One thing though that I've been thinking of off late is turnover. Turnovers are very different things to different people, to different businesses. This should go without saying, really, just the same as what's successful and what someone needs to live on also differ wildly. And yet somehow it's till used as a measuring tool. At best it's naive to compare each other's businesses based on turnover alone, and at worst it's a huge trap that can lead you towards a messy head.

From my perspective, I've never wanted to grow grow my business. I don't want a business for the sake of having a business and I've always tried to keep things simple, streamlined, and not let the business side of things take over. I haven't always managed that, but it is my goal.

And given how we life, one very firm decision I've made is that there will be no tangibles. With good reason. We live in vehicles that have a big risk of condensation and damp. We'll be applying for residency in a country that doesn't have the most reputable postal system. I don't do shows and I'm not in a position to be lugging stock around. But for the most part, we don't have the money to invest in; food on the table comes first.

My business has always been this way - it started online from blogging, and although I have most of my books available through POD and have worked with print distributors for my printed patterns, 95% of my turnover comes from digital sales. That's more than enough to tell me what I need to know. (the other 5% comes from teaching fwiw)

In my almost 12 years of doing this, there have only been 2 years where I didn't see growth. The first was the year when we were fighting eviction and Aran was critically ill; the second was the year after that, when my lack of creativity the previous year became apparent. Otherwise, my business is steady and reliable despite not having what many would consider a high turnover. My growth has been slow and steady rather than rapid, and that makes me feel more confident that I'll be around for a while yet. My biggest costs are people, and that adds to that feeling of sustainability - I'd sooner put money in pockets than in boxes of stuff.

That's the thing with tangibles - they cost money. And naturally any business dealing with tangibles, on whatever level, will see their turnover rise because of them. Even if the average print run for a book costs in the region of £5K, there are extra associated costs with tangibles, and they all have to be recovered through sales. And that in turn will push up the turnover.

And from that basis alone, you can't compare a solely digital business with one that deals with tangibles, even if only in part.

Then there are other aspects to consider. Many designers have grown their businesses in very different ways, outsourcing much of the work quite early on, taking a more formal approach, and that means that they've got to sell that much more to be able to cover those extra costs and still leave themselves room to breathe. And that in turn requires different marketing approaches or different production methods, or both. And as is the nature of growth, it'll keep on going that way.

And while those turnovers are higher because they need to be, it doesn't necessarily mean that those designers are more successful; it simply means they've sold more patterns or books or products. Because they have to. Success is another of those subjective things.

The thing is, what bothers me about all this and what has led to me trying to make sense of it all, is that in the eyes of a few it becomes a popularity contest. I know I'm not alone in feeling inadequate at times when you start comparing numbers. But how on earth we can fairly and squarely compare? And really, why would you want to? 

We are each unique in our styles, our methods, our approaches and our presentation - none of these are comparable. And that is the beauty of what we do.

(how I wish I had confidence! But I wasn't programmed that way, and it takes days like these and words like these to help me come full circle again. I lose a lot of time to depression and anxiety, and that in turn is something else to be factored. And given life as it is, I'm going to give myself a pat on the back and pour a glass of wine.)
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AuthorWoolly Wormhead