Monday Series: Input vs Output

Monday Series: Input vs Output

Businessy Stuff

I finished a commission at the beginning of the week; set up plans for two additional jobs that I have yet to begin, and opened a Redbubble shop to test it out.

So far, here are my thoughts on the Redbubble vs Society6 dilemma:

  • In support of Redbubble
    • The user experience of the artist studio is much better.
    • Friends who have purchased items from RB suggest that they are good quality.
    • I like their apparel options more.
    • I like their notebook options more.
    • The branding is more in line with my current work. They cater to weirdness and speak very openly about that in their content.
    • You can set your own price markups for higher profit.
  • In support of Society6
    • They have wrapping paper (and a larger catalog of items in general.)
    • Their travel mugs look nicer (based solely on images, not in person).
    • Their customer support was very nice and responsive (albeit unable to fix their shit website).
    • Their brand trends more higher-end/abstract/surface pattern design (ironically because I think some of their products are crap quality) which is a direction I suspect I might want to go with my work in the near future.
    • You get paid every month regardless of how much you've made (RB makes you wait until you have at least $20 in earnings).

There is enough in each column to make this decision a little less certain than I'd prefer so I may keep both... as messy as that may be in terms of finances and tax stuff. I'm planning on selling patterned fabric on Spoonflower too (see hero image of this post) so this overabundance of shops is something to consider. That said, right now, with no other data points, I'm mentally leaning toward Redbubble, largely based on user experience. Let this be a lesson to you, Society6: don't scorn a designer. I may try to purchase something from RB to compare quality before I make a final call, though.

A Note on Input vs Output

I've noticed that my input/output ratio tends to skew heavily toward the input side when I'm feeling stressed or directionless. I've been feeling both lately. The lack of output mixed with the over-saturation of input (usually in the form of scrolling through Instagram) makes me feel more stressed which makes me more resistant to output. You see the cycle.

Last night, I locked the Instagram and Facebook apps on my phone. I would like to shift my input/output ratio to the output side this week. Since I can't seem to trust myself to do this on my own, I'm removing social media. I haven't locked the Business Manager app so I can still post or respond to things from my C&B accounts but I can't scroll through the newsfeeds absentmindedly for hours and hours. I hope this helps. 

If possible, I'd like to make some significant progress on at least one or two commissions today through Wednesday. I'm behind on my plan to finish all the ones I've agreed to by January 31.

Output in the Form of Personal Work Also Counts

The good news through all of this is that I have been drawing over the last few days; just not commissions. I'm taking some skillshare classes (a form of input) and decided that I would actually do the homework assignments. It was pretty fun! So I have definitely been feeling somewhat drawn to creation; that's probably a good sign. I suspect that I need to allow myself to follow my curiosities in this department a little more to help get the ball rolling. Maybe, maybe not. But scrolling through Instagram for an hour because I feel like I shouldn't be creating unless it's making money seems silly. If I'm going to procrastinate, which it appears as though I'm going to continue to do, I might as well do so in a way that feels good. Newsflash, Instagram never feels good. And those dumb Dodo videos on Facebook about the puppies that people find and rescue suck me in every damn time but always make me feel really sad.

This must end. Fuck social media.

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

Much of this conversation trickles down to the fact that I feel unsure about the future of my work. I make plans, I say them out loud, but here is the truth:

I don't know what I want to do and that makes it very hard to plan for the future.

I think that I probably want to do something creative. Probably. I have chosen drawing/illustration as the "dream" because I have the most experience with it and I am objectively fairly good at it (given the world average) but it just doesn't excite me in the way it should. This is possibly because I've been putting too much pressure on myself since the day I decided to get serious about it in high school but this could also be because I just don't like it as much as everyone, including myself, thinks I should. I am trying to open myself up to this possibility. What would it mean if I decided that I just didn't like this enough to make it a business or career? I think that would be ok. Extra-medium, even. 

I certainly don't hate it. I'm drawn to it from time to time. I do, occasionally, reach flow state. But perhaps I don't actually want to do it as a full time gig. And perhaps that is ok. I could get another design job that would make me financially stable again and reestablish my relationship with this business as something purely extra-curricular. At least for a little while. This would transform that relationship, I think. I could use my reinstated salary to fund more expensive product offerings or higher-budget marketing that would require more capital than what I'm able to offer right now and I could feel free to take more risks because there wouldn't be a financial burden on the work. This option has been looking increasingly attractive to me over the last few weeks.

I won't quit yet. I still have enough money to finish a full year of exploration and I feel like it would be beneficial to use as much of that year as possible before tying myself down to another job. Plus at the rate I've been learning things, I'm probably going to change my mind twelve more times.

But at the same time, I'm going to work on being "ready." That means:

  • working on feeling truly open to anything that comes out of this year—up to and including the possibility that this path is not fun for me right now.
  • thinking long and hard about how to structure my portfolio to embrace my many skills instead of hiding them. If Michelangelo could be a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet; I can certainly be an illustrator and multidisciplinary designer. Eff everyone who has ever told me to specialize.
  • trying to become reacquainted with who the fuck I even am and what I'm trying to accomplish with my life and my work. This is the hard part.
  • living like I already have the money I want because it will remove a bunch of stress. If the money doesn't come flooding in before the year is out, I'll get a new job. Living on a tiny budget just to extend my period of uncertainty as much as possible is silly in retrospect. I never wanted to give up my lifestyle for this business and yet I have been, sort of unnecessarily, simply because I'm trying to reduce my spending so significantly. I live in the DC area, dude. Shit is expensive—and I'd like to get my hair or nails done from time to time without feeling like I'm reducing my "freedom" by x-days.
  • shifting the focus of my day-to-day business activities to prioritize self-discovery and personal projects. My original plan was to do this at the beginning of February after having worked through most of my commissions, but... what if I didn't wait? What if I just started giving myself permission to follow my curiosities today? I'd still, honestly, be doing about the same amount of commission work every day (I do between 1-3 hours) but I would be spending more time doing "fun" stuff instead of thinking "nope, you can't do x-thing until you get that commission draft done," during the remaining hours of the day.

Lol, those bullets became paragraphs. Whatever. The point is this: I chose to open a business and work for myself so that I could do what I wanted to do. If I'm not doing what I want to do, I should do something else. This is stupidly clear but also surprisingly difficult. I'm going to work on it.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, Happy Belated Hanukkah to those who celebrate. Happy Holidays to those who celebrate another option or choose not to celebrate at all. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

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