Are you comfortable with how much time you spend online?
I find myself in a confusing position; most of my ‘offline’ friends, some of whom don’t use a computer at all and others who don’t work, repeatedly tell me that I work too hard. And there is probably some truth in this. But, on the other hand, as soon as I turn on my computer I feel bombarded by exhortations to work even harder!
Forums and newsletters are full of suggestions for getting more sales. A recent Zazzle newsletter was actually titled, ‘Seller To-do list’! And Twitter will lead you to vast choice of blogs and articles, often contradictory, about things to do to increase your income.
But I don’t even need to visit a forum or log on to Twitter to feel pressured. Ever since I submitted my sites to a list of search engines – a suggestion from a forum! – I’ve had several emails daily with Subject lines that suggest there is more I should be doing if I’m serious about my business!
And of course,
The Internet never sleeps!
A partial solution for me has been to set myself ‘working hours’, as if I were going out to a job, to avoid allowing work to take over my life. I say ‘partial’ solution because it hasn’t solved the fact that I still feel pressured by all these 'suggestions', especially when sales are slow and I start to wonder whether I’m really doing enough ‘promotion’.
When I started offering my artwork in its various forms on the internet, I was warned that I would probably spend 20% of my time creating, and 80% promoting. Recently I was asked by the Inland Revenue to give a breakdown of how I spend my working time, as part of a review of my benefits. Luckily I had my ‘work schedule’ to refer to but when I typed it out to send it to them, I looked at it in more detail.
This is what became apparent - and it astonished me:
· I work a minimum of 52 hours a week, often more.
· I spend roughly 4 hours a week painting/designing.
· I spend a further 4 hours a week scanning and editing my designs and adding the texts.
· The remaining 44 hours are more or less equally divided between the uploading and ‘processing’ of my creative work and promoting it.
So, according to my calculator, I’m spending less than 16% of my time on ‘creative’ activities, half of that if you restrict that term to the actual painting!
I think what’s at the heart of this difficulty is that it’s almost impossible to say what really works when it comes to promoting. So we go on trying this, that and the other, in the hope that something will make a noticeable difference. And it all takes up time.
At one time I thought that keeping track of statistics would provide some clarity so I tried various forms of analytics for a while – another job to do! But the statistics bore no relation whatsoever to my sales – eg when I had a UK sale on Zazzle, there was no trace of any visits from the UK on the day concerned. So I gave that up as a bad job.
So, what’s the answer? Well, given that we have no control over how the internet works, I don’t think we can look for a solution from outside of ourselves.
That leaves us with individual choices to make about how we spend our time. The results of analysing my working time came as a bit of a shock to me and I think being aware of how we’re living is a good starting place. For me that means steering my own course between what my offline friends would have me do and the pressure that comes with being online!
Also bear in mind that at least some of the suggestions about how we can get to the top of pile stem from someone else’s self-interest; there are plenty of people out there trying to sell us something which they claim will increase our chances of success. and our strong desire to succeed in the face of overwhelming competition, can sway our judgement.
But I always remember a thread on the Zazzle forum where a ‘newbie’ asked ProSellers for tips. All the usual advice was wheeled out – get your keywords right, promote on facebook, etc etc etc. Then another ‘Pro’ came on and admitted that he didn’t do any promotion at all!
It made me wonder!