Subscription Fatigue

App for that
Credit: Pixabay

Remember my music/phone debacle?  After that, I started thinking.  (Dangerous, I know, but bear with me.)  What do we own these days?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a hoarder, I declutter often, and I’m generally good about letting things go.  I’d rather have an experience and memories than yet another thing/object.

But at the base, my frustration over the phone/music issue was because I own the things – the music and the phone.  I own them outright – they are not on loan, they are not borrowed, I am not still paying them off.  When I started looking for internet help with the issue, many of the responses were to get something like Google Play or Spotify.

I don’t want or need either of those.  My youngest has a Spotify account – but the notion of that still seems crazy to me.  Maybe it’s because I’m old.  I’ve paid for the account (a birthday gift) for a year now.  And when the subscription runs out, what is left?  Nothing.  Because you don’t own the music, you just pay to access it.

Same with lots of things – Netflix, Spotify, Adobe CC, Microsoft Office (or 365, or whatever it’s called now), Hulu – you name it, there’s a subscription/app for it.  But again, when you stop paying the subscription, what do you have?

Empty hands and empty pockets.

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t value in these things.  Obviously there is, because people are using them.  So maybe it is just me.  For example, I want to own Photoshop, not rent it.  I want to own my office suite of products, not rent them.  Maybe that’s why I live in a house instead of renting an apartment.  Why I own my car instead of leasing it.  Why I still have DVD’s – which, come to think of it, I should rip onto my PC. I have a 1TB hard drive with lots of space to spare.  And digital storage is ridiculously cheap these days.

With college tuition for two suddenly looming over my budget, I’m trying to pay off debts as quickly as I can and saving as much as I can before next August.  Which means I’m paying a LOT more attention to my budget and discretionary spending.

House too cool?  Sweaters and hoodies instead of reaching for the thermostat.  Watch water consumption – shorter showers and as little laundry as I can get away with.  Eating home cooked meals instead of eating out.  Paying subscriptions for things I don’t actually need?  Ludicrous.  I don’t need Office 365 – there’s LibreOffice.  It’s free, open-source, and compatible with Office.  I don’t need Adobe CC – I only use Photoshop anyway, and there are free alternatives out there.  For now, I’m happy with my PS CS6 version.  Hulu, Netflix, and the like?  I can watch YouTube for free.

I guess maybe I just suffer less from FOMO than other people?  For example, I’ve never seen a single episode of Gilmore Girls, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones.  Do I miss some pop culture references?  Sure.  Not enough to matter.  And businesses with subscription models WANT you to keep paying for them, even if you don’t use them.  All I know is, I’m tired of everything becoming a subscription.  Plus, it’s been shown that when people use subscription services, they severely underestimate what they are spending.  This Money article from February 2019 addresses why people continue to pay for subscriptions, even when they aren’t using them (spoiler – it’s FOMO).

I’m hopeful that perhaps people are becoming more aware of the issue.  This article by Ernie Smith details how people are looking to move, change, or combine subs to save money.  (It mentions that you can get Hulu if you pay for Spotify – so I may have to check that out, since I do.)  TV/shows/movies are not a big deal for me – I rarely watch TV anymore anyway.  I haven’t been to a movie theater in over a year, at least.

Maybe I’m just becoming a Luddite in my old age.  Also – stay off my lawn! 😛

Sales Tax, Etsy, & Marketplace Facilitators, Oh My!

Gosh, that title is a mouthful, isn’t it?  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent several weeks trying to wrap my brain around the Gordian Knot that is sales tax law in the US.

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This is my brain on sales tax law

Ugh.  I’m years late to the internet sales party and now it’s all just a big headache.  In a nutshell, here’s what happened to make selling online using Etsy or Amazon a giant pain the *ss these days:

South Dakota vs. Wayfair – this case went to the Supreme Court and they ruled that SD could require online businesses to collect sales tax under certain conditions.  (I’m simplifying this a LOT, so feel free to fall down the internet rabbit hole about this court case yourself.)  Of course, once South Dakota got the green light to collect sales tax on internet sales, which up to this point had generally been exempt from that, all the states wanted their piece of the sales tax pie.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, a legal person, a CPA, or in any way qualified to give you advice about sales taxes and sales tax law.  I am just explaining to you MY understanding of how things will work moving forward, which admittedly, could be wrong.

Wild West Internet

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This is how the old internet looked, isn’t it?

Ok, with that out of the way, let me explain a few things.  In the olden days of the internet, because states didn’t realize internet sales/business would be a thing, they didn’t address the issue of taxes on those sales.  It was assumed that, for the most part, sales your business made would be to people who also lived in your state.  So it was the Wild West of the internet – set up, sell, collect moolah.  Of course, the state where you lived had laws you needed to follow about sales tax for sales in your state, but everything else – other states, other countries – were fair game.

Most states’ sales tax laws had to do with sales in THAT state and didn’t address the issue of sales that happened out of state.  Sales tax was collected based on the location of the seller – i.e. the state where the online seller lived, not where the buyer lived.

(SIDE NOTE: Most states do address ‘use tax’ – essentially sales tax that people were supposed to pay on items they purchased out of state to use.  Those are supposed to be reported on your yearly taxes – but most people didn’t, so the states lost out on that money.)

Also, since states could all make up their own laws about taxes, they vary widely.  Some states tax food sales, others don’t.  Some states don’t have sales tax at all.  Some states tax digital products – like digital images or computer software.  Some don’t.  Most states that DO charge a sales tax have different tax rates depending on where in the state you make your purchase – cities and counties can add on to the state sales tax rate, so the rate isn’t the same everywhere.

For instance, the state sales tax rate in the state where I live is 6.5%.  But it can range from that 6.5% all the way to 10.475% (which it does, in one city).  Every single city and county in the state can decide to charge sales tax, and that can change the rate.  So keeping up with all the different rates can be a paperwork nightmare.

Enter things like Etsy and Amazon and Ebay -people could sell online and not have to worry about things like pesky sales tax.  It was like having a ready-made store – just set up and go.  You only really had to worry about the sales tax for your state of residence.  Because it was so easy to set up a store and start selling, places like Amazon and Etsy and Ebay became very popular.  So, of course, states wanted a share of all the money changing hands.

South Dakota vs. Wayfair

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Cool wig, right?

The problem was that most sales tax laws said that sellers/businesses had to have a ‘nexus’ in the state,which used to be met in the following ways:

  • If the business had a physical location in the state
  • If there were resident employees working in the state
  • If the business had property (including intangible property) in the state
  • If there were employees who regularly solicit business in the state (i.e., salespeople)

Most sales tax laws were made when internet shops didn’t exist.  Since there is no ‘physical’ location, sales tax laws didn’t apply.  And that was how things mostly went until the SD vs. Wayfair case.  Essentially, the Supreme Court decided that the states could require sellers/businesses to collect sales tax if they had ‘nexus’ in the state, but they made some changes to the definition.

Now there are additional types of ‘nexus’ for ‘remote sellers’ – i.e. internet businesses.  (Don’t you just love all the new terms we’re learning?) Those include click-through, affiliate, economic, and marketplace.  If your online business falls under one of those new umbrellas, you could be liable for collecting sales tax – in every state where you have sales, not just the one you reside in.  Also, many of the new sales tax laws specifically state that the sales tax must be collected based on the location of the buyer, NOT the seller, which is not how it used to be done.

Once South Dakota got the green light, states began passing their own sales tax laws to address online sales.  (You can find all kinds of information on these over at the Sales Tax Institute.)

Piece of the Pie

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Who doesn’t want pie?

States knew that going after all the mom-and-pop internet shops would not be popular, so most states also included a ‘safe harbor’ or ‘small seller exception’ for those mom-and-pop internet shops.  Modeling their new sales tax laws after South Dakota, most of the new laws have a clause that if an online business makes under a certain $ amount in sales, or under a certain number of transactions (or sometimes both), the business is exempt from having to collect sales tax.

Because of the complexity of many states’ sales tax rates, asking a small business to correctly collect from and remit sales tax to 50 different states, and potentially thousands of localities, is a huge burden on those small businesses.  Indeed, if every online business, no matter its size, was required to do this, a huge percentage would likely close overnight.  It’s simply too much work for it to be feasible for small businesses to do this.

Of course, states aren’t dumb.  They want the most money for the least amount of effort. So they aimed for the big guys.  If they could require the big businesses to collect sales tax, it would net them more money.  Enter ‘Marketplace Facilitator’ clauses.

Marketplace Facilitators

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How’s the air up there?

Requiring big online sales giants like Amazon and Etsy to collect sales tax could net the states a ton of money.  Those big businesses have the resources to collect and remit sales tax – so the states get more money, and most of the work falls on the shoulders of these big platforms – now referred to as ‘Marketplace Facilitators.’ There are lots of ins-and-outs of these provisions – including things like whether or not Amazon (or other Marketplace Facilitator) has a warehouse in your state, that can determine whether a business has to collect sales tax.

Etsy now collects and remits sales tax on sales in 34 states (as of Oct 1, 2019).  There are currently 5 states that do not charge sales tax – Alaska, Oregon, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Montana.  And many states have new laws in the works.  Alaska, for example, does not charge a state sales tax, but cities are free to charge sales tax if they wish, and some may.

What does it mean? 

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Mass confusion

All these changes mean that if you want to sell on Etsy or Amazon or anything that could be deemed a ‘Marketplace Facilitator,’ you’ll need to know about sales tax and what the requirements are – in every state, not just the one you live in.  And even if Etsy or some other Marketplace Facilitator collects and remits sales tax to a state for you, you may still be required to file sales tax with that state.

Let’s look at some examples.  (Again, these are based on MY understanding of these convoluted laws, so I could be wrong – do your homework!)

Example 1:  Let’s say you live in Delaware and open a store on Etsy.  Your state doesn’t charge sales tax, so you’re golden, right?  Only if all your sales are to other people in Delaware.  If you sell something to someone in Nebraska, Etsy will collect sales tax on the sale and remit that tax to Nebraska.  Cool, so you’re still golden, right?  Nope.  Nebraska’s sales tax law requires you to register with their state, even though Etsy collects and remits the sales tax for you.

Example 2:  You live in Kansas and open an Etsy store selling digital downloads.  Kansas exempts digital products from sales tax, so you don’t need to worry about sales tax, right?  Again, only if your sales are all to other people who live in Kansas.  If you sell a digital download to someone who lives in say, Arkansas, what happens?  Etsy will collect and remit the sales tax to Arkansas.  Do you need to do anything else?  Nope – Arkansas does not require remote sellers (that’s you) to register if a Marketplace Facilitator (that’s Etsy) is collecting and remitting the sales tax.

Example 3:  You live in Maine and you open an Etsy store.  You’ve already registered with Maine for sales tax purposes.  You know that Maine requires Etsy to collect and remit sales tax for sale in Maine.  So you don’t need to do anything, right?  Maybe?  You need to be familiar with the sales tax laws of the state you reside in – there are many different laws and items that are exempt in one place may not be in another.  What do you do if your product is exempt from sales tax, but Etsy collects it anyway?  What if you make a sale through Etsy to someone in New Mexico?  Etsy will collect and remit the sales tax, but New Mexico still requires the remote seller register and file sales tax – though you can take a deduction for sales tax collected by a Marketplace Facilitator.

Starting to understand the headache?

Marketplace Facilitator vs. Website 

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I stand just like this to think, don’t you?

I’m now wondering if it would be easier to just open my own little online business.  Yes, there are pros and cons, but given all the new headaches with sales taxes, with many more changes likely coming down the pike, it seems like a lot of unnecessary (and unwanted) work.

Because states know it’s a huge headache, some states have banded together and created the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA).  Basically, you register with SSUTA and are registered with all member states at once, which is currently 23 states (as of this writing).

Given how poorly some government agencies are at securing my information, I don’t know if I’m comfortable handing over my SSN or Business Tax ID to 23 states to lose.  Or perhaps more, if I opened an Etsy shop and had to register with all the states that require it, which at last count was 9 that definitely require registration, 5 that require you contact them to determine whether you are required to register, and 17 that may (likely will) require registration – depending on whether they pass new sales tax laws and when they go into effect.

Also, given that most states have included ‘small seller exceptions’ in their new sales tax laws, if I ran my own website, I would only have to worry about sales in my state of residence, at least until I reached their small seller thresholds.  In most instances, those range from $100K-$500K in gross sales or revenue and/or 100-200 transactions per year.  (The laws vary widely, so again, do your homework!)  Actually, I wouldn’t even have to worry about my own state, because my digital download sales would be exempt.  So if I did all my sales through my own website, I likely wouldn’t have to worry about sales tax at all.  And if I did, by some miracle, begin making enough sales to have to register, most states don’t require you to register until you reach the threshold.

Of course, the attraction of Etsy and Amazon is the built-in traffic.  I get that.  But does it balance out against the headache of all the extra paperwork for what I’m looking to do?  I mean, I’m not planning to have a business that makes over $100K a year.  I just want a small online shop where I can be creative and make some money at the same time.  Is that worth the headache of filling out a ton of paperwork for the convenience of Etsy?  I could just open an Etsy store and then wait to see where my buyers were located, and then register.  But should I?  What happens if Etsy collects and remits the sales tax for me and I haven’t yet registered?  Will that cause issues?

Etsy also charges fees, so that could balance out what I would need to spend on my own website for sales.  Etsy is charging 5% fees on transactions – including shipping.  PayPal’s fees are lower than that, but on micro-transactions like mine, the per transaction fees would rack up quickly (2.9% + $0.30 per trans).

Ultimately, I need to sit down and think about all of this and whether I want the headache that comes along with Etsy and the new sales tax requirements, whether I want to try and run my own ecommerce website, or whether I want to just use Patreon or something like it for what I’m trying to do.  I’m not sure yet.

I know this was a long post, but I hope you found some of it useful.  If you’re thinking of opening an online business – even if it’s on Etsy or Amazon, research, research, research and know what the requirements are for your business.  Ultimately, YOU are responsible for your business, whether someone else is collecting the taxes or not.

(All images from Pixabay)

 

Monday Mandala 15

Mandala_15When I was drawing this mandala, I thought I made it too simple.  There weren’t enough layers and the design elements weren’t busy enough to make it a good coloring mandala.

But looking at it now, I think it turned out really well.  I like how pieces of each layer layover into the next.  And there are a lot of different pieces to color, which I didn’t see at first glance.

The first layer is a bit busy, with all the lines crowding to an almost black ring, but overall I’m happy with the design.

Digital Creativity

My brain has been getting quite the workout the last few weeks.  I’ve been trying to research sales tax laws.  The most boring subject. Ever.

I’m planning to do a long post about what I’ve found – maybe all my research will help someone.  All I wanted was to open a simple online store and make a few dollars doing something creative.  I think the days of doing that are long gone.

In any event, I needed something to take my mind off the depressing subject of taxes.  So, I decided to play around again in Procreate and iColorama.  I still need to find time to sit down and watch some videos on using iColorama – I know I could be doing so much more with it.

I decided to take Mandala 12 and color it in Procreate.  I fiddled around with color choices, but finally ended up with this:

Digitally Colored Mandala 12When I drew the mandala, I thought the design was too simple, but I actually like the way it turned out once it was colored in.  I wanted a fall color scheme (though in my neck of the woods we’ve apparently skipped fall and gone straight into winter – brr!), so I chose some darker reds and greens and browns.

Although I liked the colors, I decided I wanted more depth – it just looked too flat for me.  So I headed over to iColorama and played around with several of the options in the program.  After several attempts, here is the final image:

iColorama Mandala 12I added a texture and another filter (I don’t remember which one), but I am happy with the result.  Now the image looks like an old rug design and it’s got some ‘feel’ to it.  The filter actually muted some of the colors, but I think that makes it look better.

After I get a chance to watch some tutorials on iColorama, I can’t wait to try it out using some of the mandalas I’ve drawn for my coloring pages.  Adding texture and ‘feel’ like this makes it seem like my designs are coming to life – so exciting!

Brain Overload

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(Image Source: Pixabay) This is my brain on technology 😛

For the last several weeks, I’ve been dipping my digital toes into the (cess?)pool of social media.  I’ve blogged about joining Ello and I’ve also recently joined Ko-Fi.  I guess that Ko-Fi isn’t technically social media? Or maybe it is?  I don’t know.

If you’re not familiar with Ko-Fi, it’s a site where you sign up, create a page for yourself, and people can donate via PayPal to support you – i.e., buy you a cup of coffee.  It’s similar to Patreon, I suppose, although you have to pay a monthly fee for recurring payments from supporters.  So Patreon Lite, maybe?

In any event, I thought it looked like a cool way to provide an opportunity for those who don’t have tons of cash lying around (like me), but would like to send something small to those whose talents we appreciate.

So now I have a Ko-Fi page set up for myself.  If you’re interested, check it out here.  It’s still pretty bare bones, but I’ll be adding to it in the coming months.  Learning to navigate all these new (to me) sites has really taxed my poor brain.

Just setting up a PayPal account gave me a headache.  I set it up as a business account, but since I’m a sole proprietor, things can be tricky.  The state I live in doesn’t require me to register my business as a sole proprietor, so some of the questions either didn’t apply or didn’t make sense to me.

Also, their categories for type of business was disappointing.  I didn’t see anything that I thought applied to what I do, but I suppose it doesn’t matter.  I think it’s more for PayPal to send me marketing crap than it is to actually help me out.  We’ll see, I suppose.  I wonder if I can change the category later?  Now I just have to wait for PayPal to do their thing with the test deposits/withdrawals from my bank account so I can get down to business.

I still want to set up a YouTube channel, but I think I may wait and tackle that project another day.  My poor brain is on overload dealing with all these different sites.  Ain’t technology grand?!

Monday Mandala 14

Mandala_14I’m happy with the way this mandala turned out.  I wanted a leaf/floral/nature pattern and I think I incorporated some of those design elements nicely.

This mandala also looks complete, in contrast to some of my other recent mandalas.  I might even color this one to see what it looks like.  I think some of the design elements get lost in the black and white line version.

5 Things I Hate About Blogging

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Image Source: Pixabay

I love blogging, I really do.  Sometimes just the process of getting my jumbled thoughts out of my brain onto the screen is all it takes to make my day better.  But there are some things I don’t like about blogging. Some are just annoyances, but some are things that make me want to avoid blogging all together.  I guess my ego is bigger than my dislike, since I’m here.  😀  Right, on with the list!

#5.  Dealing with the technology

I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I am by no means a tech person.  I liken it to driving a car – I know how to operate it; I can fix simple things – gas, flat tire, blown fuse, etc., but some things are beyond my skills – broken engine mounts (which aren’t apparently as terrible as they sound), broken shifter linkage, suspension issues, and the like.  Same with tech – I can operate my blog and fix simple things, but sometimes things break and I have no idea how to fix them.

One of the reasons I have my blog set up the way I do is that I didn’t want to be responsible for security and other tech issues.  Maybe someday I’ll feel that confident, but not yet.  Technology is great – as long as it works.  😛

#4.  Finding people to follow and interact with

This is a big one for me.  I’m naturally an introvert, and I spend a lot of my time alone – some by necessity, some by need. I like to people watch and observe – interaction is difficult for me and not something I feel adept at.  So just hopping over to someone’s blog and commenting does not come naturally.  I’m constantly afraid I will come off as rude, condescending, or at worst, ignorant.

Has anyone ever made me feel that way?  No, of course not.  Have I ever felt that way about anyone who interacts or comments on my blog?  Nope, never.  Just my own demons following me into the digital realm.

I also apparently suck at searching for other like-minded blogs to follow.  I have a wide range of interests, but it can be difficult to find blogs to follow even then.  Like everyone else, I’m looking for good content, but also consistency.  I’ve found some great blogs, but then discover that the owner hasn’t posted anything in months.

#3.  Blogger’s block

I suffer from this a lot, mostly because I have that little voice in my brain that says that no one will care about what I have to say.  Plus, as mentioned in #2, I think consistency is important, so I try to stick to my posting schedule.  The pressure to post regularly can lead to brain drain, and I have trouble finding a topic I think is relevant that I want to post about.

These days to combat blogger’s block, I either go draw or I go for a walk.  It’s amazing what a little exercise can do to get my neurons firing.  Even if I don’t end up finding a topic, I can at least get myself out of that negative headspace you get into when you are blocked creatively.

#2.  Bragging about yourself

I don’t think most people start a blog thinking, “Hey, I need a forum to brag about myself.”  That said, a lot of the time, that’s what it feels like I’m doing.  Ultimately, I’m trying to get people to listen to me, follow me, and hopefully, spend some money on things I’ve created.

But that darn imposter syndrome is always there, lurking behind me.  There’s always going to be somebody who is better than you at whatever it is you’re doing.  I think we’ve become so conditioned to compare ourselves to others that it can be extremely hard to recognize when you’re doing it.  In the same way, we’ve been conditioned not to brag about ourselves and I find it hard to do.  (Though now that I think about it, social media is mostly that, so maybe it’s just me?)

#1.  Stat tracking

This is my absolute least favorite thing about blogging.  I want to grow my audience and attract followers, but keeping track of all the stats just gives me a headache.  Again, I understand the basics, but drilling down too far makes me want to scream.  Numbers are not my thing – words are.

Plus, I am never sure what stats are more important.  Visits? Views? Comments? Number of followers?  Keywords?  Ugh, I’m making myself tired just writing about all of this.

 

While there are things I don’t like about blogging, what I do get out of it more than makes up for it.  It’s work, for sure, but I enjoy the process, even if I don’t think I’m good at it sometimes.  But that was the point behind this blog – to be public about my successes and my failures.  Now, if I could just figure out how to clone myself so I have time for everything I want to do!

‘Ello!

Ello Logo
Ello Logo

Ok, lame title, but I’m trying here!

I am in the process of trying to figure out how to increase my reach, because I need eyeballs on my work if I want to sell any of it, right?

Facebook and Instagram are out for me, for reasons I’ve discussed before.  I’ve narrowed down my options and I’m starting to slowly add social media accounts as I feel able.

Social media is such a time suck for me, so I’m trying to be mindful about what I’m doing and how much time I invest in each area.  Of course, drawing and creating products needs to take the bulk of my time.  So where do I want to go to bring in a bigger audience?

The blog, of course, is where I started.  I’ve now branched out into Ello – a social network that was originally intended as an alternative to Facebook.  It’s become more of a hipster/artiste hangout, but I like the site and their privacy policies (*adjusts tinfoil hat*).

So if you’d like to follow me over there, please do!  If any of you are on Ello, I’d love to follow you as well.  Ello link: here.

There’s not much to see yet, but I’ll be adding content as I can.  I wish Ello had a way to schedule posts, but if it does, I can’t find it.  At some point I may need to start using a social media managing app like Hootsuite or something, but for now, I’m happy to manage things manually.

I’m also kicking around the idea of starting a YouTube channel where I post short videos of me drawing.  Though I’m not sure how much interest there would be in something like that.  But I won’t know until I try, right?

Keeping my fear of failure at bay while I venture into new things is scary and hard.  But I’m pushing through.  Failure isn’t the end, it’s just a learning experience!