Weekly Blog and Video Digest 7/22/19: Etsy Struggles – There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (Or Free Shipping)

Hey guys! It’s Monday again and that means that I, Taylor, am duty bound to update you on all the projects I’m working on, things I’m loving (or struggling with), and…that Etsy exposé I promised you. I know a lot of you are here for just that, so in the interest of not frustrating too many people, I’m going to just start with that exposé.

I’m not sharing this to “get back at” Etsy, nor am I doing it for the views. I’m sharing this information because I truly feel that when an online marketplace like Etsy changes something as drastically as they are doing now, and especially when that affects how honest I can be with my customers…well, that’s the time for shop owners to speak up and let you know what’s going on in the seller world.

For a long time, Etsy has allowed shop owners to choose whether to charge for shipping or offer free shipping. It’s always been true that humans like a free lunch, so people are more drawn to listings that ship for free – but Etsy has been pretty fair about treating sellers and listings equally and letting you, the shoppers, decide whether non-free shipping is a dealbreaker for you.

However, at this point, Etsy has decided that they’re going to REALLY pressure ALL of us to offer free shipping. They’ve been putting up notices all over saying how great this is going to be and how we should all offer free shipping. To incentivize it, they’ve been saying “Coming soon, listings and shops that offer free shipping will rank higher in search results!”

But what does this mean in the inverse? It really just means that if you DON’T offer free shipping, you’re going to take a hit – possibly a serious one – in the algorithm game. Search engine algorithms change all the time, but this could be a really big change, and a difficult one for some shops. It could also make it really difficult for people to find what they’re looking for – if the algorithm is skewed enough, instead of finding the item you actually want, you’ll be led to a bunch of semi-related items that SHIP FREE!!!! but aren’t what you were looking for.

Now, here’s the thing about free shipping: It’s like a free lunch – rarely actually free, and when it is free, it’s usually low quality or has strings attached. Free shipping is just the same.

See, being a seller – on Etsy or anywhere else – does not qualify you for some magical Free Shipping Account at the post office. Nobody pays for our shipping for us. WE are the ones who swipe a card or hand over cash for postage. Yes, large companies like Amazon have enough overhead that they can invest it back into their shipping costs, and offer Prime members free shipping.

But for most small sellers (and that means most sellers on Etsy), the only way to offer “Free Shipping” is to charge for it elsewhere. This usually means lumping the shipping cost back into the item list price. Etsy even has a “tool” on their website where it will AUTOMATICALLY do this for you, going through your whole shop and incorporating shipping costs into list prices, and then slapping a “FREE SHIPPING” sticker on everything.

Great, right?

Not so much.

Personally, when I shop, I like to know how much I’m spending on shipping. I don’t want everything to just say “Free Shipping” but have a weirdly high price. I also want to understand clearly how much of a discount on shipping I may get if I buy more than one item. I just value that kind of transparency.

But Etsy is pretty much disallowing any kind of transparency about shipping costs at this point. Not cool, Etsy.

I guess what bothers me the most is that I feel like I’m being forced to essentially lie to you about shipping. If they can make me say “free shipping,” they can make me say other things. And I don’t play those games. I like to be as open and honest as possible with my customers, and whether you’re someone who’s been following me since day 1 or whether you stumbled across a single item of mine on Etsy, I value your trust above all.

So please know this: I will always be as honest as I can be with you on Etsy, and if you ever have questions, I will be MORE than happy to answer them! Just contact me on Etsy, or here using the contact form on this site. Heck, DM me on Instagram if you want. Questions are always welcome.

But for the foreseeable future, I may have to be less than clear about my “free shipping” on Etsy. I did go ahead and change the shipping profiles to “Free,” but I plan to draft up a little disclaimer to go on each listing to explain the shipping situation.

And Etsy, if you’re reading this: Kick me off your platform if you want, but know that sellers like me will always show up to share the truth with our shoppers. You may silence me, but you will never silence those like me. Ideas are bulletproof and all that.

WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID: I’m going to stop ranting about Etsy now and move on to the video digest, a summary of all the videos I posted on my YouTube channel this week!

July 15, 2019: Mid-July Check-In Card Reading 

In this video I do a card reading with Tarot, oracle, and angel cards to get an idea of what kind of energies we can expect to face for the second half of July, 2019.

July 17, 2019: Millennial Mystic Tarot – FULL Flip & Compare with RWS

This video is a full, high-resolution flip through of the Millennial Mystic Tarot, my self-published, self-illustrated Tarot deck, with a RWS deck beside it for reference.

July 19, 2019: How Planners Changed My Life

This was a fun video to make, and it just sort of explores how planners and paper planning have changed my life (for the better!).

I don’t really have much else to report, and this post is already over 1000 words, so it’s high time I wrap it up. Thank you all for reading along, watching along, and being along on this crazy journey with me. And until next time, I hope that you are having a truly excellent day, and I’ll talk you again very very soon.

Bye!

-Taylor

Weekly Blog and Video Digest 7/15/19: Weather, Ecological Consciousness Ramblings, and Etsy Shipping Issues

[Image caption: A photograph of a Tarot card, the Page of Wands, from the Millennial Mystic Tarot, depicting a young woman climbing through a desert in the Southwestern US heat. End caption.]

Hey all! It’s Taylor, with the weekly blog and video digest. I’m a day late but I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m going to chat here a bit about oracle cards, and then we’ll get on to a summary of (and embedded versions of) the videos I posted this week over on my YouTube channel.

The summer has been going well. It’s been kind of crazy hot…okay, totally crazy hot, here in Virginia, USA. And it’s only July – August is our crazy-hot month. Honestly, I am deeply concerned about this planet, and while my intuition tells me that things will get better for this world and this species, that same intuition also tells me that “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” Not a good feeling, but that’s what I sense.

Still, I continue to put one foot in front of the other. I try to make decisions, both day-to-day and more long-term, that are good for the Earth. For example, I’m looking at buying my first car, and while I could buy something less expensive that is older, or I could buy something “hot”… I’m trying to focus on fuel-efficiency as being one of my main priorities. I may not be able to afford a Prius or other hybrid, but I AM looking for the very most fuel-efficient car I can manage, considering budget and other restrictions.

And about the car – it will have at least one positive effect on YOU all: For those of you who have been waiting 5-7 days for me to ship things…I should be able to ship things much, much faster once I start driving myself! Up until now I have been relying on buses to get me to the post office, but now that it’s so hot, I have to rely on friends (it’s too hot to walk even the short 1/2 mile between the bus stop and the postal office). And while my friends are awesome and very kindly help when they can, I usually only get to the post office once a week.

So, assuming I can get myself a car, I will soon be able to drop that shipping time estimate back down to 2-3 days, which is mostly processing time anyway. Hoping to get that set up soon, but until I, you know, purchase a car, please bear with me.

Also, one last thing…I really need to do a video or blog post or both about Etsy’s RIDICULOUSLY BAD new shipping policies. They are essentially forcing some of their own (deceptive, manipulative) ideas on already-struggling shop owners, just so that THEY can make more money – all while lying to our customers. It’s some BS, and I don’t think most Etsy shoppers are aware of it.

So I’m going to be, uh, doing a bit of an exposé soon. Sorry, Etsy, but if you’re going to be this bad, we – the shop owners, essentially your suppliers – ARE going to take it on ourselves to educate each other and our customers.

With that said, let’s get on to something a little more fun – this week’s videos!

7/8/19: Unboxing Goulet Pens Package | Fountain Pen Haul!

In this video I just unbox some fountain pens and fountain pen supplies, and walk you through what I got and why. Everything was ordered from GouletPens.com, a great fountain pen retailer.

7/10/19: Using Tarot and Oracle Cards for Story/Novel Development

I have wanted to make this video for QUITE some time!! I’ve used Tarot cards for storytelling for a long time, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful…so I definitely wanted to share some tips and techniques with you all. I know there are some writers out there in my follower-base so I hope that it was helpful for you!!

7/12/19: Summer 2019 Planner Lineup

So, this is some of the books and planners that I’ve ended up using for summer 2019. As of July, I HAVE moved into that Recollections spiral planner, and I LOVE IT…tour of THAT one coming in August.

That’s all the videos for this week. I hope you enjoyed them!

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to support this blog, the channel, and what I do, please head over to my Etsy shop and get yourself a little something – or, just subscribe to the blog, my YouTube, and my Instagram. I promise that Etsy Exposé is coming soon, so stay tuned for that.

And with that being said…I hope that you are having a truly excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very, very soon.

All the best,
-Taylor

Monthly Update December 2018 | Many, Many, Many Projects!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the December update blog!

I’ve been hard at work both at my day job (3D model design and texture painting), and my Tarot deck at home. The amount of work is heavy, but not unbearable, and I’m enjoying it, so I guess it’s a good deal. 🙂 I enjoy both jobs very much.

I’m itching to draw comics again, though, and I’ve got an idea in mind. Unlike my previous works, it’s not a gift for anyone – it’s a comic I’ve wanted to draw for some time, a story that aches to burst out into the world. It’s got the working title Paisley and Patch, and it’s the story of a rock star and a roadie. In one form or another, I’ve been writing this story since I was 15 or so, and I’m very hopeful about finally drawing it.

It’s a bit of a self-indulgence, but those often are the best stories. 😉 I’ll be reading lots of romance and drama manga to get inspired, and yeah, I’m just very excited about this very dear-to-my-heart story coming to light and to life.

But first things first, and that means that before I can seriously work on manga, I need to finish up my Tarot deck. There are about 48 images left to paint, and only 2 of them need to be inked (the rest are already ready to paint), so it’s just a lot of painting. I’m still on schedule to start test printing in March and have the proposed Kickstarter in June. I’m very excited about this whole thing. It’s going to be awesome. 🙂

I’ve been managing weekly videos over on my YouTube channel, which is pretty good by my standards. I was always a very sporadic YouTuber, but I’ve learned to build up a stack of videos so that I don’t actually have to do it every week, but rather have a bit of a buffer in case I get busy or things come up. Basically I work ahead of time and schedule videos, so that if I can’t manage to record anything, I can at least have those scheduled videos automatically posting for a few weeks while I get myself back together. 🙂 I’m currently about a month ahead of schedule – that is, most of December’s videos are already recorded, edited, and uploaded. It’s just a matter of YouTube posting them for me each week. Pretty handy!

Also, I’ve re-opened my Etsy shop, and I really appreciate the people who are shopping there. I don’t know how you’re finding my shop, considering that Etsy’s search algorithm has become really difficult to deal with, but you have, and I love you for it! I am so happy to be selling again, not even so much from a financial perspective (though it does help), but from the perspective of wanting to be of service and share my craft (notebooks, sewing, and art).

This is all a lot, but it’s helpful to be paper planning. I’m enjoying and having a lot of good results with my bullet journal, and have also been doing “daily diary” journaling to process thoughts and experiences. All in all, paper planning is helping me to keep it all together.

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I hope this blog finds you well, and that everything is going well for you. And until next time, as always…I hope you are having a really excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very very soon!

-Taylor

Weekly Blog 11-26-18: Morning Pages, Sweater Weather, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Other November Things

Hey guys, it’s Taylor! And it is the last week of November. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, wearing a cozy warm sweater, with my therapy light next to me. Yes, it is definitely the last week of November.


Morning Pages

I’ve started to do Morning Pages, a journaling practice presented by Julia Cameron in the classic The Artist’s Way. The idea, put generally, is to write three full pages, longhand (that is, handwritten, not typed), without really editing or curating what you write about. You don’t have to make sense, spell things conventionally, or have good handwriting – hell, you can burn the pages after if you want.

The trick with Morning Pages is that you devote some time every single day, without skipping unless absolutely necessary, to centering yourself and getting in a creative headspace; it also gives you a chance to pour out whatever needs to get OUT of the creative part of your brain, so that you can function better as an artist. I’ve been doing them for about 10 days without missing any, and they are helping me a lot. I seem to be more effective in my creative efforts, more creative in my thinking, and more productive in general. More boxes are getting checked than not, and that’s an improvement.


Etsy Changes

So recently, Etsy changed their search algorithm. Again. They now almost entirely direct traffic to “the shop that people are statistically most likely to buy from” – which is really sad, because they override things like relevancy and good tags, and just direct people to the most popular shops. Which is fine if you’re the most popular shop in a given tag…but if you’re not, you’re kind of SOL. I am not a huge shop by Etsy standards – I’ve had about 90 sales in 2018 – so I’m really being screwed over by this issue.

Now, I had closed up shop on Etsy after the latest algorithm change; I don’t usually mind the changes they make, but this one killed my sales off entirely, so I had no reason to stay. I was disappointed; I liked selling things and helping people. But like I said…no sales, no reason to stick around on there.

However, my mom and I recently had a cool idea for some health and wellness-related stationery items, and they would be more of a charity project than anything else; this is a product that would help people, not just something I’d sell. So, after just 2 weeks closed down, I am reopening my shop. I’m also having a massive Cyber Monday sale, with many items 30% off or better, and this is actually going to run all week.

Plan2Heal Stationery will be launched soon, so stay tuned for that. It does have its own page here on my website, so you can bookmark that if you’d like to be able to come back and look at what’s going on there!


Seasonal Affective Disorder

I have one last announcement: For many of us, November to February are not just the winter of our calendars, but also Winters of our Discontent. Seasonal affective disorder (“seasonal depression”) is incredibly common, but because it is so often confused with the “winter blues,” it often goes undiagnosed. I’m certainly not advocating for everyone who feels “down” in the winter months to diagnose themselves with SAD, but I am advocating for those people who find that a lowered mood during the winter months is interfering with their daily life or making them consider harming themselves or others, to seek help.

This is just your yearly reminder that SAD, while a challenging disorder, is like any other illness in at least three ways: 1) it is not a moral failing or personal weakness; 2) it is a valid disorder, never to be minimized because it’s “not real depression” or “not a severe illness”; and 3) it can be treated. You deserve to experience the best life possible, and that means you deserve help if you need and want it.

In closing, I would like to express appreciation for everyone’s support through my name change, and apologize for any broken links. Thank you for your patience, and thank you for your support. Whether I am Julian Jaymes or Taylor Johnson, I’m me, and I appreciate you so, so much.

~Taylor

Monthly Update August 2018 | Re-Prioritizing, Final Stages of my Tarot Deck, and Why I’m Staying With Etsy

Hey guys! It’s Julian!

I have a lot of updates to post in this one, so let’s just get to it.

Re-Prioritizing

Last month (July) I attempted to do World Watercolor Month. I did not, in fact, succeed in doing World Watercolor Month – in that I didn’t complete it. I do feel that it was a success in that I quit for the right reasons: Three – no, now four commissions came in during July, and so I really had to let WWM go.

I am trying to think of it as reprioritizing rather than quitting. Really, making a speedpaint video for every day, on the day, AND painting every day, was ridiculous. But I managed it until the 17th – when a few BIG commissions came in. Not just “draw my OC” or “can you vectorize my logo” stuff. No, I’m talking “part-time jobs for the next few months” type things. I can’t tell you about most of them yet, but gosh I am BUSY.

The one I’m able to tell you about is that I’m now going to be handling all the social media and blogging for OgreWare. I’ve been working in partnership with them for some time now on their Calling All Heroes app game, and now I’m their social media manager! It’s pretty darn fun, I gotta say. I’m honestly not much a social media guru, but I’m learning, and it’s…like I said, pretty fun. You can check out ogreware.net and facebook.com/ogreware to see what I’m up to with them. Please do go follow their accounts, by the way, because you’ll get to see some of my art there that won’t be seen anywhere else.


 

BIG Tarot Deck Update

So here’s the most exciting thing I have today: I HAVE FINISHED INKING MY TAROT DECK. As of July 31, all the cards are inked. All 79 of ‘em. Fully inked. Ready to paint.

Holy carp.

It’s taken four months, which is actually just about what I expected. I intend to have all the cards painted in another four months, and will then take the second half of December off to recuperate. Then in the first couple months of 2019, I’ll sort out printing – and then my Tarot deck will be on sale in spring 2019!! So damn excited about that.

I will be using Mijello Mission Gold watercolor paints to paint this deck. To be entirely honest, I am not super super crazy about them; I much prefer the M Graham paints, of which I admittedly only have one, but which I’ve seen many reviews of and which I’m fairly sure I would prefer. But I wanted to buy a big set of moderately nice paints, to figure out which pigments and hues I like – then I could buy those individual pigments in a nicer brand. That was the plan from day 1. So I’ve figured out my sort of “12 color dream palette” list, and I’ll be purchasing the M Graham versions of those from Blick in a year or so.

I wasn’t a painter until this year. I’m a newb, and I still don’t feel ready to do this project, but it’s here, it’s time, and I need to just DO it. I can always do pieces over if I absolutely have to. This project already taught me so much about inking – I can’t wait to see what it teaches me about watercolor. 🙂


 

Shop Expansion

I’m looking into expanding my Etsy shop, and I actually wanted to talk a bit about Etsy. In defense of Etsy, actually. Most people these days are going “oh!! Etsy!! They increased their fees for no reason!! They’re awful!! Boycott!!!1!1” But honestly, Etsy is still the cheapest handmade goods salesplace around for smaller shops – most other platforms for online storefronts have a subscription fee or take exorbitant “commission fees” out of your profits. And Etsy has a massive marketplace following to boot. Most people who buy handmade goods and art turn not to Shopify or Amazon Artistans, but instead head straight to Etsy.

And no, Etsy has not paid me to say any of this. It’s based on my own research, and my own experience, which has been, overall, very good. I’m happy with Etsy for now. Someday, yes, I’d love to have a storefront on my own website and only sell through there. But for right now, considering the size of my shop and the amount of traffic I get, Etsy is ideal for me.

Anyways. About expansion: I’m going to be offering more new items soon, like stickers, a wider variety of traveler’s notebooks, and original paintings. To make room, I’ll be putting some items on clearance that either haven’t sold or that I just want to move along a little faster. So please check out the shop frequently – I’ll be updating it with new items and new sales soon! You can find it at http://julianjaymesart.etsy.com.


Well, that’s about all I’ve got for today. Until next time, guys, I hope that YOU are HAVING a REALLY EXCELLENT day, and I’ll talk to you again very very soon. Bye!

~Julian

Life Hits The Fan | Finances, Insurance, Day Jobs, and The Future Of My Art :(

Hey guys. It’s Julian.

Things ain’t good.

flatwash_cube_paint
“Cube.” 9×12″, ink and watercolor.

I’m likely losing my insurance and most of my income in September, and now it’s looking like my day job is in danger, too. My disability kept me out of work for 5 years; I’ve only been working again for 5 months.

I’m frustrated, but I’m beginning to realize that I may not be able to keep up this “conventional work” thing. It’s terrifying, though, because my disability benefits are disappearing in two months, and without them, I’d have NO income – which is not a good situation, for a single young person who can barely afford rent and bills as it is.

The answer that seems obvious is for me to go full time with my art – the one thing that’s really working in my life, the one thing I’m good at – but I just don’t have that kind of popularity/platform yet. I would LOVE to live off of commissions and Patreon, but it’s actually REALLY difficult to get that kind of thing started. I’m not well-known enough to be able to sell my art for what it’s actually worth. And I can barely afford my supplies as it is.

flatwash_flower_paint
“Chicory.” 9×12″, ink and watercolor.

But for right now, at least, I do have a pretty good supplementary income from my Etsy shop – mostly from my traveler’s notebooks – and that provides about $50-$100 a month to fund my art habit. It doesn’t sound like much, but I go through a sketchbook every couple of months, notebooks require supplies, and I use at least a pad of watercolor paper every month…that adds up.

So I really, really appreciate everyone who has been supporting me. If you want to support me further, please remember, you DON’T have to spend money – just favoriting items from my shop, subscribing to my social media accounts, or just reading this blog, pushes me higher in search results, and that in turn results in more hits and sales on my shop.

flatwash_crystals_paint
“Crystals.” 9×12″, ink and watercolor.

But if you do have a few bucks, there’s a lot of fun stuff on my Etsy shop – including my comic My Life On The Sidelines, notebooks and notebook supplies, and even some prints. Items range from $2 to $60-ish and there’s usually a sale going on.

Again, thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting me through this time. I have noticed a spike in Etsy orders, which is wonderful, and I hope this will continue. I’m just dreaming of the day that I won’t need a day job and can just draw and paint and make things for you guys all day. 🙂

I hope this wasn’t too much of a bummer. I just wanted to keep y’all updated. The reality is hitting me – that this is a Tower card moment, this is one of those moments of massive upheaval that throws everything off course. This, my friends, is a Saturn Return. (I turned 29 in June; this is normal, astrologically.)

I’m uploading more and more on my YouTube channel, so check it out if you’d like to hear me ramble about art, Tarot, and more. 🙂

All the best,

~Julian

Weekly Update 4-30-18 | Time Off, Game On!

Hey guys, it’s Julian. And I have been away.

Well, not really away. I’ve been right here, mostly making and packing and listing stuff for my Etsy shop. I hit 25 sales and I think Etsy’s algorithms must have (for some dumb reason) rewarded that, because all of a sudden I’m hecka busy and getting 3 orders a WEEK instead of 3 orders a month!

Like I said. Hecka busy.

I’ve been actually taking time off of my Tarot deck, and “artsy art” in general. I say artsy art because I NEVER want to say that things like design and bookbinding are not art. Making traveler’s notebooks and inserts is no less art than painting, so if you’re more a craftsperson than a painter, don’t ever say to yourself that you’re not an artist! But yeah, I’ve been working on bookbinding more than sketching or inking.

But it’s time to get back to it. My deadline for the inking of my Tarot deck is (hopefully) in mid-June, and I just found out I’m going on a super remote camping trip in May, so I really don’t have time to be taking a break.

I don’t really regret the break. I didn’t draw for about a week, and that’s okay. I was in the middle of losing a job and re-negotiating a lease, so I was emotionally exhausted and just couldn’t face the blank page on top of all that. All’s well now, though, and I really feel that it’s time for me to get my head back in the game.

Deciding when to take a break is not something I put a huge amount of thought into. If I’m too exhausted/overwhelmed/emotionally fried to deal with art, then my art is going to suffer anyway and I’ll have to take a longer break later, so unless I’m really close to a deadline, I don’t tend to think much of taking a break. I don’t take long breaks – rarely longer than a few days or a week – and I don’t plan my break. I don’t plan the end of it, at least. I just tell myself “I’m on break right now and I don’t need to think about work until I’m back to work.” Then, once I’ve been on break long enough to be able to think straight, THEN I think about getting back to work and when I should do that.

So that’s what I did this week. Monday I just said to myself “I feel dead, I’m working on losing a job and getting a new job, plus I have to deal with the leasing office, I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a break.” And it is Monday again and I didn’t really think about deadlines or workload or what percent I’ve finished, until yesterday. At which point…yes, I did freak out a bit and hurry back to work and inked 3 pieces.  And that’s freakin’ great! As long as I can finish my work, as long as the project gets done, I’m happy.

My point being: As much as possible, take breaks when you need to, and as much as possible, don’t stress while on break. But don’t let yourself STAY on break too long. I’m in a bit of a luxurious situation in that right now, at least, I CAN take a break from my art job for 5 days in a row. Not everyone can do that. I can’t break from my day job, but I can at least take away the stress of assigning myself 7-10 art pieces a week too.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And that goes for caring for yourself, too. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to everyone who’s been reading along, watching YouTube videos, buying from my shop…it’s awesome to have this much support. 🙂 I’m really excited about upcoming videos (and yes, there are upcoming videos!), and am going to continue to do 2 a week whenever possible. I really do appreciate everyone’s support, though. You guys are the bestest. 🙂

~Julian