Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Creative Road Trip

I got to make a left turn off the 8-5 Highway 4 years ago. I do 3-6 craft fairs a year which makes for some intensive weekends, but I've always enjoyed the process and interactions. The best part was that I was getting to spend 2-3 days a week in my studio creating beautiful and useful things.

Then I decided to launch myself into the world of the online marketplace. Yikes, homework required! We're talking photography, Photoshop, creative descriptions, meaningful key words, and marketing snippets for Google searches. No fear, I jumped off the proverbial cliff and set up shops on Etsy, 1000Markets and Artfire. Okay stores are open, now what? Oh, more learning curves: marketing, networking and blogging, then byhand.me spotlights, Facebook and Twitter. Oh, did anyone mention the roadblock and frustration zones? Google Analytics says it's tracking my blog, but it's not! It costs how much to ship this? What do you mean the site went down? Why can't I talk to a human?
Now, I'm a card carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Perpetual Learning Curve and I've always loved a challenge. I approached this adventure, as I do most situations, with purpose and a sense of humor. I'm excited to have had 4 sales in my shops since June and I find it totally cool that artisans and shoppers from around the world can read my blogs and look at my work. Fellow shop owners like Julie Magers Soulen have been extremely helpful along the way, sharing their skills and knowledge.
It's taken 7 months to earn $175. I spend a huge amount of time keeping my shops stocked and blogs fresh, which translates to less time to work in my studio and create. What's wrong with this picture?
Many artisans in the online marketplace have probably never done the crafts fair route. But when you start comparing notes you start to see the irony. I made 20 times the amount I earned at my online shops at 4 local weekend fairs in Nov and Dec. I got to communicate face to face with my customers, many returning year after year to see what I've been up to and I get a chance to see, catch up with and trade with other artisans.
How many of you lament the amount of time you spend on the computer to make it all work? Is it an exciting and creative road trip or are you becoming a slave to your perceived dream? When does the joy of creating get lost and your shop becomes more job than bliss? Are you ready to get off the runaway freight and regain your creative soul?
My solution is to continue doing my craft fairs, reduce the number of shops and blogs to one each and close Facebook and Twitter. Life is short. It is more important for me to spend time with my husband and friends, to play outdoors, and to let my creative soul out of its box, than it is to be on the computer for hours a day. What's your solution to balance? I posted this same blog on my 1000Markets site today. I'm really interested in what my fellow travellers have to say.