Updated our Studio page

On my studio page that features all of my dog and cat rescue stuff and my artwork that supports those passions, attempting to change it from “just a blog with links to my stuff” into an actual e-commerce platform has been over four months of consternation trying to make one platform connect to another, plugins sync, blah blah blah. Yeah, well. Bottom line is: Nevermind. I removed the e-comm connections that never worked right and reformatted it back to my trusty blog with links to my stuff!

Great Gift Ideas!

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Cat and Dog Lovers Planners, journals and notebooks, or any of our design merch goin up on our Zazzle storefront, please do pop over and check out the new Merch display.

All of my pet-centric designs help support several local animal rescue groups, so please, please, please go take a look-see! I’ve got Pins and IG posts as well as Facebook posts I would greatly appreciate ya’ll sharing! Veterinary bills for rescue animals can be extreme. Every purchase y’all make of my stuff helps save, heal and re-home pets in need.

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Coloring Planners for Cat Lovers

Because Phoofie.

Way before I was a Crazy Dog Lady, I was a Crazy Cat Lady. In honor of the lives of my coolest cats over the years – Philphil, Shermie and Phoofie – our 2020 Weekly Planners with Coloring Pages for Cat Lovers are now available on Amazon.

Did a full FLIPBOOK video to allow ya’ll to thumb through the entire interior as though you were standing in the bookstore looking at it in person (especially since one cannot always trust Amazon to show the number of pages to viewers that we’d like).

Check them out here:

GET THEM HERE on Amazon today:

Meeowza cover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1712204521

Cat Fur on My Clothes , Pawprints on My Heart cover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1712204408

Happiness is a Purring Cat on My Lap cover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1712204785

Because Cat cover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1712203711

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Getting the paws wet

In order for my artwork to raise enough money to be of any help to the animal rescue groups I support, I have to get my stuff “out there” for folks to see it. Self-promotion is not my strong suit. I am helpful for a living, but not in a look-at-me kind of way. It’s always been me encouraging my groups to shine and I stand back against the wall to give them the spotlight like a proud mama. As a musician, I’m not the Diva; I’m the accompanist who makes the Diva look really good when she performs.

So learning how to promote my art has probably more emotional and mental reprogramming hurdles to get past than learning curves on the tech.

Still, my brain is going full-tilt learning how to use ads and boosts and other such marketing jargon for the various platforms my artwork is “out there” on. I boosted my first ever studio post on Facebook this week and am running my first ever ad campaign on Amazon. I have put up posts on Pinterest and Instagram, which means now those platforms are trying to get me to spend more money I haven’t made yet on ads on their platforms. Seriously, dudes. I have to see how the first attempt goes before expanding and I also have to make sales.

Since the whole point of the venture is to learn how to do this properly so that I can then transition to creating products specifically for the nonprofits I work with as fundraisers where the funds go directly into their own accounts and all they have to do is promote what was gifted to them, I need to know how this works. Most likely, I will have to do the whole thing just to get the rescues and churches up to speed and then train someone how to monitor it and keep it going.

I am asking my Caffeinated Music followers, fans and fellow nonprofit folks who “get” what I’m trying to do for their assistance.

If I don’t have a good showing, how in the world will I convince the places I serve that this is a viable idea for fundraising? Churches and animal rescues run purely on donations and the work of many hands of passionate people. I can only donate so many hours in a day, but what I can do is to create something replicable that can be sold with little to no effort on the part of the agency themselves, yet stands to potentially be very successful as a sustaining operation.

I want to keep designing things like the planners, journals and coloring books and am definitely NOT using crappy PLR stuff like the garbage that I see multiplied everywhere. Honestly, lack of originality offends my creative ethic. I design my things from scratch.

What I need is for folks who also have passions for pets and their favourite nonprofit groups to help me make this all work by sharing my Facebook post, my Instagram posts, my Pins, and my BigBlackDogStudio information.

The animal rescue 2020 Dog Lover Planners are out on Amazon at this point. The Cat Lover one with its own set of original artwork is nearly done and hopefully will be up by next week. After that, I am going to do one for Church Music Directors and Ensembles. Not a catchy title, I know, so I have to work on that. I am also compiling the best of my Miss Ryan’s Guides for another whole line for students.

Please will y’all give me a hand up with this major undertaking?

LIKE my studio’s Facebook page and share the posts with your friends, please?

FOLLOW and LIKE my Instagram posts and share them?

PIN my Pinterest thingees?

Maybe even subscribe to my Furday News weekly mailing list where subscribers get freebie design pages for coloring. Pet-centric, of course!

Maybe even BUY a planner or two? They are under $10 and will make quick and easy gifts for all the dog lovers on your lists. GET THEM on Amazon:

I don’t run ads on my Caffeinated Music domains because I think it looks way more trashy and disruptive than it would ever make a few random dollars. Thank you to anyone to feels my heart’s wish to make this a success for the fur babies and helps out! Mu-wah!!!!!

Next up will be the CAT LOVER PLANNERS!

Four cover options are available on our 2020 Dog Lover Planners!

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2020 Dog Lover Weekly Planners are here!

You can’t see me over here, but I’m all spazzy jumping up and down right now. Why? Because …

They’re here! My Nemo-inspired 2020 Weekly Planners with Coloring Pages for Dog Lovers are out on Amazon now! [cue: crowd roaring]

Totally dog-centric holidays along with the “usual” human ones are included in this combination weekly planner and adult coloring book. On each weekday page is a quarter-page size dog paw mini mandala, plus there are 14 full page coloring pages as well.

Here’s the mini promo video!

For those who may not be very familiar with me as an artist and Varsity Upcycler, the design of these planners is so OCD (which, if you know me, you know), at the end of the year, every design can be cut out and used for gift tags or ornaments by gluing them onto card stock. How is that for the ultimate in recycling and repurposing? 😉

Because no one wants to carry around a heavy tome, this is pretty lightweight at 8.5 inches square and around a quarter-inch or third of an inch thick on standard paper. A monthly goals page, seasonal planning pages and a lot of dog paw mandalas featuring Nemo’s pawprint, the provenance about which is described here.

The origin of My Nemo's pawprint graphic

The origin of My Nemo’s pawprint graphic

A practical note from yours truly who amuses myself by creating all kinds of coloring page designs like these for my own enjoyment: colored pencils are the medium of choice unless you put something behind the page to keep wetter inks from bleeding through. If you want to watercolor or paint the design, my suggestion is to photocopy the small design to blow it up to the size you want it to be, then with tracing paper behind it, lightly trace the design onto your canvas and you can use any medium you like! Kind of like those Paint N Sip parties where you bring your own booze.

Perfect gift idea under $10 for all your dog lover friends and family, which btw is what inspired me to create a combo fun and useful product like this in the first place. Now, not only my friends can have their own copies of my artwork, all of yours can, too!!!

This is my first foray into “putting my stuff out there” and there will be more planners coming (including the Phoofie-inspired Cat Lovers version), but I do want to know what y’all think. I decided to sweeten the pot by offering weekly coloring page freebies to those who pop over to my Studio page and:

I don’t have the patience to wait for Amazon to get around to adding the “Look inside” feature, so here is My FlipBook version of a the full Look Inside!

Here’s what’s on the back cover:

All Crazy Dog Ladies and Crazy Dog Guys believe that they have the Best Dog Ever, and every single one of them is correct. Quirky, silly, goofy, with ‘tude or always obliging, a dog’s unconditional love heals us in more ways than we ever know.

Our Nemo’s dog pawprint is featured in our 2020 Planner on every page giving you a year’s worth of designs to add to and color.

Nemo’s legacy of dog love lives on through our mission to help animal rescue groups save, heal and re-home pets.

This 2020 Weekly Planner with Coloring Pages for Dog Lovers features:

  • 1 week per page, each with a quarter-page mini paw mandala
  • monthly calendar & note pages
  • birthday, gotcha day & anniversary page
  • seasonal planning pages
  • dog-centric holidays plus standard human ones
  • our dog lover community weekday hashtags to tag your dog photos with each day

Plus our original pawprint meditation medallion designs to color:

  • 14 full-page designs and 53 quarter-page designs
  • Designs are placed with care on each page so you can cut out every design to save at year’s end! They make great ornaments or personalized gift tags glued to card stock.

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SouthParked myself

Had to do it because it was there! #sorrynotsorry #southparksuzy

South Park Suzy

Oh, go on now. You know you want to do one, too! SP-Studio.de is pretty boss with his coolness doing this and he supports his site by user tips. Go on! LOL

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How to export your blog without your head exploding

**Note: Apparently, I had written this almost two months ago and then gotten distracted before hitting POST. Ooops. That whole “where’s my website????” incident is now a blur of a memory.**

This is  a follow-up to my post from last week about the experience of trying to move my WP.com site over to a WP.org version so I can add some e-comm capabilities other than just a straight storefront.

Spoiler alert: life did not come to an end as I know it after all. Stressful week AF, yes, but I figured out how to export in pieces and want to share that for those who may someday avoid go through this same heart pounding thing:

After my fourth or fifth night of around 4 hours of sleep, I woke up with an idea. I revisited the admin page of my WP.com and took another look at the Export options. Although I found the instructions for this NO WHERE, I am officially putting them here right now. So, let me show you how to do this:

1. In WP Admin > Tools > Export. Choose the free option and click Start Export. This is how the next screen opened up with the box already checked for All content. Despite what it says there, unless your current blog has only two total pages, around 40 posts with tiny clipart and that’s about it, “All” won’t cut it. If you actually want all of your site to back up and export, you need to do it in pieces.

wpexport01

2. Start with your Posts by clicking that. If you post regularly, there’s a lot of stuff like on mine, so focus on the start and end date parameters. My dog merch site went back to December 2012. When I had erroneously believed “All” would cut it, I discovered it copied over only two pages, one of which was the first 45 posts from the blog that were from December 2012 through August 2014 (yet there are actually 342 posts, 23 pages, a lot of media and thus why I freaked). When I went back in to try to export again and clicked Posts, the option came up to select by date range, which is what I used to then successfully export in pieces. Do that. you can also change default “All” to specific options, like just what was published instead of the drafts.

wpexport02.png

3. When you make your selection and then click Export, the next screen says it is being processed and a download link gets sent to your email. Open the email, click the link and download the export file to a (highly suggested) location you’ve created for these exports/backups (See below). Don’t be lazy and drop it randomly on your desktop. If you’re doing this in pieces due to volume like I was, you should make a special folder for it. I wound up with 11 zips and made folders as explained in red in the screen shot. When you unzip it, I highly recommend changing the name of the file immediately to whatever parameter you used, i.e.: MEDIA2019. Makes it easier to figure out since all the downloaded zips looked alike and there’s no telling what’s in it if you don’t label it yourself.

wpexport03

4. If you click once on your .XML file to see the preview, you’ll see that WP thoughtfully included instructions to go forward, but I’ll still keep walking ya’ll through it. At this point, go into your WP.org version site. WP Admin > Tools > Import. If the original site was something other than WordPress, choose that. If it was WordPress, select WordPress Run Importer toward the bottom. Upload each of the .XML files one at a time. When finished uploading, I personally went to the appropriate WP.org section (my pages, posts, media) to double check that I was happy the file got everything imported because if not, I’d go back and shrink the parameters of the export and re-export until I was happy everything was included – this is especially important if you are a heavy poster. Just double check.

Repeat Steps 2 through 4 for each export section you do. FYI, there is no penalty for importing something twice because you will simply get a message when the import is completed that “Suchandsuch.jpg already exists” as appropriate. Better too many than leaving something out.

There you go. I’ve been on WP.com with CaffeinatedMusic since 2008. As entrenched as some of my posts are in Google standings, there is no way I could see ever moving it to self-hosting elsewhere. But in my dog art studio’s case, its purpose as a blog was very minor as most of my human contact for the page comes through Facebook. Everybody’s needs are different, so really think about what you want, what you need, and what, if anything, are you willing to sacrifice if it doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped.

When I get the new platform finished, I’ll update more on the where, what and how for those who are thinking about doing the same thing.

 

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Ever try to build an e-comm site?

BigBlackDogStudio.com shopA course in Entrepreneurship E-commerce basics required starting an e-comm venture from scratch. I had already begun the process, but that wasn’t acceptable; I needed to do a comparison and had to at least start the second option from scratch. Fair enough. What was the result? Interesting. Here’s the gist of my presentation (I won’t bore you with the slideshow version).

Sure, all the successful people try to tell you it’s easy. What they don’t tell you is that a lot of them just hired a company to make it magically appear on the internet for them so they can then take over and brag about how much money they’re making.

In July, I set out to begin my process of turning my original artwork – most of it drawn or painted by hand – into graphic design by (a) learning first how to convert or recreate it using Illustrator and Photoshop (successfully did that through Creative Cloud subscription), then (b) to find an acceptable company to handle the print-on-demand onto good quality shirts and other items (I’ve tried a few and found a highly-rated printer had crappy selection of apparel, so nope on them), and then (c) make all of the tech components work together so e-comm can actually start without my head exploding in the process. Spoiler alert: that last bit is the hard part.

What I’ve learned so far about making the last part happen (good, bad and wtf) in case anybody wants to be brave and take their creativity to a place where people actually pay you for being your awesomely creative self is as follows:

1.  Moving my BigBlackDogStudio.com WordPress.com blog over to WordPress.org hosting so that it could theoretically add e-comm was not as one-click simple as they like to make out. The “export” feature that encourages you to click “all” does not take into account the sheer volume of a long-standing blog. I followed those instructions, and when I imported the file to its new home, was horrified that only posts up through 2014 were present. My eyebrows didn’t come down for a week until I finally figured out on my own in mid-August how to download each year’s worth of posts separately in order to then “import” them to the .org version. You’d think that might warrant a caveat or at least a helpful hint posted in their tutorials, just putting that out there. Ahem.

2.  If you wish to use an order submission form or even just a subscriber optin through any platform other than those sponsored or favored by WP, good luck with that. Security issues simply block it. So as to your expended funds on existing CRM software? Don’t annoy yourself trying to integrate. Just use the WP-favored form and periodically download the list as a CSV file and upload new subscribers that way into your preferred CRM software. I personally use ClickFunnels for my lead capture, but WP won’t let their optin embed on my site. At all. There’s no point aggravating yourself. It’s an extra step going the CSV route or copy & paste or just manually entering, but it actually saves time knowing their rules and just playing by them. The only alternative was creating a subdomain and assigning that lock, stock and barrel for my ClickFunnel pages. Not a solution; it’s a work-around.

3.  As an alternative to WP’s fair-haired child Woocommerce, I decided to check out Shopify. Rule #1: at the very beginning when they ask you what you want the name of your store to be, don’t put in spaces or else they insert dashes. If I wanted my site to be called “big-black-dog-studio,” I would have named it that to begin with. I don’t. Good thing there’s a 14-day free trial I let expire.

4.  Speaking of which, Shopify’s instructions for using a domain you already own requires switching the A and CNAME over to them. They don’t care who your registrar is, but you can create a new entity through them if you want. Trivia fact: a WP.org self-hosted site’s A and CNAME information being changed to Shopify equates to: “why the hell am I paying for WP.org self-hosting if I’m using Shopify as my platform?” Redundant expense is what that is. Can I simply add a subdomain to my WP.org domain and CNAME it over to Shopify? No. The A domain information must be Shopify’s IP address. So, how about Shopifying the A and CNAME info with them, and then creating a subdomain for your blog? Why bother when you can add a blog page and other non-selling pages through Shopify as a platform? So, this comes down to an “either – or” situation. Pick one: WP.org + Woocommerce or Shopify.

5.  Printful vs. Customcat comparison. They both have high marks for their print quality because I’ve ordered sample merch from both. “Direct to garment” or DTG printing is different than traditional screen printing as the inks embed into the fabric versus being a layer of paint melted on top of the fabric. What that means is that if your designs are super-rich and vibrant in color, some of that is going to be dulled by DTG technique. Translation: instead of a piece of paper going through your printer, you could stick a t-shirt in there and have it print on the cloth. Screen printing necessitates set-up and clean-up, so that’s great for a large batch of printing, say, to create physical inventory if you have a brick-and-mortar shop. But for taking online orders from anybody from anywhere online, screen-printing one item as requested is not feasible. Pick your battles and decide how you want to compromise if deep, vibrant color is part of your brand. Also keep in mind that while those bright and vibrant colors print out just find through DTG, the real trouble happens is when you try to print those bright colors on a dark t-shirt. Even Printful makes a point on their site explaining how on dark fabrics they do a white layer first as the base and then apply the color design because they know it’s a problem. Keep it in mind. Both Printful and Customcat get high marks from me for the quality of the printing, but the choices of apparel items available through Printful are few and most are not up to the kind of quality standards I would choose to wear. If I don’t like the quality, what will my customers think of the quality? Will they give my shop bad reviews based on the shirt quality as opposed to my fabulous designs? Yeah, probably. Customcat’s wide selection of apparel items include not only just about everything I saw on Printful, but a lot more. For instance, I want moisture-wicking athletic wear as well as heavy-duty t-shirts, not crap that will fall apart after a few washes. I had choices of wicking tees as well as the classic Hanes Beefy Tee on Customcat, but it wasn’t even an option on Printful. So noted.

6.  How did I get to the point I’m at? Customcat works well with Shopify and had their own app made to integrate the two. One less player in the game to worry about. Shopify allows me to add extra non-merch pages as well as blog posts on their platform like I can do with my blog. Customcat app on Shopify automatically handles shipping costs. I like that and went through the process of setting up a storefront there to test it out. Back over on my WP.org site using Woocommerce, I had used one of my WP.org domain names to test Printful’s Woocommerce app. Setup with the Printful app was easy, ordering was easy, products showed up at my door 7 to 10 days from the time I placed the order. Shirt quality of the Bella+ Canvass 3001 I was not so happy with at all. If you’re into the budget t-shirt market, go for it. It was easy and you use your WP.org account site. So, I then deleted all of that and reassigned the WP.org domain over to Shopify with the A and CNAME zones changed as mentioned above. I went through the Customcat app’s product creation process again for a t-shirt in range of sizes and three color choices. I hit export, and the product appeared on Shopify.

7.  That said, you’d think, “oh, Shopify is the clear winner” now wouldn’t you? It would be if I wanted to list every different colored product as a separate product instead of having one t-shirt show up on the site with a list of all its options. Nope. You have to manually go in and duplicate the variables. And it might be worth the trouble if it weren’t another $30 a month or well over $300 a year additional on top of what I’ve already got as tools in my arsenal.

BigBlackDogStudio.com logo

Bottom line: I let the Shopify free trial expire and switched my A and CNAME zones of the domain I used back to my WP.org hosting service, Bluehost. I am using WP.org with Woocommerce and using Customcat through their website as opposed to through their Shopify app. It’s like the middle ground and it’s working for me. Temperamental and glitchy as Woocommerce can be, it’s my better bet financially to get started with e-comm because I’m already in their house. In other words, when tempted by shiny objects, think about the value of renovating where you’re already planted versus jumping too quickly into the “fast and easy” claims out there. If, however, I were to start brand new with no deeply entrenched Google statistics behind me like on my 10 year old blogs, I’d happily go with Shopify for its clean, modern look and ability to still look and work well on mobile devices. Woocommerce is really cute to think that they’re as good at that, too. I am also looking into simply using the whole Woocommerce thing as merely a portal purchasing site and fulfilling my apparel orders locally to my home since many print shops now have the same capabilities as Customcat and Printify. I can control the quality and ship the products myself.

So, my BigBlackDogStudio.com shop is simply part of my original blog. I moved all the extraneous pages (posts included) and content under one menu heading, and the only other menu choices now are “Cart” and “Shop.” I’m pretty happy with how it looks overall. Now, to just figure out how to get that darn “subscribe to our mailing list” optin function to work…….!

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