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

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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!

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.

 

 

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)

 

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!

Monday Mandala 11

Mandala_11I’m actually pretty pleased with the way this mandala turned out.  The Monday mandalas give me a way to try different things without worrying about whether it’s sellable (that’s not a word, but you get what I mean).  I like the play of all the circles and arcs in this one.

I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out what platforms I want to use to try and sell some of my designs.  I’m actually thinking of trying to put them together in a book to sell on Amazon.  Which seems kind of crazy, but what have I got to lose?

I’m looking at a few other platforms as well, including Etsy and some print-on-demand sites.

What are your preferred platforms for selling?

Planning Fail

img_0087-1Several months ago, I bought one of those fancy planners.  You know, the ones you see all over YouTube and Etsy with all the bazillions of cute little stickers you can put in them?

Since I was contemplating starting my own sticker business, I bought one, along with several sticker sets from different Etsy stores to try out.

I lasted two whole weeks, I think.

I mean, it’s not the planner’s fault.  It was cute, it was in some colors I liked, and I truly thought I would use it.  It’s not the stickers’ fault – they were all cute and/or useful.  I bought a set of budgeting stickers for April (so I bought the planner even before that) and some other just cutesy stickers to decorate as I planned.

I even bought a couple of sticker packs made for the planner I bought that were digital downloads so I could try that out.  After the printing fiasco of those, I finally got them ready to use.

Now, I use a planner all the time.  I prefer the month-at-a-glance ones, rather than week by week, so that was probably my first fail.  The planner I bought does have a monthly view, but it’s pretty small and followed by weekly spreads.  So, not really enough space for what I wanted for the monthly view.

Looking back through the planner, I used it for, yep, two whole weeks.  It just felt, forced, I think.  Like I was trying too hard to make it ‘cute,’ when what I need from my planner is functional.

Weekly Planner Spread 2019_0001

Weekly Planner Spread 2019_0002

I was a bit frustrated, thinking of the money I wasted on this planner (even on sale, it was around $35) and the stickers.  As you can see above, none of the stuff I put in the planner actually got checked off, so I clearly accomplished a whole lot of nothing that week.

I pulled the planner out while I was writing this post and realized I’ve only got 3 months left to use it.  I can buy other pages and take out the ones that are currently in there, so it’s not a total loss, but I doubt I’ll spend that much to replace something I didn’t use in the first place.

Now I’m thinking maybe I’ll use it as an editorial calendar for the blog.  Then it won’t matter how messy it gets, right?  😛  Since it’s only usable til the end of this year, that seems like a good plan.  I’ll probably keep the little discs and the cover, but I’m not even sure about that.

Ah, well, another lesson learned, right?  At least I’ve narrowed down what I don’t want in a planner.  Now – what to do with all those stickers??!!

Digitally Coloring Mandalas

I’ve been playing with various options with the mandalas I’ve created so far.  I’ve made a bunch that I’ve posted here on my blog, but I am also working on others that will hopefully go into my Etsy store for sale as digital downloads.

I wanted to see what some of my designs would look like if they were colored in, to make sure that the designs were intricate enough to be interesting to color.  I also experimented with different ways to color them in, since I want to give people options.

I took one of my favorite mandalas so far (Mandala 6) and tried a few ways.  I’ve been using my Procreate app on my iPad to create these mandalas, so I wanted to see what they would look like if I colored them in using Procreate.

I know many people have coloring apps on their phones and iPads, so I thought this would be a good way to see how well my designs worked doing so.

Mandala 6 Colored ProcreateI’m pretty happy with the results.  I think there is a good amount of detail in the design and that it works well coloring digitally.  I can see where I’ve made some mistakes in creating the design, but since these designs weren’t specifically created for coloring, I’m not going to worry over it too much.

It would probably look even better if I had used a variety of colors rather than sticking with a blue scheme, but I had a reason for doing that, which you’ll see in a later post.

I am also hoping to offer the option to purchase my mandalas (together or separately) as stickers, so I need to test out coloring them on sticker paper as well.  If nothing else, I’ve had a lot of fun creating the mandalas themselves, so I’m calling all of this a success! 😀