February Planner Stickers

Once again, I am behind schedule.  I have been working on my sticker business, creating stickers and figuring out what works for me.  If I wouldn’t use it, I don’t want to sell it.

It’s taken more trial and error than I had anticipated.  I wanted to start offering my monthly sticker kits in February, but since I’m behind, now I’m aiming for March.  Le sigh.

However, there is good news.  I’ve been creating stickers and I’m happy with how they’ve turned out so far.  I’ve avoided posting pics of what I’ve created because I want to wait until I have them ready for sale (i.e., when I’ve finally decided if I’m going to plunge into Etsy).  But since I’m not going to sell this February kit, I thought I’d share it.

My picture taking skills still need work, but here’s what the first two pages of the kit look like:

IH Feb Tulips Monthly Kit

It’s not perfect (the kit or the picture), but I’m working on it.  I am going to use this kit myself for February.  I made a winter-themed kit for January that I’m using as well.  I didn’t think initially that I would need weekly kits, but I am going to try creating some of those as well.

Using kits like these are any easy way to make my planner prettier, while still remaining functional. There is a third page with some additional full and half boxes, as well as some script and scalloped stickers.

Here’s a picture of the kit in use:

IH Feb Tulips Monthly Layout

I think it turned out pretty well, though my sticker application skills could use some work.  As could my photo skills, since there are weird shadows on my photos – I took this using a light box and they’re still there.  I guess I need to use the light box and my ring light.

I made these for my classic Happy Planner, but I’m struggling to keep from purchasing the other sizes and brands to see which one I like better.  I have to say, I love the disc system and the fact that I can take the pages out and write without the discs getting in my way.

My next tasks are to improve my photography, get busy creating for March kits, and working on other functional stickers.

Is Amazon Associate Program Worth It?

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Credit: Pixabay

I follow a lot of YouTubers and bloggers in the sticker/planner community.  Most of them are Amazon Associates (used to be called Affiliates).  Basically, you can get special links for items for sale on Amazon and get paid if people use them.  You, of course, have to promote and/or talk about the products, but it seems like a good way to make some (mostly) passive income.

I myself use Amazon a lot.  We’re Prime members and I live in a rural area, the membership fee is more than covered by the free two-day shipping I receive.  (I know, technically the shipping is not free, it’s covered by the membership fees.)  I purchased most of my holiday gifts from Amazon, and all of my husband’s birthday gifts were purchased there as well.

I’m currently waiting on a delivery of calligraphy markers that I ordered so I could practice my hand lettering for my planner.  In fact, I’ve ordered a lot of my planner/sticker products on Amazon, so it seems like a no-brainer to talk about them here on my blog and be able to have Associate links that would put a few pennies in my pocket.  (And it likely would be pennies to start, while I am building up my audience.)

Have you been or are you an Amazon Associate? How is it working for you? Are there things you like about the program, besides than the income? Any things you dislike?

Productive and Present

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Credit: Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s already halfway through January of 2020.  2019 flew by and there are some big things on the horizon for me in 2020.  I don’t want to miss anything, so I’m making an effort this year to be more present in the moment.  My mortality has definitely been on my mind more lately and I have things I want to do/accomplish before I shuffle of this mortal coil.

I am working hard on stickers for my sticker business.  I wanted to have 10 products ready when it launched and I’m happy to say that I have over 10 done!  Now, I have to take photographs and get them ready to list and sell.

I’ve also made more headway in paring down the number of planners I’m using.  I’m now down to only 3 – a budget planner and 2 daily planners.  I really need to just jettison my cheap daily planner and use the Happy Planner but I’m resisting that.  Sunk cost theory and all that.  I’ve given myself until next month to get rid of it as I slowly transition everything over to the Happy Planner.  I have the classic size, but I may try out the larger size next time to see if that works better for me.

I have to say, I’m actually loving the budget planner.  I feel like it’s helping me keep better control of our spending.  I’ve also been following some of the Dave Ramsey method to try and pay off our debts.  I would love to be debt free (except for our mortgage) in the next 4 years.  I created some inserts for my Happy Planner – a debt snowball tracker, a savings tracker, and a sinking funds tracker.  So far we’ve managed to pay off one car loan and we’re close to paying off the second.

I created some daily to-do lists for myself and I love how productive I’ve been lately.  I get a little thrill every time I get to check something off my list as done.  And now that I’ve got my under-desk elliptical, I’m getting way more steps in every day.  I feel like I’m off to a good start in 2020.  Now all I have to do is stay consistent.

I’m Doing This All Wrong

img_0087-1I’ve been working for months on a planner sticker business.  I’ve been busily creating stickers and kits and all the things.

Yesterday I watched a video from a well-known Etsy planner sticker creator and after less than a minute, I was like, I’m doing this all wrong!

I’ve been creating my stickers in Procreate on my iPad and then using my cutting machine software to create the sticker sheets.  I’ve done the designing, cutting, layout – pretty much everything aside from drawing the stickers themselves – in my cutting software program.

This particular creator showed how they did all of that in Photoshop first, so all they had to do was drag and drop a couple of files and then everything was set up and ready to go.  I just sat there with my mouth open, thinking, Why?  Why would you do it that way?  How do you set up the cut lines if everything is one image?  A million questions suddenly flooded my brain and I immediately began to doubt everything I’ve accomplished so far.

Imposter syndrome is real, y’all.  :/

After freaking out for a few minutes, I had a little pep talk with myself.  It’s OK if I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  That was the point of this whole blog, after all.  To let other people watch me fail and see that it’s OK – that’s how you learn.

I’m me, and how I accomplish something doesn’t matter as much as if I accomplish something.   And after watching the video, now I know a different way to accomplish the same thing I’ve already been doing.  Which is good – now I have options.

So I’m going to take what I have learned, and apply it to my future endeavors.  There’s probably a million and one things I’m currently doing that I could do faster and more efficiently.  But as long as they’re getting done, I’m going to call it a win.

 

 

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?!

Family Business?

I’ve been working for the past several months on designs for my mandalas.  I have decided that I also want to make stickers to sell on Etsy.  That was my original plan, but then I got sidetracked by how much fun I was having with the mandalas.

I spent some time recently using my Silhouette cutting machine to make some craft kits for a preschool classroom.  It was so much fun, I may have to find other kits to make and sell!

Here’s the craft kit I made – they were doing a monster design for ‘M’ week, so I used my machine to cut out all the circles and horns for the monsters.  Enough for 40+ kids done in about 15 minutes.  It would have taken me all weekend to cut these by hand, not to mention they wouldn’t have been true circles.

Monster Craft Kit 2

My husband is getting in on the action, too.  He is working with vinyl rather than paper, and he’s been making vinyl decals for cars.  He made some for his car and his colleagues saw the decals and asked if he could make some designs for them.

He’s spent the last two weekends working on the computer, designing decals, and having a blast.  He told me yesterday that he really wants to invest some time into seeing if he can turn it into a viable small business.

Crossing my fingers that he can and we can turn this into a family business. 🙂  Now to get busy working on my own designs!

Learning Curve

FailMy struggle to start my online business continues.  For whatever reason, my brain insists that before I start something, I must know ALL THE THINGS.  So I decided to see how other people were running their sticker businesses on Etsy.

My first goal was to order some stickers from other stores. I had a million questions.  What kind of paper do they use? How do they package their products? What do they charge? How much is postage?  Do they charge shipping?  What about sales tax?

So I purchased some stickers for my own use and I also purchased some stickers that I could download, print, and cut myself. I’m still deciding whether I want to mail out orders, which will add to the cost because of postage and packaging, or whether I want to just sell downloadable files.

So I purchased a couple of downloadable files that also included the cut files so I could use the Cameo and see how things work. Buy the files, download, open, print, cut – easy peasy, right?

Right.

After 30 minutes of work, I was ready to pull out my hair. I made ALL the rookie mistakes. I’d tried to read and research about how to use the software and the cutting machine, so I thought I was ready to go.

Nope.

First, I wanted to try out my new CMYK printer and see what the print quality was like. It was okay, though not as saturated as I thought it would be. The images I was printing were kind of washed out, so I’ll wait and see how I feel after printing more than 3 or 4 pages.

I printed two pages of the stickers I purchased and then got ready to cut them. Opened the cut files and loaded the cutting machine. And then realized, after the cut job failed, that I had just printed the pdf files of the stickers, which don’t include the registration marks that the cutting machine needs to cut.

Sigh.

So, I opened the cut files and printed the stickers again – this time making sure the registration marks printed. So far, so good. Next headache – my Cameo is connected to my PC via bluetooth because it sits too far away from the PC to connect with a cord. Then I got the cut job loaded and ready to go, but when I went to send it to the machine, the bluetooth was continually searching (and not finding) the Cameo.

Grrr.

Deep breath, and then I shut off the Cameo, counted to 5 and turned it back on. Finally, the bluetooth connected and I was able to get the cut job started. I did notice that the blade didn’t seem to have moved (my Cameo came with an auto blade), but I didn’t think much of it. I wanted to track how long it took to cut, so I was watching the clock.

As I said, rookie mistake. When the job finished, the machine had cut, but not deep enough to peel the stickers off easily. Some of them were quite small and they ripped as I tried to take them off, or I couldn’t get them separated at all. Clearly, my blade wasn’t cutting deep enough. Google, here I come.

After spending just a few minutes searching, I found the answer. Because my machine has an auto blade, the machine has to adjust the setting on the blade, rather than me doing it manually (which is how some other machines work). Apparently most newbies insert the blade incorrectly. Mine was actually inserted correctly, so that wasn’t the problem.

I went back to the cut file and realized that the cut file assumes that your machine has a ratchet blade (one that you adjust manually). So, that problem solved. I just change the blade selection to reflect that my machine has the auto blade.

Success! I load the paper to be cut, get the machine connected via bluetooth, and when the job starts, it adjusts the blade. Yay!! I wait another 4 minutes for the job to finish and then I go to remove the sticker paper from the cutting mat. As I pull, I realize that the blade, rather than kiss-cutting the stickers, has instead cut all the way through the paper. Which means when I try to peel the paper off the tacky cutting mat, it comes up in pieces, leaving the stickers stuck to the mat.

Arrrggghhh.

I spent 10 minutes peeling off all the stickers from the mat. Another piece of paper wasted. But – now I know what not to do. So, back to the drawing board. Print the stickers, make sure they have the registration marks, make sure the machine is connected to the PC, and adjust the blade settings so that it doesn’t cut all the way through the paper.

How did it go?

Well, partial success. I adjusted the blade setting, but I left everything else the same. Mistake. I considered adjusting the force/pressure of the blade as well, but I decided not to. After spending more time cutting the stickers, this time I think the blade depth is good, but it is still cutting too deep. Some stickers were fine, but others were still cutting through the backing of the paper. Not enough that I couldn’t pull it off the cutting mat in one piece, but enough to make it unworkable as a setting.

Back to the drawing (cutting?) board. 😛

Motivation Vacation

FailLife has been kicking my butt lately.  I’ve got a lot of things going on (I know, who doesn’t?) and I am not using my time effectively.

I’m not sure when I got lazy, but I just don’t seem to be as productive as I used to be.  10 years ago I got a lot more accomplished in a day than I do now.  I mean, yes, I’m 10 years older (and tireder!) but I still need to get things done.  My motivation has taken a vacation, though.

Another facet of my OCD is that I like routines.  Routines keep me busy and feeling balanced.  So on days that I don’t have a routine, or that I don’t really have to follow one, I find myself doing a lot of nothing.  Which can be nice, but then I’m left feeling guilty because I didn’t get all the things I wanted to done.

Most of the things I want to accomplish are personal goals, so I don’t have someone in my ear or over my shoulder making sure I meet deadlines.  With my willpower heading out for summer vacation early, my guilt is eating at me lately.

So I’m trying something new.  Go me!  I’ve long subscribed to the theory that you can do anything for 15 minutes.  Can’t find the motivation to (insert task here)?  Just do it 15 minutes at a time.  What I usually discover is that my dread of whatever the task is has made it seem overwhelming and hugely time-consuming, when in fact, it probably doesn’t take much more than the 15 minutes I’ve committed.

Like this blog post, for instance.  I wrote several posts and scheduled them ahead of time, so my self-imposed deadlines for writing more came and went without any new posts.  But once I sat down to write, it actually went pretty quickly.

I’m still trying to figure out this whole online business thing (and failing), but life is providing motivation.  Bills don’t pay themselves and money doesn’t grow on trees (more’s the pity), so I’m gonna have to buckle down and get busy.  Let’s hope my willpower returns from vacation soon!

Imposter Syndrome

Image Credit: Pixabay

Last time I was talking about my (lifelong) tendency to procrastinate. I hope I’m doing better (past me is writing this, so I hope future me is doing better). However, I’ve been dealing with a lot of Imposter Syndrome lately.

For those of you unfamiliar with Imposter Syndrome (lucky you!), it is defined as ‘the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.’ (Dictionary.com) Basically, I feel like a fraud and that at any moment, someone will discover that I really have no idea what I’m doing.

It’s the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is defined as ‘a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.’ (Wikipedia.com)

I wonder if there’s any way to trick my brain into switching one out for the other?

Every time I sit down to try and work on designs for my (eventual) store, I am beset by doubts. Nothing seems good enough. That little voice in my head starts whispering about how I’m not trained, I’m a hack, an amateur, a fraud. Then the very next day (or sometimes sooner), I am looking at other people’s work and thinking, pfft, I can do that!

The Imposter Syndrome was so bad that my Cameo, after sitting in the box for two weeks, sat for another two weeks in my office before I actually tried using it. And I only did it then because my husband was busy working on some designs of his own and wanted to use the machine to cut them (he was making vinyl decals).

I nixed him getting to use it before I did, so I finally sat down and tried cutting out some sticker files that I had purchased on Etsy. (That is another failure story, so keep an eye out for that one.) So, I have now used the machine and learned a few things, but I am still suffering from both Imposter Syndrome and my usual procrastination.

Meanwhile, my husband is busy creating designs and cutting out decals in his spare time and has decorated several of our vehicles with them. Le sigh.

How do you deal with procrastination and/or Imposter Syndrome?