Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 53/365 Life as an Online Bookseller, or, Maybe We Did Annex Canada, and I Just Missed It

This morning I find myself staring at an bidder’s email, wondering how to convince him that Canada is not, in fact, included in the US postal system, and that he WILL need to pay the international shipping rate in order to receive his book. This is the third set of emails we have exchanged on this topic; he is convinced he is right.

At times like this I find myself wondering if this self-employed, buck-stops-here , online bookseller job is all it’s cracked up to be. Sales are down, sell-through rate is down, purchase price is down; non-paying bidders are up, fees are up, need I go on?

Thinking back to my days as a corporate slave I had it pretty good: clockwork paychecks, yearly raises and cost of living increases, free health insurance, five weeks of paid vacation, one week of sick leave, disability coverage, company car… why did I leave? What on earth possessed me to do that?

I should mention it has taken me almost ten years to get to the point where I even briefly wonder why I exchanged that comfortable existence for an online seller’s somewhat more tenuous life. After fourteen years, piles of excellent job reviews, letters of commendation, etc., our division became the momentary stopping point for a corporate climber, one of those medium-size fish who feed on smaller ones as they swim to the top of the tank to play with the sharks.

My boss, a couple years away from retirement, and himself a major target for dismissal, was expressing his concerns about this fishy situation we found ourselves in—and, I, in all the wisdom of my fourteen year career, said, Don’t sweat it—it’s only a job, bottom line is he can’t do anything to you to touch anything that’s really important. Hearing that he asks me,
What’s really important to you? And without any hesitation at all, or really any thought, I said: My daughter’s smile.

As long as I get to see that smile every night when I come home, from where ever, the rest is icing on the cake.

A year later, I had to back that up, when the bigger fish came after me.

And I was absolutely right. Even on days when I am called upon to explain that Canada, in truth, is not an extension of the U.S. postal system, my no-frills, self-employed online bookseller job beats that corporate slave job by a mile. I have no paid vacation, no sick leave, no health insurance, no ‘reliable source’ of income, no one to pass the buck to when a mistake is made, more days than I can count when I have little to no money for groceries and I am perpetually keeping my fingers crossed hoping some bidder will paypal me before my check for the electric hits the bank.

But then there is that beautiful smile, hand in hand with the priceless gift of time. I’m not at the office, or in the car driving home. I’m available whenever she needs me, not just on scheduled
vacation days or evenings after my paperwork’s done. I arrange my working hours so they occupy their proper place, which is secondary to the rest of life, not the main event.

Until I received this payment in time, I had no idea it was so valuable or that I would have to learn to enjoy it. It is truly one of the best-kept , and most appreciated, secrets of being an self-employed online seller.


  1. Excellent commentary (as always). Too bad more people don't realize that until it's too late and they're all grown up.