These are uncertain times. I hope all my friends, shop supporters and customers are well and safe. I would like to say it’s business as usual at Feral HQ, but of course it isn’t. As we work from home and live in a somewhat remote, rural area, self-isolation is a norm. We have the luxury here to do this without much change, but some of my suppliers have been affected by the Shelter in Place Order in California. I collaborate with many other small makers and businesses and they are all affected. We are in this together.
Like many of you, I am one of the vulnerable with multiple pre-existing, chronic conditions one of which is life-threatening asthma that is triggered by respiratory infections. I’m grateful to everyone who is self-isolating too. I know not everyone can. I think the terms “social distancing” and “self-isolating” might describe the physical reality of these actions but really they are deeply communal behaviours, protecting the weakest and most vulnerable. In the words of one of the many memes on the subject, “The one that stayed away saved the rest.” One of my friends said that it feels like the quietest general strike.
I love that. We are quietly striking for each other, for life. Things are coming up in the quiet, too: kindness and birdsong, the steely warmth of hope, the sun on the daffodils, new nettle shoots. Spring is here.
There are some big changes happening on Etsy where sadly corporate greedhas finally taken over completely. Until I know how their new changes will affect sellers, I must put my Etsy shop on indefinite holiday mode, but everythingwill continue on feralstrumpet.co.uk. If you need a pleasant distraction of pretty things to look at, come on by. I’m making orders and photographing a lot of vintage I’ve recently sourced. I plan for regular shop updates to go out also because beauty is useful, always. What would you like to see from me? What can I do to lighten these times a bit for you?
Please keep in touch– my customers and my shop supporters are my community!
Etsy has a “Quit Your Day Job” feature on their blog where they interview an Etsy seller about their life and process. I enjoy these features even if they didn’t resonate with me most of the time. For starters, I didn’t even have a job, much less a day job. What is a day job anyway? I’m assuming this comes from the quip artists often hear as a criticism of their ambition to live off their work–“Don’t quit your day job.”
I dislike this idea that in order to be a successful artist you have to be totally commercial and if you weren’t you would have to work in some soul-killing job for the right to make your art at night. Meanwhile, the entire culture benefits from artists working for free. But I digress!
After teaching Argumentation and Research and Creative Writing at University of California Irvine and various colleges for eight years, I found myself in England, chronically over-qualified and unemployed. I had no real job for over 6 years, yet I hadn’t given up on the “day job” culture. I still scoured want ads, sent out resumes or CVs and went to the rare, humiliating interviews, basically the whole soul-killing process of looking for work when you are a “creative type” that doesn’t fit in the cubicle. One of my friends shook her head and said “Yeah, the tentacles always show” no matter how you try to duct tape them away.
I have so many creative friends who are in the same boat. The thing is, the internet is on our side. There has never been a better time to be a creator. I will blog about the pros and cons, and more small business advice in future posts but this one is for the dreamers among you, the ones who are selling their work, doing it online or thinking of doing it.
Instead of “quit your day job” I’d like to dub this “Bail on the Day Job Culture and Make Your Own Life”, and here are 10 Reason why you should:
1. Be the CEO of your life. One of the myriad grunt jobs I’ve had in the UK was processing expense reports at Goldman Sachs. Through the perversity of this situation I learned some money smarts but also that being chained to someone else’s priorities to make a profit no matter what didn’t make sense. I didn’t set out to run a business– in fact that is a topic for another post. My handmade business grew, and when it it rivalled my earnings in corporate hell, I realised I was the one to decide what the business was about, and how big or small I wanted it to be– how I wanted it to fit in my life. That was incredibly freeing.
2. Bring Play back into work. A lot of what I do is admin stuff, packaging and shipping, internet juggling and tweaking, not really spending 24-7 with my creative vision. When something sells well I have to make hundreds of that one thing, but I still have time for playing with my materials. The most wonderful part of my job is actually messing around– making new designs, exploring processes. While the minority of my time is spent on this, it is the thing that drives my shop. Everything else I do is to enable this playful space to happen.
3. Schedule your time the way it make sense to you. Running your own business means you know how long things take, when they need to be done and what needs to be done at any given moment. (Or if you don’t you should! That is for another post). When you know this, it means suddenly time is flexible. The biggest challenge for me has been including my own life and needs in this schedule. That is new this year. All my work expanding and contracting time has meant I can make time for myself by changing my hours around.
4. Live in yoga trousers. OK, so I do take yoga and stretching breaks during the day so the yoga trousers work, but insert the schelp-wear of your choice here. I don’t have to wear a suit like I did at the investment bank, or “smart casual” or whatever other perverse non-uniform an office requires. Right now I’m wearing fleecy slippers, yoga trousers, a tee shirt with a howling wolf on it, a hoodie a fleece body warmer and my Boudicca glasses chain. I feel well professional, let me tell you.
5. Work for and with people who get you. This is probably the biggest benefit for me. I have had a couple of wonderfully compassionate and fun bosses in my life but I confess most were absolutely insane, like working for the Queen of Hearts. I’m so glad I no longer have to anticipate the whims of a mad person. I’m still looking for a dependable employee to help me with admin, but on the flip side, almost all my customers are amazingly supportive, likeable folk. Every morning when I sit down to work, I think of the orders that have come in, or my regular customers and what they love, and that puts my day in perspective. If you start your handmade or creative business and remain sincere, the right customers will find you and everything will feel like a collaboration.
There was a time when I would mock people with smart phones. I wondered, how smart could a phone be, really? And then I got one. I wasn’t that fussed. I lived in London and used the tube map a lot but that was about it, so I slowly let it die a death of obsolescence. I went for years without one, but when I started missing trains in Yorkshire and getting lost I decided I should get a new one. My biggest surprise was how helpful the phone was in not only helping me run my business but also at keeping me sane, giving me perspective and making sure I make time to take care of myself. In many ways my phone has become like the little magic doll that helped Vasilisa the brave complete the impossible tasks given to her by the witch Baba Yaga.
Home Routines– This is the most used app on my phone. This app allows you to list things you do daily, weekly, monthly and then renews these. There is also space for a to-do list, for week day scheduling and a built-in timer. It is designed for housework, and allows you do group tasks into “zones”, but this can be adapted to zones in your business or work life. I wish they would introduce a second app for business– that way I could have two running at the same time– one for my personal stuff and one for my business. Also I find the gold stars you can give yourself when you complete a task totally satisfies the 7 year old girl in me.
Insight Timer–This is a simple app that I use as a timer. It is a meditation timer but I use it for deep-breathing breaks as well as a task timer. I find the gong sounds appealing.
Stand Up!— This simple app reminds you to stand up. This sounds like a basic thing, but much of my job is sitting– at the computer or my work table. When it rings it reminds me to take a break. These breaks protect me from RSI, eye strain, and perhaps and the other maladies that come with sitting all day. This app is very adaptable– you can program it to ring only on certain days, and only while you are in certain locations. You can also tell it to leave you alone!
Stretches— I use this in tandem with the Stand Up! app. When the Stand Up! app rings, I sometimes do my own stretches or the stretches from this app. I like this app because all the stretches can be done at a desk or office area. I am on the lookout for an app that is perhaps not so robotic. The voice on the app is like an old school robot voice– the lack of human inflection is comical, but not in a good way. Also the video is a bit glitchy, but in the mean time it will do.
Measures— This app is very handy when converting currency of my items or dimensions when helping customers from other countries. This is an older app. I’ve had it since my first go at iPhone ownership, years ago, and have never seen the need to switch to one of the newer conversion apps.
Shopify App— Shopify is the new platform I’m using for my online shop. It helps you manage orders and stock, you can sell from your phone and you can also glean data about shop traffic. Handy and comprehensive, I find it an invaluable tool.
Sell on Etsy App– Etsy has a similar app but it doesn’t provide you with any shop stats and the ability to manage inventory is annoyingly limited. It also will ring whenever anyone favourites your items or gives you feedback. If you have a busy shop, this means your phone will be dinging constantly unless you turn these off. In fact, I recommend setting yourself regular work hours and turning the app off when you are “off work”. I have disciplined myself to switch off the other functions as well, otherwise I would be chained to my store 24-7 and that’s not good for anyone!
Yoga App— Another old favourite. I have been a yogi for 30 years and find it an indispensable tool for health. As my handmade business involves a lot of limited, intense movements and loads of sitting, yoga is essential to keeping limber and flexible after work. Lovely, simple and adaptable, this app really is a yoga studio in your pocket. With the option to build your own sessions by adding poses from the extensive list available, you can customize your practice. So far I find the pre-made sessions perfect for my needs. This is a slightly more advanced yoga app– not necessarily for the absolute beginner. I wish they would introduce an office yoga routine on this app– yoga that can be done beside a desk or in limited floor space for small intervals.
Bloom— Another favourite app of mine. Developed by ambient pioneer Brian Eno and musician / software designer Peter Chilvers, this app is completely therapeutic stress-reducer. Aural, tactile and visual delights calm and occupy the mind, getting you back to your happy place.
Skyview— and if Bloom didn’t work, there is Skyview. I don’t wait for night, and I don’t need to go outside to use this. I love holding it up and seeing Aquarius beside Venus, floating over my potted ivy, or Ursula Minor and Mars gliding over my anvil. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with orders, red tape or other difficulties, this never fails to give me a bit of perspective.