Discouraged, Overwhelmed, but NOT Giving Up

by Mardi.
(North Texas, USA)

I am female. Barely 30 years old. I live with my parents in North Texas, USA. I’m unable to work a “real job” since late-July 2011 after Bi-Polar / Social Anxiety / ADHD diagnosis. I’m currently on government disability. I have 9+ yrs of jewelry “experience” though the first 7-ish were for personal wear or gifts.

One of my circle glass pendants. Hand painted using nail polish I handmade from scratch.

One of my circle glass pendants. Hand painted using nail polish I handmade from scratch.

My mental illnesses tend to suck the enjoyment out of everything I do – despite what the rest of this post sounds like, I still REALLY enjoy doing making jewelry. It tends to be relaxing, something I can focus on despite my very limited attention span.

These square glass rings are definitely statement makers. Same technique as the round pendant.

These square glass rings are definitely statement makers. Same technique as the round pendant.

Selling what I make enables me to, A) financially be able to continue creating, and B) feel like a contributing member of society. I do and have done EVERYthing myself (aside from mailing orders – my parents help me with that) myself, including the actual jewelry making plus all the other stuff that comes with selling. After almost 2 years of this, I’m extremely worn out.

Starting to make stud earrings. I love doing ones that change color. Same technique.

Starting to make stud earrings. I love doing ones that change color. Same technique.

I know that if I could just get myself “out there” more, I’d do much better. People tell me that they LOVE what I make and that my customer service skills are uh-mazing. About 97% of my jewelry is one-of-a-kind and part of me feels like I’m not good at explaining this to potential buyers (since EVERYthing is OOAK these days).

Honestly, I should raise my prices.. but I’m already more expensive than most of my competitors (which is justified but again – I may not be explaining things well).

I make non-glass jewelry, too. It's really fun thinking of different ways to put components together.

I make non-glass jewelry, too. It’s really fun thinking of different ways to put components together.

My disabilities and finances can be really limited as far as reaching “the next level”. I say this only AFTER countless hours / over a year spent doing – in my opinion – the best that I can.

I feel stuck, helpless, and discouraged. I mainly sell online via Etsy (ugh) but I’m trying to figure out a way to make selling on my site “worth it” enough to try it again. I used to, but am currently not where I need to be for it to make sense financially. I want to try local boutiques but my anxiety keeps getting in the way. I don’t really know.. what to do.

Any advice or wisdom for someone in “my situation”? I spent all 400 words trying to give enough background info. that I ran out of room for specific questions, haha.

The Howling Boutique
The Howling Boutique’s Etsy Store

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  1. I can honestly say I understand how you feel, I’m in very similar situation: dealing with social phobia, severe enough that I’m right now unable to get “real job”. As for “wisdoms” and advices… I can’t say I have any, apart from the typical: I don’t know if you’re on any social media, or have a blog, and I really, really understand that, if you aren’t, you may not feel like setting up any, but those seem to be ways many people claim help to drive the traffic to their sites. I seem to get most traffic from pinterest, I really like that one, it’s not very intrusive, and actually had one customer who found me through it, and set up an etsy account just to buy one pendant from me. That was cool. There are also sites that you can showcase your pieces on, like craftori. This one also drives a bit of traffic to my etsy store. And also, you mentioned your prices… you have some pieces in similar style. Maybe you could try rising price on some listings, while leaving others with old one? And see what happens?
    And I hope you will get answers from people who are better at driving traffic to their sites than me.

  2. Hi Mardi, I love your jewelry – beautiful colors and lots of sparkle too! I’m glad to hear it’s doing so well for you. 🙂

    I’m going to give you some things to think about as you decide where you want to go with your jewelry business.

    But first, have you gone through our Disabilities & Jewelry posts here? You’ll find a lot of lovely kindred spirits, and posts with workarounds for both jewelry business and jewelry making. You may find some good insights there for the direction you want to go.

    You mentioned you have a limited attention span and that you’re extremely worn out. So as you decide which direction you’d like to go with your business, you may want to be careful to avoid over-committing yourself.

    Know how much time and energy you can realistically put into your Etsy shop, and how much time and energy you’ll have left for an additional venue such as a shop or show.

    That’s one of the most important things for any jewelry artist, when deciding on a new direction for their business – to be realistic about the time, energy, and quantity of jewelry you can commit to your new direction.

    You also mentioned that you do everything yourself, except for mailing your jewelry orders.

    If you do decide to expand, it may be a good idea to consider having some help for the actual making of your jewelry. If your family doesn’t have time to fit that in, you might consider hiring a responsible high school student to help you make enough jewelry to fill your orders without wearing yourself out.

    These are just some of the things to consider before you make any decisions.

    I hope you’ll post later with an update! 🙂

  3. Hi Mardi – Your jewelry is wonderful! I love the colors you use and the attention to detail. Your photos are great. I looked at both your website and your Etsy shop and I am impressed.

    Rena has some great tips for you in her comment. As a jewelry maker who only sells online, I believe you can feel good about doing your business that way. You can also continue to grow your business that way. Most of my business is through my Etsy shop, and then I now get regular business each month through my shop that I set up on my own website.

    It is a bit trying to coordinate inventory between my website and Etsy. If you don’t want to tackle that, then staying on Etsy alone with a link through your own website like you have done is a very viable option.

    I believe the best way for you to succeed is to lean into your strengths, which will empower you to succeed. Don’t feel bad about what you cannot do because of your disabilities. You have done very well so far with your business.

    Wishing you great success!

  4. Kasia – Thank you so much for responding! My apologies for taking so long to reply myself. I used to be an extremely social person – parties every weekend – and while I still WANT friends and WANT to go out, it’s just a LOT harder.

    I am in the middle of setting up a blog on my website. I’ve also heard that every business should have one since it helps you connect more with customers (past, repeat, and potential) and Google tends to “like” blogs since they are a constant source of “fresh” material plus it makes your website more active. It’s taking me awhile, though, because I am one of those people who always HAS to have everything perfectly lined up before really doing or starting anything. Part of me wonders if I’m just stalling, haha. I do have a Facebook page for THB that I try to post on a few times a week. I also have a Twitter and Instagram but since I don’t tweet “in real life”, I always forget to do it for my business and my phone is so ancient, I haven’t really found a good way to utilize Instagram (but have been told I really need to). I also have Pinterest which I’ve been trying to get more active about. It’s just so much, but I think if I could just.. START and get the hang of things, it’d be less overwhelming than I think it’ll be.

    I haven’t heard of Craftori – I will have to take a look. I try to vary my prices based on the actual setting or style. Maybe having more of a pricing variety might help as well?

    I appreciate your input! And I love your avatar (wolves!).

    Rena – Wow, thanks for replying! And thank you for your kind words. I have gone through some of the posts in that section – well, all of the sections really – and have already found some great advice. I haven’t read all of them, though, but I’d like to. It’s helpful knowing there are other people in your boat (or if not in YOUR boat, at least paddling somewhere close by in their own vessel).

    I went to a women’s conference with my mom that let us have tables set up and stuff. I sold a few things but the entire process was exhausting for me because I was constantly worried about forgetting something and really brought too much stuff to begin with. I know I need to work on it and figure out some way to handle the stress better and not spend so much energy doing stuff online because I think I could definitely have some success selling in person.

    I don’t know if I’d “trust” anyone to help me actually make the jewelry, but I’ve thought about trying to get some help with other things like social media, marketing, etc. – mostly the stuff I’m spending a lot of time and energy trying to understand and do that right now is taking away from the other things like updating my website and listing new items.

    LeAllyson – Aww, thank you so much 🙂 That means a lot. I got a new camera for my birthday back in March and it’s AMAZING. I love it. My website is also a source of “pride” because I taught myself CSS and coding so I could change certain things and make it look the way I wanted it to. That took a long time but it was worth it.

    I’d love to sell more on my website simply because Etsy’s fees are so high (compared to other similar, less well-known sites). Plus I’m not a big fan of the changes they’ve made (like advertising other shops on your listings when people are viewing them from a mobile device and allowing all of the manufactured / non-handmade stuff) and it’s hard being “found” there, especially in jewelry. I used to sell on my website before but the only buyers I had were people I either already knew “in real life” who knew about the fees or past / repeat customers who liked something on there instead of what I had on Etsy. I didn’t make enough, in the end, to be able to continue doing that when I had to renew my website subscription but it’s something I really, really want to do again and be more successful at.

    Thank you so much 🙂 I try to not let my thoughts of “not being good enough” totally eclipse the fact that I HAVE done well and SHOULD be proud of what I’ve accomplished. The depression makes that a bit harder, though, since it likes to pick up any mild non-positive thought and spin it into something super negative and crippling. I think I’m just really in a rut right now and need to find a way to get out of it.

  5. I, too, fretted when just starting out. My 10 year old niece ( a fearless saleswomen, as it turns out) really helped me with self confidence. She would offer someone help, they would say no….and she didn’t retreat or catch on fire. She just moved on to the next customer. Start small with one table, try church bazaars or senior centers, any non-threatening place. Make a checklist and check stuff off as you pack. (A Rena recommendation) Set a sales goal and remember you are at the whim of the public, so you won’t always meet your goal. But you know what? You are a self employed artist and there is a LOT of satisfaction in that.

  6. Dear Mardi, your story really touches me. I have a 32 year old daughter with disabilities–social anxiety, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, & the depression & other symptoms that go along with these conditions. Luckily, she has worked hard to control her afflictions with professional help, the love of her dad & I & her own fierce determination. And she makes gorgeous jewelry, as do you! I just want to tell you to never give up! Get medical/emotional help through the TX public health system & support organizations for your conditions. And please don’t worry about getting on every social outlet out there. Concentrate on one that you can develop well (FB?). Maybe in the future you can tackle the others. When you feel yourself getting stressed or down, walk away–literally, go for a little walk in the sunshine or just sit in it & breathe:) Wishing you much success, good health & happiness, dear. Oh, and my daughter just got married to a wonderful man last November?

  7. Mardi,

    I wish I had some insight but really all I have is my deep empathy and kindred spirit like pride for you and all you have acomplished. You are walking a difficult and often isolating journey… but please know, you are Not alone.

    Reading your story it was if I had written it myself. I too am early 30’s, living with dad, on SSDI for migraines, depression, anxiety and a hormone disorder as well as alcoholism currently in remission. I know the desperate struggle of trying to push your body past it’s limits in an effort to do things that others can do. I’m fighting that today. I had wanted to make some jewlery… but I simply have too few spoons.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about Google Spoon Theory… also Jenny Larson’s Furiously Happy gives me strength and solice. There are days I still wake up and am in so much physical and emotional anguish that I wish I were dead. That’s a part of my struggle which I am torn between accepting as a product of the illness and fighting like hell against to try and be happy like a “normal person should.” (My words… when we really know there is no one definition of normal.)

    I used to go out all the time and have loads of friends. I keep to myself a lot these days, but I’m working on reaching out slowly. I have been saying I wanted to blog for almost a decade, and just last month bought myself a little plot in cyberspace. I have yet to put it all together, but I’m hoping whenimakeitoutofbed.com will become another resource where folks like us can come together.

    Until then, I hope you continue to do whatever feeds your soul… but at YOUR pace. My therapist is forever reminding me that we are on this journey of life simply to learn and experience. That’s what we are here for. And everything in our own time.

    I sincerely hope that if nothing else you find solace in knowing that while our minds may tell us we are alone, you have a silent team cheering you on. Please count me as one of them.


  8. Brittany Williams says:

    Dear Mardi,
    I make jewelry not nearly as beautiful as yours or many others I see on here. I am, 32 fighting anxiety and epilepsy. Each day I take 5 meds and I am glad I found you on here. Your story gave me inspiration so much inspiration bc I get so nervous and hands start shaking when I sit at my craft table, I got a piece I been working on forever! I’m scared to finish this necklace bc I am anxious it will fall apart when I used to make bigger, beautiful pieces than the one I’m working on. KEEP BEING AWESOME MARDI!!!

  9. Brittany, kudos to you for continuing to go to your craft table and making jewelry. When you finish the necklace you’re currently working on, we would love to see your beautiful work. When you feel comfortable with sharing your jewelry with us, you can share it here. Keep up the great work, Brittany! 🙂

  10. Dear Mardi,
    I’m glad you have the support of your mother and father. Gather as many people as you can- groups, therapists, that high school-er who can probably whip through getting you on social media. I am 59 years old. I have suffered with Bi-Polar since I was in my late teens but wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my early 40’s. I know how it feels to get frustrated with yourself, wanting to be a perfectionist. I have searched and searched for a psychologist for years to finally get me on the right combination of medicines that have worked for me. That is what has worked for me – you need to make your own decisions.
    I’m not perfect, I still have occasional anxiety issues and times when the depression or the mania is pushing against what I call the glass ceiling (the meds prevent that for me), but many years ago I just told myself that this is a part of who I am and taking meds is what I do to help me be me.
    Please don’t misunderstand or take what I am saying as medical advise because I am far from being a doctor. Just realize and know that you are very talented and do beautiful work. Many people would love to be as creative as you!
    Keep your head up, go boldly on your good days and be satisfied with what you can do on your not-so-good days. I’m rooting for you!!

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