I tried to think of a Plan. For ages. Something that would make it work like it used to, but wouldn’t involve compromise. Should I try to become Good at Social Media Marketing? I’d tried using social media for promotion before, but on top of me not being great at it, Facebook changed their algorithm too, so – surprise surprise – you had to pay for people who had “Liked” your page to be able to see your posts (unless they were “popular”, of course). I deleted my Facebook page. I wasn’t going to pay money to a company that was data-mining people for profit, even if it did increase my sales. (I consider data-mining more unethical than merely taking a financial cut; although we can’t boycott everything, there can at least be something of a hierarchy.)
I considered just giving it all up and getting a job. I flailed around at a few other ways to make money. But I didn’t completely stop making jewellery – after all, my website was sitting there, still selling the occasional necklace. It would seem silly to throw it out after all that time, work and embedded good luck that had allowed me to do it at all instead of working full time for someone else in a nine to five job.
In the end, the only thing I could think of was to go back to the beginning. Why did I start doing this at all? What did I like about it?
I would make things, individual little things, that I liked, photograph them, describe them, and list them on my website. Until there were lots of them, regardless of how efficient it wasn’t. I wouldn’t have any other plan than that.
There was something else I did. Alongside my website, I opened an Etsy shop. This sounds like a compromise – it is a compromise, but the whole thing down to the PayPal buttons is a compromise, and I have to accept that. In an ideal world we’d have a publicly owned/not-for-profit website payments system to do PayPal’s job. I’ve looked into alternatives for my website – they’re all too expensive for someone like me. Selling on a marketplace like Etsy is a compromise too, since they take a cut of the profits, but in the context of the way Google works now, Etsy does a lot of marketing and reaching customers that I simply can’t do on my own. So in effect I’m paying them for that service.
And the other side of platformisation is that I’ve been able to make part of my living from music again. I may know how to make a basic website with HTML, but I never learnt enough code to make a self-hosted online shop to sell digital downloads. I would have liked to, but it turns out that there isn’t time for me to do *everything*. And it also turns out that there’s another web-platform company, who are doing a decent job at being ethical and helpful and generally giving their money’s worth for the cut that they take from sales – and this one is for downloading music. They’re called Bandcamp, and they’re part of the reason I’ve been able to make jewellery in the (slightly inefficient) way that I want to again. Music sales mean that I can just about manage without having to go down the buying-new-shiny-buttons-in-bulk route, and Bandcamp not only provide the payment and downloading systems, but also deal with the difficult getting-into-Google-results stuff, plus have a nice discovery tool for people to find new music.
And here we are. Things are a lot better than they were, and I'm still trying all the time to improve them further.