Every time WordPress updates the CMS for my site, something breaks. Every. Single. Time. Today it’s the slideshow on my home page, and I’m seeing this at 5:45 a.m. and I have to get ready for work and have no time to fix it. Further, when I do have time to fix it, I’m going to have to reintroduce myself to code that I really haven’t touched in quite a while. It’s like returning to a foreign country after being away a while. Whatever familiarity you had with the language has atrophied and it takes some time before you start recognizing when people are talking about you while you’re in the room because they think you can’t follow what they’re saying.
So, apologies if you stopped by and my slide show isn’t working. There wasn’t a whole lot there, really, just the last 4-5 portfolio images I posted. I really need to redesign the whole site anyway. Perhaps this is the boot in the butt I need to start that process.
For the past twelve years my son and I have been compiling Christmas CDs as gifts for our family and friends. What began as a token from a single mom who couldn’t afford proper gifts has become a Christmas tradition of epic proportions. Every year we choose a theme, either a musical genre or a symbol of the holiday and we create artwork and curate a playlist to fit the theme. Past Bootleg themes have included Peace, Nativity, Christmas Specials, Christmas at the Beach, Santa, What I Want for Christmas, and we’ve covered country, punk, jazz, and a personal favorite, Winterfunkyland, in the musical genre categories.
This year, the theme is the Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol. We chose songs that captured the mood of the characters and certain scenes and we assembled them in the order of the story. It was a little ambitious, and I’ve been struggling with an injury, an illness, and a number of personal dramas. I wanted to create original illustrations, I wanted to burn CDs and mail them out like I normally do, but neither of these things could happen in time for Christmas. So, I’ve included the original John Leech illustrations and quotes from the story to help lead you through the songs. They’re best listened to in order, with the liner notes as a guide.
What do you do with those gift cards from Amex, Visa, and MasterCard when they get down to a couple of dollars? You can’t use them on iTunes. It’s silly to buy packs of gum, or cans of soda with a gift card. You could swipe them for a purchase and then pay the difference in cash, but that means knowing exactly what the balance is, so you can max out the card. If you’re like me, you toss them in a drawer and forget all about them, which is what Visa, MasterCard, and Amex hope you’ll do so they can pocket that $1.74 or $2.76. You can imagine how those forgotten balances add up!
But if you have a Square credit card reader and account you can swipe those microcredits right into your bank account. Log onto the card’s web site and check the balance, then swipe the card into your Square account to recover whatever is left. Today I recouped $15.72 after a small fee. Not bad for junk drawer clutter!
That’s right, I’ve added a Logos category to my portfolio. There are only a few uploaded so far, but according to my agent, it’s an important skill set to showcase. Not sure how she’s going to feel about that last one, however.
I’m catching up with my email after a painful tooth extraction and I found a note from my friend, Michael, who ran the Boston Marathon for the second time this year to raise money for Children’s Hospital. I’ve known Michael since we were kids, so last year when he sent out an invitation to a cribbage tournament he was hosting to raise money for the marathon, I was more than happy to sign up. I did well, considering I’m not a very good cribbage player, and won first place in the consolation round, making me “best of the losers.” I display the trophy proudly.
This year, Michael asked again that I participate, but he also asked about a donation of Clown Shoes beer for the basket raffle. Between the folks at Clown Shoes and me, we were able to assemble this pretty gnarly beer bucket of awesome.
Tim, another friend I’ve known since grade school, came down to the tournament deliberately to buy lots of raffle tickets and put them all in for the Clown Shoes prize. It was no surprise when he won, but a little bit of surprise when we realized he had walked to the event and had to carry the thing home! Always the team player, I drove him and the enormous bucket o’ beer home, I think he owes me a pint next time we’re out.
Again, I didn’t win the tournament, but it was great to see old friends, we were all there to support Michael and his charity, and according to the email I finally read this morning, he raised close to $10,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston!
Of course, if you have the energy to run the Boston Marathon in almost 90 degree heat, you don’t sit on your laurels when it’s over. Now Michael is taking part in the Best Buddies Challenge, a 100 mile bike ride from the JFK Library to Hyannisport, MA to raise money for Best Buddies, a non-profit organization whose mission is to creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual disabilities.
I’m pretty sure a bucket of beer would be little use and a heavy burden for a 100 mile bike ride, so in addition to sponsoring Michael, I’m giving him a little shout out. He’s committed to raising $1450 for the organization, and his fund raising page is here, support him if you can, thank you.
As it is Tuesday, I was wondering what kind of tool I could post about. I haven’t bought any terribly useful apps lately and my tech toy budget is nil. But a tool is simply something useful, so today’s tool is Useful People.
You can never underestimate the importance of Useful People, especially when combined with Relationship Maintenance. One of the projects I’m working on for Clown Shoes Beer is a costume for the real Miracle Mike. Miracle is one of Clown Shoes most recent beers, and Miracle Mike is one of their truck drivers who modeled for the label illustration. He has boldly agreed to appear in costume at upcoming events to promote the Clown Shoes Minor Miracle Fund.
I designed the costume for the illustration before I knew I would be charged with recreating the costume for real, so I didn’t worry much about embossed Clown Shoes belt buckles or appliqued logos, or actual clown shoes that can be worn while running around beer events and music fests. I can’t sew. I don’t know much at all about costuming. But I am good at surrounding myself with talented creative people, and I am not shy about tapping those talents.
Phone calls went out to my friend who always has the best Halloween costumes. “Those “Ambiguously Gay Duo” costumes from a few years back, where did you find them?” To the woman who runs the daycare that my son attended, “Can you sew a big M onto a gold, stretchy shirt?” A keeping-in-touch dinner with my fabulous friend, Rachel, who works in Central Square, led me to Danger!Awesome Laser Engraving for the belt buckle. Finally, I leaned on my old pal, Google, who discovered Spears Specialty Shoes. Who knew there is a bespoke maker of clown shoes located in Western Mass? Sometimes, you have to expand upon the personal network!
The point is, accomplishing great things is rarely about having all the answers, or all the mad skills, it’s about knowing where to find those resources, bringing them on board, and managing them to get great things done. It also helps to have a cute, young man who will wear a superhero suit and cape and run around in clown shoes for you, but boys like him are hard to come by, so no one will blame you if you can’t find your own.
I have been, SOOOOO very busy with the latest Clown Shoes labels that I have neglected this blog entirely. There is no excuse, really. Oh, yes, I have to pay the rent and feed the kid, that IS a good excuse! But I’m taking a moment to rest my carpal tunnel and share with you my latest masterpiece.
This new label, completed a few weeks ago, celebrates the my hometown, the Hub of the Universe, the birthplace of the Revolution, a place where sports are religion and beer is our sacramental wine, Boston. It’s also a place where we have trouble with pronouncing certain consonants, thus, the name, Supa Hero IPA.
As you see, our hero, Captain Masshole, flies over the Charles River and past a number of Boston landmarks, in his trademark trackpants and Clown Shoes, beer in one hand, fists at the ready, much like many of our local boys. Originally, the Captain had a chinstrap beard and a little goatee chin action, but unfortunately that made him look like pretty much every guy we know who drinks Clown Shoes Beer, so we gave him a shave and a haircut so he could stand out from the crowd.
The second label is in the works now, Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer. Let it be said, Clown Shoes is the perfect client for pushing me outside my comfort zones. I don’t like horror. I just don’t. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I like The Lost Boys, but after that, you’re going to give me nightmares. And don’t suggest Twilight, I won’t put you down for liking it, but it’s not my cup of twinkly, virgin tea.
So I’ve been watching a lot of Vampire movies for reference, I am unhappy about this, I am not sleeping well. The good news is the art should be completed this week and then I’m going to see the Muppet Movie as a happy chaser to this bloody cocktail!
And that’s what I’ve been up to lately while I neglect this blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Yesterday afternoon it poured. I was at the Lexington Farmer’s Market and the skies just opened. I think I spent at least $30 more than I planned because in a futile attempt to stay dry I slipped under every canopy from the gelato stand to my car and naturally felt obligated to buy something from each vendor. When I got home the weather had cleared for a moment and I snapped a few shots. I love how Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington is so timeless. It could be 1960, 1980, 2011, you really can’t tell most of the time.
Written communication with clients, like email, or messages via Basecamp, these are some ways to track expectations, changes, and requests. It doesn’t hurt to have a paper trail to keep everyone accountable. But is it expedient to dig through every email exchange between you and a client or vendor? What of phone conversations, or meetings, or off the cuff remarks that come back to haunt you six months later, how do you track those? What if you have one of those clients who insist on giving you edits verbally over the phone—which really has to be the worst thing ever, don’t you think? Some people, no matter how much you push back, insist on giving edits over the phone? Why? You know they are the same people who will come back at you a week later and tell you that’s not what they asked for—but I digress. The point is; how do you track all of this communication and keep yourself accountable?
I use Evernote. There are so many uses for Evernote, in fact, it’s such a flexible tool, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into my workflow at first. Did I use it as a virtual moodboard, to collect things that inspired me? Could I build a notebook of all my favorite ukulele songs and carry them with me on my iPhone or iPad? I could, and I did. But it didn’t click for me in those capacities. I really wanted to use it, Andrew Sinkov, the marketing guy at Evernote, is a former client of mine from his previous gig, and I wanted to support him in his new venture. And you know I like my applications to be affordable and universal, and Evernote is both. Then I found this blog entry about using Evernote as a Relationship Manager and it all clicked.
Now, whenever I interact with a contact, client, vendor, potential client, I make a note. Sometimes I schedule a follow-up action, sometimes I just jot down the content of the interaction and leave it be. It’s rarely more than a line or two. However, when a vendor tries to tell me that I didn’t mention that we’re brewing beer the first week of July, in a click I can tell him exactly when we had that conversation, what his response was, and if it was via email, I have a time/date stamp to help me find the actual correspondence to forward back to him.
Should I meet with a potential client, I can make quick notes about his schedule and intentions. Then I time my follow-up for when he expected he might need my services. It helps to note things that come up in conversation, like, maybe he enjoys water skiing. So I when I reach out to him about that direct mail project he was considering me for, I can ask if he has enjoyed any good water skiing outings this summer. It’s not that I don’t pay attention and listen, it’s just that Evernote helps me remember what I heard.
With a client who has a lot of balls in the air, I can use Evernote to help him keep track of projects he’s mentioned, but then stuck on the back burner because he’s got a lot on his plate. That’s a potential paying project that could slip through my fingers because a goal has lost priority, but if I can bring him back to the reason why he wanted to publish that brochure, or build that web site, that’s me looking out for both my client and my bottom-line.
Evernote is one of the most popular applications out there. I don’t have to sell anyone on that. But as a tool for keeping your footing in the vicious undertow of communication, it is invaluable.