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!

Up in the Air

Wowza! Time’s a flyin’ by these days. Last week was a blur and I missed this Monday’s post. Things are generally on the up and up though. I’ve spent a lot of time getting comfortable with my power tools; it’s becoming quite fun actually. My makeshift driveway workshop is a magic cloud of sawdust that spits out strange art and small furniture. If I could spend every day just building things, I might not be unhappy. That’s not to say that I am unhappy, but I’m discovering that there’s a lot more to being an artist than making art.

From the moment I had a few finished pieces, they were supposed to fly off the shelf and into loving homes. Unfortunately, knowing that deep down, every wallet-carrying biped has a closet physiological need for what I make, doesn’t cut it. I am charged with the indomitable task of getting even a fraction of you to acknowledge, embrace, and satisfy this need. It should be alright though, I have a marketing degree. Ha! That weapon has long since slipped out of my holster. What I am armed with is the internet, a vast network of friends and acquaintances, and the (underrated) satisfaction of actively developing a passion. I’m learning to exploit this arsenal as I’ve reached a point in my projects where I can no longer ignore the fact that sooner than later, this all is going to have to become profitable if I’m to keep it up.

Now I actually have to make decisions on where I need to spend my time, as opposed to jumping from task to task like I have been, as impulse dictates. I’m beginning to establish a rough order of operation but it requires quite a bit of work. It goes a little something like this: network online, produce a respectable inventory of “complete” and varied art, network online, disperse art around the city in appropriate restaurants and places of business, network online, design and build new creations to maintain interest and variety, network online, rinse, and repeat.

Meanwhile, I have to strenuously smother the fire within that rages to distract me with such mundane endeavors as inducting pen acrobatics into the transcendental “Desktop Olympics” and making a video to prove it.

If you have a unique Desktop Olympics talent, please don’t hesitate to share it in a comment below. These games are up and coming, you know. Plus, face it, this is likely the best chance you have to become an Olympian.

I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I won’t always be able to corral such wild creative tangents. Although frustrating at times, it’s a gift really, to be so cheaply and easily entertained. As long as I can manage to return to focus and be generally productive overall, I’ll let some distractions fly.

Let’s see, where was I…

As I get deeper into my projects, I am able to pick out more and more of the amateur mistakes that I’ve been making and confute some of the preconceived notions I had about doing what I’m doing. For example, I know now that art does not sell itself. And a piece of art is never completely finished; it’s done enough to let go of. And often when people ask if they can help, they’re all talk. And it’s not uncommon to doubt the work that you do, or question its likability. Nor is it uncommon to doubt the possibility of making even a temporary living off a glorified hobby. And creating an online presence for yourself is incredibly time-consuming and cannot be half-assed.

As I gain momentum though, I thrive on the positive feedback and the gradual changing of attitude of those that surround me. Certain friends and critics are coming around with the realization that I’m actually serious about this. The skepticism remains, but slowly but surely it’s being drowned out. And with that, my spirit is high.

I Project Projects

As liberally as I use the term “project,” I suppose I shouldn’t be so vague. Unfortunately, my ambiguity on certain topics is unintentional. I am making this up as I go so certain things won’t become clear until down the road when enough of my random thoughts merge to form a discernible concept. Everything feels like a project to me right now, but I might be able to set a few things straight.

One of my primary objectives with Wall Woes and its “projects” is to master the art of controlled mind-wandering. My greatest ideas come about when I’m not actively thinking. I’ve spent years struggling to learn and figure things out, only to discover that innovation is born of imagination and creativity. That said, the operative word is “controlled.” Somehow, I need to let my mind wander freely within the boundaries of what’s relevant to what I’m tying to accomplish.

This is where all my projects come in. Each one is essentially an extension of those boundaries, allowing my mind to drift progressively further. As long as all projects contribute to, or benefit from Wall Woes in some way, I’ll be content to lose myself in thoughts that pertain to them. But really, what are these projects?

Wall Woes is THE project. It’s the heart of my whole operation. All the juicy details hang out on the Wall Woes’ W’s page. The rest of my projects can be divvied up into two categories: Personal and Business. That’s fancy speak for short- and long-term goals, respectively. My list of personal projects is essentially a to-do list, made up of relatively simple, specific tasks. My business projects will remain quite vague for now as they are distant goals whose fate will ultimately be decided by the collective outcome of my personal projects. Given the constant evolution of all my projects and their importance to my success, I had to devise a strategy to keep them organized. Allow me to introduce my project for projects, the Projects page!

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…

Declaration In Dependence

This is my success story. I am going to make it up as I go. I decided to stop thinking and start doing, and this is what I have to show for it. Exactly what “this” is, is still somewhat of a mystery to me but I’m not going to waste any time worrying about that.

I always believed that I would get some great idea one day that would land me a “career” doing something I love. It made sense to want to be my own boss. That would be much more rewarding than working for someone else. I could be independent, and make on my own schedule, and everything would work itself out. Right?

Not exactly. Ironically, independence, as it applies to careers, implies a very strong dependence on others. Unless you’re forging money, you are not making a truly independent living. If you work alone and for yourself, then your customers are your business partners. You depend on them. If you gamble for a living, you depend on someone else losing money. No matter how you look at it, you are dependent upon others. What’s more? In most cases, the more people you depend on, the better your chance of success.

I have been in denial of my dependencies for most of my life. Since I graduated college six years ago, I have yet to do anything that I am proud of. I was so sure that success would smack me in the face, I gave up all efforts to gain work experience of any kind. I was too proud to even consider career placement. I preoccupied myself with all sorts of “great” business ideas while staying afloat through dead-end jobs in the service industry. The growing frustration of my under achievement was suppressed all along by the comfort of old habit as I waited for the one moment that would change it all.

And then it came. Only it wasn’t a moment, and it felt a hell of a lot more like backtracking than progress. It was a chain reaction built up by years of accrued disinterest, tipped off by heartache, that led me to flee the comforts of home to examine my life from a different angle. Total elapsed time: 13+ months and counting. Accounts of this are a closely guarded secret.

What have I learned from it all? It’s never too late to turn things around to start living the life you want. All it takes is one decision and unconditional commitment. Life is short, and it only gets shorter as you grow up. So here I am nurturing my interests into passion, because passion makes way for purpose. And like anything worth while, it takes time and attention to develop.

This is my success story. Consider it begun.