Gossip Drama Soup: Running A Business Ain’t A Pipe Dream, Dammit.

Sep 07

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Among all of the dirty laundry and accusations that make up what I’m calling Gossip Drama Soup?

There’s an absurd claim being made that there is no such thing as a successful online micro-business.

It’s just a pipe dream, you see, and those of us building our own businesses? We’re chasing a mythical beast, like a unicorn.

And since there’s (supposedly) no such thing as a successful online business, anyone who sells anything to support the online small business market is clearly a scam artist, right? Their customers are defrauded victims and fools. We’ve been lied to. Oh woe iz us!

Or that’s the story that’s being told, anyway.

And that story?
It really, REALLY ticks me off.

Because the last thing most of us need is someone tearing apart our efforts in the name of “protecting” us.

Here’s the thing… I never needed a voice  of authority selling me on dreams in order to figure out that the Internet could open doors of opportunity. I didn’t need anyone selling me on the idea that this was right for me.

From the early days of Prodigy and AOL, I quickly realized that the ‘net would allow me to find an audience without going through a gatekeeper – and not just any audience, but an audience that actually wanted me to be paid for my work.

For the first time, I could sit down and just write,  knowing I could find a readership without having to prove my worth to an editor’s flunky for a the chance to be published in a magazine read by 3 people and  paid in copies of the magazine itself.

I could paint, and I could sell my work without  having to spend every weekend in the hot sun schelping  my work around to craft fairs, or jumping through hoops to get into galleries, praying the whole time that I would sell enough work just to cover the expenses of shipping, travel and framing.

The Age of Creative Gatekeepers?
It’s Game Over, Man!

Without Gatekeepers, creative micro-business owners can and do flourish. Without relying on anyone but ourselves, with very low startup costs,  we’re creating platforms for our pet causes, our art, our writing, our music, our expertise, and we’re giving running our own businesses a whirl.

That doesn’t mean we think it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean we think we’re going to “get rich quick” or even earn a basic living without a hell of a lot of effort, trial and error, and, quite likely, a few major flops.

But how dare anyone take it upon themselves to tell us that we’re chasing unicorns?  How dare they try to protect us from our own freaking goals and ideas?

Because guess what?
*I* get to decide what has value to me.

Not a self-appointed scam buster. Not a disgruntled angry brother of someone I once bought a product from. Not a bunch of blood-thirsty shark-watchers who dwell in chum-laced comment sections, hoping to see someone’s life torn apart.

I get to decide what has value to me.

And you get to decide what has value to you, just like your customers, clients or audience gets to decide if your work has value to them.

And yes, dear scam-busters, I know that a lot of the information that I’ve paid for is available for free – hell, it’s often available on the author’s own blog. But sometimes? I find it valuable enough to pay for , anyway. A lot of other creative entrepreneurs have decided the same thing.

Why is it valuable?
Because I’m damned BUSY.

The people this blog is written for? And the people writing other blogs like this one?

They’re damn busy, too.

We’re busy doing our thing – creating, painting, writing, yoga-ing, acting, teaching, organizing, inspiring, exploring ideas – whatever it is we do, we’re already busy doing it.

And doing our stuff?

It takes an astounding amount of time.

So sure, we know we could save a few bucks by digging out the  “freely available material” out there, reading the classic marketing and sales books, assessing them piece by piece, translating them into online models and language we can work with, figuring out how the parts fit together and reinventing the whole thing to apply to our a-typical micro-business models.

But it’s incredibly hard to do all of that, and still do the work that matters to us.

Yes, we’ll knowingly, happily pay for a book or a course or a workshop that we KNOW is a reorganization of freely available material, because it saves us time and effort.

And we’ll pay that money happily, because when you run your a business, whether corporate-sized or micro?

Time IS Money.
It’s not just a cliche.

Time spent finding just the right article on how to write an about page, or a product description, or a sales letter, or how to do SEO?  Time spent digging around for articles on formatting ebooks and how to deliver an ecourse?  That’s time I can’t spend at the drawing board. That’s time I can’t spend developing a new website. Time I can’t spend with a client. Time I can’t spend developing my business models and plans. Time I can’t spend writing.

Time I can’t spend actually creating a darn thing.

Most of us are DIY bootstrap microbusinesses. Nearly all of us are solo business owners, often without even the active support of a spouse.  We haven’t got teams of employees to do the heavy lifting for us.  We haven’t got the budgets to hire a traditional marketing experty-experts to advise us, either. (quick aside: since online marketing is a new field, even corporate-level consultants are still winging it themselves. Some of the worst online marketing I’ve seen was from a respected PR company serving corporate clients.)

There’s a lot we can’t afford, frankly.

But we can afford an ebook, a course, a forum subscription, an hour of consulting, a bit of software that helps us learn to market ourselves a little bit better, one step at a time.  And we’re thrilled when we find someone to put the information into terms we can intuitively grasp, without spending days translating the material to fit our brains our our situations.

That’s a valuable service.

So whatever you think of the accusations of the Gossip Drama Soup over the past week, or whatever other accusations will be brought up in the coming weeks?

Please don’t toss the baby
out with the bathwater.

Yes, there are frauds and scams out there. Lots of them. Yes, it’s important to be on your toes, do your research, assess the claims and promises made by anyone whose advice you’re taking, whether free or paid.

Yes, some people have questionable business ethics, poor business practices and messed up lives.

And yes, the micro-business, pro-blogging, Internet publishing, new media, online entrepreneur industries as a whole need to take the next step in growing up, and shed the last of the unsavory-but-mostly-accepted practices that are still in use.

But not everyone in those industries is out to defraud you, or sell you lies.

The Internet truly does provide opportunities that many of us would otherwise never have.

It provides an opportunity for us to buck the established systems of galleries, publishing houses, brick and mortar offices, and traditional career paths. It allows us to work from home, to work around disabilities, to be available for childcare and aging parents, and still manage to support ourselves.

And the newer models of marketing that have developed online? They’re really, really valuable to creatives.

Info-products and e-courses are a part of that model.

Blogs are a part of that model.

Personal branding, copywriting, web design, writing, public speaking, self-promotion, social media,  communities, and knowing how to get the ef-over your issues and get on with doing business?

They’re all elements of the new model.

And we get to pick and choose which elements will work for us, our skills, our goals, our business.

No one has to do all of those things to be successful in business – not in brick-and-mortar business, and not online. In fact, no one has to do *any* of them – people did business just fine before Seth Godin ever thought up his damnable purple cow (Moo!).

But no one gets to decide for me that these are useless concepts, or that people teaching those concepts are selling me fluff and air.

No one gets to decide for me that I’m chasing a unicorn, and I should go get a “real job”.

Teaching, writing, product development?
That IS a real job.

So is marketing, artwork, design, consulting, and coaching.

And while I’m ranting?  There is nothing wrong with someone sorting through and evaluating existing information, putting their own spin and voice on it, translating it into terms that non-experts can understand, making it entertaining, easily digestible, and selling it.

That’s what the vast majority of non-fiction writers do, and it’s a far cry from the deceptive article and ebook spinning I mentioned in part one of this series.  If we were to take all of the books that revisit and repackage old ideas off the shelves in the bookstore, the place would be darn near empty.

There is nothing wrong with someone selling their consulting services based on their personal experience, or the experience and information they’ve gathered by consulting/coaching/interviewing others.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting out to make a living being remarkable and creative.

And there’s nothing wrong with trying to help other people do the same thing themselves.

There is nothing wrong with taking entrepreneurial risks, or following your dreams, wanting to supplement your income, or wanting out of your day job — as long as you KNOW the risks.  You do know them, right?

But just in case you don’t know?
Self-employment of any sort is high risk.

Most small businesses fail. And while I don’t have the stats, I imagine that DIY bootstrapping entrepreneurial creative businesses  fail at a higher rate than many other other businesses.  

So if you’re reading this blog, and you’re doing this creative entrepreneurial business-y thing because you think it’s a work-from-home, get-rich-quick,  succeed-if-you-follow-these-steps thing?

Step away from the computer.
Seriously.

Because chances are that unless you’ve got a lot of previous business experience under your belt, you’ll work less, earn more money more quickly  with less effort and better benefits from working at Wal-mart than from the first months or even years of your own startup.  (And we all know how much Walmart sucks for employees)

But if you’re doing this because you can’t help but be creative, because you are driven by your passion, by the urge to express yourself or be independent, or by the desire to spend your life experimenting, and you’re willing and able to accept the risk of failure?

Don’t be deterred by people telling you that you’re chasing a unicorn or have been sold a pipe-dream.

I’m not saying that as a business person, I’m saying that as a creative. As an artist. As a writer. As a whatever-the-hell-else I am, this thing I’m currently calling a Quirkipreneur.

Some Unicorns are worth chasing,
even if you never catch one.

It’s trite, but when it comes to creatives, the journey really is sometimes more important than the destination.

It's Another Flourish!

13 comments

  1. @LaVonneEllis on Twitter

    Thank you for putting in words what I’ve been feeling, Tori. Well said.

  2. I luff you, Tori. This. Exactly this.

    Self-employment is the only choice for me. It’s self-employment or nothing.

    Firstly, I can’t NOT be an artist. It’s who I am and it’s what I do.

    Secondly, I’m simply too ill for even a part-time job. This afternoon, I had to go and lie down in bed because I simply couldn’t sit up any longer. So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t ‘go get a real job’. Not unless employers are hiring zombie workers these days.

    So I appreciate the people who make my life easier by teaching me how to be self-employed because I don’t have the time or energy to constantly reinvent that particular wheel.

  3. @spiralsongkat on Twitter

    Beautiful. Thank you for this, Tori!

  4. @EncouragingBird on Twitter

    A-freakin’MEN!!!

    And I TOTALLY hear you re: Internetz v. schlepping.

    I love shows & Faires, but I don’t have the health, money, or apprentices to do it any more.

    But I have an internet connection and 15+ years of experience making beautiful things.

    Thus was TwOOwls Art born. :>

    We’ll see how it goes. :>

  5. @pjproductivity on Twitter

    Well said, Tori. I’d been thinking about writing about this same topic for a few days in the wake of the stinky soup but hell, I can’t top this.

    It just flummoxes me, honestly, this broad-strokes condemnation coming from the scam-criers. It’s not just SD, either — there’s a guy writing on Forbes who (seriously) condemns what he calls the entire “social media industry.” (Of course, he’s also indirectly publicizing his book heavily — through social media.) It reminds me of the way folks screamed bloody murder over lawyers first being allowed to advertise in this country a few decades back.

    I admit I took a deep breath, held my nose and dove into the SD comments (reading, not contributing – because I ain’t stupid, and when I saw honest, sincere, good people being eviscerated just for asking simple questions, that was that). I still don’t get it. Maybe I’m just that dense. Or maybe it’s baby + bathwater time for them, I don’t know.

    One thing I can say — a good thing that’s come out of this: I think a LOT of people are examining the way they do business and how they do it a little more carefully. And in the wake of Trey Pennington’s death, a lot of folks are also examining the nature of their online relationships, too.

    Both of these are good things. [/marthastewart]

    Also good? I found your blog! Yay!

  6. Tori Deaux /

    @ToriDeaux on Twitter

    @LaVonne @Kirsty @Kathleen @Birdy – Thanks, you’re welcome, and I’m glad I could find the words.

    @Annie The broad-brush accusations are complicated – and it’s another topic I’d like to address, if I can figure out a way to make it vaguely on topic.

    I do think it’s making a lot of folks evaluate their business practices, and remember that just because something is a standard practice, or sells, that it doesn’t make it ethical.

    And YAY for finding each other’s blogs!

  7. This has been my biggest issue with the criticisms, thus far (and inspired a lot of discussion in the SD comment section) – the fact that I actually do successfully run a business online, and I do attribute some of that success to the people being called frauds and scammers. I know, at least from my personal experience, that it is totally possible to run a business online and make a living at it. Get rich quick? No. But that’s never the case, whether online or off.

    I still am unsure if my modest success is really all that unusual. I suppose I should count the years of school and the tens of thousands of student loans as part of my start-up costs, so I have actually invested a lot more into my business than just setting up a website and buying a few ebooks.

    And you’re right – a lot of the reason I bought the info products was because I simply did not have the time to go and dig up that research myself. Should I have taken the time? Maybe so. Did I get my money’s worth from what I did get? Still on the fence about that.

    Ultimately, the most important thing to me about this whole debacle is what you mentioned: examining my business practices from an ethical standpoint, and rethinking any ad copy or promotional techniques that seem iffy, in light of this.

  8. Thanks for this post.

    I have been so confused over this whole drama. I know what people were saying, but I also know what Dave’s sales were like from May-October last year. I also know a lot of people who have benefited from his training. This I know from working closely with him.

    I bought a lot of Naomi’s early training, and found some of it useful. I’m not a fan of her personally or ittybiz.

    I dislike what has been chucked around. I think the drama is good because it is making people reconsider their ethics, but it is also making people scared about their legimite businesses.

    I see people mentioned in the posts who have been caught up indirectly and are having negative things said about them because they have worked with someone who worked for someone else they consider a scammer. Or they have a photo with someone. *this* is why I try not to flaunt my connections too much.

    It sucks because I’m struggling, a lot. Mostly because I’d go into hiding everytime Naomi/Dave would start posting because I’d get stressed out, and want nothing to do with an industry that would allow some people to get screwed over.

    I’m terrified that whatever I do now will be torn apart. I reviewed the latest Problogger book recently, because it had good content. I was more negative then I’d like to be because I wanted to avoid trouble. That book would be criticized because it’s Problogger branded, when it’s written by someone from a major unrelated web company.

    I’m scared to promote, recommendm and even write. I’m worried someone will find launch watch and have a go at me because I talk about people they consider scammers.

    It’s a shitty position to be in because the closer someone is to this stuff, the closer they’ll be watched.

    I totally agree with what you are saying. This is where I think SD is losing some credibility. If the focus was more on the specifics that bad people had actually done, people like us would know what NOT to do.

    (ignore my rants. I have no monies and am cranky-pants, and am so far behind on work because I’ve been monitoring stuff to make sure no-one is paying me out)

    • I have to concur – I’m feeling really paranoid now.

      • Tori Deaux /

        @ToriDeaux on Twitter

        The paranoia snuck up on me too – there’s some really odd stuff going on out there. But if it follows past patterns I’ve watched, it should settle down soon.

  9. @copygeniusgirl on Twitter

    I love what @Kirsty said, because it’s really true. I have a full time job, and I also have chronic fatigue syndrome. I was fine for two weeks, and then woke up a few days ago with horrible radiating nerve pain all up and down my left side. i can barely walk, and I spend all my time in bed or in epsom salt baths.

    I can still work my full time job (and eat, and go to the doctor) because of my internet business. I’m not a millionaire, but I’m secure, and I wouldn’t be in any other sort of job.

    Yes, some people did bad things. They should be eviscerated for it, partly because they have damaged good people in the same community.

    Yes, being a solopreneur is not an easy life. But it opens up a whole realm of possibilites to some of us that wouldn’t have been possible pre-internet. We also offer a valuable service. My clients love my work, and working from home allows me to do it. And I’ll happily argue that point with anyone who says otherwise.

    Thanks for another great blog. 🙂

    • Tori Deaux /

      @ToriDeaux on Twitter

      @Holly – thanks for sharing that part of your world, there’s a lot there I didn’t know about you. I hope this current flare up passes quickly.

      I know you were speaking metaphorically, but in light of how this series started (because of perceived online threats) “eviscerated” might be a bit… erm… strong? 😉

      I know a lot of folks are deeply upset and hurt by this, especially because the entire industry is being smeared. And I do know how very personal it feels.

      But those industry wide smears are so broad, with nothing more than “I see dead people!” claims behind them? They’re unlikely to stick.

      Also, remember that Salty keeps saying his real targets are some of the top names. The industry smears were going to happen. Naomi and Dave only got hit first because it’s such a soap opera of an archetypal story that I’m sure Salty knew would get people drawn in.

      That’s part of why I’m writing this series — I think we each need to figure out exactly where we stand on the various issues being brought up. Some of the concerns are legit, some aren’t, but if we don’t figure out where we stand, we’ll be tempted to internalize it, which can really hurt us both personally and professionally.

      So hang in there!

  10. @copygeniusgirl on Twitter

    @Tori Hah, good point. Sometimes the literary word choice isn’t the most apt one.

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