Tag Archives: advice

Ever try to build an e-comm site?

BigBlackDogStudio.com shopA college class in Entrepreneurship 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.

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.

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…….!

Leave a comment

Filed under posts

Learning to alleviate webcam anxieties

As someone who has spent 35 years being very comfortable at the front of rooms of 1 to 500+ people, I am appalled at myself for being not so comfortable in front of a webcam. 

Three things I have done nearly all of my life that I know I am very good at:

1. I write.

2. I teach and demonstrate live in the room.

3. I pray through my fingers on the piano and can grow a music ministry team into worship leaders.

Whereas public speaking can freak many people out, I have sung in front of a packed congregation since I was a teenager. Live doesn’t phase me. 

Put a video recorder in front of me, however, and I get all nervous and jerky like it’s my first day.

I’m post-chemo now 3.5 years and my brain is feeling operational again, at least according to the 98 I got in Statistics last fall and the 97 in my Finance course this past spring. This summer, I decided it’s high time to up my game as far as my business goes. I’m taking my teaching and my design and writing forward like I’m driving a tank.

I started a new YouTube channel where I can host my business stuff: “Let Me Show You How To Do That”. I have to have a minimum of 100 subscribers before YouTube will allow me to personalize my channel name in the URL, but I’ve even got the domain registered and the email integration set up. I just finished an intensive 30-day immersion marketing program through ClickFunnels that I highly recommend and will be promoting (next one starts August 5 and was the best $100 I’ve ever spent on my business education, btw and I’ll do a whole separate posting on that!), got my software, got my designs and products ready for the print-on-demand sector, and I’m ready to get started.

Except for the fact that most buyers today (according to all the spun and re-spun news articles circulating from self-proclaimed gurus over the past year) don’t want to read so much about their interests as they supposedly want to watch a video for someone to show them whatever the thing is they are looking for: Google bought YouTube, so everybody should be doing video!

Hmmm. Video? Greaaaaat.

Literally, I suck at video. I’ve made cute dog videos of my pets and accompaniment tracks for my choirs and music team to practice to and they were mostly okay.

Part of my goal in 2019 is to force myself to get more comfy in front of a webcam. Sure, millennials can do it. They were born with a smartphone in their hands. I’ve still got a perfectly serviceable iPhone 4S that Apple finally stopped bothering me about updating. So, instead of buying a $1,000 new phone just for the camera, I got a $340 Osmo Action. Why not the GoPro? This one has front and back screens so if you’re in front of the camera, you can make sure you’re in the shot – much like my little phone. It’s a first-gen, but it’s not like I’m going to go jumping off a cliff or swim with sharks with the thing.

Note: it took a full day to figure out how to activate the thing via someone else’s iPad….. because my iPhone 4S’s operating system couldn’t run the app! LOL Ahhh, so.

I went Mac this past spring when ye olde Windows 7 laptop fritzed during my finance course. I was P.O.’d when Microsoft took down support for my XP and the fabulous MovieMaker software native to it, so I jumped out of that boat with a Mac mini, a 34″ wide LG monitor and a Logitech webcam. There’s a learning curve for someone who’s been desktop publishing since Windows 3.1 (Minesweeper ❤ anyone?), and I still feel like a monkey in a tutu trying to make some of these new softwares work.

So, let me show you how it’s going for me with this initial random video I made quickly just to put up and finish getting my new YouTube channel started. Warning: it’s kind of painful in a spazzy, babbling way.


Leave a comment

Filed under posts

Miss Ryan’s 5-Minute Guide to Not Being That Guy

I am always happy that anything I write may be meaningful or inspirational for others in their own life journey.

Recently, I wrote a post on something I mused about, saw a “like” come through that someone enjoyed my post, and was very happy it spoke to them. The WordPress email that comes through always invites us to “see what they post on their blog.” So, I clicked one with a title very similar to one of my posts to see what the person had to say on our mutual topic.

Um, well … I need to put on my editor and teacher hat here for a moment and hope my readers will keep reading to the end because this is relevant to every writer, not just the fledglings, about writing and blogging etiquette. Some will recall that way back in 2012 I wrote a post entitled, “Miss Ryan’s 5-Minute Guide to Stress-Free Writing” that was a huge hit not only in the school system I was working in, but as a resource now linked to by various colleges as well. I was just trying to help out some high school seniors get a handle on how to start their research papers. This Volume II edition expands on those basics.

Creativity comes from inspiration that shows up in our lives from everywhere. As a writer, please do yourself a huge professional favor and start this very important ethical habit early in your writing career:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under posts

Release old emotions

Why do we hold onto emotional baggage?

Something triggered a bad experience memory over the weekend, and threw me for a loop. Literally knocked the energy out of me like I got sucker punched a second time around. I realized the original experience was met full on with my anger, which fueled a lot of positive things at the time after chemo, but one emotion I did not let run its gamut at the time was grief.

The other day, I finally went through the expulsion of that emotion over the original event as well as in empathy for the person I saw go through the same thing this week. After not “stuffing it” back down but just letting it flow out, I was tired and napped for two hours.

When I woke up, I was groggy but felt so much better. The next day, I woke up feeling like such a weight was off my shoulders due to the emotional closure I finally allowed myself to process.

If I could tell my younger self one key life hack to keep myself sane through tough times, it would be not to stifle emotions about bad things as you live through them.

Sure, maybe at the precise moment in time, you are required to maintain full control, but I’m talking about soon afterward when you have alone time. Let it all out and don’t tell yourself you “shouldn’t feel that way.”

You are human and you have emotions.

Emotions are not rational, so stop trying to rationalize them away.

Let it out!

Let it out! 

Primal scream, cry like a little kid, dwell in the emotion and ACKNOWLEDGE it.

Don’t throw a pity party in Victimville or plan revenge on anyone, just admit you were not cool with the matter nor the people involved and that you realize you’ve been holding onto resentment and any other named negative emotions holding you back from your life being fully amazing in the now.

Let it have its say however it expresses itself.

Then release it and let it go out of your energy field.

Pretending crap didn’t happen to you will always come out eventually down the road, most likely when a stress moment brings it out.

Seriously. It’s gonna come out.

Do you want that happening when you’re in control of the setting to expunge it from your energy record, or do you want to risk it coming out in ways that affect your personal and professional relationships?

Crap happens. So does joy. Why is it acceptable to be super happy but not acceptable to cry when you’re an adult? Why make yourself miserable repressing emotions you don’t like?

Be human and feel what you feel so you can move on.

Not only do I feel amazing and energetic today, I woke up this morning full of joy and confidence knowing I purged an inhibiting emotion that spent a long time weighing me down. My whole energy field feels better.

Ah, wisdom of years.

(Photo credit: Pixabay.com. Image by Alexas_Fotos  from Pixabay.)

Leave a comment

Filed under posts