A while ago I was asked to list the support network that would be helpful to me in setting up my new business. In my list I included blogs which I had found to be a good source of information and encouragement. Someone responded “The Internet Can’t Be Your Friend”. I felt annoyed because in my reality, the internet, in the form of carefully chosen blogs, has been a tremendous help and encouragement. Of course it isn’t a replacement for real flesh and blood friends, but for me, blogs written by like-minded people have been invaluable.
As I am working from home, I find it helpful to have some input from the outside world in the form of blog posts each day. I have four blog readers, each focussed on different themes, and I turn to these as someone else might turn to a magazine or newspaper. These are a great source of information, ideas and inspiration. I think if you choose wisely, the internet can be your friend, in the same way that books, art, movies or any other form of creative expression can teach you, feed your spirit and nurture your dreams.
This week I have been struggling with how difficult it can sometimes be to feel that I am making progress. I had a disappointment when I learned that a lovely casserole pot I had sold had smashed in the post. I was disappointed for the man who bought it, disappointed that a delightful object was broken, and discouraged that what had been a modest financial gain was now a loss.
I have also been grappling with the best way to establish relationships with shops that might buy my greeting cards, and how to maintain those relationships moving forward. Its a common theme among quality gift shops that they want their stock to be unique, which I can appreciate. However I can see it leading to a situation where my customers are dotted around the city, far apart from each other, so that I have to cover a lot of ground to keep in touch with them in person. Thats tricky without a car, and would be fairly inefficient even with a car, given the low profit margins involved.
The reality is that the transaction of selling greeting cards is of much greater significance to me than it is for any particular shop owner on any particular day. I keep remembering the movie Happyness, with the main character running around the city trying to sell machines than nobody wants. My cards are more popular than those obsolete bone density scanners were, but its still a matter of time and logistics to find the right customer at the right time and maintain that relationship.
While I was feeling some discouragement, one of my internet friends came to the rescue. I don’t know Leo Babauta, and he doesn’t know me, but we think alike on the matter of goal setting and planning. His recent post The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur was exactly what I needed to read. In this post he describes how people who start businesses try to control things by setting a vision, laying out goals, trying to be productive, and trying to hit targets each day. However as Leo points out the ability to control outcomes is an illusion and we really can’t know how things are going to turn out.
Leo advises embracing the not knowing, which means not being overly attached to any particular outcomes. This made a lot of sense to me, because when I tried to make myself get goal oriented about sales, I became anxious and started pushing myself in ways that weren’t really helpful. Nobody wants to buy pretty cards from a hot, tired, grumpy person.
The alternative Leo puts forward is to act out of guiding principles, rather than specific goals and targets. This allows for a less anxious and more open approach to the work. I can really see how this will help me with my Etsy store, as I am inclined to want to keep checking every few hours for sales and worry whether the effort in setting it up will be justified. I think a better approach would be to enjoy the role of being a person who is setting up a store and interacting with other store owners and allow the sales to look after themselves.
Giving up control can lead to some interesting surprises, as you can’t predict what will appeal to other people, or what they will pick up on. Of all the images in my shop, one of the least typical was chosen to be highlighted in a Treasury on Greenery. Good work Cactus!
So you see, the internet can be your friend. If you pick your internet friends wisely, they can whisper just the right word in your ear, at just the right time, and even strangers can give you an unexpected boost when you need it most.