Here I sit in the wee hours of the morning with my cup of faux coffee and buttered toast wrestling with the demons I am sure every “artiste” and creative type encounters in their careers.
I am a fledgling entrepreneur who is close to deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Why? Because I am overwhelmed with advertisements and self-promotion. The “likes” and “follows” I receive on my accounts don’t seem to be because the people behind them are interested in dialogue but because they want to sell me something or garner “likes” for their own pages.
Sure, I want to sell my stuff, too. But I don’t want to shove it in someone’s face every time they sign online. I want to “like” and “follow” other accounts because we have something in common and can communicate about what we do, not because accumulating signs of approval boosts my ego.
I need to sell my creations. I need to create a market for what I do. But I don’t want to be cynical and manipulative while doing it. I like fiber and color and pattern so here I am slinging dye around, making tie-dye clothing in a world dominated by dark colors and ironic slogans. On-line marketing, SEO, hashtags, etc. are a foreign language to me. The learning curve is steep.
The world seems to be running on algorithms these days. They are everywhere. Not only in marketing and sales, but in all the service professions. No one seems to know how to connect with others in an open, genuine manner any more. The pressure to do more with less to keep the greedy stockholders happy has reduced the amount of time people have to be more than meat robots. You want to offend me? Treat me like just another step in your memorized algorithm. I will get cranky and obnoxious in a heartbeat and do my damnedest to jerk you out of your robotic responses. Who would you like me to manifest? Robin Williams, George Carlin, Andy Griffin, or the evil witch of the West with the flying monkeys? and I easily recognize jargon.
I am working with an online group that is helping me formulate a business plan. The questionnaire I am required to fill out is intimidating. What is my mission statement? Hell, I don’t know. I make for the joy of making and hope people like what I do. I want people who use my products to enjoy them, have fun, and feel loved. Is that enough of a mission statement? I am not out to save the world. Chip away at some of the gloom, maybe, but not lead a revolution.
And what percentage do I expect my business to grow in the next year? I don’t know that either. I will worry about it when it happens. Right now I am concerned about materials and supplies to create enough product to sell and finding people to buy it. But I don’t want to get so big that the hand-produced aspect of the business is lost. And people I have approached to sell to can get cheap rip-offs made in China for much less and toss them away after a few months instead of using them until they wear out. The shirt I am wearing in the pic at the top of this article is my very first one ever, the one that started me on my journey, and it is now 8 years old. The one I am wearing in my profile pic is one of my experiments from the past year and is the representative of the direction I want to go with my shirts.
I don’t know how to answer these questions in the same “corporate business speak” language the originators use. I am afraid to distill my work into spreadsheets and financial projections because that will take the joy out of it, but reality raises it’s ugly head. It is part of the not so fun side of running a business. I am already very broke and trying to do this, if I don’t control cash flow I will just be more broke.
I find myself up against the Wal-Martization of the culture and the pitch to the lowest common denominator; the sad complaint of creative types for centuries. These days hand-made objects are luxuries and the provenance of people who have the time and money to indulge themselves. Skills that were once a part of daily life are now dominated by privileged white people, usually retired, and the competition among them is fierce. I have rarely seen locals or POC at Master Gardener events or fiber conventions. In the town where I live the social and economic problems are such that survival is the focus and anything beyond that is viewed with suspicion, so I don’t sell locally. Not yet, anyway; though I am not discounting the possibility. When I first started I couldn’t give away my work here. I hope that as the town grows and groovies up a market for my kind of thing may develop here. There are new bars and entertainment venues popping up downtown as people migrate here to escape higher costs in the big town on the hill west of us.
I don’t mean to sound bitter and angry, I am more puzzled and groping my way in the dark. So much of this blog has become a place for personal venting instead of for my business that I am considering starting a separate one for kvetching and keeping this one strictly for sales and marketing. Any and all advice or comments are welcome.