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?

Procrastinators Unite! Tomorrow

Image Credit: Pixabay

I am a procrastinator. Which is bad for a home business, probably. I work best under pressure (like writing a 5 page college paper the night before it’s due, etc). I think I get overwhelmed by choices, so leaving things until the last minute forces me to make quick choices and I don’t have the time to over think them. (I think there’s a sticker in there somewhere!)

So when I decided to try and start a sticker business, I was making list after list after list. What would I use as a name? Did I need a blog? What equipment and supplies would I need? My husband, on the other hand, was immediately online, researching what the best equipment and supplies would be and encouraging me to order them asap so I could get started.

We ended up purchasing a new printer, since my current printer was about 7 years old. We also bought a Silhouette Cameo 3, which I will be using to cut out the stickers I plan to sell. The printer we bought locally, but both items sat in the box for about two weeks – I needed to rearrange some things in my office to make room for the new machines.

We finally got around to rearranging the office so we could set up the new printer and the Cameo. A few days ago I set up a separate bank account to use for the business and got a PO Box as well. So now I don’t have any more excuses for not getting started.

So, have I? Of course not.

I set a deadline for myself of April 1, which has come and gone. I do have the machines set up and I’ve been working on designs and learning the ins and outs of the Cameo. But it seems that external deadlines are easier for me to worry about than internal ones. So I’m going to try my hardest to meet the next one – by May 1 I want to have at least 10 products ready to launch. Crossing my fingers that I can stick with this one.

How do you keep yourself motivated to meet personal deadlines?

I Am Not A Niche

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I know all the advice out there says you should ‘niche’ your blog. I’m still not sure I understand why. I mean, I get wanting to be seen as an expert in your field. But I am interested in people, not in niches. When I think about it in that light, it makes me wonder about the other advice you always hear on social media – be authentic, be real. But authentic and real people are complex and multi-dimensional, not a single ‘niche’ idea, right?

As an introvert, people usually assume that I hate people. I don’t. I love watching people, observing their behavior, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Interacting with people is a completely different thing, though. Because I’m an introvert, I’m socially awkward. I mean, I can handle being in social situations, but I don’t generally enjoy them. Mostly because I don’t understand them. If you don’t really care how I am, why are you asking? I want to talk about deep and meaningful things, but most social conversation is completely superficial.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked, sorry. This post is about why this blog likely won’t fit into a neat little niche. The purpose behind it is not to present myself as an expert about anything, but rather to (hopefully) show people that with success comes a lot of failure. I think that people are so afraid these days to fail at anything that they prefer to do nothing. But you don’t learn if you don’t fail. I think that’s a lesson that so many people miss. We’re so focused on success that we forget it is driven by failure.

I decided to start a business, and as is usual with me, I jumped right in with both feet. But after spending a week or so researching and doing some paperwork, that darn imposter syndrome showed its ugly face. Suddenly, the whole prospect seemed incredibly daunting. I have no idea what I’m doing; what was I thinking?

Then I started to really head down the rabbit hole. I don’t even really use social media – I have no ‘following’ to promote this business to, so how in the world am I going to get sales? Then I started researching selling online and all the new tax and privacy laws in the US and elsewhere and it really started to get overwhelming. How am I ever going to make this a success?

Then one day, in the midst of all my angst, I thought, why the hell am I worrying about all this? When I originally decided to start the business, I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about failing. If I did fail, then at least I would have learned something. If I fail, I’ll have lost some money and some time, but at least I will have tried. I’d regret not trying more than I’d regret failing. So, here I am.

If you’re expecting this to be a blog about only things relating to an online business venture, you might be disappointed. I will write about that, but other things interest me, and since this is, after all, my blog, I will probably write about them too.

I’m opening at Etsy shop selling planner stickers and vinyl decals. Topics you may encounter in this blog: starting an online home business, cutting machines (like the Silhouette Cameo), stickers, planners, vinyl, decals, sales tax, using Etsy, etc. I may also write about things like fonts, software, blogging, writing, creating, art, being an introvert (and sometimes a hermit), my tinfoil hat theories (shh, don’t tell anyone about these), and you may encounter my snark/sarcasm.

If any of those don’t strike your fancy, no problem. The internet is a big place, and this is just one tiny corner of it. If you’re interested in watching me fail (or succeed), then slap the follow button and let’s go!