Artist Cafe Utica has always been a website for and about Utica artists, and it always will serve that purpose. There are just a few changes effective July, 2022.
What changes were made?
Previously, Artist Cafe Utica had three functions. It was a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and any other local artists who wished to add links to their work to the site. It was a place for local artists to get free content for their website, blog, social media page, magazine, or other publication. And it was a point of contact to arrange custom researched and written work done by the site owner on a freelance basis.
Only the custom work option has been eliminated. Artist Cafe Utica is still a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and other local artists. It is still the place to find free content for your online or print publication or space.
Why did you eliminate the custom work option?
There was not enough interest in the service. The income from freelance writing only averaged out to $72 per month for the first seven months of the year, with nobody expressing any interest in purchasing any content in the coming months. Work that pays out at $42-$72 per month isn’t lucrative enough to keep doing with today’s prices.
Offering custom freelance writing work in addition to hosting the free library of articles for local artists also seemed to generate a bit of confusion. In one instance a few years ago, someone contacted me for writing services, refused to order anything, and then sent me a text message “firing” me from the staff job I had never taken. More than one person has mistaken me for a staff writer of a publication I freelanced for, and sent me materials to be submitted to the publication, or not understood that I was writing a feature for a client and not for my own website. I found myself spending more time clarifying that I was a freelance writer offering services to clients than I spent actually writing material for people.
Does this mean your work will no longer be seen anywhere but on Artist Cafe Utica?
For the most part, yes. I do have one long-standing project that will continue. Each month, I write a column for Phoenix Media called “The Heat Beat.” It is a joint project between Phoenix Radio and the news magazine, “The Utica Phoenix.” They have been outstanding clients, and are a sister organization to For the Good, Inc, a non-profit that hosts numerous worthwhile programs that greatly benefit the community. This will be the only custom writing that I do going forward. Everything else will be posted to the “Library” section of Artist Cafe Utica, offered free of charge to anyone who would like the content.
What if someone wants an article about a certain topic?
Readers are more than welcome to request topics. A local artist could always request a topic, and then help themselves to a free copy of that feature once it’s posted. This works out in their favor, because something that would have cost them $125 can now be obtained for free.
How will you make money, if you’re not going to sell articles anymore?
The income from my independent writing, both fiction writing and nonfiction writing for and about Utica artists, was never my main source of income. In addition to being a novelist and arts writer, I am also a writing teacher. My regular pay from teaching writing goes into the savings account I use to pay myself each month, and cover my basic expenses. Income from my own writing has always been my spending money. And there are still two income streams open for that.
Copies of my self-published novels are still available through Artist Cafe Utica. I earn 70% of the purchase price whenever someone buys an ebook or paperback copy of one of my novels.
There is also a tip jar available. If you read and enjoy the free articles in our library, post a link to an article on your social media page, or take some content to use in your publication or on your website, consider leaving a tip by clicking on the link to the “Go Fund Me” page and making a contribution.
Were there any other changes made?
The Avon page was taken down. I am still an Avon representative. It is a great company offering outstanding products. Avon sales didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the site. Of course, artists can buy Avon. But it did not fall into the same category as “novels, music, and more for and about Utica artists” when everything else…including the “more” was some form of art and/or writing about the arts.
Will you be adding any other services?
At this time, there are no plans to offer additional services. Artist Cafe Utica will serve as a place to purchase novels, music, and more from local artists, and a place to obtain free content for any publication or website owned or managed by a Utica area artist.
The position on direct selling/multilevel marketing has shifted back and forth a bit over the years here at Artist Cafe Utica. There have been pro-direct selling and anti-direct selling articles. These shifts have not happened on other topics, but multilevel marketing, also known as social selling or direct selling, seems to be one that keeps changing.
Unlike the other topics covered on this site, it is a relatively new topic for me. Everything else is something I’ve either researched and written about in my past career as a reporter, something I have been learning about for years for personal interest, a topic I studied as a student in graduate school, and/or something I have already done extensive research on for past creative writing work. Direct selling was the topic of a single article, coverage of a fundraiser, during my years as a reporter. I researched it briefly after that, then never thought about it again until 2018. Opinions shifted as new information was learned.
In May of 2022, I returned to working with Avon as an independent sales representative. Although I do enjoy their products, Avon was chosen as a side gig because nobody pressured me into it, there was the option to sign up to sell for them for free, and I am neither required nor pressured to purchase and maintain inventory. Anyone who decides to sign up to sell Avon, or any other products through a direct selling company, may also want also keep the following lessons I’ve learned over the past four years in mind:
You do not own your own business selling the company’s products. You are in business for yourself, but your business is you working as a freelance salesperson who has hired yourself out to the company to sell…and in some cases recruit…for them.
People who own their own business while also working for a large corporation own franchises. With a franchise, the corporation does not make money from that business unless the franchise itself makes money. When you sign up for direct sales, the company makes money from you anytime you purchase a product for personal use or re-sale, sign someone else up who sells, or purchase business materials. You also give that corporation free advertising every time you promote yourself selling their products. This can be beneficial to you in that, should you change your mind, it is very easy to simply walk away. After all, you’re a freelance sales agent. It can also be detrimental to you, as the corporation itself has no incentive to offer you any support. Whether they do or not will depend on the specific company you choose and the people above you. And you still have to take taxes and business expenses out of your earnings yourself.
Promises of limitless income, especially for little to no work, should always be a huge red flag.
The vast majority of people do not become wealthy by selling products for a direct sales company. Most people sell for these companies as a side hustle. They love the products, and they earn enough to get those products free by only spending the commission they earn on their personal orders. Some direct sellers earn a bit more than that. They generate enough extra income to give themselves a bit of side cash, or to pay a single bill, or pad their emergency fund a bit.
And it takes work to do even that. Whether you have hired yourself out to sell products, play music, write, walk dogs, or do anything else as an independent worker, you are going to have to do that work in order to earn anything. People who try to recruit you by promising that “all you have to do is share your love of the product” are not being honest with you. At the same time, signing up to sell something, then doing nothing but staring into the screen of your online store, throwing your promotional materials on a single table, then declaring the business a big scam isn’t fair either.
Keeping track of the time you spend on sales and/or recruiting a team along with your income, is important.
One of the strongest arguments against direct sales is that you can make more money working the same amount of hours at a minimum wage part-time job. And this may indeed be true. Or you may earn a bit more. It is all going to depend on a variety of factors, ranging from the type of work you do, to the number of people you know, to your neighborhood, to where you will be able to sell.
If you live in a community where your company’s products, or direct selling in general, is immensely popular, there are a lot of public places that welcome sales materials around, you know a lot of people who will buy from you already, and you do all you can to promote your sales as efficiently as possible, you could earn a lot more than you would earn doing a comparable amount of work in a wage paying job. If the market is weak, you have nowhere to promote anything, and you aren’t willing or able to get your promotional materials out in front of people, getting that part- time entry level job will pay more.
You should be keeping track of your income either way. Keep track of how many hours you devote to your direct sales and how much you earn. This is not to say that if the pay turns out to be low that you should quit. If you are having fun, enjoying the experience, then it’s fine to keep at it for little to no profit. Just be aware that you will need to do additional work of another kind to reach any financial goals you set.
You have to treat each person you meet through the company as an individual. Everybody is not your new adopted sibling or best friend. But everyone is not out to use you for their own gain either.
The anti-MLM movement is correct that some people who get into direct sales are predatory and entitled. They engage in “love bombing,” pretending to be a friend to get you to buy from them or sell under them, pressure you into doing more work than you planned to do, or doing work that you truly do not want to do, and then berate and belittle you for telling them “no.” These are the people who call others’ polite refusals to join the company “excuses,” and try to make college students, single parents, and anyone else they can think of feel ashamed for doing traditional work, just to bully people into doing work that benefits them. Other people in direct sales would never think to do anything like that.
Take a step back before making a decision about someone. While you don’t want to get taken in by someone who is predatory and deceitful, you also don’t want to shun somebody who is genuinely trying to befriend or help you just because you saw a nasty person on YouTube from the same industry.
Direct selling has its benefits and its downside. The industry is not set up to generate easy riches, or even to make most of the people who work in it rich or well-off at all. There are predatory people who make promises they can’t keep in order to benefit themselves, and engage in bullying and manipulation. It takes a lot more work than some people care to admit. But if you approach it with reasonable expectations, use caution, and make careful decisions, it can be a fun way to get products you love cheap or free to you, meet new people, and gain new experience in sales and promotion.