All posts by Farmer Jim

Your Amazon Merch designs will be deleted

Your Amazon Merch designs will be deleted and that is a good thing. Last year I started with Amazon Merch, a new print on demand platform. Since Amazon has more than sixty million Amazon Prime account and that makes Amazon Merch a great opportunity. And I wasn’t the only one who thought that way.

Amazon got swamped with Amazon Merch accounts who produced more than a million designs. Amazon got problems fulfilling a flood of orders and the huge amount of designs made searching by Amazon Prime customers a hassle. Amazon needed to react and did so in a brutish manner. But that can be a good thing for serious sellers.

So, I decided to make a Youtube video about this issue. Yes, I make video’s now also.

Struggling curating stale products in Zazzle shops

At the moment I’m struggling curating my stale products in all of my Zazzle shops. Zazzle itself made changes in its policy regarding stale product. Not anymore six months without views and sales, but a generous fifteen months.

Zazzle had quite some trouble to get the views count fixed, daily counts were useless and counts over longer periods not quite accurate. I depended on views per 180 days and how many pages of products acutal views I would get. This was my measure of success of curating my products. Alas, Zazzle changed the view function completely.

This means there is only one reliable measure for long periods and that is earned royalties. I still intend to double my royalties per six months. The day job is stressing me out and at the moment all I do is curating and culling my products. But, although August should be a slow month I do see a healthy sale. I might get a doubling in August compared to December and Januari. My Zazzle sales are doing remarkedly well and I think all that struggling curating is paying off.

Another factor is that I started selling via Amazon Merch, a possibility I heard on one of the US resellers podcasts. Amazon Merch is a print on demand service which offers two type of shirts in several colors. At first you can upload designs up to 25 shirts. With a healthy stock of designs it take me little effort With millions of paying Prime Amazon customers sales are already good. Although this Amazon service is basic, I have high hopes. I migh double by royalties again at the end of the year. There is no Amazon shop but this link will get you to one of my products.

I also tried to make something of my Cafepress shop. Well, I created a new one. A friend of my who also dabbles with print on demand showed how he organised his products, one shop per one theme. And not like me every theme of design in one big shop. So I created a new shop dedicated to just Haida designs. This is an example of a product.

struggling curating

When creating the Cafepress shop I noticed that it is not mobile friendly and responsive at all. Only the Cafepress marketplace is up to date. I tried to make the crummy seller webshop template responsive, but the underlying is simply too old and outdated. I gave up and leave the shop as is, only suitable for PC and laptops. No wonder Cafepress is doing so poorly as a company. But it’ll be an interesting experiment.

Spring cleaning and culling products

Spring cleaning is something you need to do every year. This means also for my Zazzle shops. One of the shops does not perform at all, so it is selected for an experiment.

Until now I mainly used the “quick create” tool of Zazzle. With mixed results. Yhis is a handy tool to apply a design to a whole batch of products. That way I’m able to create a lot of products, but most of them won’t get any views from visitors at all.

Spring cleaning
Over a year in my shop, never had a view. Pathetic!

Zazzle started a new regime where product that didn’t get view or a sale in the last six month will not be visible anymore in their marketplace. Which sucks since most customers do their searching in the marketplace.

The advice Zazzle gives is to refine every product on title, tags, and descriptions. In that way each product is more individual and better for SEO. But that defeats the purpose of the quick create tool.

About more than 80% of my products in my Freshpatterns shop never had a view in the last six months, so I decided the following spring cleaning actions.

  • Remove all individual products that didn’t get a view and were in my shop already about a year.
  • Remove a complete set of product’s that both never sold or got views. I will only concentrate on product classes that either sell or get views.
  • Update the remaining products and make them individual in title, tags, and description.

One result of this experiment will be that I’ll focus on quality in stead of quantity. And not using the quick create anymore. This also means adding one product at the time and making sure the design is optimal placed.

So how am I going to measure success? One way I’m thinking of is watching the 180 days views. If more pages have products viewed in the last 6 months then I’m on the right track.

As I write this I have 7.1 pages with 96 products each which had at least one view in the last 6 months. Ten pages would a good goal, about 40% of my total amount of products.

Takeda kamon and Oda mon revisited

I want to add more historical Tokugawa Shogunate kamon designs and I start with the Takeda kamon. And besides that I had an old design of the Oda Kamon which needed rework.

My new kamon of the famous Takeda clan from the Sengoku period. The most famous Takeda member is Takeda Shingen who fought in the Battles of Kawanakajima against Uesugi Kenshin. The clan is pretty famous in Japan, so I hope it will sell. Even though the Takeda kamon is a simple, minimalist design.

Takeda kamon Japanese samurai clan red
Takeda kamon Japanese samurai clan red by ejkaal
View other Takeda Bottle Opener at Zazzle.com

There are a couple of kamons of famous clans I want to do. And if I keep find more then I will add those too. Another famous clan is Oda. I already had the design, but I never made full use of it. In my last post I wrote my thoughts down about creating value. I do know that my Oda design sells and therefor I created value. This new version will create value for some future customer for sure.

To make sure that I reach a large enough public I made sure that my designs are implemented in all my stores. If possible. Last couple of months I’ve been busy topping up my other stores besides my main Zazzle shop. And therefor the new Oda design is added to my Spreadshirt Kamon shop and my Cafepress Digital Homestead shop.

Control your life and business by creating value

Owning a small business is all about creating value. You’ll hear entrepreneur’s often put a lot of emphasis on creating value. Without it their business won’t have a reason for existing. But what do they mean with value.

Many of us work for big companies, like I do. Deep inside a large hierarchy it is difficult to see if our work has any impact on the organization. Although these days with new fads like Scrum and Agile there is a lot of talk about adding value, just try to figure out of your new piece of software adds anything to your big corporate.

In a small business creating value is much easier. You create a product or design, market it and see if it sells or not. For instance this Barcelona cement tile design is based on an existing one. I copied it and put it on Zazzle products like iPhone cases. Lo and behold, I sold products and made a profit. Therefor I for a couple of people I created value.

Creating value old version barcelona cememnt tile

I can put a figure on value. And I can experiment with creating value. I wasn’t pleased with the original design, so I tweaked it. Making sure that it was more like an Islamic geometric pattern. With the following result.

Creating value new version barcelona cememnt tile

The new version I introduced in my Society6 shop and hopefully it will start to sell.

The point is that in my online business I know that I’m creating value. And that I can improve on creating value, either by new insights in marketing and designs or new skills in making designs. That is a powerful control on your life and income.

Working as an underling in a big corporation you’ll never really know if your work really matters. Or more scary, after you get a pink slip, it really doesn’t matter for the rest of society also. Over the last four I saw many colleagues leaving the company, voluntaryly or involuntaryly, and not being replaced. As if their jobs never added value after all.

So take control of your life by taking control of creating value.

Focus attention with a meditation Mandala

Ever needed to focus your attention with a meditation Mandala? Well, I do. My last post was October 2015 and since then I’ve moved. In November to be exactly. That meant that since October not much focus was put on my online money making business. And that has to change.

Don’t get me wrong, I reached a very major goal, buying an appartment and and moving to the new address. And sales in November and December were very good. So I shouldn’t complain.

But this is a new year and a new goal has to be set. Sales this month are sluggish and half way this year I want to double my sales. That means more blog posts and more designs. And a better upkeep of the stores I own. For instance I added a new Japanese Mon and Kamon store to my Dutch Spreadshirt site. I called it Dejima.

If you do meditation, one way to focus your attention is by using a meditation Mandala. Don’t ask me how, but I like the designs of Mandala’s. I started with a simple and geometric one.

Geometric Mandala eye chestnut brown Porcelain Plate
Geometric Mandala eye chestnut brown Porcelain Plate by ejkaal
Look at other Mandala Porcelain Plate at zazzle.com

My Haida Formline designs keep selling well and I added a new one which was waiting to be finished for months. It is a theme of my own as is the design. A sea otter chasing a salmon. Prey and predator in a Yin and Yang symbol.

Islamic geometric design keep popping into my head. I do want to make more of them. They look pretty and they are so easy to apply on products. This is a Moroccan design from a picture of tiles.

Doubling my sales by July this year is ambitious together with my day job. If I manage then I know I’m on the right track. A good resolution for 2016.

Shogunate and Ottoman empire designs

The output of new designs is low last months due to a moving house project, but I got some Shogunate and Ottoman empire designs to show. Firstly, I have two new Japanese kamon designs. On is fictional and the other is real.

I start of with the Hattori mon. It is a clan mon from the Shogun Total War game, although it is a little bit based on Japanese history. It’s a fictional clan based on a famous Japanese samurai and ninja Hattori Hanzou. I liked the Total War PC games a lot, in my opinion one of the best strategy games for PC. I bought the Shogun 2 verion some years ago and I thought “why not use one of the mon from the game”. This version is gold texture on black, but I’ve got also the game colors red on dark grey.

Hattori clan kamon in gold texture shirts
Hattori clan kamon in gold texture shirts by ejkaal
Shop for Tokyo T-Shirts online at Zazzle.com

The second one is the kamon of the Inoue samurai clan. This japanese clan came to prominence during kamakura and edo period. The kamon consists of feathers groups in a cirkel. I used a gold texture on a black background in thid example.

Inoue clan kamon in gold t-shirt
Inoue clan kamon in gold t-shirt by ejkaal
Look at more Inoue clan T-Shirts at zazzle

When I started with my little business I created a couple Ottoman Empire designs. Most of them are meant for patterns with tiling. But you can use a single tile as a stand alone illustration. I did sold some products this way, but I never used on as many Zazzle products as possible.

Now I’m using templates in Zazzle, I can create products in large batches. A couple of Ottoman designs are revisited and tweaked for processing this way. There a other designs I can use the same trick on, but that is for the future. But first these three.

How to deal with a noisy anti social neighbour

Surely many of you have once in your life to deal with the question: “How to deal with a noisy anti social neighbour?”. And so have I. I’ve been living in my appartement for more than twenty three years. It is a small appartment building of six households. Not always the relationship with a neighbour was perfect, but with a bit of talk we were always able to get along.

You must know, the appartments are goverenment subsidized. Over 30% of homes in the Netherlands are subsidized, an OECD record. Last couple of years the government started to allow extra increases in rents for those housholds who earn average or more and are renting a subsidized house. Now, in subsidized housing you don’t get the upper crust of society, but as a result of this policy change two good and decent neighbours left and bought a house somewhere else in the city.

They were replaced by less than stellar neighbours. “Now, now, be tolerant!”. As I said befor a bit of talk works miracles. Unfortunately the young man who moved in next to me isn’t very susceptible to reason. He thinks his appertment is his “crib” and rules are for losers. Well, he doesn’t say that but his action speek volumes. Loud music during the day, shouting and talking deep in the night with his mates. And occasionally extremely loud parties well into the morning.

One gets used to everyting. But not able to sleep because the neighbour thinks himself a very cool hipster who needs to entertain his “bros” on a Monday night is something which gets annoying very quickly. Especially if one has to work the next day. I’ve talked to him at lease six times about the the noise he’s producing. But alas, he is just stonewalling me with a fake jolly and upbeat demeanor.

So, the neighbour has zero percent interest in the other dwellers of the building. Fair enough, he’s an immature dick and an anti social neighbour. I can handle the noise during the day. At night I need to sleep though. I was looking for a solution and lo and behold there is something like ear plugs for sleeping. Last year I have used them a couple of times and they work like a charm. If think get really bad at night I pop them in and I’m done.

I accepted this neighbour as he is and they sleeping ear plugs are an excellent backup plan. But this can’t go on for ever. There is a silver lining to this gloomy story. I too will soon be a home owner. Last december 2014 I decided to look for a property. And in about a month I’ll move to my own appertment. No more random politically motivated rent hikes and no more dubious neighbours. And I will talk about my new situation if the future for sure.

Star Wars Galactic Empire banner and mon

I was twelve year when in 1977 the firat Star Wars movie was shown. It converted me into a Science Fiction fanboy and I never got cured from the illness. The three first films made a big impact on me. The sets, the matte paintings, the special effects, this is how all Science Fiction films and TV-series should be.

The secend series of three movies were very slick and well crafted but they didn’t do much for me. I guess a good plot really does matter. So, now number seven is coming and with the promise of the same magic the first three had. And hopefully a good plot.

I never did Star Wars fan art myself, but since I’m so busy with my online stores the couple of years I gave it a try. I do a lot of Japanese mon and kamon, the insignia of the Galactic Empire looks a bit like a mon. Let’s make my own version.

Galactic Empire Mon

Of course the Star Wars Galactic Empire also has a banner. I couldn’t find a good photo from the movies of a banner, so I gave it my own twist.

Galactic Empire Banner

Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious) would be very happy with me.

Reviewing dental hygiene products I like and buy

What I often read on other blogs are reviews, reviews about products the blogger likes or uses himself. So what could I review on this blog? Let’s start with stuff I use on a daily basis.

Like many people my age my teeth are a major concern. To many cavities and substandard maintenance. Jealously I look at those young American people with their perfect teeth. A couple of years one of my molars acted up. The dentist said a neighboring molar had a too much exposed root and the dentist suggested a root canal treatment. Or a visit to a dental hygienist.

The dental hygienist gave me a couple of good tips on how to prevent discomfort and do a better job in dental maintenance. The first was very simple, use a different toothpaste. One with an active component which protects exposed roots a bit. The one recommended and which I use now for a while is Sensodyne Complete protection. Works like a charm. No root canal treatment necessary.

Brushing isn’t enough, you should also use floss and toothpicks. Flossing I already did for quite some years. But it was always a fight with that damn rope. Either it was not smooth enough, or the thread was to thick, or it started to shred right between the teeth. Did I find a good product, after a year it was discontinued. Now I’m using a brand and a type of floss which will be available for quite a while; Oral-b. The floss is smooth, doesn’t shred or gets stuck. I always keep a spare roll, to make sure I won’t run out.

Toothpicks I never really liked. I thought flossing should sufficient. But the dentist kept on nagging on using them. After my visit to the dental hygienist I started using Jordan toothpicks, the flat version. They have them pretty thin and when wet the picks a quite flexible. I need a thin one to get really good through the gaps. Which they do very well. As with the floss I can’t live without toothpicks anymore.

There is one gap which needs a little bit more attention. And that is the root of the molar is a bit too much exposed. It really is erosion on the side of the molar. The way to clean it is to use those little brushes. I use 2.5 mm diameter brushes on the advise of the dental hygienist. Th idea is that with floss and toothpicks you can clean quite enough.

Electric is the way I brush and here the dental hygienist had also a tip. Don’t use the electric brush as if it was a manual toothbrush. Just slowly move the head of the brush along the surfaces of your teeth while applying light pressure. For about 2 minutes. Which brand I use you asked? Well, the gadget is from Braun, the removable brush is from Oral-b. There’s not much to say really, Braun and Oral-b are solid brands. Although I think their more fancy products are a bit overkill.

So what has all this dental hygiene gained for me? No cavities anymore and way less toothache. At my age and with the poor state of my teeth I need to watch out. But I don’t have that much agony anymore.