Lip Balm Label Limbo

Back at the beginning of August, this happened to me:

What you see here is the polished version of the crisis that this photo represents: my printer decided it hated me. And not just in the annoying paper-jam-from-hell kind of way. Oh no - it decided that it had had enough of printing my lip balm labels and proceeded to chew up one expensive sheet of stickers specially ordered from the US after the next, but making sure to print one of them every now and then (albeit misaligned) just to give me hope that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get enough darn labels out of the thing so that I could sticker the huge batches of lip balms I had made for a big show coming up that weekend. Would the evil printer win? Could I summon up enough patience and Kleenex to get what I needed out of that darn machine? In the end, I did get enough printed for the show, but not without shedding countless tears of desperation at 2am (cue that box of Kleenex) and crunching up dozens and dozens of sheets of stickers. I was angry and relieved and a little scared too: "Get labels professionally printed" had been on my "to do, eventually" list for a while. But now? Yeah, they needed to happen. Like, yesterday. Luckily, I had been poking around for a while to see who I might eventually outsource this project to and had already asked for quotes, so I was ahead of the game in that department, but it was still a big step, and there were some questions to answer first, which was one of the main reasons I had been procrastinating for so long. Questions like: Do I need enough labels to meet the minimum order quantities? Exactly how many labels do I need (which also leads to "How many lip balms am I planning on selling in each flavour?" "Do you really think that number is realistic?" and "What if you're wrong?") Yup - the kinds of questions that make me squirm but that I can, in fact, solve pretty easily with a spreadsheet and a cup of coffee, you know, when I stop avoiding them and actually sit down and do it. As time-consuming and frustrating as it was to print my own labels at home, it did bring me some comfort in the form of control. It was nice to be able to print off just what I needed, when I needed it, on a whim even. And if I messed up a sheet? It was frustrating, but at least I hadn't committed to printing 1000 of the same. Gulp. Yes, I'd have to commit to printing 1000's now. What if I made a typo and didn't catch it? What if the files I sent them were all wrong and it all came out terribly? I felt silly to be so worried - after all, I have years of experience working in print production in a past job. But with a small but important difference: I don't have a whole team of graphic designers at my disposal anymore. Just me. After giving myself a pep talk and reaching out to my chosen printer to see what they could do to support me and ensure that it all went smoothly, I was feeling a lot better. They could have their designers double check the files to make sure they'd print perfectly and send me proofs to double check the colours too. And when I wanted to tweak some of them at the last minute, I was relieved that they were happy to help me with that as well. Sometimes, when I call upon my past experience from working for big companies, it makes it painfully obvious to me how small my business is in comparison, and I always fear I won't be taken seriously, and it was such a relief to learn that this wouldn't be the case at all. Once I was in the thick of the project, I realized that once I got over this hump of planning my first print run, all that time I had invested into this would pay off so sweetly the next time I needed more labels since most of the work was being done this first time around. That, and I would never have to plead with the printer gods for just one more sheet of stickers on my home printer at 2am again! I was ticking off another box on the list of upgrades I had been wanting to implement into my business, and it was so satisfying! And an upgrade it was! When the courier arrived with my box of labels, I was almost scared to open them. But when I did, I was so excited - they looked fantastic, and there were other perks too! Although the labels I was using before were amazing quality, these are even better: the tamper-proof tabs are more tamper-proof, the texture is nice and silky and makes them so easy to handle inside my displays, and basically, they really are everything I was hoping for!

Another interesting thing happened during this period of lip balm label limbo: the total value of the orders I received from my customers during the time I worked on the project equaled the amount of the invoice for the label printing almost to the penny! Sure, it could be coincidence, but I'd much rather believe that it's a sign I'm headed in the right direction.