Making a difference: A thread

This is me thinking out loud about what it means to make a difference. Epic 🧡

First and foremost, I'm a business owner. I'm a business owner who's marginalized: I'm very fat, I'm a woman, and I'm autistic.

I talk about my business offerings a lot. Almost every post has some sort of call to action — subscribe to my newsletter (where I sell stuff, in addition to free writing)! Book a session! Schedule a call! Buy a thing from my shop!

If I were any more promotional, no one would ever follow me. And yet it seems that so few people actually know that I'm a business and not a charity.

This is important because I'm not funded by anything except the proceeds from my business.

No grants or anything, just me, like any other small business owner.

It's interesting to watch how often people consume me — often without ever realizing I offer products and services — and then seek out someone with the same offerings, but thinner, to pay.

People were so lovely and supportive after my last post on Insta about social media, business and weight stigma, but all the comments about "You're making a difference!" got me thinking.

While I know you're all well intentioned, a dozen comments about making a difference almost felt like being offered a consolation prize. No one finds your work valuable enough to pay for, but at least you're otherwise useful!

Making a difference is tremendously important to me. When I left my corporate career, I could have started a mainstream photography business and only put aspirational bodies in my portfolio and made vague bopo noises while photoshopping away people's fat rolls.

I went in the other direction so that I *could* make a difference. But I can't pay my mortgage in difference.

In that comment thread, people were even telling me they *need* my work to exist. If you need it to exist, shouldn't you be paying for it so that the people making it happen can keep doing it?

When privileged people choose to do something that makes a difference in addition to running their business, we appreciate it as an *addition* to running their business. We don't expect them to be doing it instead of having a business.

(Relevant here because often, people get annoyed or even angry with marginalized people for talking about their paid work instead of just giving knowledge and labor and goods away endlessly.)

For so long I gaslit myself about my own business. If I wasn't booking photography clients or selling stock photos or shop products, clearly it was because I needed to work harder. Or longer hours. Or be more appealing on social media. Or mask my autism more.

Or add yet another marketing tactic to my workload. Or add yet another product or service to the dozen I already offered.

And I'd look around me and make up stories in my head about all the people I saw in smaller bodies who were clearly just more driven, ambitious, talented and hard-working than I was, because their businesses thrived when mine didn't.

In theory, marketing is a meritocracy. Do this thing in that way, and you'll get this result. Do enough of those things in the right way enough times, and you'll get sales.

For those who aren't familiar with modern inbound marketing (the kind where you put out content that brings people in), here's briefly and roughly how it works:

Great content –> site visitors/newsletter subscribers –> sales

People who run businesses generally don't put out social media content just because we want to. It's part of our marketing. It's what brings in customers and drives revenue.

In my corporate marketing life, it did indeed work that way, as it was supposed to. And customers never saw the writer who was bringing in millions' worth of deals.

But in the small business world, what I see — in my own marketing, and in others' — is the marginalized folks working four times as hard and putting out way more content than everyone else for a quarter of the sales, while being congratulated for making a difference.

But again, we can't pay our mortgages with that. We burn out. We die from abuse and neglect and preventable, treatable, avoidable health issues.

We go back to our old jobs so we can make rent, and it's not because we're doing it wrong or don't have offerings that are just as valuable as anyone else's.

It's strange how often I feel like I'm begging for business. That shouldn't be the case at all. I'm excellent at what I do, and I charge prices that are a living wage for me and a good value for my clients and customers.

Even my Patreon is a good value for the money. So why do I feel like advertising my offerings is begging for support, other than pervasive cultural tropes that tell us women and other marginalized people who are also activists or artists aren't to be taken seriously or paid?

The same forces that drive us to reassure others that it's okay, at least we're making a difference?

I live on the internet too, and I know it's not possible for us to financially support everyone whose content we enjoy. But what if we stopped thinking about marginalized activists and creators as library books and thought of them as the businesses they are? (see feed for more)

Originally tweeted by Lindley Ashline (she/her) πŸŒ»πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ (@lindleyashline) on March 8, 2022.

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.