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!
I know we are all bombarded with sale messages during this season, and I’ve chosen to thank my loyal customers with my biggest sale of the year during this time. This is my 7th holiday season in the shop and the gratitude I feel for my customers, many of whom have become friends, is great. Know that if you are inspired to shop during this time, choosing small, independent business like mine make a huge difference in a life and I strive to reflect that in the quality of my work, the personal service and attention to detail, right down to the gift wrap of each purchase which includes dried lavender and Scottish heather.
(Please note coupon can’t be used on custom orders and can’t be used retroactively.)
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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.
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and to celebrate I’m offering free domestic UK shipping all day with coupon code SMALLBIZSAT at both feralstrumpet.co.uk and my Etsy shop.
Shopping small can often mean shopping local. That’s why I’m offering free shipping to my neighbours on this island. It’s interesting to note that this holiday season my customer base in the UK is growing exponentially. Was it the Etsy UK ads? Word of mouth taking hold? Or my own work at UK-based SEO? It’s a mystery to me but I’m grateful. Etsy brought many international customers, many Americans as well as others from all over the world, but very few British customers. This has changed, and perhaps it’s because people are coming around to the idea of shopping local. Compared to the US the UK is very small– the size of Florida. When I ship something to a UK customer, I can picture where they live, what it’s like there. Sometimes I wonder if I might know them or if they are a friend of a friend. The shared geography heightens the connection that is already a strong one between maker and the potential wearer of a piece.
As a small business this time of year is particularly challenging; you are competing to be heard over the shouts of the mega businesses, hoping to reach your customers without also having to resort to shouting.
By buying small you get something unique, you support diversity in the marketplace, and best of all, you are investing in the dreams and hopes of the underdog, the little guy, people like me.