Apologies for cross-posting. If you follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my mailing list, you may have already read a slightly different version of this over there.
If you read my blog posts or newsletters or follow me on Instagram, you may be wondering where I’ve been lately. I haven’t been posting or writing anything—no newsletters, no blog posts, no long Instagram captions.
For some time I’ve been feeling negative about my jewelry. Not about the jewelry itself, but about promoting it. Especially about promoting it on Instagram.
Years ago, after it became apparent that my jewelry business was going to be a thing, I started wanting it to be more of a thing. Which means I had to learn how to promote it. To sell a product, I was told, you have to also sell yourself, because those who buy handmade items want not just fabulous products but also a connection with the maker. To get buyers to connect with you in this way, you supposedly have to be authentic. Real.
Although I often wish I was more artistic, creative, or technically skilled, I feel okay about my work. Better than okay, actually. I’m proud of it. It seems to resonate with customers. I’ve slowly built a small following. A magazine once referred to me as a “a local cult favorite.” A boutique owner who carries my work paid me a huge compliment when she told me, “we don’t have to sell your jewelry. It sells itself.” But my business is very small, and I’d like it to be bigger. To reach more people. To make me more money. I get jealous of jewelry designers who are more successful than me.
A couple of years ago, I got kind of obsessed with Instagram. I started putting a ton of time and effort into my posts. I took an Instagram for Artists class and joined Facebook groups to learn how to use the platform. I listened to podcasts and read blog posts about hashtags, Instagram stories, styling and editing photos, and having an “authentic voice.” I wanted to be one of those cool people with tens of thousands of followers.
I have a loyal Instagram following, but after a certain point, it never really grew any more. When I do get new followers now, they tend to be other business accounts hoping I’ll follow them back, or spammy weirdos—not people genuinely interested in my work or my feed.
I’ve tried everything to get my account to take off—posting different kinds of photos and videos, at different times of day, on different days of the week, more often, less often, with different hashtags. I make sure to like and comment often. But nothing has worked. Most recently, I started writing llittle stories that reveal things about me. Trying to sell that authentic self. I posted these as long Instagram captions and also sent them out in my newsletter and posted them here on my blog.
I got some positive feedback about my writing—mostly from friends and supportive customers (thank you!). But I didn’t gain more followers or make many new sales. Nor did I feel good about what I’d written. I always hoped no one I respected would actually read it. Because, it wasn’t real. I mean, it wasn’t lies, but that doesn’t mean it was real. Real doesn’t necessarily mean true. It means not fake. And my writing was fake, because the purpose behind it was to sell, and I can’t be real and try to sell a product at the same time.
There are natural salespeople. I know and love several of them. They slide easily in and out of selling mode. There’s no anxiety or soul-searching involved. These people are the furthest thing from sleazebags. They’re some of the most caring, giving, and lovely individuals I know. They just happen to know they have a great product to offer, that they’re good at selling it, and that those who buy it will be glad they did. What’s the problem? Conversation over.
I’m not one of those people.
I’ve twisted myself upside-down and sideways trying to squeeze into the “be the authentic you while simultaneously selling the crap out of your product” mold. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to make myself believe I could be different from who I am because I was afraid that if I were my real self, I’d never get what I wanted. That didn’t work then and it’s not working now. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but there are lessons that you have to keep re-learning, I guess.
It got to the point where I was kind of hating everything. I stopped writing because all I could think to write was whiny, angry, and most of all, confused. I considered posting a rant titled “My Hate-Hate Relationship with Instagram.” I considered closing my jewelry business altogether. I couldn’t seem to get my head on straight about anything.
Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I felt envious a lot. Not just of those with huge followings but of those with beautiful, inspiring, consistent feeds that I loved and admired (some of which have surprisingly small followings, by the way). I would ask myself: why can’t I have that for myself?
And then it sort of hit me: I could have it. If I gave myself permission to be real. So I decided to do that. Starting now.
For me, “real,” means not sharing personal stuff about myself while simultaneously trying to sell jewelry. So, for the time being, if you continue reading my newsletter, you’ll be seeing photos of my work—the best work and the best photos I can offer. With short captions. Beginning with this gray freshwater pearl pendant on an oxidized fine silver chain, which is part of my new collection and will be available in my online shop and Etsy store soon.
And that’s pretty much it. Unless I happen to feel like writing something longer and more personal, like I do right now.
I hope you like the jewelry you’ll see. I hope you buy it. And to continue in the spirit of honesty and realness, I hope my business explodes and that I can quit my day job and move to a huge and gorgeous studio in Malibu, overlooking the ocean, where Voguemagazine will come to photograph and interview me for a multi-page feature.
But even if I don’t sell a single piece of jewelry on Instagram or because of something I wrote in a newsletter or blog ever again, it’s okay, because at least I won’t be selling myself out.
P.S. If you’d like to connect with me on a personal level, there are several options: You can check out my Instagram stories, where I’ll continue to post snapshots about what’s going on in my life. You can follow my new personal Instagram account, where I share my struggle to stay stylish after 50 and my thoughts about all that. Watch the video on the Aboutpage of my website. Listen to my podcast (epside 19) about starting a jewelry business after age 40. Or follow me on Facebook, where I post silly animal videos and photos of myself, my family, my pets, and whatever else.
Or, just e-mail me. I’d love to hear from you.