Wednesday, May 08, 2013

All Good Things ...

I heard a great piece of advice once in an entrepreneurial podcast.  The host said, "If you think you have a good idea, it doesn't matter if you can find a hundred people that tell you its a good idea.  Go out and find a hundred people who will give you money for your idea, and then you have something."

The last couple of weeks have been something of an experiment.  I've played around over the years with different ways to fund my little Shakespeare addiction here, running ads over in the side bar, doing some affiliate linking, stuff like that.  Always nickel and dimey stuff.  I've always had merchandise but it's always been one-off stuff and I'm lucky to see 2 or 3 sales in a month.

So when I spotted Teespring, billed as "Kickstarter for T-shirts", I thought "This might be worth a shot.  By getting the volume up we can keep the price down, and everybody wins." So I took my most popular image (To be or not to be, translated into different languages) and brought the quality up to standard by consulting translators, adding languages, and cleaning up the design.  Thus was born the Shakespeare is Universal campaign.

The big question was, after eight years of posting over two thousand times on the subject of Shakespeare, do I have a "good enough" idea here that I've gathered those magical 100 loyal followers who would indeed pay real money for the value they receive?

As I write this, the answer is no.

The game's not over, not for five more days.  We might still make it.  If I look at the last two weeks as purely a lesson in business and marketing it's been enlightening.  I've reached out well past my comfort level in self-promotion, to be certain.  I've hounded celebrities for endorsements.  I've tried to rally the troups on Twitter and Facebook and email to feel like they are a part of a cause.  Every day I watch that number go up, I get a little thrill and wonder immediately, "Ok, what did I *just* do that made that happen?"

But I could equally step back and think, "You know, I launched this whole thing on Shakespeare's Birthday, my biggest traffic day of the year by far.  In the best circumstance we could have crushed that 100 goal on the very first day."  I think we got about 15.  I don't even want to begin to do that math, to consider how much those dedicated fans cost me.  It would not be a very balanced equation.

I don't know how I feel about this.  I know that I put real effort into this and my other sites and projects. They cause me real world stress. They cost me real world time and real world money.  It's been an amazing experience, and I've done and learned a lot of things.  

But is this something that I can keep up forever?  Especially now, with the knowledge that such a large audience out there just really doesn't care all that much whether I'm putting in the effort or not?  

That, I have to think about.  

The Shakespeare Geek blog has been around since 2005, making it the oldest continually active Shakespeare blog today. Shakespeare is Universal represents our biggest fund-raising effort to date. For almost eight years and almost three thousand posts I've tried my best to make a place where everyone can talk about everything related to the subject of Shakespeare. If you've found my sites and products useful and interesting, I would greatly appreciate your support so that I can continue to do even more. Thank you.


JM said...

Is having a blog or two really such a financially and psychologically taxing undertaking for you? Sorry to hear that. We used to have some great discussions here. I miss that. It used to be enough. It would be a shame for it to end because of a cynical philosophy from some "entrepreneur" who thinks something is worth it only if it equals money. Don't listen to them. They know nothing of Shakespeare.

Duane Morin said...

Let me put it this way, JM. If I *could* make an income by doing Shakespeare related things, whatever that may mean? I'd be all over it. Whether that's ebooks or teaching or app development or bringing in enough traffic to enough web sites, for the past 8 years I've been willing to give it a shot. I've stressed out over it, I won't lie. I've lost sleep. I watch my traffic and my followers and when I think that either is going down, or I've missed a golden news opportunity or my SEO is slipping causing my Google page rank to fall, it troubles me. I have the following that I do because I've actively worked to maintain it. I think we calculated my posting rate at something over 8%? So I've posted something on average 4 days out of every 5 since my children were born.

If this blog is not *the* blog to talk about Shakespeare, I've always considered it a personal failure. I need more content, I need more interaction with the community, I need more promotional merchandise to get my "brand" out there. And it is after 8 years of doing this that I had to sit back and say, "Ok, is it working? Does anybody care? If this site stopped functioning tomorrow would anybody really care all that much?"
Because if I've been killing myself for nobody, I have to rethink my priorities.

But that's all in the past, as my project was a success and there was indeed a small army of folks out there who believed enough in my little mission here to support it with a real world acknowledgement and not just a quick click on ye old'e "like" button.

I'm not going anywhere.