Making

Do Not Fuck With Me

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Do. Not. Fuck. With. Me.

 

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Bingo.

Instant download cross stitch chart available to purchase now. Stitch your own personal motto this very weekend.

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Making

Gangsta’s Paradise

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I recently stitched this up for a Christmas gift for my pal, Jo. It took twice as long as you’d think because when I was about 3/4 of the way through, I realised I’d gone wrong in the border and had to unpick the whole fucking thing and start again. Still, it turned out well and she loved it.

If you’d like to make one, you’ll find the pattern for this and lots of other cool stuff, here.

Indie Business, Making

Delicious Donuts

Delicious Donuts From The Bellwether

It’s been a very busy few weeks here at The Bellwether HQ – Christmas is already in full swing! I’ve still found some time to get some new products uploaded, including this delicious donutty badge. Grab yours here.

This week has been a full one of shop updates, product photography and um, yeah, reopening my Etsy shop after a very, very long battle with myself. I still have some issues with Etsy but even I can grudgingly acknowledge that things have changed a lot in recent years.

It’s been quite the wrestle but as another certain website I sell on is determined to drum out small businesses and have everything looking like a John fucking Lewis advert, then I’m broadening my horizons. I don’t mind if you judge me.

It’s actually kinda invigorating to be returning/approaching a new channel. And revising things and making preparations. I’ve even booked up for three markets before Christmas – more news on that and on the exhibition I’m taking part in this month soon!

Indie Business

Honest Business – Don’t Quit Your Day Job

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Image by Canvas Flair.

One of the things that I used to get asked a lot is “when are you giving up the day job?”. I suppose it’s natural for people to look at me and my business and wonder why after over 10 years, I still haven’t gone full time.

There’s a simple answer to that – I don’t want to. In fact, I’m a little offended that you even asked. Because actually, this is something I feel really strongly about and I don’t think is acknowledged anywhere nearly enough. Settle in, I have a lot to say about this.

Long-term readers will be no doubt unsurprised to hear me say that part of this pet peeve stems from Etsy and their evangelising that quitting your day job be your goal when you set up as a designer/maker or artist. They have a whole blog series about it, where once a month, they present you with a portrait of a successful Etsy business who ditched the drudgery of the traditional working week to focus on their artisan business. I have no problem with this at all. I even enjoy reading them from time to time – for example, the recent Satsuma Street story. I am a fan of Jody’s work and so I found that quite interesting to see more about her and her process but I couldn’t care less if she works full time, part time, or not at all, alongside it. The series has some good pointers and makes you think about some aspects of the business side of designing and making from a different angle which is never a bad thing though.

What really grates on me is that I feel this is an unbalanced view. It gives the implication to other designer/makers, and indeed to their customers and the world at large, that unless you’re working towards emulating “living the dream”, then you’re a failure. That to not be in your studio or work space 24/7, working on your “niche”, that you’re somehow less inspiring or less successful than those who are. That bothers me, a lot. It’s by no means restricted to Etsy, of course. We’re all guilty of comparison (it’s the thief of joy) and one-up-man-ship and this implication of failure for not being full-time is part of that (but that’s for another day).

Sending the message, directly or indirectly, that you’re somehow not as successful as those full-timers is also, I feel, damaging to those people who are out there with a creative talent who are thinking about getting into selling their work. Becoming a full-time designer/maker or artist is not something you just fall into overnight, and behind so many “success stories” is the recurring theme of “I worked bloody hard to get here”. If you’re faced with an insurmountable goal from the get-go, we might miss out on some amazing talent who just don’t bother to try.

For my own personal situation, I have never ever been about wanting to quit my day job. For all I sometimes complain about my job, I do actually, for the most part, enjoy it. I work hard at it and have built up a whole wealth of skills that help me in my business, too. Being able to come to work and use my brain for something other than cross stitch allows me to exercise parts of it that would otherwise turn to mush. There is the odd day, I will admit, where I would rather stay at home and get stuck into a project, because I am a mere human, but overall, it’s just never been about that for me.

Working for a big company allows me to learn essential business skills, how to communicate with people, how to present information and puts me in touch with a ready-made potential client base (because y’all know I am not beneath hawking my wares in the break room at Christmas time, or setting up a Valentine’s Day card stand in February).

I’ve had a variety of jobs and worked for companies of varying sizes, so I have a wide experience to call upon. That time I cried in the Ops Director’s office because I couldn’t work out the right ratio for a refund budget – I do actually now look back upon that and am glad I went through the embarrassment, because it led to me learning all sorts of stuff I never would have if I’d continued muddling through on guess-work. I’ve done work-based courses that led to qualifications that allowed me to progress and ultimately earn more money, all of which has been a safety net to fall back on in leaner times in my own business.

Could I have taken such a prolonged break over the past year if I didn’t work full-time? No, of course not. Having the financial freedom to do stuff like that just makes sense to me. Sure, I have to compromise on time, and sometimes I have to work late into the night to meet deadlines, or get a particular project finished. But I wouldn’t really change it, because for me, it works.

The UK designer/maker scene is fairly supportive and friendly, so I have gotten to know a fair few women (for they are overwhelmingly female) who have very successful day jobs they wouldn’t dream of giving up – we’re talking doctors, lawyers, fire fighters, that sort of thing. Does it make them any less of a success in their business? No, it does not. If anything, it makes them all the more driven, that they can fit in making a go of it alongside saving lives and fighting crime.

Shift work is also possibly something to do with it – I work shifts in the broadcasting industry, so it allows me to structure my business time differently from someone who works in a shop, for example. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but I probably manage to wring out a little more time during the week and during the day, than someone having to be at the whim of “normal business hours,” whatever those are these days.

For those of you think this sounds like sour grapes – you couldn’t be more wrong. I am genuinely thrilled if you want to go full-time with your business and get to a position where you can. I’ll support you to the hilt. But it is not the be-all and end-all and it doesn’t make you more of a success than the next person. Working hard and winning at business is for everyone and I just want to celebrate this small corner of the diverse community that is indie business.

If you are reading this and thinking, shut up, I’m totally working towards being a full-time needle-felter/keyring maker/sock knitter, then this article from Kim Lawler is a good and useful read about preparing yourself financially. Some other useful reads:

Don’t Quit Your Day Job – why working whilst you establish a business can be a good move.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet – experience on working whilst building a business to a scale-able state from Huffington Post.

Get Your Project Moving Whilst You Work – some good advice from Harvard Business Review.

None of these are rocket science (and none of them are places I’d usually go for advice) but they all have some relevant points and offer food for thought if you are thinking of taking the plunge.

Coming up next week, I have an interview with a very clever designer who manages to be a doctor and a designer at the same time. Do pop back and read that, as it’s a great insight into the life of a very busy person.

Me, I’ll keep on keepin’ on and most resolutely won’t be quitting my day job any time soon!*

*Unless I win big on the scratch cards, then you won’t see me for dust.

Indie Business

Honest Business – Returning To My Nemesis

I have expounded at great length in the past about why I fell out of love with Etsy. You’re probably sick of me talking about it by now. Perhaps you see my name or twitter handle and think, oh, her, the one who hates Etsy. I wouldn’t blame you, because it’s pretty much been my nemesis for a few years now.

The whole descent into Chinese reseller promotion and twee-as-fuck antler headbands straight from Alibaba really grated on me. I wrote extensively about how selling “vintage” iPhones was damaging to people who do genuinely design and make awesome products. And I definitely voiced my annoyance and deep disdain for Etsy putting profit before their apparent ethos of being all about the makers. I think I’ve even argued with them on Twitter about it in the past few months (though sometimes I just do that in my head, so it’s hard to recall).

My opinion on this aspect of Etsy hasn’t changed at all. I still think Etsy are drifting further and further away from what they say their ethos was about and that they lack transparency in some areas. Their recent floating on stock exchange hasn’t really quelled my concerns either. I just read this post by Piddix this morning that really sums up the situation very succinctly.

However, what has changed is the way I think about Etsy. My viewpoint was challenged considerably when I read this article by Danielle Spurge about a different version of Etsy success.I read that back in March and it has really stuck with me and resonated. As Danielle says, Etsy has changed considerably but the way in which many people view it hasn’t, myself included. I guess I wish they were just more honest about turning into a multi-national company who are all about profit-making first and foremost, with the nurture of creative entrepreneurship second. They report to their investors first, their customers (both sellers and buyers) second. That is entirely fine and acceptable if you start to think of Etsy as a profit-making company and not as your friendly community leaders.  I cannot change that, so I should really stop trying to. I don’t even want to change it, I just maybe now want to reconsider how I could possibly make it work for me.

I got to thinking – what is really that different to, for example, Not On The High Street now to Etsy? When I think about the way I list products there, the sales I make, the communication with customers and the business/ethos balance there, it’s really not so different. Does it annoy me that people sale mass-produced stuff on NOTHS, an apparently curated collection of products? Of course it does. Does my annoyance make any difference to the customers viewing those or my products? Not a sausage. Are they also a profit-making entity who has grown from being a small, community type affair to a big company who has to count the beans before anything else? Sure they are. There are obvious differences, but the underlying principle is the same.

So, I’ve been thinking – maybe it’s time I climbed down off my high hand-carved, hand-painted dala horse and explored how I can make it work for me instead of what might appear to be cutting off my nose to spite my face. Hell, if Etsy has sold out, why shouldn’t I, too?!

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Can I expand my idea of success and the way I think of exposure for my business? Yes, I can. I’m still pondering how best to leverage it, but it’s no longer off my agenda. I’ll still be annoyed about everything I’ve mentioned, about the endless being ripped off by people who cross stitch one Me To You kit and think they’re Jane Greenoff and all that shite. But it’s every man for themselves, really, innit? Being ripped off is something that has happened loads to me in the past, and I don’t see that changing whether I am on or off selling platforms.

The other thing that has coloured my views on this since the turn of the year is the VATMOSS debacle. I had to stop selling my instant-download patterns which was a nice, easy revenue stream for me. Not huge volumes, but still. Now that Etsy are  going to be collecting the VAT and processing it without seller intervention, it seems a no-brainer to use that facility over other options that don’t get the traffic looking for the charts in the first place. See, something else that has recently changed that has changed my opinions. Something to consider on the balance sheet of pros and cons.

Am I big fat hypocrite? I am sure at least one person will think that of me. But no, I don’t think so. Things have changed a lot and I’ve re-examined my position and found it to have shifted a bit from where it was nearly 5 years ago. If you’ve never changed your mind about anything at all, then please feel free to think of me as massively hypocritical. Maybe I’ll even change my mind again. Who knows?

Ooh, I feel like a guilty secret has been let out! Not earth-shattering but I wanted to share this because people don’t talk about mistakes or changing views enough in our business. It’s OK to change! I haven’t made any decisions yet, but expanding my horizons, or un-narrowing them can’t help a little.