The biggest business mistake I ever made

What's the worst mistake you've made (so far) with the empire and how did you fix it, prevent it in the future, learn from it?

This is going to be an incredibly unpopular answer, but my biggest mistake was starting the Offbeat Bride Tribe.

I started it on a whim as a way to test out a platform I was curious about, and I have regretted it ever since because A) community platforms suck and B) community management is emotionally difficult for me.

Now, let me be clear: the Tribe is a very happy mistake! 20,000 of you love it deeply and passionately, and that love totally outweighs my personal issues with forums. It's totally worth it because you guys love it. But oh man, it has been really hard for me.

See, forums just are not my scene. I'm a blogger, not a community manager. I get deeply anxious over members fighting (like upset to the point of sweating, my heart racing, and shaking hands), frustrated by duplicate posts, baffled by people posting in the wrong place, and I bang my head over answering the same questions over and over again.

Business-wise, forums eat time and money and don't have a great business model. I get irrationally emotional over community criticism: it hurts my feelings when frustrated members call me a "micromanager" for making changes to the community, or refer to me as the evil "THEY" (as in "Why did THEY do this!?").

To be clear: I totally own these shortcomings. These are not the failings of the Tribe, but my failings as a community manager. My mistake was not recognizing my own limitations.

Nothing on the Empire has been more emotionally difficult for me than dealing with the Tribe. Nothing. It took me almost three years of anxiety to realize that I needed someone else to manage the community, and thank GAWD I have a community manager who agreed to take on the Sisyphean task. My emotional state vastly improved when I finally outsourced the community management to her. I'm too delicate, y'all!

It's also been an enormous technical challenge. I've invested tens of thousands of dollars in development, and sometimes the Tribe still feels like a janky mess. It's hard, expensive, frustrating, unfulfilling work. It's worth it because people love it, but oh man.

  1. Ah! I completely agree with the forum thing. I used to be in that scene and totally remember the little debates and heated arguments. Not that I, myself, see that much on OBT, but I can completely understand.

    I love your question answer segments. They always are so interesting. It's refreshing to hear that you created this empire and are able to support yourself and others too! You truly inspire.

  2. Awe Shucks Ariel,

    Thanks for the great answers to all of my questions. What an unexpectedly awesome birthday present! (my 23rd is tomorrow the 24th) I'm glad I could ask questions that were fun to answern. I especially like your answer to what you gave up for the empire. I can totally understad the appeal of a job where you don't necessarily have to give a single fuck.

    Thanks for doing what you do. Every weekend I get a little sad when I realize there aren't any new posts from the Empire to read.

    I also hope some book publisher offers you an offbeat mama deal because that book is necessary and would totally rock!

    • Well, hey, it's your birthday: gratulerer med dagen! (That's happy birthday in Norwegian ^^)
      Those were great questions, by the way. And great answers, Ariel. You seem so honest/open, and I really love that.

  3. "So I guess now it's… not giving a fuck."

    Holy words from my mouth. I have my own business also, and I just MISS the days (esp now at 8w pregnant) where you just went in "and took it easy" just did the bare minimum – still did a great job – and then just went home and forgot about it?

    Now when I laze about work (like right now eating lunch on OBB haha) I feel guilty when I get home… and I never stop thinking about work! Oh well, I love it (as we all know you love the Empire) and it's just a different way of working. And I'm convinced one day I will get the hang of it, just like you!

    You Rock! ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Ariel, I really appreciate and admire your honesty and all of the hard work you put into Offbeat Bride because you care so much about the cause. I think you are doing something really incredible for women with Offbeat Bride. I know I wouldn't have any idea where to start with my wedding if it wasn't for this site and your book (yes, I've bought and read it!) So it means a lot to me personally that you put in those 50 hours and invest yourself emotionally in your work to bring us this community and this message that it's not only ok if we want offbeat weddings and relationships, it's totally awesome! :)

  5. Ariel, I want you to know I love reading your answers to reader questions as much as you love answering them. =D

  6. Ariel, you are awesome! Thanks for putting the work into these sites. I check OBB and OBH every day just for fun :) They are hands down some of the best websites out there!

  7. Ariel: Thank you TONS for the Offbeat Empire! This website has helped me TREMENDOUSLY with planning my upcoming nuptials in September!

  8. I love and appreciate all the work you and your team put into your 3 websites, I started reading OffBeat Bride when I got engaged in 2009 and have been hooked ever since

    Thank you Ariel

  9. I also want to say thank you, for the book, for the 3 websites and the tribe. I love them all! <3

  10. I'm giving you an air high five right now, Ariel. I tried the forums but felt a bit meh about it all because I really just enjoy dipping into the sites, getting what I need from them, and then maybe browsing some pictures of shoes ๐Ÿ˜‰ Once you have a community online, there is ALWAYS an element of judgement, wanting to fit in etc that gets on my nerves. Still, it's an amazing resource and a huge support to lots of people, by the looks of it, so i'm glad it's there for them. Plus of all of the forums, at least here it's LESS judgey, and people all seem to be pretty aware of the need not to be TOO fitty-in-ish :)

    LOVE your answers, love this site, loved my wedding last weekend. Thanks for all the help your site gave me. I had the best day of my life, and lots of that came from your site giving me the confidence to believe in myself and my ideas, even when no one else did.

  11. Basecamp FTW! My FH uses it to organize and manage the albums he produces, and it's how he wrangles the artists he works with to make sure everyone's on their mark. Now we're using it to plan our wedding. It's a great way to keep each other informed on ideas and progress, and with so much inspiration coming from the internet (cough, OBB, cough) it makes the most sense for us to have an online management tool instead of a binder.

  12. I just want to say that I really appreciate all the hard work you put into the offbeat empire and I honestly feel like I would go mad if I didn't have the tribe to support all the wedding planning. I have seen when people accused you of micromanagement and the evil "THEY" and to be honest, it really fricking annoyed me. You go out of your way to improve the offbeat experience and although not everything you do will be popular (like changing the tribe layout), it is not only necessary but also, people need to get used to change because let's face it, in life nothing stays the same!
    So thank you again for all your amazing work and if you ever want an offbeat UK representative feel free to send me a message ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Dear Ariel,

    Thank you for putting up with the OBB Tribe. Of all the forums out there (and good lord are there a lot), I think it is one of the most civilized, supportive, and fun ones. So while yes, many of us never quite got the "post this here" instructions, it still works.

    1 agrees
  14. Thank you for the Tribe. I know it is a pain – but that pain really helps so many others. I posted a question yesterday that was so hard on me. Within minutes I got such thoughtful responses back – I feel so much better now – it truly help! Thank you!!

  15. Usually, I am a big forum lover. I thrive in forums, I learn some pretty cool things in forums, and I've made some awesome friends I've never met in person in forums. That said, wedding forums I don't do. I came to OBB because a nasty debate on the the Knot ended with one mother of the bride going "everyone here is so critical and spiteful! If there are any brides who don't feel the need to one-up each other, go to Offbeat bride!"

  16. Ariel,
    I'm sorry to bother you but I've been on RescueTime's webpage for hours and can't find the answer. Would RescueTime work for a freelance photographer to track editing hours?

  17. if there was a way to donate $$ to keep this all going I would – it doesn't need to be for amything but I'd be happy to put a couple bucks in and I'm sure others would be the same (I'm not saying you need it at all but if it let you do things you couldn't its win win) xoxo

    • In a few months, Ning will be giving us the option to have paid membership levels, which could include "Supporter." Membership on the Tribe will ALWAYS be free, but members who love the Tribe could donate if they wanted, and would then be listed at the Supporter level. I'm still not totally sure how it will all work yet (since Ning hasn't released the tools) but it's coming! :)

      • you know I saw you replied and was like OMG!!!! its Ariel and she replied to ME!!!!!! I may have had a little sqeee moment :)
        anyway glad its coming I'd love to contribute ๐Ÿ˜€

  18. I smiled at the comments about the Tribe. Sounds like a family – people in the tribe love each other, fight, have annoying quirks (like reposting questions and not reading carefully), miscommunicate (always worse with electronic communication). You and Ang have done an amazing job giving birth to an incredible community. Thank you!

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