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Manual Focus

Note: The images below link to a book on amazon.com. This is not a paid promotion or review. Any opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not reflect upon the author of the book.

So freelancing fell by the wayside in the last year and a half. OOPS! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work. I got caught up in landing a day-job that I turned out to absolutely love. That turn of events actually reinvigorated my desire to sell what I make. If it means I need multiple platforms then that’s what I’ll do. Jumping further in, unsatisfied with free resources online, I found a book – while working said day-job – and it’s going to be another tool in my arsenal to keep trying and making this thing work.

No lie: I’ve been a failure a great deal on this journey. Go back to the beginning and count them. I’ve had two day-jobs in that time and discovered that I am actually really good at customer service! That’s a very good thing since it’s been a weakness of mine since I was born. Treating my depression was the beginning of my new life. I wouldn’t give it up even if I go broke trying.

I don’t want to actually go broke. Please, Powers-That-Be, save me from THAT. 😛

The book I bought, was gifted by my mom, is called Mind Your Business: A Workbook to Grow Your Creative Passion into a Full-time Gig by Ilana Griffo. What I like about it most is the focus on creatives. It’s not a “business book” (it totally is though). It’s a guide that says, “Here’s something to think about, and then do it!” I’ve only read the first few pages. It’s written in plain English with very little jargon to get in the way.

Not only that, but it’s written by a typography lover, so there’s always something interesting to look at. That’s really how I found it in the first place: the beautiful cover!

Just paying through it, I can tell there’s a lot of exercises and thoughtful nudges in the form of list-making, brainstorming, and graphics that illustrate business ideas visually. YES! A CREATIVE AUTHOR THAT GETS IT! I mean, check out this glimpse of a cake diagram to fill in about branding:

Anyway, I’m going to read some more and hopefully learn something new!


Take it easy and remember to smile!

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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 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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Client Clarity

I’m trying to get back into design contests as practice for my skills. Sometimes, several in the last few weeks, I think clients simply don’t know what they want enough to really ask for a design they will like. One contest holder asked for a refund. Two others never picked a winner. It’s not like these contests are cheap at $300+. Or is that an amount most businesses can throw away? I know I can’t!

By the time this publishes, I’ll have been in Savannah, GA for my first anniversary celebration trip. I’m looking forward to it, but the work to get there has been brutal. It’s my own choice. I think it will be worth it in the end. A 4-day weekend after cramming 80 hours into only 9 days. My hard work is paying off. We all know how this goes. Hard work + learning new things = big payoff! My next post will probably be talking about my trip.

Until then, take it easy and remember to smile!

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Be Positive (Sometimes)

It was brought to my attention that perhaps I’ve made my experiences sound like I have a nightmare job. I didn’t mean it that way at all. I’ve had more good weeks than bad ones, but sometimes the good weeks go by the wayside because I’m too busy to try about them. If I hated my job, I wouldn’t stay. I’ve learned a lot and I have a positive future outlook overall. 

I’m also trying to focus more on my own creative work. You’ve  probably noticed a little of it. More “ads” and a new banner and brand. I’ve learned tons about branding at my day job. I think it’s made me a better designer for it. That’s ultimately why I agreed to work there in the first place, and why I stay despite some of what I’ve experienced. 

These are my experiences. I’ve learned from it. Maybe others will too. There is no blame here. If anything my job has gotten better and it means I can dedicate more time to my personal pursuits.

I finally got around to entering a contest on 99designs. Yay! I’ll share that design soon. My concept of a good logo has changed. I think it’s for the better too! 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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To Make or not to Make?

I hate Shakespeare’s work. I mean I only like adaptations. Sometimes the stories are good, but the language gets in the way. I don’t have time to sit down and watch something where the words are ones I know, but they are in such a convoluted and poetic order that I can’t understand the meaning of them. What does this have to do with design? That’s a good question with an interesting answer. Stay tuned!

I basically went to college to learn the language of visual arts and how to create them. Now, in my job, I’m learning the language of making. How to measure and make things with my hands that are physically present. I like it, and I enjoy the thrill of a hard job well done. But, I also love to create designs. I wish I was the designer and not the maker. I realize these two areas are not exclusive. Doing both is a boon most designers don’t ever get to experience. It’s possible to do both on a tiny, individual scale. Do you need a casual party invitation designed? Less than 100 printed? That’s great! I can do that myself on a home printer and it will be more custom and less work for you than buying a premade set from a store.

I like my job, but do I want to do it forever? I don’t know. Do I hate it as much as I hate Shakespeare? Nope. Certainly not. I can live with this and be happy I dare say!

Take it easy, and remember to smile!

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Unnatural Disaster 

This past week has been bad. Everything that could go wrong did. Too many projects due at once, printer screw-ups, and difficult to weed designs made my work schedule horrible. Due dates had to be flexible whether or not they actually were. 

I survived it. My employer even gave my coworker and I a $50 bonus for getting through it mostly. We did save a couple of due dates! Ok, so it wasn’t a disaster, but it was stressful and changed my schedule to accommodate it. It felt worse than it was I think. And this was a pay week. Silver linings…

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.