I've cut my NHS working hours to focus on decorating side hustle – I earn £1,000 extra a month | The Sun

When Clare Talens offered to make a flower wall for the baby shower her niece was organising, she had no idea it would spiral into a thriving sideline to her nursing job.

A few years later, what was meant to be a hobby is boosting her income by £1,000 a month.

Clare said she first didn't realise how expensive or time consuming it would be to make a flower wall.

However, as luck would have it, another guest at the baby shower back in 2018 requested to hire the flower wall.

Later on, Clare was asked to make props to feature in a wedding shoot for a photographer friend.

“I made my first wedding arch for it, and did Mr and Mr balloons for a same sex marriage,” she said.

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“It all just sort of grew from there."

The extra cash has helped Clare, 45, and her husband Ronald's family life with kids Wilbur, 17, and Maisie, 13.

"We've got children and a mortgage to pay, so it is money to pay for extra things," Clare told The Sun.

“Before, taking the children out for dinner, we’d worry about the money, but now we have a more comfortable life.

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"We also managed to go on an all inclusive holiday for the first time."

Clare has been a nurse since she was 19.

She worked in an NHS hospital in Canterbury, in the surgical ward of a private hospital and is now a practice nurse at a local GP practice.

'I spent £800 to create the initial props'

Using £800 from her wages to create the props, she was helped by Ronald, a physiotherapist, who made the wedding arches from reclaimed wood. 

Clare then set up Instagram and Facebook pages, designed a professional-looking website herself and had a friend design a logo for her brand, which she called Bay Wedding Props.

She showed her products at a wedding fair near the family home in Herne Bay, Kent and, a few months later, the orders started rolling in. 

Starting out by hiring the flower walls and arches for around £100-£150, Clare was storing everything in the family’s garage and son Wilbur’s bedroom. 

“Then we got a very small storage unit but we just totally outgrew it and now we’ve got a big warehouse that we share with another prop company," she explained.

"We couldn't expand without getting the space."

For the first two years, she reinvested all the money back into the business, buying tools to make more props as well as a van to transport all the props to weddings.

Clare managed to successfully ride the storm of Covid, despite all the challenges and wedding cancellations it brought.

She said: “I started doing dining bell tents and domes for special occasions, making them feel really luxurious with how they are decorated, and people are still using them now.

"We’ve got one booked this weekend, actually.” 

She has now expanded into floristry and earns around £600 for bigger weddings, providing everything from table decor to flowers.

Bay Wedding Props was even a regional finalist at The Wedding Industry Awards in 2020 and 2022 and she is now the recommended supplier for five different wedding venues in Kent. 

It all makes for a very busy life alongside the demands of a nursing career, but Clare finds the two complement each other well.

“The weddings are escapism, but they’re both dealing with people. And they've been really supportive at work," she said.

"Sometimes I’ve found that I need a day off for a wedding and they’re very flexible.

“Plus, in the winter, the weddings are quieter when the nursing gets busier with things like flu clinics.”

Reducing work hours to have more time

In January, Clare cut her hours down to part time to meet the demands of her side hustle, reducing her annual practice nurse earnings from £18,760 to £14,750 a year. 

“It takes up a lot of time from admin, to actually making things, to delivering and collecting props,” she says.

The business is very much a family affair.

“Me and my husband go separately to do jobs and we’re on the go really early and then can be collecting props and putting them in the warehouse at 1am.”

Ronald also helps with the business side of things.

Clare said: “He works in a private hospital and is good with spreadsheets so he tends to do all the taxes and paperwork for me.

"We were breaking even and then last year, I made a small profit of £8000. This year it’s around £13,465.

"It’s not excessive but we’ve expanded with the warehouse, van and more props to grow the business.”

Clare’s advice to others who would like to start up a side hustle to earn some extra cash is to take risks.

“When you start out, it takes up a lot of your time, so you have to be really passionate about what you’re doing.

"There have been many times when I’ve thought ‘I can’t do this any more’ but then I pull myself together.

"You have to have a positive mindset. It’s scary to take risks, but you’ve really got to go for it.”

Tax rules for earning extra income

Running a side hustle is similar to running a small business, so it's important to get clear on your rights and responsbilities.

If you earn more than £1,000 extra a year, you’ll need to pay tax on your earnings. 

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You can operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company.

The rate of tax you pay will depend on whether your side hustle is a limited company or not.

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