Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sink Or Swim!

After 2 long weeks of being told "wait until your next appointment and they'll sort it then," on Thursday I actually managed to sit down with an advisor at the Job Centre and made them sign me up for the New Enterprise Allowance scheme (NEA).

You can imagine the look of bewilderment on the man's face as he clutched entirely the wrong forms and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Even though my clearance had been sitting on their computer for a fortnight. I had to feel sorry for him though. He'd just come back from being off long-term sick, so hey, who better to administrate a programme he's had absolutely no experience of?

Cue the typical arse/elbow recognition lesson. It took 3 members of staff before anyone knew which buttons needed pressing, but even he couldn't tell me those tiny little details like... well... when the heck I can expect to get any money. I guess it's going to be lucky dip at the cashpoint for the next couple of weeks!

Eventually, the forms were signed, I'd taught the advisor a bit about how to do his own job, the little signing-on booklet that's been my constant companion for the last 2½ years got left on the desk and I walked out of that Job Centre officially self-employed.

Oh boy.

Even though the NEA provides me with a benefits cushion for 6 months, I know that time will soon fly by and I've got to make sure I'm in a strong enough position to strike out and survive on my own.

That's the scary bit I mentioned in my last post. The trouble that could trip me over and see me end up finally bankrupt. I've got to master something I have absolutely no idea how to do and which frustrates me when people don't respond in the way I need them to.

I've got to get people to part with their money.

I'm not one of those charismatic sorts that has people hanging on my every word. I haven't got a cute sob story to trade off. I've never had people rushing to my aid when I've been in trouble or who'll go singing my praises to someone who could be a great help. I don't have thousands of Twitter followers or get long streams of comments on my Facebook. I've only got 12 people following this blog and another 3 on the Electric Scrapbook.

All that's going to have to change if I'm to get enough trade to make a living. I honestly don't know how I'm supposed to make people care. Am I coming across as a whinger by saying that?

Please don't confuse that with me having no confidence in my work. Far from it, I love what I do! I have my big ideas, hone them to perfection on this computer, upload them to my shops, post the links to all my readers, then... nothing. That little masterpiece I thought everyone would go crazy for just sits there gathering virtual dust.

A few little reminders of some of my favourite designs, none of which I've ever sold. These are all available from my Zazzle store.

Of course I have a few notable exceptions who have been excellent supporters. They know who they are and how much I appreciate them. I just wish I had many more of them!

So now I have the challenge of working out how to make people want to spend their hard earned cash with me. I really want the art to do the talking. I want everyone to see they're getting something very special and unique. It's not often you get the chance to own something that literally nobody else in the world has got, but if you shop with me you will do. Owning a one-off original would normally cost thousands but here you can get it for a couple of pounds. What's not to love?

I'm currently loading lots more new products onto Café Press. The Snowman and Christmas Tree shops are now complete, I'll finish the other Christmas shops over the weekend, with the remaining designs to follow during the week. I'm also planning to squeeze in a couple of new Christmas card designs if I can do them in time, which will mark the start of a major new (and VERY unique) art and greetings project over on Zazzle. Then I've got another big surprise to launch over at Café Press which will give you a whole new shopping experience.

I'm already lining up my new projects for 2012, some of which will be totally unlike anything you've seen from me so far. Getting the ideas is the easy bit. Getting the money to bring those ideas to life is a heck of a lot tougher.

Christmas is fast approaching and this is the perfect time to get involved. If you bought even one little gift from my Zazzle or Café Press stores instead of the big retailers you'll get something extra special and thoughtful for your loved one and you'll be doing me a massive service. Even if you can't afford to buy something yourself, please pass this link along to someone who you believe would be interested. I can only make my business work if YOU help me out. Yes, you. Not that other person. You. Yes. Thank you.

• To visit my Zazzle store for flags, Font Islands and animal T-shirts, click here.
• To visit my Café Press stores for hundreds of clothes, gifts, homeware and more, click on the design you like from the buttons on the left hand side of this page.

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