Carolyn Wainscott is a homemaker, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She is a self-taught quilter and crafter who makes money from home in a wide variety of ways. Find out how this great grandmother has been able to make money as a retiree.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I’m a 75-year-old widow, after 55 years of marriage, whose main focus in life has been my family and homemaking. I love designing, creating, and repurposing. I was very involved with my children and their activities, then my grandchildren, and now with my great-grandchildren.
I count everything as a learning experience, whether a success or not – from making my kid’s Halloween costumes to covering and upholstering our furniture to designing my first quilt to send to my grandson, who was in Hawaii. That was over 30 years ago, and that design is now one of the patterns I’ve converted and sold online. I designed costumes and praise banners for our church’s Easter and Christmas productions – some of those will soon be making their way into pattern form too.
I jumped into online marketing on eBay – writing descriptions to catch customers’ interest, taking attractive photos, setting up my PayPal account, and dealing with customers via the Internet. Having to adhere to eBay’s strict customer satisfaction rating was a great experience, and I still have a 100% approval rate. I’ve sold handmade items and vintage things I picked up at auctions. I loved it for a while, but have the attention span of a 2-year-old and got tired of the packing, wrapping, and hassle of shipping.
In the late 80s, while flipping through TV channels, an announcement came across the screen on one of the public access channels on learning to produce your own TV show, and since that was something I hadn’t done, decided to call and give it a try.
I didn’t know what my program would be about, but surely I could come up with a 30-minute program about something. So off to class, I went to learn about lights, cameras, action, and possibly becoming rich and famous.
My one 30 minute program, “Quick Quilts,” turned into a series that lasted 4-5 years with a one-hour time slot. I did craft and quilt demonstrations, taped local quilt shows, and interviewed other quilters – or whatever suited my fancy, and sometimes that fancy was a little off the wall, but I loved every bit of it. That original 30-minute spot has led to my quilt and craft tutorials on my YouTube channel. I wear all the hats of producer, director, creative content, camera person, editor, props, set designer (OK – so the set is usually a sewing machine and fabric), demonstrator – you name it, I do it. Oh, yes, I don’t have a makeup person either, I have to style my own hair and makeup, so when my hair gets wonky, it just has to stay that way.
How did you learn to be computer savvy?
By trial and error. I got my first computer in the mid-90s and am 99% self-taught. The other 1% is, call a friend, or call a grandchild. There have been times I know someone is sitting in that machine laughing at me. At times it was so frustrating, pitching it into the yard seemed like a good option; but all in all, I do not have any formal training.
What tech advice do you have for others who are intimidated by technology?
I guess it is just to keep on trying, and no question is stupid, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I gave myself an iPad for Christmas and barely knew how to turn it on. It is sitting on the desk as I keep working on my old fave. I was told I would really like it, well, I don’t. I have a 12-year-old great-grandson who negotiates around his with ease, and if I do anything on mine, I have to get him to help me, but in turn, I am teaching him to be my cameraman, and he wants to learn to quilt.
How do you make money as a retiree?
I now only market my designs in PDF pattern form. Formerly, I sold handmade crafts on Etsy and eBay, but when Craftsy.com added a division allowing independent designers to sell their patterns, I jumped on board. I didn’t even know what a PDF was, so, of course, I had to learn to get the patterns into the PDF format and how to upload them. That is another of the learning processes I have morphed through. Until this avenue opened, I had to go to a printer since some of my patterns are rather large, then package and ship them. Now, by the magic of the Internet, customers can purchase a pattern, download the pattern, print it out on their own printer – it is wonderful. That is on Craftsy, on Etsy when a pattern is purchased, I send by email from my own computer – still wonderful, but I have to be alert to sale notifications, so the customer gets their pattern promptly.
- My Craftsy Pattern Store
- My Etsy
- My YouTube channel (It takes lots and lots of views to create any income, but links to my other online sites are incorporated into my video tutorials.)
- I am kind of excited about building a new shop on The Craft Star.
How are you getting the word out about your crafting business?
All my accounts are interconnected in some way. I had the thought of building a brand – Carolyn’s Canvas and have carried that through on my blog, my online shops, and referenced on my YouTube channel.
I have blog posts linked to my Facebook page then to my quilting and crafting groups on Facebook.
I have a checklist of links to share within my daily planner to keep me on track. Yes, I am supposedly retired, but I still keep that daily planner, a lot of pages have nothing on them, but I still keep it handy by my computer.
What advice do you have for other retirees who want to make extra money?
1. Do what you like and know – fill a niche.
2. Be open to opportunities.
When Prime Publishing launched FaveCrafts.com, I was an avid follower, and when the editor put out a call for tutorials, I was one of the first in line. I had just made a couple of videos and started my blog, so the groundwork had been laid. When Prime Publishing started another site FaveQuilts.com, I was asked to write for that site also and then for AllFreeHolidayCrafts.com.
What has been your biggest struggle as an online seller?
My biggest struggle as an online seller is the realization that even with millions of people online at any given time – it still takes lots of perseverance to get the attention of the correct audience, and my audience is a tiny niche.
Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing your story!