In Janary 2012, I decided to explore three new ideas that had been lurking in the back of my brain. I picked up a Moleskine journal and started making notes and sketching my ideas. While not all of them came to fruition, I did follow through with all three ideas. Two of the three actually happened, and the third has been put on the back burner for now. Here were my ideas:
1. Create an app that turns your ipad into a portable light box.
Why? Because I saw way too many people using their computer monitors to trace. An iPad based lightbox seemed like the perfect solution.
How? I looked up a friend of mine who works for a mobile software delveloper and we decided to work together to make this idea a reality. I laid out the design and the developer did his thing. We split the profits 50/50.
What did I learn? Designing the app was the easy part. Most of my time went into branding, creating a demo video, designing the micro-site, setting up the social media...all extra stuff that I didn't think about initially.
Result? I created my first mobile app: Inkr. I learned a ton, sold a few and it was a good experience overall. I have had a few requests to create mobile apps and am looking forward to putting my new knowledge into practice.
2. Notebooks and sketchbooks from make-ready press sheets.
Why? Most printers have stacks and stacks of cover sheet stock that have 10-plus layers of various client projects printed over them--all headed for the recycle bin. These press sheets look super cool and would make great sketchook covers--just load them up with plain paper. No need to print; no two would be alike.
What did I learn? That printers weren't really interested in trying it out.
Result? Didn't happen...maybe someday.
3. Create a new brand to sell my own artwork.
Why? The first thing I did when I started Jeremy Slagle Graphic Design was to create a set of affordable camera prints based on my vintage camera collection. I did this for two reasons: 1. as a self promotional pice to send to potential clients, 2. to drive people to my website to see something fun. The prints achieved both goals and are still the top selling pices on Quaintco.com. In the first two years I had to reorder these several times to keep up with the sales. I added a couple more posters and started generating some sales through my own website. However, I really didn't want to confuse potential clients as to what I do or could do for their businesses. For my main site, I want people to see me as a designer, not a fine artist. It was time to start something new.
How? I spent some time on Thesaurus.com and started plugging in words that describe vintage, designed, nostalgic...etc. The word "Quaint" kept coming up in the search. It means "marked by skillful design, beauty or elegance; unusual or different in character or appearance; pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar." Perfectly describing my style. Hence: www.quaintco.com. I realize that "Quaint" isn't exactly a positive word in today's vocaulary, so I'm presenting it in a way that works for my brand.
What did I learn? Using my slower times to create fresh art is a good return on investment. I won't make the money back immediately, but if I can sell through a batch of prints over the course of a year, I will easily recuperate the time spent and the cost of printing. Besides all of this, it gives me the opportunity to create stuff that I like. My biggest criteria is "would I hang this in my home or studio?" If yes, chances are I'll create it.
Result? Sales this year blew away any expectations that I had. Hooking up with the folks at Fab.com was a great way to sell a ton of work in a short amount of time. This also lead to more exposure and follow-up orders. I have also been selling my work wholesale to some on-line retailers. But most of all, I really enjoy seeing the orders come in throughout the week. There is something really exciting when your iPhone notifies you that you just made a new sale to France, Australia, or New York City. My favorite part of poster sales is sending my work, one poster tube at a time, all over the world.
All of these endeavors cost me something: money, time and energy, but the thing I learned the most is that when you invest in yourself, you rarely lose. I'm no expert when it comes to investments like stocks, bonds, and IRAs, but I do know that most times you are putting your money in the hands of CEOs and boards to use it how they wish. Your returns are based on their decisions. This has always made me uncomfortable with investments. That's not to say that I don't have a retirement plan of sorts but I just hope that my advisor is putting my money in the best place possible. I have no control.
When you invest some money back into yourself and the things you love, you can make your own decisions; no need to run it by a board. Make something you like, find out how to have it produced, and figure out how to market it. Even if you break even in the end, you will have done something for yourself and you can't put a dollar amount on personal satisfaction and creative expression.
With 2013 just around the corner, my mind has been spinning about next year's "3 things." Next December, I hope I can look back with similar results. If you are interested in a great little book to inspire your "3 things" for 2013, download "It will be Exhilarating" by Studio Neat. It's only $5 and it's sure to help release that inner entrepeneur.