Biz Miss

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Thing-A-Day 16: An Effing JOB February 4, 2010

Like many creative types these days, I’ve had to get a day job.  It’s not that I’m getting fewer projects, it’s just that fewer of them pay much, if anything.  When faced with the choice, I always go for the well-paying projects first, then fill my remaining time with the projects that pay in web traffic, nebulous future sales/commissions or “cred.”  Unfortunately that’s been most of them lately.  I’m pretty good about not taking on jobs that realistically won’t give me much of either.

My new job isn’t bad.  It’s mostly tech-y admin stuff and it changes on a regular basis so it’s not too boring.  I also really like everyone I work with and I can make ends meet by working only 25 hours a week.  Even though it doesn’t sound like much, 25 hours a week will basically eat up four full work days when you add in lunch and commute time, which doesn’t leave much time for creative projects.  It makes me kind of tired and stressed.  Prepare to see this blog get a little crankier.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re all: “this girl is going to completely reneg on her thing-a-day responsibility!”  I did consider it but no, I will continue to make a thing-a-day. BUT, I might not post it every day and the rules may relax closer to their original incarnation. On days like today when I don’t get home until 10:30, I will probably not make something AND photograph it AND post it AND tweet it.  Sorry, but I need to not make myself crazy.  I have enough doing that for me already.

Today I took photos of my yoka in various poses.  Then I accidentally dropped him and the very tips of two of his toenails broke off.  You can’t really tell but it’s enough to bother me so I made replacement toenails tonight.  That’s my thing.  Whatever.  I’m going to bed.

 

Recession Guilt December 29, 2008

On November 30th, I participated in the second annual San Francisco Holiday Bazaar Bizarre.  I asked many of my fellow vendors how they were doing and I got the same response from all of them: “It’s going well, but not as well as last year.”  Many of them acted apologetic for having said this, abruptly adding qualifiers like, “But last year was crazy,” as if they didn’t deserve such a singular event to repeat itself.

I admit, I felt similarly.  I felt guilty for the moderate success I was having during one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record.  I felt guilty at the Mission Bazaar the following weekend, and guilty at the Unique Los Angeles fair the weekend after that.  Even if sales were slightly down from previous years, it didn’t seem right to be turning a healthy profit when other vendors were slashing their prices to wholesale or cost.  Three-color letterpress cards were 6 for $10 at at least two different stationery booths!  You can’t even buy cards at the drugstore that cheaply.

Now this may not be p.c., or even totally true, but I’m going to say it: I think we’re feeling undeserving because we’re women.  Generally speaking, I believe that a man would be more likely to attribute his success to talent and intelligence than to good fortune.  Why?  Because as women, we can’t abide the opposite.  I don’t want to believe that my fellow Biz Misses are having trouble because they are being naive, inert, or unsavvy.  They are my sisters-in-arms, and it seems mean to imply that they are responsible for their own troubles.  It’s much easier to attribute my success to random factors like booth location.

Of course, luck has something to do with the success or failure of every business, but I guess the lesson is to make your business hardy and flexible enough to withstand unanticipated events.  Start slowly, build slowly, and have a diverse set of products, markets or sources of incoWhen sales are slow, use the extra time to focus on marketing strategies, product development and setting up infrastructure, so that when the market turns around (and it always does), you’ll be ready to take off.

 

Float, Sink or Swim December 3, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I attended a small cocktail party for my local merchants’ association.  People invariably asked one another how they were doing in the deflating economy, and everyone there responded in one of three ways.  Some, like the owner of a hair salon, said, “I’m doing fine. My business is recession-proof.  People still need to get their hair cut and dyed so I’m not worried.”  Others, like the owner of a high-end clothing boutique said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.  People just aren’t buying like they used to.”  Still others, like owner of a new gallery said, “I’m doing great. I was trying out new promotion ideas, and one of them worked out so well I’m doing better than before the recession hit!”

These three business owners are examples of what my dad would call “floaters,” “sinkers” and “swimmers.”*  When a bad economy hits (and it always does, sooner or later), some businesses are largely unaffected.  People in the medical industry, for example, will still see about the same number of sick and injured people no matter what.  They don’t have to make any changes to their business model to stay above water.  They are natural floaters.

Every other business has a tendency to sink during a recession.  If they do nothing, eventually they will hit bottom.  With a little effort and direction, however, you can stay above the surface.  And if you manage to keep yourself above water long enough to ride out the wave, you’ll find that your trip back in is even easier than when you started, because some of your competitors will have been “wiped out.”

I haven’t heard any predictions that the recession will last beyond 2009, so if you can make it another year, you should be good to go.  But how to get there?  That’s up to you.  Many businesses seem to be relying on the promotional discount this season.  I say, get creative!  Look around you for things you can use to your advantage. That gallery owner I mentioned above is taking advantage of the private school down the street. She’s offering free weekly classes to parents during the hour before school gets out.  It’s a brilliant idea.  She gets wealthy people in her gallery on a regular basis, where she teaches them how to appreciate what she sells–art. She’s literally taking people off the street and turning them into customers.  She’s never sold so much art in her life!

My approach recently has just been to put myself out there–everywhere.  I’m contributing to things right and left.  I’ve got pieces in art shows and silent auctions.  I’m selling at loads of holiday events–even ones that didn’t ask for vendors.  I contributed a recipe to an event program, a tutorial for a craft book, 500 buttons for a magazine party, and 350 items for goodie bags.  I’m doing an in-store in Brooklyn when I’m home for the holidays and a workshop at a local art college in the spring. I’m even collecting donations on behalf of the San Francisco Food Bank.  In return they add my events to their calendar.

All of my contributions have been narrowly targeted, but they’re low-cost and have often lead to bigger and better things.  For example, the buttons I donated to the magazine party say “I love you more than bacon” on them, and it’s a magazine all about meat.  But those buttons were ultimately responsible for my appearance in the Weekly Yelp.  They even got a mention on KQED radioSweet Meats are even supposed to be in the New York Times later this week.  I’m not sure what was ultimately responsible for that piece of PR, but the point is, you have to get your name out there so that people can find you.

So ladies, put on your brainstorming caps and start saying yes to everything that doesn’t cost you money.  The water level is rising and it’s time to start kicking!

*I don’t think my dad made up the whole “sinkers, floaters, swimmers” thing, but I can’t find the original source.  If you know it, please post it in the comments.  Thanks!