It was never my intent to start a business. With that in mind, it may not surprise you to discover that (by blundering into it with absolutely zero forward planning) I have made some mistakes along the way. I'm going to use this blog over the coming weeks to lay the cold, bloated corpse of previous business errors out before you, and then carefully cut it open with a scalpel and prod glistening things with a stick.
Lesson number one...
That big, squidgy lump there?
That's my inability to realise the importance of watermarking your photos.
When I first started creating and sharing photos of Fugglers online, I was pretty bad at making them. That was okay, because it was part of the appeal. They were roughly stitched, haphazard, inspired by some of the weirder edges of Etsy: lands where cocker spaniels are made from sea-shells and glitter, and where nipple pasties are designed in MSPaint and then glossed over with clear nail varnish. Watermarking my photos seemed cocky, and self important, especially when overlaid on such amateur work, so I didn't do it.
Over time I made more, and more Fugglers, and my work improved. My joke shifted into a hobby, but I still didn't watermark my photos. People had started spreading them online, and I didn't see the harm in it. They surfaced on 4chan, with a false back story attached, and since the story was in the same spirit of my work (to make people laugh, or balk) I just found it funny.
By the time I made the jump to making Fugglers as a full time career, the landscape of the internet had also begun to change. The rise of listicles changed the playing field drastically. Articles that list "TOP TEN CREEPIEST TOYS" or "HORRIFYING CHILDREN'S TOYS" started using my photos without ever notifying me, and the lack of watermarking the pictures or any reference to me in the text started to hit home. Firstly, these websites profit through advertising revenue, so any time a website like that uses your work with no reference to source, they're monetising your images and you get zero benefit unless someone kindly mentions you in the comments (the internet version of shouting into the wind). Secondly, sometimes it can be worse, less than zero benefit, because those images spread, picked up by other websites, and like chinese whispers erroneous details can get added. One (very popular) video used my images, and claimed that my dolls were a banned (no) children's (no) toy (no) from the 80's (no). A superficially harmless thing to claim, until you realise that, if believed, it writes me out of ownership of my own designs. You truly haven't lived until you've experienced how infuriating it is to be accused of copying your own work by someone who is copying your work. My eye twitched so hard I think it shattered teeth.
The worst moment came for me when I found someone selling copies of my work on eBay, using my own photos to do so. Imagine looking on a dating website, and seeing your own photo staring back at you, and under likes and interests it has "LOL watching adam sandler in "That's My Boy" LOL!!" and you're close to understanding the level of weirded out and appalled that caused.
The take away is, you won't realise the moment your work is good enough, interesting enough, weird enough to need a watermark. I was worried about putting people off, or coming across as self important or arrogant, and it's something that continues to bite me on the arse years later. This is from just yesterday:
So, if you're a crafter, an artist, a maker reading this, I implore you: watermark your photos. If anyone calls you up on it, tell them I made you do it. Tell them I drew on the sternest of eyebrows in permanent marker, prodded you with a finger covered in superglue and fluff, and that I barked at you until you did it. It doesn't matter if you're a hobbyist, or a professional, your work is constantly changing, and you'll never know the exact moment you'll need that watermark in place and it's certainly not something you can go back and retroactively add. There are free apps you can download that will even do it for you on your phone. No excuses. I've seen copies of my work sold on eBay using my own photos, I've seen people hijacking popular viral posts and claiming that my work is theirs, articles with hundreds of thousands of page views earning money from my work but never linking back, and I'd hate for anyone else to make the same mistakes.
Here endeth the lesson.
What would you like to see covered in the next autopsy? What's In A Name? Pricing? Going Viral?