This is a continuation of my How to Print from Home Series, describing the actual process. If you'd like to read more about the materials I use, check out this post.
- Buy materials! After your initial Big Purchase of All Materials, you'll have to keep an ongoing inventory. Mine's not very high-tech, I'll admit. If I notice a material is getting low, I'll write it on my white board. When I get the time (between parenting, printing and painting), I'll quick buy online anything that's on the white board. The other thing I do is keep an excel spreadsheet that lists each item in my inventory, the price, where I purchase it, and any special notes (i.e. free shipping on orders over $50). This means I never have to remember where I get things. AND it's great because if I happen to find a similar item somewhere else, I can quickly compare prices to see if I want to change suppliers.
- Cut: When I'm ready to print some orders, I first need to cut down my paper to the correct size using my rotatrimmer. I keep thinking that I'll someday talk my husband into cutting down a big batch of paper to eliminate this step, but it has yet to happen. No biggie, it only takes a few seconds.
Print: I then hook my printer up to my computer using a USB cable (don't even bother to do a wireless set up. It was inefficient and frustrating and not worth it. Even the Epson tech I called agreed. Just go old school and use the cable). I print exclusively from Photoshop. When I click print, I make sure that the right size paper is chosen, and the right type of paper is chosen. Note that the wrong type of paper forces Photo Ink, instead of Matte Ink, and then you waste lots of ink while the printer switches ink. This probably does not make much sense right now, but if you have more questions about this process, just write me a note in the comments section and I'll be happy to help.
- Package: Once the print is done, I sign it and put it in its clear bag, as quickly as possible, so that nothing can damage it. I then tape the bag to the cardboard pad, tape on my note and my business card, and put it in its mailer. Easy-peasy. If it's a larger size, I put the clear bag in its box and wrap it in bubble wrap and fill the box with filler paper.
- Print: I use Etsy and Shopify to print my shipping labels. They make it very simple. I just have to enter the weights (I have the weights of each size written on my whiteboard so I don't have to weigh each package each time) and then print the label from my small HP printer.
Stay organized: I rearranged my workplace several times before I had it organized in a way that made physical and mental sense. All of my shipping materials are on one side of the room, sorted by size. All of my paper and printing materials are on the other side, also sorted by size. Do you ever drive to a place that you've been a thousand times, and realize you don't even remember driving there? That's how I feel about printing now that things are set up systematically. I don't even have to think about what I'm doing, because everything is where it should be. It has become pleasantly rote. Plus, I can easily see if inventory is low, at a glance.
- Stay clean: Benefits are obvious. Things get lost in a messy room. Prints seem more likely to get bent or dirty. It takes longer to do work. And most of all, clean rooms are a joy to work in. Messy ones are not. I'll admit, if my workroom is getting tornado-y, I'll clean that and just ignore the rest of my house. Busy girl's gotta do what a busy girl has to do.
Stay organized with files too! I realized this months after I started printing, and man, has it made life easier. I finally rearranged all of my files into folders divided by subject matter. I then also made and saved a different file for each size, so that I didn't have to continuously adjust the size for each print. Huge time-saver. The only downside is that it takes up a lot of memory on my computer. Now I save things on an external hard drive, so I'm in the process of moving things over to cloud storage.
- The One-Person Assembly Line: I have found that the most efficient way to get a lot of prints done is through the one-person assembly line. What I mean by this is that as I'm printing one order, I'm packaging up and shipping another. This way I'm constantly working (and not wasting time), and it's less likely that I'll mess up orders. I used to get all of my printing done for the day, lay them out in a line, and then package them all. I confused prints this way and actually sent out the wrong items once. Never again.
Tips for Parents
Are you trying to do this with kids (literally) hanging on your legs, begging for attention? Here are a few tips I've learned.
- Have them help: We're lucky to have a room next to my workroom. I have made this our toy room, and the kids can play in there while I'm getting things done. However, my record is about 12 minutes before they are back in my room, touching things that don't need touching. It's inevitable. Why are non-toys so much more enticing to kids? Anyway, the only thing I can do is make my kids part of the process. They are 2 and 4, so they are not actual help. (But someday, God willing, they will be. That's the crux of my expansion plan.) But they can take the shipping labels fresh out of the small printer and stick them on a box. And they looove to use my 'Do Not Bend' stamp on my envelopes. And they can throw things in the garbage. It's not much, but trust me, it helps!
- Paint boxes. We have so many boxes in our house from the inventory, and for some reason, my son loves to paint on them. It's so much more exciting than paper. He calls it painting furniture. It buys me like 20-30 minutes!
- Work really really hard during nap time. I know this obvious, but isn't this just the hardest?? Isn't it so enticing and seductive to rest while your kids our napping? But really, it's the only way to get actual things done. (And now I very rarely have to stay up late to work!) My love for soda helped me to push past the 2:00 slump. Nowadays I'll rest for about ten minutes, but I only get to drink my beloved Mountain Dew once I stand up and start working. You may not have depraved soda habits like I do, but do try to find a really good treat, and use it exploit yourself. I wrote a few more thoughts on this subject in 'Finding the Time for Art'.
That's all! Feel free to ask questions! And also, check out some tips for scanning in my next post.