Taking the Plunge

photo of man jumping from boat to the sea
Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

With the extra time I’ve had in the last few weeks, I’ve been doing research and trying to figure out how to make my business a good fit for me.  So much research that my brain is now filled with what-if’s – What if it doesn’t work?  What if I can’t figure out the tech pieces?  What if I screw up on taxes somehow?  What if I’ve missed something vital?

The panic and anxiety my brain can produce is endless.

But I’m not going to let it win.  So, I’m going to just take the plunge and hope it works out for the best.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to do everything I can to make it successful, but it does mean that I have to let go of my fears and do SOMETHING.

Anything is better than standing still.  A journey starts with a single step.  (Feel free to throw in any other cliches that seem to fit here. 😛 )

What I’ve decided to do to start is to upgrade my plan here on WordPress to Premium.  I already pay for the Personal plan, so upgrading won’t be that much more.  Doing that will allow me to use their Simple Payments for selling digital downloads.  I already have PayPal set up, so it’s just a matter of hosting the files and posting them.

I’m still going to be writing posts about other things, but I will be adding more posts about my mandalas and the stickers I make.  I haven’t worked out all the details yet, because some of the products I want to sell are physical, not digital.  But digital is a good place to start, especially since selling them here on my own site means I don’t have to worry about pesky sales tax!  My state doesn’t collect sales tax on digital goods, and since I’m using my own website for sales (instead of a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy), I don’t have to worry about any other states either – I won’t ever hit their revenue/number of sales limits for small sellers.

In the meantime, there may some changes here and there so I can arrange things on the site for selling some of these goods, so bear with me.

Side Note:  Did you know that under your media tab here on WP you can access a library of free photos?  There’s a menu option called ‘free photo library’ with a ton of pics that you can use (the attribution is attached to the photo, so you don’t have to do anything except add it).

March 2020 Kit – Big Happy Planner

February just flew by, didn’t it?  I suddenly realized I hadn’t created a kit for March for my planner yet.  I have decided to move from the classic size Happy Planner to the big size – I have tons more room to write, and I can still see everything at once, without having to flip back and forth from the weekly views.

I tried using the weekly views, but having to flip back to the monthly overall just got annoying.  I guess I’m just set in my ways. 😛

Anyhoo, here’s the kit I created for March 2020 for my Big Happy Planner:

IH March 2020 Big Pg 1 JPEG

It’s a fairly simple kit – just the two top washi, two bottom washi, a couple of holiday stickers, some full boxes, and the date covers.  I printed the payday stickers, but I keep all my budget stuff in a separate planner, so I don’t really need those for my big planner.  Same for the bill due stickers.  I know a lot of people find them useful, so I included them in the kit.

Here’s what it looks like after I applied it to the pages in my planner:

March Kit HP Big

Again, my photography skills aren’t the best, but you get the idea.  I am still deciding what to do with the kits for the big Happy Planners.  Because they are so large, it takes an entire 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper just for the stickers.  Which means they will cost more to mail, so I am considering whether I should make them available for download rather than as a physical product.  We shall see.

Making Mockups

As I get closer to opening my Etsy shop, one of the things I need to do is to take product photos and/or have mockups of them so that I can show buyers what my stickers look like.

My photography skills are still not great, and even with a light box I’m getting weird shadows on product photos.  So I thought I would try using some mockups, since my products are created digitally first.  I’ve seen a million of them used on Etsy, so a quick internet search would net me some options, right?

Wrong.

Oh, sure, I found a ton of mockups available for free and for sale, but none of them were really what I needed.  I’m not selling photos or prints, and that was the majority of the mockups out there.  After an afternoon of fruitless searching, I decided I would try to make my own.

I own Photoshop CS6 (the last version you could actually purchase, rather than a subscription).  I’m no expert user by any means, but I figured I would at least try.  It turned out to be easier than I thought.

Because my monthly kits will be multiple pages, buyers will want to see what is on each page.  Also, I may offer pages for individual sales, so they will definitely want to know what they are getting in that instance.  So I needed two different mockups – one to show the entire kit, and one to show each page.

Using my limited Photoshop skills, I managed to come up with the following:

Test 3 Stack
This is the mockup for the entire kit

I’m using the kit I made for myself for February as an example.  I managed to figure out how to make each page of the kit a smart object, so now I can just replace each sheet with an image from my Silhouette software, and I’m good to go!

Here’s the mockup I made so that you can see what’s on each individual sheet of the kit, in case someone wants to purchase only certain sheets:

Test 3 Straight
Here you can see each sheet

I’m really happy with the way these turned out.  I now have an easy way to show buyers what they are getting and all the front-end work I put in will make any new images I need to create fast and easy.

Now if I can just improve my photography skills!

Sticker Tetris

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Credit: Pixabay

I’m still working on my sticker templates for my sticker business.  I’ve designed monthly kits for both the Happy Planner (mini, classic, and big sizes) and the Erin Condren Life Planner.

Now that the templates are done, I can simply fill them in with designs and then sell the themed kits.  Designing the templates, however, was an experience.

First I had to acquire each planner so I could measure for sizes.  I did try just looking up the sizes on the internet, but every site had slightly different sizes, so I decided to measure them myself.  Also, most of the measurements I found were in inches, and they weren’t easy measurements.  For example, some of the monthly boxes were listed as 1.56″.  That’s a weird measurement when you’re working in inches.

So I decided to try metric.  You remember metric? That system they had us learn in the 70’s because the US was going to start using it?  The one where everything is in multiples of 10?  Yeah, that one. 🙂

Amazingly, using millimeters to measure, I ended up with easy to remember numbers.  40mm X 40mm.  40mm X 20mm.  And so on.  No weird decimals to deal with.

So once I had all the sizes I need for the various stickers that go in a kit, I had to try and fit them into a small sheet.  I have to mail the sheets, so I wanted to keep the sheets small to save on postage.  Somewhere around 7″x5″ is pretty typical for the kits.

But trying to fit all the stickers into that 7″X5″ area is like playing a game of Tetris.  You think you have everything placed perfectly, and then realize you forgot a sticker.  Or you want to try and fit in just one more sticker, and that means rearranging everything else.

I persevered, and the templates are done.  Now I can move on to the next job.  😀

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?!