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An Informal Poll

…of my family members shows me that most of them would prefer buying ready-made products. This is one of the reasons I made a move to have a second, independent shop on my website. While Etsy has the advantage of a large audience, it isn’t in the spirit of Etsy to sell commercially produced products as the mainstay of an Etsy Shop.

I did, however, post one of my Pitbull Life shirts to see what would happen. I’m just leaving it there for anyone to find, but not advertising it like I would my other listings. It’s an experiment.

I’m not sure yet what will do well in my shop. I do have some data on website traffic, but until I get some actual buyers, it’s pretty hard to know where to focus. So I keep doing what I like and hopefully that means someone else will like it too.

I ordered myself a shirt so I can see the quality for myself. Printful offers a few options in terms of technique. If I don’t like the quality, I can restrict what I offer to the products they make with only certain techniques. To shorten the story, I’ve heard of, and seen, some pretty shoddy examples of Direct-to-Garment printing, and I don’t want to offer it if the price isn’t right for the quality. I do know that many of the apparel choices are from Bella Canvas which is much higher quality than the Gildan brand and thus worth the extra money to buy.

As always, still learning, still journeying.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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My Latest Creations

Today, I wanted to show off some of my latest work. Last week I revealed that I’d acquired a Cricut. Here are the images I currently have for sale that I will be testing soon:

I tested out some basic cardstock projects. Here’s the pumpkin I made:

I got some Super 77, Outdoor ModPodge glue/sealer, StickyNote adhesive (to re-stick my mat as needed), transfer tape, and of course tools for weeding and creating. In the future I’d like to get markers to play with as well since the Cricut is fantastic at following paths for both drawing images and writing.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Etsy and Redbubble

I’ve been having some success with both Etsy and Redbubble lately. I’ve started to design files for use with die-cutting machines and posting them to Etsy. I’ve made a few sales! I’ve been selling the files for $.99 each. I figure it’s a good place to start and I can increase the cost as my talent and knowledge grows.

I’ve acquired a Cricut Explore Air 2 for my birthday. That is going to exponentially increase my knowledge of how to design files properly. Also, it means I can choose to sell stickers, decals, and other finished goods. One of the main reasons I never got into such items was because I had no way to trim them nicely. My only options were square or circular Avery stickers that are already pre-cut. However, I never liked how much room for error there was. They simply don’t produce a product that feels professional, or commercial. So, that brings me back to the Cricut. I can make non-standard stickers and have them all cut smoothly and professionally. I’m very excited and can’t wait until I have a free night to set it up and start using it.

That’s all for now!

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Machine Embroidery is Kryptonite

I’m in production. That’s my job. In this case it means I make stuff. I run a printer, embroidery machine, and a hot iron press. Car decals and custom t-shirts are most popular, and thankfully the most straightforward to make. Embroidery, now that’s another issue. 

My mom is a sewer. She likes sewing doll clothing mostly. I’ve been familiar with how a sewing machgine works since I was much younger, but this embroidery machine boggles my mind. So many more things can go wrong with it than on a sewing machine. Also, it’s never clear whether I’ve done something wrong to it or it’s just plain malfunctioning. In one case, I had a pattern that would sew fine until it got to this one area, then it would say the thread broke even though it clearly hadn’t.  I have no idea who to troubleshoot that. You see what I mean!?

Sometimes the backing material is too light. Sometimes the thread randomly messes up when it was fine a few seconds ago. It’s very frustrating to work with a complex machine like this. It’s not that I don’t have help, but I need to be able to diagnose these problems on my own so I can ask for the solution instead of floundering like an amateur. I am an amateur. What I don’t want is for customers to think that about the store! 

I’m learning new things all the time. I actually like my job most of the time. However, I don’t want to ever run a store like this. I’m confused all the time about pricing and products and what we can and can’t do. I can tell you how long it takes me in production, but not how much that time and materials are worth. 

When I think about pricing, I usually try to make it easy on both myself and the customer. Set pricing for certain services or products. If you read my blog when I post, then you’ve seen I’ve posted a couple of ads for my services at Guru.com. You’ll probably see more like them in the future. Design, I think is best represented by a per-hour rate, while a specific product would be a flat minimum budget. For example, another product that might be a flat rate would be image editing: $1/photo with a minim price of $25 for light balancing, basic spot removal, and background removal. Given that photos like that take minutes, it’s actually less time to turn around 25 images for one client since they will likely all be similar. Thus it makes sense to change the $25 even if it’s only one image because there would be a lot of “empty time” before and after to turn the job around in production. On the other hand, if a client wants beauty editing for their products, those images would take hours per image, and vary too greatly to charge a flat fee, so charging $15/hr makes more sense. 

Did I lose you? Sorry. Talking about pricing is one of the trickiest parts of any business. I struggle with it all time. This probably won’t be the last time. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Credit Where Due

I had an epiphany today. I was working on a job at work and started doing corrections to make the result polished when I noticed that some of the details were rather ugly ok a logo. The designer had clearly used Image Trace in Illustrator. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but I did a better job in less than 10 minutes. I think that extra 5-8 minutes I spent on it are the difference between good and great. 10 minutes is the equivalent of $0.16 under my own pay scale. The business is not losing money by taking the time to do the job right. Even if no one would have noticed the curves and bobbles of the Image Trace, you don’t want to give the the opportunity to either.

I guess all of the above depends on the complexity of the work to be done. Maybe I’d use Image Trace for a photo or complex logo and only fix the bare minimum if it was going to take, say, an hour, or $10, of my time. I have had to use Image Trace for a photo simply because the original wasn’t big enough for me to use. Usually, however, I make it look like it’s a bit pixelated anyway so it looks like a raster, what most people expect from a digital photo. 

I try to avoid Image Trace on the whole unless I’m looking to clean up or stylize something. For example, I have a drawing in pen or pencil. I want the lines to be black and crisp and the whites to be transparent. Image Trace is perfect for that! You can set it so that you only have black and white and then play with the threshold and minimum area size in order to clean up some lines or make sure some fainter ones are traced properly. It’s a good idea to expand an Image Trace before editing it. Expanding the result allows for editing individual points. I’ve also used the Path > Simplify option to further clean up needlessly complex results. It’s an art in itself. 

Take it easy and remember to smile.