I almost got scammed.
I am very skeptical about most phone calls, and rarely answer numbers I do not know. In a weaker moment this week, I received a call from Big Stone Gap, VA and I accepted it. The person on the other end of the call said they were from Google Local Search and had been trying to reach me to verify my business address.
Why did I believe this? Because, I've moved multiple times and my art Facebook page still shows the Google map of my studio located in Arlington, Virginia despite listing the correct address.
I thought the two things might be related. I vaguely remember trying to get my business "Google Verified," but couldn't remember if that had been completed.
The person on the call was very polite and helpful. They said they were able to list my city without the street address. After we reviewed the categories and particulars, she said she was transferring me to the SEO Specialist. This person was even more eager to help. We reviewed what listings came up in my town for the categories and keywords I had given; they suggested some different words and tested those to get me the best possible results in Google searches.
Then the other shoe dropped. They said it was a one time fee of $349. This was a surprise, but I honestly thought that it could be legitimate. I was thinking, "It will be worth it. I'm not moving again. People will have an easier time finding me." They asked how I would like to pay. That's when my Spidey Sense woke up. I told them that I do not give my credit card numbers out over the phone unless contact is initiated by me. I said, "But, how do I know you are actually from Google?" They said I would instantly receive a receipt with all the information on it. I said, "Well, perhaps, but by then it may be too late." They asked if I could receive a text while we continued talking and offered to send me a sample of what I would receive.
At this point, I was armed with Google search terms (ironic, no?!) to ferret out the truth. As I feared, this was a scam. There's more information here. But, the main points:
I'd still like a correct map, so I'm off to try and do that myself. ;)
Many artists will tell you that your mailing list is of supreme importance. It gives you a way of staying in touch with your art fans and potential collectors. You have it whether or not the social media platform you use falls out of favor. You can control its use and should protect it and grow it.
About thirty days ago, I started seeing an uptick in subscribers to my list. I was thrilled! They had normal looking email addresses from a wide variety of domains and I wondered how people were finding me. I must be doing something right. Yea, me! Then I started to get them every few hours. What is going on? I was hoping that some super famous artist or international art magazine somehow mentioned me, but that was not the case.
I logged into my newsletter service (Mailchimp) and took a closer look. Here is what I found:
My form only requires an email, but most people give at least a first name. As you can see, these names in recent sign-ups the name fields are filled with strings of letters and numbers. This was very suspicious. As is my way, I started Googling the issue.
I found several articles by people who have had the same problem. It seems that email addresses are collected by spammers and then entered into random forms on the web. I have no idea why this is advantageous to spammers, but I can explain why it is an issue for those of us who send emails to collectors and potential collectors.
Why is this a problem? Several reasons: 1) If the address is a valid address, then people who did not sign up will receive your email (and perhaps hundreds of others) and can (will?) report it as spam. You can then be put on automated lists keeping your REAL collectors from getting your newsletter. 2) Your "open" stats and other metrics will be waaaaaaay off. You will feel like you aren't connecting with your audience. 3) If your list is large enough, you may be paying to send to subscribers that will never benefit your community or your wallet.
Is this occurrence nefarious? I'm not sure, but by clicking on each subscriber individually, I did find no matter what location was listed the language was Russian:
So, you are aware of the problem. What now?
First, check your list. I ran a bunch of address through an email checker. I used one at Clean Talk. Some of my fake subscriber addresses were real; some were not. Most had been blacklisted. That made me confident that I was not deleting actual subscribers. Then, I deleted these fake subscribers.
I also activated the reCAPTCHA feature for my sign-up form. Full instructions are on Mailchimp help, but below is what I needed to know:
Another step is to require those who sign-up to receive and respond to a confirmation email. I haven't done that yet. (I do send an automated welcome email.) If the problem continues, I will add that step. I'm trying to keep it as easy as possible for people to join.
Other people have gone to the extreme of charging a (refundable) fee of $1 or $2 to sign-up, but if I did that, I would send the subscriber something, whether a postal postcard or a digital item by email.
Spam is a pain in many areas of online life, but as long as it exists, these tips should help you identify and eliminate it from your sign-up lists. I'd love to hear your experiences and if my tips work for you.
Are you a resolution maker? I'm more of a goal setter. I set LOTS of goals and don't often accomplish everything, but goals give me an idea of what I am striving to be and accomplish.
2018 was not an average year for me, in life or art. We started the year facing my husband's retirement and a move with location "to be determined." June until December were spent in temporary housing situations or setting up house.
I'm going into the new year in a new city with anticipation and positive energy! I just need to decide on specific items for my endeavor! For inspiration, I asked some of my artist friends what they were thinking:
Barbara Davis (no relation to me, sadly) reflected on the ending year and told me the following...
"At the end of 2017, I had goals to draw everyday, focus on portraiture, explore the new ideas and techniques that are germinating in my head and heart! I began to take on commission after commission, though, and while I enjoyed each one, I realized my personal art goals were being lost in the shuffle.
My friend, and figurative painter, and portrait artist, Maria Bennett Hock has a very specific and defined purpose for 2019:
"I will dedicate myself to learning more about human anatomy."
One of my favorite watercolor artists, Lorraine Watry is starting the new year with an intriguing project:
"This year will be different because I will be spending most of the first half of the year painting 17 watercolors for a children's book.
Susanne Nason, my sketchbook mentor, plans to "fuel her creative fire" in 2019.
"As a watercolor artist teacher and mentor I need to be passionate about what I do. If I become overcommitted I can lose that spark. I have resolved to manage my time differently this coming year.
I love the philosophy of my friend, Theresa's focus for this year!
"2018 was a year of transition: new house, new area, attempting to start from scratch while family members battled health issues. Happily everyone is well, leaving us with an extra fresh clean slate for 2019.
Tara is always in the middle of a million projects. Her goals are big and varied. I'll share more from her in months to come, but read her immediate plans!
"In 2019, I want to finish the renovation of the old farmhouse studio building. It needs gutting and all its windows replaced, new electric wiring and new plumbing. We need to strip it down to a shell on the inside and start over. The building has great bones, and I can’t wait to see how it comes out.
Carrie's work from overseas living delights judges and audiences; I'm delighted there is more to come in that vein this year!
"In 2019 I want to paint more works as a collection for exhibition. I am in a mentoring group with four other ladies and we have been exhibiting in museums during 2018. We have several exhibitions lined up for 2019 and even a few in 2020. I want to paint more in general and continue to paint my experiences and inspiration that come from living in Japan."
Thanks to all these amazing artist friends for their insights and inspirations. My goal for 2019 is going to center around CONSISTENCY. I want to treat painting more like a job and schedule around it more judiciously. I'd like to inventory my new artwork as I make it and put it on my website in a more timely manner. I'd like write more blog posts and include more informative information in them. I'd like to put out a newsletter (again). I'd like to keep my print-on-demand sites more current and publicize them.
Most of all, I want to meet artists in my new city and form some lasting bonds with this place we now call "home."
Happy new year to all! Share how you hope 2019 will be different in the comments.
I just read Alyson's list over at Art Biz Success and was inspired to make a list. It is not a very art related list, but I did put some studio tools at the bottom. I hope you will find it useful or interesting.
I'll start with things that make life easier and provide a shortcut to household tasks resulting in more time for painting.
Roomba by iRobot
After a year of having a robot vacuum cleaner, The extravagance is worth it. Occasionally, I neglect to empty the bin and "Garrison" cannot do his work. (New models empty themselves!) If ready to go, hearing his little start up tune makes me smile. When I've spent all day in the studio, it's nice to think that at least some dust, dog hair and crumbs were picked up!
Meal Kits (with CAVEATS)
Food preparation is very time consuming. Over 2017 and 2018, we tried three online meal delivery services. We had no complaints about the cost, the quality of the food, or our satisfaction with the recipes. I DO have issue with the number of ice packs and amount of packing materials needed to send the boxes. I now prefer buying the meal kits at local grocery stores.
We like to cook and eat at home during the week, so meal kits ensure a plan, all the ingredients, and less than 30 minutes cooking time without the sodium of prepared meals. That means that I don't have to think about dinner until after we watch the evening news! Priceless.
Over the years, I've done several different methods of solving this problem. I also recommend Saving Dinner, a website and/or cookbook that gives you a shopping list and recipes for each week. (Garlic Lime Chicken is a frequent dish at our house.)
We just finished our last jar of Conch Candy from the Pickle Baron. I love to chop it up and put on of a cream cheese spread cracker from Firehook Crackers; (multigrain flax is my favorite).
I have a new "go to" chocolate bar: The Hu Almond Butter + Puffed Quinoa Dark Chocolate. It sounds a little bit odd but tastes great!
As drinks go, I was late to the kombucha craze, but I still enjoy it; I often mix it with seltzer from my Soda Stream. Pink Lady Basil and Watermelon Wonder are my standards.
I've read 25+ books this year, but after going over my list, there are only four that I'd feel comfortable recommending. I gave these books four or more stars on GoodReads. (BTW, I'm very stingy with my stars.)
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Vacationland by John Hodgman
Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Apps For Your Phone or Tablet:
Short Ratcheting Screwdriver with Bits in Handle
Strange, I know, but I LOOOOOVE this screwdriver. I can't find a brand on it and image search wasn't helpful. The closest I can find it this one.
Zecchi Travel Brishes
Kolinsky sable bristles and beautiful to look at (and paint with). Purchased in Florence, but a boxed set of four slightly different ones are available online. Escoda has nice ones that are similar. Travel cup also nice; I've had it forever, but it is still available.
Peshtemal Turkish Towels
I originally saw these towels (also known as hammam towels or fouta towels) on Pinterest and then a college friend mentioned them and I asked her about them. Visually, I found the designs very attractive, but was worried they would not be sufficiently absorbent. They ARE very thin, but they are also very soft and plenty absorbent for post-shower or bath. The advantage that made them a winner for me is that they dry quickly, so they are never damp when I need to use them. Would be great for travel. I got mine online from Infuse Zen.
SLEEP WELL Magnesium Chloride Flakes by Seven Minerals
Better than bath salts and good for your muscles! I love the one with organic cedarwood and lavender.