This week in our “Getting to Know” series, I’m thrilled to present Christine Schinagl of Cutting for Business. Christine brings a unique perspective to the Silhouette world. Not only is she a crafter but she has also built a successful business helping other Silhouette and Cricut users launch and grow their own crafting businesses.
Christine lives in Florida, just outside of Disney World, with her husband and four young children. She is a presenter for various business-related classes at the All Things Silhouette conferences and is one of the few instructors who has taught at all five ATS events held since November 2015. When I first met Christine at the registration table during the April 2016 conference, building a Silhouette-related business was the last thing on my mind. Boy, how quickly things have changed! She is now my go-to resource for business advice. As an avid reader of her blog as well as a regular participant in her Facebook group, it was a real treat for me to sit down with Christine and talk face-to-face.
Your area of expertise is the business side of Silhouette and yet you are also very creative. Have you always been a crafter/maker?
Yes, I would say that crafting has always been “in my blood”. My mom is a master knitter but I wasn’t interested in knitting so I started out making jewelry. I then quickly progressed to teaching classes at Michaels. Jewelry-making is an expensive hobby though and when I got to college I really couldn’t afford it so I started crafting more with “found materials”. After college I got back into more serious crafting.
Which model of Silhouette machine was your first and when did you acquire it?
My first Silhouette was the SD model and I bought it used off of a Yahoo group seven or eight years ago, from someone who couldn’t figure it out. Back then there were no bloggers writing tutorials or online help, so everything was trial & error. All you could do was put the material in, press the button, and hope for the best. If it didn’t cut, you just had to try again. I think that experience is what has given me such a good foundation in knowing the machines today, because I was forced to experiment in the beginning and find out what worked and what didn’t work.
What was your first project?
(laughing) I don’t know if I want to admit to this but my first project was a painted sign. I had found a quote about family that I wanted to use so I got some pre-cut, vinyl self-stick letters from Home Depot (the kind you use on boats), put them on a board, and then applied stain over them just like the instructions I’d found online said to do. But because they were just stickers they didn’t seal properly and the result was a gloppy mess with bleed spots all over. The reason I remember exactly what it looked like is because I still have it hanging in my dining room. My whole family knows the story and it’s something we look at every day. It’s ugly but I’m really proud of it. It was pretty much what pushed me to buy a Silhouette. It’s half of a two-piece project and right next to it hangs a second sign, the first project I ever made with my Silhouette, which looks much better. The two of them side by side serve as a visual reminder of how much I improved in just a matter of days.
What machines do you currently own?
I have several Cricuts, every Cameo, a Curio, and a Mint – I think I have all of them!
When did your Silhouette hobby become a profession?
Well you know this whole thing was accidental, right? I never came home and said, “I’m going to be a blogger.” I was in several Facebook groups and there was so much bad business information being shared. Having built a successful non-craft business, I knew that my expertise would translate to a craft business as well, so I would answer a lot of questions here and there. One morning, I woke up to something like 85 Facebook messages in my in-box. At the time, I was still working outside my home, my children were very small, and there was no way I could answer all those messages personally, so I typed up a basic list of something like “Frequently Asked Questions about Silhouette Businesses” – about a hundred of them. It was about as plain as you could get – a white web page with black text, just questions and answers. When it was published, the site went down because so many people were sharing the link. I had a little bit of experience with web design, so I decided to turn it into a blog.
Cutting for Business went online in February 2015. Originally I posted once a week but people were asking for more, so I increased to twice a week. I now post five days per week and have weekend activities on my Facebook page as well.
I hate to say that luck plays a role in anyone’s success but when I started there was no one else out there like me, doing what I was doing. There still isn’t. The content I write about is extremely boring. I mean, who else writes about things like terms and conditions for websites and shipping issues? But my talent is being able to spin it in such a way that people will actually want to sit down and take the time to read it.
Something you’re always stressing on your blog and in your Facebook group is for a person to find their niche. You’ve certainly followed your own advice!
Yes, I have. It’s so important to find something you like doing, that you’re good at, and that someone else finds value in.
Besides your blog, what does your business consist of?
I sell “Tee Square It” and “Logo It” alignment tools on Amazon and Etsy. I also have a Facebook advertising e-course and have written several e-books: the Diving In & Diving Deeper series for both Silhouette and Cricut users, Pinterest Boot Camp, Instagram Boot Camp, and the Home Parties book.
Out of all your different publications, do you have a favorite?
Definitely the Home Parties book! I love instructional stuff and that book was so much fun to write and it was so much fun to take pictures of everything. If you look through it closely, it includes much more personal information than I publish on my blog – pictures of me and my husband together, pictures of our home decor, etc.
What is your favorite way to spend your creative time?
I absolutely adore designing cut files. If I weren’t a business blogger, I’d have a cut file store. I learned graphic design during my first pregnancy and it’s something I love. I don’t hire out any of the designs I offer on Freebie Fridays because I really enjoy designing them myself – that’s my “me time”. But it’s not unusual to spend hours on a design and since I don’t have time to be a full-time designer I stick with a 50/50 ratio – about half of the designs are my own and I feature other small businesses and their designs for the remainder.
I also love to draw, mostly charcoal drawings. Although I’m an Apple fan, I’ve tried to use the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil but I just can’t get the hang of it. The ProCreate app is great, but I really love the feel of something in my hand making direct contact with the paper.
What inspires you?
As generic as it sounds, it’s mostly my kids and the things around me. I try to keep my designs modern and trendy and it’s nice to have a pre-teen daughter who tells me what’s “cool”. I also look at a lot of magazines and catalogs of big name brands. Right now mermaids and vacation themes are really popular. Browsing through magazines or catalogs will help you see where big business is spending their money and help identify those trends.
Almost all the designs on your blog include a commercial license, which is very generous but rather unusual.
I don’t have the time to create products with my designs to sell so I figure my readers might as well be able to and maybe make a profit from them.
You and your husband are both self-employed, you work from home, and your children are still relatively young. How do you manage all of that?
I was not very organized in beginning so when I started seriously blogging, things quickly got out of hand. I was blogging eight hours per day, five days per week. I would write as much as possible during the day, feed the kids dinner, my husband and I would put them to bed, and then I’d work for a few more hours. It got crazy and I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace. In fact, I abandoned the blog for about a week although no one really knew it because I work so far ahead. But then after that week passed, I sat my husband down and we had a long talk. We talked about the future of the blog and how we knew we couldn’t let it run our life. I then went out and bought an Erin Condren hourly planner and now everything is blocked out – family time, laundry, work, Christine’s time – EVERYTHING!
And that worked?
The transition was hard. In fact, it was horrible! The first two weeks I didn’t get anything done. I would have an hour blocked off for something specific and then find at the end of the hour that I’d done three other things during that time. It was such a problem, that I even wrote a blog post on the dangers of multitasking!
Another big mistake was not scheduling a block for catch-up time, which is a must. Now I’m very disciplined with block scheduling and try very hard to work solely on what I’ve assigned to an individual time block. During “Christine’s time” I will sometimes have to catch-up on a few things, but I try to never use more than half of my personal time for things that are regularly assigned their own block. Instead, I will work on my designs, draw, or make phone calls.
How did you come to be a presenter at the All Things Silhouette Conference?
I had heard about the first conference and thought about coming as an attendee but it wasn’t going to work out very well with my schedule. One night when I was out to dinner, Terri (whom I’d never met before) messaged me via the contact form on my website and invited me to speak at the conference. I thought she was crazy! I said to my husband, “Doesn’t she know I write at night when the kids are in bed, sometimes in my pajamas???” But he encouraged me and said that I HAD to do it. I went but having never done anything like that before, I was incredibly nervous. Between classes, I would run back to my room, take a deep breath and get ready for the next class. But it’s fine now. Being a blogger has really brought me out of my shell and now I’m much more comfortable.
What do you like best about the All Things Silhouette Conference?
My favorite thing is meeting Cutting for Business readers in person. It’s the only time I really get to interact with them. It is absolutely a pleasure to be able to reach out and shake their hand, give them a hug, hear what their business is doing, and see how excited their face is when they say ‘I read this post the other day and it led to this and I did this with my business’. I get so excited to hear the success stories!
People will rarely reach out [via the internet] and just tell me what’s going on in their business, but if they see me face-to-face, they’ll say something. Rarely do I get an email saying “I had a really great week!” although I do encourage posting that kind of information in my group. They’re worried that other people will read it. But here at the conference, they will tell me.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Nothing definite right now, but there may be another party book coming out in the future ;).
I’ll certainly be looking forward to that! Considering that I read her first Home Parties book cover-to-cover the minute I downloaded it, you know I’ll be eagerly anticipating the next one. I encourage you to check it out as well. In the meantime, you can find lots of good information on her blog. Although her posts are geared toward the business crafter, many are relevant to those who create purely for personal reasons. You can also follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
With so much great information available on Christine’s site, it would be impossible for me to list all my favorite articles but here’s a sampling to get you started. You may find the first three especially useful for the upcoming Independence Day holiday! (Click on the image for a link to each post.)
Thanks again for taking the time out to talk with me Christine. It was such a pleasure and I’m looking forward to the next time we meet in person!