If you're like me, you have a lot of friends and acquaintances and Facebook contacts who have jobs that involve a fair amount of hustling: bloggers, coaches, home-based consultants for everything from essential oils to personalized tote bags to nail art. Now that we don't all have jobs with simple titles like "banker" and "store clerk" and "accountant," it's hard to know exactly what you're supposed to do when Ramona, that nice woman down the block, invites you to her Norwex party, especially when you are on a budget.
I can't speak firsthand about a lot of these types of businesses, as I don't have one. I do, however, own an Etsy shop, and often creative entrepreneurs and artists get lumped in with many of these other types of employment because there is that similar "hustle" as part of their job description. And, at least in my personal experience, this is the absolute worst part of the job. I would love to never post a single picture of my shop anywhere on my personal Facebook account, because I always cringe when I think that anyone will feel pressured to make a purchase as a result, but finding free ways to advertise is a part of the gig.
A while ago, Lynn over at Wanderlynn posted a brilliant list of ways to support your friend who blogs, and I wanted to expand on her ideas to write about ways to support your friend with a creative business. My first tip might surprise you: don't buy things from her shop.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit. If your friend has a painting or pair of earrings or handmade doll that you just adore, she would absolutely love for you to make a purchase! But, in general, creative entrepreneurs aren't looking to sell to friends. What they really want is to expand their market to reach beyond their personal Facebook feed so that they can wholesale their items in a cute little shop somewhere across the country or at least be sending packages that go farther than the next town over. A sustainable creative business is one that reaches a large audience, so there are ways for you to be a champion of your friend's endeavors without feeling pressured to spend your own money. Here are a few:
1. Ask her for business cards. Finding an individual shop on Etsy can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Word of mouth and personal recommendation is key in today's artisan marketplace, so if you're in conversation with someone who mentions they need a gift for their hard-to-buy-for mother-in-law or are looking for a specific item, hand over a card and help to make a new connection.
2. Post about her on social media. Again, word of mouth and personal recommendations these days are just as good as currency. Share a picture of an item you really love on your Facebook page during the holiday rush. Tweet a link to her shop and slap on a related hashtag. Pin a beautiful picture she posted to Pinterest. If you're wearing an item she made or it's visible behind you in a picture you post to Instagram, tag her in it so your followers can find where it came from.
4. Be visible. Own a gorgeous handbag made by a creative friend? Make a point to wear and use it in a visible way. My cousin used to wear a necklace I made for her as she worked the cash register at a small bath and body shop and I made at least half a dozen sales from people who asked her about it (she had a stack of my business cards to hand out, too!). Consider wearing a stunning scarf made by a friend to an event where you know it will be seen by people who would be interested in buying similar items. You could even ask to borrow one to give her some exposure, sort of like celebrities do with fabulous diamond necklaces at the Oscars.
5. Be on the lookout. On a trip, and find a little shop far from home that seems to fit your friend's aesthetic? Grab the shop's business card, snap a photo or two on your phone, and bring it back for her as a place where she might want to follow up. At a garage sale and notice a box full of the same kind of buttons she uses in her mixed media pieces? Snag it for her. Hear about an upcoming charity auction that would be her perfect target market? Send her the info. It can be lonely and hard working long hours in your studio, and it's nice to hear from friends that they were thinking of you, even if you don't end up pursuing the leads they tell you about.
Creative entrepreneurship is not for the faint-of-heart: it requires a lot of vulnerability about sharing your work and your talent in a way that a more typical job might not. Having the support of friends is pretty crucial for making it through the inevitable low periods, and takes away the guilt of feeling that they think you expect them to keep your shop financially solvent. If you're a creative entrepreneur and have other suggestions for this list, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
(All of the photos in this post are items that I think are beautiful and can be found in the Etsy shops tagged here; please click through to find out more!: 1. A Beautiful Party, 2. Wild Things Dresses, 3. Layla Amber, 4. Robayre, 5. Urban Legend 6. larking [I'm closed for business until September but feel free to contact me if you have a special request!])