How One Entrepreneur Turned Her Hobby into a Business

by Lois Leonard

4 min read

Knitting used to be something Angelia Robinson did to keep her hands busy while waiting for her kids at soccer practice or doctor appointments. It wasn’t until five years ago, when on a whim she submitted a pattern design to Fresh Designs, that she realized it could be something more.

“My proposal got in,” Robinson says, remembering the wool and felted ninja doll she designed for the internationally known crochet book. “It was at that point that I realized it was something I could do. Crochet and knitting patterns weren’t something I could just consume, they were something I could be paid for — to use my imagination and create things for other people.”

As a knit and crochet designer, Robinson’s patterns include clothing, home decor and toys. She works for publications and releases independent patterns and sells patterns to online crochet and knitting communities like Ravelry.com.

Adding self-employment to her repertoire of daily duties wasn’t a huge leap for Robinson, who before having kids was a lobbyist for non-profit organizations in Washington DC. While the creative part of her new Los Angeles-based business came easily to her, the clerical part caused her stress.

“There have been a lot of moments where things were difficult,” she says, naming stumbling blocks like social media management and creating a budget. “Some things I just didn’t have any experience with when I first started. The only way to deal with them was to go through them, which I think when you’re self-employed, applies to almost everything.”

Overcoming Obstacles with Financial Organization

Robinson’s induction into the crochet design business world started with creating a website. Then she branded herself on social media. And then she figured out how to balance her books. It was constantly one thing after another, she says, and each task was a new experience to tackle.

“You can’t cheat the learning curve,” Robinson claims. “You just really have to buckle down and figure it out. And then the next time something like that comes up, you know what to do.”

From the beginning Robinson knew she needed to organize her finances. For a while she used a simple spreadsheet on her computer, but the task of manually adding data was overwhelming. If she forgot, procrastinated, was busy or got behind, the task quickly grew to be too great.

So she started searching for an automated system. For Robinson, it was vital that her bank account and other online payment systems (like PayPal) could easily integrate with the software. Additionally, she needed a system that could track her mileage to and from the crocheting classes she taught and the yarn store.

After trying multiple accounting products, Robinson found the QuickBooks Self-Employed app — and then stopped looking. The easy-to-use app for android and iPhone enabled her to do everything in one place, from storing receipts to categorizing spending and tracking mileage. What once was a time-sucking burden became a task that only takes her 15 to 30 minutes each month.

“I don’t like to think about numbers unless I’m counting stitches,” Robinson says. “QuickBooks Self-Employed makes a job that’s unpleasant — as a creative person, I think handling money is unpleasant — easy to do. I can’t recommend another platform.”

Invoicing with Ease and Other Self-Employment Tips

Invoicing is often the biggest pain point for the self-employed. Freelancers and contractors struggle with the desire to maintain positive customer relationships and enforce invoice deadlines and late-payment penalties. Where do they draw the line between friendly reminders and constant nagging? And how do they keep track of what’s due when and who has paid what?

For Robinson, automation is the answer. With easy invoicing now available in QuickBooks Self-Employed, Robinson said she’s excited to delegate the task of manually sending out invoices and tracking payments to the software. Previously, she invoiced once a month, and her payments generally came in the form of paper checks, which she deposits directly into her bank account with a mobile app or through PayPal.

“Being able to invoice right from the app means that all of the different aspects of my finances are right in one place,” Robinson explains. “That just frees up more of my time to be able to do the things that I love. I’m in the business because I love to knit and crochet, not because I want to send invoices or remind people to pay me. Anything that helps me have more time with yarn is a positive.”

Her advice for other entrepreneurs is to just try it:

“If you take advantage of all of the tools QuickBooks Self-Employed has to offer, like receipt capture and tracking your mileage, then you can get a clear snapshot of where you are with your business anytime, 24 hours a day,” Robinson states. “It’s going to save you money and it’s going to help you make more money because you can control where things are going.”

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