Monday, March 17, 2014

Semi-Retirement: A Harsh Reality

I am putting Expertly Dyed into semi-retirement very soon. I'll explain what 'semi' retirement means, but first, let me explain why I've come to this decision. For most of you, I think this will come as quite a surprise.

Last August, I was faced with a seriously unexpected turn of events, and I was being forced to shut down the Etsy shop for Expertly Dyed. I was heading back to Korea, and with no one to ship goods on my behalf in the States anymore, I didn't see how I could possibly keep that running. My in-laws stepped in to help, but it was a temporary setup. I set things up with my mom so I could dye wool imported from Japan, but here are the problems: Time. Stress. Ability. Coordination. It may seem like a sweet deal to have people do the leg work for me, but all four of those problems hit me every day.

It's nearly impossible to operate a sole proprietorship remotely. It takes lots of my time and coordination to make it work as smoothly as it does. And when there's a hiccup in the process, not only am I completely unable to do anything to help, I have to ask other people to fix the problem for me. I lose the ability to run my business independently, and it creates negative stress. Given that Mr. IT Guy will be working on building his curriculum vitae in Korea for a little while longer, perhaps another year or two, I can't continue burdening those around me who are generous to offer so much help, nor can I handle the stress of trying to do things I can't do.

The extra work devoted to working a split shift every day has been wearing on me. I tend to put in about 6 hours of work for ED every morning, and sometimes a few hours each weekend, and another 1-2 hours each night. Eight hours a day doesn't sound so bad, and is in fact considered normal. But Facebook, and other places I post content for ya'll, won't let me schedule posts properly. When you see content go live, it's because I'm up at midnight (or later) posting that content. In business, timing is everything. In addition, I spend between 6-12 hours extra each week coming up with future content, and that constitutes much of my 'me' time.

When I set out to reestablish Expertly Dyed while in Korea, I meant to contribute to the knowledge base of the internet: videos, blogs, tips, tutorials, patterns. These goals are very important to me, because I think much of what I know should be given freely to those eager to learn something new. To do this, innumerable hours are spent thinking, devising, filming, writing, editing, and testing the content prior to release. I built a rather daunting schedule of content and release dates, and on top of working a 40+ week and operating ED remotely, I leave myself very little time to do anything else.

I know that some of you are thinking that running your own business means a little extra work. But as some of you know, I'm not just working on Expertly Dyed. I have been accepted to graduate school and will begin being a student again. To improve my own cv, I've been working on researching and writing a paper to be published in an academic journal since November 2013. I've been working on getting my rough draft started, and though I intended to get started mid-February, I only actually had time to sit down and work on it three days ago. This writing experience has proved to me that I can't do both, ED and grad school. Once my program starts, I'll be a grad student for two years, and if things go smoothly, I will transition into the school's Ph.D. program, which will be another 3-5 years.

Instead of working at my break-neck pace to provide new content every 12 hours, I need to slow things down. And this is what I mean by semi-retirement. I have put plenty of effort into Expertly Dyed over the last few years. I learned countless things about running a business. I have fallen in love with all of you. But I can't just stop. The scientist in me just won't let me just stop. I can't cold turkey Expertly Dyed, nor do I really want to. So, here's what you can expect from ED from now on:
  1. I won't be able to put new items in the Etsy shop. However, I do plan to offer bulk deals for those wishing to get discounts on batts and dyed braids, and I can work with you on a custom order. Since everything will be shipping from Korea, the higher shipping rate will be best for these larger orders. I'll create purchasing guidelines soon. :)
  2. New tutorial videos will become available, based on topic requests ya'll have given me and my own ideas too. I can't guarantee a new video a week, but I will make them when I can. 
  3. I will definitely keep posting things to the blog. I won't be able to come out with a new free pattern once a month like I planned, but I will try to keep the content interesting and engaging.
  4. Facebook is my biggest weakness, and my biggest time taker. I love how everyone comes to FB to ask me questions, post pictures of their projects, and comment on my work and the work of others. It feels like a real community there, and it helps to fill a void for me--there aren't many fibery people I can meet up with in Seoul. Expect me to post something once a day, or maybe every other day. I'll post fun things I'm doing in my spare time on weekends, like finally doing something with the huge stash of handspun yarn I have accumulated!
  5. Emails and FB messages. I get a lot of these every day, and this is partially why I spend so much time on FB. I will need to limit my replies to just once a week, so if it takes a little while for me to respond, it's not because I'm ignoring you...and you certainly aren't bugging me! I love answering your questions, but I have to realize that I spend a lot of time thinking about the answers and replying to them.
I will still be around to post new projects/pictures/blogs/tutorials/videos, I'll still answer questions and offer advice, and I still want to keep the sense of community we've developed over the years. I hope you all understand why I have to retire Expertly Dyed, and I do so only after deep consideration. I realize that I have had an impact on many of you, so if you need to talk to me about things, send me an email: expertlydyed@zoho.com. The street goes both ways, so I hope you all know how much I care about each comment you make, each project you share, each question you ask, each smile you have while crafting.

For those interested in the topic of my current paper, I'll give you a little nugget. I'm taking a closer look at how textile production can influence how a group of people chooses a specific landscape, how the landscape itself is changed through textile production, and where we can look outside of extant textile remains to create a list of reasons for choosing specific kinds of landscapes. Outside of the basics of food, water, shelter, and protection, why else do people choose a specific location for settlement? A very interesting question, indeed. All of my research has focused on Iron Age peoples (the same group I am looking at to understand warp-weighted loom use), and I want to see if it's possible to track textile movement over the landscape by looking at archaeological sites with the lens of the textile producer.