#26: We’re not selling used cars

Hey – I’ve been writing weekly newsletters for 6 months straight today! That’s a record for me. In the past when I’ve decided that I ‘want to blog regularly’ I’ve lasted maybe 3 weeks at best. Looks like making a sort of ritual and routine works for productivity.

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The only advice, and this is business advice for the business end of it, you’ve got to take off your creator’s hat and put on your businessman’s hat or publisher’s hat and you’ve got to figure a way to market yourself, apart from what you are creating. Like, when I was doing Jinx, I would have to write and draw Jinx as pure of heart as I possibly could and then after that I had to take off the creator’s hat and talk to people as if I wasn’t the one who created it.

Brian Michael Bendis, from the first issue of Write Now! (2002)

Most of the time, creative people make the work, and then they don’t do much with it. The “doing something with it” part, by the way, is a new project. It’s called marketing and selling.

Jessica

I’ve got marketing on my mind today (though it’s arguable that I have it on my mind every day). Consistently making your stuff is good but it’s a start.

The question is: do you want to take the next step or not?

Used car salesman
The residual self image most creators have of themselves when it comes to making money.

If you don’t, that’s fine. But if you want to make the move from hobby or side hustle to your main source of income, you have to put on your marketer’s hat. Like I’ve said before, it’s not skeevy if you look at as building relationships and giving fans what they want.

But you have to come up with a plan and follow through. And as much as I loathe algorithms, it’s still easier to post on social media than anything else.

(We’ve gotta be thankful that the days of being limited to the people and places where you live are long gone.)

Screw the algorithms and establish a posting schedule as a habit – as part of your steady progress on your creative efforts. It doesn’t have to be twice a day or whatever batshit insane schedule IG wants everyone to follow. 2x a week, 3x a week, 5x a week – whatever works for you.

Just don’t be stupid about It.

Research some relevant hashtags (don’t rely only on super popular ones with millions of uses as no one new will ever see your posts with them).

And make some videos occasionally. If you’re an artist, this is a no brainer because you don’t have to show your face if you don’t want to. Procreate will export timelapses of anything you draw with it. Or you can buy yourself a phone holder thingy like this and record yourself drawing either analog or digitally.

(I strongly prefer seeing the hand drawing – especially digitally because it’s so helpful to see the choices made when choosing brushes, layer modes, and editing.)

If you want proof that it can be done, I made my first Instagram Reel this week and it did not involve any trendy dances at all.

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What I’m doing

Redesigning my website

A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to make my site look more like a comic, so I started messing with the design. I replicated gutters, added some halftone textures, and used my new handwriting font for headers.

And … it kinda went nowhere. It was kinda sucky and blah. And it just wasn’t a great visual experience.

So I started over yesterday, without the limitation of trying to look like a comic.

My main design inspiration is Patreon. If I’m making my own DIY Patreon, then I might as well make something that’s familiar and that works. Patreon has a shit ton of money on the line, and they wouldn’t just design stuff or keep changes without data to back it up.

So I’m simplifying and following Patreon’s lead… mostly.

In fact, I’m writing this post on the new development site, since the new site will be live before this post is published.

Also, the reason I’m working on the site is that it’s part of a task that I avoided but that my productivity system kept my aware of for a few weeks. One of my primary goals (frankly it’s my BHAG) is to develop a patronage, and the site needs to be designed with that in mind.

Writing my graphic memoir

I got some feedback from a friend on the first chapter and after spending most of the week blindly writing from my outline, I stopped yesterday to give a deep consideration to both structure and focus.

The structure part is so it’s not just a random string of life events.

The focus part because I don’t want to bore or confuse readers.

I re-borrowed Malala Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream from the library because it’s a fun, easy read and because I’m analyzing the shit out of it. It’s fun and easy because there’s no chaff or filler. But I also want to see what kind of structure and organization is involved.

used car movie
I had no idea there was a ‘Used Car’ movie from the 70s. Kurt Russell’s attire is OUTSTANDING.

Getting shit done

My productivity system is helping a lot. I’m in a good mode of getting shit done because the system is working – or at least working at 70% efficiency. It’s still a work in progress that’s being tweaked here & there as I figure out what works and what doesn’t.

But overall, it’s keeping me productive by making sure that 1) I don’t forget things and 2) making me review things daily and review everything weekly. Mainly, not avoiding tasks and simply deciding whether to do them or not has dropped my anxiety a shit ton.

However, the big weekly review is one thing that hasn’t gelled yet, mainly because it’s supposed to come at the end of the week. And Fridays are usually half-days for me because I’ve run out of productivity energy by mid-afternoon and both clients and colleagues are usually very quiet.

Twice so far I’ve forgotten the weekly review because I shifted gear to non-work responsibilities, including yesterday. So I’m thinking of shifting it to Sunday, when I won’t be ready to step away from the computer.

(I also briefly considered whether it was a viable business idea to create a productivity system called Getting Shit Done but someone bought the .com years ago. If I’d been able to buy the domain then it would have mentally shifted from totally harebrained idea to totally harebrained but I have the domain so there’s a chance it might work idea.

Testing out an open source website analytics system

I’ve been pissed at Google ever since they shafted my website traffic. And they suck for privacy as it is (I don’t understand why anyone would use an Android phone when it’s giving permission to have your data harvested).

And since no one really likes being tracked all across the internet (America’s opt-in rate for ads on iPhones is only 10%)(note: global opt-in rates are buttressed by bots), I thought it might be helpful to not have trackers from Facebook or Google on my site. Not having Facebook is easy, since I have no intention of ever paying them to advertise (thus there’s no need for their stupid tracking pixel on my site).

Google however is a little sneakier since their tracking is done via their analytics code – which just about every site on the internet has installed since we need to suck up to Google for site traffic. And we need site traffic analytics to guide us on what we may need to change or improve on our site to make money.

(Yes, this pre-supposes that our sites make money – just go with it…)

Google Analytics alternative

I did some research and it turns out that there is an open source Google Analytics alternative called Matomo (formerly known as Piwik). I installed it on Tuesday and it appears to be recording more site visits than Google and is pretty freakin comprehensive – including being fully GDPR compliant.

I might be able to ditch Google Analytics on my site by the end of the week – and I might ditch it on my other sites too.

Given a choice, I’d rather own my data than have it owned by a profit-mongering corporation. Wouldn’t you?

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What I’m Reading

I haven’t been reading as much this week. Besides the Malala Gharib book, I also borrowed The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics from the library after someone recommended it to me. I’m also reading Growing Gills and reading up on world mythology.

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Finally: an announcement

This is my last weekly newsletter.

My intention when I started this was to increase site traffic. I’ve blogged successfully in years past, and thought that weekly posts – even if not fully SEO optimized with proper keywords and such – would increase my traffic significantly.

That didn’t happen, and I’m not sure why. There is no way to get support from Google for their analytics without being a paying customer (makes sense, but it’s still douchey af). So I need to figure out why the fuck my traffic went down while my posting stayed steady and my posts were loooong.

(Mostly I think that these corps are playing us all for fools, trying to get us to jump when they say so.)

That’s not all of it though – I’d prefer to use this quiet morning writing time to actually write stories and such. On Saturdays after my newsletter is done, I have to shift to other responsibilities. And my steady progress on my creative projects gets stalled on weekends.

So I’m downgrading to 1-2 newsletters a month, and probably much shorter ones too.

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That’s all folks!

Question: would you be interested in a WordPress theme that mimics Patreon?

I don’t mean a theme that handles payments and memberships (themes should only be for appearances, plugins handle features & functions) – just a theme that mimics Patreon’s look, feel, and layout. Like I mentioned before, they have a lot of money involved so they wouldn’t do something if it didn’t work. Perhaps it would make having your own onsite Patreon easier if it looked like something people were already comfortable with.

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Each issue is written straight from the heart. I write about life as a creative, how to make money without being a skeevy marketing bro, good reads, and bad jokes. Free exclusive comics may or may not be involved.