The Digital Artisan: A Manifesto for Crafting A New World

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We’re witnessing a revival in everything from small-batch coffee roasting to artisanal cheesemaking; from bakers incorporating local, heirloom grains to potters hand-building plates with regional clay. We’ve returned to an appreciation of slow food and slow fashion. Some of the most popular sites on the Internet are teaching us how to ferment our own kimchi or brew our own beer or build our own tiny homes. There’s an emphasis on sustainability, self-sufficiency, integrity, and beauty.

Intentionality and mindfulness are at the heart of the maker movement. Ethics are built into the business model; processes and supply chains are transparent. These small maker businesses all over the world are cultivating deep loyalty and sustained interest from niche customer bases. They’ve been the backbone of sites like Etsy and Instagram. Something about these type of businesses has caught the culture by storm.

We love the maker movement. Artisans have captured our hearts and appeal to the most curious, soulful, and earnest parts of ourselves.

But...there’s no reason that we, as online makers, cannot incorporate the same elements into our own businesses. The Internet is the greatest opportunity we’ve ever known, but when used mindlessly (or maliciously) it can be the most dangerous creation in human history. Digital artisanship, this idea of taking the standards and principles of the offline artisan revival onto the Internet, recalibrates us to both leverage our strengths and to recognize what truly matters. Digital artisanship is the marriage of financial sustainability, the ability to grow an idea at scale, and soul-deep satisfaction.

WE WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE PEOPLE SEE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A SACRED DUTY.

Business schools and Internet marketers aren’t teaching people how to be conscious entrepreneurs, but we can teach each other. We can share lessons learned instead of guarding secrets. We can remember that being the cheapest or the loudest or the fastest will almost never spark sustainable success. We can’t beat multinational corporations or unicorn startups at their own games, and we shouldn’t want to.

Those of us working in the digital space need to see ourselves as stewards, guides, and leaders. As pioneers of the new economy, we have a higher duty to imbue our work with intentionality.

After five years of immersion into this type of entrepreneurship, we’ve learned a few things. Here’s the advice we’d like to share with our fellow founders, distilled into 23 suggestions for building an intentional business online.

These are the practices of Digital Artisanship:

  1. Identify your core values early. These will be your touchstone and will help you to navigate every difficult decision.

  2. Ask why. Daily. Don’t assume that what’s been right for others is right for you.

  3. Build it well. Quality matters. Strive to be an artisan with your work—whether you’re making soap or outlining an online course.

  4. Curiosity is essential. Your ability to approach problems with wonder will carry you through.

  5. Audit your supply chain. Prioritize your values over what’s cheap or convenient or fast. Hire the people whose work you want to see more of in the world.

  6. Embrace niching. This will be the key to your financial success. Understand a specific group of people and serve them well.

  7. Value relationships over transactions. Treat your employees, contractors, and suppliers with trust and respect.

  8. Demand fair prices from your customers. Avoid the negative energetic exchange that fuels resentment.

  9. Pay fair wages to your team. Honor the community by respecting someone’s training and expertise.

  10. Embrace the long game. Slow down. Build in buffers. It always takes longer than you think. An idea, when followed through with consistent action, can create tremendous financial liberation.

  11. Be mindful of interconnectivity, the larger ecosystem, and ripple effects.  What we do affects others (and our future selves).

  12. Embrace a culture of responsible generosity. Infuse your business practices with service and philanthropy, but not to a point that it drains you or breeds resentment. You know when you’re overextended. You know when you have more to give.

  13. Trust your intuition. Eliminate the tasks that some advisor or random Instagram post told you that you “should” be doing.

  14. Do what’s right instead of what’s easy. Treat leadership like a sacred duty. (If you’re reading this, you’re a leader.)

  15. Look beyond profit and growth. Money is a metric of success, but not the only one.

  16. Tell your story. Encourage others to tell theirs.

  17. Amplify the work of others. Use your platform to showcase the voices that you respect and admire.

  18. Connect with real human beings. Networking will get you off the ground in the beginning and it will accelerate your success as you grow.

  19. Value your offline life. Carve out analog space. It will refuel you.

  20. Speak up. Your voice matters. You won’t get there by playing small. Bravery is inextricably linked to your success.

  21. Nobody does it alone. Find the people who will celebrate your victories and pull you out of those inevitable dips and struggles.

  22. You can figure it out. You don’t know it all and you never will. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

  23. Know that success is possible for you. It make take longer or look differently than you expect. It’s worth it.

WE WANT YOUR HELP…

Collectively, we have an opportunity to impact how this evolving economy shifts, to drive it in a more intentional direction. Please share these #digitalartisan practices with your people. Let’s build a world where entrepreneurship equates to creativity, service, and sustainability.

We need your voice.