Today’s Journal entry comes in the form of an announcement: I have closed my Red Bubble shop.

Red Bubble tshirt with red not allowed sign

You had a Red Bubble shop?

The fact that you had to ask is partly the issue. I have not been able to devote sufficient time and creative energy to that shop and it was a little underwhelming with regards to the amount of stock it carried. Really, I wasn’t offering much to you via my Red Bubble shop and you, the customer, were responding with understandable indifference.

With no immediate signs that the situation would change, closing the shop became something I had to consider.

Does this mean you’re not selling t-shirts and phone cases anymore?

In reality, I wasn’t selling any t-shirts or phone cases anyway, despite them being listed on Red Bubble. But, yes, I have currently removed myself from those markets by closing my Red Bubble shop.

I like the opportunities that come with t-shirt design and I will now look for other options in that area. As soon as I have found an alternative way of offering these to you, I will make sure to let you know. You could always sign up for my newsletter to be kept up-to-speed with the latest news coming out of Recycled Words.

As for phone cases, I’m afraid I cannot get too excited by them. They were a cool way of expanding my product range via Red Bubble, but I am not currently looking at a replacement outlet for phone case designs.

You still have another shop, right?

My Etsy shop was always my “main” shop and carried the range of products that I create myself. This includes greeting cards, art prints, and photo prints.

The Etsy shop is very much still up-and-running, and will continue to have new stock added on a regular basis. Just this week, for example, these colourful cards were added to the range available on Etsy.

Flower photography blank greeting card magnolia camellia crinodendron

Doing the right thing

The deciding factor, however, wasn’t the lack of time I had to devote to this shop. It came down, in the end, to ensuring I was running my business in the right way.

Over the last week, I have spent far longer than I would ever have wished poring over the finer details of insurance contracts and various terms and conditions. Why? Because I need to ensure that, when I enter into business with another organisation, I am able to fulfill all of the requirements of our agreement. I have been burned by this, and my own inability to check the details of an insurance contract (something I will return to in this Journal – keep an eye out for the next gripping installment of When Insurance Goes Bad), and I found that I had fallen short of the standards I set for myself.

Sometimes things happen. Whether it be by wilful or malicious intent (which is not a stated business practice of mine) or by unfortunate accident, issues can arise. That is why we take out insurance, so that these unforeseen issues are covered should they occur. And insurers, in turn, are keen to ensure that they only take on risk that is reasonable.

In short, having waded through a lot of legalese, I decided that there was a very real risk that my insurance policy would not cover me if there was ever a claim brought against me regarding something that I sold through Red Bubble.

Could that happen?

It is a question that every artist selling through Red Bubble should ask.

Say, for example, that another artist claimed that I had copied his or her design for one of my t-shirts. I can be confident that I hadn’t copied it, because that is not the way I run my business, but there is every chance that the claim could still end up in court. Perhaps the designs were coincidentally similar, or perhaps the other person was just trying it on. It doesn’t really matter, because a court case incurs costs whether I ultimately win or not. Just receiving a solicitor’s letter will probably end up costing me something.

So I have taken out insurance, Professional Indemnity Insurance, to cover this risk.

Except, that insurance has limits. Specifically, it will not cover me for issues arising in North America. And where is Red Bubble based? Yep, the good old US of A. The Red Bubble User Agreement specifically states that all disputes will be subject to Californian law. You know, that California. The one in the States.

But no one is going to sue you

Probably not. After all, I am not in the habit of stealing other people’s designs. There is a very good chance that I could happily sell through Red Bubble for years and I would never have a problem.

However…

The User Agreement that a seller signs requires them to indemnify Red Bubble against any claims. This is an agreement to say that the designer/artist/person-like-me agrees that any claim made against Red Bubble will be covered by that person, not by Red Bubble. And I want to run my business in the right way. I want to ensure that anything I sign up to is something that I can fulfill. To do otherwise, in my mind, is to not run my business in an ethical way.

And, having worked through the details of my insurance with my insurers, I cannot say that I am able to provide that indemnity. In which case, it is not right for me to continue to run a shop through Red Bubble. So I’m not. I’m closing my doors. The shop has gone.

I did not know that…

Starting up as a sole trader with my own small business has been an incredibly steep learning curve. There are all sorts of things to consider and I can say with confidence that I didn’t get them all right from day one.

But it is important to keep reassessing what I am doing and to always aim to do business in the right way. If I find I am falling short, then I will change what I’m doing.

And, if sharing my experiences here can help other people starting out with their own business, then even better. So I will continue to pepper some small business/what I’ve done wrong/new start-up posts throughout this Journal, alongside pictures of enormous apes, “how-to” help and hints, and all the other news and views from Recycled Words.


Absolutely nothing in the above Journal post should be taken as advice on either contract law or insurance, other than the common sense advice to have a good read through your own insurance documentation and to fully understand what is in any terms and conditions you sign. I am not an expert in these matters (clearly!) and you should make your own decisions about what is right for you.

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The (Red) Bubble bursts
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