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Thread: Tailmaking as a business -- is it sustainable?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Tailmaking as a business -- is it sustainable?

    EDIT: I've put all the lessons discussed here, so there's no need to scroll through the whole thing.


    People will be cautious; the community has more than its share of scams. There will be criticism and difficulty starting out, so don’t begin before you’re ready. “For those new tailmakers who are genuinely trying to give it a shot, it can be difficult because they are automatically faced with criticism from those who wonder why things aren't happening any faster. And yes, quite rightly, people should be cautious because there has been a lot of scamming in the past. But it's sad to see a new tailmaker give up purely because they lacked support from their peers and therefore decided it wasn't worth the hassle and the public criticism.” (Glinda Rose)

    “After watching the last 9 years I know that the ones who are successful are REALLY successful, but it has taken a lot to get through that wall of burnout. Customer service is a subjective concept IMO in this community. We often make demands of tail makers that you wouldn't in any other field including other custom fields. Many in the mer community do not have an accurate expectation IMO as well.

    “Many start selling products before they're ready. Raven took YEARS perfecting her craft before launching a business. Some take shortcuts to speed up the process and it shows. One well known tail maker took apart another tail makers tails to try and learn how to make them, and by skipping all that development, it took them years to fix very basic issues.” (Raina)

    Keep communication open and honest; don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
    “New tailmakers need to know that creating a business can involve having to get through a lot of red tape, meaning things can be very slow at the start. They should be prepared for this, and more importantly, be open and honest about it. There's no point in claiming ‘I can do this by …’ and then leaving someone wondering for weeks or months what the heck is going on.” (Glinda Rose)

    This is theoretical—none of us know for certain until we try it.
    “We all think we know what it takes to ‘fix’ common issues with having a tail making business but I can't tell you how many I've watched who touted this, fail. The truth is, you really DON'T know until you try to do it.” (Raina)

    Tailmakers fail from inconsistent quality, overwhelm or scamming people.
    “A few examples: FishButts made their tails out of low quality materials. Were very popular because of their low price point, but people still expected higher quality despite the low cost. Eventually they took off with people's money and those people never got tails.

    “Adam Martyn based his whole reputation on these youtube videos he created early on. Had an amazing website, but never really seemed to actually have any customers. He'd just sell off the tails he created for videos. Ended up taking loads of money from people and taking off.

    “MermaidsRus—again, low quality materials, no improvement or quality control, touting a known dangerous material as safe.

    “Mermaid Creations—extremely heavy tails, didn't really understand how to paint (poured layers of colours instead of painting) mixed materials by adding latex permawet on top of silicone, ended up taking orders he couldn't fulfil and running off with money
    Foxmoon—The first fabric tail makers that I know of, been making tails a long time, but didn't evolve with the process (stuck with bi-fins instead of monofins) and quite honestly, more innovative tail makers like Finfun came along and that was it.” (Raina)

    Success can come, but funding might be difficult.
    “Success seems to come when they make the leap to larger staff and operate more like a formal business but hard to build up the funds to do this. Perfect example: Finfun started out as a grandma hand-sewing tails. Her kids worked in marketing, came in, took over, built it like a full on business with a local factory (which actually saved their small town from unemployment) but it functions like a full on normal business. Employees, quality control, factory, various departments, etc. Mertailor is very close to this as well.” (Raina)

    Have a clear business plan; how are you going to raise starting capital and create a source of cash flow?
    “I do think pretty much no one starts their tail making businesses the way you would any other business. With a business plan, with starting capital. With mentors etc. When I published my third book I tried to press how much those items helped me with my business. I think they don't take the time to save money; everyone gets the idea and wants to go, go, go, and fall back on GoFundMe, etc.

    There ARE loads of business grants out there. It's weird how the community views them. A hater who trolls me bashes the fact that I won a grant for my business. It was a huge amount of work to earn it, and business grants are a normal part of entrepreneurship so I don't get why anyone would hate on them. But you can't qualify for them unless you have a business plan and register your business, etc.

    I think many are scared of the tax man too and don't know how to navigate that stuff. There's this incorrect belief out there in the mer world that you basically aren't a successful business unless your trade pays for everything all the time right away, and that's never how things work. It took me a few years before our company broke even (though we aren’t tail makers) and while my company generates between 40-50k+ a year right now, when you break it all down into what I invested and time spent etc and bills paid... lol. Interestingly enough, I ran a survey for my book where people could anonymously report their business income and next to Mermaid Linden I had the highest earning company at the time. (Excluding tail makers.)
    That's kinda sad when you think about it. I live in a real bad economy and if I moved we would easily bump that up another 25k. So when I see so many others spending so much but making way less, I think there's a big disconnect between the people wanting to be artists, but not having business skills.

    At Mermania we had a speaker on accounting/taxes. Everyone thinks they know what it takes to run a business but again I say so many really don't. I am constantly taking professional development, I belong to a center for women in business where I get mentorship, and I have an actual board of directors for my company and it makes a WORLD of difference. I can go to these groups with any issues I face. I also find having my own team of a lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent helps a lot. But it took years to build up the funds to be able to keep their consulting services. I also have the benefit that my co owner (my merwrangler) has a business degree with focus on entrepreneurship and his HR certificate. It helps a lot to rely on him for skills.

    "I guess what I'm trying to say is overall I think both mer companies and tail makers learn on the fly which isn't necessarily bad, but leaves people less prepared for some of these consistent issues. That's why it was so important to me with my 3rd book to make sure people are really considering all factors and coming up with plans. Even if those plans change.
    I think Finfolk is in make or break growing pains right now just like Mertailor was, and the only way to get to the next level is just to keep on pushing through!” (Raina)

    “Also, be realistic about your prices, and factor in the real cost of the time/effort. I don't make beaded tops anymore because I can't produce them at a price people want to pay, no matter how lovely they turned out.” (Dancing Fish)

    Tailmaking shouldn’t be your sole source of income. “To enter the field today, maybe investors and patrons are needed so creators don't starve while aiming high? It's possible that Mertailor survived because he was also known as a performer, and had an additional income stream from there. I'm reminded of Arnold Schwarzenegger—he was a real estate millionaire long before he got his big break acting. Rags-to-riches hustlers are inspiring, sure, but they're much rarer than those who start out with solid backing and a financial safety net.

    “Perhaps the industry is growing up, and standards and costs are growing too high for a sole proprietor to handle? It's worth considering; for some the answer might be early investment and patronage, so there's still income while the tails take as long as they need to build, and overheads and other costs are taken care of.

    “I don't think tails are Mazu's, the Mertailor's or any successful tailmakers' sole source of income -- and they shouldn't be. Even Finfolk are realising this, which is part of the reason they're diversifying into clothing and fabric tails, which are far easier to make and might serve as their bread and butter.” (Ransom)

    It’s harder than it seems at first.
    “As an artist, the idea of being a tailmaker sounds magical. Getting to work from home in a studio and getting to make customized wearable art for others sounds fintastic.

    “BUT... it isn't smooth sailing as others have said above. Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse. You have to be really good at self motivation. It might sound ridiculous that someone could get tired of making beautiful mermaid tails—but I can fully see it. Tailmakers might find themselves wanting time to explore other art forms but they are too busy making tails to learn about much else.” (Mermaid Alea)

    Be aware that commissions are very different from working for yourself.
    “Here is the thing, when you make a silicone tail for yourself it is usually a fun project you work on. Perhaps it is something you work on after work to de-stress and bring more magic/happiness into your life. It is your project for yourself and that makes it special. Once you start making tails for others as your job, it isn't going to be the same. You will have deadlines and other things you didn't have to worry about when it was just for fun.

    “I think it is hard to see tailmaking in this way. Every few days I check out a tailmaker's instagram and I think their photos are just so dreamy and that must be the life, etc. What you never see, and what can't be captured in a picture as easily, is all of the hard work and stress that it takes to get to that point.” (Mermaid Alea)

    “Budding young artists might not realize that working on commissions is a lot more stressful than making something for fun. You start out making your own tail, the pressure is low, expectations are high but still reasonable, and the final product is the coolest thing you've ever seen! You totally want to do it again, because it was really rewarding. Then you start taking commissions, and have to deal with customer expectations. The pressure to get everything perfect is huge!” (Dancing Fish)

    Learn to be creative on demand, even under great pressure.
    “After a few projects, you inevitably get that one customer who just will not be pleased with anything, and nothing you do will fix the problem, and they give you a terrible review despite your efforts to make them happy. It's definitely a tough gig, keeping spirits and creativity up in the face of criticism. Not to mention the outright fraudulent customers who will hold those bad reviews over your head until you cave and give them your hard work for free.

    “You also have to be OK with not getting a lot of any feedback, positive or negative, so if you're in it for the praise for your awesome work, you'll be disappointed. I hear back from maybe 30% of my customers. I hope the rest are happy, though I expect I'll get a bad review sooner or later, and I'm gearing myself up for it.

    “So I'd say that psychological resilience, and being able to force yourself to be creative on demand (not easy!), and being honest about progress when asked (instead of going radio silent) is a huge part of what makes some artists/businesses more successful. Budding businessfolk should really take an honest look at how they deal with high levels of anxiety before deciding this is a good idea for them.” (Dancing Fish)

    Set yourself apart as a unique tail-crafter.
    “This is certainly important now when you already have a few well established tailmakers - if your tails look very similar to say Finfolk's tails why would I buy from you when I could buy from the more experienced tailmaker? If your tails are groundbreaking in some way or the art style is very different then I would be more inclined to choose you over an established company.

    “For example, recently I came across Beauty and Brine Mermaid Tails: (https://www.facebook.com/beautyandbrinemermaidtails). I really appreciate how unique their tails look. The mix of colors and texture is very interesting.” (Mermaid Alea)

    Have a plan for dealing with customers from hell.
    “Because I used to help Raven with emails you'd be shocked at the amount of people who try to scam tail makers. I mean seriously shocked. There were cases of people just flat out making shit up trying to put pressure publicly for refunds. People who sign a terms of service and then break everything and threaten tail makers. Finding personal information and harassing tail makers constantly.

    “Where Raven is my friend I am sort of known for jumping to defend her, but it's because I usually know the "full" story because I was helping with things. All the emails, contracts, payments etc. It's downright shocking how much people will lie in this community in hopes of getting a free tail. And these people CHEW UP SO MUCH TIME and I'd say they're responsible for like 25% of delays.

    “The only way tail makers have learned to get around people like that is being selective about who they take on as a client, which makes some people mad.” (Raina)

    Develop the key parts of a successful business without getting overwhelmed.
    “Unless a tail maker is as lucky as Raven (people already know and got the expectation she works every possible moment and communicates if things are going way longer than expected), the low to almost communication rarely works for any businesses outside of tail making.

    “As long as there is a plan, constancy, communication, good customer service, and a price that reasonably matches quality; any business can be a success with all 5 of those. Fin Fun, Mazu, and Mermaid Linden. Mertailor started applying all 5 of those traits and their constant flow of customer for their spellbound tail is giving them a new form of profitability. (I know I should Finfolk but I'll edit this post to include them whenever that guy that waited over 3 years actually gets his tail, and their habit of little to almost no communication is why I didn't include them in that list.)

    “It's really all plan, constancy, communication, good customer service, and a price that reasonably matches quality. If you got those, it shouldn't be a problem to earn money. As the plan gets more streamlined, being able to survive off it will happen eventually. (Slim)

    Thanks for contributing, everyone!


    ORIGINAL POST

    Short version:

    Many high-end tailmakers seem to fail early on, or run into serious problems with their workload or customer base that affects their reputations and burns them out.

    Is the entire model even sustainable, and if not, what needs to be solved to make it so?

    Long version:

    I'm a silicone tail-dreamer and have been researching manufacturers in my spare time. Knowing people who've bought from such a range definitely helps!

    As an independent contractor for books and copywriting tho, I'm beginning to see many of the issues facing higher-end tailmakers in a cash-flow/customer satisfaction/quality of final product mindset.

    Beautiful as their work is, what I see are high-end tailmakers both established and new falling into the same ruts, over and over again -

    (1) Starting out, they take on too much work and deliver substandard work or burn out.

    (2) They begin production and complete a few tails, but customers get angry at delays and long periods of no-comms being the norm; or

    (3) They face customers who complain about the final product, and much time is spent on repairs and damage control.

    I'm sure you're more familiar with examples than I am. Because silicone tailmaking is such a specialised, high-demand skill (seriously, kudos to all who can do it), it needs a long time to get right.

    It seems that the barrier to entry is extremely high, competition is cutthroat, prices fall to stay competitive, leading to cash flow issues...

    And too many talented people simply crash and burn under the workload. Worse, customers get wind of the inefficiencies, and their reputation suffers. (Cue drama and MN mod and admin headaches.)

    Would love to start this thread to address the unique business issues that tailmakers face. Hopefully, new ones enter the market with their eyes open, and avoid the pitfalls that trip so many up.

    So let's try to answer these questions:

    What business realities do new tail-crafters need to know before they start?

    What moves from established, successful players have you seen to work?

    Are silicone tails priced too high, too low or just nicely, and the issue lies elsewhere?

    Might better marketing and customer education work, and what'd be the effect on tailmakers' business?

    Of course, corrections, case studies and theoreticals are most welcome Please be diplomatic though.
    Last edited by Ransom; 11-17-2017 at 12:11 PM. Reason: Added summary
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  2. #2
    I am not a tailmaker of any sort, so I am purely speaking from observation. What I see is that a lot of new tailmakers don't make it for the pure, simple reason that people aren't prepared to give them a chance. A business doesn't start up easily or quickly; it takes time, money and effort, and there are lots of bumps in the road and delays to start off with. For those new tailmakers who are genuinely trying to give it a shot, it can be difficult because they are automatically faced with criticism from those who wonder why things aren't happening any faster. And yes, quite rightly, people should be cautious because there has been a lot of scamming in the past. But it's sad to see a new tailmaker give up purely because they lacked support from their peers and therefore decided it wasn't worth the hassle and the public criticism.

    I don't really know how to answer the questions you posed. But I guess in terms of the first question - new tailmakers need to know that creating a business can involve having to get through a lot of red tape, meaning things can be very slow at the start. They should be prepared for this, and more importantly, be open and honest about it. There's no point in claiming "I can do this by _" and then leaving someone wondering for weeks or months what the heck is going on.
    Glinda Rose
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    True, tho even famous tailmakers like Finfolk slip up in this area too. The infamous drama with Raven too -- some things are just too much for one person.

    Hiring additional team members or taking on apprentices might work, but again their cash flow has to justify it. If it can't, that circles back to the sustainability question.
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glinda Rose View Post
    I am not a tailmaker of any sort, so I am purely speaking from observation. What I see is that a lot of new tailmakers don't make it for the pure, simple reason that people aren't prepared to give them a chance. A business doesn't start up easily or quickly; it takes time, money and effort, and there are lots of bumps in the road and delays to start off with. For those new tailmakers who are genuinely trying to give it a shot, it can be difficult because they are automatically faced with criticism from those who wonder why things aren't happening any faster. And yes, quite rightly, people should be cautious because there has been a lot of scamming in the past. But it's sad to see a new tailmaker give up purely because they lacked support from their peers and therefore decided it wasn't worth the hassle and the public criticism.

    I don't really know how to answer the questions you posed. But I guess in terms of the first question - new tailmakers need to know that creating a business can involve having to get through a lot of red tape, meaning things can be very slow at the start. They should be prepared for this, and more importantly, be open and honest about it. There's no point in claiming "I can do this by _" and then leaving someone wondering for weeks or months what the heck is going on.
    Btw Glinda, how're things with Nim? Hope it's all well with her and your dream tail arrives soon!
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  5. #5
    Yeah things are good thanks, now that the company stuff is sorted she's resumed my tail project again. So excited.
    Glinda Rose
    A.K.A. Your Bubbliness

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  6. #6
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    After watching the last 9 years I know that the ones who are successful are REALLY successful, but it has taken a lot to get through that wall of burnout. Here are some of my observations

    -Mertailor almost went bankrupt and had to downsize several times before he was able to expand to the giant level he is now
    -Tail makers have to take on quite a few tails at once to be able to sustain a living while also paying for materials
    -The issue with other staff helping is reflected in poor quality control
    -Raven (and I say this as her friend) does pretty much nothing but make tails. She's been hospitalized because of it, misses major holidays, and doesn't see family
    - customer service is a subjective concept IMO in this community. we often make demands of tail makers that you wouldn't in any other field including other custom fields
    -Many in the mer community do not have an accurate expectation IMO as well
    -Success seems to come when they make the leap to larger staff and operate more like a formal business but hard to build up the funds to do this. Perfect example: Finfun started out as a grandma hand sewing tails. Her kids worked in marketing, came in, took over, built is like a full on business with a local factory (which actually saved their small town from unemployment) but it functions like a full on normal business. Employees, quality control, factory, various departments etc. Mertailor is very close to this as well.
    -We all think we know what it takes to "fix" common issues with having a tail making business but I can't tell you how many I've watched who touted this, fail. The truth is, you really DON'T know until you try to do it.
    -Many start selling products before they're ready. Raven took YEARS perfecting her craft before launching a business.
    -Some take shortcuts to speed up the process and it shows. One well known tail maker took apart another tail makers tails to try and learn how to make them, and by skipping all that development, it took them years to fix very basic issues.

    The ones who fail all seem to do so because they can't maintain a consistent level of quality, take on more than they can handle, or flat out scam people.

    A few examples:

    FishButts- made their tails out of low quality materials. Were very popular because of their low price point, but people still expected higher quality despite the low cost. Eventually they took off with people's money and those people never got tails.

    Adam Martyn- based his whole reputation on these youtube videos he created early on. Had an amazing website, but never really seemed to actually have any customers. He'd just sell off the tails he created for videos. Ended up taking loads of money from people and taking off.

    MermaidsRus- again, low quality materials, no improvement or quality control, touting a known dangerous material as safe

    Mermaid Creations- extremely heavy tails, didn't really understand how to paint (poured layers of colours instead of painting) mixed materials by adding latex permawet ontop of silicone, ended up taking orders he couldn't fufill and running off with money

    Foxmoon- The first fabric tail makers that I know of, been making tails a long time, but didn't evolve with the process (stuck with bi-fins instead of monofins) and quite honestly, more innovative tail makers like finfun came along and that was it.
    Last edited by AniaR; 11-10-2017 at 12:39 PM. Reason: typo

  7. #7
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    I will also say because I used to help raven with emails you'd be shocked at the amount of people who try to scam tail makers. I mean seriously shocked. There were cases of people just flat out making shit up trying to put pressure publicly for refunds. People who sign a terms of service and then break everything and threaten tail makers. Finding personal information and harassing tail makers constantly.

    Where Raven is my friend I am sort of known for jumping to defend her, but it's because I usually know the "full" story because I was helping with things. All the emails, contracts, payments etc. It's downright shocking how much people will lie in this community in hopes of getting a free tail. And these people CHEW UP SO MUCH TIME and I'd say they're responsible for like 25% of delays.

    The only way tail makers have learned to get around people like that is being selective about who they take on as a client, which makes some people mad.

  8. #8
    I don't know how much this is a factor, but another variable is that budding young artists might not realize that working on commissions is a lot more stressful than making something for fun. You start out making your own tail, the pressure is low, expectations are high but still reasonable, and the final product is the coolest thing you've ever seen! You totally want to do it again, because it was really rewarding. Then you start taking commissions, and have to deal with customer expectations. The pressure to get everything perfect is huge! And after a few projects, you inevitably get that one customer who just will not be pleased with anything, and nothing you do will fix the problem, and they give you a terrible review despite your efforts to make them happy. It's definitely a tough gig, keeping spirits and creativity up in the face of criticism. Not to mention the outright fraudulent customers who will hold those bad reviews over your head until you cave and give them your hard work for free (see above). You also have to be OK with not getting a lot of any feedback, positive or negative, so if you're in it for the praise for your awesome work, you'll be disappointed. I hear back from maybe 30% of my customers. I hope the rest are happy, though I expect I'll get a bad review sooner or later, and I'm gearing myself up for it.

    So I'd say that psychological resilience, and being able to force yourself to be creative on demand (not easy!), and being honest about progress when asked (instead of going radio silent) is a huge part of what makes some artists/businesses more successful. Budding businessfolk should really take an honest look at how they deal with high levels of anxiety before deciding this is a good idea for them.

    (Also being realistic about your prices, and factoring in the real cost of the time/effort. I don't make beaded tops anymore because I can't produce them at a price people want to pay, no matter how lovely they turned out.)
    Beautiful beaded tops and silicone fins and flukes for enhancing your tail at my Etsy shop: Fancy Fish Fashions!
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Thanks for the detailed look into things, Raina! Some comments on this, which I feel really capture the struggle starting out -

    "Tail makers have to take on quite a few tails at once to be able to sustain a living while also paying for materials
    -The issue with other staff helping is reflected in poor quality control
    -Raven (and I say this as her friend) does pretty much nothing but make tails. She's been hospitalized because of it, misses major holidays, and doesn't see family."

    Maybe I'm wrong, but if you're struggling to survive it can be difficult to give your best and command a higher rate.

    That small amount from customers needs to be spent on materials and daily expenses, and there's always the temptation to take just one more job to pay the bills. Combined, those jobs swallow all your time with very little return. (I know the feeling from experience as a freelancer.)

    And that doesn't even include customers from hell, as Raina pointed out. Egads.

    To enter the field today, maybe investors and patrons are needed so creators don't starve while aiming high? It's possible that Mertailor survived because he was also known as a performer, and had an additional income stream from there. I'm reminded of Arnold Schwarzenegger -- he was a real estate millionaire long before he got his big break acting. Rags-to-riches hustlers are inspiring, sure, but they're much rarer than those who start out with solid backing and a financial safety net.

    Perhaps the industry is growing up, and standards and costs are growing too high for a sole proprietor to handle? It's worth considering; for some the answer might be early investment and patronage, so there's still income while the tails take as long as they need to build, and overheads and other costs are taken care of.

    Thanks for your input as well, Dancing Fish! It'll do a lot to build customer confidence as well, so new tailmakers can create a supportive fan-base early on. I guess price realism might also be an issue, and our rates need to accurately reflect the work put in.
    Last edited by Ransom; 11-10-2017 at 11:52 AM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Again, none of this is from tailmaking experience, but only what I've studied in independent business and (rightly or wrongly) see at work here.
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  11. #11
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    I do think pretty much no one starts their tail making businesses the way you would any other business. With a business plan, with starting capital. With mentors etc. When I published my third book I tried to press how much those items helped me with my business. I think they don't take the time to save money, everyone gets the idea and wants to go go go and falls back on gofundme etc. There ARE loads of business grants out there. It's weird how the community views them. A hater who trolls me bashes the fact that I won a grant for my business. It was a huge amount of work to earn it, and business grants are a normal part of entrepreneurship so I don't get why anyone would hate on them. But you can't qualify for them unless you have a business plan and register your business etc, I think many are scared of the tax man too and don't know how to navigate that stuff. There's this incorrect belief out there in the mer world that you basically aren't a successful business unless your trade pays for everything all the time right away, and that's never how things work. It took me a few years before our company broke even (though we arent tail makers) and while my company generates between 40-50k+ a year right now, when you break it all down into what I invested and time spent etc and bills paid... lol interestingly enough I ran a survey for my book where people could anonymously report their business income and next to Mermaid Linden I had the highest earning company at the time. (excluding tail makers). That's kinda sad when you think about it. I live in a real bad economy and if I moved we would easily bump that up another 25k. So when I see so many others spending so much but making way less, I think there's a big disconnect between the people wanting to be artists, but not having business skills.

    At mermania we had a speaker on accounting/taxes and he gave out a handout

    Everyone thinks they know what it takes to run a business but again I say so many really don't. I am constantly taking professional development, I belong to a center for women in business where I get mentorship, and I have an actual board of directors for my company and it makes a WORLD of difference. I can go to these groups with any issues I face. I also find having my own team of a lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent helps a lot. But it took years to build up the funds to be able to keep their consulting services. I also have the benefit that my co owner (my merwrangler) has a business degree with focus on entrepreneurship and his HR certificate. It helps a lot to rely on him for skills.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is overall I think both mer companies and tail makers learn on the fly which isn't necessarily bad, but leaves people less prepared for some of these consistent issues. That's why it was so important to me with my 3rd book to make sure people are really considering all factors and coming up with plans. Even if those plans change.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Pod of The South Slim's Avatar
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    How I see is some tail makers just automatically jump into making tails for other without a plan and they become overwhelm. It could be sustainable once there is a method setup to keep things in order. Using 2 example of doing things right and not doing things right is Mazu and Nim. Mazu already created a couple tails of her own and knew the in and out of her style and she is constantly making tails with great communication and happy customers. Nim I thought for sure would be the next breakout tail making and she would be making great tails for customers but I'm not seeing that at the moment. Instead, I'm seeing that Nim is near impossible to get a hold of with new delays left and right. Reflecting back on her tail making thread, she might had overwhelm herself taking more than one person on making tail for after spending almost 2 years of her making a tail for herself. That the impression Nim is leaving with her not communicating herself and impression is a form of free advertising in the future. I'm still confused with Nim thread on who tail she is making (No offense Glinda or the other customer). Unless a tail maker is as lucky as Raven (people already know and got the expectation she works every possible moment and communicates if things are going way longer than expected), the low to almost communication rarely works for any businesses outside of tail making.

    As long as there is plan, constancy, communication, good customer service, and a price that reasonably matches quality; any business can be a success with all 5 of those. Fin Fun, Mazu, and Mermaid Linden. Mertailor started applying all 5 of those traits and their constant flow of customer for their spellbound tail is giving them a new form of profitability. I know I should Finfolk but I'll edit this post to include them whenever that guy that waited over 3 years actually get his tail and that little to almost no communication is why I didn't include them in that list.

    It's really all plan, constancy, communication, good customer service, and a price that reasonably matches quality. If you got those, it shouldn't be a problem to earn money. As the plan get more streamlined, being able to survive of it it will happen eventually. Although it's unrelated, it does worry me a bit that there is enough tail making company that shares payment with other people and friends to help communicate. I understand there reason like to help address a concern with someone online as the tail maker may be busy however that setting a standard that PII (personal identifiable information) is not being protected as it should. My worry is it may leave that person as a target to get hacked by a total stranger as that information isn't safeguarded as one hope it is.
    Last edited by Slim; 11-10-2017 at 01:20 PM.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    I think Finfolk is in make or break growing pains right now just like Mertailor was, and the only way to get to the next level is just to keep on pushing through!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Slim View Post
    Nim I thought for sure would be the next breakout tail making and she would be making great tails for customers but I'm not seeing that at the moment. Instead, I'm seeing that Nim is near impossible to get a hold of with new delays left and right. Reflecting back on her tail making thread, she might had overwhelm herself taking more than one person on making tail for after spending almost 2 years of her making a tail for herself. That the impression Nim is leaving with her not communicating herself and impression is a form of free advertising in the future. I'm still confused with Nim thread on who tail she is making (No offense Glinda or the other customer).
    To clarify: Nim is making both tails right now. As far as I'm aware we're the only two currently, so I don't see a reason for her to become overwhelmed.

    I can't speak on her behalf for when/why she chooses to post or not post on the forum. However, she asked me to help her out with some of the online stuff because I tend to be more active online, and if for some reason there is a communication issue I can pass it on to her.

    The reason for delays in the past was due to needing to set up a company (so basically, legal reasons, which took months to deal with). That is now sorted, the papers have arrived and she is back onto the tail making. Meaning hopefully things are going to be much smoother than before.

    Hope that helps a bit.
    Glinda Rose
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Thanks Glinda and Slim! It's still early in Nim's tailmaking career, so she can still adjust her course before taking on more work. Hopefully then she'll be able to get in touch more.

    I don't think tails are Mazu's, the Mertailor's or any successful tailmakers' sole source of income -- and they shouldn't be. Even Finfolk are realising this, which is part of the reason they're diversifying into clothing and fabric tails, which are far easier to make and might serve as their bread and butter.
    Last edited by Ransom; 11-10-2017 at 08:41 PM.
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  16. #16
    I think setting yourself apart from other tailmakers is really important. This is certainly important now when you already have a few well established tailmakers - if your tails look very similar to say Finfolk's tails why would I buy from you when I could buy from the more experienced tailmaker? If your tails are groundbreaking in some way or the art style is very different then I would be more inclined to choose you over an established company.

    For example, recently I came across Beauty and Brine Mermaid tails: https://www.facebook.com/beautyandbrinemermaidtails/
    I really appreciate how unique their tails look. The mix of colors and texture is very interesting.

    As an artist, the idea of being a tailmaker sounds magical. Getting to work from home in a studio and getting to make customized wearable art for others sounds fintastic. Especially considering my current job doesn't allow for any creativity. BUT...It isn't smooth sailing as others have said above. Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse. You have to be really good at self motivation. It might sound ridiculous that someone could get tired of making beautiful mermaid tails - but I can fully see it. Tailmakers might find themselves wanting time to explore other art forms but they are too busy making tails to learn about much else.

    Also, in reply to what Dancing Fish said:
    Here is the thing, when you make a silicone tail for yourself it is usually a fun project you work on. Perhaps it is something you work on after work to de-stress and bring more magic/happiness into your life. It is your project for yourself and that makes it special. Once you start making tails for others as your job, it isn't going to be the same. You will have deadlines and other things you didn't have to worry about when it was just for fun.

    I think it is hard to see tailmaking in this way. Every few days I check out a tailmaker's instagram and I think their photos are just so dreamy and that must be the life, etc. What you never see, and what can't be captured in a picture as easily, is all of the hard work and stress that it takes to get to that point.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    Quite right, Alea! When we turn a hobby into a business, that's very easy to forget. It's one of the sources of the 'starving artist' myth.
    "Only in death does duty end." -- Warhammer 40,000

  18. #18
    Senior Member Ransom's Avatar
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    I'll be summarising the (amazing) points here and editing the opening post soon. Thanks everyone!

    If you've a case study of how and when you expanded and took on sustainable work, or found a great side hustle or team member, I'd love to hear it too.
    Last edited by Ransom; 11-13-2017 at 01:23 AM. Reason: Unable to do it same day.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Pod of The South Slim's Avatar
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    It's time to add Freshwater_Nim to this list

    https://mernetwork.com/index/showthr...r-Nim&p=308703

    Quote Originally Posted by AniaR View Post
    After watching the last 9 years I know that the ones who are successful are REALLY successful, but it has taken a lot to get through that wall of burnout. Here are some of my observations

    -Mertailor almost went bankrupt and had to downsize several times before he was able to expand to the giant level he is now
    -Tail makers have to take on quite a few tails at once to be able to sustain a living while also paying for materials
    -The issue with other staff helping is reflected in poor quality control
    -Raven (and I say this as her friend) does pretty much nothing but make tails. She's been hospitalized because of it, misses major holidays, and doesn't see family
    - customer service is a subjective concept IMO in this community. we often make demands of tail makers that you wouldn't in any other field including other custom fields
    -Many in the mer community do not have an accurate expectation IMO as well
    -Success seems to come when they make the leap to larger staff and operate more like a formal business but hard to build up the funds to do this. Perfect example: Finfun started out as a grandma hand sewing tails. Her kids worked in marketing, came in, took over, built is like a full on business with a local factory (which actually saved their small town from unemployment) but it functions like a full on normal business. Employees, quality control, factory, various departments etc. Mertailor is very close to this as well.
    -We all think we know what it takes to "fix" common issues with having a tail making business but I can't tell you how many I've watched who touted this, fail. The truth is, you really DON'T know until you try to do it.
    -Many start selling products before they're ready. Raven took YEARS perfecting her craft before launching a business.
    -Some take shortcuts to speed up the process and it shows. One well known tail maker took apart another tail makers tails to try and learn how to make them, and by skipping all that development, it took them years to fix very basic issues.

    The ones who fail all seem to do so because they can't maintain a consistent level of quality, take on more than they can handle, or flat out scam people.

    A few examples:

    FishButts- made their tails out of low quality materials. Were very popular because of their low price point, but people still expected higher quality despite the low cost. Eventually they took off with people's money and those people never got tails.

    Adam Martyn- based his whole reputation on these youtube videos he created early on. Had an amazing website, but never really seemed to actually have any customers. He'd just sell off the tails he created for videos. Ended up taking loads of money from people and taking off.

    MermaidsRus- again, low quality materials, no improvement or quality control, touting a known dangerous material as safe

    Mermaid Creations- extremely heavy tails, didn't really understand how to paint (poured layers of colours instead of painting) mixed materials by adding latex permawet ontop of silicone, ended up taking orders he couldn't fufill and running off with money

    Foxmoon- The first fabric tail makers that I know of, been making tails a long time, but didn't evolve with the process (stuck with bi-fins instead of monofins) and quite honestly, more innovative tail makers like finfun came along and that was it.
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  20. #20
    This thread was super-interesting but almost two years old now....curious who else would be added to the list during that time, or if anybody who started up during that time is doing things right as an example.
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