Changes

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Lots of changes for me now and in the future. The pandemic has made everything very fluid, so it’s hard to plan ahead without knowing what will change.

I have an interview for a new job next week. I’m less nervous than I thought I would be, but I’m afraid that will make it hurt more if I don’t get it. :/ My youngest has now had 3 tentative dates to reschedule graduation, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve decided to go ahead and send out the announcements with a note that explains we don’t know when/if it will happen. Even if it doesn’t, or people can’t attend, I at least want them to know how proud we are of his accomplishments.

The university that both children will attend in the fall has said they intend to hold in-person classes, but they will end those early right before Thanksgiving. Everything after that (the final two weeks of classes), will be done remotely. I have to wonder, then, why bother? Everyone has been doing remote classes for most of the year, so why go back just for 2 1/2 months? My oldest has all online classes anyway, and we can probably arrange my youngest’s classes to be all online as well, so we’ll see how it all shakes out. We still aren’t sure whether my job will reopen in August, but we are planning as if we will. The new health regulations are sure making things interesting.

In the meantime, I am continuing on with my own plans. I’ve opened my Etsy shop, I’m adding additional items this week, and I am taking steps to get back on track with what I want to do for my business. I’m trying to improve my health and fitness, and I’m continuing to work on various projects, like painting more minis. 😀

Hitting Publish

Credit: Pixabay

I did it! I finally listed some of my coloring mandalas on Etsy. After attempting to add things here and becoming frustrated, I finally decided to just go ahead and list the mandalas on Etsy.

They are similar to my Monday Mandalas, but they are more detailed, since I drew them specifically for people to color. It was (unsurprisingly) easy to list the items on Etsy, and adding the files for download was simple. I spent more time creating the images for the listings than I did the actual listings themselves.

I’ve listed 5 mandalas to start, and I plan to add to them this week. If you’d like to check them out, you can find them in my Etsy store here. It’s all kind of an experiment at this point, since I haven’t really done any social media or marketing – mostly because I decided on the spur of the moment to just do it. 😛

It should be an interesting week for me – I’ve opened my Etsy shop finally, I bought more contrast paints to experiment with painting minis, and I bought the iOrnament app for more drawing options. iOrnament reminds me of iColorama – lots and lots of options, but it’s a bit overwhelming at first. I’ve been watching some tutorials to make some sense of it. Lots of good information, but I have a feeling I may still stick with Procreate for the majority of my drawing. I haven’t found anything that has that same line smoothing ability as Procreate.

Lots of changes heading my way – new stuff to learn, a new shop to run, and now WordPress is moving everyone over to the new block editor. I’m using it to create this post – so far, so good, except I miss seeing my word count at the bottom of the post. After some Google-fu, you have to click the information button at the top of your post in the block editor to see how many words you’ve written. Not the end of the world, but an annoying additional click.

Le sigh.

Ah well, if that’s the worst of the changes, I’m doing okay, right? I do appreciate that the new editor has lots of options the old one didn’t, change is just hard. Either that, or I’m just old. 😀

Back to the Drawing Board

I’ve been working for the past week on figuring out how to sell items here on my WordPress site.  I upgraded to Premium for the Simple Payments options and started to slog through the process.

It’s been a long week.

man showing distress
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

You and me both, stock photo man.  :/

Things I’ve realized as I worked:

  • I didn’t need to upgrade to Premium – Simple Payments doesn’t let me provide automatic emails/links for downloading the digital products.
  • Inserting my own PayPal buttons on my site was waaaay more complicated than it should be.
  • iOS doesn’t play nice with anyone.
  • I do not like coding.  I can grasp the basics, but any more than that is just frustrating.
  • I still need to track buyer’s addresses for sales tax, in case I would go over any given state’s transaction limit for remote sellers.
  • No wonder people use Etsy, Amazon, Ebay, and the like – it’s sooo much easier.

So, after working diligently for a week and having little to show for it, I need to take a step back and rethink what I’m doing.

I’m going to give myself a mental break this weekend and have a good long think about how best to achieve what I want.  What advice would I give someone else in this situation?  And am I brave enough to take it?

Here’s hoping.

Money for Nothing

FailYesterday was frustrating.  Very frustrating.

I upgraded my site to premium so that I could use the simple payments option – something WordPress has been lauding as a way to use your site to make money.  Great! That was my eventual goal here – to start selling my mandalas and stickers, but on my own site, so that I wasn’t paying Amazon and Etsy lots of money in fees.

I’ve read so many people who say that they drive their own traffic to Etsy – so if I’m gonna do all that work, I might as well drive people to my own site, right?  Then I’m making the money off my hard work, instead of Etsy.

After upgrading to the Premium plan, I started researching how to use the Simple Payments buttons to sell my digital coloring mandalas.  Turns out, the Simple Payments just lets you collect payments for your products – there is no way to add a link or anything to the payment button.

So, essentially, a person would pay, then have to wait for me to receive the notification from PayPal that I’d been paid, and then wait for me to send an email with the link or file for what they purchased.  Which isn’t horrible, but isn’t at all what I was led to believe I could do with the simple payments.

After more research, I discovered a way to use Google Docs and PayPal to add things to my site for sale.  That was an experience in itself, because what I wanted was for buyers to be taken directly to a download link for the item after they paid.  Making a download link from a Google doc required even more research, because of course it’s not an option in Drive.

During the first test, I got to the document, but it didn’t appear that the file was downloading correctly.  (My husband was testing for me on his iPad.)  After getting the direct download link issue sorted, then I realized that for some reason (I’m assuming because he’s using his iPad and iOS never plays well with others), he isn’t being taken directly to the page with the download link from PayPal.  He has to ‘return to merchant’ inside PayPal and then he gets taken to the correct place for the download.

Soooo frustrating.  This is probably why so many people would rather just use Etsy or Amazon for this.  In fact, I’m debating if this is all worth it myself, particularly since I apparently upgraded my WordPress plan for nothing.  I could have inserted the PayPal buttons and configured it as it without upgrading, because all the payments take place on PayPal anyway.  I guess I could upgrade to the next tier on WordPress, where there are some actual e-commerce options, but after feeling like I’ve already spent some money for nothing, that doesn’t seem appealing.

Aaaaarrrrggghhh.  😦

Creating Planner Covers

One of the products I plan to offer in my shop is covers for the Happy Planners.  I’ve made several of them now, and I think I finally have the process down pat.

I made one as a test a while ago and have made several tweaks.  The first one seemed a bit flimsy, so I added in cardstock for additional weight, and I changed my laminating sheets to 5 mil rather than 3 mil.

I had already purchased a special punch specifically for use with the Happy Planner disc system.  I experimented on the first one with adding some stickers, and I have some ideas for adding other things to future creations.

With these covers in mind, I went out and purchased some scrapbook papers that I thought would work.  It takes 4 pages of 12X12 scrapbook paper (and 2 pages of regular cardstock)  to make the front and back cover for the classic size Happy Planner.  I think I can get both covers out of only 2 pages of scrapbook paper for the mini Happy Planner.  I need to figure out my cost, and then see how much shipping would be for a cover.

If it ends up being too costly for shipping, I may have to scrap the idea as a product, but I am having fun making them.

I made this cover for myself:

Galaxy Cover 1

When I bought my planner, I couldn’t find a cover that I liked, that spoke to me.  My sister had the same experience, so I’m planning on making her a custom one next.  I love the galaxy/star theme of this paper.  The stars and lines are gold foil, though that’s a bit hard to see in the photo.

The white galaxy paper on the inside covers is from the same theme pack of paper:

Galaxy Cover 3

Now that I’m looking at the photos, I may add a foil 2020 or something to the front cover.  Just something to jazz it up a bit.  All in all, though, I’m much happier with this cover than the one that came with the planner.

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!

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.

New Year, New Goals

new-years-eve-4664930_1920
Credit: Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s 2020.  I remember when I was younger, thinking that the year 2000 seemed eons away.  20 years past that, I am starting to realize that I am old.  Sigh.

As the new year approached, I found myself thinking about what goals I wanted to achieve in 2020.  I don’t like to make ‘resolutions,’ because it’s too easy to forget about those as soon as you make them.

Over the last few weeks, I was thinking about what I want to accomplish this year – both personally and professionally.  I don’t want to set too many goals and overwhelm myself.  I want concrete, achievable goals – ones I can break into smaller goals so that I can measure my progress.

Goals for 2020

Professional Goals:

  • Launch sticker business officially
  • Create at least 10 products to sell
  • Upgrade WordPress to Premium to take advantage of Simple Payments

Personal Goals:

  • Save $
  • Get fit
  • Be brave

For my professional goals, I want to officially launch my sticker business here on the website.  By upgrading to the Premium plan, I can take advantage of the simple payments options and offer the products for sale via PayPal.  There are other things I will need to do to make this happen, but this will give me more control over my products and sales than I would have on Etsy.

I may still open an Etsy store, but the goal is to eventually have enough traffic to my own site that I won’t need Etsy.  It also lets me avoid the mountain of paperwork that would be required with an Etsy shop.

Before I launch, I want to create at least 10 different products to sell.  The last 3-4 months I’ve been setting up files and products that I can easily adapt for different options to minimize my production time when the products officially launch.

For my personal life, I want to budget more carefully in addition to hopefully bringing in more income with the business launch.  My husband’s parents live in another country and we would love to be able to visit them more often.  We will also be paying college tuition for our children, which will be another large expense.

In 2020, I want to improve my health.  My husband and I would like to travel quite a bit after our kids are done with school, and I want to be healthy enough to do that.  I am making some small changes to start, but I am hopeful that I will be able to stick with them.

Lastly, I want to be braver this year.  I am my own worst critic and I want to try and, if not silence, at least lower the volume on those critical thoughts.  If I fail, at least I tried.  And then I know what doesn’t work.

Happy New Year to you all, and may your year be full of love, light, and blessings.  ♥♥

Failure to Launch

img_0087-1Well, here it is, almost the end of 2019, and I have yet to launch my sticker business.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too much, but I am frustrated with myself.  I’ve been so productive in many other ways this year, but for whatever reason, I find myself unable to pull the trigger on this.

Every time I get close to launching, I find an excuse why I shouldn’t.  The biggest issue for me is the whole stumbling block over the excessive tax paperwork if I sell on Etsy.  I’ve even looked into hiring a bookkeeper/tax professional to handle it for me, but it’s just too cost-prohibitive at this point.

Over the holidays, I’m going to do some number crunching and see if it makes more sense to use Etsy, or if I want to try having my products available here.  If I upgrade to the Premium WordPress plan, I can do simple PayPal orders – without the added headache of sales tax, because I wouldn’t need to collect any as a small business owner selling on my own website.

If I did that, however, I’m not sure how I would set it up here for that.  A separate page for products, I think, so that I could keep them separate from the blog posts, yet easily accessible.

I also need to do some experimenting with PayPal – I’ve never used it before, so I’m not fully comfortable with all the ins and outs of it.

I’ve set up some social media accounts to try and increase my exposure – if I’m not going to go the Etsy route, I need to work on bringing customers in myself.  Honestly, that’s the only appeal of Etsy – the built-in traffic.  I’ve set up a Twitter account and I was already on Ello.  I’ve added Pinterest, because the planners and stickers are so visual, but I need to spend some time researching how to use Pinterest.  It’s not at all intuitive and I’m finding it more difficult to use than I had anticipated.

I’d also like to add YouTube into the mix, but until I get a better recording set up, that isn’t an option.  I need to shoot from overhead and it’s more complicated than I thought.  I tried using my smartphone, but the quality just isn’t what I want it to be.  I really want to use my Canon camera to record, but I need the right equipment to shoot from overhead with it.

So, as usual, lots of plans.  Here’s hoping I can follow through with them, instead of continuing to procrastinate.  Fingers crossed!