My guest today is a speaker, a writer, a mom with a background in tech who does so many things she considers herself untitled. She co-founded Picture This Clothing, a company that went viral with its very first tweet, and has been thriving ever since. Please welcome Jaimee Finney.

Amanda: Hello, Jamie Finney. The last time we talked on a podcast, you had a different last name. You recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of Picture This Cothing by marrying your co-founder, a practical choice because there’s no need to try to remember multiple dates. So congratulations on that. You and Ken started the company together, and obviously it’s going well. I always hear differing opinions of what it’s like to work with a spouse or a friend. How has that been for you?

Jaimee: You know what, for us, it’s been really good. We definitely have ups and downs, like any, I think, normal healthy relationship. But I have to say, like even through this whole pandemic and stuff, we ended up getting married, so… We’ve been together for a long time. And I don’t know, there’s honestly, we work on, you know, our primary company, but we have other stuff that we do as well. And I just think there’s nobody I’d rather be doing stuff with. He’s great.

Amanda: That’s always a helpful thing. I would hope that you like each other if you decided to get married after all this time. But you never know. Maybe it’s some odd experiment that the rest of us don’t know about yet.

Jaimee: We hate each other, but… No, no, no, it’s really good. I mean, we… I think you learn how to give each other space, and read when the other one needs a little space. But most of the time we drive together to the office, we drive home together, we work together at the same, you know, in the same space. It’s… we do alright.

Amanda: Well, I like it. I personally like working with my friends and people that I already know that I like. But I have been in those other situations where you think you know somebody, and then you start working with them in a different capacity, and it’s like, huh, yeah, no, we’re not actually as similar as I thought.

Jaimee: You know, like, for me, one of the things is like, go on a road trip with someone. If you can endure a three-day road trip with someone, you know it’s good. You could work together. Road trip is sort of like the deal breaking material there.

Amanda: It should happen fairly early on. Before you decide if you’re ready to commit, go on a road trip up. You’ll be all set.

Jaimee: Yep. Before you draw up the partnership papers or get married, any of that stuff. I mean, we did do a road trip really early on. And I helped him move to Las Vegas, like forever ago, from Chicago, and it was a road trip. And that worked out great.

Amanda: I read this the other day, and I hadn’t seen this part before, but your bio mentions that you’re fueled by fun, Muppets, Disney, Apple tech and a heavy sprinkling of rebellion. So, let’s talk about that, and why those types of things are important in business. Because I might not be into Muppets and Disney as much, but I do think that rebellion is important, and fun, absolutely.

I’ve always felt a little rebellious.

Jaimee: Yeah! So, you know, for me, Muppets and Disney, there’s not just what they are as a brand or the shows and what you know as the Muppet Show (which recently came to Disney Plus, much to my most pleasant surprise). And then Disney, I am a huge fan of Disney, all the things. But it’s more about the founders, the creators, you know? You look at Walt Disney, and you look at Jim Henson, and the vision they had, and how much resistance they got for their ideas early on, and how much… you know, like Walt Disney when he was trying to build Disneyland, for example, just obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. And people with Jim Henson told him, like, Muppets, that’s not a viable thing. You can’t make a living with puppets, no. But they found a way. They had a dream. They had an idea. They had passion, and joy, and fun, and playfulness, and they brought that to the world in a huge way. And I just think that’s hugely inspiring. And I think that sprinkling of rebellion factors into that kind of personality. And I’ve always felt a little rebellious as well, you know, when people tell me what to do and my immediate instinct is like, no, that doesn’t work for me. And it’s not with all things, like I did learn how to follow rules. I had a very strict upbringing. My dad, in particular, was a Marine, and he was a US Marine, and he raised my sister and I like little Marines. And you know, we were very, very rigid with a lot of chores, and I got my first job when I was 12 outside the home, and that was kind of just to not be home so much. So yeah.

Amanda: I’m a big fan of it, because I always have referred to myself as a little bit of a rebel, but it’s not in the aggressive rule-breaking, I am going to do what I’m not supposed to do, in that kind of sense. But it’s more, I’m not going to do what I’m supposed to do, as far as what everybody else thinks that I should do, because that doesn’t ever work for me. I was talking to my sister-in-law yesterday, and there are times where I feel like I am just floating around on the wrong planet, trying to find my species, because they’re not here. They’re not here in this world at the moment. It’s more that my brain works differently. The way I think I should do things works differently. But I trust my instinct above all else, and that’s what has gotten me to be able to do what I want the way I want to do it. And I like that

Jaimee: Exactly. I mean, I do, I relate to that so much, and well stated, by the way. Yeah, no, I very much relate to that. Like sometimes the way it’s done doesn’t work, you know, always. Sometimes it has to be thought in a new way, or a different way, or have you thought of something new?

Amanda: But you have said that you’re still experimenting your way through it all. I think that’s one of the best parts of being self-employed, is you get to come up with new things and take chances as you see fit. How do you decide which ideas to develop? Because you are a lifelong creative with many ideas. Is there a system? Or is it an instinct? Or is it a whole lot of stuff?

Getting ideas out of our head is a practice for us.

Jaimee: A lot of trial and failure and just not stopping, you know? I think having someone like Ken as my partner in life and in business, we’re both constant experimenters. We’re both constantly trying things. I think he has even more ideas than I do, and I feel like I have a lot of ideas and things I want to try, and things I want to make. But really, it’s just that constant, you know, we’re always trying things. We always have ideas, and so getting them out of our head and into the real world is just a practice for us. It’s a life. It’s who we are. And so making things, yeah, that’s just the thing that we do.

How do we choose what comes to life? You know, sometimes it’s, what is the thing that you end up doing when you’re trying to get something else done? What is it that’s pulling your focus? So if it’s pulling your focus, see it through, finish it up, and throw it out in the world and see what happens. And, you know, that’s how our business, Picture This Clothing, was born, was basically it was a proof of concept. So we did it as quickly and nimbly and inexpensively as we could. And we just put it out into the world to see what happened, with really low expectations. And that one took off, you know, but it’s not like we hadn’t tried and failed at a dozen other ideas before this one, you know? And that one took off. Great. We had instant success with that, but now it’s like building it into a business. Like, going viral doesn’t mean you’re a success forever. You know, it was great. It was a great way to start without any outside investment or capital, blah, blah, blah. But you got to keep it going. And keeping it going is where trying new things and learning every day as you go, that’s where it comes in. And what gets its focus, I guess we just decide like, what are you working on? What am I working on? What seems like it might be the most fruitful? Yeah, let’s throw it out there and move on to the next thing.

Tiny Challenges

Amanda: So when you have all those ideas in your head, because this is a common issue of creatives everywhere, is you always have 132 different things that you want to do. And then sometimes they’re all pulling focus, so it’s hard to move forward on any one thing, because it’s like, well, I’ve got to do this, and I have to do this, and I need to do this, but what about that? Do you have any kind of system that helps? Do you get things on paper, or digitally, or somehow written down, so they’re out of your head? Or do you just go where the wind takes you?

Jaimee: A little bit of a both. So, interestingly, when… I’m trying to think the last like job that I had was in 2013. I left in 2013. And what I did at that time was, you know, everybody’s like, where will you go next? What are you doing? And I didn’t really know at the time. I just knew I needed to shift gears and, whole long story there for another day. But what I started doing was figuring out how to just do. Do things, but not just start, actually finish. And so what I learned through that process, a couple of years’ worth of trying sprints and basically applying the product design process to my life, what I learned from that is something that I call Tiny Challenges, and it’s kind of a silly little thing. But basically, you define a small window of time – it can be five days, seven days, ten days, whatever, one month, but do something very small for that amount of time. But it’s basically like always a part of a bigger goal, right? And so it’s almost like cross training, or marathon training even. And so you never go, I’m going to run a marathon tomorrow. You just don’t, right? You train for months – if you’re lucky, only months – you train to run this distance, this great, great distance. And I have run a marathon and I did train for one. It’s been a while.

But it’s the same idea though. You break it down into a really small manageable pieces, and you chip away at it slowly over time. And then you look back, and one of the things that is a part of my process is documenting it every day. Whether you make it public or not, that’s up to you, but I’m a big advocate for if you have your own personal blog, or you do Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever. Put something out there in the public space in a, you know, even if you have two followers, and nobody’s… it’s not about who’s looking and who’s acknowledging it, it is about creating footprints, basically. Because for yourself, you’ll look back and go, oh my gosh, I just made like a 30-day body of work. That’s huge. That’s progress. And when you feel like you have made no progress, to be able to scroll back through your timeline, or whatever it is, wherever you’re documenting things, it’s enormously fulfilling. And it’s like, yeah, a confirmation that, you know, I have made some progress. And it’s important in moving forward.

Amanda: It’s like, if you sit down to write a book, that is probably putting too much pressure on yourself to sit down and say I need to write a book right now. Whereas if you say I need to write a page, or a paragraph, or I need to spend 10 minutes and write whatever I can, and then walk away if you have to, but then at least you’ve done something. But trying to write the whole book in one sitting, if you can do that, good for you. And I would like to know how.

Jaimee: Easy! Exactly. Amazing. But yeah, most people don’t work that way, right? And for me, I know, I got really good at starting – having an idea, you know, is the URL taken? Buying the domain. And I have, I’m a great collector of domain names and lost ideas, right? Like a domain name boneyard. But I learned again, trial and error, that you do that so many times that… Even with Picture This Clothing, we did reserve the name on a bunch of stuff, just in case, but we didn’t even formalize it as a business… it wasn’t we were like, file our business papers and all of that… until we threw it out into the world and saw if it was even gonna be worth the time and money to do all of that. And then once it was proven, you know, like, oh, yes, there is a market for this, we can now formalize as a business or whatever we want to do with it.

And that’s something that I really learned over time is like, you know, I think a lot of people refer to it as minimum viable product, right? Like, if you were working on something bigger, just get this small nugget of the idea, enough to get the idea out, enough for it to be good enough quality for people to understand what you’re doing, what it is, and how to work with it, how it’s intended to be engaged with, with quality and thought. But don’t dump every dime into your idea until you know, until you know it’s worth it. So I don’t know, I see that a lot though, with a lot of folks who are just gonna get investments and get all this behind this idea. But maybe if you can break it down a little smaller, you know, test it first. See if it’s worth more money and more time.

Amanda: I think you could make something out of the lost ideas, your domain collection. It feels like there’s a story of some sort behind all of those that you might have. I’m just throwing it out there.

Jaimee: It’s a lot of, like, interestingly, a lot of loose ends.

Amanda: I remember finding a post-it note on my desk one time that said “zombie sunset.” No idea what it meant. I have no idea why I wrote it. But I think I will always wonder why I had a post-it note that said “zombie sunset.” It was one of those thoughts that I had to write down at some point, and then who knows, maybe that could have become something, or maybe not.

Jaimee: You never know. But, you know, I think that’s it too. You ask if there’s a process. I think having an idea, writing stuff down. Because you may get started on it and then get distracted in 1000 different ways, and actually come back to the idea. I think documenting your ideas is really important.

Picture This Clothing

Amanda: I agree. And I do want to talk about Picture This Clothing. It started with kids, and now it’s for adults, too, and it essentially allows you to draw or design whatever you want and turn it into clothing. I’ve talked to a lot of service providers on this podcast, but you’re the first who has a physical product that you sell. What would you say are some of the challenges and benefits of having a product versus being the product?

Jaimee: Picture This Clothing is a little bit of both, interestingly. But, you know, I think having a product like you depend on different things and different knowledge, you know, bodies of knowledge. Like there’s not, in manufacturing clothing, basically there’s a lot of technical skills that neither Ken nor I had, so we have somebody who actually sews the stuff. We’ve learned how to do a lot of the things that we never knew how to do, you know? My background is in design. Ken was an animator. So clothing, manufacturing, was not something we really knew anything about, so there was a great deal of learning. And I think if you have a physical product, there are a lot of things that go into it, right?

I’ve done service providing as well, where I was coaching, where I was teaching, where I was doing workshops and conferences, and all of that. And the biggest difference for me is, you know, we have something that we have to physically ship to a person. And so the timing, the quality, where you would do that, your responsiveness, and your quality, and all of that stuff still factors in when you’re a service and you are the product. It’s kind of like, when you have that tangible product, making sure that the person on the other end, who is almost always a child in our instance, that they’re getting the quality that they, you know, you’re meeting their expectation with that product, and hopefully going a little above and beyond. And maybe that’s not all that different, you know?

The difference in, I guess I’m kind of trying to think out loud between what is the difference between having a physical product and being the product? Maybe there’s more parallels than differences there. It’s interesting to kind of think of it. I don’t think anybody’s ever asked me that before. And it is, you know, I mean, we used to ship apps. That’s ultimately a product as well, making software. But there’s always these variances in what we’re doing. We’re doing tangible products now, but it comes from a kid’s imagination. Ooh! That’s a big question. I don’t know if I actually answered it.

Amanda: You did! And that is my main goal on the podcast, is to ask questions that you have not been asked before. So I’ve won this episode, and that makes me happy.

Jaimee: Yes! Point! Amanda!

Amanda: It reminds me of back in the day when, in production, when the spot or whatever the deliverable was done, you had to put it on a tape, and you had to get it to FedEx. There was a lot of time that was missing because of those deadlines. You had to know when the latest FedEx pickup was, and there were times when you’d have to actually put a person on a plane to take it somewhere because you missed a deadline. And then everything went digital, and it was amazing.

Jaimee: Yeah, I mean, I remember, you know, we were talking about audio files. So when you’re getting audio files to lay your tracks down for production, not having to go pick up a disk, a CD, or whatever. That was an amazing evolution of production, in that world. I remember that so much. Oh my gosh, and I don’t miss those times, Amanda.

Amanda: I do not either. It is very nice. And then, of course, recently, with all the changes we’ve had in the world, technology has become even more important. That is the reason I’m able to do this podcast without having to get a studio, and find people locally to where I am, or go travel to meet them. Because now there are all these tools that have been around for a while but weren’t as necessary. And now they’re necessary. You have an online business, but it requires a physical space. You were able to stay open during the pandemic, and I would imagine that you gained some new customers who were looking for ways to keep their kids busy at home. I know you started offering masks as one of your products. Were there other ways that you had to, or were there other ways that you got to, adapt because of this?

Jaimee: Interestingly, because we’re 100% online, like we don’t have a physical store that people come into, you know? So sometimes people think clothing store, I don’t think we’re a clothing store at all. First of all, we’re an experience. It’s an experience that you have as a family, or at home, your kids can have this experience, right? And so, just in case people are unfamiliar with what Picture This Clothing is, you print out a coloring sheet of a dress, a T-shirt, we have beanies, face coverings – it’s a neck gaiter type face covering – and then we have leggings as well. So we have a few products, and you print out the coloring sheet. You design it any way you want. You upload a smartphone photo to our website. We send it back ready to wear. And that’s what Picture This Clothing is. And so it’s all about that design experience that you have at home. And it always was that, even before the pandemic.

What happened, though, is that exactly what you said. You know, everything is shut down. Suddenly we’re quarantined, we’re distance learning, and so people are looking for great ideas. And we had a few wonderful mom bloggers out there who had either used us before or had just learned about us. And we were really trying to get in there with a lot of mom bloggers at this time, because we knew that this was a great time to be in those spaces. I am a mom as well, and I know what it’s like to have kids at home, even just a holiday or a regular day off. But you know, when you’re like talking about concentrated lengths of time, where you’re all in the house, you need stuff for your kids to do, and things that are stimulating to their creativity and imagination. The more the better on that stuff. And one of the cool things with our stuff, too, is that you could just print the coloring sheets for free and design them. You don’t even have to place the order. It still gives kids stuff to do, so there’s that.

So one of the things that we did was we started videos, actually. We started doing a video series. Our audience is mostly on Facebook. Like, we have a small Instagram following, like 30,000, just over 30,000 followers on Instagram. Our Twitter presence is nothing. I mean, I think we have like 200 people over there. But our Facebook, we’re over 100,000 over there. And it’s funny because these all started at exactly the same time on exactly the same day, but that’s just where our community has formed. And so we’re very active in that community. And so what we started doing is using Facebook’s live function, and doing a live stream. And when we first started in April of last year, of 2020, we were doing it three times a week, and we would just do creative experimental ideas. When we first started, it was Zia, my youngest daughter, and me, and we would come up with a theme. We’d do some ideas and put it out there, and that was our little show. So we did a lot of experimentation. 

There was the Black Lives Matter thing that happened, and what we tried to do there was to pause and listen and learn. And so then we started doing actually like a learning exploration, but through artists – black artists, and black indigenous people of color artists – and learning about them. Because something it caused me to reflect on was, you know, I have an art degree, and I never really learned about a lot. I mean, I learned about a lot of people you’ve already heard about, like Monet and Van Gogh, and you know, but there were a lot of artists that we discovered through our research and through these. So we were doing these live streams, where we would research somebody and then learn about them and share what we learned. And so we did quite a few series of those as well. And so we’re learning, we’re sharing what we’re learning, we’re encouraging others to make in those styles and to be influenced and to go out and find other things that influence and excite you, and to explore. And so it was really neat that we were able to kind of grow ourselves in that way, too. And really keep it about learning, and keep it about creativity, and keep it about imagination and fun, and try to keep things light because things were very heavy.

That was our place in the world, you know, is not necessarily… I feel like our place in the world is to try to be a beacon of light and smiles and joy and positive experiences. And so that’s where we kept our focus throughout the year. And we did weekly giveaways, so we were getting people to participate in that. And in doing those, it caused us to create our own software for doing weekly giveaways that worked with our stuff. So it seemed like one thing led to another, led to another, led to another.

And in doing these giveaways, you meet people who might have not otherwise been able to try Picture This Clothing. I know sometimes we’re cost prohibitive. We’re not like the least expensive thing out there to buy. A lot of people are like, oh, a dress or a T-shirt for $49. But when you think about it being an experience, and a memory, and a keepsake and, you know, their name is printed in the hem, and it’s a one-of-a-kind, and it’s made in the United States, and you know, all of these things. People start to go oh, okay, now I get it. But still it’s cost prohibitive for some folks. And I think our giveaways, our weekly giveaways, really allowed a lot more folks to participate and get a chance to win. Parents with more than three kids, so it can be quite a bite out of a wallet, and I don’t know, uncertain times, pandemic. So, oh boy, I hope I haven’t derailed too much.

But there were just so many things, you know. Adding the neck gaiters was one. And then there was some article about neck gaiters aren’t effective, they’re actually worse, and so, you know. But then there was science that countered that, and it was like, well, we’re gonna keep them. They’re neck gaiters, and if you want to wear them, maybe wear them over a face mask. But they’re so fun. And you know, they’re so great for cold weather, or if you’re a runner, and I don’t know. They’re still pretty fun. They are a lot of fun.

Amanda: It is fun, and it’s so imaginative in a way, where it started as more of here’s your template, color or draw on this. But you’ve incorporated so many different materials, and where you can put essentially whatever you want on that template and then print it out onto your clothing. The last time we talked on a podcast I said this, but the Iron Maiden out of Play-Doh is still my personal favorite of your creations.

Jaimee: I love that one.

It always drives me crazy when people shut it down without thinking of the bigger possibility.

Amanda: But I’ve seen everything from candy and peanut butter and jelly to… it’s never ending. So the Instagram page, and all of that on the Facebook page, is good to check out just to see, because we forget how creative humans are. Even if you’re not in a creative profession, or a lot of people say oh, I’m not that creative, but our imaginations do some things. And I think having an outlet to get it out there is helpful. I should follow my own advice. I don’t do a whole lot in terms of creating, but I know that there are ideas out there. And I know that I could if I wanted to.

Jaimee: But you are. You’re creating this podcast, though, too. You know, I mean, there are just different kinds of creativity as well. And that’s where, you know, like you were saying with all the different materials and stuff. Anytime somebody goes, oh, they’re a little crazy, or I don’t know. I mean, you can see behind me, if you were having video with this, you’d see those crazy textures and stuff behind me. I wore a rather solid shirt today just in case you’re capturing video for this. I didn’t want to blend in with the background. But a lot of people will shut it down immediately thinking, oh, my kids are terrible. It will look terrible, or I’ll be embarrassed, without thinking of the possibility of imagination and how you can push those boundaries in literally any direction. You can make a really beautiful thing to wear if you want, and I’ve seen some just stunning pieces come through that they don’t look like hand scribbled art or anything. They are these beautiful, beautiful pieces that I’ve seen come through. And yet, there’s also the scribbles and the beautiful things that I see kids make. And they’re all from the heart. And I just, I don’t know, it always drives me crazy when people shut it down without thinking of the bigger possibility, or the bigger vision.

Amanda: Well, think about what that scribble means to that kid. If that kid is proud of their artwork, then good for them. Let them show that. That’s what we need to learn from kids, because the adults in this world are way too judgmental, and we shut things down before they even get a chance to do anything. And that’s a whole other, we could do a whole episode on the dangers of shutting people down with their ideas.

Jaimee: We sure could. And somehow that’s kind of how here we are right? I don’t know about you, but yeah, getting shut down a number of times. I was like I can’t work in this environment anymore. I have to go. I have to move on.

Amanda: I was told by somebody whom I thought I trusted that I could never be a producer because I was not creative enough. So there’s that.

Jaimee: Oh my goodness. That’s funny.

Amanda: And that’s when the rebellion has to come in and you say, I don’t care if this person thinks that. I know better. I’m gonna do it anyway.

Jaimee: Exactly. You are not my boundary.

Finding your audience

Amanda: Yes! You mentioned about your community, and that’s an important thing to where, especially when it comes to social media… And there are many people like myself who, I don’t love social media. I find it difficult to keep up. And every time I think I get one platform, there are three others, and it’s this whole thing. But the advice that I hear all the time is, go where your audience is. So most of the time you have some kind of niche audience, or you should know who your target market is, and if you do enough research, you can figure out where they’re spending their time. Because it’s not really about you, it’s about the customer or the client. So if your fan base, or your client base, is not on Twitter, you don’t need to spend a lot of time crafting tweets every day. If you know that they’re on Instagram, then photos are going to be helpful. But if your community is on Facebook, utilize a tool like Facebook Live and connect with the people where they are instead of putting a ton of effort into somewhere where they aren’t. Of course, it’s important to try to grow in different ways and sometimes you have to try to figure out where they are, but I don’t think that you feel badly that you don’t have as many followers on Twitter, because it doesn’t matter to your business at all.

Jaimee: Right. And I do think that’s all very well stated, like it’s true. When I was doing more tech work, my background being in tech, and I worked on a lot of Apple products and doing iOS and that sort of world, my audience was on Twitter. My audience was on Twitter. And so that’s where I built a little bit of a following with my speaking, and my work, and all of those things. And then it was really jarring to me when, you know, like our company actually launched through Twitter. It was through a tweet from my personal account, and then by the end of the day, we had a TechCrunch write up. So like, that was a crazy phenomenon that happened. But then as things started to go, and now we’re nearly four and a half years after that viral craziness happened after that TechCrunch article, and I barely spend any time on Twitter anymore.

It’s weird because it’s almost like it’s repellent over there. Like, I do post things every now and then, but those folks that were my followers there, they love it when I talk about games, or iOS, or Tesla or something like that, then I get tons of engagement. But if I post something about Picture This Clothing, it’s just crickets. It’s so weird to me. But then at the same time, I’ve tried a little like cross pollination over on Picture This Clothing. Like, we have Picture This Clothing, and then we have the Picture This Clothing sort of a closed group. Anybody’s welcome, but it’s more where we experiment and play out loud. And I try stuff, like my personal blog posts, I’ll put over there, you know, like the CEO of Picture This Clothing, and maybe they want to know me more personally. I don’t know, I’m just throwing things out there to see what works.

But really, you know, people love experimenting, and playing, and sharing their own ideas and their own imagination, creativity, and we all talk about it and try things. And so that part’s really cool. And then the main Picture This Clothing timeline is 100%, about the kids and their creations. Even the adults that do design stuff will post pieces that grownups have made, but they’re way less, you know, people are way less interested in those. People want to see what the kids make. And I don’t know, you never know what’s going to do super well and what’s not. It’s always weird to me. Sometimes I’m like, oh, this one’s so cute. Everyone’s gonna love it. And it doesn’t do very well. And then there’s one I don’t think twice about. I just post it because I received it in a certain order, and then it gets phenomenal, you know, like, so much engagement. It’s so weird. But yeah, I don’t know. It’s all experimenting, though. Every day, every day.

Amanda: It all ties back to the experimentation. And that’s part of it too, though. We have to be able to think, and adapt, and try new things, and try old things again sometimes, because people are unpredictable. I mean, they just are. You can use all the analytics in the world, and they might tell you one thing, but you just don’t know. It’s like, I always have veered away from posting too many photos of my cat, because crazy cat lady territory, have to be careful about that. But anything that I post of my cat gets more likes, more engagement, than anything else I do. Because people love cats, or they hate cats. But either way, you put a cat video out there, you’re gonna make some people happy. So I do try to include those where I can.

Jaimee: There are strong feelings.

Amanda: Yes.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Jaimee: That talk about experimentation brings up another point that I think, kind of going back to what you said, what other things have you done kind of like through the pandemic? And I think something that we’ve always done, but that really played well with the pandemic, was not having all our eggs in one basket. And I think as a self-employed sort of person, that’s something I learned many, many, many years ago, you know, even when I was… if I had a full-time job, I was usually freelancing, doing, you know, designing websites for people or logos or whatever, on the side. I almost always had side gigs. And yeah, so even now, even though Picture This Clothing is the thing that requires most of my attention, I still have another business on the side. Ken still has another business on the side. So we have other things bringing in income.

So Picture This Clothing, it definitely had a great year last year as far as numbers go, but it doesn’t always. And I have to say, when the pandemic first hit, one of the things that worked in our favor was that we’re used to having almost no income from Picture This Clothing from January to October. Our bread-and-butter months are November and December, and it’s really Black Friday through Christmas Day. It’s very clear. It’s been consistent year after year after year. So last year when we first went into lockdown and stuff, May actually ended up being a really good month for us, where normally it’s flat. But basically what I’m saying is we were fairly well prepared to have no income already. So even in the worst-case scenario, we were kind of prepared for this. Without knowing that a pandemic was coming, we were as prepared as you can be, right? So the financial impact didn’t hurt us in that way because we were prepared. We were always prepared to kind of sprinkle out December’s earnings through the year. Live, you know, lower. Live beneath our means and make it work, right? And then we also have other sources of income that help us, so if we have an off month or six awful months in Picture This Clothing, because it’s very unpredictable, we’re somewhat prepared. But then we have other things going, so they help always put something in the pot.

Amanda: Those are important things for anyone who is self-employed. I talk about this a lot. When I started my company, I was told I was doing too many things. I thought, well, no, and this is why.  Because when one entire industry shuts it down, I don’t want to be out of work with no idea what to do. So production, in this case, went away, and it didn’t send me into a panic because I can also do this. And I can do that. And I have clients who need me for these other things. So maybe the income took a decline in the beginning, but it wasn’t I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage this month. And that’s not to discredit any troubles that anybody else is having. There was a lot of stuff going on. But I believe that when you are self-employed, you have to be prepared to not have any income, like you said, because there is no guarantee. When you’re employed by somebody else, there is no guarantee either, so you should be prepared for that either way. I actually feel like you have more control over it when you’re self-employed, because you can go do different things. But getting into that ability, if you need to be frugal every now and then, that it’s okay. Because that’s going to give you that peace of mind, that safety, that if something happens, you’re still going to be okay for a little while. But if you don’t have that, if you’re not prepared for that… Hopefully the lack of income doesn’t come and then you just have money squirreled away and you can go do more fun things. But if another pandemic rolls around, I’m hoping that’s something that people have learned from this and will take more seriously. I know everybody knows the importance of saving, and there are always reasons why they don’t do it or can’t do it or whatever. But this is an example of why we have to, especially when you’re self-employed and there might not be any other safety net other than what you provide for yourself.

I hate being dropped into a bucket.

Jaimee: I do. I can’t speak to the importance of it enough. And I appreciate that you acknowledge also that, you know, our circumstance may be different than others, and everybody does have their own circumstance, and I don’t want to belittle anybody’s situation in any way. I respect that, you know, not everybody has been as fortunate. For us. I don’t feel like we were lucky. I feel like it’s just how we’ve been for at least a decade. And I know my own personal savings and financial concerns and all that dates, man, before I even got divorced in 2009 or 2010. So my own financial sort of practices and habits are really far reaching. They reach out pretty far. So when something like this came up, it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been for us, and I’m grateful for that. But yeah, I guess it’s really like, man, try not to put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t rely on just one source of income at any time, if you can help it. When you said you do too many things, I can’t tell you, Amanda, how many times I’ve heard that. Or, even for me, it’s a struggle when people go “What do you do?” to answer that. I was actually literally working on a blog post called “Untitled,” and it’s about me and what do I do for a living. I do a lot of stuff and I hate being dropped into a bucket. Like, I am a writer, I am a designer, I am a CEO, I am also I do our books and our finances and our, you know, I can do strategy. I am a social media person. And we wear a lot of hats when we’re self-employed, do we not?

Amanda: So many. I also dislike that question because when somebody asks, “What do you do?” I don’t even know how to answer it because they don’t want the real answer. It’s too long. It’s more of a small talk question.

Jaimee: Yep. That’s exactly how I feel.

Amanda: And I don’t define myself by any one of those things. I don’t really define myself by anything. So if somebody says, who are you, or what do you do? I don’t really know. I’m Amanda. I’m Aardvark Girl. That’s who I am. Yeah.

Jaimee: It is funny, though. And I’ve struggled with that for a very long time, what that answer is. I remember trying to simplify and say I’m a designer, but then it completely undermines my abilities. I love designers. I have utmost respect for designers. I am, in many capacities, a designer, but I am also much more than that, and I know that. And I think I’m limiting myself and holding myself back by simply trying to slap the label on so that people understand. And then I’m getting work that I don’t want. And I’m like, No, this isn’t what I meant. This isn’t… No, this is an ill fit. And it’s my own doing, but untitled. I’m untitled.

Amanda: I like that. I might use that. I think I talked to you about this years ago, when I was thinking about leaving the company I used to work for anyway, it’s that same thing. I struggle with the word for a lot of the things and for, just like you said, because there are limitations that come with it. Where I am a producer sometimes. I’m a production manager sometimes. I’m a project manager. I’m a business consultant. I am called for random things because somebody needs something, and they don’t know who can do it, so they think, oh, we’ll call Amanda. Maybe she can figure it out. Like I’m currently learning how to do the backend of somebody’s website because somebody else can’t do it. And I’m like, let me see if I can figure it out. It’s not what I do. I don’t want to, but then it’s another skill for me and I can be helpful to somebody else, and it’s fine.

The one that I always have the biggest issues with is the word coach. You actually went through the coaching certification, and you’ve done things in a much different way than a lot of people. Now, especially in the last year or so, everybody’s a coach of some sort. And even before that, my issue with it, not that there are bad coaches, or that coaching is bad, but it was what am I doing? I’m a consultant. But if somebody looks for a business consultant, they want that stuffy old guy who’s going to put his hands everywhere and say, oh, well, you need to do this, and this, but you need me around to make sure you can do it. I didn’t want to do that. The coach thing I was unsure about. I’m an advisor, but not in that way. And it’s, what are people searching for when they’re trying to find my kind of services? I don’t know. I’m kind of a business therapist at times. I’m all over the place. And I have changed that part of the title so many times. My headline on social media changes all the time, because I’ll pick one word, and I think I’m going to stick with it, and then something else comes up and it’s like, no. I finally landed on coach last year in March when I redid my website, because that’s the word that I feel like people search for when they’re trying to find it. And then in the last few months, especially on Clubhouse and on other social media apps, the coaching thing is becoming almost… just not good. There are kind of a lot of manipulation tactics, and they’re preying on people. And I don’t want anything to do with that, so I removed the word coach, from social at least again. It’s like I don’t know who I am. So I might just stick with untitled. I really like that approach.

I do what I do until I don’t want to do it anymore.

Jaimee: Seriously. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and it’s interesting because I run into really similar things that you’ve just described. This is another turn in my path, I guess. But like, yes, I do Picture This Clothing, and I’ve been focused on it, but this company runs with or without me now. And I’m hungry to close the loop on some things that I’d started before we launched this company and it kind of wrecking balled its way into my life. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong. But I’m concerned that now I’m that lady that makes clothing and nothing else. Like I can’t kind of shake this. But I actually would like to pick up my coaching again. I have two coaching engagements going right now, and I’m loving it. It’s such a fulfilling work, and yet people don’t think of me anymore as that person and I miss it.

And so I’ve been just really rethinking my own branding and my, you know, personal brand and what am I? How do I describe who I am and what I am? What do I really want to be doing? You know, people always ask that question. If you had a million dollars, and you could do anything that you wanted. Well, I’m not saying that I have a million dollars, but I’m saying I can do anything that I want to do. And I’ve put myself in a position where I’ve worked hard enough and that I can decide that I want to do this, or I want to do that. And I’m trying to decide what is it exactly that I do want to do for a while? And I never know. I’ve never had the answer. And I kind of just end up where I end up, and I do what I do until I don’t want to do it anymore. And then I start experimenting my way into something else. And so that’s where I’m at.

And then one of those moments again, you know, that’s exactly how Picture This was born, by the way is, through that kind of figure out what I’m going to do, and I’ll do this in the meantime, because I can use these skills, and I can serve my community in this way. But now that will take me down a certain path. And then you just kind of keep following. And I know I sound like a bananas person right now, but I’m never really good at staying in one place for too long, for very long. And you know, we’re coming up on five years with Picture This. I’ll stay with Picture This. We’ll keep this company going. As long as this company will continue to keep going, I want to be a part of it. I love coming in here. I love seeing each individual creation, I still hand cut almost everything that comes through here. I still do a lot of the packing and shipping. And I love that. I love that piece of it. But I don’t want to have to do it anymore. And the company is at a point where it doesn’t need me to do that. I just do it now because I feel obligated to, but it runs fine without me now. So I’m ready. I’m looking. What else?

Amanda: Well, if you think that you sound like a bananas person, then that makes me a bananas person also. You’ve reminded me, always, why I love talking to you, because I feel like we get each other because I’m the same way. And it’s one of the best parts… I have so many best parts about being self-employed, so I say them all the time in no kind of order… but it’s that you can rebrand yourself as many times as you want. You can change your mind. You can try different things. You can do this for a couple years and then go do something else. There is no reason why you can’t change your mind and do what you want to do. Like you said, you can do whatever you want to do. And that’s what I think everybody should be able to do.

Jaimee: Yes, I agree with that. And I don’t mean that in a conceited sort of way. I just mean that I’ve worked really hard to be able to make that a part of my life. And I’ll keep working really hard. Like I love working on things I love working on. I just want to keep that freedom, you know? I want to keep that freedom because that’s everything to me.

Amanda: So with that freedom, people talk a lot about the idea of work life balance. And I know you’ve experienced burnout, and you’ve helped coach other people through that, either one-on-one or through public speaking. Now you have that business, your two daughters, a few animals, a husband. How do you create that balance to make sure you don’t get to a burnt-out place again?

I have the tools to survive, overcome and be resilient.

Jaimee: Oh my gosh, this is interesting. So I think, in parallel with something like loss, that you maybe don’t actually ever get through it or over it, you just learn how to live with it, right? And so the experience of burnout that happened to me after the loss of my dad, actually, it repelled me so far from my design career that I went in a completely different direction, right? And so it forced me to learn how to live with it, and to work in a different direction despite it. And so I think, I don’t know that there’s necessarily a way to prevent burnout from ever happening again.

I can tell you that, you know, like we all went through a pandemic last year. And I did a blog post a couple weeks ago that recapped my own year 2020, not in a complaining or whining sort of way, but it was actually just trying to say like, on the bright side of all the kind of crap that happened last year to me personally, in our family, here’s the bright side. Like I felt like every single instance… we had Ken lose his vision. We had my youngest daughter call the suicide hotline. I thought maybe that I had cancer, and it was ruled out, which is great. But, like, we went through all of these experiences. And my older daughter and I, we just had a car accident, and like a pretty serious car accident. And I mean just all of these things that have unfolded in every possible outcome, it could have been a really bad outcome of a bad situation, or the better outcome of a bad situation. And in every single instance, somehow, like we’ve landed in the better outcome of every single one. Car accident. We were in a brutal car accident, car was totaled, but my daughter and I walked out with only bumps and bruises. That’s a miracle.

So, like, it was really kind of a reflection on a lot of really heavy things happened last year, but here’s where I’m at. Here’s what I’m grateful for. And here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep moving. I don’t know that I can prevent any burnout from ever happening again. But I know that I have the tools to survive, overcome and be resilient. And so like, that’s what I’m really good at in my own life. I practice this regularly. And I find myself up against the wall regularly and needing to put those tools into practice. But I do feel like I always come out on the other side, and I’m okay. And I’m still going, I’m still fighting. And I think that there’s just if there’s anything I can do to help people understand their own toolset and how to apply it to get themselves, you know, on the bright side, that’s probably one of my greatest strengths, and what I hope to be able to give to people. I believe that everybody has those tools within them already. It’s just really discovering them and organizing them in a way that that’s useful. But, man, did I answer your question, or did I just totally go down the path?

Amanda: I’m nodding my head as you’re going and smiling because you’re saying the perfect things, because it’s so important to be able to find the good side in everything. Even when it seems like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened, you can usually take something positive out of it if you decide to look for it. If you only want to see all the bad, then that’s what you’re going to find.

I am a hardcore believer in optimism.

Jaimee: Oh, there’s plenty of bad, and yeah, we can focus on that. And I know, I know, I know. I know there’s so much more to it than just looking on the bright side. You know, I am not naive to this and not impossibly optimistic even, but I am a hardcore believer in optimism. It’s a part of my soul. It’s a part of who I am. And I can’t help but to keep moving forward with hope. And, I don’t know, like, it takes practice, though, I will tell you that it’s not easy at all times to do that. It takes practice and it takes thoughtful focus, dedication to mindfully choosing, like, what’s good today. What’s something good that happened? And so yeah.

Amanda: Exactly. I’m not even going to add to that because it’s another perfect one. If you had one piece of advice for other self-employed creatives out there, what would it be?

Jaimee: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I just think that’s been the one thing that… it’s really helped me not get stuck. It keeps my options open and keeps my freedom as my underlying… and when I say freedom, my ability to choose. My ability to not have to go work for someone else unless I choose to. I hope I can always retain that. But I think having five or six little baskets with eggs in them has given me that freedom.

Amanda: Lots of baskets. No buckets.

Jaimee: No buckets! That’s so true. Don’t put me in a bucket, but give me little baskets of eggs all day.

Amanda: Perfect. Where can people find you out in social media land and elsewhere?

Jaimee: So @jaimeejaimee is my handle. It’s J-A-I-M-E-E twice. So @jaimeejaimee on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and then also just .com – That’s the best place to find me and all the various things that I might be working on at any given time.

Amanda: I can’t wait to see what the next thing in your little baskets are. That’s not the right way to word that.

Jaimee: The next basket!

Amanda: I can’t wait to see what will be inside your next basket? I don’t know. I was trying to have some kind of articulate ending and that’s what I came up with, so.

Jaimee: It’s alright. We’ll see what the next basket is. How about that?

Amanda: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time today. I hope to talk to you again soon.

Jaimee: Thank you, Amanda.

Connect with Jaimee @JaimeeJaimee on Instagram & Twitter


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