Has a setback in life forced you to get creative? Have you ever found yourself wondering what would happen if you transformed a creative knack into a business? That’s Katy’s story. She took a challenging time in life and made the most of it, and her dedication has paid off.
Katy has also created a unique technique for turning her handmade drawings and art into digital masterpieces that she can print or sell digitally over and over again. Tune in to hear her unique technique, and great advice on the pros and cons of digital versus print work for artists and creatives.
On The Podcast
01:13 – Flying The Little Red Flag
03:01 – Katy’s Unique Process
06:20 – Hand Drawn Digital Prints
08:30 – Creative, Passive Income
11:40 – Managing Digital Sales
14:35 – Tips for Finding A Local Printer
19:16 – Printing Logistics
21:39 – Use This Tip to Fool-Proof Working with a Printer!
23:38 – Adding New Services
27:30 – Taking A Creative Sabbatical
29:36 – Custom Book Cover Design
32:20 – Who’s Your Competition?
38:14 – “Mommy Did It”- Katy’s Adorable Mom Moment
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Katy
Flying The Little Red Flag
When the company she worked for went under in 2009, Katy Campbell used the setback as an opportunity to get creative. Katy decided to start a stationery shop on Etsy, selling notecards and thank you notes. She named her shop ‘Little Red Flag’ after the red flags on mailboxes. So Cute! But it turns out, stationery wasn’t quite the best fit.
Katy did end up finding a full-time job, and shortly after getting hired found out she was expecting her first son. Wanting to decorate his room in a unique and meaningful way, Katy decided to design prints to fit with her transportation nursery theme. A few friends suggested she sell the products so, using her already-created Etsy shop, she listed a few to see what happened. The rest is history!
Katy’s Unique Process
Katy’s process for creating her products is very unique. Since her shop does have a strong emphasis on nursery prints, Katy keeps herself up to date with current trends in nursery and home decor. Then, she’ll pick an idea that resonates and start sketching or handlettering on paper. Katy then uses an ink pen or Sharpie to trace her sketches (in order to darken the lines), then scans the image to her computer and imports it into Adobe Illustrator.
Using the ‘Live Trace’ function in Illustrator, Katy creates a vector image of the outline. Normally, a bit of cleanup work around the edges will be required. To put the finishing touches on her designs, Katy creates various overlays and adds vintage detail.
Hand Drawn Digital Prints
All digital prints from Little Red Flag begin as a physical drawing, which sets Katy's work apart. Katy considers herself a self-taught designer. While being self-taught may be considered a weakness by some, Katy sees it as a distinct strength. In 8 years of learning as she goes, Katy has developed a style all her own that is impossible to duplicate. She has taken hand lettering and other classes over the years, applying her body of knowledge to each new product.
Creative, Passive Income
Katy’s method of transferring handmade art into digital files for sale is a brilliant way for artists to make a passive income from their products. As part of her business model, Katy does want to experiment with creating custom-drawn clip-art elements that customers can download. She would sell packs of various elements so others could form their own creations, using her designs as a base. Digital items are fabulous additions to any Etsy shop, as they are virtually maintenance free. As a busy mom of three, Katy loves seeing a digital order sale notification come through the Etsy app, knowing she doesn’t need to do anything else to process that order!
Managing Digital Sales
Little Red Flag sells both digital downloads and physical prints. At first, Katy liked having oversight of her prints from ideation to finished product. She decided to test the waters with digital prints when some customers wanted a particular print very quickly. Not being able to guarantee delivery by this customer’s deadline, Katy offered to sell the digital file of her print. Presently, Katy hasn’t made digital print sales a huge priority in her shop, though she does admit Etsy has made increasing strides for both sellers and buyers to work with digital products. Little Red Flag currently sells more physical than digital prints, but one of Katy’s growing to-do list items is to make each of her physical print listings digital.
Tips for Finding A Local Printer
Katy has found an amazing local printer to work with who makes ordering small batches and quick turn-arounds a breeze. She offers several tips for finding the right local printer, and how to ensure the quality of the finished product is up to your standards.
- Ask your peers. When Katy was on the hunt for a local printer, she talked to fellow designers in her area who were printing similar products and asked for recommendations. Not only is this a fabulous way to build your network, you’ll be sure to get solid recommendations!
- Try a college / university printer. Through her networking, Katy found a print shop attached to a local university with a graphic design program. This is a great win as the printers are geared towards graphic design, which means their paper and ink is high quality and they are willing to do small jobs. We love this kind of thinking outside-the-box!
- Test print quality. Katy suggests sending a smaller job to the print shop first to test the quality. You want to make sure the integrity of your work is preserved. Don’t hesitate to request changes if the final product isn’t to your liking.
- Ask questions. Katy asked specific questions of her printer before giving them her business. Ask about turnaround time. Ask about the size and expertise of their staff. And, importantly, what happens if the print quality isn’t what you expect.
- Build relationships. As a loyal customer, Katy has a very strong relationship with her local print shop. Katy’s printer values her, and they’ve made it a point to make sure she’s a satisfied customer.
Katy stocks popular prints (like her train series, which she sells two to three of a week) and prints those in massive batches. More frequently, a couple of times a week Katy will put the orders she’s gotten into a simple .pdf file and send that to the printer. Because she has a great relationship with her printer, she’s able to print jobs as small as one and as large as fifty.
Use This Tip to Fool-Proof Working with a Printer!
When printing pieces, Katy uses InDesign to import her images into a new file, and then creates a .pdf prepared for bulk printing. Another great way that Katy has built a strong relationship with her printer is by making their job easy! Rather than sending a bunch of different prints and asking for varying quantities of each, Katy sends a single file exactly as it should be printed. So, instead of asking the printer to print one page twenty times, she will send over a file with the twenty pages of the same image they only have to print once. She fool-proofs the printing process by giving the printer just one job – open the document and hit print! What a nice touch!
Adding New Services
Recently, Katy added a custom book cover design service to her listings. In fact, Katy designed the cover of our book, Time Management Mama. She enjoys these special projects as she’s able to take them on with her tight schedule. Although, Katy has realized there are some very interesting book covers needing designed. (To hear just how interesting, you’ll have to listen!) She didn’t realize there was such a booming market for book covers!
Taking A Creative Sabbatical
With an overflowing ‘to-do’ list, Katy decided to take a creative sabbatical. She blocked out several weeks in her schedule to tackle business projects and dream up new plans. We think it’s genius that Katy didn’t set her Etsy shop on ‘vacation mode’, but simply pared down her listings to digital options. This means Katy’s workload during her sabbatical was incredibly manageable, plus she didn’t lose out on sales! Katy’s items are so popular, she still has had incoming conversations asking if certain listings are still available in physical format. Katy then has been able to address those questions on a one-to-one basis and do what’s best for her. Brilliant!
Custom Book Cover Design
With the advent of digital publishing, the self-publishing industry has simply exploded and will likely continue to expand. A new genre of book cover design has sprung up around this trend. Every blogger these days, it seems, has produced an e-book. There is a huge market for digital designers.
One huge benefit of working with a designer for your book cover needs is the continuous working relationship that is formed. As mentioned, Katy actually designed the cover of our ebook, Time Management Mama. When it came time for us to produce the audiobook version of TMM, we needed the same book cover rendered at a different size. The great thing about having already worked with Katy is that we simply asked her to create an Audible-friendly version of our book cover and Viola!
Katy is actually working on a brand new book cover for Sarah's book – which will come out soon! We can't wait to share it with you!
Who’s Your Competition?
Competition is unavoidable in the marketplace. Custom designers are up against services like 99designs, which promise hasty turnarounds but not a great deal of true customization. We prefer to use the services of other hard working mamas, and we know a lot of our listeners do, too! Don’t give up on Etsy. Business owners can actually solve a great many of their problems by utilizing Etsy, or other freelance services.
The Internet Age has changed the terms of intellectual property, as well. It’s easy to be inspired and do great work, but forget the original source. Katy uses the example of her aunt asking her to design a logo for a highly competitive niche. The logo Katy needed to design couldn’t even hint at any sort of copyright infringement. She had to do extensive research to protect the originality of her product. Big-box services like 99designs aren’t personally invested in the outcome of a product, so they may not be as compelled to take the extra mile with each client’s logo. These are issues you'll want to think through when outsourcing design work.
“Mommy Did It”- Katy’s Adorable Mom Moment
Nothing melts Katy’s heart like her children pointing to her work displayed in their rooms and saying, “Mommy did it!” The pride her children have for her business is just too sweet!