No longer hobbies…

So, I lost the job in July of 2011 and am less than a year out of work. I got my severance and some unemployment and have now made the decision to make a go of trying to be an artist full time. And when I say full time, it is literally full time. Some days it is really overwhelming to think about all that I need to do. In this post I thought I would share some of the issues that I have been thinking about and dealing with in order to make my little business a success.

New Work Attire

I first went to Lord Fairfax Community College to see the guys there at the Small Business Development Center. They were really helpful in answering a lot of my questions, like “do I need a lawyer, accountant, insurance?” and those kinds of things. They even gave me referrals which I accepted and came home and made appointments with. They took plenty of time with me, making sure that I was comfortable with the answers before I left. They listened to my ideas and gave me some new ones. We talked about shows that I could do and some marketing ideas that they felt would help me in retail. It is a wonderful service that is free and I highly recommend it to anyone that is starting out. They are available as a resource now that I will happily call and get their input on future decisions.

Next, on the advice of LFCCBDC, I made an appointment with an accountant. This is the part that made me really anxious because I was an art major and not a math major. The main reason for getting an accountant though was that they know the laws better than we do and would be able to give us tax advice that we aren’t necessarily privy to otherwise. I was incredibly impressed with the woman that I was assigned by the firm and she is super positive and energized and it made me feel that we could do this and be okay. There were some surprises though, like the fact that we couldn’t claim my work space because the washer and dryer are in that space. Apparently, it has to be enclosed and used only for your business so the washer and dryer are invading that territory and took away that deduction. She did, however, say that if we could find proof of purchases for older items of equipment and such that she could go back at least five years and we could claim some of those items, so I have been doing some research on that front. We will report back to her in a couple of months and see how we are doing and she will keep us on track and in order. It will be fine.

Insurance was another matter and yet our homeowner company pointed me to a company that deals with home based retail businesses and the guy was really helpful and is putting together a package for me that will include the show that I am hoping to do in May at Blandy Farm, just outside of Winchester.

Then, there is the issue of marketing. I have this blog, which I am in the process of converting to a full fledged website, with Herb and Thomas’ help and expertise. I had to get a new host for the site. Thomas pointed me to Media Temple and I signed up with because they work with WordPress. If things look somewhat different, this is the reason. Many hours seem to get gobbled up by trying to redesign a header image, figuring out shopping carts, postage charts and plugins.

Now you see where I am overwhelmed? I am now trying to think about how is the best way to approach all of this together in terms of where to market and how.

  • The Laughing Orange Business Facebook page gets updated when I post an item to Etsy automatically.
  • There is also a “pinit” button on Etsy that I can now press to send the same item to Pinterest with a price banner on it and a link
  • I need to get an email newsletter going and start sending it out on a regular basis…. which means gathering a list of people to send it to. I’ve been gathering the email addresses but need to get the email blasts figured out.
  • The photos of the items need to be taken just after they come out of the kiln and get them listed. Should there be a catalog of items on Etsy alone or an additional catalog on my own site?
  • Google ad sense is an option but I don’t know if I am ready for ads and if my site is full of enough information to warrant ads, however you get paid for every click when someone clicks on those ads so why wouldn’t I put them on there for that reason.
  • Without Goggle Ad Sense, how do you get all the visitors to come to your blog without annoying the crap out of people with constant updates.
  • Open House in the Spring, should I do one and will I have the inventory to sell. If so, I need to get it into a format that I can distribute the information so customers know it is going on.
  • Twitter, Digg, Etsy Lush, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Google +  which to use and how much and why

Then there is the getting ready for a fair or show in the Spring. I need to build some display cubes to put items on to lift them and make them interesting to customers that visit the booth. I’ve done this sort of thing before so that part isn’t a big deal to me but now I am wanting to design and build boxes to use as lifts that also will help me to transport my wares so that I avoid breakage but also don’t have boxes that are too big to carry when they are full of wares.

Inventory is something that is always on my mind and I have so many ideas floating around to make that there aren’t enough hours in the day. I am trying to take my time and not rush through the making process because that is where and when you lose items and eat into the profits of the materials.

SO, now that I have finally added a new post and it is a long list of things that I am dealing with, I really should get some work done….. Oh, this is work too, right?

Have you updated your resume’?

Would you hire this woman?

I’ve never been in on the process of hiring someone for a job but I have had my share of interviews, although it has been awhile. But I’ve been around when new employees have shown up in my department and after a couple of days working beside that person you have to wonder, what did my employer see in this individual that made them think this person was a good fit for the job. Was is the resume? Because if it was, then I wonder about the validity of the information on there and if that is the best way to hire someone for a position. I understand the concept of sharing my skill set with my future employer but how do they really know that I know what I have written down. And of course, it is all in the wording of the resume’ that is key. Plus, you want it to be just the right length, not too long and try to keep it all on one page.

Five or six years ago, when I was working for Perry Judd’s, (the company that bought into Judd’s Inc.) it was during the housing boom and Perry was threatening to lay off a bunch of folks, I decided to take online classes at Art Institute of Pittsburg, in Residential Planning. It was a program to learn CAD, and interior design, kitchen planning, etc, etc. I got caught up in the whole housing boom thing and figured that if, or when,  I was given the speech by PJ’s that I would transition into home staging or something. Eighteen months later I finished up the classes, and things were starting to fall apart with the financial crisis, so that by the time I did exit interviews with A.I. Pitt,  I felt as if I had totally wasted my time and money. One of the final classes was all about marketing yourself and putting the resume’ together. We had so many revisions on these things that I felt like I had had plastic surgery and was presenting myself in a way that felt false. I think I ended up taking out things that made me feel uncomfortable and ended up with this.  We developed a skills page on ourselves and I never felt comfortable with being considered an interior designer and maybe that was where I had a problem with it. I had always worked in printing. How could I possibly convince people that I was an interior designer. With two classes involving CAD could I really design something workable? Was I knowledgeable enough to put furnishings together for a client? I didn’t feel confident enough to really go out and sell myself to do those things. So how could I truly put a resume’ together saying I could do that. See what I mean about resumes’?

So, yesterday I got an email from a friend, saying, “Have you got any ideas about what you are going to do? I’ve got some thoughts, but mind you they are only half baked at best. Let’s talk.” This is a person that knows me, has known me for several years, knows my skill set and my abilities and probably won’t require the resume’. So I’m wondering if a network of friends is really something that is more important to have at this stage in my life and career than a list of accomplishments. I have plenty of time for talk these days.