Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gift Horses

As I climb the learning curve associated with online selling, I have encountered many offers for assistance, and the old saying about gift horses has come to mind more than once recently. “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” must’ve meant for the oldsters what “listen to the spiel, take the free camera and go” means for us. And yet… if they end up with unresponsive horseflesh, at least they could make leather and glue… if I give my info over the internet in order to get “free listings“, I could end up with less than I started with (so, alright, the dead camera could be taken apart for assemblage bits). It’s perplexing, and the rules are different for this kind of offer. My usual technique is to chat with the person and get a “gut feel” for whether they’re con artists… how does one do that online? Behind the cute kitty avatar could lurk someone wanted for Ponzi schemes in three states…

“Free is a very good price” as a local car dealer says, but I also remember “TANSTAAFL”, which, as sci-fi buffs know, is short for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”… they take it out of you somehow… so how cautious is cautious? The advice/assistance coming from other artists on the thousands (literally!) of mailing lists and e-groups is likely to be legit -- I rate it “green” because they have nothing to get from it… the advice listed in the help pages of various webs have a “yellow” rating, because they are there for the long run (and as such open for inspection by anyone) but might have self-serving advice (leaving out competition, for a start). The advise/offers I get via email or in ad banners has a “red” rating -- a definite stop sign unless/until they are checked out or validated by a user. An example is the free Auctiva service that some of the Ebayers are using… that “free” made me really suspicious until I checked with another artist, who said she’d had good luck with it… I honestly am not sure how “free” it is (they could be using my info as demographics), but I have not found any catches yet, and it works well…

The sheer volume of the advice is another drawback… as if someone ran a whole herd of gift horses into my yard! Even if they are all good, I can’t deal with that many! And so my bookmark file expands like Harry Potter’s Aunt Madge as I file away possibilities and run out of time to explore them… I’m not complaining about the opportunities, mind you… just saying that it’s causing me to rethink/rework my process of examination. How do I prioritize what I’m gonna try first? Of course, there is no shortage of advice in that area -- several groups (including my local community college!) have classes on how to sell online like a pro, or how to double your earnings in a few weeks… implying that they have found the list of priorities that I agonize over…. Yet I’ve never been a “one size fits all” kind of person… in those old “paint by numbers” kits, I would experiment and re-arrange… who wants to end up with what everyone else has? So there’s an inbred resistance to follow-the-dots… and in the end, I’m back to just throwing my hat into the ring (another old saying… ), but making sure I start with a cheap hat, just in case it gets stomped.

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