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When The Going Gets Tough, Just Keep Going

Recently I felt like a little mouse, with a tiny helmet, attempting to figure out a way to get the cheese out of a giant mousetrap. I’m not going to bore you with the details of how I got into this situation, I’ve already talked about it in length in my last blog, I will say running a creative business is a bitch a lot of the time…

Heck, being a human can be a bitch a lot of the time, so what do we do in this thing that we call life?

A lot of artists ask me how I managed to “succeed” in a field that actually carries with it the stigma that you are automatically going to starve if you pursue said career. The word “artist” is synonymous with “starving” and a lot of the time, they seem to go together like email spam and my grandmother opening it.

What is funny to me, is that I don’t focus on having a successful career. So whenever someone asks me how I did it, I usually don’t have that clear of an answer. I do, however, have certain things that I try to remind myself daily, and that’s probably one of the reasons people assume I’m doing so well. These don’t have much to do with career, they are the way I want to see the world and myself. Simple little reminders to keep going.

  1. You’re alive right now, and if you are alive, anything is still possible.
  2. You’re expecting too much of yourself. Most successes are not overnight successes. Take your time and find a way to enjoy the slow burn. Keep chipping away, little by little, you’ll get there.
  3. Remember that you are stronger than you think. You might privately think to yourself that you can’t handle the pressure. Trust me, we all do that, but we can do so much more than we think… and we can especially do way more than some people think we can.
  4. Even when things seem to be falling apart, you have reason to smile. This one is tricky, don’t lie to yourself with false positive thoughts, but find a genuine reason to smile and change perspective.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to people who you think are doing awesome. Instead, I think “If they’re doing great then I can too.” Besides, you haven’t walked in their shoes, you don’t know how they feel, but you know how you make yourself feel when you do something dumb like feel bad comparing yourself to someone you don’t really know anything about.
  6. I can find a different “How.” Take a deep breath, do number 4, and then find a different way… especially if you have been knocking on a wall for days… you may just need to move to the left about 3 ft and knock on the door.
  7. Can you find the fun in doing this? If not, consider the fact that maybe you should be doing something else. For this to work, I have to be honest with myself, because I can easily deceive myself into stopping. It’s important to remember why you started whatever you started and find your why… then check with yourself that you haven’t deviated from that purpose with your current project.
  8. Take a break and work on something that will make you feel like a bad-ass. We all have things that we are really good at. Sometimes, I’ll take a break from the thing I am currently failing at, and work on something that makes me feel awesome. An “I am forking AWESOME!” break… We need that reminder sometimes, and I find that it is best to remind yourself by doing something you are a rock-star at, even if it is totally unrelated.

Usually right after I remind myself of these things, I have a momentary lapse into despair. It’s the lowest point in your whole journey, a hopeless-looking place that comes right before feeling good. Because I expect it, I handle it pretty well, most times. It is the brain’s last ditch effort to keep things safe and maintain the status quo.

I know, it’s a weird relationship we have with our brain, but most of the programming we have in our brain is designed to keep us safe and sound from anything perceived as a threat. Recently, the idea of leaving the safety and comfort of Etsy to pursue our own platform was seen as a threat to my well being, so my brain did everything in it’s power to protect me. It’s why some people giggle when they are nervous… not sure how that would save you from a saber-toothed tiger, but maybe you can giggle away ghosts or something.

Anyhow…

When you’re pursuing anything, it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll think one or more of the following:

“This is harder than I thought it would be.”
“Why is this taking so long?”
“I’m getting nowhere with this.”
“I keep failing and screwing it up.”
“I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”

And when you do have one—or more—of these thoughts, it’s very likely that you’ll want to give up. When that happens, I remind myself of the points I made above.

Achieving large, hairy life goals isn’t easy. Doing much in life isn’t easy, and somewhere along the way it’s very likely that you’ll want to quit. But when you feel like quitting, and the going gets tough, just keep going.

Beside, it’s not a failure if you don’t quit… It’s just a work in progress.


HELP ME WRITE MY BOOK!

Pretty soon I’ll be starting a crowd funding campaign to help me finish my book(s) and audio-books. It’ll be the first of a series that I have been working on for the last 8 years. I am both excited and nervous!

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What Happens When You Speak Up As An Artist? Etsy Free Shipping Policy

So, this post is not going to be my usual feel good post, because there’s just a little something I want to get off my chest. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all “Rage Against The Machine” here, but I’ve got something to say.

If you follow us on YouTube, you know that last week just about every video we posted had to do with our feelings about the new move by Etsy to coerce their sellers into providing “free shipping” and roll the lost shipping cost into the item prices. Which means we lie to our collectors, which neither Klee nor I were prepared to do.

Also, this whole policy change came with a clusterfudge of other problems as well, such as inflation of price means some buyers will pay multiple hidden shipping when they didn’t need to and shops with unpredictable shipping rates would have to price themselves out of the market. Plus, items that are fragile and hand made would be problematic to estimate shipping in the first place.

Klee and I also discovered that it’s illegal to deceive customers this way, taxes would now be charged on shipping cost, and international buyers would pay inflated price plus shipping… plus more, we lay it all out in the videos.

What was interesting about this whole thing was the response we received.

Most people that responded were in the same boat, as sellers, in facing this dilemma. Like Andy King who said “We just spent the day jacking up our prices, but like Rafi we sell paintings…so we added the cost to ship to California (which is the most expensive shipping for us typically). It’s ridiculous, because now etsy has the same stuff priced radically higher than we have it on other sites…extremely frustrating, because we even though we sell less on etsy than elsewhere, we’ve really enjoyed the platform and the fact that it’s always felt very supportive.”

Some hadn’t joined Etsy but agreed with our point of view. Like Missy B. who said “I am so glad I never did an Etsy shop. Many have suggested I do it but I would not. I watched enough videos on how to have a successful shop to know it just wasn’t for me. Now I know it is really not for me! Good for you standing firm.”

Some said our country was going to crap and went a little overboard in the comments. I’m guessing they were a little more upset than usual.

Expressions Series By Rafi Perez
Expressions Series By Rafi Perez

One person said I was whining about corporate change. She said “It sounds to me like Etsy is trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, it sounds like you don’t understand how business works. If you are selling enough art on Etsy, then this policy change should not bother you. “Rolling shipping into the selling price” is not new. It is a marketing strategy using psychology. And it works. Please do some business research before you publish videos trashing the hand that feeds you.”

To which I responded “I’m not sure you would be qualified to give me business lessons, especially because Etsy is not the hand that feeds me, they are merely one of many platforms to sell on. If anything, makers are the hand that feed Etsy. I’ve been in business for most of my life, and if you are selling cheap crap, then rolling in prices would be the way to go to trick people into purchasing by saying something is free when it’s not. You can justify it however you want, you’ll get no judgment from me, but don’t be offensive simply because you are trying to justify your point. You don’t know me, nor do you know my experience. So go on with your happy self.”

People are just different with different opinions, some will agree with you passionately, others will disagree passionately, most won’t care, and others just ignore you.

Art Chair By Rafi Perez

I was surprised to find that with the thousands of responses I received from Etsy sellers, forums of people who are upset, and plethora of videos discussing this issue, that none of the news outlets are talking about this. In fact the only real media you find is Forbes and other large outlets briefly mentioning that people are upset, followed by a plethora of quotes from the Etsy CEO talking about how great this move is for Etsy.

Etsy itself hasn’t made any kind of follow up statement… but then again they’re not facing any pressure from the mainstream media.

Small creative business be damned.

Rafi Working In Studio

So, how do I feel in all this?

Eh, I’ve moved on. Looking towards the future of my business, which does not involve Etsy. Not because I’m up in arms or looking for a fight, but because we no longer make good business partners. End of story.

I think what was most interesting about all of this is the way some people perceive Etsy sellers. Although we are small businesses with profit margins, overhead, costs, labor, business taxes, and everything else that it takes to run a business… there are some people viewing us as mentally unstable protesters, just using any means possible to bring down the government.

It’s just so interesting sometimes, to see how people react to what they believe is going on, without actually looking into it. Reading some of the comments, I was like “Did you even watch the video??”

Either way, we got so many amazing and supportive responses from so many people around the world, that it makes up for the idiots who think I’m a radical or something.

The truth is we are always going to be facing some challenges in our creative business, and how we handle it is up to us. Whether or not people perceive me as a victim, someone who is standing up and moving on, or some troublemaker, is none of my concern. Only I know what is good for my business, and honestly whether or not someone stays with Etsy or they go is none of my concern. They ultimately know what’s best for their business, and I support their decisions.

Personally, I will not advertise free shipping and not actually provide free shipping, it may not seem like a big deal and really it isn’t, but I will not compromise my ethics in order to make an extra buck. I will also not support a company who is willing to force their partners into doing such things at the expense of said partners. It also makes me sick every time I see an advertising from Etsy offering free shipping to people knowing that that person is paying inflated pricing… just not willing to do it.

All I know is that I’m looking forward, getting excited about my new chapter and new e-commerce ventures, and having fun… that’s all that matters.

If you want to watch the videos that started this adventure go to

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When A Harsh Critic Attacks – How I Handle It

Not well sometimes… but I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that have helped me get better and better at dealing with poo flinging critics.

I think it is a necessary plight that one will have to get used to when you are putting yourself out there. I am an artist who creates art, music, writing, YouTube videos, and puts them all out there for the world to see… I get a lot of negative criticism.

People Can Say Mean Things About My Art And I Don’t Care

Comparatively speaking, I mostly get a lot of beautiful comments on my creations. We have a following of some of the most amazing humans I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with.

Yet, negative comments can still throw me off kilter, despite the overwhelming positivity I experience in the world. It’s almost like a temporary reminder that the world isn’t such a wonderful place… and there is an a-hole around every corner, just waiting to jump out and say you suck.

I want to be clear about something, I’m not talking about constructive criticism. Listen, sometimes even a helpful criticism can be hard to hear, and our first response may be to run away flailing our arms helplessly, but sometimes it’s valid. Follow the source and stop for a moment, get off your high horse and check to see if it is valid and constructive. If not, then we are talking about destructive criticism. If the criticism is constructive, then it’s intended to guide you and to help you improve as a person, not to bring you down and make you feel inadequate.

People Say Mean Things On My YouTube Channel All The Time, And I Don’t Care… Kinda… I’m working On It.

If the criticism is completely invalid, totally off, and only meant to hurt you, then that’s what I’m talking about here.

So what do I do when someone is all “blah blah blah you suck Rafi blah blah blah!” I Don’t take it personally. It takes a miserable person to try and make themselves feel better by giving some misery to someone else… don’t take it, it’s not yours, and it doesn’t belong to you. Understand that people who are in pain say really hurtful things, especially people that may know which buttons to press. Think about a time where you may have said something terrible to someone. Were you in your right mind? Were you in pain? Were you feeling like a victim? Some people live there in that place… don’t take it personally, unless you wanna visit and stay a while.

Recently A Friend Said Something Mean About My Singing And I Don’t Care.

Understand that it’s your buttons. Why is it that one person can be called ugly and not even react a little, but someone else will blow a gasket? It’s because we all have our own little triggers based on our own insecurities. So if someone says something and it bothers you, take a look and see if you can identify the insecurity or doubt behind the emotion. In my opinion, when someone says something mean and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are full of crap, you hardly even react, but if they touch on something that pushes on an insecurity it can be devastating. Just remember, they are your buttons. Figure out what’s behind it and sort it out.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Are you going to stop being who you are simply because someone spewed some garbage at you? Of course not. If the criticism has no basis whatsoever, then the best thing you can do is to ignore it completely.

Honestly, only very few people will talk smack, and I’m going to keep doing what I do… and they can kiss my booty.

Listen, people talk shit all the time because they are not putting themselves out there in the muck, sweating, bleeding and enduring the terrifyingly exhilarating ride that is fulfilling your dreams. They are going to say you can’t sing, you can’t paint, you’re not funny, you’re are not good enough, and everything else that they can say to destroy your hope and get you to stop. Don’t EVER let someone who is not putting themselves out there in the muck discourage you from going all the way. If they are not doing it themselves, and facing critics of their own, then they have no right to talk.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not able to push all of the negative words aside right away. It takes practice to work it out and get to a place where it’s no thing… But you got this.

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3 Artist Rules That Apply To Life

Along with our creative careers, Klee and I also do YouTube Videos. The videos are mostly geared towards artists, but also have a lot of life advice that we have picked up the hard way, mostly by living life as career artists.

When you are an artist, you live a life full of fun things like constant rejection, people thinking you do drugs, people feeling sorry for your life choices, banks denying you for a home loan (while smirking at how cute it was that you walked into the bank in the first place), people thinking you should get a “real job”, and general disapproval of your status as a contributing member of society.

Don’t get me wrong, being a career artist is amazing, but not everyone looks at us in a healthy light, and if you don’t have your thoughts in the right place, it can destroy your emotional state. I’ve seen people crumble after one rejection and give up.

That’s why I think as artists, we can have an advantage in living a happy life, because we have to face rejection, find our inspiration, manage a business, manage a stream of income that is unpredictable, create product that is considered a luxury to most of the world (even though I will argue that owning art is one of the healthiest things you can do), deal with our own insecurities, and constantly have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to stay relevant… I know, I’m not selling the concept, but bear with me.

Rafi and klee

As an artist you have to face your fears, if you run away from them, there really is no way to make a career of it.

So, here are the 3 rules that I would say apply to everything in life, but also to having an art career.

  • Be authentic.
    Paint or create only that which interests you, in the way you choose to paint or create it. Don’t change your approach to gain sales, popularity or acceptance. You will never do your best work if you do. In life, you will become trapped in a version of you that isn’t real. It is much simpler to be yourself, that way you can surround yourself with people that you don’t have to put on an act for.
  • Compete only with yourself.
    Avoid competitions, contests and measuring yourself by how many shows you’ve gotten into or awards you’ve won. Seek validation internally, you will never please everyone. Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone on any level. You are the most perfect version of you that exists in the world. It’s when you try to be someone else that you’ll think you see flaws in something that is inherently perfect.
  • Remember that it takes a lifetime.
    You can’t just sign up for a workshop or go to an art class once a week and expect gallery representation and collectors to follow shortly thereafter. It takes time. Be patient in life, but take every opportunity you can to smile, laugh, love, show your art, and have fun. You may get rejected, but that’s all part of this wonderful journey we are on. If rejection doesn’t bother you, then you are halfway there.
Rafi and Klee Photography

The goal should not be to get famous or rich, just to enjoy your precious life as much as possible. If you get rich and famous in the process, that is just bonus.

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Getting Rejected And Still Being Awesome

There is nothing fun about getting rejected.

Ever notice how being turned down stops some people from trying again, while others bounce back from rejection stronger than before? Everyone experiences the sweet sting of rejection, but some people use that pain to grow stronger and become even better equipped for the next round of rejection.

As artists, Klee and I experience rejection ALL the time. In fact if you are in a creative field there is one constant in your life… you are going to be rejected time and time again. This was one of the fears I had that kept me from experiencing an art career for most of my life. Luckily, I’ve stumbled upon five steps that help me use rejection instead of rejection using me.

1. I Acknowledge My Emotions

Rather than suppress, ignore, or deny the pain, I acknowledge the emotions. I openly admit when I’m embarrassed, sad, disappointed, or discouraged. I have practiced confidence in my ability to deal with uncomfortable emotions head-on, which is essential to coping with the discomfort of rejection.

No matter what kind of rejection it is, trying to minimize the pain by convincing yourself–or someone else–it was “no big deal” or “it’s their fault” will only prolong your pain. The best way to deal with uncomfortable emotions is to face them head-on.

2. I View Rejection As Evidence That I’m Pushing At My Limits

I know that rejection serves as proof that I’m living life to the fullest. Honestly, I expect to be rejected every once in a while, and I’m not afraid to go for it, even when I know it might be a long shot.

If you never get rejected, you may be living too far inside your comfort zone… just saying.

3. I Treat Myself With Compassion

Rather than think, “You’re so stupid for thinking you could do that,” I treat myself with compassion. I stand up for myself and respond to negative self-talk with a kinder, more empowering message.

Beating yourself up will only keep you down. Speak to yourself like a trusted friend or cheerleader. Drown out your harsh inner critic by repeating helpful mantras that will keep you feeling awesome.

4. I Refuse To Let Rejection Define Me

I stay away from making sweeping generalizations when I’m rejected. If one gallery turns me down or ignores me, I don’t declare them or myself incompetent or a bad artist. I try to keep rejection in proper perspective.

One person’s opinion, or one single incident, should never define who you are. Don’t let your self-worth depend upon other people’s opinions of you. Just because someone else thinks something about you, doesn’t mean it’s true.

5. I Learn From Rejection

If I’m rejected I’ll ask myself, “What did I gain from this?” so I can walk away with something I gained for the next try. Rather than simply tolerate the pain, I turn it into an opportunity for self-growth. I’m all about using any opportunity to learn and feel better about my life and what comes next.

Whether you learn about areas in your life that need improvement, or you simply recognize that being turned down isn’t as awful as you imagined, rejection can be a good teacher. Use rejection as an opportunity to move forward with more wisdom and love.