100 Things I did not earn a fortune with – Zazzle

Zazzle is a marketplace where you can easily add you own graphics to products they provide. It’s a low cost, pretty effective way to make a few bucks with your works. However their ToS might not be for everyone.
I firmly believe in distributing my art and designs. Money is secondary, I am a concept artists, which means I worth ship the ideas more than the actual piece. I am a true believer that once you have an idea, write it down and publish it that idea belongs to you, everyone else is just a copycat or the guy who re-produces your artwork.
Nevertheless I have not earned a fortune with Zazzle, which is probably because I have neither actively promoted my shop, nor had any items in it until recently. 🙂
You can see the items I have created so far in my little shop.

Overall I like Zazzle, that’s why I added my product links to the sidebar.

The advantages of Zazzle

You don’t have to be a Jack of all Trades to be successful at Zazzle, their system is very easy and you can build your products with basic knowledge of a computer. It’s great for creatives who are starting out and don’t have great deals or produce everything themselves.
It’s extremely fast. In case you already have graphics you can use for print design you are ready to go.
You have your own ready to go shop with featured items that you can link to from your own site. People can find your stuff directly on Zazzle or you point them to your shop and earn even more in case they sign up and buy from Zazzle’s referral program.

The disadvantages

The shop looks a bit dull, even if you customize it, but most webshops do so it’s not really a biggy.
You might dislike the ToS of Zazzle concerning the use of your art.
To really get it going you have to market your shop and refer other people to join the site, or you have to create such a killer stuff that other people do the marketing for you. It’s great for people with a very low budget, but you have to get people to buy your stuff, most of the marketing has to be done by yourself.

Money Making Potential for Creatives?

Creative people can make some money using Zazzle, that’s for sure. It all depends on the contents you deliver. In case you create great stuff and are able to promote it well you can earn a few hundred, maybe thousand bucks per month. The key to selling is that you have to do more than create the items, you have to promote them somewhere.
My Zazzle Money Making rating is 8/10, as you can define your profit range on products. The problem is that the consumer decides if your items are too expensive or not, and that might happen if you up your profit margin by 50%.
I can only recommend testing it yourself in case you are producing digital artworks en masse. I am a fan of the digital lifestyle and the possibilities of passive income streams that can be created easily and are no hustle to maintain, Zazzle meets these both criteria, even though I did not earn a fortune with them, at least yet. 😉

Does a designer need a Graphic Tablet?

Most designer draw a lot of things, they started in kindergarten and went on through their life. Now do they need a tablet or is it enough to scan your drawings?
From my point of view a tablet is essential for every serious creator. Right now I am not having a tablet due to my old one not working with my new computer anymore, but within the next few weeks I will get a new one, and in case you don’t have one yet, here are a few reasons for you to go digital:

  • You pay a pretty big chunk for one item, but you save on paper, color and pencils
  • You can go digital and add textures with ease.
  • You can create speed paintings with ease.
  • It’s easy to create vector graphics that are flexible in size.
  • You can reduce working steps and improve your work-flow / productivity.

Overall there are a lot of advantages to a graphic tablet. In case you are a designer or artist and still live in the analog world, consider going digital as an addition. The only thing you should actually do is to test the tablet you are going to buy. There is no substitution to the feeling of actually holding the pen and drawing / painting with it. There are plenty of pretty cheap tablets out there, but if you are serious about this, you should consider investing a bit more, as the pen is usually without a battery, has a better grip and the tablet has better reaction times.
I can’t wait to get my tablett and I will write a review about it once I hold it in my hands. 😀

Make money like a creative, not like a bureaucrat

Some people still miss why they should make money like a creative. Sure there are always parts about every business where you have to take care of payments, list your hours, take care of clients and so on. Those things that make you feel like a bureaucrat and not like a creative.

Why shouldn’t you do the boring stuff?

Challenge yourself! Simple is good, boring is bad. Creatives, unlike many other people strive for better things. They want to express themselves and make a living with that. Or at least they want enough money to do what they want and pay their bills, and if their creative off springs can do the … all the better. The point is, be creative about the ways you make money. In case you are an affiliate marketer, do it like no one else does, create beautiful sales pages instead of those ugly, useless and not very trustworthy things that look like 1 big sales letter. Write about what you love, sell your art, create your own products, don’t be a follower, be a leader. Lead yourself out of the immaturity.

After all, don’t be one of those guys who give up a 9-5 job for something that is as boring. Some people play poker all day long, others write, other sell things. The great part about being a creative is that you can do more things than a lot of other people. Just do what you love and exploit it, or share that for free and charge other things. Find a sponsor, ask for donations, whatever, just don’t be one of those make money idiots. Those people look for recipes of others and try to do exactly what they did. That’s just because those people fear to fail, or they are boring. Or they want an easy life. There is money to be made outside, but in case you want a regular and boring paycheck, you can do that in a day job. Enjoy your life, mix things up and live an interesting life.

That’s my tip of the day.

100 Things I did not earn a fortune with – Online Poker

Now why Online Poker at a site for creatives? It’s just to dispel one of the myths of today’s society. We are told that there are loads of ways to earn money, poker is a great and fun game, but online poker has loads of negative connotations, that far out weight the possible winnings you can make if you are stone cold blooded and lucky. And to be honest, a lot of creative people look for an easy way to make money so they can spend more time at things they love. Poker seems to fit there, but it’s no passive income and you have to spend a lot hours in front of the computer to really make money. And there will be huge swings. Sometimes you make money, sometimes you lose it.

Why is it a myth?

Online Poker is safe… HAHA, that’s a good one, just look at all those scandals that surrounded a few online Poker portals. Superusers, seeing all of your cards. You can just start to burn your money if you hate it, or give it to me, as I have so many hobbies that I could found with a few extra bucks.
Online Poker is one of the great myths out there, seriously it’s fun when you start, you can win, but actually, if you want to win constantly and book a lot of money there are far more interesting and fun ways to earn your living. Online Poker is a game, a game with bad graphics and when you play it online it’s pretty anti social as well. Sitting in front of a screen, playing loads of tables to keep busy and just make the right decisions at the right time. Sounds like a great idea? You’d probably make a good accountant as well.
On the long run, Poker is just fuckin boring. Well, maybe I am a sore loser, but at least I am a learner. When I play poker I go out and meet other people, try to get to a game away from the screen. Maybe I am a bad player due to that, but who gives a rat’s ass?
It’s a fucking madness, loads of people are playing this game, but the only kick that it gives is the money. If you can talk about kicks here, as you should be cold as ice when you hit the tables. Otherwise you are pretty screwed. It’s degenerates heaven. All those kids growing up with computer games like starcraft, counter strike or whatever, have an outlet to earn a few bucks. It works for some, it doesn’t for others.
But to be honest, the price most people have to pay to be successful at online poker is too high for me. It’s passive. It’s addictive. It kills your lifetime. How much money is your life worth?

Who is winning the game?

It’s the Casino. You play against other players and might win against them, but the Casino always wins- you pay rake and you have to win very consistently to beat the rake and the other players. Oh and who else wins? It’s the affiliates who tell you that you can win at poker, because you sign up through them and they get a share of the rake you pay. It’s one huge business and the players pay the bills for everyone.

Do Creatives need a website?

This is a crucial question for every creative/artist, do you need a website, or is it enough to join a network, use flicker, or sell your stuff via cafepress, zazzle or whatever service you use.

An Artist needs a website!

There are quite a lot of reasons why an artist should get a website.

  • It is a showcase of your work, belonging to you
  • It is cheap
  • It is a place where you can sell and promote your work
  • It can help you to build a brand about yourself, making it easier to sell your work

Really? I disagree…here’s why he doesn’t need a website!

Actually not, but it’s great. You can go a very long way with free services such as flickr, behance or deviant art. You can sell your stuff at cafepress or zazzle, take part in design contests, create a blog at wordpress or blogger. There are loads of free services that you can use, I tell you that you don’t need a website! 😉

Confused now? Here’s what you really need!

You should get a portfolio, so yes, a real website with a custom domain like smashill.com. And if your website is just something like a 1 page business card linking to your portfolios over at the free sites with a short vita and contact information. The real problem with those free services is that you lack a very important factor, which is professionalism. You can make up for this with a portfolio like that. Oh and before I forget it, you should get a custom email as well!
In case you just do what you love and want to show it to your friends, go ahead, sign up for those services and share your stuff, even though some of them claim to be professional, and probably quite a lot people recieved offers through them, it’s nevertheless important that you have an additional website in case you want to do this for a living. A solid portfolio is your representation as an artist, other people have an office, a service hotline, a mailorder, a sales letter and you should have your portfolio showing your skills, don’t underestimate the value of it.

100 Things I did not earn a fortune with – Private Ads on blogs

forsaleMoney making Bullshit, who else did fall for the, “There is money online, you just gotta grab it!” Motto? It just like online Poker, people think they can win, but it’s still gambling, even when you do everything right you will lose. Not only once, often. Very often. The make money niche is better in many ways, you do something productive on the one hand, and you learn a lot of other stuff on the other hand.

First of all, we all dream about making money when we start reading make money online blogs, but actually, this stuff is pretty boring. Almost everybody seems to copy what the big guys are doing, or rather, they try to copy and suck at it.

Nowadays a blog is a pretty useless thing in case you want to make money through private ads. Ads are good when you have amazing traffic. Back in the days I did not have amazing traffic as I am not Darren Rowse or rather John Chow. How do you ruin a blog? Yes, you try to sell ad space on it.

Where is the use of this ad-space? Those small 125*125 Pixel Graphics … nobody clicks on them, alomost no one. This kind of ads is just one of the pointless inventions some bloggers had when they asked themselves how to earn a few bucks here and there, especially with no follow links.

First of all, private ads on blogs need some sort of audience, this might work if you have some sort of niche blog and you find some people who offer something to them. But in the make money niche, forget about that. Those blogs are useless, as most people who make a living online don’t blog about it. The handful of rich bloggers use their blog as an outlet to created a brand around their blog, it’s not like television where people are forced to see the ads, or even click on them. “CLICK on those ads or I won’t write any more content you freak(aka the reader)!”

This won’t happen as bloggers are attention whores. Everybody who blogs has the desire to tell the world something. And sooner or later he really wants to earn some money with it, but he usually does not risk losing reader by going a pay per read blog. Private ads are so 2006, you should consider removing them unless you get some bling for your space.

Advantages of Private Ads

You have control about them, you can reject people and give them away for free.
It can turn into a steady stream of income.
In case you can customize the ads and make them a part of your page they can be a great success.
In case you manage to think outside the box and create incentives for your adspace you can make good money.

Disadvantages of Private Ads

Pagerank selling is punished by google, so nofollow links are the way to go.
Standard 125*125 are boring and useless advertisments.
You have to take care of them and your advertisers.
They can be an annoyance when the banners/buttons are ugly.

Money making potential of Private Ads

It takes time to deal with your advertisers, takes time to place the ads, and worst of all, the average blogger is not even earning a lot of money with them, in case you can afford a program/script for this, it’s probably something else. It’s a joke when you think about ad pricing and that there are loads of people with blogs where ads cost almost nothing. Ads are given away through contests, or earn a measly 5-15 $ per month. Is it really worth your time? How much do you earn per hour in your real life job?
I guess you earn, and certainly deserve more for your time, unless you are already a superstar and get awesome deals for your web-space. From my point of view, private ads start to be profitable at +1000 RSS subscribers, PR4 and link selling or a niche that has people who need attention. Unless you have this, don’t even think about private ads, as they are a waste of time. Rather do something useful for your time that will last longer than 1 subscribtion period. Some examples are building links, adding a few affiliate product reviews. Or, in case you are a creative build a solid portfolio and sell your skills.
Overall the money making potential ranges from 1/10 to 10/10, depending heavily on the internet real estate you have. In case you have some premium spots and manage to create some killer campaigns that fit your blog you can earn a fortune, in case you don’t… don’t even waste your time with this, especially when you are starting out.

How to code your own wordpress Theme

WordPress is the Content Management System smashill is build on. The theme is handcoded, which is a great way to go in case you have a small budget. Now I am far away from being a tech geek, I find my way around certain things, but I am not good at coding! The great thing is there are resources that will help you coding your own wordpress theme in no time if you have some basic understanding of html.

The best tutorial on coding a wordpress design can be found at the no longer updated blog wpdesigner. It used to be a great source of information about wordpress until he sold it, but nothing happened after that sale. So who knows what happend there.
Anyways the site is still up, so do yourself a favour and grab his very detailed tutorial.
First of all he describes how to design a theme using photoshop, then he describes how to slice that design and finally how to code that design to create a wordpress theme. Each and every of those tutorials is pure gold for someone wanting to create his own wordpress theme with little knowledge about php or coding in general. Get them as long as the site is up and running 🙂

Prior to this wpdesigner wrote a tutorial series that can be accessed at the blog, but the pdf’s are far better from my point of view, nevertheless it’s the second best resource on how to create a basic wordpress theme.

In case you take your wordpress theme a step further, there are now other great resources about design and how to alter your CSS code to improve your overall site experiences, for example CSS Tricks. One hell of a great article is How to take wordpress one step further from Function Web Design.

In case you are simply thinking about creating a portfolio site, or a non wordpress related site, or a wordpress theme with a grid structure, check out Typogridphy or the 960 Grid System. The one is based on the other, but both are flexible and interesting foundations for good looking websites.