SHIPPING AND POSTAGE STUFF. HOW DO I DO IT?

Get ready for a boring one folks because this is going to be all about shipping and postage stuff! Who doesn't LOVE that?

If you are like me, you are completely and utterly confused by everything involved with the magnificent MACHINE that is THE postal service - specifically the United States Postal Service because that is the part of the world where my meat vessel currently takes up space. When I say "utterly confused" I mean, I had to double check with my boyfriend to make sure I was putting stamps in the right spot on the package. I am a big dumb idiot so I assure you this will be TOTALLY COMPREHENSIVE to everyone! Oh also it's just a 3 step process so don't get scared.

STEP 1: OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING? DON'T GO TO THE POST OFFICE!
Holy crap PLEASE learn from my mistakes. When I finished up my Kickstarter stuff, I thought it would be cute to just take my box of 50 or so packages (humble brag) to the local post office and just hand them over to the clerk, pay my postage fees and be on my merry little way! OH NO THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. Allow me to full recount my experience for your enjoyment. Please join me in this terrible flashback. 

So my boyfriend and I walk into an empty and TINY post office and see just one woman working the counter. I think to myself "omg how quaint! We are the only ones here this is amazing" and step up with my box of stuff with a smile on my stupid face ready to begin this very simple and quick transaction. The woman working, who was very friendly and very chill, proceeded to weigh my two different sized packages and slowly began doing, what seemed to me to be very complicated postage math in her head, while I stood there feeling my face get warm as people started filing into the tiny post office. About ten full minutes pass and in front of me is a growing pile of mismatched stamps. Finally the woman finishes and tells me very quickly, some nonsense like "place 3 of these stamps and 2 of those over here and 4 of these for the big ones and 3 of those and 2 of these for the small ones and if I run out I can use 1 of these and 1 of those as long as it all equals out to this number then it will be fine." So now I'm in a full sweat and my face is as red as my stupid red face can get and I ask her to repeat that so my tiny brain can soak in as much fake postage math it can. I throw all my stuff back in the box, scoop up my pile of expensive money stickers, grab my 5 customs forms for my international orders and scurry off into the TINY hallway to begin the stamping process with my stupid sweaty fingers. My boyfriend and I stamp away as her weird instructions are finally making sense and we get everything stamped and the triplicate customs forms filled out in about a half hour and we head back to the front desk but NOW there is a line and still just that one woman working. It is no longer quaint, this has become my hell prison. Another 10-15 minutes pass and we reach the front. Thank god I got the stamps figured out correctly and the forms are done correctly and I hand it all over. WOO the domestic stuff is done, but now it's time for her to MANUALLY ENTER ALL THE CUSTOMS FORMS?? Getting through all 5 forms took about 20 minutes all while I had a line of 10 customers behind me staring daggers into the back of my head. Finally she finishes and everything looks good and she gives me the total owed and it was well over $200. I pay and as we head toward the door I can feel the curse of the post office finally leave my bones as we exit that godforsaken nightmare never to return again.

So what did we learn here? A couple things actually. Um, don't ever go to the post office. And postage is expensive so don't skimp on adding shipping fees but they may be another blog for another log. THAT is not an expression, I just like how it sounded in my head.

STEP 2: IT'S THE FUTURE NOW. PAY FOR POSTAGE ONLINE AND PRINT THAT SHIT OUT.
But CODY, how do we avoid the post office if we have to ship stuff? Haha, you goofball, just pay for postage online, print out the label and stick it to the front of your package! You have a couple options here. You can simple pay through the USPS website (usps.com - this is not a sponsored post of the United States Postal Service) or if you are running an online shop set up an account with Shipstation (shipstation.com - this is not a sponsored post of Shipstation either).

The first option is pretty simple and quick: just create an account, go to Mail & Ship at the top, then Click-N-Ship in the drop down menu, fill out your stuff and print out your label! 

If you are planning on shipping out orders regularly, I can't recommend Shipstation enough. My shop is attached to my Squarespace website (not sponsored but I'd like to be please) if you upgrade to the ecommerce basic plan you can connect to Shipstation which keeps track of all your orders and allows you to purchase postage ONLINE through Stamps.com (I know it seems complicated but it does it automatically) so you fill out the addresses, it calculates the shipping cost and you print out the label! Shipstation has a bunch of video tutorials and their customer service has been super good so far so check that out if you need it!

STEP 3: BUT WAIT. HOW DO I SHIP MY STUFF WITHOUT GOING TO THE POST OFFICE?
You dummy I told you it's the future and in the future we are shut-ins and don't leave our homes! USPS PICK-UP BABY! Log back into your USPS account, go to the Mail & Ship drop down menu, and click Schedule a Pick-up! Fill out the stuff, put your packages in a nice box (and I find adding a note that says "USPS PICK-UP PLEASE!" or something like that is helpful because they may miss it or might just ignore it tbh) and BOOM, your friendly neighborhood postal worker will come to your front door and take your packages off your hands! It's that simple. 

OKAY that's 3 steps so I will stop there, anymore and I lose my attention span. I hope I was able to teach some things to somebody because they sure don't teach us this IN SCHOOL FOR SOME REASON? I know all of this will seem very obvious if you've done it before, but if you are knew to shipping out your art stuff then I am here for you. If I missed anything and you have questions PLEASE leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

Learn from my mistakes and say it with me: DON'T GO TO THE POST OFFICE.

How To Freelance With Minimal Crying & Screaming

Okay let's start out with a disclaimer right off the bat. These tips MAY NOT make you into the multimillionaire freelancer you are trying to "The Secret" yourself into becoming. These are just things I do regularly and work out sometimes! 

First of all, get a website!
When you are contacting people for gigs do not send them a link to your Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Xanga, or whatever. If you want professional jobs, you have to pretend to be professional yourself, at least a little bit anyway. I use Squarespace for all my website needs and cannot recommend it enough. It took me a couple hours to get set up and jam all my portfolio stuff on there, but once that is done, updating it is quick and easy! Oh and if you listen to ANY podcast, you can get a discount promo code! So do that. Omg great website! I LOVE IT. Okay moving on.

Design yourself a letter of agreement and invoice.
This seems daunting because LOL business right? But really all you have to do is search the world wide web for examples and templates, then just tweak them to your needs and put your branded flavor on them. Since showing is easier than telling, take a look at my important business documents! Feel free to copy/paste and use them for yourself! I work for tips though, so please Venmo me a couple bucks, thank you. So do that. Omg great business documents! I LOVE THEM. Okay moving on.

Yay let's contact potential clients!
Every super extroverted and totally not-anxious-at-all artist's favorite thing to do! Let's make this as simple as possible. Whether you are contacting some local alt-weekly newspapers, or trying to be the next Google Doodle, the process is pretty much the same and I'm going to break it down into parts.

Part 1: Who do I even contact?
Okay, I will admit this is something I still struggle with and I'm not even sure I do right 80% of the time BUT I will give you advice anyway! Since it is the future and everybody is on THE WEB, you can probably find the website for the company you want to do freelance work for. If it is something like magazine, or a newspaper, or even a book publisher, the process is pretty simple. Just find the "contact me" page and scroll until you find an art director or art director adjacent (creative director, editor, etc). BUT if you are looking for a contact for big companies like Amazon, Target, Google, things like that it's a little trickier and something I'm still trying to work out. My advice here is to Google search "Amazon art director" or checked LinkedIn (yes actual business people use this social network LOL) for the right person. Chances are you will find more than one art director, so go ahead and email all of them. Sometimes they will have emails listed, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find it. Dig away and send emails. Do not feel weird about cold contacting people! It's just an email, it isn't like you are casing their house or contacting their birth parents to get a hold of them.

Part 2: What do I even say?
(THIS IS HOW I DO IT BUT I COULD BE WRONG SO USE ADVICE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!)
While this could depend on the potential client, my advice is standard: be yourself! My go to subject line is along the lines of "Freelance Illustrator Available For Hire!" The exclamation point may be overkill but hey, that's my style baby *winky face*. The body of the email should be short and sweet and start out with a quick sentence about yourself, what your specialty is, and then a link to your portfolio. That is it. Chances are they will skim right past everything and just click your website link anyway, so don't stress too much about that. I try to avoid sounding too "businessy" because I think it's boring and not me and some places will hire people based on their personality/if they like them so don't be LAME. 

Part 3: When do I follow up?
KEEP A SPREAD SHEET! Ew I know right? Compile a spreadsheet with the company name, contact email, date you contacted, and the date they responded. After about a week, send a follow-up email asking if they received your first email. If you still don't get a response and this is a client you really want to work with, I would follow-up again every month to every 3 months, but that is sort of up to you. While I don't think you should be concerned with coming off as desperate, you do want to avoid being too spammy. Check out my standard email and my follow-up examples.

Now let's talk about money.
Negotiating compensation will make you sweaty and uncomfortable and maybe even let out a scream or two. That is all very natural and you shouldn't fight it, but let me try to take some of the sting out of the process. When you get to the negotiating stage ALWAYS try to get the client to pick a number first; ask them what their budget is and the deadline. This will work 50% of the time. If they give you a budget, this allows you to either go up or go with the number they chose. You are now playing mind games. Put yourself inside their brain and figure out what they can afford and what you are worth. Are they a company of one with a family to feed or do they have 100+ employees with a 401k? This will help you decide how much more money you can ask for. If the project is something you can bang out quickly and easily for $300, then take it. If the deadline is tomorrow and you know it will take 10 hours to complete, do not take that three hundo instead double it. Nothing is more valuable than your time, always remember that. A project may pay handsomely, but if the deadline is yesterday then it will cause you all kinds of stress because you will have to figure out time travel and space/time continuums and other sci-fi nonsense and it won't be cute so always keep that in mind. 

MAKE THEM PAY HALF UP FRONT. I cannot stress this enough. Now I will admit I've taken quick $200 gigs with a trustworthy company without asking for pay up front, BUT if it's a new client (especially one you found from Craigslist or some BS freelancing site) you need to get paid first. Because why? THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY YOU. You can literally turn your work over to them and they can just take it and run. What can you do? Sue them? LOL. Oh and a little bonus reminder, always send low-res files before you get paid in full. This will help keep those damn vultures from stealing your work without paying.

Freelancing can be a nightmare and it's a scary world out there so let's stick together and help each other out! If you have any questions or need anything clarified, please comment below! Or if you think this was helpful AT ALL I would love a little "like" or some positive reinforcement because I am human and that brings me joy. HAPPY FREELANCING!

Kickstarter: If I Can Do It THEN OMG So Can You

Listen up, I've successfully funded A ONE Kickstarter so I'm basically an expert now so here are my tips & tricks. Feel free to take notes but please keep in mind if you follow this advice and you still don't get your project funded I am not liable and my Dad's a judge so you can try to sue me but you won't win.

Tip #1: You better have a good idea. 
If you don't have a concept for something people want then Kickstarter isn't going to work. This seems obvious, but I feel the need to point it out just in case!

Tip #B: Look at other campaigns for inspiration.
I probably shouldn't have to mention this, but I mean the ones that have been funded. See what other campaigns that share a similar project in common and DON'T COPY but replicate what they have done in your own voice and style. If you are an artist, you should be well versed in this technique so do that. Check out what people have done in terms of rewards and pricing and even formatting their page. You don't have to invent the wheel, it's been done and the information is there so eat it up and poop out a nice, shiny little Kickstarter nugget that people will want to give money to!

Tip 3: Find out how much money you need. (AKA not the fun part)
Read reviews, ask your social media followers, do whatever you need to do to find the best and most affordable manufacturers for whatever it is you are trying to get made. For me, I had to email a dozen different enamel pin makers to finally find the one that was perfect for me! This part is not fun and you won't like it but you have to figure out how much money you need to ask for so you gotta do it. I ended up needing about $1200 total. That includes the cost of pins, shipping supplies, and things like that. This doesn't have to be an exact science, but if you want to be profitable with your goal then finding out exactly how much you need PLUS the Kickstarter fees is important. Since this was my first campaign I decided to ask for $1300 so that extra $100 covered any bad math on my end. I was nervous about asking for too much and not getting funded, so a lot of that has to do with your confidence in your project and how many people you think will be interested in funding it.

Tip #C-F: Come up with your pledge rewards.
Make sure you have a range of prices and rewards YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH. Oh, and don't give away too much of what you are asking to get made! I suggest started with a donation amount of $10-$15 with just a "thank you for helping make my dreams come true!" And moving up every $20 amount or so. So I had stickers and prints made of the same designs (which my own dollars) before my enamel pin Kickstarter so I used those as giveaways as well so they could keep my pin losses at a minimum. I suggest using other things to pad for giveaways BUT remember people are funding this project because they like what you are trying to get made, so don't over do it because people won't pledge if they aren't getting what they want. As you move up to the higher pledges ($70+) I would consider offering something special. For my project I offered hand-drawn portraits! People like personalized stuff!

Tip #100: Social media is your BEST FRIEND.
Once you've gone over your project a million times to check for errors or whatever, publish that bad boy! I've read publishing on a Wednesday afternoon is the best time? But who knows, that's what I did but it may make little difference, I'm no expert on that stuff. Remember to periodically post updates and reminders on every social media outlet you can. I stuck to the holy trinity: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure as many people are aware of your project without coming off as spammy.

Tip #IDK: You got funded! YAY! Now what?
You wait! My project was funded with 3 weeks left (which sounds braggy, and it is, but it just made me ANXIOUS to get started) so I just had to sit and wait. BUT, remember to send out a big thank you and let your followers and the people who funded know your project was a success! Send out a survey for your funders to fill out to get their address and whatever information you may need before shipping their rewards. Order your stuff and start addressing envelopes and get ready to make friends at the post office! 

Tip Z: Don't be afraid.
What is the worst that could happen? Like honestly. Your project doesn't get funded? So what, you get a little embarrassed and your ego goes soft. It's fine, it happens to everybody. It wasn't a complete loss, you learned what not to do so you can figure your stuff out for the next one!

That's it! So if you want money for a rad project you believe in AND people will believe in as well, then just do a dang Kickstarter! JUST DO IT.

P.S. I am 100% sure I missed some stuff so if you have any further questions leave them in the comments below!


HERE IS MY FUNDED KICKSTARTER PAGE FOR REFERENCE!

Creating Stuff Feels Good. Alternate Title: NOT Creating Stuff Feels Bad.

OK LET'S TALK ABOUT BEING PRODUCTIVE, BEING BAD AT ART, AND FEELING BAD.

Alright let's dim the lights and talk about something real, kids: self-esteem. We all have it! Some days are good self-esteem days and some are bad, blah blah whatever this isn't some anti-depression pamphlet. We all know what self-esteem is and most of us are sad most of the time who cares. That's what millennial absurdist self-deprecating meme humor is for. What I want to talk about is how feeling bad can be directly linked to how we feel as artists - or as I will never refer to myself again - CREATIVES. LOL.

Okay get ready for this next thing because it is going to blow your minds. EVERYONE WANTS ATTENTION. We all love it. I know it's like super fun to talk shit about Instagram models and Youtubers - or whatever millennial nonsense things baby boomers HATE - for craving attention but omg who cares we all crave attention, it is literally the thing that fuels our self-esteem meter and it's not a new concept. Ever since Caveman Dave ripped that big neanderthal fart to impress his BOYFRIEND Caveman Greg - yes, cave people were GAY. GET OVER IT - our attention-needy society was born.

As an artist, creating dumb stuff is what makes me feel good. It replenishes my self-esteem meter. So that's all well and good, yay I figured that out. Good job, me. THE PROBLEM IS when I either do not want to create anything, or I cannot create anything GOOD. Then, boom I feel like an absolute turd. And I mean a bad one, like when you forgot your dairy pill and decided to roll the dice and eat that cheese anyway and cut to you on the toilet, straining a little more than you know you should just to plop out that little brown nugget, still feeling full of that dairy poison. Sorry, I got a little lost in that metaphor there. 

So what do you do? Force yourself to make something that you could end up hating? Just try to chill out and tell yourself it's okay to have Bad Art Days and do nothing? Well, yes and yes. Actually, I don't know, I'm not even sure what my point is anymore. It's just a weird thing and it's frustrating and I'm trying to make myself feel better by typing these virtual words into the internet void because I'm probably not going to create any art today so at least I'm being productive in some way. OH YEAH, okay I'm back. Productivity! Just do SOMETHING. If you know your self-esteem is wrapped up in whether or not you are doing something YOU deem as "productive" them omg just do it. We are just flesh beans wobbling around on this big blue space rock trying to validate our existence, so do that thing and feel good. Do a thing and post it on your socials for those internet likes because you know it will make you feel good.

What have we learned today? CREATING stuff feels good and NOT CREATING stuff feels bad. Oh, that's it. I guess I could have just said that. 

Twitch Art Streaming TEST #1

I've been using Twitch as a place to just chill and watch people play video games for a few months now, but it wasn't until last night I actually considered using it to stream MYSELF? I mainly watch lady gamers because I am a Gay™ and most str8 male gamers scare me. You know what, the concept of Twitch is kind of wild like did everyone have a big brother who hogged the Playstation 2 because I sure did and I feel like that is how this industry was born.

But anyway, so I was home alone last night and decided to poke around and see what it could do for me. While Twitch seems to be geared toward game streaming, there is a HUGE community of art streamers as well. I feel like most of the successful art streamers do heavily photoshop rendered stuff and sit there streaming for 8 hours rendering an ear to the musical stylings of Kate Bush, which sounds amazing but is 100% NOT what I do. Do people want to see me draw and delete the same line over and over again and SCREAM? LEAVE YOUR ANSWER IN THE COMMENTS BELOW LOL.

The first step was designing my channel's assets: banners, profile image, etc. I love doing this shit. So I hammered away at some stuff in photoshop and got that stuff finished pretty quickly. I will probably update the art later, I just wanted stuff up ASAP because I STREAM ART I DON'T MAKE IT BEHIND THE SCENES ANYMORE LIKE AN IDIOT. Check out the Twitch stuff I made!

Okay so after all that I had to download OBS, a free streaming software. I played around with that for about a half an hour or so just to get a hold on how to set up scenes and switch between screen sharing on different programs since I work in Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects. THIS is where I struggled the most. Learning new software programs is like learning a foreign language and my brain is NOT wired for that stuff. Oh also, streaming on JUST a laptop with one monitor is a mess and a bad idea. But whatever, I set up my stuff the best I could and tested my stream on Twitch.

WELL OK THAT'S WHAT I SOUND LIKE I GUESS. I made the mistake of watching my stream feed on my other computer - which was a mess because it lagged like 10 seconds behind - and I heard my own voice and omg I am so sorry to everyone who has to DEAL with that terrible noise. Alright, that nightmare aside I think I got the mechanics down and streamed for like 20 minutes just playing around in Illustrator. Of course my chat was empty and I felt awkward talking to myself, which is odd because I am very good at talking to myself when I'm NOT on camera so I thought I'd be a PRO. I mean, I'm literally talking to myself right now.

So what did we learn from this experience? My voice is bad. I'm still not sure if my art creating process is engaging enough for people to come and watch. Should I just stick to these blogs? Or should I stop doing these, too?

HAHA SOMEONE HELP ME.

How do BLOG work?

LISTEN UP NOBODY.

Okay, so I'm thinking about starting a blog. Or a Twitch?

Maybe writing stuff or maybe live-streaming my artistic PROCESS (which is just me bashing my head into my keyboard until my computer poops out something halfway decent) and talking about whatever is happening in my professional and/or personal life.

I, Cody Bond, the creator of this website, and abuser of commas, would like to do something to A: force myself to create consistent content for and B: garner more internet attention from because that is what TRULY fuels me. 

I guess this is a test to see how it feels to type words into the digital void for probably nobody to see. Maybe I will do more of this and maybe I won't! 

LIKE, COMMENT, AND SUBSCRIBE. You know, just like the Youtube teens say.