Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We really aren't business owners, just have an expensive hobby

I used to tell Mike that he needed to write more in his journal.  More than once a year.  When he had something good happen to him I'd say, "You will forget this, go write it down."  When my kids tell me that they had a spiritual experience, I tell them, "Go write that in your journal."  I have written in a journal consistently since I was 10.  I have always believed in journals and the importance of writing our thoughts and feelings down.  When I started the blog it was mostly to document our lives for my family because we had just moved away and I wanted a way for them to see Will grow and get a glimpse of our lives.  It was fun to write their shenanigans and have a written record of our lives.  When Laila died it was a way for me to express my thoughts.  Sometimes I didn't want to share so I wrote in my journal instead of the blog.  Sometimes I felt I had to share so I wrote what I felt needed to be said.  Life gets busy and I find it harder to set aside time to write.  I post pictures and captions but don't usually write my thoughts and feelings a whole lot anymore.  Sometimes it's just hard to figure it all out and by the time I've figured it out I don't feel the need to write it anymore.  On the flip side, Mike made a goal two Christmases ago to write every day in his journal and he has kept that goal and written faithfully for one and a half years now, only missing a few days.  My journal sits on my nightstand and I write about once a week.  I've been trying to be better and write more and not just the day to day happenings but to open up more and share my thoughts and feelings.  So, that said, I've had something on my mind a lot lately.  I'll start there.

I made the wooden silhouettes when we lived in Colorado.  Some friends expressed interest in them and Mike joked about me making money on the side and selling them.  I didn't see how I could find the time to manage something like.  Cutting them out with the scroll saw took me too much time and I didn't want to take my time from the kids or take my time with Mike after the kids were in bed.  When we moved here our friends who owned two businesses really encouraged us to start making some and selling them.  Mike was convinced and before I knew it he had bought a CNC Router.  We really didn't know what we were doing and made a lot of mistakes and our first items weren't very good.  Family and friends were kind and patient with us as we tried to figure things out and get our processes down and learn to make a really good quality product.

We had some friends ask to join the business as partners.  I won't write a lot about that but at the time I thought it could be a good idea because I didn't want to deal with people.  I didn't want to manage the marketing aspect of the business and didn't have a smart phone for Instagram.  I let my friend manage the website, Etsy, Instagram, facebook page, and emails to and from people.  When the partnership dissolved 8 months later all that fell on me again.  We decided the website was too much to manage so we closed that down but I took over the Facebook page and Etsy.  We paid my sister to help us manage the Instagram account.

Before the partnership dissolved, I tried to just avoid instagram altogether.  Since then I've had more interactions with instagram and Mike bought us smartphones.  I've realized since Instagram has been introduced to my life that I feel unsettled about this business.  First of all, I have my own account and I follow my friends and family but for our business we follow other etsy shop owners or bloggers (most of whom my friend or my sister followed for us when they were in charge of the account).  I realize that these are real people with real life problems but they are also people who are trying to promote their business.  They appear to have perfect hair, clothes, bodies, houses, children, products, etc.  They are witty and cool.  I am not  (any of those things).  For the most part, I feel satisfied with my life and who I am and what I have to offer the world as a person and as a mother but I feel bombarded by thoughts of insecurities and comparisons any time I go onto the business instagram account.  It took me awhile to recognize it was happening but I do now.  As a business owner you have to put your best face forward.  You have to have perfect photos of your products, and make a good image of yourself.  I get that but it is really frustrating for me to feel the pressure to be something I am not.

My brother was here in November.  He has started a business and is hugely successful.  He mentioned when he was here that if we really wanted our business to take off we needed to really invest ourselves in marketing and in making this business something great.  I realized talking to him (and now from the instagram stuff) that we aren't ever going to be successful in the typical way people perceive success.  What I told my brother then and feel still is that I am a mom, a wife, a visiting teacher, a friend, a Primary teacher, a homeschool mom, etc.  I cannot put in the time needed in this business to be really successful.  I can't spend the overwhelming amount of time required to research perfect hashtags and style products perfectly.  I can't invest so much time in making connections with strangers on instagram so that I can get loads of comments and followers and thus work the system of the instagram algorithm.  I don't want to spend time doing loop giveways so I can get followers only to lose half or more of them after the giveaway ends.  Not only do I not want to spend the time on those kinds of things, but I am not willing to change who I am.  I get frustrated by the pressure to appear a certain way.  My sister owns a business as well and she had me join this small business own/etsy shop owners group.  There are all kinds of great advice on the group--how to get followers, how to do likes for likes, when you should post to get the most interactions, etc.  They attend bloggers conferences and take selfies with popular bloggers.  My sister is so good at incorporating what they say.  She makes connections and interacts with complete strangers like they are best friends.  She sells at craft markets and builds her brand.  She is doing amazing things and growing her business.  I'm really proud of her and I also see that I am not like that.  I recognize from reading the advice that I am unwilling to do what they say is necessary to grow and get attention.  That is a problem because unless people see your product, they won't know you exist and no matter how great a product you have, no one will buy it if they don't see it.

So, Mike and I have talked a lot about all of this lately.  We realize that what we want is to be ourselves.  We want to learn and grow and perfect our skills.  I feel so much better about what we have to offer than when we started.  We love to work together and we enjoy creating.  What we are doing should be enough but I admit, it is hard to get caught up in the pressure to be more.  I wish I was better at just posting what I want and not worrying about losing followers.  I wish I could just create and improve my art skills without worrying that it's not cool enough or that no one will like it.  I don't want to compare myself to others.  It's just so silly.  It's so silly the pressure I put on myself.

Anyway, all this is to say that I acknowledge that I am not really a business owner, but rather, have a very expensive hobby.  Perhaps one day I will feel ready to put more time and effort into making the business something else but for now, I just want to create and improve my skills and be myself.  I want to focus on my family and my many responsibilities and not add to that the pressure of running a business.

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