Oct 132014
 

Dear Reader,

This post’s title says that this is the end of the saga, but I really hope that this is not really the end. Today’s post will include things that I omitted or forgot about in the previous posts and a few personal thoughts based on my experience so far.

If you are someone who used to know me back in my teens, you will ironically ask yourselves: “What? Catalina didn’t become some badass  leader, manager, lawyer, journalist, advertising agent, or something like that?” No. I didn’t become anything like that, even if I was that nerdy in school.

The other day, my mom started reading me fairy tales. She found a book that I got in middle school as a prize for my academic achievements. On the front page my mom found a teacher’s message to me. Among the many words of praise addressed to me, the message also said that I finished my school year with full marks (in Romania, it means 10) . So, I’ll repeat this…I really was THAT nerdy. However, I did not find my place in this world, and I couldn’t settle with a boring job (even though I settled with very little in love, friends, and so on), which is probably a bad quality in my personality. I simply refused to work long and hard hours, for very little money that couldn’t even cover the minimum living expenses in Bucharest. And, to get a decent job as a student, you either have to have connections or have certain qualities and abilities, something I lacked.

My other great passion has always been writing. So, for a while, I looked for jobs that involved writing. But every time I thought I found something it was a poor, lousy, underpaid job such as a transcriber or as an article writer for different websites. You will probably wonder how is it that other people make it? I don’t know. But all my respect to them. I couldn’t.

However, I noticed a rapid growth of some websites and ideas, so I asked myself: “Why can’t I do that?” If there is something that I’ve learned over the years is that you yourself is the best business out there. No matter what idea you may have, if you know how to do it, then you will make it. As for me, I had to find the “what to do” first and began the “how to do it” learning process.

Yes, I was depressed for a long time, and I am finally not afraid to admit it publicly. However, every conscious moment I had I spent it on reading a lot of information and teaching myself things about the Internet, the affiliate market, websites, blogging, webdesign (including coding), social media, promoting an idea online, and so on. I became very interested in these and I was set on reaching an advanced level of knowledge, so, I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else but me every time I faced a techy issue. For a while, I was very much like Dee Dee, from Dexter’s Laboratory,saying what does this button do, pushing around all the wrong buttons, just to see what happens. Oh!…boy…the amount of times I got fatal errors when I misplaced a part of the code on a main website. Then I started all the testing on a test site. An advanced user would have backed up their websites, something I didn’t do for coolorful.com. But, then again, I don’t think anyone backs up their sites saying: “Hey, I should back up my site in case next month I should suffer a stroke, or something like that!”.

To make my point. I found the “what to do” in crocheting. Yes, I know, so many of you will say: “That’s so silly!” It’s like telling a fashion designer that their passion means nothing. A lot of the people that know me showed a lot of admiration towards my crocheting. But, I know that even more laughed behind my back and considered it stupid and of no use. I am not ashamed to admit that I was crazy about it and that slowly, but surely, I was making it. The ideas that I had in mind for coolorful.com gave me the chance to mix every passion and hobby I had, like writing, photography, video editing, webdesign, crocheting (and a lot of other arts and crafts). Just as I mentioned in another post, I was finally picking the pieces of myself up and I was putting my life together. And for the shy, scared, little girl that I was, it meant something.

There are a few more points that I would like to address, especially to those of you who are thinking of starting a crochet business online. You can consider them as tips if you wish to and can be applied to many other ideas besides crocheting:

1. You have a hobby and you are thinking: “How can I make a living through my passion?” First of all, your hobby becomes a job. . Many times I was scared that my passion for crocheting would turn into a burden, or a chore. It won’t. Luckily, there is so much variety in these arts that you won’t get bored with it. However, it will still be a job. And that means time, attention, dedication and affection.

2. You have to get yourself online. I already said that you yourself are the best business. As a result, you can create a brand of yourself/your name. You can also play with words and find a nickname that will express your passion as best as possible. I’ve seen some really cool names out there, like FeltedButton, Babukatorium, Crochet Geek, Made with love by Glama and so on. As much as possible, try using the same name every where you sign up.

3. Do not underestimate the power of social media. So, get yourself a You Tube account, Google +, a Facebook page, Pinterest, and the likes. One day, the right visitor with the right number of followers will pick up your art and will bring you more visitors and followers as well. Last year, one of my photo tutorials on coolorful.com was shared on Pinterest, which doubled the number of visitors on my website ever since.

4. I keep talking about a website. There are many free platforms out there like Bloggspot, WordPress, Typed. They are ok, and user friendly, but they are not as brandable as a real website. A real website means some money invested in it: a domain name, and a hosting plan will cost around 130$/year. I got mine from godaddy.com. If you choose this option, make sure you renew your domain name and hosting on time. And, please, do not forget to back up your site. This is how I lost my work last year, when I did not renew the hosting plan while I was in the hospital.

5. You’ve read the word brand a lot so far. That means you are allowed to be yourself, as creative and imaginative as you can be. The more original and unusual your idea is, the more popular it will become. Don’t copy other people’s work. It is not professional and ethical. That means you should use your own patterns, photos, and written instructions. Do not feel ashamed to place a watermark on a photo you take. There are people out there who will simply steal it and will say it is their own. When you write instructions, even for the basic stitches, make sure you use your own words, and not copy paste them from somewhere else. If someone else copy pasted from you, Google will know who wrote it first; they will penalize the copycats and not the originals. If you inspire your work from someone else, at least have the decency to give credits to that person. I won’t go into details with the copyright infringements, the law is complicated and varies from country to country.

6. Do not force your projects onto other people’s work place. That means do not spam. Don’t you hate it when you get an email promoting some miraculous enlargement pill 🙂 ? No one likes it, either. The Akismet plugin already stopped over 1,500 spam messages from showing up on this blog. Spammers are some of the people that I personally despise the most. They are people who will stop at nothing to use you and your hard work to drive away your visitors to their websites. Don’t do this! It will earn you a bad reputation. I’ve also seen a lot of people posting on popular You Tube account and Facebook pages messages like: “I do this and that…Please, visit my website.”yet another one trying to make a fast buck using you. There are many spam counter measures if you wish to protect yourself from them.

Many of the next points will be You Tube related and will express some things I noticed in viewers behavior. It took me some time to get used to how some people act, so, in the end, I got over it.

7. If you are someone who is thinking about showing and teaching other people how to do things, than you have to put yourself on You Tube. You Tube is huge and there is a great chance that you can find people with same interests. I remember reading a post on Mike Sellick’s blog: he was talking about how the wave of newcomers on You Tube was ruining business for the older You Tube crocheters. I remember feeling very disappointed reading his words and thinking how unfair of him to say something like that. You Tube is a great way for every little artist to get outside their shells, gain a little confidence, and showcase their art.

8. We live in the digital era, so, if you wish to make videos, you have to invest in a decent camera which records in high-definition. No one will watch an out of focus and blurred video tutorial. So, basic editing skills are a must.

9. Make sure your hands and the project you are presenting are visible all the time. I’ve seen tutorials where the person lowered their hands off the screen for a little while right when they were explaining important steps. People like to see what you are doing so that they can do it too.

10. Think carefully who your target viewers are. Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced artist? Who would you like to address your tutorials to? You will have to adjust your teaching methods according to your target. My target has always been beginners…meaning, for those of you who are holding a crochet hook in your hands for the very first time. As a result, most of my tutorials will have a 5 minutes introduction, where I explain a few technicalities about the stitches and then will include extensive step by step instructions with a lot of close-ups so that everyone will know exactly where to insert their hooks. This is something some of the viewers did not understand: my tutorials are made for beginners. Some people complained that I talked 3 minutes too much at the beginning of a video tutorial. One wrote me a message once saying “Less talking, more teaching.” People want to learn how to do things for free but, sadly, they think it’s a piece of cake, and, in fact, they do not have the time nor the patience to actually learn.

11. Another thing that I noticed in viewers behavior: they will be put off by a 60 minutes video tutorial. If you split the video into more parts to make it easier to watch and follow, they will only watch the first part and only some of them will continue to the second, third or fourth part of your tutorial. Guys, some stitches need more time to be taught and you will need patience to learn them. However, many viewers will appreciate your efforts and will follow your instructions to learn. Do not forget that these are those who matter.
Since I’m talking about time, I would like to do a little experiment: take off some time of what you are doing right now. Look at your nails. Look down the floor. On the walls. Out the window. Get up and stretch a little. Go get a glass of water. Go to the bathroom. Splash your face with warm water. Look at yourself in the mirror. Feel the drops of water dribble. Think about something. Anything you would like. Wipe your face with a towel. Go back to what you were doing before. How long has it passed? 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes maybe? And yet, modern people do not have 5 minutes to listen to someone who is trying to teach them how to crochet. I know I’ve seen a lot of bad movies and I’ve been in bad relationships and that is wasted time for me that will never come back. I’ve been completely blind since the 6th of December 2013 and THAT is time I will NEVER get back.
You all know Teresa Richardson as The Crochet Geek on You Tube. She is a wonderful person, who takes away a lot of her time to teach us how to crochet. She has an interesting technique while making her videos, where she would edit parts of the tutorial in slow motion so that everyone can see and understand the steps better. I read some mean comments saying things like “Jeez, can you go slower than that?” If you go through a tutorial too fast people will complain that they didn’t have time to understand the stitch. They will not necessarily think to pause the video and practice what they have just seen, or skip forward the what they think is unnecessary talking to the part of the video they are interested in.
The idea is that good things can, sometimes, come in long packages. In case you make long tutorials, my recommendation is to split them in two-three-four parts. My older tutorials were split in up to eight parts because I didn’t have the equipment to edit them. I apologize for that. Many people will watch this videos from their tablets and many of them do not have fast broad band connections. This way you can help them avoid the buffering issue and they can also take a break between the parts. Who wants to learn will go to the second, third and forth part.
By the way, did you know that a moment is a medieval unit to measure time and in modern times it lasts 1,5 minutes? You can read more about it here.

12. Since you are making tutorials about different things, people will think you are a professionist or an authority in the field, even though you are probably someone just like them: a stay at home mom, or a grandmother, or a young woman like myself with a great passion for crocheting. They will assume you know the answers to everything. They will, sometimes, ask very difficult questions about stitches you might have never heard of before. Do not be afraid to admit that you do not know the answer. That makes you human.

13. And, as a human, do not be scared to be friendly and make jokes once in a while. You are an artist expressing yourself and not a robot. Have fun! I loved watching Mike Sellick’s crochet tutorials because he always made jokes and then giggled. He has a great attitude. I also loved watching Yolanda Soto Lopez’s tutorials as well, because she is very motherly and she make you feel like you are a friend (by the way, some viewers have also complained about her talking too much at the beginning of her videos).

14. Speak loud and clear and use proper words if you decide to tutor in English, or any other language. Many times I felt embarrassed over my “Dracula accent” , and always apologized if my English was bad. Very few complained about my English and a lot of them actually liked my accent. A few said that I should speak louder because they couldn’t hear, which is something I always found funny in a way. Doesn’t everyone have speakers attached to their PC? Try adjusting the volume level and if that is not enough, I will admit it is my fault. One woman even complained that I was breathing too loudly and that it was putting her off. She became very rude and told me I was huffing and puffing so much as if I didn’t want to make the tutorial. I never made a tutorial as an obligation, but because I loved making them.
Just so everyone knows, I’ll explain shortly how I made a tutorial. I set the camera on the tripod, I placed myself behind the camera, wrapped my arms around it and started recording. I looked into the camera’s screen to make sure my hands and the crochet project were visible the whole time, just like I said in a previous point. All the while, I had to make sure the image was focused, especially when I zoomed in and showed close-ups. Sometimes, when an outside factor would interfere with my recording, I had to redo the last steps. All this while standing up. An hour long tutorial would usually take around two and a half hours just for the recording alone. The editing, saving and uploading the tutorial on You Tube would take at least another 6 hours. Sometimes it was exhausting, but I still loved every second of it. My photo tutorials were even harder to make.
In case you did not know, a number of viewers complained about Claire’s Australian accent (from BobWilson123), when, in fact, she is another amazing lady teaching the world how to crochet.
What I mean is that people will complain about everything.

15. If you are a beginner, it might hurt you getting dislikes. I know it hurt me, until I got over it. I remember uploading my first yarn stash video, and someone immediately disliked the video. I had an absolutely wonderful stash and talked about 5 minutes about the yarn, and that person didn’t like it. I often wondered “Why wouldn’t someone like my yarn stash?” In time, I got more dislikes for my videos, even though the vast majority liked them. I simply realized that there are millions of people out there trying to learn how to crochet. You simply can’t make everyone happy. Don’t let the small things bring you down. As long as most of your viewers are happy with your work, you should be fine. If too many are complaining, than you are probably doing something wrong. Take their advice into consideration and learn from positive criticism. Ignore the mean and the bullies. There are always the ban and the report abuse buttons. If you still can’t get over it, you can always disable the likes/dislikes bar and turn off the comments. Keep in mind, though, that this will affect your videos in search results and remember that people simply like to interact and express their opinion. And, do you know what people say about opinions? Everyone’s got one. Take a look around on You Tube. You will find that even the videos with the cutest babies, puppies, kittens get tons of dislikes.

16. If possible, try finding someone to help you, especially when answering to your viewers. They might have extra questions and it is important to try and help them. Sometimes, if you have a lot of subscribers and visitors, answering to messages alone can become overwhelming. It used to take me up to three hours a day answering to questions and comments. Since I am unable to see, now I have my sister to do this for me. But, because I can hear, she reads me your messages and we come up with an answer together. Having someone support you in your venture would be fantastic.

Now, let’s get a little more social:

17. This is one big mistake I made and I hope some of you will learn from my experience. I’ve always been socially awkward. I never liked going to clubs, bars, parties, and didn’t like to hang around with many people. I never joined my flatmates when they played cards and drank to many shuts as punishment for losing, because it wasn’t my idea of fun. Instead, I would have loved to meet people with similar interests. Sadly, I didn’t think of joining a crochet club, or volunteering for an organization while I was in Bucharest, or even in Ireland, where I was so alone. If you find yourself in the same spot as I was, do not be afraid to search for a club or even start one if you can’t find any. I am sure it is one way to meet great people.

18. You can do this alone, or with members of the club, if you joined one. Try participating in handmade fairs, festivals, yarn sales, exhibitions, and so on. Talk to other people and shake hands with them during these events. Show them your work. Make yourself known and noticed. Create connections…connections…connections.

19. The tips I talked about so far are mostly about the online and the digital. How about going old school once in a while? This idea came to me back in college when I used to give away flyers for different companies. Many times I held a huge pile of flyers in my hands and told myself: “Why can’t I give away flyers promoting my own idea?” If you live in a big city, take a day off every now and then, or during your free time and give away flyers while having a walk around the city. Do you think that making a flyer is difficult? That you will need a specialist? Or that it will cost too much? Don’t be silly! Buy paper in bulk quantity, get yourself a printer, preferably one that prints in colors, and start designing something in Photoshop, Photoscape, or even in Paint. Create a design that will catch people’s eyes in such a way they will end up searching for you.

20. If I had the right support, I would have done the above a long time ago. When it comes to creativity, sometimes people’s minds have no barriers. I have always wanted to do a flash mob, or an improvisation involving crocheting. The waves you could make, when you take people by surprise…Create an artistic moment somewhere crowded. People will ask themselves:”What’s going on? Who are these people?” They will record the scene with their phones. They will take photos of you. They will post them online and talk about you. And what does this gain you? POPULARITY.
Don’t do this just once, do it 2, 3, 10 times, or as many time as it is necessary. Do it in all sorts of different places. Be creative, unusual and interesting enough to even make the news.I seriously dare you to express yourself somewhere outside your comfort zone.

There are many other things I could add, but I will stop here. I had to go to the hospital last week and caught a bloody pest of a cold and my brain is half numb at the moment. But I’ll let you know one more thing: Do not expect success to come over night, cause it won’t. You have to work hard to get there, to be committed and have patience.

As for me, the answer to the question “what would I like to do for the rest of my life?” is still pending. It depends on whether I’ll see or not again. But I would like to thank the 16k subscribers for making me feel not a total waste of space. Your support means the world to me and it has helped a lot, especially over the last year. But more about humanity not being dead in a future post.

Now, get your hooks on and Good Luck,

Catalina.

P.S. 1.: Ana will attach bellow some of the thousands of photos I took last year for my photo tutorials for coolorful.com.

P.S. 2.: What did you want to become when you were kids? I wanted to be a mom.

My Soft Spot for Crocheting and Yarn Bombing

My Soft Spot for Crocheting and Yarn Bombing

  2 Responses to “My Soft Spot for Crocheting – The End of the Saga”

  1. Hi Cătălina, It’s great to read more about your experiences, and I am especially grateful for all the excellent advice on making YouTube videos, since I was thinking of making some of my own one day when I’ve mastered some of the more difficult stitches and want to supplement any patterns I might eventually create and write for sites like Ravelry.

    When I was a kid, depending on when you might have asked me, I wanted to be an artist, an inventor, a mathematician, rabbi, and lastly a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. 😀 (big grin) I also wanted to become a spiritual master in some manner, maybe a Zen roshi. But alas, due to chronic illness and disabilities, none of that came to be. I have, however, found my calling as an Autistic disability rights activist and joined the Washington State chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Amazingly enough, within that organization, I’ve been able to find an outlet for my spirituality as well as creativity — crochet, knitting, and especially ink drawing (well really sketching, in my case, since I really don’t have enough motor control in my hands for actual drawing).

    I had to lol at the part about your “Dracula voice”. You have a lovely speaking voice and you sound nothing like Drǎculea. Trust me, I know. 😉 (winky smilie) 😀 (big grin)

  2. I’ve enjoyed every video you’ve made. I’ve learned a lot from you. You don’t talk to much. You have a great way of expressing yourself and I love your way of teaching. Even though you can’t crochet right now, keep the videos coming. You inspire me and I know many others. Thank you Catalina

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