Posts Tagged ‘rummage sale’

Exploring Marketing Options

April 21, 2014

Saturday April 19th, 2014 – McHenry, IL/Volo, IL

Improving my marketing skills from the ground up is my mission not only this year but every other year that I am lucky enough to experience from here on out. It’s something all businesses need to succeed, but especially entertainers. We are our own product, and marketing is a must.

I have been lucky enough to have squeaked by for decades, mostly because I was in the correct place at an opportune time. I rode the wave of the comedy club boom of the 1980s, and was able to make enough to at least survive from late 1985 on. Some years were better than others, but my primary source of income other than a few scattered years doing radio has always been comedy.

That’s good and bad, but most people can’t see the bad. “You make your LIVING standing on a stage telling JOKES. How bad can life be?” Well, in a lot of ways that’s true. I always enjoyed the performing part of it, and I was never motivated by money. If I could squeak by, that was ok.

As it turns out, I could have more than squeaked by and it was my fault for not doing it. By all accounts, I should have had at least one recording a full ten years before I did. I actually thought about it, but nobody else I knew had one and I thought it may appear egotistical. What a dummy. Ego shmego. It would have been some financial security I could have used to further my career.

It probably would have been a cassette, but the form doesn’t matter. Maybe it would have been a vinyl record album. Or both. The point is, I would have been able to sell them every week and even at low numbers I could have hauled in a nice chunk of change over a ten year time window.

I was averaging at least 45 weeks of work then, and quite a few years I worked 50-52. It wasn’t always the best work in the best clubs, but say I could have averaged ten units a week sold over a ten year period. That’s 450-500 units per year at what likely would have been a $10 retail price.

On the conservative side, say that’s $45,000 over ten years minus say $2 per unit to make. That still leaves me $36,000 had I not touched any of that money – and knowing me I would not have. I’d have saved it for some kind of stunt nobody else would have done. It may have been a flop of epic stature, but that’s me as well. I’ve never been afraid to go all in. I have tasted defeat often.

What if I had spent that $36,000 on TV commercials somewhere or a full page ad in one of the trade papers? When was the last time you saw a comedian or performer of any kind spend money on self promotion? It just doesn’t happen – at least not without management or a recording deal.

There are obviously taxes in there too, and I realize that. I would report every last penny, as it’s just not worth trying to screw the government. I’d rather have a clear conscience and just pay my fair share. Whatever was left would have still been a nice bit of cash to use on some promo stunt.

I wasn’t forced to think that way then, as work was plentiful and nobody was selling anything other than their comedy act. We were ‘artistes’, and that’s great on paper but most of us are now certified vagrant caliber broke and wish we would have had our marketing chops on the way up.

Too late now, but it’s not too late to change. One thing I have that the newbies don’t is a whole lot of experience in front of audiences coast to coast, and a backlog of polished material that I am able to use whenever I need it. That’s part of what paying dues is about, and I’ve put in my time.

Now I’m looking to sell what I’ve been able to create, but in other ways than just saying it on a stage somewhere. What else can I do to get paid? I suppose I could write columns, and I’ve been doing that for the past few months in a publication called “Scene Magazine” in Fond du Lac, WI. My friend Silk Casper asked me to do it, and he’s been making sure I get a check every month.

It’s not huge, but it’s been steady and I guess I can say I’m a published author. I think. I’m not anywhere close to being a professional, but it’s a solid start and I am grateful for the opportunity. Branching out and creating a new stream of income for being funny comes in very handy now.

But I know there’s more – a LOT more. There’s both a flea market and an antique mall within an easy drive from where I live, and I took a lap in both today just to check out that scene. I have been going to thrift stores, flea markets and rummage sales for decades, but now I’m seeing them all with fresh eyes. I used to go there looking to score treasures. Now I’m looking to be a seller.

The marketing skills of the sellers at flea markets and antique malls are all over the place. Most are very poor from my experience, and have little to no people skills. Just a friendly hello when I walk past their display should be the bare minimum, but I’d guess maybe 10% or less will do it.

I went today just to observe, and I learned a lot. I went to the flea market first, and looked at all the displays to see which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. Most of the stuff was thrown in an unorganized pile, and was difficult to look at. It took work to sort through all of the clutter to see if there was anything I’d want to buy. They made it hard for people to spend money. Not smart.

Even little things like business cards were missing. What if I was looking to sell something one of the dealers specialized in? Maybe I had a relative pass away that was a big collector, and I was looking for someone to help me appraise the collection. Whatever the case, 99% of these mutants didn’t even say hello and maybe strike up a conversation that could have led to a business deal.

One guy there had some old toys, and his display was a bit sloppy but still interesting. He had a pair of old Schlitz salt and pepper shakers that I bought for $10 and an old pair of Schlitz patches from the ‘60s or ‘70s that their drivers used to wear. I can use all of that for “Schlitz Happened!”

The antique mall was a little better, but not much. Most of the vendors that were there were not very talkative, and I found that appalling. They didn’t have to pester me like the stereotype of an old time used car salesman, but a friendly smile and a hello would have been nice. I didn’t get it.

I ended up buying a collection of 50 old ‘Fate’ magazines from the ‘50s through the ‘70s for $1 each, and that was a steal. They’re a great read, packed with tales of UFOs and the paranormal of all kinds. I’ll scour them for King of Uranus ideas, and keep exercising my marketing muscles to use in the future. I want to go out past Uranus, and find ways to make money when I’m sleeping.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for my one man show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst" www.schlitzhappened.com.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst.” http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the '60s and '70s.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the ’60s.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the '50s through '70s. The cool cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the ’50s through ’70s. The cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.

Mental Wealth

October 24, 2013

Friday October 18th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I’ve been reading quite a bit about acquiring wealth of late, diligently trying to figure out what it takes to achieve financial independence. This has been a perplexing puzzle, and a source of all kinds of pain in my life. I would guess 95% or higher of my problems come from lack of money.

I realize money isn’t everything, but it’s a lot – especially when it happens to be in too short of supply. It’s the measurement of energy that’s returned to a person in proportion to what he or she puts out. That’s what I’ve been reading anyway. There has to be a way to conquer this problem.

America is supposed to be as good as life gets anywhere on the planet, but the vast majority of Americans are hurting for money right now. I won’t go as far as to say we’re poor, but I doubt if anyone would argue that finances are as tight now as they have been since the Great Depression.

My grandparents told me horror stories when I was a kid of going through those years, but they had no choice. Times were tight for all then, much like they are now. They also told stories of the boom years after World War II where lots of people laid a foundation to build eventual fortunes.

Wealth is definitely a mindset, and one I would love to acquire. If I wasn’t so busy trying to get those pesky bills paid month after month, I might have a shot. It’s much easier to fix a hole in the roof when the sun is shining than during the middle of a torrential downpour. That’s a no brainer.

Not many of us have that luxury. I know I don’t. Every single penny I make goes to either bills or paying down debt. My savings is zero, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed. There was a time not all that long ago when I was sitting pretty with zero credit card debt and a hefty stash in the bank that would have allowed me to live without working for at least a few years. That’s LONG gone.

It’s gone for almost everyone – except the filthy rich that don’t have to worry about what they spend at anytime. That’s a tiny percentage of the population that doesn’t count in my book. I am referring to the real world jungle that most of us have to call home. Things are getting a bit snug.

Gas prices have ‘gone down’ to right around three bucks a gallon. Really? How insane is that? That alone is killing us, as it drives up the prices of transportation to get the trucks with all of the merchandise to the stores so they can sell it. It’s all interwoven, and in the end we get the shaft.

It’s hard not to go off on what’s wrong with the system blah blah blah, but that’s not what I am talking about – at least not today. What I mean is getting a proper mindset in place that will bring true wealth as a result. Part of wealth is having money, but not all. It’s acquiring an abundance of resources that can be used as needed to solve problems. It’s an energy river flowing from within.

I know that sounds goofy, but I really believe that’s what wealth is. Many have won the lottery but wound up broke again not that many years later. I never want that to be me. I want to be the wizard that can rebuild a fortune at any time should disaster happen to strike. I have experienced my share of disaster for the next six lifetimes. Hows ‘bout some decent years tossed in there for a refreshing change? That would be nice, and that’s what I’m shooting for. Picking trinkets out of thrift stores and rummage sales is fun, but it’s not my solution. True wealth comes from within.

Money is part of it, but wealth is a mindset.

Money is part of it, but wealth is a mindset.

$38.65

July 15, 2013

Saturday July 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The gap between theory and reality seems to be widening of late. In my head, I’ve got all these grandiose ideas bouncing around for what I want to get done in life, but far too few have had any tangible results. Those that did have happened so slowly, a snail’s pace would signal an upgrade. 

   A prime example would be my feeble attempt to make a few extra bucks wheeling and dealing antiques and collectibles. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I’m in the ideal scenario with my vagabond lifestyle and plenty of free time. In theory, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be killing this.

   I have made a few nice finds, but nothing that’s going to bail me out of the poor house just yet. I knew going in that with enormous glut of TV exposure from American Pickers to Pawn Stars to Storage Wars and everything in between it would light the fires of treasure hunters everywhere.

   I wasn’t getting in it for the quick and easy buck, because if there’s one lesson I’ve learned on my life’s journey it’s that it doesn’t exist along with unicorns, leprechauns and Chicago Cubs in the World Series. I entered the game knowing I would have to work my way into it gradually.

   The main concern as always is my time outlay vs. income. I can’t afford any hobbies that only suck time right now, and I was looking specifically to turn at least a semi steady buck. I think my picking eye is halfway decent, so I set out to look for a supply of trinkets and baubles to resell.

   I compiled a bunch after several weeks of hunting in my spare time, and then delivered some to a friend of a friend who frequently sells on Ebay. We worked out a percentage deal that we could both live with, and I left him to do his thing. We both agreed it would be a low risk experiment.

   Today I received an email from the guy saying my grand total after fees and percentages was a whopping $38.65. Not everything sold, but what did actually fetched a profit. For example, I had a vintage phone I found in a thrift store for $6 and my share after everything was $15. I’ll take it.

   I also found an old model car kit at a rummage sale for $3 and my final net was $12. Again, not a bad profit and the other guy made his percentage too. We only tried a few items, so it’s not like my whole stash is used up, but at this rate it will be a long time before I’ll be in the Fortune 500.

   Rummage season is in full swing, and I am in a mega ripe area. I can’t drive down any street in any direction near me on a weekend and not see homemade signs everywhere. I’m not finding an abundance of quality items though, and it’s not been worth my time and especially gas to search.

   Everyone else is watching all those TV shows too, so anything even close to old is being listed as ‘vintage’ and priced as high as someone would have to be to buy it for that amount. It’s funny to see the looks on shoppers’ faces when they flip over a junk item and see a sky high price tag.

   Still, there are bargains to be found for those that look hard enough. I’m just not sure if I have a desire to be one of them. By the time I fill my gas tank and put stressful miles on my car sorting through randomly scattered junk piles hoping to find a rare gem, the profit I make isn’t worth it.

   I will still fart around with it only because I like it, but this isn’t the way to make any kind of a steady living. I’d have to get a storage facility and set up at flea markets, and right now I’m just not looking to do that. I’ve got other projects that mean more to me than being a garbage picker. In theory, I had a plan to bring in steady extra cash. In reality, I worked way too hard for $38.65.

$2,739.73

June 7, 2013

Wednesday June 5th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I have a calculator I bought years ago at a rummage sale for a quarter, and I happened to find it in an old box today. I don’t think I’ve ever used it even one time since I bought it, so I decided to play around and crunch a few numbers to get my quarter’s worth. I let my imagination run wild.

   Does anyone even use calculators anymore? Other than trying to figure out how much it would cost to fill my gas tank, I can’t think of a time I’d use one. If I really needed it, I think there’s one on my phone, right? I think so anyway. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it ring properly. It tweets and beeps and farts and does everything more than what I bought it for – to make calls.

   The world is passing me by on a daily basis, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m trying to keep up, but it’s not even close. I am getting smoked like smuggled marijuana in prison. Hey, there’s a funny thought – a joint in the joint! Ok, back to reality. I’m a big human dinosaur. 

   Technology is in charge, and that’s how it is. It’s frustrating, but it’s too late to turn back now. It’s all here to stay, like it or not. Some of it I really like, but there’s too much to keep up with on a daily basis, and I feel so lost I don’t know who to complain to. Our humanity is being neutered.

   I think the era when it was the ideal mix between Flintstones and Jetsons has passed. There are a lot of great things about technology and the modern era, but there are drawbacks too. The same is true for the ‘good old days’ as well. I don’t think prairie life was the ultimate thrill ride either.

   Hunting for my dinner and sleeping in a cabin with my unshaven wife and eight melon headed offspring I need as farm hands doesn’t tickle my doo dad at all. Yes, there were no preservatives or genetic altering added to my food and it probably tasted better than McNuggets, but that’s it.

   Back then, I’d be dead by the age I am now. Even in this era, I’m shocked I have lived as long as I have. Every day I’m alive is bonus time, and I’m trying to make the best of it but it’s getting tougher by the hour. I try to be blind to the insanity that’s going on everywhere, but I just can’t.

   I still say money would solve 95% or higher of my current problems. A windfall would put me in a much calmer mindset, and I wouldn’t have the constant stress of having to make decisions to pay my bills in the short run rather than be an asset to humanity in the long run. It’s exasperating. I’d only need a reasonable chunk, but today I pulled out the stops and went for a million bucks.

   I started farting around on the old calculator, and punched in 1,000,000 divided by 365 days of the year. It comes out to $2,739.726 so we’ll round it up to $2,739.73. That’s how much anybody would need to make every single day for a year to have a cool million. Leap year it’s $2,732.24.

   That number alone blows my mind, but that’s gnat poo. There are professional athletes that are not even in the starting lineups of their teams that make multiple millions a year, and they have a contract that’s guaranteed for more than one year. I couldn’t begin to imagine what that would be like. Well I guess I could imagine it, but I’d like to LIVE it. I truly believe I could handle it well.

   What is money anyway other than a manufactured shallow symbol of the exchange of energies from one party to another? Unfortunately, in this existence it’s absolutely EVERYTHING. That wasn’t my call, and I’m not saying I like it – but it’s the truth. I’m not going to lie, I’d love to get a million bucks legally and without hurting anyone. Right now I’d be delighted with $2,739.73.

"Got change for a million bucks?"

“Anyone got change for a million bucks?”

I've got the zeros part down.

They won’t take these at the thrift store. 😦