HaHa. Like my Click Bait title? Apparently that is how you are supposed to write your blog titles to lure people to click on them. I find it pretty annoying. So do you. So does everyone… but it is just the way things work these days. Sincerity Schmincerity!
But seriously though – guess what happened? This is gross: I have been absentmindedly sewing for 20 years without too much incident (other than a needle in the eyeball that one time) and then on Thursday I was zig-zagging away on my machine and –AHHHRRR! I put the needle right through my finger! Like, through the nail and out the front. Soooo gross. You always know that this is possible, but you never think it will actually happen. It hurt. And the metaphor was not lost on me. I can’t take anything for granted, or assume that my happy little sewing bubble is going to automatically continue being rainbow and sunshine forever.
Coincidentally, just as I was sucking on my finger to stop the bleeding, Etsy had their Initial Public Offering.
I looked at the photo of the newly minted Etsy millionaires, clapping their hands on Wall Street, along side other millionaires from Goldman Sachs, and it was hard to imagine a scenario in which this could be good for our little businesses. Okay, I have no idea who was actually in the Etsy celebration photo besides Chad the CEO. Knowing Etsy, they probably recruited some humble candlemaker and a couple of silversmiths to contrive a sense of community, but regardless – I didn’t see that photo as good news.
A lot has been said about Etsy abandoning the tiny crafters that it claims to champion, so I am not gonna go on about that. (Here is a great article on the topic)
As obvious it is that Etsy is hurling itself toward the Great Maelstrom of Lameness, it is still the best known, best working commerce site for artists like us. But what is next? How are independent little crafters going to stay afloat now that Etsy has become a battlefield of mass produced Chinese imports and advertisements?
Once a long time ago this Guy I Liked broke my heart a little when he sneered his lip at me and said, “You are just too……Flouncy.” Obviously he was a jerk who didn’t deserve my affection, but he was right. I am kind of bouncy and flouncy and I like making stupid rainbow things while I sing the wrong lyrics off key. THAT is who I am. I am not slick. I am not a business tycoon. I am not internet savvy. I have Mister Magoo-ed my way into being a successful business woman. I wear my flounciness with pride! I could have just as easily ended up living in a van selling trinkets on the seashore while having far too many conversations regarding the choice of Trey Anastasio replacing Jerry Garcia in Chicago. But that isn’t how it worked out. I grew a business and it is doing great. Now I have a big weird house to take care of and all sorts of taxes to pay. I have grown accustomed to this life working my ass off and being well rewarded for it. But I feel panic when I catch glimpses of how fast everything changes, and how fragile my business model is. Fortune may not always smile upon us little guys so benevolently.
Making pretty things comes easy. The hard part of my business has been the BUSINESS. People always say “Do what you love and never work another day in your life.” Uh, I beg to differ. It should be “Do what you love AND NEVER GET ANOTHER DAY OFF IN YOUR LIFE”. It is totally worth it! But when you have a small Internet business, you just never get to coast. Every day is pedaling uphill, forever.
Considering how inept I am at computers, I have done remarkably well in cultivating an online following (Hi! That’s you!! HI!!! Thank you!). For the first few years there I didn’t realize how good I had it – Etsy still felt warm and fuzzy. It really was still a place where oddballs like me could make their quirky things and then just say, “Huh, I wonder if someone would buy this?” You could have atrocious business skills and your products would still end up on the front page of Etsy for half a day.
Similarly, Facebook was this world of wonder where I could just throw out random typo-ridden posts and thousands of people thumbs-upped them. My Facebook page had WAY more interaction back when I had only 10,000 fans. Now I have close to 150,000 fans, and it can feel like shouting at crickets. (Facebook helpfully suggests that if I would like to reach more of my fans I can “Boost my Post”…. In other words, I can pay hundreds of dollars per post to reach a fraction of the people who like my page. Ugh.) I am still doing great compared to lots of people. I just get scared when I look down the road and see how intense it is going to be to try to maintain this. Businesses increasingly have to rely on strategy and gimmicks to get noticed at all, which takes so much fun out of it for the flouncy hearts like me.
Are any of you small business owners? Do you also feel like you are frantically paddling to keep your head above water and have your voice heard over all of the noise? Trying to stay relevant is EXHAUSTING! I do not have a knack for SEO or optimizing anything. My website looks like crap on mobile platforms. Even I can’t find my Blog without googling “Katwise Blog.” Dude, I probably would have written this whole blog in Comic Sans if my boyfriend hadn’t clued me in that everyone hates that font.
I know that there are professionals who can help with this sort of thing, but the majority of them seem to want to streamline my business into something that feels so insincere and advertisey. They advocate “coupon codes” and “calls to action” and “working my mailing list”. You guys, I would rather put a sewing needle through my finger a thousand times than turn into that sort of business – always shouting about itself as loudly as it can, offering insincere promotions, telling you how much you deserve the very best, while strong arming you to promote on social media and sign over your vital information.
I literally have tens of thousands of customer emails on my “mailing list” but I have never sent a single mass email. Is that stupid of me? I just hate the thought of being a generator of junk mail. It is so distasteful to me. Maybe that means that my future will eventually involve living in a van again.
Another frequent bit of social media advice is to “diversify.” That is good advice. I can see how I am too reliant on just Facebook and Etsy, and their changes make me feel unstable. I am just stumped as to how to diversify and still feel like I am being an authentic human being, not just a shouty business.
What are the options to diversify?
For the life of me I do not understand Tumblr. To me, Tumblr is like, jeggings – just something in my peripheral vision that neither offends nor involves me. I am just hoping it fades away without me having to learn anything more about it. Kind of like minidisks or the Atkins Diet.
And Instagram? I like thoughtful square photos of dinner as much as the next guy, but I don’t have any driving need in my soul to broadcast my life with nostalgic filters and hashtags.
Oh my gosh, hashtags!
I was really hoping Twitter wouldn’t catch on. I was hoping we could throw it on the pile with MySpace and Friendster and resurrect it only to laugh at how obsolete it feels. Damn you Twitter! Why are you so beloved ?? Overthrowing dictatorships! Keeping us up to the minute on LeAnn Rimes’ feuds! You are indispensible!
My Mom is almost 80 and she is completely adorable. You’d love her. Somewhere along the line she learned that Twitter was a thing, but I don’t think she quite grasped it. She just started using the verb “Tweet” for everything done on a computer.
“When are you Tweeting you sweaters?”
“I don’t Tweet sweaters Mom, I sell them on Etsy.”
“Tell your brother that dinner is ready. He is in his office Tweeting.”
“He’s actually using Quickbooks, but sure, I will tell him dinner is ready.”
“Can’t wait to see you this weekend! I will Tweet you from my cellphone when we get close.”
“You mean call me?”
I saw my mom grappling with her arch enemy (the TV remote) and mumbling about how she “couldn’t seem to get it to Tweet.” I succumbed to moment of personal lameness wherein I was not equipped to appreciate her cuteness. I was like, “MOM. Not EVERYTHING is TWEETING. TWEETING is a SPECIFIC THING.”
She looked at me in baffled exasperation that she was expected to master such newfangled nuances. “Well, what IS Tweeting then? Why do people Tweet?”
And I was like, “Twitter. You know. It’s like 140 characters that, uh, celebrities uh, the Iraq everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S such as., uh, or, uh… I HAVE NO IDEA.”
But I do have a Twitter account! I think I tweeted three times before I forgot my password. I still have 632 followers though! What does that even mean? I am squandering an opportunity. I guess I should learn how to use Twitter. You should totally follow me. I am a blast. Help! Someone… please tell me… what the fuck am I supposed to be tweeting about???
I am sort of jealous that my mom will likely get through the rest of her years blissfully unaware of all the technology she is falling behind on. I am not a Digital Native, but I am too young to just drop the reins and give up. I still get frazzled every time they decide to redesign the Hotmail inbox (Yes, I still have Hotmail, what is your point?)
I sometimes wish we had the option to just freeze all the innovations and exist in some Luddite Internet that never got more complex and confusing. Of course, if there really were an option not to innovate, I probably would have gone for it in 1994, which would mean that I would be saving this blog on a floppy disk and taking it down to Kinkos to Xerox for my Zine. So, I will begrudgingly comply.
Thus, in order to not utterly drop the ball on social media, I am giving Pinterest a try. At least I can relate to the gluttony and pleasurable time suck of Pinterest. I like pretty pictures of things I can’t afford. Somehow “pinning” photos scratches a little itch when you can’t actually posses the objects. Are you on Pinterest? We should follow each other! I will heart your stuff if you will heart mine! (eek!)
I still don’t quite understand how I am supposed to use Pinterest to build my business. Recently my commitment to learning Pinterest for Business has led me to spend a lot of time pretend shopping for furniture while telling myself that I am working. I even discovered that I liked Brutalist furniture.
Next, my Pinterested Zombie Brain convinced me to go onto Craigslist and see if there was any interesting Brutalist furniture for sale nearby. That is how I came across a listing for a dining set that was described as “Brutalist Tiki Hut Meets Game of Thrones”… Gasp! That is the rarest of Trifectas!
Did I need a new dining room set? Of course not. I don’t even have a dining room. But far be it from me to defy the Gods of Kismet. You see, weeks before I had tried to mail order tickets to see the Grateful Dead in Chicago, but my hopes were dashed. My money orders were returned to me the same day that the Brutalist dining set appeared like a vision via Pinterest. I had emotionally charged money in my pocket. If I am given an opportunity to turn my disappointment into kitschy furniture whilst simultaneously avoiding work obligations, then I shall always do so.
Ta Da! It is perfect.
Thus my feeble attempt at trying to stay relevant on social media just led me to have an enormously tacky dining set. God help me. I am going to give Pinterest another try though. So seriously, if you are Pinterest savvy, let’s be friends. Tell me your secrets.
I know you are supposed to end blog posts on an inspiring note, while gently guiding people toward a place when they can give you their money or promote you somehow. Whatever. I got nothing for sale today except sweater tutorials, so you are off the hook. Just go to Pinterest and like, repin this blog post or something or something or whatever. I don’t know. Actually, don’t look at my Pinterest page. It is pretty much all just retro turquoise appliances. You won’t respect me.
As far as inspiring last words, that remains to be seen. I still don’t know if my Internet success will be just another forgettable blip. But for the time being I will offer myself up as an unconfirmed case of someone who violates many of the best practices and still manages to do okay. My blog posts are rambling, my website gets you lost, my Etsy sales confuse everyone, my email list is gathering dust, and even this very sentence is way too long for most people’s attention span.
But for the moment, business is thriving. I have to guess that my good fortune has something to do with the fact that I still come across as a real person in a sea of increasing insincerity. So, the good news is that this strategy is completely available to you as well! And it’s free! Whoopee! If you are struggling to shout louder than the shop next to you, maybe there is something to be gained in not trying to keep up or out-rank anyone. Just be way better at being YOU.
* * * *
I love your comments. I read and appreciate all of them either here or on my Facebook page.
Tags: blog, hashtags, katwise, pinterest, social media, twitter