I tend to get many of the same questions over and over again. I’ve set up this FAQ page to answer the more frequently asked questions for me and for Thoughts and Designs.
I’ve also linked to posts, where applicable, that answer these questions in more detail.
Table of Contents for my FAQ:
- Questions About This Website
- Questions About Productivity
- Questions About WordPress and Web Design
- Questions About Writing and Creating Art
- Questions About Zazzle and Designing T-Shirts
Why did you originally start this site (as JoyfulMomma.org)?
I started the site as “Joyful Momma” as a place to write. I shared my thoughts on motherhood in particular and the Christian life in general.
Writing about life, I have found, seems to affect life in a way. I found that the more I wrote about things, the more I honed in on what I believed, and why I believed it.
Why Thoughts & Designs?
I wanted to come up with a name that bridged both aspects of what I do, as a writer and an artist. I finally settled on Thoughts & Designs because I feel it sums up who I am and what I do on this site.
Have your views on different issues changed much over the years?
Yes and no.
I really am passionate about encouraging moms to enjoy the journey. I believe in taking the time to help and guide your kids as they learn to navigate this world.
I think when I was starting out, I had a more idealistic, uber conservative view on many things.
I like things black and white, but perhaps with the wisdom of age, I’ve come to see that it’s not always so simple.
I’ve come to realize that most people who go off on tangents are losing sight of the most important part of serving God. The most important aspect of serving God is not what church you go to. It’s not what version of the Bible you read. It’s not what kind of clothes you wear, what sort of school your kids go to, and what political party you belong to.
No, the most important part of serving God is Loving God and Loving the People He has made.the most important part of serving God is Loving God and Loving the People He has made Click To Tweet
Now, loving God will cause us to change how we live, and it will prompt us in different directions than we were on. God leads His dear children along, as the song goes. As long as we are seeking Him in prayer and Bible study He will guide. If we focus on loving Him and loving those He has made, we’re not going to go off the deep end. We won’t join a militia in rural Idaho or live in a cave avoiding people, as tempting as it may be at times.
Where Did the Posts on Walking with Jesus Go?
Well, as I tried to focus this website more, I realized I had three different main topics here. I moved all my specifically Christian posts on walking with the Lord to a new blog. The Blog is called Quiet Times in Loud Households after I book I wrote over twelve years ago.
Why are you passionate about productivity?
I’m a productivity junkie!
I am pretty obsessive about organizational things. I’ve learned over the years that, to get things done, I need to build in some discipline and order into my life.
I also have learned that what works for others may or may not work for me. I had to come up with a way to order my life in such a way that I am able to be as productive as possible.
Note, I didn’t say “as productive as I want to be”.
There are not enough hours in the day to do everything we feel we should do, everything we want to do, and everything we get suckered into doing. It’s true.
This is why I like to emphasize figuring out your priorities, and focusing on that. If we take care of what is most important to us, we maximize our productivity.
How do you find the time for….?
When I’m asked this, I am aware in an instant that when you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else.
If you don’t have the time to do [blank], that doesn’t mean I am more organized or that I have more hours in my day. It means that I am saying no to some things that you are saying yes to so that I can say yes to something else.
Again, it’s about priorities more than time.
We all have the same amount of Time, but we don’t all have the same Priorities.
I’ve given up on a spotless house. At some point, I realized that the time spent making my house sparkle wasn’t as important to me as other things (GASP! I know, right?). My house is clean and kept, but most of you would put me to shame in this area. I’ve chosen to accept my limitations in this area and move on. I try not to spend longer than an hour on any housework other than cooking (which I enjoy).
We all make choices based on what’s important to us.
- How to Focus on what is Really Important To You
- The Secret Road-Map to Getting More Done
You talk about the seasons of life often. How have those seasons affected your life?
Well, right now, looking back, I can see it so clearly, for better and for worse.
When you are a new mom with one or more babies or toddlers, the days are super long. What we don’t realize at that moment is that though the days are long, the years are short. That season, the one where you have babies and toddlers, only feels like it lasts 2 million years. That’s the sleep deprivation talking.
- Are Stay at Home Moms Burying Their Talents?
Do You have Any regrets?
You can’t really do anything with them. I guess I’ve had to come to accept that most of my regrets come from things that God used to shape me into a better person.
There are two regrets I do have that I really do wish I had done differently.
- I wish I would have chosen my battles wisely, and been more compassionate in different times in my life. I was black and white on many issues, and as you grow older, you realize that life is not so neatly packaged, as your idealism wishes it was. As I mentioned earlier, you really can’t go wrong with focusing on loving God and loving the people He has made. It’s wise to filter all the extra twaddle of life and faith through those two commandments.
- I wish I would have learned earlier when to disregard advice. Just because someone you respect is giving you advice doesn’t mean the advice is the best thing for you now.
Did you learn how to create websites in college?
The short answer: No!
Would you believe the world wide web wasn’t around yet? It’s true. I’m ancient.
I learned how to create websites when I first created my own website back in 2004. It was awful, and I’d not want anyone to see it now, but I did it.
I enjoyed the process so much that I took some courses in creating websites. Later I branched out into learning web development. After that, as WordPress became popular, I learned to use WordPress via courses and books.
With technology changing so quickly, it’s important to know how to learn. You can’t learn something like web development or even WordPress and expect the info you learned to stay the same. It changes frequently.
When did you first begin to create websites professionally?
Right after I created my first website for myself (2004), I helped a friend with hers.
After that, I would help others from time to time with websites. I originally had no intention of being a web designer. I saw a need for clear information for entrepreneurs and work from home moms on starting a website. I also wanted to make websites affordable.
I’ve created over two dozen websites over the years. Not all these websites still exist. I continue to enjoy working on a few of them that continue to hire me for updates and changes.
After my children have now become adults, I’m transitioning to working full-time again. I’ve developed several WordPress Packages to help others get on the web.
Why do you like to use WordPress? Isn’t it just for Bloggers?
WordPress is not just for bloggers. WordPress is a powerful Content Management System. Platforms like WordPress were originally used for blogging, but they are so much more.
The best part about WordPress is that you don’t have to understand the technical aspects of web development to use it. WordPress allows you to create content on the web without touching code!
I’m pretty sure that if WordPress was around in 2004, I wouldn’t have learned web development. I’d have just used WordPress. Easy peasy.
How easy is WordPress to use?
If you can create a document in Word, you can use WordPress. Once your WordPress site is installed, configured, and customized, the rest of it is a breeze.
What’s the hardest part of being a writer and artist?
I would have to say, Being Consistent no matter how you are “feeling” at the moment.
Consistency is hard, no matter the topic 🙂
As an artist, I don’t share everything I create. There are sketchbooks and journals, and then there are masterpieces. For the longest time, I shared everything I created. I realized while at the museum that most of “the greats” didn’t do that. They even painted over some old pictures to not waste the canvas.
I have recently been reading DaVinci’s journals and sketchbooks. This has made me even more aware of the value of just drawing and creating. DaVinci sketched for no reason and with no thought of who may one day see it, or what he might “earn” off of it.
I try to draw pretty much every day, just as a matter of discipline. I find that drawing even while I’m not “inspired” makes me more creative and productive.
As far as being a writer, I struggle with feedback. I think the hardest part is the reaction to what I write. The periods when I’ve gone silent was usually prefaced by some kind of discouragement or frustration.
One time that stands out to me in particular, I was writing a series on my time backpacking around Europe. I used the word “ex-patriot”. Well, I got hammered in comments and email. Ex-patriot means “someone living abroad” and does not mean “I hate my country”. Apparently few people knew that, judging from the angry messages. Having spent lots of time as an ex-patriot, I thought everyone knew what an expat was… nope.
I also find it hard, as a writer, to balance writing about something that is going on while using discretion. When it comes to talking about my family this is a struggle. My husband would say, “Oh you should write about this happening…”. After we talk it over, we usually decide it’s not something you want the whole world to know. This is out of respect to our kids and whoever may Google her name one day as she applies for a job somewhere.
Do you have a process for creating art or ebooks then?
My creative process varies based on whether it’s a client project or just something I wanted to do. I sum up my creative process in each of these articles
Do you draw with the computer or with a pencil most of the time?
Both. For a while, after I got back to art after the season of extreme mothering (5 kids in 6 years, you guys), I went digital. I enjoyed getting to know the new programs that were out and playing around with all the cool buttons. I’m ADHD like that.
Now I use a more balanced approach. I usually start out sketching out ideas in a sketchbook. As my sketch becomes more finished, I take a picture with my phone camera. Then I import it into a program like Adobe Illustrator to finish it off.
Did you know that Adobe Illustrator has an Auto-Trace Button?
Yes, but I still use the pen tool.
Trace is great for small items that have little detail. I have learned the hard way that it’s better to create a vector shape with the pen tool the first time around. You’ll be more frustrated if you take a shortcut the first time every time you try to use that shape thereafter.
Most of the shapes I use, especially the icons I’ve created for this site, for example, I’m going to use over and over again. I’d be wise to take the time the first time around. I find that, on most imported things, the trace feature creates more work than it saves.
Why do you use Zazzle to sell designs?
I originally started to use Zazzle during my year-long Side Hustle challenge that I did with a friend. You can read more about that crazy experiment here.
The idea was to see what common home business ideas (that weren’t a business in a box programs) work for work from home moms.
Zazzle has the added benefit, for me, of handling all the administrative stuff while letting me simply design. It has it’s flaws, which I discuss below. I find it a great side source of income.
What is Zazzle?
Zazzle is a Print-on-Demand company. It allows designers to put their own unique custom designs on a wide range of products. The products include T-shirts, labels, cards, wedding invitations, tote bags, and more.
I’ve written many articles on how to use Zazzle not only to make some extra money but also to find unique, custom products to meet your needs.
One of the biggest benefits of print-on-demand companies like Zazzle is being able to test out a product idea without waste. Manufacturers and publishers take a big risk when they publish or manufacture a large run of any book or product.
Do you like Zazzle?
For the most part, I’m happy with Zazzle.
The primary complaint I have with Zazzle is with their policies. I’ve had several designs taken down for violating their policies with no clarification. I can assume that, although my designs were uniquely my own, part of the design was flagged as copyrighted. For example, I had a popular family vacation t-shirt. This design had a VW camper on it (hand drawn by me) with the words “retro road trip”. Despite selling well for over a year, it was just removed for copyright violations. I think it’s hilarious, given that someone at VW retweeted it! Clearly VW wasn’t upset about it.
The other problem is price margin.
When doing print on demand, unit costs are higher as you’re only printing one at a time, as needed. So, I understand the reasoning behind the prices. Designers like me only make about 10% on each sale.
The benefits to using Zazzle are:
I don’t have to do large runs of each design, and hope they sell. There’s no waste and no large investment up front, other than time.
I get a 1099 for my taxes, instead of having to keep track of each sale. So much easier.
They take care of everything except product creation, and promotion. If your design catches Zazzles eye, sometimes they will promote your product on the front page. If someone goes to Zazzle looking for something specific, your design may turn up in their search.
For the most part, it’s up to you to promote your own store and products, using the usual digital marketing practices.
How do I get started creating for Zazzle?
Create a store at Zazzle (click on the button for designers).
Create a design at a high resolution in a drawing program (such as Adobe Illustrator). Save it as a high quality PNG (to drop out the white background). Zazzle has some “product templates”. I’ve not been happy with those. I find it best to just make a large, high res image, and resize it in Zazzle’s dashboard, unless it has to be exact.
Click a product to add the image to. Upload the image. Move it around until you get it where you want it.
Click Post for Sale.
Fill out the information about your product using good, descriptive keywords to help people find it.
Set your profit margin (I keep mine around 10-15%).
Share it on Social Media for better results.
I find I get better results, especially on t-shirts, if I wear them around town.
Will I make a boatload of money on Zazzle?
Nothing is “easy money”.
I make a decent amount for something take takes so little time from me. Zazzle paid for a three day road trip up north this past spring. It’s not much, but it keeps growing as I promote it.
The best way to make money on Zazzle is to do your research first. What sells well? Look at the best sellers. Now, don’t try to replicate them, but learn from them. What can you do in your unique style, like that?