Running an indie business isn’t at all what you’d think. It’s not all long lunches browsing through the Toast catalogue and eating homemade kale chips. In fact, in my case, it’s not any of that at all (kale chips sound like my idea of hell). It’s a rollercoaster, of both fortune and emotions, and one that, as I’ve written about before, I think no one really ever tells the truth about.
Claire Brown, myth-buster – that’s me. I think I have moved on sufficiently from the jarring shock of my rebranding over a year ago now to tell you candidly that it was simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. Without a doubt, it had to happen, as I’d outgrown the old name so long ago and it grated on me so much that I felt embarrassed to mumble it out. It was forever mispronounced, mis-spelt, mis-appropriated. It was such a massive fucking relief to be rid of it.
But on the flipside – I had spent 8 years building that name up. It was well-known and I would like to think well-respected. It also had a whole heap of good Google karma, and I was pretty much top of the search engine pops for a lot of things. Every week, tens of thousands of people would swing by my website, leave a blog comment, buy a few things, sign up to my newsletter and generally make everything go with a swing. Cometh the hour of my rebrand, the switch was flicked and…that all stopped. I was in the dark and back to square one. It was like 2005 all over again. No one was coming, no one knew I was there apart from the people I directly told. It was bleak.
It’s improved a bit over the year, but I am basically starting over. All that goodwill and karma that went with my old name is gone. I’ve fallen off the face of the earth and I have to remind people that I’m here. It’s a depressingly necessary evil. I had so much built up and it went in an instant. And then of course the great homelessness debacle of 2013 happened and I just couldn’t do it. And now here I am in 2014, finally thinking I might be physically and mentally able to try and stake my claim to my patch of the internet once more.
What’s this got to do with Valentine’s Day, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a funny old thing. Last year, it was just before the rebranding. I did fairly well on my own website at Valentine’s Day. Not amazing-pay-off-the-mortgage well, but pretty good. I supplemented that with a fair showing on my Not On The High Street shop and was pleased.
This year though – I sold a grand total of 14 Valentine’s cards via my own website. Yes, that’s 14. I don’t really set myself targets as such, but if I did, it would have at least a 0 on the end of that figure. 14. FOURTEEN. I could weep. However – over on NOTHS – mental busy. I was making 2 or 3 trips to the postbox a day, and pretty much sold out of the print run I got done at the start of February. What’s the difference? Traffic. Of course it is. I wasn’t in any brochures, none of the newsletters, TV ads – none of that. I don’t think I had any press for it either, but I do know that people went mad for my Fat Kid card over there.
The moral of the story is that building it is not enough to make the people come any more. It probably was 9 years ago when I started out. But it’s not anymore. It’s been a hard way to realise that but I finally feel able to lay my experience bare for others to learn from. Deep down, I already knew that, but hoped my goodwill and good standing in the virtual indie community would see me through my rough patch. It didn’t. It was like watching a hippo stagediving – the waves of people parted and I fell on the ground hard.
It’s a long road to rebuild what I had. It’s not like the Jehovah’s Witnesses – you can’t put out a call to your pals and they come and build you a Kingdom Hall over a weekend. More’s the pity. It’s going to take a very long time to regain what I had. Best stop griping and get on with it then, eh?