that I could begin straight away – something I already had all the tools for, didn’t require a lot of space, and didn’t have any huge setting up costs. It also had to be something I could do well – and that was a pretty limiting factor itself! Over the following weeks, I paid attention to what kind of things I was asked to do in work that others weren’t, and it usually came down to computer use – especially creating paper props.

Some paper props are fun, like magazine covers, some are just plain but very specific documents. Both of these props were made by me.
Some paper props are fun, like magazine covers, some are just plain but very specific documents. Both of these props were made by me.

Paper props can be anything from a letter, which takes very little effort, to replicas of old, crinkly documents. While the Internet is a treasure trove for things from the past, you’re also quite limited with it. There have been dozens of occasions where I have found the exact image I need, but when it came to printing it out, it was pixellated, grainy, blurry or…just not what I expected, and I’d then have to spend hours re-creating it in Photoshop for it to be what I wanted. One of the most difficult things to do is recreate documents from the past to make them look new and of the period you’re set in. I very specifically remember creating World War I discharge papers for this reason, and it took me an age, but hearing audience members comment on them after the show made it worth while. People seem to think any piece of paper will do on stage because the audience are so far away, they won’t be able to see it. That’s not true. The audience is very close, and much more observant than you’d think when it comes to spotting mistakes or cheap props!

So, I decided to open an Etsy shop, selling paper prop replicas. I’ve only managed to make three so far, because I’ve been called into work a few times unexpectedly, but fingers crossed I can keep the ball rolling. I’m keeping documents very cheap for now (under £1 – after all, it’s only a piece of paper) but obviously the more time I have to put into a document, the more expensive it will be. I’ve also offered my services making custom paper props, such a book covers or bottle labels that relate to a specific joke in a show. I’ll also be putting bulk documents up there, such as pages of bottle labels and medieval manuscript replicas – and anything I have to make for shows normally will probably end up in there!

Is there a market for this? Probably not. But I think it’s worth a try. Who knows – even if I don’t make any sales, at least I’m improving my own replica-making skills, and staying busy! I’m not going to market the shop until I’ve got 10 items up for sale, but I thought I should explain my radio silence. Starting a new business is a better excuse than my usual excuses – which are usually “I got distracted by a game” or “I couldn’t be bothered editing a photo because I hate editing blog photos.”

Have you ever started an Etsy shop? Do you have any tips to share? Feel free to leave a link to your shop in your comment if you have – I’d love to check them out!

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6 Responses to Setting Up Shop

  • It’s great that you have taken the initiative to think about the future and the central role at your job (or what you do individually). I think it’s a fantastic idea to create paper props and sell them. I am sure that there would be many people in theatre or movies that would require them. I hope it works out very well. 😀

  • I’m sure you’re amazing at your job, but having a backup sounds like a smart idea.

    I think the idea of selling props is really clever. I’ve not seen this idea before so I think there is a perfect gap in the market for you!

    There’s a whole post on my blog with my tips for running an Etsy shop! I really miss running mine. Maybe someday I’ll open it again.

  • Good luck with your new etsy shop.

    My advice is to completely reconsider the way you price your products. £1 is way too cheap for what you making, a mass-produced birthday card from Sainsbury’s is more than that. To make the prices, think of how much time it takes to make one, how much are the materials. If you start to sell them cheap it will be difficult to raise the prices and is not sustainable. Many start like this, with very low prices (wholesale prices or even less for retail) and discover they can’t go anywhere from there. If someone loves your work, is likely they will spend a few pounds and not just one.

  • Starting your own shop is a great idea! I hope it all goes well, so you have something to supplement your theatre work. It’s always great to have something to fall back on! And I’m sure your skills will improve as you make more and more props, which’ll be great if you ever want to go for another job.

    Good luck with it! I love the ones you’ve made so far!

  • I know nothing about starting up my own shop or business, but I think this is a good idea for you to do on the side! And who knows, if you keep at it and it grows even more successfully, you can make this your main job 🙂 I do wish you luck with this endeavour and hope that it will do you well ^^ Kudos to you for coming up with this backup!

  • I’ve personally been thinking a lot about “hustling” for the past season, especially with my new physical limitations due to my rheumatoid arthritis, as well as the fact that my whole existence is a ticking time bomb with all my health issues and brain issues. I don’t know when I’ll lose the ability to work fulltime, or leave the house.

    It’s kind of fun, but a little scary, because there are SO MANY THINGS you could try, but not all of them will work for you, and at the same time, freelancing is a lot of work and stress! I recently read the $100 Start Up, and I think you might find it motivational too. The paper prop business sounds like a great idea; you identified that there’s a need, you’re good at it, and people need it. 🙂 Now you just need to find the market to market/sell the idea to your consumers! http://amzn.to/2zIG0LG

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Uglyfish
A little-bit-of-everything blog by Katy, 25 from Liverpool. Stage Manager and occasional backstage crew. I'm not a hugely exciting person, if I'm being honest...

2017 Reading Challenge

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