Planning for February

It probably seems crazy to already be planning for February, but I am trying to work ahead this year with my planning. Last year I always seemed to be creating things at the last minute and so I was never really happy with how some of my monthly stickers turned out.

I got January 2021 set up near the end of December last year, so I turned my attention to February. February is one of my favorite months – both because it’s short and because it’s my birthday month. 😀

I usually avoid heart-themed things for February, but this year I decided to embrace the hearts while still keeping it relatively simple. I find most of my photos and backgrounds on Pixabay, since everything is free to use (even commercial use!) with no attribution required. So I went heart hunting and found all the reds.

I like how it turned out, even though all the red is not usually my favorite. My cutting machine, however, did not like it and threw a complete fit when I tried to cut the stickers. I must have printed and cut the sheet at least 10 times, and every time it was cutting crooked, ruining the stickers.

I ran my printer out of red ink, I had to reprint it so many times. Eventually, after much cleaning, swearing, and repositioning of the light, it worked and cut the stickers correctly. So they are now in place in my planner and I can look ahead to March and figure out what I want to do for that month.

Last year I went with a Celtic/landscape theme for March, rather than the traditional shamrocks and leprechauns. I don’t know if I want to do either of those or something completely different. We’ll see what inspires me when I go image searching.

Planning Ahead

Since we are working remotely through the end of the year, I am trying to use my time at home productively. I bought my 2021 yearly planner a month or so ago and I decided to spend some time putting together the monthly layouts for them.

I went out to one of my favorite free image sites, Pixabay, and found some winter themed images and backgrounds that I liked. I wanted something wintery in blues and whites. I found quite a few options and put them together for my January 2021 monthly spread.

I use the Happy Planner in the big size, because I like having the big blocks of space for writing in what ever I need. I don’t use the weekly spreads that are included, because I like having the month laid out where I can see everything at once. If I use the weekly spreads, I find that I often forget things, because they are not where I can see them. It’s definitely ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for me when it comes to my planner.

It’s a shame, because there are so many cute weekly spreads out there, but it just doesn’t work for me. That’s part of the reason I tried to use a Bullet Journal, because then I could make it work for how I plan. What I found, however, was that I spent so much time agonizing over the BuJo layouts that I never got anything actually planned. 😦

So, back to the pre-printed planners I went. I tried the Happy Planner classic size, but it’s just too small to be comfortable for me. I do use the classic size for my budget planning, and that is working out well. Having the budget planner has definitely helped me keep better track of where we are spending our money, as well as tracking our debt.

Now if I could just get my dang cutting machine to cut, I could move on to February! Grrr.

Making a Plan

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

My thoughts are all over the place today, rushing full-spreed through my brain. I also have a migraine, so that makes it so much more fun. :/

Yesterday I was determined to be productive, and I was. I ‘adulted,’ as the kids call it, paying bills, organizing my office, and marking off things on my to-do list. I got so much done I gave myself a reward and diamond painted for a couple of hours.

Today, my motivation is nowhere to be found. I have a whole list of things I ‘should’ do and I don’t ‘feel like doin’ anything,’ as the song says. I do just wanna lay in my bed. Alas, the real world beckons. I have to go into work today. I am already prepping for classes in January, though I still don’t know whether they will be in person or remote. In any event, I need to get the prep done, so into work I will go.

I’ve also been trying to make myself some concrete goals for my online business ideas. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I end up doing nothing because I can’t figure out where to start. So, I’m going to take some of the advice I give my students and break things up into smaller chunks. That way the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I try to set three goals a day for myself when my motivation takes a hike. If I get those three things done, then I can call the day a win. 😛

I’ve had some of my coloring mandalas listed on my Etsy shop. The other day I discovered that I should probably be calling them zendalas instead of mandalas, since I use a lot of zentangles as elements of my designs. I’ve also decided to add a .png and .jpg file to the listings, so that people can add them into Procreate or other apps for coloring. I may at some point sell them as SVG files as well.

I also want to finally add some of my planner stickers to the shop as well. I’m going to be sitting down and designing them for my own planner, so I might as well get double duty out of them and put them for sale as well. So there’s my to-do list for today – work, add files to the mandala listings, and design my monthly planner stickers. I probably won’t get it all done, but at least I have a plan. Even if I don’t get everything done, I will have at least gotten something done. 😀

And since today is Friday, I can look forward to some relaxing time this weekend working on my latest diamond painting project. I’ve only completed one small section so far, but I can already tell it’s going to be a challenge, as the painting is mostly shades of blue and white. If you’re interested, you can find the painting here.

Planning Ahead

Even though I use a planner and I like to think of myself as organized, I often find myself making my monthly sticker kit for my planner at the last minute. Sometimes the new month has begun before I start making the kit.

I wanted to get a jump on the next couple of months for a couple of reasons. One, because making both the kits for November and December puts me ahead. Two, because it means I can cross two things off my to-do list. 😀

I could buy sticker kits on Etsy for my planner, and I have before, but I like to make my own. I’ve shown you several of them before, but I don’t think I’ve shared them for a couple of months. Eventually I plan to sell them myself on Etsy, but until then, I have fun making them for my own planner.

For November, I wanted a nice, soft, autumn theme – not the usual turkeys and Thanksgiving theme. So I made this:

Ignore the payday and bill due stickers – I don’t generally use those myself, so I don’t bother changing the colors on them when I make my own kits. And it wasn’t until after I had printed it, cut it, and went to apply it that I realized I forgot to change the name of the month to November. Gah!

I do like the way it turned out, and I love that I can hop over to Pixabay and find all kinds of free art there. So I spent some time finding things to use on my December layout as well. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, so I found all kinds of goodies to use.

I really like how the December stickers turned out. I love the colors and I couldn’t resist the cute little plaid reindeer. The maple leaf is a nod to my Canadian husband. 😀 This kit was a little frustrating, because my cutting machine was being a jerk and not aligning properly when cutting. I printed and cut the stickers three times before finally deciding to close the software program and restart it. Voila! Suddenly it cut perfectly.

At least now those two months are done and I can move on to working on other things – like my budget planner. I do also need to order new planner to use for next year. The budget planner I use is undated and I accidentally ordered two the last time I needed one, so I’m set there. For my personal planning, I use a big Happy Planner. I’ve tried several different sizes, but I like the big one the best.

I’ve tried using the Erin Condren planner, and while I love the way the paper feels, the spiral binding makes it too difficult to add and remove pages for me. It’s so much easier to move things around with the Happy Planner disc system.

Now, on to the next project! 😀

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.

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!