January 13, 2009


I've been thinking a lot recently about the reasons why I decided to cut back at my day job and make a go of selling my knitware, handspun yarns, etc. on Etsy. When you're working in a job that you don't particularly care about, money quickly becomes the primary motivator and the main measure for success in your life. I have coworkers who just can't fathom that I'd give up 40% of my pay cheque to have 2 extra days a week to myself. But I had reached a point where time was flying past me at breakneck speed, each week exactly the same as the last, and I thought, "There has to be a better way to live!" I made the change so I could live a more authentic, fulfilling and pleasant life.

But that ingrained need for financial security can be a hard one to shed. As with most things in life, it takes more than changing the external circumstances to really get at the root of the problem. Especially in the midst of the current economic situation, it's quite easy to succumb to that low level anxiety that we are all conditioned to feel about money, until you realize you've just traded one "job" for another and are in danger of turning your favorite pastimes into "work".

Every once in a while, I am provided with a reminder that I need, and a gentle nudge in a better direction. For example, before Christmas I was researching ways to improve my shop, direct more traffic to it, as well as my blog, and maximize the effectiveness of the time I spend on promoting. I was reading a lot of great tips on the Etsy forums and in the articles of Timothy Adams, who has loads of free advice for Etsy sellers (definitely worth checking out). He's got so many great suggestions in fact that I began to get a little overwhelmed, thinking I had to try them all right away and I was not doing enough to get the word out about my shop. In short I had developed tunnel vision, only looking at things in terms of their marketing effectiveness. There are so many tools available to online sellers and only so much time in a day to make use of them, that I started to get stressed out! And worse, I was spending so much time trying to do everything I could to promote that it was cutting into my actual creative time in a big way. This is what I mean about changing more than the outside situation, because I was starting to look at my Etsy business the same way I had my day job, in terms of profitability instead of enjoyment.

The reminder came when I visited the Etsy forums to post a link to my blog on a blog roll thread. My intention when I posted was to direct people to my blog, but while I was there I also clicked a few of the links to other blogs listed and found myself directed to some unexpected places. Instead of blogs that were devoted solely to self-promotion, I found pockets of the world that reflected the interests and personalities of the writers, and were so interesting and selfless that they shook me out of my stress-induced trance and reminded me of why I'm doing this in the first place. I'm sure there are tons of great blogs like these out there, but I'd like to share the two that really stood out for me that day.

The first is Believe Breathe Birth, written by Etsy seller Bellyblessings, who makes beautiful jewelry inspired by pregnancy and birth. This blog provides "pregnancy & birth affirmations, quotes, journal prompts, ideas & activities for birth preparation and celebrating the childbearing year". The post I read that day struck me as such a positive statement for expecting mothers, and I was impressed by the generosity involved in taking the time to offer it up to the world.

The second blog that caught my eye is MayhemArts' blog, Art, Life, Yoga.... MayhemArts sells beautiful handmade malas (used for meditation or chanting mantras) as well as photopraphic prints and ACEO's of yoga inspired artworks. This blog is so well-rounded that it really opened my eyes to the potential of blogging beyond mere self-promotion. The posts are inspiration and informative, and they really give a sense of the person behind the scenes.

I'd like to thank both of these people for reminding me what's really important and why I wanted to sell online in the first place. There are so many cool people taking part in the "handmade movement" online and it can be just as rewarding to make connections or promote others as it is to make that sale you're working towards (if not more so).

I've put in a lot of effort to get my Etsy shop going, and I'm quite happy with it so far. Although there are always going to be things that I can improve, it doesn't mean I have to get them all done right now. I just need to get beyond this idea that I have to be really successful before I can relax and enjoy this. The time to enjoy it is now. I can put the stress down at any time - I just have to decide consciously to do so. To remind myself that this is what I wanted, and that I've already arrived at where I wanted to be. Now I only need to enjoy the journey. The timing will take care of itself, the sales will come, and things will get done if I just do what I really care about. I'm just trying to find a balance between healthy discipline and productivity and unhealthy stress and worry.

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Lin said...

I can really relate to your post! I downsized from my stressful job a couple of years ago so that I could re-train and be at home for my child. It took quite a bit of adjusting to relax. When I started my shop I started joining all the teams etc and like you, got totally overwhelmed. So I have stepped back now and it really helps. x

Brenda said...

You have put into print what so many of us handmade artists go through. Our promoting overwhelms our creativity. I've been going through this, Plus cutting back on my secular job.

Your perspective has helped to direct me back to my art. Thanks!

Brenda said...

Good morning! Just wanted you to know I love your posts and I have featured you in my blog today.elsalugh

Sara said...

Thank you for this post. I'm currently trying to get my shop up and going and productive enough to be able to scale back at my full time job in a year or two. I'm relatively new and I have also gotten caught up in the whirlwind of promoting and I always feel like I should be doing more--to the point where I'm not painting as much! Which isn't good for my business. :) I'm working on finding a balance. It's good to know I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed by it all.

365 Letters said...

Wonderful post! I applaud your decision to spend more time on your art! I know it can be a difficult decision to make, but it can also be very rewarding! Good luck!

Waterrose said...

What a great post! I also got caught up in that whirlwind of doing every marketing idea that I cam upon and found myself not making my creations. I also took a step back and made a list of things that I want to try --but I will do them in a much less frenzied way. I think one of the issues is that selling online and trying to be seen here is so overwhelming because we are all relatively new at it. Old marketing ideas, the basics remain the same, but this new world presents its own challenges.

315thomas said...

very inspiring... thanks for sharing! sometimes we just have to slow down, stop stressing ourselves out so much... and remember the reason why we do what we do!

p.s. - you've been tagged!

that chick said...