Designing for Zazzle Merchandise Leads to My New Squarespace-based Website

This is what the home page of my brand new website, printedmuserie.com, looks like. The interior pages are very, very different from this home page. Check it out!

This is what the home page of my brand new website, printedmuserie.com, looks like. The interior pages are very, very different from this home page. Check it out!

Just as the title says, I now design items sold through the Zazzle Print on Demand (POD) platform. I've also launched a new website using the Squarespace platform. Naturally I have some things to tell you about all this. But if you can't wait to see the new site in all its glory without reading my no-doubt-riveting-but-surely-longer-than-yours-would-have-been back story... I give you: printedmuserie.com! (Imagine a wee tiny brass band with friendly undertones accompanying this long-time-coming announcement.) You can also click the screenshot over there, and be directed to the home page.

I'm super-excited to finally reveal what's taken every minute of my spare time this year. Enough, in fact, that it had to get its very own online home. Because there are so many pertinent details related to how it evolved, why it became a stand-alone project, and also answers to the questions I've been asked by those familiar to the work, I'm writing this post and will break down the high points using a numbered list. But first some photos of a few of my more popular designs. Which is to say things that have sold at least once, and often several different times. (They don't link but they appear near the top of my products lists in either the Printed Muserie or Paper Muserie Zazzle stores.

Now: A List of Highlights on Why I Built a Whole New Website:

  1. After the 2016 holiday shopping season, I decided to expand my then-still-new POD endeavors and open a shop through Zazzle. No other creative endeavor I've encountered allows me to use a greater number of my skills and interests in a single place: digital art, photography, writing, web marketing, Zentangle, love of patterns, texture and color combinations... the list just kept growing, beyond these. And so I needed a digital space to work in that would let me experiment with my discovery of how expansive and open-ended this could be for someone wired and inclined like me.
  2. Because? That company lets me not only add my digital artwork, patterns and photos to their hundreds of product options, but I can also design business cards, cool invitations, (think wedding suites of cards and accessories,) and US postage stamps, plus personalized household items and accessories with monograms and template spaces for your name. This new customization avenue blew the top off what I'd previously done with POD. And whereas I was already excited by getting to decide what I wanted to design on any given day, expanding my efforts to designing invitations and business cards for strangers - something I've helped friends and family members do, for fun, for years - has increased my enjoyment exponentially. And don't even get me started about my delight at designing postage stamps. OH the fun!
  3. I got a little obsessed and read everything I could find on how to "do it right". I then took an online class, and have now created more than one Zazzle store. (That may or may not have been necessary, but there's no going back now! Here are the direct links again: Printed Muserie and Paper Muserie stores on Zazzle. Also, there's a page on the new site that attempts to explain the differences between the two.) All told, there are now several thousand products available for purchase through Zazzle alone, with my designs on them. Yes. You read that right. That number grows every day.
  4. Since I was not only learning about Zazzle but about the Print on Demand industry in general, I had a lot to learn about getting these designs seen by people who will buy them. As a result, I've sold many more items in these new stores than I did elsewhere last year.
  5. The primary evidence of my improvement? Zazzle has processed more than 80 orders with my designs on them. With no external promotion on my part, whatsoever. Those orders have been from people all over the world, for everything from leggings to business cards, mugs to postage stamps. Through my other POD partnerships I get an occasional email that I've sold something, and this is great. But I now expect such emails from Zazzle! So all the extra time I spent learning the ins and outs of their offerings will clearly serve me well as I continue to learn and increase the numbers of designs I offer.
  6. For those curious about how this works, financially, I'll share this: Designer royalties are generally only in the 5-15% range. 25% at the highest but that high one is actually (at this point) only through Art of Where. Most of my Zazzle royalties are set at 10-15%.
  7. Which means my efforts on this front do not have me rolling in cash. You have to sell a lot of POD merchandise to make it worth the work.
  8. Having said that? Turns out many designers HAVE made it well-worth their time to do this. Being able to design Whatever I'm In The Mood To Try Creatively On Any Given Day, then post it in a public marketplace where someone (usually a stranger) will one day buy it is thrilling. That future possible other customers can buy it again just compounds the pleasure.
  9. Now. The marketplace I've entered is enormous. When I say that there are millions of designs available on hundreds of different products you can buy from Zazzle alone, I am not exaggerating. Fortunately for me, I'm not afraid of marketing to an Internet audience. That does NOT mean all my products rank high in the marketplace. Nor does it mean I'm suggesting it's easy or requires only a little work. I'm pretty sure I've never worked harder than I have "in my spare time" this year. What it does mean is that whereas I've read story after story of "Zazzlers" who didn't make their very first sales for 6 months, and who often didn't see another for several more months, I've been more fortunate than that. If theirs had been my experience, I might have given up by now. Instead, I sold my first product within 5 weeks of opening my store, and have sold steadily (rarely going longer than a week without a sale,) since then.
  10. But averaging a few dollars a day on something that takes this much time and energy is not my idea of long-term success. Sure, it's a start, but now it's time to really get this thing off the ground. "If you build it they will come" is not true in the land of the World Wide Web. Way too many things are going on in this cyber arena to make that possible. The only way to increase the likelihood that all these images will be seen is to promote them online, through blogging and social media. So I had to build a dedicated website. Where I will write and publish frequent blog posts about my designs, the pitfalls and celebrations, the lessons-in-general, and so many other things, too. I'd already bought the domain printedmuserie.com to help bring interested people to the right place on this site. It was a natural progression, then, that I would move these endeavors to a standalone location dedicated to what I'm doing with Print on Demand.

Although I may sometimes write about these topics here in this blog, most of that content will appear over there so my subscribers and long-time readers won't be inundated with all the minutia that is certain to make at least a few of your eyes glaze over.

Besides all that? Thank you! Thank you if you read all this, and thank you for taking a look at the new site. Sharing that it exists is a huge step in getting that effort off the ground. And I appreciate you for being a part of it, even in this most basic of ways.

Cheers!

The Fun of Consulting with Other Squarespace Users as They Build Their Sites

One of the things I haven't written about here in a long time is about how much I enjoy my primary work. Specifically, I haven't written of my enjoyment in working with people who use Squarespace to create and host their websites.

Today I've been thinking about some of the consulting clients I now work with. This wasn't such a big part of my life, several years back when I was blogging several times a week. Now that I've been "at this Squarespace thing" for more than 10 years, and a steady stream of new and repeat clients find me on their own, I'm finding that not only do I work with people who need a brand new site from scratch (my portfolio of samples is out of date and I intend to remedy that by next week,) but I also get calls now from people who need just a few hours of my help.

This is as enjoyable for me as building an entire site from scratch.

Who are these people? All kinds of website owners, really. I thought I'd tell you a little about two recent examples that immediately spring to mind. And I'll tell you a bit about the kinds of things I've been able to help them with:

A Professional Fine Artist

She is a fine art painter from the northeast region of the US who uses technology every day, in basic ways. Having worked on it a while, solo, she uncovered some understandable challenges navigating some of the more nuanced details needed for building an entire site from scratch. But she's bold, and tenacious, and used to doing things on her own. I laud folks who jump in and test the robust set of tools Squarespace offers the DIY set. When she contacted me, she'd already set up a free trial account and built several content-rich pages.

Ways I've Been Able to Help:

  1. Showing her that she wasn't locked into the default way her chosen template presented her portfolio content helped her to move past a great hurdle. Squarespace is versatile enough that you can often achieve a single goal in several ways. While certain options might make a template distinctive in one way, if one doesn't understand their options, they might find themselves limited, in other ways. We were able to discuss her ideas for what she was looking for. After that, showing her an alternative, "live" with some of her actual work in place, helped move things further quite rapidly.
  2. Helping her to understand some differences between photo gallery pages and gallery blocks. This is one of the less obvious distinctions in the array of Squarespace offerings and I was glad I had the opportunity to help her decide what she actually needed.

This client reaches out here and there, and we talk by phone, or Skype, and in between she goes back to handling what she can on her own. I'm really proud of her when she shows me the progress she's making on her own, between our calls. It's going to be great to get the news when she's ready to launch and show the world her impressive body of work.

The Partners from A Music Company

The principals in a southwest music company decided to create their new site on Squarespace, too. They had gotten impressively far on their own, and now needed a fresh, creative eye to take a look at what they'd managed thus-far, and brainstorm ideas on how to raise the bar a bit.

Ways I've Been Able to Help:

I started by having separate conversations with both partners and listening to each of them share their visions. We looked at a few sites they like, to better articulate what they imagined with the help of real world examples. I was able to take the information from those conversations and input some of their content into an alternate trial setup using a different template from what they'd chosen, that seemed likely to suit their needs.

It turned out that while I am not an expert on every single Squarespace template, having had the opportunity to work with quite a few different styles over the years, and experiment with some of the newer ones on my own "just for fun," gave me the awareness that the solution they were seeking was more easily doable than they'd realized. They were elated. And were able to take what I shared with them in our follow-up, change the template on the site they'd been working on, and work from there. I hear they're getting fairly close to launching and, once again, I'm proud of the work they've achieved toward reaching their online goals.

Sometimes helping is as much fun as doing something for another.

The thought above, about helping-rather-than-doing, isn't profound or shocking. In fact, it's a fairly typical, ordinary facet of my reality. Yours too, perhaps. Reflecting on the ordinary things, though, can lead to new insights. Today my own simple reflections reminded me that I've wanted for a while to revive my blog. What better way to work toward this effort than to share a bit about a side of my work that I've never written about online before?

If you're looking for some help with your Squarespace website, maybe I can help! If you're curious about that, too, here's a long form with some questions that help me know if I'm a good match for what you need. If long forms overwhelm you or you'd rather just explain your needs in a basic email, use this one! Either way, if you're exploring Squarespace, I highly recommend it. Not to suggest it's perfect and every little thing it does thrills me to no end, it is nonetheless my go to solution for any serious website that needs to be birthed. Maybe you'll enjoy it too. With or without my help!

Consistent Inspirations Even Though the Weather is Out of Our Hands

Click the photo to see my pretty yellow crocuses and my pretty Zentangle-inspired-art mug printed with my own doodle art, too, if you like!

It's been a year or two since I first heard that phrase, "North Carolina is off its meds again" but it still makes me laugh. Because: truth. Recently my honey and I had a discussion involving key winter-based childhood memories that were notable because of the unseasonable warmth. Sort of like what we had a couple of weeks back when it's clear now I squandered my freedom and didn't go outside to enjoy it nearly enough. I had to be reminded that this kind of thing used to happen occasionally, even though it feels much more frequent nowadays.

In spite of being an unabashed "creative type" and a more-than-a-little-fortunate woman who neither puts on uncomfortable shoes for work or punches a clock, nor has to participate in a blood-pressure-spiking morning commute in order to achieve my days' goals, I nonetheless get complacent sometimes. Just like those years when my days were much less satisfying than they are now, I sometimes do squander the high points and suddenly blink to find them gone. I'm missing the warm weather now and using non-weather perks to inspire my days.

A few weeks ago when I shot the photo that looks like Spring, I had taken a break from the endless hours at a computer monitor and carried my coffee outside into the glorious warmth that so surprised me. Notice that mug? It's printed with a piece of my very own "Zentangle Inspired Art" I never actually got around to telling you about here on the blog but which was quite a satisfying project of mine more than a year ago. I will come back to that in the next few weeks - I'm working toward something really cool, finally, to tell you and today's not the day. Still, I had to point out the mug because I want to show you one of the silly things that makes me smile on ordinary days when the weather seems to annoy me more than usual. Like in normal winter days when it's not in fact 75 degrees in February. It's shifted so drastically that we had just enough tiny snowflakes last weekend to nearly blanket the whole yard. A scene that might have otherwise thrilled and delighted me but this time had the opposite effect instead.

Nearly the same location, just a few feet away in the same front garden bed. Two or three weeks AFTER the first photo was shot.

The mug represents something to me, I think. It's one of the culminations of so many of my creative endeavors. I was washing it after dinner one night recently and I said, laughing: "I'm SUCH a dork!" He asked me why. I answered, "We have enough mugs to build someone a tiny home yet every night I make sure this one is clean because it's the one I want to drink out of every morning." Then we had a nice celebratory laugh and chat about the importance of owning our own dorkiness and being okay with who we are, perceived flaws and all.

That okayness ties into the message I've been playing with this past year, and labeling "Muserie" which is the idea that no matter who we are, if we train ourselves to look in the right places and keep the right inspirations on hand, we can absolutely be our own muses. I enjoy believing that even if we're not wired in this uber-creative way I eventually recognized as my own personal makeup, we can learn how to rally inspiring messages and scenes and details that lift our days - even frigid ones that make it necessary to put on another layer before venturing out, or muted ones wherein the sunshine just doesn't show up "like it's supposed to" to lift our spirits without effort.

So that's one of mine: a silly little old mug printed with some doodle art I created months ago and now wash extra often to be 100% certain it holds my morning coffee again and again. Every time I look at it, I think "I did that!" and I smile a little broader. Also? The sun is absolutely going to warm my face again without bitter winds, and I will then perhaps be looking for inspiring thoughts of cool breezes and even snowdrifts to combat the southern summer humidity. But not today.

Merchandise printed with my digital artwork. Leggings, phone cases, kimonos, mugs and more.

Did you ever work on something so long that when it was ready to share you didn't actually believe it? I ask because that's where I am today. At long last, I'm excited to show you my latest creative exploration. Available because of the "Print on Demand" industry, we are now able to design anything from yoga leggings to coffee mugs, kimono wraps to iPhone cases, bodycon dresses to throw pillows. And now I do this. I'm marketing the items under the name "Printed Muserie" and you can read more about what that means over here.

If we've talked in recent weeks, you might have heard me go on and on about "the leggings" because, to be honest, designing those has been some of the most fun I've had in the history of my creative life. But there's much more to it than leggings.

Because there are necessarily several different links, and pages that come at this project from a number of different angles, I've worked to organize the content as efficiently as possible. Chances are there's much more work to be done, to make this as tidy as possible. But hopefully you'll be able to find your way around without too much trouble. My hope is that you also have some fun if you click through any of these pages. Please know that all you see here reflects hours of fun and curious exploration, learning and trial-and-erroring, starts and restarts, and ultimately, a mountain of possibilities.

The two companies I'm working with most right now are Art of Where and Society6. Art of Where prints my designs on fabric, cuts and sews the clothing, and sells it to you. Society6 contracts with manufacturers of all kinds to print my work on a random array of goods... and sells it to you. That's the short-and-sweet of it all. My FAQ page is here.

Because it took so much work to pull this together and I'm only announcing this publicly now, there are literally just days of shopping left, should you want to buy any of these things to give as Christmas gifts. Please do know that. I'm sorry. But the baby couldn't be born until the baby could be born. Orders must be placed by the 9th of December, (just revised today!) for Art of Where (leggings, kimono wraps!) and by the 14th, for Society6 (laptop sleeves, wall tapestries, stationery cards.) But to be clear: this is not a holiday shop. This is a new avenue for my creative expression and there will be much more to come in the approaching year. So please consider me for your gift giving, but do come back for yourself after the frenzy dies down and get something nice for yourself!

A Tiny Mountain of Links for You

Disclaimer and Reminder, With Final Notes of Gratitude

You will almost certainly find some messes. You may click on a "category" (Society6 shop is a great example) and find that I once set it up when I had no idea what I was doing, and haven't yet removed it. You may also click a link and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I made that particular design. They're fair questions, of course. But if a creative person always compared herself to those much better at something, she might never put anything out into the world. It was time. It had to be done. We're all of us getting better every day and this project has taught me that again and again. The value of just jumping in and giving something a go.

If you see a broken link or something doesn't make sense, please kindly (and gently) let me know.
I'm continuing to tweak and improve and your help will be so welcome.

Remember (yes, I mentioned this before,) that if you do see something you like and want to gift it to another for Christmas, the cutoff dates will be here in a hot minute. In fact, Art of Where emailed While I Was Writing This Blog Post to announce an earlier cutoff date because demand had been so high, for their products. DECEMBER 9 is this Friday. That's the deadline for orders for leggings and kimono wraps, if you're going to give this to another. (December 14 for Society6!) But I'm not closing down my shop after the holidays! This endeavor has literally been months in the making, and I'm only getting started.

Thank you to My One Great Love for being so patient and supportive with this and all the other kooky, harebrained ideas I come up with on any given day. I'm sorry it took so long to get this thing off the ground. I love you more than I can say. And to my friends who took a look and weighed in with critiques and suggestions and oohs and aahs and encouraged me to keep going: I love you too. More than you, too, will ever know.

Now... about those jewelry designs I put on hold. Hmmm!