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!

Planner Overload

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Credit: Pixabay

When I started this blog, it was with the intent to open a planner sticker business on Etsy.  I’m still not there yet, but that’s a post for another day.

I am working on it, creating stickers that I could sell.  I’ve concentrated on things I would use first, because if I never sell anything, at least I’ve created something I will use myself.

I’ve been a planner girl since forever.  When I was in school, it was a way to keep track of my homework.  As I got older, it became a way to keep track of my life.  And I’m still using them.

Them.

As in, plural.  Something I never have done before.  I’ve always just had one planner, and it was one with a monthly spread, because I never use the weekly ones.  I want to be able to glance at my month and see what’s going on that month.  Drilling down into weekdays and hours is just too much for me.  I get information overload.

However, since I dove into the world of planner stickers, I realized I had no idea how many people seem to use planners these days – and multiple ones, at that.

In the planner community, there are two big planner companies.  Each of those companies sells multiple types of planners – different layouts, different themes, different sizes, etc.  But they also sell planners for multiple purposes.  You can buy a fitness/workout planner, a budget planner, a faith planner, a life planner, a household planner, a kids’ planner, and more.

I’ve watched plenty of YouTube videos of planner people who use these multiple planners and thought, sheesh, why would you need that many planners?

I’m now one of them.  :/

I have my original, cheap $5 2 year monthly planner.  I have my bill planner (it’s really just a small spiral notebook where I track my bills).  Now I also have a yearly planner from one of the two big companies – because I needed to know what it was like to use one before I could make/sell stickers for it, right?  And I bought a budget pack from that same company – again, because I need to know how people use it before I can make stuff for it, right?  And I’m currently trying to talk myself out of buying a planner from the other company for the same reasons.

Oh, I forgot, I have a Bullet Journal that I’ve been trying to use again.  The BuJo was appealing because it was functional and not focused on ‘pretty,’ but if you spend any time on YouTube, you’ll find tons of artists who show off their illustrated-to-the-nines BuJos.

So, that’s now 5 (5!) planners I’m using.  Which is ridiculous, I know.  Especially since some of these planners are $40 and up.  But I’m having a hard time paring them down.  I’m actually enjoying using the new yearly planner.  2 issues with it – one, it has lots of pages for weekdays that I will never use, so that’s a waste of trees and money, and 2, the monthly spread, while good, isn’t big enough.  Since I only use the monthly spread, that’s a whole month’s worth of stuff that has to get written down – bills, appointments, schedules, holidays – for 4 people, since I track everyone in my household.  I suppose I could size up to the bigger planner, but then that’s even more money (and pages I won’t use, because it also has pages for weekdays).

And even though I understand the whole ‘sunk cost fallacy,’ I find it hard to get rid of my original cheap $5 planner, because it’s good for another whole year!  And it’s bigger than my new planner, so I have more room to write stuff down.

I am planning to get rid of my little spiral bill planner, because I do like the new budget planner I’ve been using.  Recording things in both places is getting obnoxious, and the new one has much more space to write.  I guess it’s just resistance to change that’s keeping me using both.

I also could incorporate my new budget planner into my new yearly planner – the rings are designed so that you can add/remove/rework pages as necessary.  I just haven’t done it yet.  Doing those two things would at least get me down to 3 planners instead of 5, which is something.

I have also explored the idea of using digital planners for all these things, but honestly, I like using an analog planner.  I like writing with my pens, the feel of the paper, and the stickers.  Digital planning just wouldn’t be the same, plus I’d be worried about it all somehow getting hacked.  So for now, analog planning is the plan.

I’m still trying to figure out if the Bullet Journal is something I want to stick with.  I like that it’s functional, but I’m discovering I would also like it to be pretty.  Something that seems a lot easier with my yearly planner than the BuJo.  We shall see.

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!

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??!!

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. 😛