It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted, but I felt I needed to take a break and do an evaluation.
Truth is, I’ve been feeling a little melancholy…typically these emotional shifts last a day or two, but this one has hit harder and longer and it really started once we finished taxes. Why, you might ask? Well, although I had an idea all year long what my sales were, it was tricky to know my profit when I had yet to calculate all my purchases/expenses, taxes, inventory on hand and knowing that I sell a lot of different things with varying margins. However, when the final calculation came in, it was determined that last year, I made $9,000 in profit. That’s it. And though “lucky” (relative term) to work from home, not have to deal with getting ready for work or having the right clothes to wear or making the commute, etc., it still comes out to a paltry $3-$4/hour with the average 50-60 hours a week I was working, most weeks 6-7 days a week.
And when I asked myself if I would repeat last year (all the hours put into building a business) over knowing all of this (how much I would make), would I do it again?
The answer, sadly, was no. And that was pretty profound for me.
Yes, there are romantic notions about doing what you love (sure I love to paint and love to create new things) but those make up about 10% of the work week…the rest is all administrative (photographing, editing, listing, promoting, self-educating, taking care of small business tasks, answering inquiries, providing quotes that often go nowhere) and the manufacturing/distributing (ordering supplies, mini mass producing, creating promotional material to go with goods, packaging, wrapping, mailing), etc. There’s so much more to it than I have even highlighted. I always nod in agreement when I see new Etsy sellers comment on how much work it is to start your own business. Grandeur notions of working less hours while working for yourself is quickly replaced with the reality that you work more, and for much, much less.
And going into my 3rd year of business, I’m starting to re-evaluate. David and I made major shifts in our finances and spending so that I could leave the corporate world and spend time at home, with him and the dogs and live more simply. Although it started that way, I soon got pulled back in to my old ambitious cycle of trying to one-up myself, grow big and quickly and unfortunately, use money/earnings as my metric for happiness. But all I was doing was replicating the rat race from my previous life, but in my own home. Work never left – if I wasn’t working on an order, I was creating something new or had my nose in my laptop trying to create more listings and do more work in the evenings up until I went to bed. David was supportive of my endeavors, but I could see in his face he was disappointed that I was never present with him. Life was once again centered around work. And for only $9,000 a year. Just. not. worth it.
So I’ve taken these couple of weeks to think and evaluate how I move forward at this point. As it just happens, my skyrocketing sales in Feb/March have completely tanked in the last 4 weeks so things have been really quiet. It’s hard not to let that affect your self-esteem when you equate sales with people liking your work. So I’m trying to pull myself off of the money trail and back on the happiness trail (something I’ve struggled with a lot over the past couple years since leaving the corporate world) and use this extra free time to pursue the things that I do love and have lost in my busy-ness over the past year. It’s hard because as much as I hate to admit it, money can mess with your head. My heart is happy with the pace of life now but my ego is not, and I just need to learn to talk my ego down.
So instead I’ve been making a lot of food…fresh bread, oatmeal bars, jam, strudel topped banana muffins, soup, pasta, marinated/grilled anything and everything…and it’s been so very cathartic. I’m making something that is enjoyed by others and isn’t tied to making money. And I’m in a domestic mood…I’m actually enjoying doing dishes, laundry (there’s something about hanging clothes on the line that feels so grounding), spring cleaning, organizing, sorting…it’s like I’m nesting without being pregnant. Something about doing such simple tasks that can make you feel so rooted, so grounded to the Earth, and for me, so happy. I love going through my mental to-do list and checking off things that have been there for months. And I even read a book! Haven’t done that in over a year.
Although my days now are essentially what I’ve always wanted – a little bit of work (comparable to a part-time job) and a lot of time for myself and with David and the dogs, I still can’t help but feel a little bit of disappointment that my business isn’t taking off or yielding the results I had hoped. I believe time is one of the most valuable commodities in this world, so I hate wasting it on something doesn’t bring me joy or that doesn’t pay off in the end. And in many regards, I feel like I wasted an entire year trying to chase after a dream and build a small business.
I guess that’s what’s great about life…the opportunity to do-over, to change things up. And while I’m not dropping my business/closing shop, I’m not going to spend time growing it, promoting it, and trying to make it uber profitable. I’m going to just sit and be comfortable with a small level of activity, reaping the rewards of the hard work done before to get a customer base and a spot in the large Etsy community. But I won’t do anymore to grow it beyond that. It is what it is, and if orders come in…great, I’ll happily work on them. And if they don’t I won’t have to worry about my self-esteem tanking and I won’t have to spend countless hours trying to pull business in. Because that’s where I lost the majority of my hourly wage – not from the sales of items.
I’m glad we made lifestyle changes years ago that allowed us to live, save and invest with David’s income alone (which is a non-managerial, government job…in other words, not lofty by any means). The choices we made then and continue to follow allow me to make this shift in my business without affecting our finances thankfully. Starting my lil’ business was always a way for me to earn a little something doing what I love while we simplified our lives and clearly I lost sight of that.
And so I’m not sure what that means for this blog…part of me thinks I’ll blog less as this served as a platform to promote my business…but part of me thinks I’ll continue to blog the same though content will likely shift to more lifestyle-inspired posts, with artwork peppered in. I just don’t think I’ll do scheduled posts because I want to blog because I feel inspired to, not because I feel I have to stick to a schedule (and thank you for understanding that).
So that’s where I’m at…I never realized that a blog I started 3 years ago for my friends and family would turn into such a personal diary and exploration of heart and ego…much of which has been examined quite a bit in the last year. But that’s the thing about growing…it doesn’t necessarily have to mean bigger and better but often is richer when it is done with depth and bredth.
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