Friday, May 27, 2011

Rejection: A Great Motivator

Three stories of how being rejected made my online jewelry shop a much better shop.

Recently, I have achieved some success in my online jewelry shop on Etsy. Knowing I am in an extremely competitive category and realizing that dumb luck just doesn’t cut it online, I decided to take the time and analyze why and how I feel like I am finally getting some traction online. What did I do to get here?

It occurred to me that it all started with rejection. I was rejected by three different entities. Unknowns. People whom I have never met and will probably never know, rejected my shop in one way or another. What I realized about myself and rejection were golden.

Rejection is never easy to take. It could be a boyfriend who says no, a co-worker who won’t lunch with you, a boss who passed you over for a promotion, or a potential client who walks away. What I have learned is this: it is not who rejected you or even why they rejected you that is important.

What is important is HOW you handle the rejection. 

Rejection Story #1: How rejection made me mad and want to get even.

After working very hard on my online jewelry shop last year, I thought I was ready. My photos were attractive, my descriptions not only convinced but inspired, and my handmade jewelry line made me proud. I had developed my designs, techniques and honed my skills for seven years. Yes, I thought, I was ready.

Ready for what? You ask.

Ready to join an Etsy Treasury Team. This was not just any other team; this was a very focused marketing and calculating machine. They had one goal in mind: make the Etsy Front Page with their treasuries.

Treasuries are little art exhibits which are curated by Etsy members. They are a fantastic way to get exposure to other Etsians, their respective Facebook fans, and their faithful Twitter followers. Treasuries are a perfect mixture of innocent organic marketing and savvy social media. Basically, if your shop is featured in an Etsy Treasury, you get free advertising. Free exposure in my book is always a good thing.

Etsy Front Page glory is a mythical creature which when tapped into has the powerful combination of fairy godmother wish, Aladdin’s lamp juice, and Barbara Eden’s Jeannie complete with cute outfit and ponytail showing up on your doorstep. It’s a good thing.

I fell in love.
After researching treasury teams, reading their blogs, absorbing their posts, viewing many treasuries, looking at the shops on the teams, I fell in love with one. It was not easy, but I revved up the nerve to apply to join. And yes, I even held my breath a little, while waiting in anticipation of my approval letter.

While waiting, I ventured into the Etsy Forums. I found a few posts about shops applying to teams and being rejected. Nice Etsy peeps would encourage the rejected with words of wisdom like: “you don’t want to be part of such a snobby team”, “it’s not you, it’s them”, and “bah, you don’t need that team anyway”.

Uh oh.
It didn’t even occur to me that I could be rejected. Now, I was more than a little concerned that I may not be approved. (Not me, right?) Well, I woke up the next day to find a new note in my Etsy In-box. I clicked and there it was. A letter from the team captain telling me how my photos were not good enough and that I needed to work on my shop. OUCH! That stung.

I was hurt, humiliated, and embarrassed that I even presumed to apply to their team. I felt pretty low. What I didn’t expect was the next wave of emotions that came. I was mad, indignant, and felt like I was wronged somehow. I went to the Forums to find consolation but I did not have the nerve to start a post entitled, “I’m a reject”. So I resisted the urge to purge.

Instead, I went back and re-read the rejection message again. I took a deep breath, composed a polite note thanking them for their prompt response (yeah, like a band-aid being ripped off quickly - I thought). I explained that I understood their position and that I resolved to make my pictures better. And, I meant every word.

What ya gonna do about it?
That day, I went to task. I researched photographs from other Etsy Shops, magazines, internet shops and online publications. I researched photography in general and read every product photography advice I could get my hands on. When I came to the end of what I could understand, I called one of my good friends who is a professional photographer. I picked her brain. I asked questions about things I did not fully comprehend. I took a lot of notes.

It was an amazing feeling! I had enough “I’ll show them” energy to last me two months straight!

Armed with my new product photography knowledge, I re-photographed many of my jewelry pieces. I tried different angles, experimented with lighting (a biggie), and used different backgrounds. I studied what worked and re-took what did not.

With the new pictures looking better, I was still not finished. Now it’s all about editing. I used a software similar to PhotoShop. I pushed the envelope of my knowledge base on editing. I researched functionality I did not understand. I tried buttons I was afraid to use. I experimented and failed; I experimented and won. There was a huge learning curve to overcome, but I managed to learn. Finally, I had a handful of product photography I could be proud to use.

On a mission.
I made it a goal to replace all the pictures in my shop - eventually. Even if I had to upload only a few a day, I was determined to complete the task. I had over 150 listings and I knew it would not be easy. In the meantime, something unexpected happened. I started to enjoy the process of taking pictures of my items. I felt like I knew what I was doing so it did not take as long to set up a shot, or to edit small lighting imperfections. I was recharged to take pictures of new items I created and inspired to show off my new skills. I added new items to my shop daily.

Shortly after uploading new pictures of existing items, I started to receive inquiry e-mails everyday. After replacing 50% of my pictures, I was included in Etsy treasuries every few days. The more items I listed with the better photographs, the more attention my shop received. I have been included in more treasuries every day since that rejection convo. (Yeah, the irony doesn’t escape me either.) Frankly, this was all new to me. It’s not a normal thing for my shop to be busy and just keep going. Obviously, I concluded, the new photos made all the difference.

So, is there a happy ending?
Of course exposure is nice, but we are all here to sell right? Well, yes, I started to sell - more than I have ever imagined possible online. It’s been a great few months.

Rejection Story Lesson #1:
Use rejection as a motivator. Channel whatever energy you might use to yell “unfair”, “why”, or whatever it is you’re feeling into good ‘ole “I’ll show them”. After all, your own success is the best revenge.

Next Post: Rejection Story #2 - How rejection from a promotional company prompted me to promote.

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  1. This post reflects why you will be successful: You can take "rejection" and learn and apply, rather than whine and take it personally and simply seek another opinion.

    Being objective about one's work, and being able to take feedback from strangers and use it constructively - that will get you a very long way!

  2. Thank you Aerides! I do try to use trying times as a way to grow and learn! :) Why else suffer through it?

  3. Great story! I'm always trying to work on my pictures too! I also have improved but I know I can still improve more! Practice makes perfect right? =) Sometimes it is hard but I just keep struggling forward and figure sometimes I have to stand back up and dust myself off and move forward again!

  4. Thank you Arizona! Yes, "try and try again" has been my personal mantra when involving any type of photography! I do firmly believe in practice makes --- better :)

  5. KUDOS to you for using that rejection in your favor rather than letting it bog you down... here's to continued success! Orangies Attic

  6. Thanks Orangies. Yes, we gotta keep keepin on! :)

  7. Love this story! Thanks for the inspiration, I gotta get motivated like you did. Great post!

  8. Thanks Michelle. Yeah, sometimes it's just that little push that we need to get going! LOL :)

  9. Great article. So inspirational.

  10. Great post! I found you on Handmadeology. :)