Planning to Fail

I’m working on a comprehensive comparison of all the ways artists and craftspeople can achieve an online presence. I’m enjoying the research, but one thing keeps coming up.

The artists and craftspeople I’m talking with haven’t calculated their profit margins. They don’t know what their costs are, or what their profit is. The average small artisan without a website doesn’t have the amount of business knowledge needed to plan their online presence in a useful way. I found this a little surprising. At first I thought it might be a disinclination to do math.

Then it hit me: they’re planning to fail.

The things these talented artists say make sense only if they are figuring that they will never sell anything.

If you won’t sell anything, then your best bet is to have the least possible upfront expenditure. It doesn’t matter whether you lose money every time you sell something, or if your return on investment won’t improve with greater sales. It really doesn’t matter what kind of financial arrangements you have, or whether you even know what your costs are — if you won’t sell anything.

Their plans for getting online are the equivalent of setting their works of art out on a street corner with a hat placed nearby in case someone feels like giving them some money.

I’m not saying that their problem is that they’re not willing to put up some funds. Many of them phrase it that way, but often they have put significant investments into their art, and into their online presence as well. Some are spending more than they should, even while they say they don’t want to make an investment. Many spend startling amounts of time working on their self-promotion, and for the self-employed, time is definitely money.

But in many cases they’re doing these things in quirky, unplanned ways. Tentative ways. Extremely unbusinesslike ways.

Ways that only make sense if they want to be ready to pull back at any moment. Ways that only make sense if they really plan to fail.

If you have any intention at all of succeeding, it’s worth doing a little calculation. It might even increase your chances of success.







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