Read as Sue Nadel gives her take on a career in Soap Making. Find her at www.youscentme.com and on her Twitter feed on the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I’ve yet to make a real living from it, but I’m a soapmaker.
How would you describe what you do?
I make handcrafted bath & body products.
What does your work entail?
Making products, researching ingredients for safety, running our website (youscentme.com), and being the director for all our social media outlets; we are on:
What’s a typical work week like?
Making products. Filling orders. Purchasing supplies. Answering emails. Participating in social media. Paying bills.
How did you get started?
I was channel surfing & caught a PBS program on making your own cosmetics. I’m a beauty product addict anyway so this was a perfect choice. I then started making products for family and friends, and the rest as they say is history.
What do you like about what you do?
The creativity. There are so many ways to be creative with soap — colors, swirls, the oils you choose. There are also so many TYPES of soap — bar, liquid, cream, whipped, transparent, melt & pour. Next month I’m taking a class to learn how to make soap cupcakes — the possibilities are endless! I love the camraderie among my fellow soapmakers. They are an incredibly supportive group.
What do you dislike?
Printing labels. Packaging. Shipping costs (most of my supplies must be ordered via mail).
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I make money by selling products.
How much money do Soapmakers make?
It can vary. I have one friend who one year grossed $80,000 in sales. According to wahm.com, the salary range for a soapmaker is $22,000-$38,000. Simplyhired.com says the average salary is $57,000. Soapmakers can also make additional income by teaching classes, writing articles for trade publications, and speaking engagements/ performing demos at soapmaking gatherings.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
My first year I think I made a couple of hundred dollars.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
You can take classes, read books, watch DVDs, and watch videos on YouTube to get the basics.
What is most challenging about what you do?
When people ask why should they pay x amount of dollars for a bar of soap, when they can pick soap up at supermarket for a few cents per bar. While price wise, that may be true, look at the ingredients on the bar of soap purchased at the supermarket. Most mass produced soap companies take the glycerin out of their soap. They may also contain harsh detergents that irritate and dry the skin. Handmade soap leaves in the glycerin, which is a humectant and draws moisture to the skin. Handmade soap cleans skin gently without stripping skin of its natural oils.
What is most rewarding?
Nothing is more rewarding than having a customer loving my products and referring their friends and relatives. I take great satisfaction out of someone picking up one of my products and saying, “wow! You made that?” or says that my products smell amazing.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
If you’re looking for a 9-5 job, you might want to consider a different career. Many soapmakers sell their products at farmer’s markets and craft fairs. These events are usually held on the weekend. Take a class first to see if soapmaking is for you. Then research, research, research. Research the ingredients you want to use. What qualities will they add to your product? Are the fragrances you want to use skin safe? Not all are. Make several batches. Give your soaps to friends and relatives & get their feedback. Don’t be discouraged if your batches turn out less than perfect. Keep at it. Find your niche. There are a LOT of soapmakers out there. What differentiates your product from others that are already on the market? Don’t expect to make a lot of money when you’re first starting out. Cultivating a following takes time.
How much time off do you get/take?
Because I’m disabled, being a soapmaker allows me the flexibility with the time I need to take care of health issues. A couple of years ago I needed 2 months to recover from surgery. The year before that I was laid up for 6 weeks with a stress fracture. Even when I’m laid up or away from home, there’s almost always a computer nearby, and I upgraded to a smartphone earlier this month, so I can answer emails & see what’s doing on social media, so I guess I’m never totally on vacation, lol.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That I also make candles.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My short term goal is to get a new logo design & have professionally printed labels. My ultimate dream is to have a devoted soap studio where I have enough room to make products and store supplies.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Soapmaking is a constant learning process. Whether it’s exploring exciting soapmaking related avenues like aromatherapy or herbalism, experimenting with a recipe or learning a new technique, there’s always something new to learn to keep your brain challenged.