And who knows? Maybe someday someone will want to pay me enough for one of my collages that it actually will be a "working wage," even though I spend days and weeks on one piece.
Anyway, so I finally got up the energy to talk to Social Security about what stuff like this means for my disability payments. Asking them questions takes a significant amount of energy, because the system isn't set up for people like me, and so it's all about jobs. I don't have a job, so what do I do when I earn money from less conventional sources? Acquiring these kinds of answers requires a lot of time on the phone, most of it spent listening to muzak & irrelevent recorded Social Security announcements that have nothing to do with me but which get played over and over and over again while I wait for someone to answer my call.
So I've been harboring questions about this whole issue since I opened the Etsy shop & sold a few bookmarks. I knew that earning $5 from selling a bookmark wasn't important to report to Social Security, but I'm supposed to inform them if I "get a job," so when does selling stuff become enough of a "job" that I need to report it to them? Back when I worked temp jobs & such while on SSDI, they told me to always send in my pay stubs whenever I worked, no matter how many hours I worked or how much money I made, but informing Social Security whenever I make a dime off my art seems ridiculous.
I had a good talk with a guy at the Social Security department today, and he told me that if a person on disability earns more than a certain amount of money in a month (currently, it's $770), then it gets counted toward a "trial work period" (I won't bore people by explaining what that means), but if I don't earn more than $770 in a month, then whatever money I make in that month doesn't need to be reported.
So ... the question has finally been answered. The facts to remember (for me) are these:
1. I don't have to report every $5 or $50 that people pay me for my art.
2. If I earn more than $770 in a single month, then I need to report it to Social Security.
3. If I earn less than (or exactly) $770 in a single month, then I don't need to report it to Social Security.
4. I need to keep precise records of the money I earn—through my art or otherwise—so that if Social Security ever comes to me to do any kind of audit, I can show exactly which months I did or did not earn more than $770.
Yay! Now I can go sell some art!