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Jul
19

Launching Art with Cattitude: A Whole Other Animal

So, if you’ve read the Creation Story, you may remember it took over a year to this baby off the ground. “Why was that?” you ask. “Did it take you that long to draw all the cat art?”

Heck no! The art was a breeze, compared to everything that had to go into launching the site and really getting it going. In fact, I feel that we are still experiencing birth pangs.

True, I have run a successful graphic design and marketing communications business for years. Actually 25 years (you can visit our corporate site at http://www.designthatworks.com)! But almost all our clients are B2B (meaning Business To Business) – we don’t work with retail companies or big consumer chains. So I’ve never actually had to figure out how to run a retail business of my own, never mind how to design, build and launch a site where folks can actually buy stuff.

OK, I can hear a lot of you saying, “Hey, there’s this great art site called Etsy, have you been living under a rock? Why didn’t you use Etsy to build your site and business?” Well, to be perfectly frank (which I nearly always am anyway), I was going to put all my Cattitude art up on Etsy. I spent months in 2011 studying up on it. I went to hundreds of cat-related artists’ pages. And read page after page of Etsy’s rules and regulations. And even began designing the banner for my page. But the more I learned, the more I realized that I would be relinquishing more control than I could handle.

See, almost all artists (and especially graphic designers) are control freaks. We have little or no control over our clients (as some of my readers know), so we tend to want to control whatever else we can. So one day, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: I didn’t want to go on Etsy. Nothing personal, Etsy, I know lots of people just love you. But I wanted to have it be mine, ALL MINE (cue the evil bwa-ha-ha laugh here).

But how to make that happen? In a still-struggling economy? Well, if you know as many people “in the business” as I do, you can find someone to work a trade with. So I agreed to do a logo design for a new consulting business if the client’s significant other would build my website and help me get comfortable with WordPress (yet another story).

But before I could do that, I had to copyright the artwork. Oh sure, some of you are probably familiar with copyright law that says, basically: “The creator of the artwork (or whatever) is the sole owner of the work at the moment of creation, yada yada.” And that is true, as far as it goes. BUT. If you are putting cool stuff up on the Internet without going through the formal copyright process with the US government, you are opening yourself up for all kinds of hurt. People have a tendency to steal stuff out there on the Web, you know! (“I’ll just download these fun images and use them for my own!”)

Copyright is not an easy process. You have to download a 30+ page PDF giving you helpful hints on how to do all the forms correctly. I went through all that, did the best I could, and I still got emails from the government office telling me that I did some things wrong… well, you get the idea.

So all this took a while. A lot longer in fact than I thought it would. Then, there’s getting printing costs for the cards. And what about labels? And envelopes? And prototype T-shirts? And tote bags? And a merchant account with PayPal? And, and and…

And last but not least, I was trying to do all this in my “spare” time, meaning I could really only work on this when things were slow and my “real” business wasn’t keeping me that busy.

So that’s just some of the reasons this took so long to get going. Next post: more about our current cat, Theo. You’ll probably enjoy that one more anyway, but I wanted to get this one off my chest.