Vistaprint’s “Impression”

Shortly after last week’s post, I set out to make some business cards. I hit up my buddy Google, and he told me Vistaprint was currently running a promotion for 250 business cards. Only $10, plus free shipping! Sounded too good to be true.

I proceeded to spend the next hour or so “designing” a card. Rather, I chose from a limited selection of pedestrian templates and filled in the required information. I decided to splurge on a back side for my cards. It was an extra $6.49 but that seemed reasonable enough given the original steal.

Once I was somewhat satisfied with my design, I clicked on the little shopping cart, expecting to be taken to the checkout page. Instead, I was forced through barrage of promotional hoops asking me to buy this, and telling me I need that. It was like trying to register a domain with GoDaddy, or like ordering a plated dinner at Sizzler. How can something so seemingly simple require so many damn questions? And forgive me, Vistaprint, if I don’t believe you when you say, “Customers like you also bought ‘Large Lawn Signs'” to match my business cards. You lie. Nobody like me did that.

I finally made it to the virtual checkout counter and double-checked my cart to make sure none of the “next” buttons I had clicked doubled as an “add to cart” button. It was like shopping with a bratty child: I had to make sure that nothing got slipped into my cart while I wasn’t paying attention.

Then, when I went to choose a shipping option, the cheapest one was $7. Seven dollars. Standard shipping (14 days) was seven dollars. Cool story, Hansel. I spent the next 10 minutes searching for the “free shipping” option that was promised me in the promotion, only to discover that the back side option, for which I had already agreed to pay an extra $6.49, did not qualify for free shipping. Apparently, the ink they use on the back of cards is actually liquid plutonium. Very heavy.

That was about the point where I vocalized a few choice words to Vistaprint and went back to the drawing board. Long story short, I ended up spending $30 on 100 cards at Zazzle.com. I couldn’t be happier. Much nicer templates, great user interface, and NO hassle. Plus, since I don’t have a website yet, the scant 100 cards will serve as the perfect deadline to get one up running so that I can include it on my next batch.

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Over the Weather

As I float on in my endeavors, the days seem to be getting shorter. I’m starting to figure out exactly what it takes to be an artist and run my own “business,” and it’s laying claim on more and more of my time. It’s exciting, but for someone who’s attention couldn’t span a crack in the sidewalk, it’s a lot to handle.

I’ve finally designed and produced enough work to give people a good idea of my style and what I’m capable of. Last week, I put the finishing touches on several of my pieces. No sooner than that, I felt ready to conquer the art world. I was overcome with the an uncontrollable urge to rush off and show everyone. So I did. I even managed to land a meeting with the owner of the most popular high-end restaurant in Salt Lake. If I could display my art on those walls, I’d have all the exposure I need right now. Go big or go home, right?

I began the meeting just glowing with excitement and confidence. It was casual and friendly, and short. I would say it went pretty well except for the fact that I couldn’t pry a reaction out of her. Not a good sign considering that art generally speaks for itself. I sensed no negativity, but nothing positive either. For ten minutes, our conversation strayed from one topic to another as any wayward conversation would, no discernible progress being made. And then, it was over. The only hint of interest I picked up from her was a sideways comment she threw out towards the end to the tune of,  “we’re redoing our bathrooms this year and might need some new mirrors.” Really though, even Gandhi would have recognized that as pity. I’ll take it though, for all that it’s worth.

The encounter was a success. I know this because after she left, I actually felt encouraged rather than discouraged. I’ve talked to enough people who are excited about what I do to not worry about the ones that aren’t. I just got over excited about of the status of being affiliated with that kind establishment. That’s not what I want to be driven by anyway. I’m just trying to help people create comfortable spaces. People have different tastes so I can’t expect to please everyone.

I also got a few takeaways on how to better promote myself as a “professional.” ::cough, cough:: First off, I need to have an image gallery or portfolio on hand, on my tablet, at all times. Aside from the obvious benefits of this, my creations have a different feel in the day than they do at night so I need to be able to convey this. Next, if ever I use my house as a gallery again, I need to be clear that the art on my walls is a display and everything is available for purchase. This seems trivial, but it’s a small step to take to avoid potentially great confusion. It occurred to me after the meeting that she probably thought at some point, cool, he decorated his house but what can he do for me? Along those same lines, everything has to have a price tag. Since I haven’t sold anything yet, I was at a loss when she asked how much a particular piece would cost. This made it seem like amateur hour, and although it actually is, I can’t let any potential customers know that. Next, I need business cards. She and several people since then have asked me for one and all I could say was, “uh, they’re currently in production.” Way to be prepared, hero! And last (for now), I need a website, with general information, a personal online gallery, a shop, contact info, and a place for custom order forms. Nothing fancy; just something to let people know that I mean business. My Google + Page isn’t going to cut it.

Moving forward, I realize just how much needs be done but I have to learn not to get ahead of myself. Promotion and sales are peaking my interest, but I’m constantly reminded that production must come first. I simply don’t have enough product yet to shift gears into marketing. I know where my focus needs to be, so I’m working on channeling my excitement into creativity. The only problem now is the weather. I’d be thrilled if it didn’t start raining within five minutes of every time I go outside to resume building!

I Lack Discipline

Last Monday, I set out for an entire week of focus and productivity. I got off to screaming start with some early morning exercise. I diligently made it through several hours of online tutorials. I tracked down some supplies for my art projects. I designed and sketched out several new ideas. I got IMPARTWORKS caught up in the social networking scene. I even turned down some opportunities to catch up with friends.

And then, Tuesday rolled around. It’s not that I ran out of steam, it’s more like I was over-ambitious. It was like wanting to do so much actually impeded my ability to focus. I was cocky. It was like, this:

By mid-week I managed to find some balance. The key to not getting ahead of myself was simply to tackle one task at a time. You could say I found discipline within. For a while.

By Friday evening, I had seemingly lost sight of the prize. I am unsatisfied with my inability to even temporarily curb my appetite for social interaction. Over the weekend, I took nearly every opportunity presented to meet up with friends. It wasn’t excessive, but I failed my one-week challenge to stay focused. One good friend of mine deemed any attempt I make at being antisocial, “ridiculous” and “counterproductive.” As much as I’d like to agree, last week’s challenge was more an exercise in self-discipline than anything else. Therein lies my disappointment.

In light of the attitude change that I created this blog to promote, I’m going to close this one out on a high note. Despite having succumb so easily to distraction, I do have some tangibles that suggest my week wasn’t a failure after all. Here is a sneak peek at a prototype and a few unfinished pieces from my first round of production under IMPARTWORKS.

Action Reaction

As I get increasingly excited over Wall Woes, IMPARTWORKS, and my other projects, these topics find their way into more and more of my everyday conversations. When somebody asks me what I do, I proudly tell them about the blog and my art, and their potential moving forward. As it turns out, if there exist two job titles on this planet that impart upon people a sense of skepticism and utter faithlessness, they are “blogger” and “artist.” Given the brevity of my surfeit of prior “career moves”, it’s possible that within my group of friends it’s a simple case of me having cried wolf one too many times. However, I’ll go out on a limb and say that “blogger” and “artist” are two terms not generally synonymous with profitability anyway. And since money is the only measure of success recognized by the majority of my friends, I’ve been graced with more than the recommended daily dose of raised eyebrows and disinclined “Oh…that’s great. Good for you”s.

That said, I’m still super stoked about where this is all going. If anything, I’m even more driven now thanks to all these sticks in the mud. Now I have something to prove. Also, it’s becoming more and more evident that in this stage of my “independent” career move, I need to surround myself only with those who are unconditionally supportive of what I’m doing. The fact that these people are so few and far between is actually a big advantage as this frees up a great deal of time and energy for me to work on the things that matter. If I didn’t have reason enough to distance myself from distractions before, I certainly do now.

In response to the reaction I’ve been getting, I’ve decided to conduct a little experiment. Starting today, for one week I’m going to refrain from any and all physical contact with my world of friends outside of a work environment and focus solely on Wall Woes and company. I’m challenging myself to actively address the challenges, needs and goals set forth in Laying the Foundation. I’m genuinely curious to see how much I can accomplish in a week. I don’t know what I’m capable of since I’ve never been focused on anything for longer than 38 seconds.

My name is what?

Identity Crisis

Yesterday was an exciting day. I came up with a project name and a few logo and slogan ideas. I also registered a couple of domains that might be useful to me down the road. It was no great accomplishment but it allowed me to get started on setting up some social media and networking accounts. I spent the bulk of the day on that.

Then today, as I was sorting through those accounts, I realized that an old abandoned start-up venture of mine might actually have a better name than the one I came up with yesterday. It’s definitely more catchy, it would save me some time and money, and coincidentally, it is appropriate to the project I would need it for.

So, which name do I use? I’ve set up a whole slew of online accounts under the new name, but I’m not sure I like it as much. For the old one, I already have a business entity registered in my state, an EIN, and a bank account. I have the domain for it also. The only drawback is that the old name is not available on the social media and networking platforms for which I’ve signed up using the new name. So, if I use it there would be inconsistencies in the name across the web.

What are the critical components of a good name? And how important is consistency?

One brick at a time.

Brick by Brick

The Great Wall

One of my biggest challenges in this adventure is coming up with the capital to cover the start-up costs of my business ventures. Instead throwing my hands up like I did in the good ‘ol days, I’ve decided to have a little fun with it. I am starting small — think bite size — and working my way up. To make things interesting, and because I really don’t have a choice in the matter, I’m making a point to invest as little personal money as possible into Wall Woes and its projects. I wanna build this puppy up from scratch.

The Approach

There exist several sites online that provide quick and easy ways for anyone with a constructive hobby and some creativity to make a little money. It just so happens that I like to make things, so I will capitalize on that with a few creations that require little to no funding. To help move things along, I will increase my exposure and haphazardly support the local movement by exploiting my personal network of friends and family in the area. A few favors and some sweet talking and I’ll be blazin’ my trail to success.

As cash flow allows, I will reinvest into bigger and better projects. Chronicles of each project will be posted and will include relevant details, tips, pics and links. Meanwhile, a list of my current projects is always available on the Projects Page, which will be available soon, and updated weekly at least.

Mongolians

I got 99 wall woes and a Mongolian ain’t one.

Laying the Foundation

I’m diving head first into an undefined career. I have no plan to speak of, which I like, but I’m starting to feel like I could use some direction. I’m going to attempt to establish this on my own by getting my bearings. After all, I can’t very well decide where to go if I don’t know where I stand. Let’s see what I’m working with.

Challenges

  • I have the attention span of a goldfish in fish bowl of coffee. If I don’t have several different but related projects to fall back on when my focus lapses, I run the risk of abandoning everything.
  • I have decided to be my own boss, but I have very little experience in the fields of self-employment that I’m committing to. This has led me to jump ship on several of my previous business plans.
  • The list of things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime is growing faster than the list of my accomplishments. Again, this has led me abandon projects in the past.
  • I am something of a social butterfly, but my success is going to rely enormously on my ability to set time apart for myself.
  • Time, money, and life as I knew it.  Making drastic changes to attitude demands a notable adjustment to lifestyle. To really change speed, you’ve gotta shift gears. However, as I’m making this transition I still have to support myself which requires, at least temporarily, that I maintain some old practices like my current serving job. So the real challenges here are balance and time management because I have to give my new projects the attention they need while riding out my old lifestyle to get by.

Life Clouds

Alright, I’m ready to tackle all of that. Almost. There are a few more things I need to consider. I have some basic needs that, if not met, will hinder my ability to manage the challenges. If I can’t satisfy these, forget the sunshine, it’s the lightning bolt for me.

Needs

  • Mental stimulation – I need to expose myself to the types of challenges and environments that demand my focus and spark my creativity. This includes spending time outside!
  • Diversity – On par with my first challenge, I need several varied projects that each have the potential to blossom into opportunity. On top of keeping me engaged, this will serve as job security.
  • Expertise – I need credibility, and for that I need to be an expert in something. This takes time, so my projects need to maintain a common thread despite their differences in nature.
  • Health and fitness – I do my best work when I feel good. I feel good when I’m in shape and eating right. This is so easy to ignore, but it’s as important to my success as the actual work I do.
  • Mobility – I enjoy having the freedom to travel, so every opportunity I take advantage of needs to allow room for that eventually.

Now my plate is filling up, but there’s still something missing. What is the ultimate goal? It turns out, that’s a tough question. The life I think I want is constantly evolving, as is my understanding of the life I have. This is part of the reason I am not devising a set plan of action. Instead, I’m relying heavily on the short-term goals because those will always be more relevant to me at any given point, and will allow me more flexibility.

Goals

  • Set goals often. By habitually setting short-term goals with strict deadlines, I’ll be forced to stay focused and “git ‘er done,” so to speak. In addition, I will be rewarded with a recurring sense of accomplishment.
  • Get organized. If I’m going to be busy, I have to be organized to maximize my efficiency.
  • Ask for help when I need it! (Help!)
  • Sign up and get familiar with more social media and networking sites. As much as I dread this, I know it’s the best way for me to get exposure.
  • Have this blog up and running by the end of May, 2013.
  • Have fun! If I can’t enjoy it, I’ve chosen the wrong path.

Now, to prove that unconditional commitment I was talking about…