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My goals

Coupons make sales. Even if it means you make less profit, sometimes it’s worth it. Be good to your customers and they will be good to you.

I’m trying to step up my game and be more active in promoting my shop and what I can do. I want to grow and learn. My next goal is to get to 1 Sale per month in my Etsy Shop. To do it, I’m paying for promoted posts, listings, and an ad campaign to get people to notice my accounts. I also am going to more actively make sure potential customers get coupon codes for favoriting my listings or shop. I think being more active is the biggest thing.

Save 10.0% on select products from NETGEAR with promo code 10OFFPRO3PK, through 2/18 while supplies last.

I’m starting to work with Upwork again. I made a fair bit of money last year, but I let it slide when I found a day job I really like. That’s not a good excuse, so I’m back at it. I have a talent for logos and design. I should be leveraging every asset. I could make more if I “went it alone” to find clients, but that would require a lot of accounting and have zero protection. I’m willing to get paid a little less if it means I’m protected from non-paying clients and having to track down the money on my own. I don’t need that additional stress in my life right now.

Finally, I vow, once again, to post more often, more regularly here. It’s good for me, and I hope interesting to other entrepreneurs.

I hope all of you, my dear readers, are having a great early 2019!

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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A Strange Turn of Events

Remember I sdetailed my plans to use Redbubble.com as an outlet for some of my designs? It turns out the one piece that sells there is a watercolor piece of the Tybee Lighthouse outside of Savannah, GA. It’s beautiful, but not what I’d thought would be my best seller. I guess I need to refocus what I use for Redbubble!

The piece has sold twice as a sticker, which is also not what I expected. I should stop having any expectations like this! I obviously do not know anything about what might sell. That’s why you always put out everything you have until you find your niche! I will have to remember this…

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Journeys Have Many Paths

It’s ok to be on a path different from the one you start out taking. My experience in the last 2 years has underscored just how unpredictable life is. While I still love design work, The exact type of work I do has shifted.

I recently started a 50 Day Logo Challenge. By subscribing to an email list, I received 50 prompts to design logos. The challenge has made he think differently about what’s good or not because I had to work with so many ideas but only for a single day at a time. I’ve been enjoying it and considering taking the idea a step further. I want to take those prompts and make a series of logos for each. I want each concept to have about 5 different choices, just like I’d show to a client.

I have largely stopped using Upwork, but not because it isn’t a useful resource. I just had to decide how to spend my time. I want to freelance more with logo design. I still think I have talent to offer the field. With this challenge I’ve noticed my execution improving!

My Etsy Shop is helping me out too. I’ve made sales of SVG files, and I’m going to continue to put out listings there. I think it could take off and if it does then I’ll focus on that and leave other freelancing aside. I just have to get there first, so until then, just keep trying all paths until one becomes disentangled from the others.

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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Eureka!

For my family and friends, it comes as no surprise that one of my sources of creative inspiration is Walt Disney. More specifically, the animation and otherwise artistry of the Studio and Parks is, in my opinion, some of the best work ever done, anywhere in the world. Glowing review right? I don’t work for Disney. 🙁 I’m just not that caliber. At least I’m not yet. 

Inspiration is a funny thing though. Where does copying end and new creation begin? If you trace over a drawing or picture at the start does that mean the end result, no matter how different, is nonetheless still a copy? I personally think the answer is no. I’m not talking about just changing a color or replicating the exact original in a different style (although that can be it’s own work of art, much more of a grey area legally and ethically). For my vector art, I often start with a photo and work it up into something new that sets it apart from a photo. Sometimes I combine photos to get a certain unfindable angle or unique pose. I hardly ever use all the details, and many times I end up running my lines through filters to get a certain type of line. Check out the example below. 


Believe it not, this Phoenix started life as a photo of a vulture. A lot of the work went into making the usually smooth feathers look more like flames. Picking and choosing where the gradients fall is a big part of this illustration too. There are both red and yellow lines to contrast the gradients and, of course, the head is entirely red to stand out from the brightly-hot chest area that I imagined would be the hottest. 

So is tracing really a cheat and a way of copying? When does a tracing of a vulture stop being a tracing of a vulture?

What about the question of collaboration on something like an animated movie? In the following YouTube clip, Walt Disney explains how sometimes and artist has to forgo their preferred style to mesh with other artists in the studio, but on their own they take the same tree and paint 4 very different pieces of art from it. This is why Walt Disney is my biggest inspiration. 

4 Artists, One Tree

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. 

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Holding Two Jobs

Anyone who has had to work two jobs knows it’s unpleasant unless it’s 2 strictly part time jobs. I, of course, don’t fall into that category. I don’t even get paid time off since I’m an independent contractor and self-employed. There’s a real freedom to that. 

There’s also the problem that I don’t make nearly as much as I used to in a corporate job. I’m not complaining here. It is what it is. Having to be full time is a time-sink that doesn’t, yet, pay enough for the long run. I think that will get better soon. I also think I need to stop crashing at the end of the day and do design work! I feel awful about it. No more! Starting next week I take it seriously. I start treating my own freelancing as a second job that needs part-time dedication, at least 10 hours per week. 

This is it! Do or die! There is no try, only do! Where’s that from? Anyway, I’m still determined to get myself established in the freelancing world. I’ve been submitting proposals, at least one every couple of days. I can show that I’m actively trying. What I need to do is still look up a contest or two in the meantime to work on. That gets me practice even if I never win. 

Red. Yellow. Green. GO!

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Looking Forward

As of this post, I’ve been working for 3 days, one of them completely in my own. It was really nice! So far, there’s nothing I’m totally in the dark about. I’ve worked with printers and an iron before. I’ve done iron-on transfers on a small scale. The one at the store is a giant 18 inch press instead of a small apparel iron like most people have at home. It’s actually easier to use since it’s hotter and does all the pressing for me! The embroidery machine is not very complicated since I’ve used a sewing machine once or twice, but I’ve yet to have a job to do on it to test myself. 

I learned the store does not do its own embroidery design. When they receive an embroidery purchase, they send out custom designs to be converted into an embroidery file. I may look into learning that to add to the store repertoire. I imagine I could do it for a lot cheaper. It may not be a long-term goal for the store, but it can’t hurt. Besides, it will add to my skills as a designer so I can make better decisions about how my designs work in various mediums. I can now ask clients questions such as “do you intend to use the design as embroidery?” It’s one of those skills I would t think I’d ever need to learn, but having it is a huge plus. If I do leave at the end of a year, I could always offer for the store’s owner to have me on file for their embroidery needs. 

I wonder if that’s something I want to do long term anyway. I have much interest in crafting and needlearts. I used to do cross stitch and hand embroidery as a kid, I still do crochet, and I recently taught myself to knit. Who knows. Maybe I will find out I didn’t know what I wanted to do all along. I have wanted to be a crafter for years. But it doesn’t pay to make hats all day. Embroidery files and making iron-on patches would be a big seller. Making something on a machine is always better than by hand in terms of making a business profitable. I’ve often thought about purchasing a knitting machine to sell knit clothing, but that’s a discussing for another post. 

Take it easy and remember to smile.

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First Day Jitters

It’s no surprise that nerves are part of the first day at any new job. Mine started with needing to use the toilet only to find out there was a problem. The pipes leaked black stinky water on top of my smelly deposits. Perfect. Just what I wanted on the first day at a new job. At least it can’t get worse! I’m asking to use the toilet at the company next door. I told them I’d be back. 

So far so good. It’s a lot to do. I’m not alone right now so that’s the really good news. I’m sure that will be me in a year. The processes are common sense for the most part. They comply with what I already know about printing. The embroidery machine is new to me but also is similar to a normal sewing machine. I’m not as completely in the dark as I could have been.  Yay!

Take it easy and remember to smile.