Big Changes for Cowbelly

I was initially going to make this post about a specific new business change that occurred today, but started thinking about all of these other things I wanted to post and realized that I needed to make an entire post of all of the changes, if that makes any sense at all. I have a feeling this may be long so consider yourself forewarned.

First, let me say that I am now 4 years and 9 months into my business (3 years of doing pet photography/dog art full time) and boy are things a’ changin. I had always heard that the 5 year mark for most businesses was a time of change and positive growth, a transition out of the start-up phase, but that always seemed intangible to me.

Now I’m starting to get it.

I was thinking tonight about how unreasonably challenging last year was on so many different levels, and realized that last year may be the reason why Karma is now blessing me with her beauty and grace.

So many cool things are happening right now and I just wanted to share them with you my lovely blog audience.

First, the change that happened today.

A new benefit to clients:

The ability to order professional-quality prints, stretched canvases, greeting cards, and other gift products, directly from their private online galleries.

No more sending me print orders in email. No more having to wait for me to process and mail the orders. No more messing around with custom invoices. No more waiting for my busy butt to get stuff back to them. All very good things for all parties involved.

Clients will receive outstanding prints on their choice of matte, glossy or lustre paper, shipped directly to them.

The prices are staying the same on both prints and stretched photographic canvases.

I have yet to decide if I will use their canvases for my Decopaw art. It remains to be seen and is based on a number of different factors.

Now, I have to say that I have always had the option for backend print order fulfillment from my galleries, but was unhappy with the print quality in the past, so decided to do my own printing.

I have been using the Epson R1800 printer, a great printer that makes really fantastic truly archival prints, but in the past 6 months or so it has been getting more finicky by the day, as Epson printers are known to do. After a recent argument between myself and the printer that turned physical, resulting in Fergie hiding in fear in the dark bathroom, I decided it was time for a change.

That change came when this morning I received an email from my online gallery host (smugmug for the curious, which btw is a *fantastic* company) notifying users that they were changing papers to Kodak Super Endura (I won’t mention what the old paper was as I have nothing personal against them).

Last week I ordered test prints from another lab that are ironically printed on the exact same Kodak paper, and when I read the email from smugmug today, those prints were sitting right in front of me. I was very pleased with the prints (had actually decided to go with the other lab), and really stunned at the turn of events, but remember what I said about Karma?

After about 2 hours I was up and running with pricing and everything set up in my galleries. (btw: I just counted and I currently have 148 galleries online- I need to do some serious housecleaning!)

Go check it out and play around with it here:

http://cowbellyproofs.smugmug.com/gallery/4635455_ftvjb#273610475

Oh, and if you’d like to purchase a print, by all means go ahead, they really are quite beautiful.

The only thing that users (me) can’t customize with css and html coding is the final checkout/shopping cart, but I know those things can be very tricky. Smugmug is growing by leaps and bounds and they have it on their to-do list so it’s just a matter of time.

To say I am thrilled with this new development and change to my business would be an understatement. Add this to the new widescreen slideshow and xl image preview and I am a very happy camper.

Side note to my pet photographer friends: if you’d like to set up a pro account with smugmug (not only are they a fantastic company but they all have dogs and love them!), send me an email to info@cowbelly.com and let me know. I believe I can get you a referral discount. Also, are you a flickr user? Smugmug will transfer all of your images over for free!

The next thing is I am in the process of hiring an assistant. I finally got over my bad past experiences and found someone I am really excited to work with, yippee!

She starts next week and I promise at some point to do a little interview with her for this blog so you can get to know her a little. I might even post a picture of her. Her name is Christina, she is a real go-getter and highly organized, two things I desperately need right now (oh yeah, and someone to answer phone calls and emails.)

So for my clients who read this, when you contact me, it’s highly likely Christina will be the one you talk to, but if you want to talk to me personally, just let her know. I do know that my clients like to send me personal “how’s it going” emails from time to time which I love to receive and reply to. That won’t change. This change will only be for the better.

(Side note to Rebecca- after sharing my past horror stories with Christina, she *volunteered* to sign a non-compete contract and I have that and an NDA already lined up. Love this girl).

Let’s see, what else.

Oh yes, since there will be little room for Christina and I in my home office, I have been diligently looking for studio space to lease. Online anyway. I mean, I have been looking online; the studio space isn’t online. Hmm, that would be weird.

I have my heart set on one specific (very rad) place so please send your positive energy my way, say your prayers, or do your little happy dance that I get it. I need to wait another month or two to make sure I have the funds but if it works out the way I want it to it will be incredible.

BTW: if anyone in the Seattle area has a desk they would like to give away for free (I’d only need it between now and the time we get a studio) let me know. I don’t care what it looks like, I just need it to hold a heavy emac!

Auscape update: I heard back from Auscape this weekend and was bowled over to see that they requested 103 of the initial 340 images I sent them. I don’t know what the average is, but for someone like me who really doesn’t know what they are doing in that area it’s huge. That’s 30% of the images I sent them.

The files are all prepped and ready to go as TIFFS, I just need to burn the CD and mail it off. I am very excited to officially become part of the Auscape team.

Let’s see, what else is there…. oh yes, a couple, actually, few, projects that I can’t give details on yet, but have aluded to in past posts.

Two projects have a launch date of May something-or-other. One is a smallish, but very exciting project nevertheless, and the other is a much (much) bigger project I have been working hard on since early January and really hope to launch by May 1st.

Which leads me to my next point.

The months of April and May will be filled with quite a lot of non-client work while I work on these special projects.

I will still be booking clients for shoots (fewer clients for art commissions), but probably won’t have the flexibility to do any last-minute bookings, especially in April. If you are a potential new client and would like to do a shoot with me soon, please p
lan to book it at least 3 weeks out. The projects are taking top priority which means they have first dibs with my schedule.

Total aside: I am currently eating some baby carrots I bought tonight at Safeway and holy cow are they good. Sweet, crunchy, and very fresh.

Lastly, look for some exciting things in the way of my partnership with CityDog Magazine, specifically for the summer issue.

Speaking of summer, does it feel stuffy in here?

It seems like it is so stuffy in our homes, our offices, our cars this time of year.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer, to be able to open the windows, get out into nature and let the breeze blow through my hair. Can’t wait for summer!

Thanks for reading this dreadfully long post and I hope you are having a great week!

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