Posts Tagged ‘small business’

writingonbed

I am officially a freelance writer now! Cue parades, confetti, and, oh hell I don’t know, champagne? Look, I’ll work out the grown-up celebratory obligations later, for now, I’m just happy to be here. You might be wondering what ‘here’ looks like, and only three days in, so am I.

I’ve been struggling for years to figure out what I wanted out of life and how to get it. For a while things got pretty dark and scary, mental health is a real issue, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Eventually, my husband wondered if I wouldn’t be happier making money from writing. My knee-jerk reaction was, well duh, of course I would, but we live in the real world and need things like shoes for the kid, dog food, and electricity. Then we really sat down and started hashing out the details of what exactly it would take for me to be able to work from home. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope.

I spent the next few weeks looking for places that would be willing to pay me to sling words at them. I had a few close calls where I thought I was onto something, but ultimately I was only able to pull in one steady commitment. I’d like to say there was some sort of divine inspiration that hit at this point, but really I just wanted out of the life I was finding myself trapped in. So I gave my two weeks notice and started looking for more freelance gigs.

Two weeks passed and now I work from home. I get up with the husband and kiddo everyday as usual, but when they leave I retreat to the office and spend the day writing, or reading about writing, or emailing people about maybe paying me to do writing. This new life is everything I wanted, and nothing like I expected, all rolled together.

shufflecards

Lose this hand and I have to pawn the dog.

I’m spending more time with my son again. Can’t afford to send him to daycare if I’m not doing “real” work, so after school he comes right home. Throwing caution to the wind I went ahead and volunteered to help coach his soccer teams (yeah, teams plural). Soccer is kinda my lifeline with the outside world at this point. Don’t want to give in to my hermit tendencies too much.

The hardest part of working from home? Convincing myself that it counts as work. It doesn’t help that I’m just starting out and not really bringing in the big (or even small) bucks as of yet. It’s stressful to feel like the race started without you and now you’re playing catch-up.  These things take time, and speaking of time, learning how to best utilize yours once you have only yourself to answer to is disorienting. Suddenly, I have the option to do everything or nothing, all within the same day. It’s motivating and overwhelming all at once, but honestly, there is a part of me that loves it.

 

For the first time I feel like I’m getting a peek at my most authentic self. The one who is free to be creative and unconventional. I can finally follow a dream and see where it takes me. It’s scary to have so many opportunities open all at once and know that if I fail now I have only myself to blame, but there is freedom in being able to fail. Having the choice to get up in the morning and do something that matters, if only to me, feels amazing.

Maybe a few months from now I’ll be back to trying to find a “regular” job that pays me to do ordinary work, but at least for now, I get to try to really be me, and damn, I’m lucky to even get that chance.

2013 Mardi Gras: Krewe of Mid-City Mardi Gras parade

Don’t go quietly into the brass section. Fight!

The husband and I have always enjoyed many varied interests. While gaming seems to get the most attention the truth is that we are both creative types at heart. He loves music, photography, and all manner of woodworking. I like to make characters out of different mediums and dabble in drawing. We keep busy and up until now I’ve never seen a downside to having multiple talents to draw from. Until I learned about flugelhorning.

Context; I was talking to a co-worker the other day. She was a bit distraught that she was being passed from department to department since she was capable of helping in multiple places, while other people who only had one particular skill set got to stay put and focus on their primary job. She told me it reminded her of being in band and volunteering to learn the flugelhorn. She said that she basically got stuck always doing the flugelhorn parts since everyone else had the good sense to just stick to the trumpet.

This story set off flashing lights in my brain, a sure sign that I was about to have an epiphany of sorts (“epiphany” “epilepsy”, you get the idea). See, until now I had always considered my ability to take on multiple tasks to be an asset. In all the jobs I’ve had I’d always though it useful to know, not only my duties, but also how to perform the tasks of others so I could always be counted on to jump in and help out in a pinch.  Now I realized that I had flugelhorned myself.

Now, the linguists in the audience are probably throwing up their hands in frustration by what they incorrectly perceive as me  trying to make unnecessary words a part of the common vernacular. Why not just use “shoehorned”? Doesn’t that mean relatively the same as what I’m trying to say? Not at all, and here’s why;

shoe·horn  (sho̅o̅′hôrn′) – To squeeze into or as if into an insufficient space,to force into a limited or tight space.

When you shoehorn something you force it into someplace where it doesn’t quite fit. In a work place example this would be like taking the company accountant and putting him in charge of counting widgets because he’s good at math. Great, your widget count is going to be spot on for the next inventory, but that guy is going to notice at some point that he could be doing real math elsewhere. Nobody aspires to be a widget counter.

Conversely, flugelhorning someone is just as limiting, but far more deceptive. Let’s take our accountant and put him back in charge of accounts receivable and payable or whatever the hell it is accountants do with their fancy adding machines. Okay, good he’s doing accounting and he’s content. You know what? I bet he’d be good at doing the ordering for the company too, since he’s so good with the numbers and all. Excellent, now if only we had someone who could make sales calls. Hey, why not the accountant, he already knows what supplies we have in stock since he’s doing the ordering. How difficult would it be to have him selling as well? Eventually this poor bastard is doing the work of seven different people.

Woman-Wearing-Many-Hats

Dude, WTF?

 

Perhaps his company isn’t run by total jerks and they give him a little additional monetary incentive to now throw himself off a bridge. They are still saving loads of money on all the employees they don’t have to hire to help out. Meanwhile, our jack of all trades feels like he’s starting to get somewhere in the company since he’s wearing all the hats that have been flung his way. Eventually he works up the nerve to ask for a promotion, only to be told that that isn’t possible at the moment because they’d need to find 2-3 new employees to pick up the slack if he were to move to another position. Here he thought he was making himself more useful only to find out that he had flugelhorned himself into doing everything for relatively the same amount of pay as if he’d just done ‘only’ his job really well from the get-go.

So now that you are aware of the flugelhorning epidemic, how do you make yourself immune? By specializing your talents. Here’s the thing, people who do one very specific thing extremely well are rare and usually well paid. Anybody can have passable photoshop abilities, but someone who is actually talented at the program can charge a premium for their skills. In the same vein, doctors might expect to make some cash, but not as much as specialists in a particular medical field. This is why a neurosurgeon makes more than a general practitioner, specialization.

The more specialized and unique your skill set the more you can charge for it. If you can build scale replicas of famous cities that is awesome, if you can do it using grains of rice and unicorn tears, well guess which one is more valuable? The trick is to figure out what it is that you want to be most excellent at and focus on that like a man possessed. Then find the tiniest subset of that category and cater exclusively to that niche.

To be honest I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to follow my own advice here. I can absolutely get behind the idea that being flugelhorned is a real thing and if anyone would like to go ahead and send word to the Webster’s people about this, it would be most appreciated. Trouble is, the reason I have many hobbies and skills is because I like doing lots of different things. Still, at least insofar as my future career prospects are concerned, it might be time to figure out where my best abilities lie and throw everything I have behind them in the smallest niche possible.

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

 

Today’s custom plush order is for a narwhal. For those not in the know, it’s basically a whale with teeth and a huge horn sticking out of it’s face. Not exactly my idea of cute and cuddly, but what the heck, I like a challenge. So how to make this:

creepy real narwhal

Look cute. First step, the drawing board. I’m no artist, but I’m a fair doodler so I sketched out some cartoony whales and quickly decided that going all Animal Planet wasn’t for me. This thing needed to look cuddly and fun. To that end I ditched the gray color scheme and went with a cool blue and white palet.

 

plush narwhal

Notice the eyes? I decided to play around with different styles and settled on this one I’d spotted on some goofy cartoon on Cartoon Network. I really dig how innocent it makes the toy seem, completely ignoring the ginormous sword horn coming off his face. I mean look at that thing;

plush narhwal front view

I tried to add a toothy grin, but it kept looking silly so in the end I just left it off. Luckily the eyes have more than enough personality to make up for the lack of a defined mouth.

plushie stuffed narwhale

As usual he’s made of fleece with felt details. It actually came out really cute and cuddly and I was sad to see it go. Might have to do more sea mammals in the near future.

 

Check out Story Builder Toys for more fun animals. If you’d like a custom creation of your own send me a message here or via my website for more information.

So excited and had to share! A few months back I got contacted by a local magazine out of the blue wanting to do an interview with me about my toys. A few days after the interview a photographer from the mag contacted me and asked to come out and take pictures.

While he was here he let slip that they were wanting to use the story for the cover, but I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. Then they had to come back and take more pictures and I started to think that this might be a real thing.

Turns out it was!

That cute little boy? Yeah that’s my son playing with a whole mess of our toys.

Here’s the story: http://www.edmondoutlook.com/archives/m.blog/27/story-builder-toys

This came at such a great time and I’m thrilled (and a bit terrified) about what this kind of publicity might mean for our little biz.