It’s my birthday and I’ll have a 100th episode rant if I want to, rant if I want to, rant if I want to. You would rant too if it happened to you.

September 7, 2016

 Today is an extra special day. Not only it is my birthday, but this is also our 100th episode! Yay! As I hit both milestones simultaneously, I thought it might be nice to do another ranterlude talking about all the shit I’ve done in the past year.

If you like this episode, please subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere great podcasts are aggregated. You want to subscribe now because our RSS feed is only 20 episodes long and lots of people miss episodes when they don’t subscribe. We push out a lot of episodes and you don’t’ want to miss this content.

I’m going to warn you, this episode is basically just a list of my accomplishments and fails from this past year. There’s not a specific lesson involved.

If hearing specifics about a creator’s life isn’t for you. That’s okay. Maybe just skip to the next one. However, I will try to tie all my accomplishments into actionable lessons and takeaways you can use in your own life.

I’m very proud of last year because for the first time in my entire life I felt like I moved the needle forward in a significant way. Most years I get to my birthday and the think “What the fuck did I do with this year?”

Not this year. This year I thought “Holy shit. I did that much this year?”

My takeaway lesson: It takes time to build a head of steam. However, once that head of steam is built, things can happen faaaaast.

It’s all really happened for me since 2015 when I launched my first slate of books. Before then, I had a couple of publishing credits with Viper, Oaklight, and a limited print run with Allegory. However, it wasn’t until I launched Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, Paradise, Gumshoes: The Case of Madison’s Father, and The Little Bird and The Little Worm in February of 2015 that things really started coming together.

This was all happening before I left my last job. From 2006 to 2014 I built up a massive back catalog of awesome work. I pulled the rubber band back tight, and in January of 2015 it was ready to snap back and take somebody’s eye out.

The first half of 2015 saw a little bit happen, but nothing too mindblowing. It wasn’t until June when I left my job that I was able to devote myself full time to Wannabe Press. Honestly,I left my job so suddenly and unexpectedly that it took several months for me to get everything in order. Even through my first exhibiting experience at SDCC and the rest of the summer I struggled to right the ship. I was making good money at my last job, and having it all crashing down was hard.

It really wasn’t until even after my birthday where things started turning around for me. While I did a lot in the first half of 2015, it wasn’t until the end of 2015 and into 2016 where I felt like the ship righted itself and we hit calm waters.

My takeaway lesson: No matter how successful you are at your job, starting a business is a whole different ball game. You have to learn all the ins and outs of how your business functions and every business functions differently. It took me really about 9 months from launching my company to get a foothold on expenses. If you can’t weather that storm you will be in trouble.

This time last year, I launched my second Kickstarter campaign for Katrina Hates the Dead. I knew people loved this book, and I hoped they loved it enough to fund the print run…and they did! We were able to raise $8,400 to make this book happen and spent the rest of the year fulfilling rewards.

In fact, the end of 2015 was filled with new starts. We also started Kickstarter University, a training academy and membership site devoted to showing people how to run Kickstarters. I dropped $4,000 on building everything, only to watch it crash and burn in the first quarter of 2016. This was my first major disappointed of 2016. I had never put out so much money and watched it blow up in my face before. Even thinking about it now makes me bristle. But it wasn’t all bad. Out of its ashes came The Business of Art podcast and the Crush It on Kickstarter Teachable course. You can pick that up today for just $7 by clicking here and help me recoup some of that miserable loss.

Even though Kickstarter University was an abject failure, it led to two of the most worthwhile pursuits in my life, this podcast and creating courses.

My takeaway lesson: Just because something is a failure, doesn’t mean you failed. In fact, you might learn more in your failures than in your successes. I know that I learned more about online marketing and business principles trying to make Kickstarter University work than I had in the past 33 years combined. I would have spent much more on a business coach and not had the products at the end to be able to sell.

Additionally, I didn’t have a good sense of my strengths in 2015. I wanted to try all types of business, and by working through my failures on Kickstarter University, I learned that I am really great at making products. I love making something once and being able to sell it forever, which has become my slogan.

After our successful Kickstarter campaign for Katrina Hates the Dead, we followed it up with another one for My Father Didn’t Kill Himself, my second novel. I didn’t know what to expect from this campaign. After all, I was known for doing comics about monsters and this was a very intimate book about a girl struggling with the loss of her father. We set it as a $1 goal and prayed. To our surprise, we ended up with $3,400 from 150+ backers.

I was so proud and honored by that launch. It was probably the proudest I’ve been at a launch because that’s me laid bare on the page. There was no art to prop me up. It was all me and an editor. It was in doing that launch that made me discover what made my company different from every other company in the world.

Before I could lay my hat on making monster books, but with a novel I had to rediscover why people liked my books, and what type of person would like all my work. I found my ideal customer profile and built my messaging around it. We made a mascot and changed the wording of our website to target a specific kind of person. It was during that time that Wannabe Press really took off.

My takeaway lesson: You need a couple of products, or at least planned products, to figure out who your customer will be. You need to put things into the marketplace and see who responds to them. I needed three. I needed to put out Ichabod to see who bought that book. Then I needed Katrina to see who would buy both. Then I needed My Father Didn’t Kill Himself to make the connective thread between all three of those books and really determine my ideal customer.

Most people build their brand first, and I think that is a mistake. You are best to put out some product and see who gravitates toward it. Then, once you have some product you can much better define your messaging and build something that will last forever. If you spend time branding early, you might be sorely disappointed that you guessed wrong.

At the end of 2015, I sat through my finances and figured out where my company was strong and weak. I found out that we made almost all our money on Kickstarter and through shows. So in 2016, I vowed to do as many shows as possible, as often as I could. I did a lot of shows in the past year. It felt like every weekend I was at a show, and I became exceedingly good at it. I learned my messaging. I learned by brand. I learned how to speak to people the right way, and the wrong way. I helped other artists and found their biggest areas of strength. I was able to develop a strong community going to so many shows, and it helped us grow the brand exponentially.

Before heading to shows, I was spending tons of money on advertising and it went nowhere. When I started going to shows I actually got people onto my mailing list AND made money. It was a complete 180 from where I was in 2015.

My takeaway lesson: You need strategic planning. I took the month of December 2015 off from doing anything except figuring out what was wrong with my business. I made plans and assumptions for 2016. I found where we were weak and where we were strong. Then, I focused on our strengths. Some of those strengths bore out with excellent results. Some of them didn’t. However, going to lots of shows skyrocketed our brand recognition and helped us explode in popularity.

The final piece of my 2016 explosion was this podcast, the Business of Art. I went into 2016 wanting to make 20 episodes of this podcast, and we’ve made 100. Along the way we’ve been able to talk with artists of all types, sizes, and experience levels. We’ve been able to help people make their business stronger. I didn’t know if I would even like podcasting, but I’ve found that it’s saved my life, really. I was massively depressed earlier this year and I work at home, alone. Having this podcast has allowed me to reach out to other people in ways I’ve never imagined. It gave me a sense of community. It helped me cope with my life. I’m so grateful for it.

To wrap this all up, I can’t believe how wonderful the last year has been to me. Yes, I still struggle most days. No, our revenue isn’t where we want it to be, but I am doing what I love and we grow stronger every day. I can see the point in the distance where this all comes together. I don’t know how far it is from where I am now. I don’t know how many steps it will take to get there, but for the first time I can almost touch it in my hands. There is hope in that. There is hope that next year I will be able to say I reached that point in the distance I’ve been dreaming of for so long.

If you like this episode, please subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere great podcasts are aggregated. You want to subscribe now because our RSS feed is only 20 episodes long and lots of people miss episodes when they don’t subscribe. We push out a lot of episodes and you don’t’ want to miss this content.

 

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One comment on “It’s my birthday and I’ll have a 100th episode rant if I want to, rant if I want to, rant if I want to. You would rant too if it happened to you.

  1. “Very neat post.Much thanks again. Cool.”