So I’m talking to a friend about money. How to make it mostly. We’re talking about his hesitation with posting his photos online to sell. He’s concerned he won’t be able to cope with the orders.
Later, I’m on the horn with another friend who keeps putting off making her music video because she knows that the moment she posts it on YouTube, it will go viral. She’ll have to go on tour and her family will suffer from her rock star lifestyle.
In reality, of course, if he posts the photos and she posts the video, what will likely happen is this:
Absolutely nothing. Big buckets of silence. So they’ll post the link on their preferred social media sites and their friends will say nice things because friends are good that way. But after the initial high fives, we will likely return to:
And thank goodness. Why? Because it’s better to figure out your art when no one is really looking. It buys you time to refine your skills, build a body of work, figure out the back-end, and most importantly, to discover if you are even really committed to your art for the long haul. You have to live with your hits. What if you loved painting a plastic dove so you decide to sell them online. It’s a massive success. You have 100 orders on the first day. The only problem is that after painting the fifth plastic dove, you’re over it. You never want to see another plastic dove again. Now you’ve got orders to fill and people waiting for their doves.
And you hate yourself a little.
Or the other scenario. You paint a dove. You sell it. You get two more orders. You sell them. You’re getting over it so you stop selling it. No self hatred on the horizon. You learned a few things, made some cash and earned a lovely stroll in the park. Nice!
No public humiliation. Just a few lessons, learned calmly.
When I first started my letter writing business, I sent out 20 letters to friends with a note saying I’d be sending them a letter each month for a year. I explained that this was a year-long experiment, to see if I liked this art form. Plus, I needed to figure out the back-end of how to make it work… organizing who gets what, when and how. In time, I posted the product on Etsy.
I didn’t get many orders, but I sure got a lot of questions about this weird letter writing service. Actual mail? Like in the mailbox? As in paper and stamps? So I refined my messaging. I posted better photos. I created a page on my website that explained things further. I made a video. I refined a few logistics methods on the back-end. I figured out what worked for me. Eventually, I got a few orders. It was delightful.
Then I was featured in the Etsy Quit Your Day Job series.
Holy panic Batman. Orders flooded in. It was a hurricane of papers, envelopes and stamps around my little Paris apartment. The Big Time had arrived. But by then I had already figured out how to organize the system. I had already learned how to streamline the process from those first 20 letters and the orders that had trickled in along the way. And after the Etsy flurry, I learned even more.
I thanked my lucky stars for the crickets I had at the beginning.
They bought me time to figure it out. And now that the book about the letters is on the horizon, I have a website up and ready, a process that works, room for growth, and a lovely little audience that likes to hear from me. No crickets, but no panic either. Well, we’ll see about the panic. The book comes out in February 2014. Eek!