Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bad Girl Boss

You may have noticed recently (if you've been looking) that I have been pretty quiet on my social media channels and even my shop hasn't had much new work added.
I have been backwards and forwards with how to approach what I've been 'going through' (I hate using that term, but it seems to suit here).  So I thought I'd just share it on here, the bare bones and all the skeletons!

I'm a terrible boss.

There, I've said it!
There's a whole big thing at the moment about being a Girl Boss, being an independent woman (another phrase that needs a slap in the face) and just generally smashing it. Now, this is all fantastic and a big high five to all my fellow workin' gals (& guys). BUT, whilst I consider myself quite creative, resourceful, motivated and focused I'm also lazy, a procrastinator, paranoid and on the whole, my own worst enemy.
My business has grown massively over the last 18 months and I am extremely proud (and protective) of that, yet over the last two months or so I seem to have lost my mojo. A creative slump? Actually, YES!

How did this happen?

Well, I've worked out that I handle time the same way I handle cash. If I have £5 in my purse I'll find something to spend it on, that's the same for £10, £20, £50 and so on. Whatever is there I will spend/waste, this is the reason I hardly ever carry cash.
The same principle stands with time, more specifically big chunks of it. I noticed that when I have something to do in a certain week then I'll usually leave it until the Friday or even push back further to the weekend. Same thing with a day, I'll dick around 'researching' (Instagram/Etsy/Facebook) until almost night time before I make a start.
You might remember my Getting Shit Done post a little while back and I talked about having random bursts of 20 minute sessions throughout the day. Well, those twenty minutes are the most productive of my typical day and I'm a gajillion times more 'on it' within these times.

So yeah, after a LOT of thinking I came to the decision that in order to get back into my flow (yeah, I said flow) I need to wipe out a chunk of time from my day. It feels really strange to wish there were less hours in the day and I'm hoping there are others that can relate to that.
What's the easiest way to kill time in the day? Sleep, yes, but that's not what I've gone for. I took the decision to go back to work, being employed by someone else, OMG!!
I was pretty lucky, I was called in for an interview on the Thursday, offered the position on Friday and then started the following Monday.
It's been a week and whilst I'll admit I'm a little tired from being on my feet all day and using my brain in a totally different way, the work I have put into Prints Of Heart has been extremely focused and planned out. The biggest thing, and I'm actually pretty excited about this, is that I am pretty much set for Christmas already. This is something that caught me by surprise last year yet I'd had all that time to prepare.

Now, I'm not saying this is going to be a long term fix (and if my new boss is reading this, I'm not planning on quitting after a month!) but some people are designed to work better under more pressure. Me being at home all day with constant internet access, movies, TV, the cats, my Xbox and whatever other distractions I have just don't add up to a productive outcome.

I'd love to know if you've made the same choice as me. Share your story in the comments and oh, please wish me luck!


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Just A Card

I came across a campaign recently called 'Just A Card' started by the immensely talented Sarah Hamilton. She had read a quote from some business owners who had sadly, closed up shop.

'If everyone who'd complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we'd still be open'

You can find details of Sarah's campaign and more information by clicking here. Please take a look and help where you can.

I sell predominantly prints and mugs, but I have a small range of seasonal cards for Graduation, Mother & Father's Day and Valentine's Day. I have been overwhelmed by the response for these cards and the sales of which help me to reinvest in my business and make sure I still have enough money to set aside for rent and bills. Funnily enough, when you quit your full time job with your steady wage, your steady bills don't quit along with that.

Help a small business stay afloat & grow for the price of a coffee or a magazine.  

My old job was Relief Dispenser for a big Pharmacy. I'd fill in for branches when they had staff on holiday or off sick. I knew where all the nearest Costa, Starbucks and Nero's where to each branch and every morning that would be the first place I'd role up to before work. I'd hate to think how much I actually spent over the years!
Little did I know that if I'd have sacrificed just one of my morning coffee's from time to time (or even afternoon for that matter) I could have helped someone out and been part of the difference in them growing or failing.. If we all did this, can you imagine how great that would be? Yes, it's easy (and cheap) just to nip to the supermarket and get a 30p card, hey, we all do it, myself included. But when you purchase from a creative small business, you're not just buying the card, you're buying into so much more.

Behind the curtain of a small business.

A little about my set up. I still work a day job, well, it's an evening job really. I clean the offices just a few minutes up the road. I just do a few hours a night to ensure I have a guaranteed amount coming in each month to keep a roof over my head.
Everything else is pretty much paid for by you, my customer and I am eternally grateful for that.

Now, I'm not sat playing Xbox or watching zombie movies all day (I swear this is what my boyfriend thinks whenever he gets home and the washing up is still there). I get up between 5-6am and wake myself up with a nice coffee, usually outside listening to the birds sing their merry song. Then I work on Prints Of Heart & my new baby, Plans Of Heart up until about 15:30 ish; this is anything and everything from new designs and products, queries, Post Office runs, research, social media, design & business courses and plenty of other bits and bobs. I give myself about half an hour or so of chill time before my evening work to 'change heads', a bit like Worzel Gummidge and to be honest, the hair is quite similar.
When I get back home I'll pack up the orders that need sending the following day, resolve any queries and put in a print order for the day. After that it's quality time with the cats & my boy ♥

I work far, far more hours now than I ever did in my full time job but I absolutely adore it. I know that I'm the person at the helm, if I work hard and smart then I can keep growing my little acorn and eventually go 100% full time. At the same time I am also aware of just how tiny I am in the giant haystack that is the online marketplace. It has taken me around 18 months to learn internet, and I like to think of it as learning another language. Every online business has to learn and work through this, when I first started I had the 'If you build it they will come' mindset. Which is sort of half true, but not really. I could have probably done it quicker, but I'm the kind of gal that needs to learn from her own mistakes.

How you have helped me to grow

  • I was able to purchase a new laptop when mine died unexpectedly and peacefully in its sleep.
  • I purchased a new printer when my old one decided it could no longer cope without its dear friend so decided to just stop working.
  • I sourced an outside professional printer for my cards and ordered in bulk which cut down massively on costs, saved me hours and hours a week and reduced my stress levels immensely which meant I had the time and energy to work on my 'big plans'.
  • I can now easily budget for my cat Geoff's specialist food each month.
  • I invested in a hardcore grade (yeah, that's a thing) badge maker which will play a big part in an upcoming project.

That's the thing, when you do purchase 'just a card' from an independent or small business, it's really not the card you're paying for. It's the utility bill, the new printer, the Adobe subscription, the rent, the insurance, the fees, that specialist cat food (a big thanks from Geoff) or even just some breathing space for new ideas to flourish.

I am so appreciative for each and every person who have purchased not only my cards, but my prints, mugs, pillows and posters too. Each and every sale, review, like, comment, share and email message really does mean the world to me (including that Valentine's run-up when I was tearing out my hair).

So thank you, not only from me, but all the other small biz ladies and gents too. I'm sure they feel the same way.

 If you fancy a butchers, you can find my little range here and below are a few of my other favourite designers so go and check out their products too next time you need that card!

                                   Katie Abey                                    Atiliay                                  Becka Griffin

Monday, 22 June 2015

A gift idea for the hard to buy for...

We all have that person who is hard to buy for. I include myself in that, when it comes to Christmas or Birthday's I usually get a few messages asking what I want. And if you ask me what I want, I'm going to tell you what I need.
My most recent gifts have included a new kettle, a clothes horse, a set of new towels, a mouse (computer, not real life) and a memory card. I LOVE getting all the nice smellies as gifts but I adore getting stuff I NEED too.
So it was my Dad's 80th Birthday recently and he is another 'hard to buy for' but, unlike me, he doesn't really need or want anything so the standard 'oh, don't bother' or 'oh, I'm easy' is heard when you ask him what he would like.
A couple of months before the big day my sister was asking what I thought we could get him, long story short, she ended up finding a photograph that somebody had made online of a family holding up letters that spelled out happy birthday. We were both sold and naturally I jumped at the chance of making it.
Now, I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of making this badboy, how it it crashed my computer multiple times, how I lost the file twice, how I cried when it came back from the printer with a big smudge, the arguments I had while trying to take mine and my boyfriend's picture etc. if you REALLY want I can maybe do a post about it one day.
What I will say is the reaction from my Dad when he opened his gift was priceless, I was honestly expecting a 'that's nice' but I think the joint effort of everyone really got him. My 2 year old nephew carried it around the room showing it to each and every person showing them where they were on the picture and where he was. Even my Mum was impressed and yes, I cried a bit as it was a tad overwhelming to see a room full of people falling in love with this picture!!

So if you have a person you're always struggling to buy for and you have a little time to prepare then I would 100% recommend trying your hand at creating one of these. It will last forever and who knows, it may just end up being a family heirloom.

I'd love to know what ideas you've come up with for the 'HTBF' in your life so why not let us know in the comments.

PS. Happy Birthday Dad ♥

Sunday, 21 June 2015


That's my old man there. I asked if I could take a photo for a Father's Day thing I was doing online and he obliged, no questions asked but a glimmer of excitement in his eyes. 
That's the thing about my Dad, he's always happy to help, he's always interested, excited & engaged, he loves learning and trying new things and is constantly on the look out for a new project. I remember as a child and growing up he would sometimes take me to work with him, he taught me how to use the 'big wood cutting machines' and just trusted me to do my thang, even if that was just chopping up planks or swimming in wood shavings (I adore the smell of wood, takes me right back to those happy days). I could explore the warehouse and even tinker around on the fancy calculator that shot out paper!  He didn't care if I got dirty or if I accidentally broke something, fun and learning were (I can see now) his main concerns.

I owe a lot of my 'I can do that' attitude to my Dad, he's a great teacher and has the patience of a Saint. He turns 80 this year and yet is still working on major renovation projects at home, he looks after my Mum full time (cue patience of a Saint) and he is always happy and cheerful. I just hope that I can be the kind of parent that he is one day.   
My Dad is the best Dad because he showed me SO much, he taught me things without me even noticing at the time and just let me be. I realised not so long ago that winter is my favourite season because those moments when a loved one comes in from the cold, and they give you a hug. Well, the smell of the cool air always takes me back to the nights my Dad would come in from work, I'd hide under the table but he would always find me (how did he KNOW) and I'd give the biggest 'I miss you' squeeze I could. Then I'd sit on his back and hold on for dear life as he pretended to be a crazed tiger running round the living room!!
So thank you Dad, I know you probably won't read this as you don't go online that much but you are truly amazing. 

What's the best thing about your Dad? Let us all know in the comments below.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

A little kindness goes a long way ♥ The random love letter challenge.

I love watching those videos that pop up on my Facebook feed that say things like 'OMG, this man looks mean, but look what he did for this old lady and you'll be crying by the end' or 'You won't believe what this lady did, but it will melt your heart'.
I'm a sucker for random acts of kindness, particularly from one stranger to another. You never know what a person has got going on in their lives and they'll probably never tell a soul of the little niggles working their way through their mind. But when you can take a person out of their worries, or just remind them that yes, things will be alright, even just for a short while. Well, that's just pure gold.

So, a few days ago when this popped up in my Instagram feed I got quite excited and inspired.
The challenge is hosted by the lovely Olivia & Sarah aka RandomOlive and Sarahdhotts and it has really struck a chord with me. I've tried participating in Instagram challenges before but I'll be honest, it's not always easy for me to take photo's using someone else's theme or colours for the day and I generally give up after a few forced attempts.
So what does the challenge entail? Well, here's a little snippet from Olive;
The mission is to leave a small positive note in any random location every day. Take a picture of the note and share to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #RandomLoveLetter

  • We're aiming for a total of one million love letters out in the wild this month.
  • This activity should only take you 60 seconds. Jot down a quick note and leave it some place you're already passing by. (You could even write a bunch at once or do multiples each day).
  • Runs June 1st to June 30th 2015.
  • Use the challenge graphic here and share with your friends on social media to spread the word.
There is also a great cheat sheet that Olivia & Sarah have produced with ideas on locations, things you can write and even supplies you may find useful whilst writing your notes, You can find that here.
Luckily for me, we can deviate and get creative from the simple but sweet post-it note. I'm having issues with my own handwriting lately (that's a whole other issue!) so I have designed so far, a set of 14 random love letters. I got them printed on little 4x6" sheets and I added a short note about the challenge. At first I wasn't sure if that would taint the whole anonymous note factor but my aim is a sort of 'pay it forward' vibe. The people who find my love letters will hopefully be inspired to get involved and do the same for someone else.

I really hope you can join us in this challenge, like I said, I am VERY excited. It's going to be amazing. You'll be able to see my pics on Instagram daily and also on my website too.

Enjoy June and make someone's day every day. Let us know your thoughts and plans in the comments.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Getting Shit Done

Happy Monday everybody!!

Today I wanted to share a few little bits of stuff and things you can do to ensure you have all the time you need to get your head in the game and get shit done.
I'm also pleased to say that this post is part of the Sage Grayson 'Startup In 60' blog partaaay. You'll be able to find a whole host of topics around time management, productivity and how to be happy while you're doing it all too! So show Sage some love and check out all the other bloggers for their tips and gossip (after you've read mine though, promise).

I'll keep this short and sweet as I know you're busy and dying to get going!! ☺

• If you're selling a product, pack your orders at night. There's nothing more satisfying than getting up in the morning knowing all you need to do is simply add in the overnight sales and you're good to go.

• Take at least  15-20 minutes to enjoy waking up in the morning. Try and get up early, sit outside (or next to an open window, if that's not possible) and listen to the birds calling out their breakfast orders while you rejoice in your morning coffee. Let yourself be open to the new day. It may surprise you just what a refreshed and energised mind can throw up at this time of day when placed in the right surroundings.

• Get dressed!! I spent a good few months in my pj's until I got to the point in my business (thank God) where I had to go to the Post Office daily. At first I thought it was great to spend the day in my pajamas's but after a while of this, you tend to feel a bit guilty; you let things slip and let's be honest, slob is as slob does.
Once I started getting dressed for the day again, I felt more productive, heck, I even started brushing my hair properly again.

• Tidy up like the Queen is coming round in 20 minutes.
If you work from home then you have loads of free time to get on top of the washing up, laundry, dusting and other household tasks right? Wrong! This couldn't be further from the truth. I found it far easier to keep my pad clean and tidy when I had a full time job working for someone else. When you get in from your day job you really do notice things more and it's easy to just put the dishes away quickly and have a quick tidy round before you sit down to relax for the evening.
However, if you're at home all day and you're thinking to yourself 'after this I'll do it' then that sense of simplicity and ease just turns into a boring time suck. You don't get a reward afterwards like you would before; you complete a task to do another task. What kind of motivation is THAT?!
Soooo, I like to have a random burst of 20 minutes at least once a day. I give myself something to look forward to after (something that I have planned anyway) like making a coffee, playing with the cats, something simple but nice ☺Then I'll set my timer for 20 minutes (Google does a countdown timer if you haven't got this function on your phone) and tidy like there's a super VIP on their way.
Once you've done one set of this you'll not only be tidy but you'll feel much better and most importantly, more productive. Tidy house = tidy mind. I think you may surprise yourself at just how much you can accomplish in those 20 minutes. If you get a chance for another one later in the day you can then concentrate on a single area.

Here's what I managed on my overflowing shipping/stock desk.

Now, while I admit the finished table still looks a tad cramped and it's not one of those fancy shipping stations I drool over on Instagram. I can now see exactly what I've got, exactly what I need and I know exactly where to find it!!
I'd love to see what tasks you get done in 20 minutes so let us have a butchers using hashtag #TheQueenIsOnHerWayIn20 over on Instagram

• My last tip for today (may contain offensive content or TMI) is mini multitasking. Now, there's a lot of theories on multitasking, one minute it's the new black (or orange, or marsala, whatever) and the next it's the most destructive action known to man. I think it's down to the individual.
In my mind, multitasking is really just filling in the waiting time, like while your waiting for the kettle to boil, sat in the car waiting for someone to come out of work etc. NOT applying makeup whilst driving, working on three blog posts at a time or painting and playing Xbox; that's just stupid.

I sometimes imagine the inside of my brain as being like two big wheels, one wheel is processing what's going on around me and filtering in all the stuff I need to know, adjusting my body for heat, fuel and telling me when I need the toilet!! The other wheel is the 'me' wheel that needs to keep turning all.the.time in other words I can't sit still, so that's why mini tasking is a perfect fit for me when I'm in static mode; watching TV? why not rejig a few Etsy listings. Running a bath? why not tidy the bathroom shelf. Boiling the kettle? why not just dry those dishes. Sat on the toilet? get them emails smashed out (nobody will EVER know).
If you're mini multitasking in between your 20 minute blasts then not only will your home be clean and organised but eventually you won't even notice you're doing it and yes, my dear, you will be getting shit done like a pro!!

What's your strategy for getting energised and getting shit done? Share with us in the comments below.

If you're on my list then you will get this super sweet 'Get Shit Done' printable straight to your inbox to help give you a boost each day.

Not on my list? No problem, you can jump on here (it's free) and you'll also receive all my previous printables too!!

Have an excellent and productive day EVERY day and be sure to get on Instagram to share your 20 minute blasts using #TheQueenIsOnHerWayIn20

Monday, 16 March 2015

Happy Cat Mother's Day

If you're like me and you're not yet blessed with the pitter patter of (human) tiny feet then your cats are even more important to you than ever!
'Real' Mother's day can be a bit of a strain, all those photo's on Facebook of your old school friends, work colleagues and other random people with their bundles of joy. They just scream oh look at me and how great I am. You're genuinely happy for these Mothers and the babies are oh SO cute but there's still that teeny voice saying........ bitch!!
You don't really mean it of course, another thing we can blame on our hormones. But yeah, Mother's Day can be really hard. You're not a real woman until you've carried child, in fact, you're still a child yourself (even though you're dangerously into your thirties) you put on your 'oh, congratulations' face when yet another pregnancy is announced in your social circle. You distance yourself from any and all situations where that dreaded question may arise and, well, you know the story.

Let's not dwell on all this destructive cat tod, instead let's celebrate our little fur babies and how much love and joy they bring us. The phrase fur babies has gladly become an acceptable term in our little modern society. It's ok now to be a crazy cat lady, how cool is that? So let's give ourself a break and enjoy these little love bugs for what they are.
They adore us and show their love in so many ways, ever had your hair washed by a cat?

Every day can be Cat Mum Day and that other thing will happen when it happens. Whether you're constrained by circumstance, biology or finance, your cats are here right now and all they want is a full belly, a warm lap and a nice stroke. In return they will make you feel like the best Mum in the world, all day every day.

♥ Happy Cat Mother's Day from one crazy cat lady to another ♥

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

When your hobby is your business

What can you do in your 'spare' time when your passion in life, the thing that you love doing the most, that beautiful feeling maker that started off as a hobby, becomes your business?
If you're in the same boat as me then you'll most likely feel like the proverbial pig in shit for most of your waking (and maybe sleeping) hours. You spring out of bed in the morning and you're excited about the day, you'll answer your emails, ship out your orders and work on new designs till the cows come home. But what happens when you get that niggle, what did you used to do in the evenings when you got home from your 9-5? Well, in a different life you would do what is now your full time job, but you do that all day anyway right?.....
It's been over a year now since I quit my 'normal' job and I'm noticing that from time to time I'm overrun with ideas (not a bad problem, I know), too many to see clearly however so of course I don't act on any of them!! This makes me feel a little deflated. However, there is a cure.....

Get a new hobby, or revive a previous love. 

Once I allowed myself a bit of hardcore hobby hour (or two) from time to time I noticed that it cleared my head and I became more focused.

I did a little research and found that having a hobby AND allowing yourself time for it has a lot of health benefits too!!

  • Reduces stress 
  • Lowers blood pressure 
  • Can help fight depression
  • Makes you more productive
  • Produces all those juicy 'feel good' chemicals

There's plenty more of course but how fantastic is it that doing something you really enjoy but sometimes feel bad about indulging in can be so beneficial?

So what's my hobby? Well, I enjoy a spot of gardening but the real pull is my Xbox. 
I have 'freelance zombie killer' in all of my profiles and bios so it's a pretty big part of my life, even if it was on the back burner for a while. My brother in law says I'm too old for games and yeah, he may have a point but heck, for me, nothing blows the cobwebs away better than a good slaughter session.

You may enjoy knitting, crochet, resin art, cinema, archery, jogging, flower arranging, thrifting, train spotting; whatever.
It doesn't matter what your hobby of choice is, you may even benefit from a small side project from time to time too. But I can guarantee you that once you let yourself have that guilt free pleasure you will become more productive, have more happy chemicals and gain more clarity in the rest of your pursuits too!! 

I'd love to know what your hobbies or side projects are (maybe I'll pinch a few ideas) and how they affect the rest of your work so please share in the comments below ☺

Monday, 2 February 2015

It's OK

I adore Monday's. It makes me feel all shiny and new and there's a crispness to it like a fresh page in a super cool notepad.
As usual I woke up this morning excited for the day but as soon as my feet touched the floor I remembered all the things I had told myself that I MUST do today. I turned on the wifi to my phone as I made my way to the kettle (with the cats weaving around me as a went) and I listened to the buzz, beep and notifications all the way to the bathroom.

It hadn't occurred to me when I designed those Valentine's cards, what would happen if people really liked them. I mean like, REALLY liked them. Ok, I'm not selling hundreds or thousands a day like a few of the people I look up to, but flip, I'm getting there.
I've been promoting, printing, packing and posting all day and night for two weeks now. But this isn't really about Valentine's cards and phrases like 'be careful what you wish for'. This is about admitting it's OK to be just a little, or maybe even a lot overwhelmed in your one man (or maybe one woman and two cats) business and addressing it. What's great is that we can learn from it too!!
As with most of my designs, be it mugs, prints, phone cases or cards, it astounds me that other people like what I'm doing and that they will even pay to own it. This is something that I need to seriously work on. This is the reason I ran out of envelopes, cardstock, ink, all of my thank you bonuses and quite honestly, my patience.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

So I managed to come through what has been my busiest period feeling tired and disorganised but quite pleased with myself and also more prepared for next year.
My 'plan for the worst' was that nobody would even look at my cards and my best hope was that I'd sell a few. Now I am armed with the knowledge that 'the worst' is being featured on BuzzFeed and people going absolutely nuts for my funny food pun and cheeky quotes cards.

The worst isn't always a negative. Admitting that your business is being noticed, getting your name out there, growing, all that good stuff it's a little cringy and weird right? But if you go with it and bring yourself into line with that then you are much less likely to face the overwhelm by having to climb into your favourite onesy and go straight back to bed after the Post Office run. You'll already have your ducks in a row, you'll have adequate stocks and supplies, you'll still have time for new designs AND you may even have time to do the washing up!!

Hey, just remember though, it IS OK to wear that onesy whenever you like.

Here's a little printable I made just for you. This will ensure that whatever you've got going on, you know you'll survive. Click here then right click, save and print.
Jump into my Cool Stuff Club to get free printables and juicy gossip straight to your inbox.