Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in questions. It's the nature of the blogging/social media beast, I think. While some are simple to answer ("Those blue plates are from Target five years ago." or "I make the photo grids with PSE."), some are more detailed and really make me stop and reflect a bit. These are often the type of questions deserve long 1000 word answers instead of a few sentences in response and so I am going to start addressing them in blog post format.
I have seen lots of reader Q&A happening on blogs (check out A Beautiful Mess, marta writes, Here's looking at me kid & DesignLoveFest) and I find the answers fascinating. I love blogger insight. So I am throwing my own hat into the ring and going to start doing the same every few weeks or so when a question strikes just the right chord. (Other questions that are not necessarily blog content will be addressed via email like usual.)
So here's the first question - and I am paraphrasing a bit here -
"How did you get the stamp shop idea from concept to reality in such a short time? How do you stop yourself from going crazy thinking about it and how it needs to be perfect, and just go for it?" - @janellermiller
I can't really get into how I made the stamp shop happen without first explaining the three levels of my job.
The first level is the blog. It's by far the biggest and most important level. Getting original content up each weekday is a non-negotiable. Addressing emails and comments in a timely matter is a non-negotiable. This is the work that I complete, regardless of if I am motivated or inspired, though usually, I find blog writing & coding very enjoyable. I make just a small amount of money directly from level one (through sidebar advertising and affiliate programs), but every dollar of my total income comes from the exposure & relationships I have established over the past 6+ years of maintaining this blog.
The second level is assignments & shop upkeep. These are sort of general terms, but include all of the work I do for others & the day-to-day running of my etsy shop (packing, shipping and re-listing old products). Custom projects, guest blog spots, writing for other outlets & freelance design work all fit under this umbrella. This stuff is semi-negotiable in that I don't have to take it on, but once I do, I am committed and need to work towards deadlines. Like the blog work, this is stuff that has to be pulled together, regardless of if I am feeling motivated or not.
My goal is to stay very on top of levels one and two so I have freedom and time to deal with level three when an idea strikes (which is really where I can answer the meat of your question).
The third level is creative ventures. In general, this level has the most potential to generate income. It's the one that sits on the back burner until the right idea comes along. And by idea, I really mean IDEA - all caps. I don't daydream about business ventures. Never. When I think of a product concept, I weigh it quickly - is it feasible? is it profitable? do I want to start writing or working TODAY? If the answer to all three is YES then I run with the project. If the answer to one of those is NO, I drop it. And that's it. No "someday" with a sigh. Having something on my "someday" to do list stresses me out more than having something on my daily to do list.
Why is this? I do not know for sure. But I have realized that my professional personality is pretty black and white. I don't waver on decisions or over-think things. Perhaps, this means I miss out on some possible good ideas, but I appreciate the time it saves. I want exciting & challenging projects that can be easily explained, packaged and marketed.
This is not to say that I don't want to spend a lot of time on my creative business ventures. I am more than happy to spend oodles of time, but I refuse to get started on something I don't feel passionate about seeing to fruition. Getting the stamp shop ready to roll probably took me about 35-40 hours. And that's before the doors opened and before I factor in all the time it will take me to actually run the shop and package and ship orders.
And the stamp shop is on the short end.
A project like BLOG 2.0, my typepad blog design workshop, is the culmination of hundreds & hundreds of hours of work. Organizing, outlining, writing, designing, filming videos, formatting and on and on and on. But I really enjoy teaching and that online workshop has a lot of life in it. I am currently on the fifth round and now that the content is complete, it's just a matter of addressing questions and keeping things current.
Online workshops are my bread and butter. In the past, they have generated the most financial success. With that in mind, for the past few months, I have been trying to come up with something new to teach that I am excited about, but I am totally stuck. Because I understand how I work best, I am not going to force it and instead will wait for the right idea.
Anyway - the point of all of this is to explain that I don't run with a creative project unless it fits my initial criteria for success. I can usually tell if one of my level three projects is going to flop or fly based on my attitude toward it. When I am excited, I work harder, faster and more efficiently and as a side benefit, the project is usually ready to go quickly and before I (or my target audience) has had a chance to lose focus or find a distraction. (Of course, I accept that some things are always going to flop, but if my initial passion is there, it has a head start.)
Staying totally on top of my work in levels one and two makes it possible for me to "clear my schedule" and roll with level three projects right away. I joked in my post yesterday about how I would have killed for the stamp shop idea to come in February or March, before I was busy. But really, I believe we are always able to make time for the right project. Plus, after a few years of this job, I have found that the busier I am, the better all three levels will do. I start working on one thing and the ideas for other things start coming and other opportunities tend to pop up.
Everyone is going to be different. This is the method for my madness and I wouldn't expect it to work for someone else. Hopefully though, this insight can help you think about how you delegate time, and deal with projects & opportunities. Allow yourself to identify your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what is holding you back from following through on your own ideas.
And then if you find you struggle with perfectionism, my best advice is to re-evaluate your definition of "perfect." My dad always says,
"Perfection is not flawlessness - it's wholeness and completeness."
And that is the greatest piece of wisdom I have ever received. (Thanks, Dadio!) Everything is flawed. Spending a lot of time on something is not going to make it perfect. Worrying about it and obsessing over it is not going to make it perfect.
Creating something with a clear concept, that works efficiently and is aesthetically pleasing (when appropriate)t should be the goal - not perfection. I promise, shifting your perspective can help a great deal if you are struggling with turning an idea into reality. And if you're still finding yourself over-thinking, here are some tips for making projects work.
sending you the best of luck & a giant box of creative energy, elise