The Temptation to Lie About Success

Running a business is a lot of work. And sometimes, it’s a lot of work with little reward. There are times when people ask me how my sales are doing, or how much money I am making, and I get that impending urge to lie (just a tad.) Stretch the truth, or, as some define white lies: omit certain truths. The need to justify the amount of time I spend running my business, along with the need to justify that I quit my secondary job in order to do so, is stronger than ever. With the bills piling high and the dishwasher breaking, AGAIN, I don’t just WANT to make extra money selling my handmade crap, I NEED to. It’s embarrassing to relate anything else when asked those probing questions.

It’s tempting to say “I made this much this month!” and give the gross amount, before fees, shipping costs, supply costs, etc. The latter, net amount is so much less impressive.

It’s not that I don’t have any grounds to brag about how awesome I am. Evidence suggests that I have gone from an Etsy D-lister to, quite possibly, a frikin fantastic C-lister! Sales HAVE increased, and so have net amounts made. Facebook fans have gone up (well beyond 500 likes now, thank you very much), twitter followers have expanded, and I’m nearing 200 blog followers. (Surprisingly, people enjoy reading this crap!) So it’s not like I’m a COMPLETE failure or anything. But my Aunt Becky (a totally made-up relative for the purpose of example) doesn’t care about those numbers. She wants to know HOW much I am making and IF that amount is impressive to HER or not.

Chances are, it wouldn’t be.

So what do I do? Do try to convince her of the growing success I am becoming, while avoiding her probing inquires for actual numbers? Or do I flat-out give her my numbers, and try to convince her that they are GOOD despite the look of utter disappointment that is sure to cross her face? My answer is: a mix of both. By comparing how well I USED to do versus how well I’m doing NOW, says I’m on the right track. I can easily compare how it took me almost THREE FREAKING MONTHS to get my first Etsy sale, and now I’m getting one almost every day. Granted, many of these sales are for $1.99 collage sheets or patterns that grant me pennies after listing and PayPal fees, but that’s beside the point. I’M SELLING. People are BUYING MY CRAP and that’s exciting, DAMMIT!

Even if, despite my reasoning and explaining, Aunt Becky still looks perplexed at why I would dedicate so much time in order to receive so little in return, at least I won’t allow her to bring me down. There is no need to lie about how successful (or unsuccessful) my business is going at the moment as long as there are still positive things to focus on. It’s by focusing on the things that are going well (and how I can make them KEEP going in that direction) that my business will continue to grow. Before I know it, I just might start selling enough to pay some bills down, or even, buy a new dishwasher. Until then… you can count on me to keep plug, plugging away.

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32 thoughts on “The Temptation to Lie About Success

  1. megk8199 March 7, 2012 at 8:18 am Reply

    I had this same exact problem yesterday. A coworker asked me how my orders were going, and expressed envy at the fact that I have “my own business”. I wanted to be like, lady, it’s not a glamorous as you think it is. My hands hurt, I get 3 hours of sleep a night if I’m lucky, and I am making peanuts at it. But I just gave some vague contrived response like, “oh it’s great, things are going great” instead. *sigh*

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 9:21 am Reply

      Make sure you are taking decent care of yourself Meg! 3 hours of sleep at night will burn you out quick! I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite for saying this, but pace yourself if you need to. Sometimes we want it all, and we want it all NOW, so we try to get everything done at once. Burning the candle at both ends can only last so long. Would hate to see you crash and burn! It’s too typical a once-crafter’s narrative.

      • megk8199 March 7, 2012 at 9:40 am Reply

        Don’t worry about me too much. I’ve only been sleeping about 3 hours or so for as long as I can remember. I have terrible insomnia! I just decided if I was going to be awake anyway, I should at least be productive! :)

  2. Edi March 7, 2012 at 8:21 am Reply

    This is a great post :) We all have those “Aunt Beckys” in our lives!
    I currently have a very good paying job…that I HATE! My goal is to get our finances in line so I don’t need that good paying job. I want my Etsy shop and local business to support my life. I don’t care if I get rich, I just want to do what I love and be able to live that way :)
    And frankly, I don’t care what “Aunt Becky” has to say :)

  3. TheCatBall March 7, 2012 at 8:28 am Reply

    It takes a long time to make progress with the sales, it really does. I’ve been selling on Etsy for a solid year now, and I think I’m really going to start seeing some increase in sales now. It seems that the first year is spent creating a foundation, and then after there is a solid foundation, growth will be much more rapid.

    One thing I’ve been thinking about is whether or not it really is reasonable to live the “handmade” and self employed life that Etsy promotes. My business made some pretty impressive sales last year, but I still had to dump so much money into it that I worry about paying bills every month. I honestly could not be doing this without my husband’s support, and his opinion holds a lot more weight than Aunt Becky’s does.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 9:16 am Reply

      I know what you mean. They say “you have to spend money to make money” but that money has to come from SOMEWHERE in the first place. There is no way I could survive on my business alone. Thank goodness I love my day job, or I would be in a pretty miserable position.

  4. Between The Weeds: LRStudio March 7, 2012 at 8:46 am Reply

    Great article. We all have the same challenge. What most do not understand until you put everything into a business you can not truly call it a business. It remains a hobby. If you wonder ‘IF’ than you should stop wondering and stay where you are. It takes faith in yourself and courage in your abilities to overcome everything. Being a business owner is knowing there is always a solution you just have to find it. Failures and successes are a part of the reward. A beautiful dance that as a fellow business owner dances every day. Thank you Megan for sharing this story and your wonderful insights.

  5. Wendy Hayden March 7, 2012 at 8:59 am Reply

    Sounds like you are doing everything right and if you are happy doing it, it really doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference what Aunt Becky thinks! Smile Sweetly and say that you are so happy with how your business is progressing. If she keeps pressing, ask if she is interested in starting her own business and tell her you would love to help her!

  6. Heather @ heversonart.etsy.com March 7, 2012 at 9:08 am Reply

    I had a friend (now ex-friend) like that. She acted like I just sat around all day and swam in money as if I have zero bills associated with running my biz.. Yeah I wish! Some nameless family members also still act like I’m a kid selling lemonade despite the fact that I have big girl business cards and everything. They don’t care that my “lemonade stand” has helped pay for car repairs or dare I say it, fun things too like my Kindle Fire. All because I don’t get a “paycheck” like the rest of them or a brick and mortar store. UGH! I just smile politely knowing that the people who I love the most are the ones who take me seriously, and my wonderful customers as well :)

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 9:18 am Reply

      Know exactly what you mean Heather. Those same people tend to be the ones who turn around and ask you to do free work for them whenever they get the chance, acting as though there isn’t a cost on YOUR end for the work you do in the first place. (These beads cost me my behind!) lol

  7. bethany robbins March 7, 2012 at 9:26 am Reply

    oh this is such a struggle. trying to promote without being too pushy and answering that dreaded questions from friends and family…i so want to impress everyone! BUT, i find that when i just focus on creating new items, i have a blast. being happy about what i do is what gets communicated to others and that is always seen as successful.

    (side note-my husband is from seattle..love the NW!!)

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 9:42 am Reply

      An excellent point Bethany. To simply respond with, “However much money I’m making, i would be doing this anyway because I love it!”

      Brilliant.

      Oh, and Seattle = ♥. I’m headed to that side of the state at the end of this month. Long overdue visit.

  8. deborah macrae March 7, 2012 at 9:51 am Reply

    Great article – thanks for sharing! Best wishes and continued success!

  9. Karen D'Andrea March 7, 2012 at 9:53 am Reply

    Strangely encouraging (lol).

  10. Mari Hill March 7, 2012 at 11:36 am Reply

    Oh, how I love this topic and someone actually put it into words and shared their feelings. I think we are all in the same boat, some of you are ahead of mine. But, I have a part time job, I am retired but don’t get enough to live on without that job.

    My dream is to just make jewelry day and night and not even have to leave the house. My Aunt Becky (is my daughter) who thinks I have spend way too much money on a hobby she calls it, and thinks I have lost my mind. My ladies group is my encouragement, we all love jewelry making. And I will continue making it.

  11. Claire Monet March 7, 2012 at 11:57 am Reply

    You’re amazing. I’m trying to start up my own etsy site, if the crowdfunding campaign I’m launching tomorrow works out. I’m not expecting to make a ton of money, but it’s good to know that someone like you, that I see as being WAY more professional and established than I am, still has the issues that I’m encountering from family and friends now. Live your dream, you’re inspiring others!

  12. madamesaslow March 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm Reply

    It is hard, when I want to say “I made $12 at the gallery this weekend!” Well, they are going to give me twelve dollars. That’s not the same as a $12 profit. I haven’t had anyone so gauche as to ask me for specific numbers on my profits, but even if they did, unless its my husband or very supportive mom, they don’t get to know. I can say it’s a struggle, but coming along every day. I do this for me and my customers, not the detractors.
    Oh, and I just Pinned the heck out of your Glamour365 shop. Hopefully someone out in Pinterest land loves your work as much as I do!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm Reply

      Thanks so much for the support Adriann! I appreciate it oh, so much!

      As for seeing things coming along, gotta LOVE that sense of progress. It’s totally what I live for these days. :-D

  13. Jessie Yost March 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm Reply

    I do enjoy reading this ‘crap’! (and I love the teacup earring) This is a little less serious for me since between my demanding job and trying to scale back my things by over half to get ready to move I don’t spend nearly enough time on my business to expect much success. When coworkers and family ask I usually just say I am not selling squat but I am having fun anyway. One day I will take the time to make that change. For now you should know that you totally rock!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm Reply

      Thanks so much Jessie! It’s reader like you who rock my socks off! ;-)

  14. atomiccitywhimsy March 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm Reply

    Megan, you are a delightful blogger. Crap and all.
    Nice to meet you.

  15. mycraftcave March 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm Reply

    hi there
    i love this post :) i’ll look forward to reading more

  16. thebeautifulandthedead March 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm Reply

    I get that question all the time! I’m actually offended people only want to know what my art is worth and not what I’m working at or the content.
    Thanks for your post about prying ppl!

  17. Tattletale Toys March 14, 2012 at 11:46 am Reply

    I just opened up my shop about a month ago and I’m already getting a ton of emails from well meaning family members wanting to know how many items I’ve sold. That would be: 0 I don’t get embarrassed over that because I know building a handmade business takes time, a lot of time, but it is upsetting when people feel embarrassed for you. I kept my shop off of my personal Facebook and didn’t mention it to family until I had my own domain and a few followers and I’m so glad I did. People are always expecting me to be more successful than I am. When I do start making sales I’ll be getting emails asking when I’ll be in magazines or on TV. Love this post btw, it gives me hope for the future.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

      Always happy to spread some hope! Thanks for commenting and good luck with your shop!!

  18. Gari Anne March 16, 2012 at 4:53 am Reply

    Love this! So many of us can relate! But how do you measure success and growth? It isn’t always just the numbers and the money, sure it would be nice to make a fortune, but success and how you are doing is alot more than that!

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