I’ve been working from home, in association with the company Zazzle, for ten years, and I’ve decided to do a little reflecting on my work-at-home career as my August anniversary is here.
The work I do at Zazzle is different from any other type of job I’ve ever had. For one thing, I had never before earned money from online work. That was something I couldn’t even fathom ten years ago. In 2007 I received my first Zazzle royalty earnings paycheck. It was also the year I became a work-at-home mom, or WAHM. The ride was just beginning.
That first year I didn’t earn much. It was a learning time …. and I had a lot to learn! I found Zazzle somewhat accidentally, and wasn’t sure I would be able to figure it out. Desperation made me determined to try to earn whatever I could to supplement my measly income prospects. (Read my Story here.)
The big surprise came when I began earning hundreds, and then thousands, of dollars in royalties every month.
Not Going Into an Office to Work Has it’s Problems
The Zazzle ride has had it’s ups and downs, and I’ve had to adjust to working for a company that rarely seems to notice I exist. They do send gifts every now and then, but that just lumps me in with the other ProSellers on the gift-giving list. It’s nice, but not very personal. By now, I am used to this way of working.
Leaving the house, to go in to work at an office or company, means interacting with fellow employees and bosses. No matter how large the company, there are others around to talk to, ask questions, and generally learn from. I’ve had jobs like that all my life. Now I have relatively no one. I keep in touch with a few other Zazzle designers, and we bounce questions off each other. Zazzle has a forum, but it’s become a place I mostly avoid. The folks at the Zazzle Designer Support e-mail address are usually very helpful though.
Irregular Earnings Are the Big Problem
Earnings are irregular, and that may be the toughest thing to accept. At a “normal” job, the paycheck is usually pretty regular. It’s always the same amount, or higher, but never lower, than the pay rate promised. Income can be counted on at a 9-5 job.
For the first 5 or 6 years at Zazzle, my income increased nicely. Besides the royalties, Zazzle paid us a Volume Bonus, which was an additional amount (percentage) according to the amount of products sold. That percentage was a “bonus” added to our paychecks. By 2013 my Volume Bonus amounts were close to one thousand dollars every month. That was extra money paid on top of the regular royalty earnings. My royalty checks were quite nice. I loved working from home.
As they say, all good things must come to an end.
It’s not surprising that Zazzle probably didn’t like the idea of paying out all that extra money in the form of a Volume Bonus each month. (I am totally guessing at this, I do not know why Zazzle stopped paying out the VB, but it makes sense.) Not everyone earned a huge VB, but if every Zazzle designer made even $100 in VB, I imagine it totaled a lot of extra money going out of Zazzle’s pocket, especially since the company had grown so large.
So they cut out the VB, which is their prerogative, but the they gave us designers very little notice. We had about one month to adjust to the fact that the VB was going away. It didn’t really go away, but it changed drastically. I’m lucky to make a few dollars a month in VB these days.
I know that change is necessary. Online changes happen suddenly and regularly. I assumed that the downturn in pay (I was making 2//3 LESS) would turn around. That didn’t happen. I tried for 2 years to raise my income back to what it had been. My paychecks stayed low, no matter what I did. My designs were better than ever, yet I just couldn’t get the sales I needed to survive. Zazzle had grown and changed and not for the better – for me.
Lack of Money Means Lack of Choices, I Had to Get Out of New England
The big changes happened in 2013 and to this day I am still not back to making that good money again. I stuck it out in my house as long as I could, but the future did not look bright. Eventually, I had to sell and move away from an area I loved.
That type of thing doesn’t happen when you are hired by and work for a company outside the home. They don’t suddenly tell you that your income is decreasing by two-thirds! They can’t. I learned a lot from that experience – mainly that online income is not permanent, and can change at a whim. Although I consider myself to be “self employed” I am not solely in charge of my business. It’s attached to a company that makes the rules.
My lack of income forced me to face the fact that I could no long afford to live in pricey New England. I’d been born and raised in New England and didn’t want to leave again. Because I had lived a long time previously in Florida, and had a son living there, I chose move back. I didn’t want to, but had no choice.
Of course Zazzle never “hired” me, so they don’t owe me a thing. I’ve never met anyone in person from the company. If I walked in the front door of their California office building, no one would have a clue who I was.
So I’ll leave this post by saying that I love working from home. I don’t wake up to an alarm, and work the hours I choose. Now that I am living in a less expensive area of the country, my lower income does support me, so the stress is less. One day my earnings may return to the higher amounts I’d once enjoyed, but if not, I am okay.
The creative opportunities that the Zazzle company has opened up for me are immeasurable. For once in my life I am confidant that I am capable, independent person. And I have discovered that I am actually a pretty good designer as well! I learned as I went, and when I consider how far I’ve come in my computer and design knowledge, I must pat myself on the back.
I am still motivated to work seven days a week, for a company over in California, that has offered me this unbelievable opportunity. To be able to make a living, sitting in my own home, doing creative work that I enjoy, is something I never dreamed possible 10 years ago.
I am grateful.