How Canva Changed My Life

How Canva Changed my Life - Canva Certified Creative Thea Newcomb CCC

Canva Changed My Life – Here’s How…

Here is a little story about how Canva changed my life. Before I get to that, I have a few other people that deserve a mention for assisting me on my Canva journey…

My background is media, new media and radio. I started building websites in the mid-nineties and launched a website forum, in 2000 (ready to reboot it for its 20th anniversary).

Back in 2010, I began working with Gary Ennis of NSdesign. One day, not long into the job, Gary made an off the cuff remark along the lines of, “Thea you could be doing these workshops”.

The workshops were for Business Gateway and were all about creating effective websites, basic SEO and trading online.

Honestly, until that fateful day, I’d never once considered being a trainer. In fact, though I had been comfortable speaking to thousands on the radio, the idea of standing in front of ten or fifteen people scared the life out of me.

But that random remark stuck with me so I went to see Gary deliver a workshop in Clydebank. You know what? After it, I thought “he is right I could do that”.

And with that, a brand new career path was born. Thanks Gary!

These people changed my life - by Thea Newcomb

Guy Canva’s Chief Evangelist

Looking back, I think the first person I ever saw talking (tweeting) about Canva was Guy Kawasaki who became Canva’s chief evangelist in April 2014.

I had signed up for Canva a few months before, on 19 February 2014. I started to mention Canva in my various Business Gateway workshops, telling people how they could make website elements using it.

Back then I was also a subscriber of PicMonkey (at $4.99/month), and I would use Canva for free, periodically, too. In those days, I felt like Canva was a bit harder to use – I mean I simply struggled to wrap my head around it. I could make the designs from their templates easily enough, but I struggled with what to do with them once created…(more on that in a minute…) So back then I pretty much stuck to Picmonkey. However, in my workshops, at the time, I did recommend both websites as places to make elements for people’s websites and social media.

Meeting Canva founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht - Blogher 2014 Thea Newcomb

Meeting Ms Melanie Perkins

In July of 2014, I happened to be back (home) in California and learned that there was a Blogging convention going on in my city, San Jose. It was a two day conference for women called BlogHer – and as I’d been blogging for around ten years, I decided to attend.

On arrival I clocked one of the exhibitor stands was, none other than, Canva. Two of its founders, Cliff and Melanine, were manning the stand.

Me being me, I walked up and introduced myself to Mel and Cliff, and said that I  loved Canva and that I promoted it in my workshops back in Scotland. I also may have let it slip to Mel and Cliff that I liked Canva but I struggled a bit with the software and often found myself opting for PicMonkey in a pinch. (I know right? ‘Better go back and read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” again, Thea…)

Canva Flashback to July of 2014
How Canva looked back in July of 2014

I was just being my overly-honest self, and didn’t intend to be rude. As super nice as she seems, Melanie took my feedback in stride, and proceeded to walk me over to her laptop. She had me create a design, which I did easily, whilst she silently watched me.

Where I’d get stuck was seeing the word “Share” up at the too right (where I expected a “Download” to be). Mel set me straight and that was that. (And later a separate download button appeared. Just sayin’, y’all….)

Seriously though, as you can see it was a fairly innocuous meeting, on both our parts. I am sure that neither of them remember meeting me, and to be honest, though they were both lovely people, I didn’t give Canva or them much of a thought for a while.

Little did I know that this lovely couple, and the software they co-created, would change my life, immeasurably,…for the better.

Getting More Creative With Canva

Upon my return UK, and and armed with the newfound knowledge of Canva, I started to use it more and more. I continued to get more adept with it and was able to give quick examples in my various Business Gateway workshops.

Additionally, for marketing my own business, I’d use it for website elements, my Twitter tweets, Facebook posts and even Google Plus (remember that ole chestnut?)

August 2017 - early Canva presentation
One of my slides in my Google Slides presentation – Aug 2017 – LOL

Creating Killer Graphics is Born

In November of 2016 the always innovative Claire Duncan (pictured above) from Business Gateway Ayrshire called the lovely, aforementioned Gary, asking if he fancied doing a Canva workshop. At the time Gary, was too busy, and didn’t really see it as a full workshop. So as second best, Claire rang me – asking if I wanted to do one.

Absolutely, yes!!

So do it, we did. Our very first FREE workshop was the not-so-catchy titled, “Creating Killer Graphics to Market Your Business Offline & On” – where we featured both Canva and Picmonkey.

After the first workshop though, we quickly realised it was way too much to cover, in just three hours, so we dumped Picmonkey. (Sorry, little monkey). At the time, that decision really was primarily due to the fact that Canva was Free and PicMonkey wasn’t.

business gateway ayrshire

“Scotland’s First Canva Trainer”

Since that first dedicated Canva workshop in February of 2017, I truly became a Canva evangelist in Scotland, not unlike Guy Kawasaki (only with much less influence).

What started with that one workshop in Ayrshire grew to Lanarkshire (thanks Tim Dunsmuir!) Then Renfrewshire and slowly has spread to other regions across the country from the Borders to the Highlands!

Every month I get paid to do what I love – travel around Scotland and train Scottish businesses how to use Canva to market their businesses offline and on. What could be better?

Now, here we are, over three years since that first, dedicated Canva workshop, and it has become my primary source of income.
Who’d have thought?
canva swag - ralph says

Around November 2018, fitting their criteria of empowering others in Canva love, I became a Canva Certified Creative. – the second in Scotland. The day I received my Canva swag box in California was one of the best days of 2018 (and one of the best in my life!)

I was so happy and proud as I was showing my dad my box of goodies, and he was so happy for me and proud of me…Then, three days later, he died.

So effectively one of the best and worst things that have ever happened to me, happened just days apart. That is definitely the most memorable week of my entire life…

I Love Making Money While I Sleep

My dad would be delighted to hear of my Canva travels across Scotland. Prior to his passing, we had started to create a brand together, as a little side hustle, called Ralph Says Things. We made tshirts, mugs and merch out of some of his sayings – to make some extra money for him in his retirement.

Growing up, my father tried to drill into me that passive income is the best kind of income.

Here too Canva plays a starring role. I still design t-shirts, stickers, mugs, hoodies, bags, books and more – all using Canva.

So essentially what that means is, that my “day job” (as a trainer) and my “side hustle” are all about Canva.

That, my friends, is how Canva  changed my life.

Make Money While You Sleep

In Conclusion

So now it’s a little funny for me to think back to those two days meeting two of its founders. None of us knew at the time where the journey would take us…

Canva is now a billion dollar Unicorn company, which continues to empower anyone anywhere in the world to design graphics for FREE.

Here in Glasgow, I am happy to help by empowering Scottish businesses on how to use it to market their own businesses.

Suffice it to say, I am forever grateful to Cliff, Melanie, Cameron and all at Canva. You have changed, and continue to change, my life in ways I’ve not even realised just yet.

Thanks again to Claire and Gary too. None of this would be possible with you two, too!

Has Canva helped you in your life or your business? Tell me how! Let’s share the Canva Love!
Not signed up yet? Well why not Sign up to Canva for FREE, now!

How Canva Changed my Life - Thea Newcomb - CCC

UPDATE: Merch UK Conference London – Moved from March to September due to Covid 19

Merch Conference UK 2020 has been moved from March to September due to Covid 19

The Merch UK Conference 2020 Has Provisionally Moved to 26 September

12 March 2020: Due to the Corona outbreak, Covid 19, the people behind the Merch UK conference have decided to postpone until September. This is a wise and unsurprising move on their part. You can either get a full refund from the team or keep your ticket there for September.

How exciting to see that the tickets for the Merch UK Conference have gone on sale. As someone who co-runs the Merch Across the Pond UK meet up group naturally I have to attend this exciting conference. A few years ago, I attended the Seattle Merch Conference and met some amazing POD experts and learned a thing or two as well.

2020 Conference Schedule

  •  9:30 am: Morning Registration / Kick off:
    Morning registration in the Glasshouse for those attending the morning introductory sessions.
  • 10:00 am: Quickstart Introduction to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
    This session will be a quickstart session covering the basics of KDP along with a Q&A at the end. This will give beginners all the basics they need to understand the KDP platform and set them up for the afternoon sessions.
  • 11:00 am: Quickstart Introduction to Merch By Amazon
    This session will be a quickstart session covering the basics of Merch By Amazon along with a Q&A. This will give beginners all the basics they need to understand the platform and set them up for the afternoon sessions.
  • 12 pm: Lunch & Registration
    Finger Food Lunch along with teas/coffees will be served alongside Registration in the Glasshouse.
  • 1:00 pm: Introduction – Welcome to the Merch UK Conference
  • Speaker Sessions
    Speaker schedule to be confirmed but will be headlined by the biggest UK name in Merch By Amazon …. Michael Essek.
  • Panel Q&A
    Q & A on various Merch/POD related topics
  • 5:30 pm: Pre-Dinner drinks and networking
  • 6:30 pm: 3 course meal
  • 7:30 pm: Drinks and networking
  • 11:30 pm: Venue closes

Merch Conference 2020 Details:

When: Saturday March 21st 2020.
Where: The Glasshouse on the Lock, Camden Lock, London, NW1 7BY.

What: Includes all of the below:

  • Introductory Sessions for those new to Merch/KDP.
  • Finger Food Lunch
  • Speaker Sessions
  • Exhibitor Stands
  • Prize Giveaways
  • A 3 Course Evening Meal
  • Multiple Networking Sessions
  • Discounted hotel room rates for attendees
  • A special pack of 20 KDP Interiors for each attendee
Get your tickets now at

Who should attend this Merch UK Conference 2020?

In my opinion anyone who has an interested in KDP, Merch and Print on Demand. You can be an absolute beginner or a full fledged veteran and you’ll still get something out of it. I am usually one of the least experienced (or at least among the less successful in terms of money) but I always love going to these sorts of things. It’s an amazing opportunity to network and meet people who are passionate about POD. You will also always pick up a few sites, tools or tips to better your print on demand business.

So maybe see you London?

Canva Feature Requests – What Would You Like to See in 2020?

Canva Feature Requests

Canva Feature Requests

It’s a whole new year and indeed new decade. Canva has made many changes and just last month, at the Summer Season opener, announced a bunch of new features that are coming soon. Some of the features I’ve already got access to as a Canva Certified Creative. Some have yet to be launched. What would your Canva Feature Requests be? What, if anything, do you find lacking in the tool?

Having a look through one of the groups I have seen a few features not currently available on Canva and I’ve had one or two I’d like to see.

Features I’d Love to See in Canva

Below, in no special order, are some of the features and functionality I’d love to see with any of the future Canva feature updates. To be fair many of the things I want to do often have some sort of “work arounds” but not all of them…

  • The ability to search images and filter by landscape and portrait
  • When searching for “Free” images/elements (a Canva Pro feature), to be able to filter out ones eligible for commercial use
    Search Canva FREE
  • Curved Text: This is a popular one that gets asked in most of my workshops. I’d love it – especially for designing my tshirts for my Print on Demand business.
  • Delete multiple items – It would be great to be able to delete lots of photos or former images in our “All Our Designs” area
  • Color/Colour Picker – While there is some aspect to this within the colour paletettes of an uploaded photo it’s not exact (Note: If you have a photo on the page, you’ll now find a palette suggested for you for recolouring other elements in your design, based on colors in your photo)
  • CMYK Export – An ability to export files with CMYK would be handy
  • Add textures
  • Add shadow effect (there is a work around, like most things in Canva but it can be a bit, well as we say in Scotland “faffy”)
  • Ability to add tables easily (again you can do it by using shapes but it’s a bit laborious)

Your Suggestions

So what sort of Canva feature requests would you have – if you could have them add any functionality? Have I missed any awesome features in my list above?

Thankfully new and exciting changes are coming all the time. Wonder what will be next…Any guesses?


Q4 Holidays – Wrapping Up My 2019 Year of Travels

Wrapping Up my 2019 Travels - Quarter 4

Q4 Holidays – Wrapping Up My 2019 Travels

Regular readers of the blog will know about my 2019 travels – namely that this year I dubbed my Year of Travels. Having lost my best friend, biggest supporter and confidante (my dad) almost exactly a year ago, I decided to dedicate my free time to celebrating him and traveling as much as possible. In particular it was my intention to travel every month – near or far – for at least one night away.

Since my last  Summer travel blog – I’ve visited London, Oban, Campbeltown to name but a few places.

London – October

My 2019 Year of Travels took me to London for another Merch Across the Pond meetup. It was great to see my group, and hear how they’re getting on with their print on demand businesses and side hustles. I’ll be doing a separate post about that myself soon – possibly with a Print on Demand infographic showing my numbers visually. It wasn’t just London I stayed in this year – I also had trips to Linlithgow and Aberdour again to the Woodside Hotel which is becoming like a second home to me.

Later in the month I even had a stay in Irvine. Yes, really. I was doing an afternoon session on a Friday and a morning session Saturday so I just booked myself in down there to save me some travels.

November Trips

For my 2019 Travels, November was a fun one because it meant nights away in Campbeltown for some Creating Killer Graphics in Canva and two nights away for Thanksgiving in Oban. The beautiful thing about both of those trips is the scenery in both places. There were of course many opportunities for photo ops which ended up on some of my line of ‘Scottish Travel Journals‘.  (Search that name, on Amazon, to see some of them).

Thea Newcomb photo" Castle Stalker Scotland

I really enjoyed the workshops further afield and the road trips to them. It allowed me much alone time with my thoughts as I traveled through Scotland’s majestic landscape. Already looking forward to more travels in 2020.

December, Finally

I didn’t really do a much overnight traveling in December but I did spend a night away in Edinburgh ahead of a Canva workshop in the Capital. The room was bijou, cute and Beano-decorated. The workshop went went and it was back home again. And the following weekend was spent in my home-from-home Aberdour once more. It was to see the fabulous ’80s outfit China Crisis at the Woodside Hotel.

So as we only have a few days left I suspect that ends my 2019 travels and decade itself I suppose.  It’s now been exactly a year (to the day) since my father passed away, and thus a time for reflection. It’s been a year (decade) with some high highs and low lows, but honestly that’s pretty much every year for me. I visited countries I’ve never been to this year. I’ve made new friends along the way.

Scotland's First Canva Trainer - Canva Certified Creative

What’s Your 2020 Vision?

This week also marks the one year anniversary of becoming an official Canva Certified Creative which is some ways has been life changing for me. It’s a title I hold dearly and one I look to expand further afield in 2020 – hopefully all the way to Sydney, Canva’s HQ. That’s a top goal. To do more Canva 121 training and workshops anywhere in the world.

Another goal will be to double my Print on Demand income so I can make even more money while I sleep each night. I also aim to pay off my mortgage with the click of a button.

Feel free to tell me any of your goals or aims for 2020. I’d welcome the Accountability Buddy. See you next year (if not sooner!)

The pictures below are 1) from Thanksgiving weekend driving back from Oban – East of Crianlarich (A85), Aberdour’s Black Sands Sunset,  and Castle Stalker too. Here’s to more lovely Scot- Shots in 2020!

Wrapping up my 2019 Travels - December 2019


My 5 Essential Tools for Print on Demand

5 Essential Print on Demand Tools

New to Print on Demand? Check out My Essential Tools

Have you got a passion for pod? On the look out for some cool tools? Then read on and I’ll tell you about my 5 essential  tools to rock your Print on Demand business here.

Some of the following are FREE and some are FEE (and some will have affiliate links). I am only recommending the following tools because I believe in them and use them all week long (if not all day long). These are my actual go-to tools to create merch for my Amazon, Redbubble and Teepublic accounts.

Sign up for Canva

Tool 1: Canva

To start off with total transparency, I am a Canva Certified Creative – which is just a fancy name for an unpaid ambassador. Both basically I am biased as both my “day job” and my “sidehustle” are all about Canva! Yep, I use it that much. I deliver workshops across Scotland (hopefully even further afield next year!) and one-to-one training in it too.

Canva allows me to make designs for tshirts, mugs, stickers, (dozens of products, in fact), as well as book interiors and covers for KDP (Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing). So if I could only use one tool, it would probably have to be Canva.

COST: Canva is FREE to use – but if you’re looking to do transparent backgrounds for tshirts etc – you will need a Canva Pro account to do that. (You could make designs with solid background designs for FREE) AND you can use Canva 100% FREE for your books, planners, diaries, etc.

Definitely worth joining Canva* today. (affiliate link*)

Tool 2) Merch Informer

I started using Merch Informer over a year ago. I can’t remember where exactly I discovered this one. It could have been at the Seattle Merch Conference in Sept 2018 or it might be in the Merch Across the Pond FB group that I co-run with my London chum James.

In any case I loved being able to make tshirts and merch in a matter of seconds with MI. I also loved the fact I could do curved text designs – which is something that is not easily doable in Canva…

Merch Informer has a ton of features (that I seldom, if ever, use) that are very popular in the POD community. You can learn, research, design scale and protect your works with MI: Find good niches for your designs, get the right keywords for your listings, scale the designs through their listing automation and check for copyright infringement.

merch informer membership levels and pricing

COST: Their are different tier levels. I am on the “newbie” which is the lowest one but depending on which level best suits you, there are more advanced options. I personally just switched from paying monthly to the yearly – to save a wee bit of money – because I value it that much.

See the Merch Informer pricing plans here

Join Merch Informer here (and use code ‘podinscot’ at check out to enjoy 20% off)

Next up, on my essential tools list, is their sister product for books…

Join BookBolt and create books for KDP

Tool 3) Book Bolt

When I struggled to learn how to make books in Canva (at the beginning), I tried out a tool that I saw from the Merch Informer folks, called 

One thing I liked about it straight away was that having been using Merch Informer for a while, it had a very similar dashboard that I was already familiar with. So no real time needed to learn a new piece of software. It was pretty intuitive after watching a few short tutorials to get me started.

The BB website, too, offers a plethora of features – like it allows you to do keyword research, discover profitable niches, and helps with listing books too. Book Bolt is designed to help you through every step of the no content or no content book process.

Though there are a lot of features inside BookBolt, again most of which I don’t really use, they really can help you rock your business. I personally just use it to make super fast covers.

You may want to use BookBolt to create book covers and general interiors too. They’re constantly adding features, templates and so forth. So between BB and Canva – I’ve created nearly 100 books which are live on Amazon’s KDP.

COST: For $9.99 a month it’s definitely worth joining  It’s a good one, and hey, you can use code ‘podinscot’ at check out to enjoy 20% off too! Result!

Tangent Templates for books, interiors and more

Tool 4) Tangent Templates

Tangent Rocks! Seriously, even their domain says it all

This definitely is a tool I heard about even before the Merch Conference in Seattle. But on night one when my newfound friend Patty started raving about it, I knew it was one I wanted to look into – to start my KDP business. She said she made her money back almost immediately – so I was intrigued.

What I love love love about Tangent Templates – is that I can make books in a matter of seconds…Blank pages, dotted lines, sketch pages, day planners, weekly planners (now even monthly and yearly too)….and the other winning feature is being able to use their Chrome Extension to list your books super fast. I had TT for months before I even tried it. Once I did, I never looked back!

This one does have a $59 price tag but like Patty I too made my money back on it within a month or so.

Cost: The software is a one-off fee of $59.00 but you can get a $10.oo off code if you ask nicely in their FB group. (I do highly recommend this software and no, it’s not an affiliate link!)

Placeit - Create Tshirts Mocks and More

Tool 5) PlaceIt

The newest kid on my block is a site I actually learned about it while watching Youtube one day. This video showed how you can make tshirts from their templates in seconds. It also showed how you could make lovely mockups for products to be used on your website and social media marketing.

In the description of the video I watched, there was an affiliate link to join with a discount, so I figured I’d give it a whirl – even if only for a month. Several months later I’ve kept my subscription going. I probably don’t use it as much as I should but boy has this site got a lot to offer. I will switch this one to the annual membership soon.

COST: $14.95 a month or $99.95 a year.

Sign up for placeit

My Essential Tools

Hopefully you found some of these print on demand tool snippets useful. If you have any questions about any of these essential tools, then feel free to leave a comment or message me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

My 5 Essential Tools for Print on Demand

Also if you have any other tools you use that you highly recommend for POD, then I’d love to hear from  you. I know there are dozens of amazing tools out there.