I mentioned in Part One of this series that I used to frequently share my knowledge of how to make a go of it on Etsy. I also mentioned that I struggled for about a year and a half with keeping my Etsy shop successful after changes on Etsy made my knowledge there somewhat obsolete. And with not yet understanding how to be visible and successful on the new Etsy, I could not very well help others do well on the site.
Fortunately, I had launched shop.johnwgolden.com and began to get traffic and sales there and I began to participate in some flash sales on large flash sale sites, so I was plenty busy. But, my Etsy shop was dying, and in the latter part of 2012, appeared to be headed to its imminent doom within a few months. The order volume from other sources was enough to keep me occupied (and running a tad behind on shipping) and presented a real challenge for me. I needed to be focused on understanding how to revive my Etsy store. More on how I turned things around there later, as this post is supposed to be more about the mindset one must have to live the risky life of a working artist. I just wanted you to know where I come from now in helping others who are taking the same risks and opportunities I have taken so they can live off their talent (or those who are about to take those risks).
“You are living in La La Land”
Any pre-2006 reasonable young adult might be forgiven for thinking that there is only one path to responsible adulthood, and that it involves a good-paying stable job. That may have been true before the economy got rough, but now it is not news when someone takes an alternate path to success. So many people have done that in the face of no other alternative. And they are to be commended. It is one thing to choose to gradually phase out of one career and in to another (As I did), and quite another to completely drop one path to embark on another (either by choice or by circumstance).
One thing that I believe is common to succeeding in any situation that either invites adversity by choice (my situation or that of one who quits their day job for a life of making stuff) or foists adversity upon one unexpectedly (like a job loss that necessitates turning to one’s talents for income) is that one has to believe that the new path will be a successful one.
It’s not an unwavering belief. It will waver quite a bit, and it will be challenged daily. But one must convince one’s self repeatedly that it will all be worth it and one has what it takes to make their own business a success. You might call it living in denial or living in La La Land. And while setting up a full-time homestead in La La Land is not necessarily desirable, it has certainly helped me to return there often when the challenges and uncertainty of this type of path seem overwhelming.
It’s faith. Either in one’s self or one’s higher power or the power of an idea. Believing that one will make it and is capable of making it and that almost every risk one takes will pay off. For artists in particular, it is the belief that there are new things to be done, new ways of seeing and that the idea of “There is nothing new under the sun” is a flawed and limiting idea. It’s belief that there is a solution for every problem or challenge and that if you can embrace that belief, you will find that solution.
It’s pretty much what we all do in meeting the everyday challenges of each of our lives. Depending on one’s personal situation though, one may have to embrace that belief more repeatedly when starting a new path.
So what about managing expectations? It’s in the title of the post, after all. It’s prudent to keep a very sensible approach to risk-taking. But I did not get where I am by letting every single thing that I could imagine could go wrong dominate my path (and I am the type to imagine every possible outcome to a situation good or bad). Nor did many other people who took off down paths they could never have imagined prior to embarking. So, while it is important to anticipate pitfalls and have contingencies for the failure of an idea, it is more important to keep one’s expectations high and one’s dreams big.
The expectations one starts out with may be higher than those they have a year in. It’s natural to adjust. Some days my expectations are beaten down by reality. But I try to pump them back up as soon as I can, and keep them from ever getting so low that I can’t revive them. Let them be battered and let people tell you you can’t succeed. You know better.