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!