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I’m a seller and a shopper. Like all shoppers, I love to get a “good deal,” saving a bit of money on things that I buy. This is especially true since I am a senior citizen on a fixed income. So when I shop on the internet, I know that it’s possible to find what I want and avoid paying any sales tax on it. Score!

But, I am also a citizen of the town/county/state in which I live.  Those governmental entities provide services to which I have access – many of them could diminish or completely disappear without sales tax support.  And I want those services!  I can hear you grumbling that governmental bodies waste too much money, and there are excellent arguments to support that.  But still, sales taxes collected by various governmental entities do make the places that we live what they are.

So here’s where the debate comes in…  internet sales should include sales taxes so that venues aren’t losing that revenue.  Actually, I don’t have a problem with that.  After all, when I do a show, I collect/pay sales tax at the rate that is in effect in the place I am standing when the customer hands me money.  This is not a problem, it’s just part of doing business.  But when the customer buys my item in cyberspace, this is where it gets complicated.

Perhaps the most absurd idea that I have heard to remedy this problem is that the seller (me) should calculate/charge/and pay the sales tax in effect at the location of the buyer, assuming that buyer is in the United States.  Once I have that sales tax, I would file a return and remit payment to the buyer’s location.  How on earth am I supposed to know what the sales tax is in absolutely every town/city/county/state?  There’s probably a service out there (for a fee which wouldn’t require sales tax since services are generally not subject to them) that would be able to assist me with this.  But as a micro-business, the last thing I want/have time to do is to file sales tax returns in a multitude of locales.  The people who came up with this idea have never worked in retail!

What I don’t understand is why not just make the rule or law that sales tax will be collected and paid at the rate in effect at the seller’s location – the point of sale?  The argument is that the buyer’s venue will lose revenue that it should have received.  But I believe that revenue would be replaced by sellers within it who would be taxing sales they receive online.  It would make life so simple from a seller point of view…  file a sales tax return for online sales at your local rate to your local entity.  Shoppers could still find bargains because sales tax rates aren’t the same everywhere.  For example, the sales tax rate at my house is 4.9%.  If I drive 4 miles into town, the sales tax rate is 6.9%.

It is a quandary and I doubt the debate will end any time soon.

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In my little corner of the world, iKnitQuiltSew, I find myself always looking for the next best thing to have in my shop or in my booth. I’ve tried a myriad of things, very few of which worked. For example…

My most recent idea was to offer tapered/adjustable headbands (perhaps my best-seller consistently year after year) with matching infinity scarves.  I live in the Rocky Mountains, and it gets cold and snowy here.  This will be a real winner, I thought somewhat gleefully.  So I dug in and knitted a total of ten sets of scarves/headbands.  I decided to offer them separately (maybe someone would just want one or the other) and at a small discount if purchased together.  I really thought this was going to be a big hit.

Over the course of the last 14 months, I finally got rid of the last of the infinity scarves.  All told, I sold a grand total of one set and just 4 scarves as single purchases.  The remaining five scarves were put in the clearance  section of my booth display at half price.  The last one sold just before Christmas.  Over the course of that year, I did pick up two different custom orders to knit headband/scarf sets in particular colors.  I made a bit of extra money on those orders, as I do charge a small premium ($5) for custom work.

But, at the end of it all, I’m just frustrated and perturbed at myself for investing time, effort, resources and funds into something that didn’t work.  It wasn’t broken and I tried to fix it anyway…  what an idiot.

Hold on a minute!  Here’s where the attitude adjustment comes into play. Like all artists, craftsmen/women, and business owners in general, my work and offerings need to evolve to stay appealing and perhaps relevant. I absolutely didn’t fail.  I tried something and it didn’t work. But I learned from that experience, and my skills are improved because of it. (I taught myself a few new stitches in the process.) It wasn’t a total failure at all.  I actually didn’t lose any money. I simply didn’t discover that next best thing.  Not every idea I come up with will be a FurPet© (to date, I’ve sold 364 of ‘em!). And I’ll never find the next “thing” if I keep beating myself up over things I try that don’t work.

The bottom line is, none of us succeed if we don’t try! If what we try doesn’t work, it’s simply a step on the pathway to finding the thing that will work.

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It’s that time of year. We all think of what we can do to make ourselves and our lives better and then resolve to do it in the new year. How many of those resolutions are kept for more than just a little while? I have a suggestion that may benefit individuals and all of us at the same time.

Let’s all resolve to make the arts and crafts community the beacon of peace, love, hope and brotherhood to all we encounter in the coming year. Let’s demonstrate that diversity in the arts only adds to the enjoyment and impact it has on us all, just like the diversity in people. Let’s embrace those differences and profess that we truly believe that they are precisely what makes life, like art, interesting and compelling. Let us all strive to find the positive in each others’ work, and in each other. If we do this simple thing, the negatives will fade into oblivion and we will all be better for it.

I’m certainly not perfect, no one is. This is, after all, earth. Think about how boring it would be if all artists painted, and that was it. We all have such special skills and talents. Let’s embrace those and make everyone’s existence that much more fulfilling!

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Please excuse me while I hop onto my soap box for a bit. We Americans buy a lot of gifts.I watched the frenzy throughout the year, whether it was Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and on and on.It’s year-round and endless – so many people buy things they don’t actually need with money they don’t actually have. To top it off, what sells by the boatload is cheaply assembled garbage from third world countries made by slave laborers, many of whom are kids.

This country, the USA, was built by entrepreneurs.  Whether it was mom selling her excess eggs to neighbors, or a family running a grocery store, small business and cottage industry made this country. Surprisingly, small business and cottage industry is still alive in the US.  Coast to coast, there are thousands of micro-businesses with one or two employees.  They call themselves “artists” or “craftsmen.”  They have a limited product line and a very small inventory.  They focus on the few things that give them joy to create.  They typically under-price their creations, downplaying the amount of time that goes into each and every piece.  Their “business” occupies them 24/7/365.

We’re fast approaching the holiday season – that time of year when absolutely all of us are pushed, prodded and nudged to spend money.  Why don’t we all make a conscious effort to support our driven, tax-paying brethren?  Let’s put something, if not several somethings, on our lists, either for yourself of for gifting, that’s been hand-crafted right here in the States.  I promise you, whether it’s something of mine or another artisan, what you will be purchasing will have been made by someone who actually cares about what they’re making.  That item will be durable and lasting.  Odds are it won’t need batteries, and it won’t break in two or three days. Better yet, if you buy something hand-crafted for a child, the box it came in won’t be their favorite part of the gift, and they’ll probably still have it to pass down to a child of their own.  Let’s all make just a small effort to help someone buy their groceries or pay their mortgage…  Those high-roller CEOs just don’t need a third (or fourth) vacation home.

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