a blog about creative side hustles, etsy-entrepreneurship, and disabled freelancing

a blog about creative side hustles, etsy-entrepreneurship, and disabled freelancing

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February 26, 2021

How I Realized I Hadn’t Totally Embraced My Brand and Why That Mattered

So one of the reasons I was afraid to embrace my brand is because I was afraid of how people may perceive upcycling. Could my work be seen as tacky and cheap? What if people look at my products and see what it once was instead of what it is now: a quality handmade item made of quality material.

For instance, sometimes I’ll use men’s ties because it’s high quality and beautiful silk. I feared that potential customers would only see a cut-up men’s tie.

I wish I had listened to a friend’s comment: people always look for high-quality accessories to wear for their work meetings. Instead, I listened to my own doubt and almost felt embarrassed to ever say what my products were made of. I was afraid the person would instantly see through my work and change their perception.

What did I do with this fear?

I decided the best way not to appear tacky is to appear high-end. I now sold luxurious accessories made of the finest fabrics. My social media content reflected this, and my engagement dropped. Gaining followers became like pulling teeth.

Meanwhile, my other brand is much more grounded in what it is and who it’s for and gains followers like bees to flowers. I barely work at it! So I was bewildered why this shop wasn’t working. I did the same techniques with hashtags, content curation, and caption writing. I engaged with other people in the same way. But still, notifications that I gained a follower or comment were like a treat rather than the norm.

I knew that I somehow was deterring customers, or I was barking up the wrong trees. The community base that I focused on was not clicking. I did not understand why, though. Why wouldn’t people want these premium artisan accessories?

Finally, Someone Just Told Me

In my frustration, I found an amazing social media manager who did consultation calls. It only took her a second to see what was not working. “You’re too high end.”

Really? I nearly gasped.

“And you don’t say at all what you do- that you upcycle and recycle fabrics. You also don’t say anywhere how or where to buy them or even if they’re for sale.”

This was so obvious.

I was speechless at how I could be so blind to the very basics I preached. I always focused on forming a solid foundation in building websites or any advertising-related work in my career. “What is this, who is it for, and what do I want them to do?”. I’ve had to reel in customers many times to answer these basic questions before we even started talking about website functionality.

Why did I skip this step in this shop, but I didn’t for my more successful shop? Why didn’t I realize it?

I have a few theories as to why this happened. This shop was my first and oldest shop. It’s had to pivot and change fairly quickly. I think in the midst of pivoting and prototyping new ideas, I just forgot. My second shop was started with more planning and methodically. So creating a foundation was part of the initial work.

Game of Thrones meme: "Pauline kind of forgot basic branding stuff"

Another reason is… that doubt and fear of being perceived in a way I didn’t want to be perceived. So I skipped the foundational work and focused on overcompensating by going high-end. I didn’t research if that would work- I just assumed it would. Rich people just buy things, right?

I focused only on perception and nothing else. 

I ignored the most overused, vague, and usually unhelpful advice in digital marketing. “Be authentic!”

What I Am Doing Now

So I have an identity crisis on my hand. I have a brand that is confused and needs to come out of the closet. I put on some band-aid rebranding while working with a designer for a much more down-to-earth and fun rebrand that people actually will like. I know this because I started asking people in the niche I actually should be targeting what they thought about the initial design concepts.

I fixed my Instagram bio and adjusted my content. It still has work to do, especially once I “relaunch” but it already feels much better. The bio is clear about my shop, what I do, and who will love it. I admit I am experimenting with some of the copy and its tone. We’ll see, but this time, I’m testing things rather than looking the other way.

I am embracing the brand for what it is. I make and sell accessories made from thrifted, deadstock, or dumpster-bound fabrics and items. They’re cute, funky, and often one of a kind. If it happens to look a little masculine, that’s great because many people are having fun mixing feminine and masculine elements in fashion.

And guess what, my brand and products are accessible to anyone who loves them—no more targeting a certain wallet or guessing.

I am dying to see how the relaunch will go. I’m working on updating everything! The packaging, product offerings, and website. It’s going to be fun and research-grounded. I know what my niche likes, and I cannot wait to offer something special to them. I am choosing to love my products, my niche, and my brand’s ethos. It’s all about zero-waste, rejecting throw-away culture, and fast fashion while wearing cute shit.

I plan to write about my shop’s progress this year. I’ll write about the launch, post-launch, and the rebranding results as a whole after a few months pass. Stay tuned!

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