Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

Imagine you’re in third grade--your habitat diorama not only extends into several shoe boxes, but at the center of your Stonehenge of micro dioramas lies a lake with real water in it.  Now imagine you are a Freshman in High School and you stay up all night perfecting your Monopoly themed “Freshman portfolio” and have your first coffee the next morning.  Fast forward to your senior project where a solid essay would have sufficed, instead you insisted on putting on a production of The Fantasticks--not only staring as the main ingenue but also directing and producing the play.


Sounds impressive, right? Well, sure it was! And did I get extraordinary praise and accolades for these elaborate and (dare I say) over-the-top projects, of course I did.  Was I a total brown nosing teacher’s pet?!?! You bet your booty I was!


All my life I have received great praise and derived a tremendous sense of satisfaction and self worth from going above and beyond in all that I do.  I relished the moments when people would call me a “Leslie Knope.”  My perfectionist tendencies have served me well both in the classroom as a student and as a teacher.  It lent itself well to role as a librarian.  I’ve always considered my “prior proper planning” to be my winning feature! I was ready for anything.  You should have seen the dossier I gave to my mother when she came to help us out when I gave birth to my daughter.  There were five pages about the dogs alone! 

 

Kate looks at her painting with her coffee cup.  She doesn't look content, as if she is looking for flaws.


Until about a year ago, I felt like this quality was not only a main part of who I was as a person, but also the biggest thing that I had to offer this world.  About six months into my new role as mom, I started to struggle with postpartum depression. It became pretty clear that it is impossible to be the perfect mom, doing all the right things.  The depression made it increasingly difficult to do simple tasks, let alone excel at them.  I felt like if I didn’t do everything perfectly then I was a bad mom, a bad wife, and ultimately a bad person.  


Right around this time, a little thing called COVID-19 (maybe you’ve heard of it) arrived on the scene and made it infinitely clearer that nothing was predictable.  Oh, did I mention that right around this time I decided to start my watercolor stationery goods business?!?! (A true perfectionist move--to jump into a large project even when you’re in way over your head.)


Now, I don’t regret starting my business at that time.  It actually was incredibly helpful in getting me through my PPD (along with therapy and medication) but my mindset at the time was “I’ve gotta do it all” and “nothing but the absolute best”.  Needless to say, this led to a pretty quick burnout and many a panic attack.  I had gotten my shop up and running, sales were going well, everything looked professional, but I was a HOT MESS.  I wasn’t sleeping well, I could hardly eat, my stomach was in knots, I didn’t have anything to give back to my family emotionally.  I was no longer able to do my best work.  Something had to give. 


In working with a parenting coach, Christy Keating at The Heartful ParentI realized that this perfectionist lifestyle, while serving me well in the past, no longer worked for me.  In having a child, a family, and a business, as well as my own self to care for, I could no longer pour myself into projects in the same way.  That was a game for my 20 year old self. (But honestly, I probably could have used a lot more balance back then too).


With juggling multiple areas of my life, the planning and predictability, the “perfect-ness” if you will, was no longer serving me.  It was actually holding me back.  Instead what I needed was a plan with flexibility--a plan that allowed me to step back and say, “actually my daughter needs my attention right now,” or “I could really use a nap.”  


I know this message may seem counterintuitive to most small business owners--we’re constantly told to hustle hustle hustle, no rest for the weary, no pain no gain, blah blah blah. But since deciding to take a step back and break up with my perfectionist ways I’ve actually been able to be more productive during the times that I am working.  Additionally, I have an exponentially better relationship with myself and my family.  


This year, my word of the year is GENTLE, so I am constantly remembering to be gentle with myself.  This means gentle with the goals I hold myself to, gentle to myself when I don’t meet expectations, gentle with myself when I need a break.

Kate sits with her planner looking happy and relaxed, smiling at the camera


If this sounds like something that might be a good step for you, I wanted to share a few things that helped me leave behind my perfectionist ways. 


  1. Breaking up with my to-do list.  Now I don’t totally go rogue or anything. I still have tasks and goals, but rather than having 100000 things to do each day for the whole week and feeling like a total failure when I only accomplish one of them and everything else gets derailed--I now have a list of what I need to accomplish for the week and a few bonus items if I have the time.  Each day I take a look at the list and think about what I’m in the mood for that day.  Some days I’m really in the mood to write delightful blog posts and other days I just want to paint.  Some days I need to just do some yoga and play with my daughter.  I try to plan my days intuitively, based on how I feel that day.  Obviously there are going to be times when we can’t do this, but by living intuitively most of the time, it helps us not burn out when we have to put our nose to the grindstone.  This is one of the benefits of being my own boss.
  2. Knowing it’s okay to not follow through sometimes. Whenever I would say I was going to do something, you can bet that I made that bitty boo happen.  Did I kill myself doing it?!?  You betcha.  But did I do it?!?!  Of course. Many times these things didn’t even really matter to anyone but me. For example, I made a goal with myself this year to send one letter a day.  Old me would have freaked out if I didn’t stay on top of it.  Old me would have made it happen even at the expense of other more important things.  New me is not doing a great job with my goal of one letter every day, but when I am able to write a letter here and there it has been much more enjoyable when it’s being written out of pleasure rather than sheer stubbornness. There is strength in releasing tasks that are not serving you at that time. 
  3. Saying NO! This is one that I know a lot of folks, especially people pleasers like myself have trouble with.  When making my goals for this year, I made sure to be pretty clear about what I did and didn’t want to accomplish, and I’ve gotta say, it’s helped make it a whole lot easier to say no.  If it doesn’t serve my goals, it’s not happening.  I’ve had a couple requests to create materials for styled shoots for wedding vendors and since I am stepping back from weddings this year to focus on my products, this was an easy no.  And you know what?!?!  It felt good! 
  4. Watercolor as a Medium. While the above list works well for anyone in any line of work, I have to say that watercolor itself is great for helping me let go.  I don’t know if you know this, but water doesn’t exactly do everything you want it to.  Watercolor is an art form where you can plan and manipulate the paint as much as you want but sometimes water will still have her way with your painting.  I’ve actually found a lot of peace in this.  I’m learning to love the unexpected beauty of water’s wily ways with every painting.
  5. Therapy and Medication. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention these two crucial ingredients.  Therapy has helped me to unpack a lot of why I feel like my perfectionism determines my feeling of self worth.  Medication has helped take the anxiety out of letting some things go.  Rather than focusing on the things I’m missing, it has helped my brain to quiet down and focus on what I am doing in the present.


I know I am not the only one who struggles with these feelings.  I hope these little tips are helpful for you too.


If you want to know more about how I broke up with my to do list, I’ve provided a little handout cheat sheet so you can try it too.  Sign up for my email newsletter to get the PDF.  My newsletter is where I share all my discount codes too! EXTRA bonus! Woohoo!

 

 

February 23, 2021 — KATE TALCOTT
Some festive walnuts, cookies and cinnamon sticks

Holiday Hacks to Make You Look Like You Have Your Shit Together!

Do you have that friend who always has her act together? She never forgets a birthday, she’s the first to RSVP to events, she even gets her Christmas cards out the first week of December.  You KNOW she isn’t waiting until the last minute for holiday shopping, AND she checked off her whole gift list before the end of cyber Monday!  How the heck does she do it?!?! If you, too, struggle with details like this, I am here to help! 

Here are some tips on how to stay on top of all things holiday.


Gifts

 

It is a good idea to START NOW! Now is the time to get going! Especially if you are looking to get a custom piece made for your loved ones.  Artists need time to get these projects done and if you book your commissioned piece early, they are going to be less rushed on your piece too! You won’t have to pay for rush shipping either.   

Make a list--even if you’re waiting for Black Friday to do your purchase, make a list ahead of time.  I know that my sister loves puzzles, so I know to keep my eye out for any elaborate puzzles that come across my path.  Write down the name of the person, the type of item, and the store you want to get it from.  Sign up for that store’s email list so you get first notice of any products, especially if they only have a limited number.  You’ll probably get a sign-up discount too! When you sign up for my newsletter, you get a sweet welcome coupon code! 

Sending gifts early is especially important this year with all the USPS cuts.  Packages are taking longer than expected to be delivered already and it will only get busier the closer we get to the holidays.

 

Wrapping

 

 

 

There are lots of fun ways to add some festive flair to your holiday wrapping.  You can get fun wrapping paper and add cute gift tags or sprigs of nature if it’s for someone local.  I like to get butcher paper and decorate my own.  I’ll be putting out some Instagram videos to share how I do this soon!  

If you’re wanting to go with an eco-friendly option, you can make gift bags out of fabric! My mom made us some and she just used two rectangles of fabric and sewed a hem with a ribbon inside for a draw string.  Definitely a good beginners sewing project.

If tape is your enemy and you hate wrapping presents, then see if the places you’re shopping at will gift wrap the items for you! We sure do! For just $6.00 we will wrap your present and write any note you’d like and ship it off to it’s destination.  Who needs the paper cuts anyways!?!?!

 

Holiday Cards

 

 

Let’s be real, the holidays are going to look a little different this year.  Many of us will not be traveling to gather with loved ones. Let them know you care with a greeting card!.  Tell them what you loved about the holidays you’ve shared with them and how you can’t wait for a raincheck next year.  

Want something a little more personalized?  You can get a family Christmas card printed.  We are offering a very limited number of family holiday card design slots.  Sign up for yours here.  If you have your heart set on custom holiday cards, now is the time! We can even print out a holiday letter and get your envelopes addressed printed for you--talk about easy! The season is always so hectic, let us handle it for you! 

 

Festive Decorations

 

 

This is my favorite! I have a minor (INTENSE) obsession with the little felty creatures.  This year I am trying to start making my own Christmas Village out of my felty critters! We also got a potted tree that we can bring inside for the season and put back outside to continue growing.  There are so many types of decorations, it can be overwhelming, but think about your style and values.  I love delightful charm and we are trying to find ways to be more ecologically minded so these two elements fit perfectly for our holiday decorations.  Do you love opulence? Maybe a tree with all gold ornaments is for you! If you love snarky sayings bust out the punny decor and you are good to go! Whatever your vibe is, my best hack is to think about the types of things you like and go nuts on the sales after Christmas so you get all your items at a discount! Then you can dream about them the rest of the year! 

 

Aftermath: Thank you notes. 

 

 

Okay, so imagine...Christmas is over.  You’ve cleaned up the wreckage and scrubbed out all the candy cane sticky spots off your couch.  All you want to do is relax.  Oh wait, what is that? The nagging pull of decorum and responsibility?!? Did Aunt Edith get me the candle or the blanket? Who gave your child that toy that sings that you’ve already hid the batteries for? Don’t leave your thank you notes to chance! Keep track of your loved ones generosity with our Thank You Notes and Thank Yule Log(coming soon!)! Never forget a thank you note again! 

 

Whew! How exhausting! I think it's time to sit back with a cozy blanket, some fuzzy slippers, a good book, and a big ol' mug of peppermint hot chocolate! 

  

October 27, 2020 — KATE TALCOTT
How To Set Up An E-Commerce Site For Your Creative Business

How To Set Up An E-Commerce Site For Your Creative Business

Getting your e-commerce site set up is a really big step in taking your business to the next level. Now that we’ve been up and running for a while now, I thought I’d share a bit about what it was like to start the site while I still remember all the details. I’d like to do a deep dive into each of the steps, but for now this will be an overview.

While I have a background in retail and librarianship and I’m used to processing products, this was a whole new world for me.  I knew next to nothing about pretty much anything relating to e-commerce, but luckily with the tools available these days, it makes it pretty easy to figure out.  The first big hurdle is figuring out what platform you want to use. This could be a whole big blogpost, but we ended up using Shopify because it has a lot of really great e-commerce features at a pretty low price.

Getting enough products ready for the launch was also a big concern.  How many designs is enough to warrant a shop?  That really depends.  We started out with an assortment of 15 items.  I felt comfortable opening a shop once I had a steady stream of commission inquiries for custom portraits to cover the costs of keeping the shop open and a subscription to my newsletter software, Flodesk (Click this affiliate link to get ½ off a subscription).

Knowing how much to order was a big mystery to me.  I opted for ordering less, even though it would cost more for this first run, since I wanted to get a sense of what would sell.  When you order in bulk you can get a discount, but we weren’t quite ready to order that large of a quantity. It was very clear what needed to change in even the first week of opening.  I had an individual thank you card and people kept buying 8 or 10 copies of that same card.  Duh! Thank you cards should come in a set, so we were able to make those changes moving forward.

 

Thank you card set

 

You’ll need to know a lot of details about your products for when you put them up in your shop.  How big is it? How much does it weigh? What is it made of? Is it eco-friendly? What packaging will it come in? I made a handy-dandy spreadsheet with all this information including a SKU (which is an identification code for the item), item title, item description, cost, and all the other little details. 

Pricing is probably the biggest question that people have about adding products.  Especially if you are an artist, it is hard to judge how much your art is worth.  If you ask your mom, it’s at least one million dollars, if you ask some random person, they might say five dollars.  In order to price an item, first you have to know how much it costs you to make it.  let’s say it costs you $1.50 for the materials for a printed card, envelope, and packaging--you definitely want to make sure you charge more than that.  In addition to looking at the original price, you’ll want to look around and see what other people are charging.  You don’t want to charge $7.00 for a card if most cards on the market are $5.00.  Be careful when looking at prices on Etsy, since there is a lot of competitive pricing that drives the cost down.  Look at websites that have the same products as you for reference points. 

Shipping was something that I was pretty intimidated by at first. Luckily Shopify makes it super easy to figure out shipping costs.  I got a scale from Stamps.com for my commission pieces that are not on my website and I used that to weigh all the products. I got some great shipping boxes from ULINE that fit my products perfectly.  You can really go to town on personalized packaging, but we opted to have plain Kraft colored boxes with a label sticker from Sticker Mule on the outside for now.  Here is a link that will give you $10 off your first Sticker Mule order! 

Inside the box is where the branding happens.  We have a little “Thank you for your order” card and a backing for our stickers.  We have belly bands for if people order multiple cards too.  I LOVE packaging and I am eager for when we get to a point where everything can have just the loveliest branding, but for now, this does the trick. 

These are a few little tidbits about some of the big head-scratchers we ran into when creating our e-commerce site.  If you want to know more about the nitty gritty details, join my email list to get my “Setting up your e-commerce site” checklist! 

 

September 30, 2020 — KATE TALCOTT
How To Do A Styled Shoot For Your Creative Business

How To Do A Styled Shoot For Your Creative Business

Getting beautiful pictures for your website and social media isn’t as easy as just snapping a picture on your phone. It is important to get pictures that are not only beautiful, but also capture the overall aesthetic of your creative business.  In today’s post, I’m going to share a little bit about why I decided to go ahead with a styled shoot and how to know if you’re ready to do one too.


There are a lot of reasons why you might not be ready for a styled shoot.  You still don’t know what your brand aesthetic is, you don’t feel like your work is good enough yet, you feel weird getting your picture taken, photographers are expensive, you’ll be ready as soon as you fill in the blank. There are always going to be excuses, but today I’m going to share why you should get moving on your styled shoot TODAY! 


I decided to go ahead with the styled shoot before we launched our website.  I wanted to have nice, professional photos as we launched our online store. I also wanted to get some good filler photos for my Instagram feed so I wasn’t having to scurry around getting cute photos of all my artwork.  I honestly don’t paint fast enough to get one post a day and I didn’t want to put that much time into taking styled photos of my work rather than painting.


I definitely hemmed and hawed about taking this next step.  A professional photographer is a big investment and I just didn’t feel like I was ready for the longest time.  Once I had enough work that I was happy with, I felt more comfortable taking the plunge.  It also helped that I told a friend we would be opening the shop on a certain date and because I’m stubborn I had to stick to it! Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under you! 

 


 

Once I decided we were going to go ahead with the shoot, I booked Marissa from Ciccarelli Photography who had done our family photos the year before.  I love her colorful, bright photos and she was great to work with.  Scroll to the bottom for her best tips and tricks for a styled shoot. When booking her, I really wanted to make sure I went in with a plan (helloooo to my fellow Type As!) I did a lot of research about the look that I wanted.  Especially if you are a new business, you’ll need to figure out if you want a light and airy look, a dark and moody vibe, or maybe you want floral and romantic.  I went with a colorful eclectic vibe, erring on the side of maximalism.  When doing research it is helpful to look around you.  Check out Pinterest, look at other Instagram feeds and websites you love, look at people both in and outside of your industry.  I really like pinning different textures that inspired me. 


For a while, I felt paralyzed by the fact that I was still hammering out the details of my branding.  If you’ve felt this way, you are not alone! But it doesn’t have to be a barrier.  Sometimes working with a photographer that you like can actually help you focus your vision.  Once I got the photos back, I loved them so much! I now try to make the photos I take look like hers.  I am no photographer, but I try to include similar colors and lighting--it’s really helped create a cohesive look for my social media feeds and for the online shop.


Once you know what kind of vibe you are going for, find a photographer who can capture that look you want.  Look through their portfolio and make sure it is a good match.  Let your photographer know what kind of vibe you are looking for - send them your Pinterest board, describe your brand or share pictures of your work.  Tell them why you chose to work with them, what you like about their work and how it relates to your brand.  This helps give them an idea of what you’re looking for! 


Now that you’ve booked the photographer, you’ll want to make sure you have everything ready for your photoshoot day! Depending on if you’re doing a styled shoot of your artwork, headshots, action shots of you working, or all of the above, you’ll need to do a lot to prepare.  I created four different “locations” in and around our house with costume changes, props, and more so that we could get the biggest bang for our buck.  I wanted to make sure that we were getting all the images I could possibly need for the rest of the year.  


You’ll want to think about what images you want.  I wanted some photos where I was painting, some with my family in it, some of just the supplies.  Think about how you want to use the photos.  Andy and I went through our website to find the types of pictures we would need for each of the pages.  We also thought about the types of posts I would need for my Instagram feed.  Now put all these photos together in a list! Add lots of detail! No detail is too small.  One from mine included “Students blurry in foreground, K in focus explaining (gesticulating lol)” I use my hands a lot and I wanted to make sure that was captured in the photos. One photo I wish I got was me holding my products and looking really excited, like “check out this new stuff in the shop,” but now I’ll know for next time! Don’t forget to send this list to the photographer.

 

Props for photoshoot

 

As you’re thinking about your photo list, you’ll want to think about props, outfits, and maybe even hair and makeup.  This is optional, but it might be good to do, especially if you don’t usually wear a ton of makeup.  Getting good makeup for photos is really important.  You’re going to want to wear a bit more than you usually do, but make sure that it is matte so it isn’t shiny on camera.  Also think about a hairstyle that could be put up in different ways so it doesn’t look like you took all the photos on the same day.  Shyn, owner of Pacific Brides did my hair and makeup for my wedding and I am basically obsessed with her so I had her come help with my hair and makeup for this photoshoot.  


Styled shoots are a ton of work and they can cost quite a bit for the photographer, but I am soooo glad that we did it.  I now have a ton of photos that I’m obsessed with and they will go a long way! If you think you’re ready to get started on your styled shoot, you can sign up for my newsletter to get some tips from my photographer and get a free checklist that includes all the nitty gritty for how to prepare for a styled shoot. 

Marissa, from Ciccarelli Photography shares her best tips and tricks for planning a styled shoot: 

1. Be overly prepared. Talk through everything with your photographer like timeline, what you're looking for, your style, mood, and what you're using the photos for (ex: some might need to be square for instagram or a horizontal banner for your website, etc).
2. Have outfits out and ready so that if you're changing it's easy to just slip into the next one without a lot of fuss.
3. Think about lighting and what rooms or locations have pretty light (biggest windows). When shooting outdoors try for a morning or evening time frame so that natural light is softer. 
4. When picking clothes it's not even necessary to buy something new, but to choose clothes that make you feel and look great. It'll show in your photos if you feel confident.
5. Having any still shots already laid out and styled is super helpful. Extra styling items can be close by to swap in and out.
6. Checking out instagram or other websites to have a vision to share is essential for communicating the look you're going for.
Be sure to check out her gorgeous photographs on Instagram, and if you're local to the Seattle area, I highly recommend working with her and her husband for your family, event, or business photos! 
September 16, 2020 — KATE TALCOTT
Behind The Color-Coordinated Coffee Mug

Behind The Color-Coordinated Coffee Mug

“I don’t know how you do it? I didn’t even have time to brush my teeth!”

This is something that has been said to me on many occasions when I tell people I’ve just started a business before my daughter turned one.

September 09, 2020 — KATE TALCOTT