How To Know When To Put Your Art Online

Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶...
Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶E̶A̶M̶S̶ CANCELLED, Essex St, Chinatown, Boston (Photo credit: Chris Devers)

No, it’s not just “when you need the money”, though that can definitely be the trigger that gets you thinking.

No, it’s not as soon as you take a photo that all your facebook friends are drooling over.

No, it’s not when you think you can make something better/cheaper than someone else.

Keep reading… you’ll get it. (Or, go ahead and be a cheater by reading to the end of the post. See if I care. Cheater.)

Let’s Talk About Becky*

Becky’s a knitter. Has been knitting for over 30 years, since her grandmother taught her at a very young age. Becky has made gifts for her friends and family, and sold them to them so they could be given as gifts by friends and family.

Becky’s gone to TONS of craft shows in the Autumn season, for over 10 years. She tells you that there are good shows and bad shows and that “you learn where to invest your time and table fees”. Becky’s a pro at selling live and in person. But there’s one problem.

Becky has no clue what to do the rest of the year.

She’s got great products, repeat buyers, everything a real business needs. The best part? She turns a 100% markup profit. (We’ll discuss pricing another time.) But it’s only for the “Holiday Shopping” season. The rest of the year, she struggles. A few birthdays in the early part of the year, sure. But who wears knitted items in August?

People in Australia do.

But Becky has no way to reach them because she doesn’t have a website, blog, or any way for anyone to purchase her items online.

Let’s Talk About Marissa*

Marissa is a painter, sculptor, jewelry maker, and graphic artist. She posts pictures of her work all over facebook and twitter, has a blog (that she rarely posts on… shhh), spends lots of time on her Pinterest account, and can’t figure out why she’s not selling anything.

Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to see that Marissa takes all her photos with her 2004 cellphone camera, and typically under a fluorescent lightbulb, so they all look greenish and fuzzy. When you ask her about it, given that she’s so proficient in graphic arts, she says, “I just want to get it out there for people to see. I can always go back later.”

But “later” never comes. Marissa keeps posting away, all over the social networks, spending literally hours every day. She’s bought at least a dozen ebooks and programs on how to market yourself as an artist (to the tune of thousands of dollars), but she gets a few pages in, claims confusion, and gives up. She’s got a few items up in an Etsy shop that she relists every 3 months, but she’s starting to think Etsy’s a scam, and even the media’s been fooled. She doesn’t dare try any of the other sites like it. She’s never heard of Zazzle, ImageKind, Zibbet, or Artfire, and “doesn’t want to know”.

Marissa’s number one problem? I bet you guessed it. She’s spending too much time promoting work that she can’t drive sales to because she’s doing it wrong.

So How Do You Know When To Put Your Art Online?

When you’re ready to make a business out of it. Becky’s ready. She’s been doing business for one season out of the year, and killing it, but needs to take her business online and give it all she’s got. Will she need help? Probably. Can she do it alone? Sure, maybe at first. But she’ll likely need help at some point, and it’s a good thing when you can afford to pay someone to help you run your business!

Marissa’s not ready. Not yet, anyway. She’s still floundering around the social networks. She’s spending money consuming and not creating. Yes, she’s “creating” but she’s not creating a business. She needs to learn specific skills like time management, prioritizing, organization, and promotions. Or, she needs to learn that she should spend that money wisely on an assistant, and spend less time on the computer all together.

Over to you…

What do you think? Have you been in Becky’s or Marissa’s shoes? Let’s talk about it in the comments!


* Names are totally made up, because while I’m not targeting any one specific person, these stories are very, very true. Oh, and I’m all about protecting the innocent. The stupid, on the other hand… they don’t get fancy little stars next to their names. Wait, what are you doing reading this anyway? Shouldn’t you be reading the rest of the article or commenting or sharing it on facebook? Git goin!

It’s Time To Start Thinking About 2013

I hope you had a wonderful holiday! First, I want to say something to those of you receiving this in your inbox. It’s been almost a year since I wrote here, and for that I apologize. (You’ll learn more about that if you keep reading…)

But you DID in fact, voluntarily subscribe to receive these emails from me. I am not spamming you, and I want to let you know that if you choose to unsubscribe, I totally understand. People’s needs change, and regardless of what I’m about to start doing with this site (which isn’t that far off from what you subscribed to), if you’re no longer interested, that’s cool. Just hit the “Unsubscribe” link right there at the bottom of this email, and you won’t hear from me again unless you resubscribe. Not that I want you to go, mind you, I just understand if you do.

Okay, enough of that. I thank you if you’re still reading! I wrote previously about how to do an end-of-year review. I won’t rehash it now, just go ahead and check it out, and come back here. I’ll wait. :)

So. 2012 was one heckuva year for me. Actually, it goes back to about halfway through 2011, but I think 2012 was the true test of my strength. It was HARD. It was miraculous in that I was blessed with a perfectly healthy, happy baby girl who couldn’t wait a second longer than 36 weeks before she came into the world. But I’d also buried my paternal grandmother, who was the only grandparent that survived past my age of 8. So for 26 years, she was it. No, she never got to meet my daughter. She never even got to know I was pregnant.

We moved into my grandmother’s house, after (too) MANY months of remodeling/redecorating. We had two huge garage sales, and still have a ton more stuff to go through. My Grammy was here for 60 years.

I sold a painting. I also got licensed with a fabulous company that produces (and successfully sells) all kinds of cool stuff with my art on it. I also put together a Zazzle store (or two or three still in progress), and have sold products there as well.

I had to say goodbye to the one greyhound that “picked me”. Had her for 10 years. She was amazing, and I’ll never forget her.

I made lots of polymer clay stuff. I went to teach at a senior living community, and taught my ladies there all sorts of cool things to make.

I put in an application for teaching at a new community arts center in my city. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a gig or two there that will happen in 2013, which is way cool.

FAR cry from where I was in mid-2011, having worked with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger for almost 6 years, then with Blog World Expo, Tassimo, Country Time Lemonade, Gevalia, LiveNation, and some super cool startups I’ll be telling you more about soon enough… and then very little in the blogging/social media realm at all this year.

For the most part, I spent the year building a baby in my belly.

Not that I didn’t try, but it was quite the emotional year for me, and to be honest, now that my daughter’s here, and she’s healthy, I’m totally ready to say goodbye to 2012. It’s so bittersweet, because my baby girl made ALL the hurt go away. But I certainly didn’t forget.

However, it’s now time to move forward, and despite the fact that any time I’ve made “resolutions” I’ve failed at keeping them, I still see every Jan. 1 as a blank slate.  Time to do some major life designing!

In the next day or two, I’m going to share parts of my plan. One thing it does involve is me talking more with you here, on the blog and in the newsletters. You’ll hear from me more often, be it en masse, or individually. I want you to know that my email “door” is always open, and you’re free to comment here or contact me any way you wish. I love having real conversations, and unless I’m feeding or changing the baby, I’m here for ya! :)

Please start thinking about 2013, the things you want to learn, know, do, and share. That’s what I’m doing, because I always need a plan!

Thank you again for staying subscribed, if you are, and I look forward to connecting with you all very soon!

How To: End of Year Reviews and Planning for Self-Employed People



CLICK HERE: UPDATED for 2014/2015 and beyond!!!



 

I honestly can’t believe that 2011 is about to end in two weeks. I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Lara, let me get through the holidays before you start talking about the New Year!”

No. Sorry, but nope. When you’re in business for yourself, you’ve got to be thinking ahead. Much farther ahead than two weeks, and if you haven’t started your end of year review process and your planning process for 2012 yet, you’re late. Good news is that I am too, and I’m only getting started on this now. But you’re gonna come with me, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming, so na na na boo boo.

Yep, this is gonna be a long post but I promise if you go through this with me, you’ll be well on your way to having a plan.

“Good fortune is what happens when
opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail” – Proverb

“A good plan violently executed now is better than
a perfect plan next week.” – General George S. Patton

Get it now?

So I’m not going to post my review and plan in this post, rather I’m going to walk you through my process so that you can do yours. Download the annual review and planning 2012-15 spreadsheet. Feel free to modify it, change colors, whatever. Just get it, open it up, and follow along. Then promise me you’re going to use it in some form or another, okay?

The End of Year Review

So I’m going to assume that you didn’t do a plan for 2011, so you have nothing “real” to look at for review. This time next year you’re going to have not only a living, breathing document to use for your annual review, but one that you can look at any time, and should, to make sure you’re on track.

The Good and Bad

For now, let’s just make a list of accomplishments and failures. Here are some examples from my own:

Accomplishments

  • Worked with Fortune 500 company Kraft Foods, Inc. on three projects.
  • Spoke at both Blog World Expo and Social Share Summit – two very different audiences (both in size and business styles).
  • Started my jewelry and art business, and sold several dozen pieces.

Failures

  • Ended two client projects before I expected to.
  • Slacked heavily in my own blogging projects and self-promotion marketing.
  • Spent ALL of my personal savings on bills and credit cards.

I promise, my lists are FAR longer than this – especially on the “failures” because I tend to be my harshest critic. I have friends and colleagues who are awesome and support the crap outta me, and never fail to mention my accomplishments. If you don’t, make sure you put this in your planning for next year, mkay? Great. Let’s move on.

Analyze

When you’ve got your list, I want you to then go back and really analyze each line item. Now, just because you know this, don’t go making your lists super short to avoid the work. I don’t care if you put, “Went to the gym twice a week for three months,” in your accomplishments or failures list, just make sure you put it there. Everything. Every. Little. Thing you did this year related to you and your life.

That’s right, this isn’t just about business. It’s about you and your happiness. You need to take care of all aspects of your life in order to be successful in business. Get naked with your soul here, people.

So, in analyzing each line item, you need to write out what it was that lead you to have that outcome. Sure, the circumstances may have been completely out of your control, and you could’ve unfairly been let go from a job, or found yourself with a $3,000 repair bill, or whatever. But be objective here… if you did something wrong to make the failure happen, admit it. Come clean. Lay it all out there though, if you weren’t the only one at fault, make sure you note that too, because you’re not going to spend your life berating yourself. I won’t let that happen. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes we’re the only ones responsible for them, other times we’re not. Be honest AND fair.

In the same respect, when you’re not the only party in your accomplishments, make note of that too. If someone helped you, in even the smallest way like an introduction or a purchase and positive review, make sure you list that too. It’s important to know who your champions are, who it is you can not only rely upon, but who you need to reciprocate the goodwill to as well. I have friends I “owe ya one” to. I love them, and they’ll probably never call me on it, but if it kills me, I’m going to acknowledge them somehow.

Last, I want you to choose one word to describe how each of your accomplishments and failures made you feel. Get out your thesaurus here, and look for words like amazing, inspired, downtrodden, uplifted, sad, and so on.

Now that you know what you did right and what you did wrong, who helped, and how each outcome made you feel, it’s time to plan for 2012.

Setting Achievable, Realistic Goals

You’ve got to break things down here. Don’t say “I’m going to finally lose weight this year,” or “I want to save more money,” because those are too generic and don’t give you a definite, measurable plan.

Instead of “I’m going to finally lose weight this year,” you’ll set a category called “Health and Fitness”.

Under that category, you’ll list all the things that will help you achieve your weight loss goal.

  • Buy a scale.
  • Hit the gym 3x/week or more.
  • Go hiking twice a month.
  • Eat 25-30g dietary fiber/day
  • Run a marathon
  • Stop eating fast food completely.
  • etc.

Then, in the next column on your sheet, you’re going to list out the steps you’ll take to get to the point where these things are happening for you. Some will be daily or weekly, some will be one-time deals. Use “ongoing” or choose a defined date. I’ve included some sections on the sheet, but you can always add or delete them to make the most sense for you.

Each quarter, you’ll then review each task and make sure you accomplished it, or revise them, add, delete, what have you. No cheating, just because you haven’t done something, don’t delete it or change the date to something crazy far in advance. Just make sure you do it ASAP. This is the part that helps you stay on track. I use quarters, but you can easily modify the sheet to go month-to-month.

At the end of the year, you’ll have two sections to look over and plan for the next year. I do this every year, and it’s really important to your personal AND business life.

I’d love to hear about how you manage your end of year review/planning!

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When You Get Overwhelmed… Use An Egg Timer!

I love starting new projects and ideas. Really, I do. But sometimes I get ahead of myself and start projects that take much of my attention, and things fall behind.

Like this blog.

Like my Artist’s eCourse. (I’m so sorry – new lessons coming soon, I promise!)

Like my online shops and my site for my handmade jewelry.

So what do I do when I find that I have tons on my plate, and need to get better organized? I use an egg timer. Yup. It’s a virtual one I downloaded that lives on my computer. I choose a task and set the timer for an hour. I work on that task for half an hour (or whatever I set it to) and then pick a new one and reset the timer. My friend Craig Jarrow would be so proud!

Email on personal biz account: 30 mins. (2-3x a day)
Email on Blog World account: 30 mins. (2-3x a day)
Twitter: 30 mins. (3-4x a day)
Facebook: 90 mins. (Yes, I do spend loads of time there for both BWE and my own stuff.)
Writing blog posts: 30 mins. (not enough each day)
Commenting on other blogs: 60 mins. (2-3x/day)

See all I can get done in a day?

I have seen people talk about spreadsheets and charts and mindmaps, but I really think that while a list of daily tasks is a good idea, it’s far too easy to get caught up with things and spend more time navigating facebook (ungh, those changes!) than actually accomplishing the things you set out to do each day.

If you prefer the loud ring of a real egg timer, I’m sure your local dollar store has plenty for you to choose from. I personally enjoy having my desktop version, because there’s too much stuff on my real desk as it is, and I’m afraid it’ll sit there unused. When I use up a whole hour, I just click “reset and start timer” and move on to the next thing.

What are some ways you use to keep on task, manage your time, and get everything done?

Recommended Reading:

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0805075909″ alt=”Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule — and Your Life” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51F0bGoDXHL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”103″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0142000280″ alt=”Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51On%2BoFTGvL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”101″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”047029034X” alt=”Successful Time Management For Dummies” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51M1WQTN8zL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”127″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0609800906″ alt=”Time Management for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Strategies for Stopping Procrastination, Getting Control of the Clock and Calendar, and Freeing Up Your Time and Your Life” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OoVvRVtJL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”103″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”097695060X” alt=”The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How to Get More Done Without Driving Yourself Crazy” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MogZ%2BKOgL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”122″ height=”160″]

I Fired A Potential Client Today

I don’t know what it is about working online that gives people the sense (or lack thereof) that people who do it are just freely available 24/7 to jump when they tell us to.

Weeks ago, I met with a local business that’s fairly well established in their niche. It’s one with a lot of potential, as at least 30% of the population (if not much more) could use their product at some point in their lives. A friend who worked there had suggested that the owner and I meet and see if we could work on a few projects together.

After literally weeks of delays, missed appointments, and well… you’ll see:

At 1145 this morning I received an email with them asking for a 1pm appointment. At this point, I’d had enough of having my time not being respected whatsoever, so I wrote back simply,

Dear XXX,

Thank you for your kind offer. However, I feel that this relationship is already off to a negative start and I have to decline.
Thank you for the opportunity.

Sincerely,
Lara Kulpa

The response I received was one of sheer confusion, and seemed to be seeking a deeper explanation from me, so I sent one.

Dear XXX,

Between all the delays (from even day one, as I sat in your waiting room for over half an hour), promises to be contacted, and last minute requests for phone calls that never happen, I feel that my time has not been respected. As I explained previously, I run a tight ship and I schedule things out very detailed and explicitly, and I simply feel that our styles of working would not mesh well together.

I wish you all the best of luck.

~ Lara

Firing Clients Sucks, Especially Before You Even Get Started

My business is about helping people grow and succeed online. Be it as an expansion of a bricks-and-mortar business, or an entrepreneurial beginning, I love seeing success for others. This economy sucks, and if I can help people make a little more money, sustain their businesses even a little longer, then I feel that I’ve succeeded on even a basic level. But if someone doesn’t take the process seriously from the beginning, it’s a wasted effort to try.

I’ve learned that respecting my own time is important enough, but even more so that respecting others’ time is non-negotiable, and I expect that people who want to work with me can handle that. Unless someone’s paying me to come in and give them a verbal kick in the pants, I’m not about to offer that up for free before we even get started on the project at hand. I sat there for over two hours explaining to them that what they had envisioned was wrong for them, and that I knew the better way to do it. They actually took notes on the free advice I gave them. Yet they couldn’t be bothered to keep an appointment with me?

It sucks, because I would’ve really enjoyed helping this company grow their rather large and rapidly expanding business, online. I have a ton of knowledge and experience to offer them that seemed to really “blow ’em outta the water” even on day one, and I think they would’ve really thrived taking it to the ‘net. But the truth is, unless someone’s desperate for work, or have absolutely no self-respect, they’re not going to put up with this kind of stuff either. I know none of my colleagues (to whom I thank deeply for their advice on this matter) would’ve allowed this to continue, so why should I?

Moving Forward

I’m actually glad this happened the way it did, because it definitely taught me that I need to enforce my scheduling and timing even more than I did before. As Deb Ng also stated in her post today, On Being Accessible… but Drawing the Line, it’s important to respect others’ time, and your own. When you’re not planning to have an hour long (or three hour long) conversation with someone, don’t drop everything for them and don’t expect them to drop it all for you. Asking someone for a good time to talk is much better than requesting a specific time (or worse, immediate time) to do so. You may even be surprised when they tell you, “I’ve got a few minutes right now!”

While this wasn’t the first time I’ve had to “fire a client”, I’m sure it won’t be the last. And I’m sure that next time will suck, too, but it’s better to dodge a bullet than suffer for the sake of a few bucks. However, I’ve now left room for bigger and better opportunities, so here’s to that!

Have you ever had to fire a client?