I generally resist setting major resolutions for New Years’ due to a poor track record. Follow-through and I are frenemies (one of many reasons why I am not good at sports, though I enjoy casual participation). Now when January 1st rolls around I write down a list that I carefully label, “It Would Be Nice If…” and then may never look at it again. Nevertheless, I love making daily checklists. It’s so fun to be able to constantly pat myself on the back. Great job, self, on taking that paper from right here to over there. The problem with my checklists is that I get overambitious and start adding items that I couldn’t possibly accomplish in a reasonable amount of time…because I spent all my time making that checklist. Moreover, what good is a daily checklist if I’m not working toward a larger goal? No good, I tell you. That being said, I’d like to share with you a couple of checklists for this year. You are all my accountability partners now. No take backs.
If you’ve been following along with my journey through the ups and downs of my business, you know that my ultimate aim is for self-employment. I’d never be late for work again! 2014, however, was not a particularly encouraging year for this goal. Have you ever spent so long trying to figure out what you shoulda-woulda-coulda that every past choice seems like a giant fail? I did that. It was terrible. Moving forward, I want to focus on practical ways to become self-employed while still enjoying the process. It won’t be easy, but… it turns out that maybe I’m not as lazy as I pretend to be.
- Participate in fewer events
- Rationale: Last summer I had time for only three or four events, and they went terribly. Zero sales. It was worse than the hundreds I lost traveling to Wichita or trying to sell in a darkened booth. Not only did I leave these events wondering, as I do every time my booth does poorly, if I should be in this business of handmade at all. In the I-don’t-know-if-I-want-to-do-this-anymore funk I ended up taking partial leadership of a friend’s nonprofit while she was overseas. This led to ignoring my business for months to fulfill those duties, which led to negative profits…It’s strange to be able to quantify loss of time. The Alliday Show put me back in the right mindset to work again; I remembered how much I like making people happy with what my hands have made. The Alliday Show, however, provided everything but the handmade goods; vendors rolled up and propped their items on Retro Den furniture for display. Done. At any other show…The emotional strain, the time commitment of packing and unpacking everything, missing church for Sunday markets, and the expense of booth fees and hiring help is just not worth it. If the weather is nice or if it’s a known winner like the Alliday Show, I’ll bring one bin of goods and see what happens. Otherwise, I have some drawing, dyeing, and dancing to do.
- The traveling trunk show: I’d love to figure out a way to carry a small shop with me at all times. Since I started attending lindy hop events around the Midwest I’ve gotten numerous inquiries about my jewelry. Also, people forget about Thank You cards and host gifts for the good locals who open their homes to us. I can fill that need if only I start carrying my stock with me in a display-ready case. Figuring that out is a DIY challenge waiting to be accepted.
- Concentrate and diversify online sales. You’ve seen the first third of the Grumpy Skunk printable calendar in the Etsy shop. (If you buy now, the last part will be emailed to you for free!). For all you procrastinators out there, this calendar will be for you, whenever you get around to it or the deadline is tomorrow. I started way too late to get twelve animals drawn before the new year, but I also didn’t think to try until the week before Christmas. So…I’m still doing it. And when I’m done, I will figure out how to make those animals I drew available in other forms. I really do want to put the sleeping fox on a pillow. Since I don’t have the time or resources to suddenly start screen printing or embroidering, I’ve been trying to find alternative methods to make Sleeping Fox & Friends to the public.
- Here’s what I’ve been researching: Zazzle, Nuvango, Society 6, Artfully Walls, and Caseify. Mugs! Shirts! Pillows! Smartphone cases! If you don’t want a bison or a badger protecting your mobile device, then I don’t know what to tell you.
- Anticipate every one of those 12 calendar animals to be turned into greeting cards. Whether they’re blank or brimming with sarcasm, greeting cards are fun to make and sell better than anything else I produce. As Cogsworth would say, if it’s not baroque…Yes, I know that was a reach. Shut it, Joke Police.
- Blog more! I know, I know. I’ve said it before. The number of unfinished posts in the website dashboard almost rival the number of completed entries. I really do enjoy writing, though, and perhaps this enjoyment is what makes it feel like a luxury. At the day job I occasionally find myself bumping into man who taught my senior Creative Writing elective. “Are you writing for fun at all?” he asks every time he sees me. I’ll sheepishly tell him that I’ve taken over the newsletter for Vintage Swing Movement Tulsa, but that’s it. Ah, yes, I’ll remember. I was once a promising students in his class. Part of our final grade was to submit entries to the library’s youth creative writing contest, and I won: First place for a short story based on an urban legend, third place for a pastoral poem that I manipulated to seem thoughtful. The aforementioned teacher and my AP English teacher were thrilled, convinced that I needed to study creative writing in college, but I wanted to do something that would earn me a living wage straight out of school. (Thanks, education degree! The French degree was another middle child side effect.) No evidence of this contest remains save for an autographed book about the Wright brothers that I received as part of my reward. Maybe a clipping of the newspaper announcement is shoved into the suitcase of never-scrapbooked items my mother saved for me. That combination of guilt and yesteryear’s pride are a decent motivator, though. Blogging is good for my soul, it’s good for my business, and maybe it will be good for any other self-employed wannabe who stumbles across my trip toward my goals. Yes, that was a pun. Promising creative writing student, I tell you! That’s prizewinning material!
- Earn enough to fulfill my Faith Promise. It’s an offering, rather than a tithe, and if you don’t know what those are I suggest looking it up. It would take a long time to explain, and I am trying to prevent this from being another unfinished post. Basically, I give 10% of my earnings to my church. I made a promise that I would give a certain amount above that 10% with the intention that it would come from Petunkalunka profits. After all, what’s the point in earning money if it helps no one? The big deal about this is that in order to be able to donate the amount I promised, I have to increase my sales by 1,000%. That is not hyperbole; I did the math. Given the bad events last year and how dead the first couple months have been, I have a lot of self-promoting to do. Which I hate. (Will you do it for me?)
- Build myself a real studio…out of nothingness. I’ve tried to do this at every one of my previous residences, but in a garage apartment as small as mine an organized studio becomes an absolute necessity. To run a successful handmade business I need all of the following to fit in my bedroom in a space that’s about 3 feet wide and 10 feet long:
- A worktable
- Supply storage
- Inventory storage
- Product photography mini-studio, including an appropriate background and props
- Packing and shipping station
- Computer station
- Something else I’m forgetting because of Benadryl.
- Buy a printer
- Being a DIY kind of gal—maybe another middle child side effect—I would love to be able to make my own art prints and cards. I don’t even have a crappy inkjet at this point, but I have my eye on a moderately expensive machine that would allow me to print giclées and such.
Other things I love, according to where I spend the most time, are fixing up my home, training my dog to not be an idiot (losing that battle), and swing dancing. The scribbled list in the photo was my attempt to tackle all the home improvements I have in mind. What you see photographed is the very tip top of the iceberg. Verily, there are three more pages of notes that I stayed up way too late for to finish. Projects I can tackle now as a pauper, project I can tackle after a lot of overtime at the day job, and projects for which I probably need to set up a separate savings account; restrictions to keep in mind, the mood I want to set, furniture and accessories to remember. I’ve even started to think of it as The List, proper noun style. (Lord help me when I tackle my business that way).
Now that April is half over I can look back at the list above and The List and start crossing items off. I did submit my first t-shirt design to Skreened.com today. I painted the inside of the bathroom cabinet, and will repaint it because I did a terrible job. Finally I used my Target gift cards and bought a gray rug for the living room. Soon I’ll be showing you my new studio space. Things are coming together.
That being said, I tend to get 35 or 40 percent finished with a project, and then I get stuck/busy/overwhelmed and never finish. Right now my bedroom is only partially painted and the drill has been sitting out for a month. Pacing is not my strong suit, friends. I get into excited toddler mode—I throw myself into something for about a day, but then I just want to take a nap and eat a graham cracker or something. I feel like Titus Andromedon: “But I already did something today!” Hence this post. If the Internet knows, I have intrinsic (goals!) and extrinsic (shame avoidance) motivation to accomplish what I intended. God speed to us all.
I leave you with this: Middle Child Side Effects is a great indie band name. For your female-led speakeasy band: Moxie and the Middle Children. For your Tommy James and the Shondelles retro pop tribute band, try Jimmy and the Side Effects. I could go all day.