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Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Grace Shalom Hopkins

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Today I’m happy to share the insights of Starship Captain and fiber artist, Grace Shalom Hopkins. Grace Shalom Hopkins is an author, handmade lifestyle blogger and all around handwork geek. You can find her beautiful photos, videos and fiber here

 

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a full-time artist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

Firstly, I really struggle maintaining schedules and blocked off hours so I work from a To Do List and that means I have one big project every day that is comprised of several little supporting tasks.

The biggest fantasy fulfillment is right there – knowing I suck at schedules and being able to work with my strengths to find a rhythm that works for me and my business without outside pressure.

The structure of my days are pretty consistent though, regardless of what big project I’m focused on.

I usually wake up at 5 in the morning to my Army husband’s PT alarm and then fall back asleep unless he’s lost his keys (like this morning!). I’m awake again at 7 when he gets home to change and go into work.
I finally wake up naturally at around 10:30 or 11. This part is great, I lay in bed from the time consciousness is barely on me to the time I can’t help but open my eyes and think about my day and my big project and whatever else is on my brain. It’s my personal form of meditation!

From there I check my phone and do any quick replies to emails or Etsy messages from bed.

Then I’m up and ready to do whatever big project is at hand, today it’s writing here and working on my blog so “up” just means an extra pillow to prop me up. However this afternoon I am finishing up yesterday’s big project by spinning in the living room, so I do get up-up eventually!

The evening brings my mate home and I generally spend it cooking dinner, doing chores and cuddling up with a new favourite on Netflix.

 

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

I started selling hand dyed fiber with this vision of being 100% supported by it. That was 5 years ago.

I’ve grown a lot and learned to listen to my North Stars and myself in terms of success. Once I started to look inside instead of outside and slowly shed the playlists I thought I had to follow I really started to hone in on what my business looks like now.


I still dye fiber, but I only dye 4-6 pounds a month. I specialize in unique blends and you will rarely ever see Merino shadow my door. By keeping it small I find I look forward to each dye day instead of panicking about how I am going to get all this to sell FAST so I can dye X lbs by YESTERDAY!

Next are my ebooks. I went through a lot of crash and burn variations of packing up my teaching passion into a neat e-course before I landed on ebooks. I adore the entire process of creating these and foresee them being a huge part of my business for a very long time.

The final major component is blogging. Building a thriving handmade lifestyle brand with my blogging is one of my big overarching goals this year. I have had a blog since that first sale but in the last year I have really buckled down and created something I am extremely proud of.

I also write for magazines and sometimes teach in person.

ROVING COVER

 

What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now I am stretching my wings in this new kind of peace that comes with having stability in my business and my personal life that I’ve never had before.

In all honestly, it’s been a really hard stretch.

To a kid who has always found home in chaotic frenzy, it doesn’t feel totally okay to be at peace with where my business is.

I’m leaning in and trying to embrace this stability by improving the aspects of my business that I didn’t feel like I could focus on before like building a store apart from Etsy and my email list.

What’s your definition of success in your business?

To me success is being able to do what I love, which is living and sharing a handmade lifestyle.
I get to share my passion through teaching and blogging and supplying beautiful fiber.

I also get to share by being able to buy handmade and ethical products for myself and my family, which means I put my money where my mouth is in terms of my ethics and beliefs. For example I bought my husband and I handmade slippers from Ukraine instead of Wal-Mart because I now have the financial freedom to do that.

Making thousands of dollars a month or making enough so that my husband can quit his job (he’d be crushed to leave the Army) isn’t what I want or need. Understanding that is okay was the most freeing lesson I’ve learned in business to date.

 

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

My North Stars this year are Bold and Intentional.

Right now that means building a strong foundation under my business which is requiring me to be bold and intentional because it means not losing myself in another chaotic new project but also because some of those tasks are extremely scary or boring, usually both!

 

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ThreeBirdNest (the Etsy “success”) has nothing to do with you.

ThreeBirdNest has nothing to do with you

This week I read an interesting article about how one experienced businesswoman made a heck of a lot of money selling products, on both Etsy and her own e-commerce shop. I was thrilled, because women in e-commerce who are making it aren’t featured as much in the national press as tech companies are and I think there are some interesting lessons shared.
I never read internet comments, so I had no idea (but I should have guessed) the firestorm happening in the comment section – angry Etsians crying out that this isn’t a “real” Etsy seller. I was unaware of this until I read Abby’s great article on how this “success story” is an example of how Etsy has redefined its own goals and mission.

And here’s the thing – Etsy has changed how they define “handmade” businesses. They have changed who’s allowed to sell. And this is going to change the way the rest of the world defines handmade. (Also, the journalists got it wrong – this woman isn’t “knitting socks, scarves, and headbands” – she clearly states she’s importing them.)

But as I think about you and I think about this story, I keep coming back to one thing: Etsy is not you. Your business is NOT Etsy. Your business is its own entity. Your business is based on your products and your customers and your work. If you’re hoping Etsy is the solution to all of your problems, you’re going to be disappointed. It was never going to be. (It is a great solution for setting up a shop quickly. It is not a great way to find new customers.)

The many many commenters that say “I have very few Etsy sales! Etsy is ruining my business!“…well, they are missing it. Etsy is not your business.

Women have been building businesses for all of time without Etsy. If you have not built a business that you want, it has nothing to do with Etsy. You could have used Shopify or WooCommerce or the local farmer’s market. Of my many clients + students who are self-employed (ie, the business is paying their bills), 100% don’t rely on Etsy exclusively.

You should take the ThreeBirdNest story neither as a measuring stick (I know your inner voice is shouting: “Why haven’t YOU done better?”) or as an outrage (“How could she?!”). It is not an example of what’s possible in a truly-made-by-hand business. Instead, take it for what it is – the story of how one woman choose to build a business selling + marketing a product. It is an example of what’s possible with this particular business model. It is an example of what anyone could do, if this is the kind of business they chose to build. This story in particular tells you what you need to do in order to build that kind of business (professional photographer, model, importing wholesale goods, etc).

But honey, if this is not the business you are trying to build? Forget about it. It has nothing to do with you.

Remember the great Amy Poehler quote: “Good for her! Not for me.”

The trouble comes when you take the results of someone else’s business model and you try to compare it to the outcomes of your (very different) business model. An importing business is going to have different results than a handmade jewelry business, which is going to have different results than a pattern-selling business. Different business model = different outcomes. This is why we use three different equations for pricing – you have different costs, time, and expectations.

I agree with the larger point in Abby’s post: Etsy is changing its definition of success. The question is: Have you? How do you define success?

Be sure that what you read on the internet, the examples of success, doesn’t deter you from your own definition of success. Build the business you want.

Adventures in Business with Knitwear Designer Denise Twum

Today I’m sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and part-time knitwear designer, Denise Twum. Denise was introduced to knitting by her supervisor while working at her college’s science library in 2006. Knitting kept her company as she traveled to five countries for a year of independent research, and she’s been addicted ever since.  You can see more of her designs on Ravelry  as well as her website.

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a full-time artist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

I used to be a full-time maker when I was at home with my newborn baby, and each day was different. What I realized very quickly was that, if I didn’t lay out a plan for the day, or list out a few things I wanted to achieve, the day would go by quickly without me achieving one thing.

I’m currently a part-time maker and it’s definitely very challenging, balancing my passion and love for this with a full-time job that I also love, but which is unrelated to my knitwear business.

On a typical day now, I spend most of my day at my full-time position, sneaking quick looks at my knitting emails during lunch time to see if there’s a sale or an interesting email for possible collaboration. After work, I spend a couple of hours with the family, eating dinner and relaxing together. After the little one is asleep, that’s when I get to party!!! …Okay not really, but I love my knitting work so much that it feels like a party for just me, from around 9pm to midnight every day.

Usually I bust out my needles and start knitting anything, with a vaguely formed idea of what I want to knit. I often undo my work a number of times before I find a design I like. Once that design makes me happy, I try to knit it in multiple color combinations to see how it looks.

In recent times, as I think about how I want my business to grow, I’ve realized that I also need to concentrate on the non-knitting aspect of the business, so some evenings, I’ll dedicate some time to conducting research on what the current market looks like, what color trends are being set for fall, what my competition is doing, and ways to market my work and get it out there some more.

Denise's "Procragratification Infinity Cowl" patternDenise’s “Procragratification Infinity Cowl” pattern

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Once I accepted that it would take a lot of work for me to convert this business to a full-time endeavor, I no longer feel that pressure and burden on me to succeed right now. I’m learning how I can use the seasonality of my sales cycle to my benefit, shoring up and knitting a lot of items, or coming up with ideas for new patterns during the summer lull, in order to get ready for the holiday and winter season.

I’m also getting more aggressive about improving and scaling the designing portion of my work. Compared to a handknit item, patterns are a lot cheaper cost-wise for my customers to purchase, and those sales will also boost my visibility on the outlets I use.

I’m also looking into selling in multiple channels, as opposed to my Etsy/Craft Fair combo that I’ve worked for the past few years. I’m very excited to see how that goes.

 

Denise's studio space

What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now I’m exploring a more unified packaging for the items I mail out. Right now I wrap my items and add a label, and it looks nice, but I’m looking to create an experience even with my packaging, so people are excited to open a package from NiseyKnits.

 

What’s your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success right now would be to break even, be able to forecast how much I’ll make each year, and to become one of the vendors people think about when they are looking for quality, handmade knit items.

 

Denise's BlockTure scarf designDenise’s BlockTure scarf design

 

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

I’m hoping I can get some of my items into some shops in the coming year, and publish some more designs.

 

Want to learn from other  Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!

 

Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Sasha Torres

Today I’m sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and fiber artist, Sasha Torres. Sasha Torres is a cerebral-yet-whimsical yarn maker, dyer, spinner and knitter who loves the ocean, really good vanilla ice cream and the smell of raw wool. Her passion for all things wooly led her to start her yarn company, Sheepspot, which sells breed-specific, hand-dyed wool yarns and fibers for those craving sustainable stash from happy sheep. Find her at sheepspot.com.

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a fiber artist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

Well, I still have my day job, so I spend 3-4 days a week largely focusing on that. The other days I spend on Sheepspot.

I try to start every day by meditating for about fifteen minutes and writing in my journal. Both are ways of checking in with myself, partly to figure out priorities for the day, and partly to see where I am emotionally. The business, and the things I need to do to help it thrive, often really scare me, and I’m trying not to let my fears run things without my knowing that’s what’s happening. So I basically start the day by asking myself how I feel and writing about that a little bit. Some days I feel fine, and I’m just eager to get to work, so I just let myself do that.

Then I do a quick triage of my email and check in with my Ravelry group and social media. I’ll respond to any questions or comments, and If I have items going up on the website that day I make sure that the posts I’ve scheduled in advance to go to my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts look OK. I’ll also post the new stuff on Pinterest, in my Ravelry group, and perhaps on Instagram.

Then, if it’s a Sheepspot day, I head to the studio. I usually start by immersion dyeing a batch of yarn that doesn’t need to be watched that closely, so that I can re-skein whatever I’ve dyed the previous day and get set up to dye more complicated colorways. I find that with my current studio setup I can comfortably do three batches of yarn or fiber a day. Once all the batches are finished and drying I usually head back to the computer and deal with shipping or marketing stuff. It’s a long day, but fortunately I like all the different parts of it.

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Sheepspot is still very new, so my income right now is still coming from my day job. I expect that this will be my situation for the next 18-24 months, and I’m OK with that.

What new thing are you exploring now?

I’m learning a ton of new stuff every day about all aspects of the business, from the kinds of fibers that my local mills can and can’t work with, to where to buy recycled mailing supplies. But the most intense and satisfying exploration I’m engaged in right now is in my studio. I’m trying to stay improvisational while dyeing. I am finding colorways I love making and techniques I love using, but I’m very conscious as well of the need to keep experimenting. It’s a delicate balance. On one hand I’m trying to work out how to be more efficient, but on the other I want to keep playing and learning.

 

 

What’s your definition of success in your business?

Everything I sell is either sustainably grown and/or processed in North America. The majority of it is both. Sheepspot exists to provide options for fiber artists who are interested in small, sustainable agriculture, or who care about genetic diversity among sheep, or who are concerned about the quality of life of the sheep that grow the wool with which they work, or who are dismayed about the near-total disappearance of the textile industry from North America. All Sheepspot yarns and fibers have to earn their way into the product line by answering at least one of these concerns. Success? Making a living getting these materials to the folks who want them.

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

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Every year, Tara encourages all the Starship captains to choose a “North Star”—a quality that will guide our business decisions. My North Star for the year is “sustainability.” I’m working toward building a profitable company that I love working in and that’s friendly to the earth and its inhabitants. In other words, I want Sheepspot to be physically, emotionally, financially and ecologically sustainable.

 

Would a North Star help to guide you on the path to your business dreams? Sign up to find out when the Starship opens for new Captains!

 

Adventures in Business with Writer Alicia de los Reyes

Today I’m sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and writer, Alicia de los Reyes. Alicia is a writer and teacher in Seattle, where she lives with her husband and her cat. Alicia likes to write fiction and nonfiction, especially fun writing guides. 

You can read some things she has written here. She also likes running and hiking, eating cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, and reading Gothic novels.

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a writer. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

I’m not a full-time writer yet, but I try to live and work like one. So, most mornings, I get up at 6:30 and write from 7-9. Then, I do some marketing/blogging/guest posting/pitching/querying/submitting for another hour. Three hours of work doesn’t sound like much, but I’m usually pretty wiped by then. I go for a run, take a break, and get ready for my other job, tutoring. 

There are so many ways to make a living as a writer – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Alicia's bookI do it by tutoring and teaching SAT prep classes in the afternoon and evening — so, right now, by not writing, though sometimes I get to tutor kids who want to write, which is fun. My writing income comes from my ebooks: a guide to writing chick lit now called DIY Chick Lit (formerly The Chick Lit Cookbook) and a guide to taking yourself on a writing retreat, called, creatively, DIY Writing Retreat — coming soon. I also submit my work to lots of journals, and sometimes it gets published, which is very exciting. Eventually, I hope to get a book deal for my narrative nonfiction book about hanging out with evangelical Christians for a year, and for my novel about a missing woman’s family.

A year ago, I was a teaching assistant at the University of New Hampshire, where I was earning my MFA in writing. That was probably the ideal writing lifestyle for most: write for 10-20 hours each week, teach for 20 hours each week. But grad school doesn’t last forever, alas. Before that, I wrote infrequently in my free time while I worked full-time at various places.

The biggest change is that now I have a cat supervisor (her name is Mitzi).

I don’t think I’ve found the perfect way to write and work at the same time, but tutoring lets me have a lot of free time and a break from writing that I think is necessary for me.

What new thing are you exploring now?

I’m always working on lots of projects. I’m exploring how my “platform,” a word that I can’t stand and don’t really understand, can help me get published and find readers. An agent I pitched a book to told me thought the project was great, but that I didn’t have a platform. That stung! So I’m trying to increase my web presence in a way that feels good to me, basically by blogging. I was inspired by {fellow Starship Captain} D.N. Frost for how professional everything looks on her website & social media accounts.

 

What’s your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success is related to several things. One is productivity: am I writing? Am I generating pages? I think this one is the most important to me — I sometimes think, if I end up with a drawer of beautiful writing, that will be enough. The writing is the most important part.

Another is financial: I have a number of sales I want to reach and a monthly income I want to make. I would love to write full-time and spend my free time making crafts and hanging out with my friends. Right now, my free time is pretty limited. Not a lot of crafts.

I also measure it in readers, using markers like getting published, tracking visits to my site, and reviews of my books. It’s good to have a few different measures, because I’m usually happy about one or two of them, but rarely all three at once.

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

I’m working towards increasing my web presence. I’ve been blogging regularly, tweeting, and reaching out to other writers and bloggers to share my work. I’m usually shy about telling people what I’ve been working on, but I’m forcing myself to get over it.

 

 

Are you a writer in need of accountability and support as you build your platform? Check out the Starship and join Alicia (and D!).

Adventures in Business, with artist Violette Clark

Violette Clark headshotToday I’m sharing an adventure with Starship Captain Violette Clark. Violette is a mixed media artist, art journaler, cartoonist, author and Idea factory.  She lives in a magic cottage with Mr. G in White Rock B.C.  you can find her on herblog or on Facebook.

 

 

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a full-time artist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

My day tends to vary depending on what’s up.  I usually get up and check my e-mail around 7:30ish. Then I respond to Facebook mentions and comments.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I blog in the morning usually and then share the post on FB.  Also I post photos of my art or funky home and garden on FB since that’s a big part of who I am.  I probably spend waaayyyyy too much time on Facebook but then that’s the place I have the most interaction on.  I’m also on Pinterest but don’t like to go there too often as you can spend a whack of time there.  Afterwards depending on what I’m working on I may create a Journal Page or a cartoon like my 60 in 60 cartoons I made.  Since I’m an illustrator/cartoonist/art journaler my time is often spent drawing … but more time is spent connecting with other artists, working on interview questions, responding to social media and marketing etc. I think it’s a fallacy to think that artists spend the majority of their time creating. They don’t…..and quite frankly “I just want to draw!”.  Drawing makes me happy.  You might also find me working on a video – sometimes I post how to videos on Youtube or videos showing what I’ve done in my home I call the Magic Cottage. Because I’m a grandmother and daughter – I sometimes spend time with my grandchildren (often teaching them crafts) or with my elderly parents. Thankfully what I do is pretty flexible so if I’m needed I can take time off to help out.  If I’m teaching a live workshop much of the day is spent preparing for it and teaching it.

Violette Clark's Art, on TaraSwiger.com

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Well I teach art journaling online and live classes. I’ve been blogging for 9 years, that led to a book deal 5 years ago and a book published on Art Journaling. My book, Journal Bliss, led to online classes as well as live classes. Right now I’m creating cartoons – 60 cartoons which are being made into a book, postcards, and tarot cards.  I’m not sure what that might all lead to but I’m open to what happens. I’m hoping to do some public speaking using my cartoons and art journal pages in inspiring PowerPoint presentations.  Also I have been asked to be a part of some online creative workshops so I’ll be working on that soon.  For the last several months I’ve offered “mojo sessions” to help women in small businesses get their mojo going again – helping them with promotional ideas and inspiration.  I’d like to do more sessions in the future which can be done live or in person. I have a ton of ideas and love to share them with creative women.

I am moving away from doing live classes on techniques – I don’t really enjoy that anymore and want to focus on creative activities that are meaningful and inspirational. So to sum up your question:  I teach, draw/journal, do 1 -1 consulting sessions and soon I’ll be selling my cartoon creations on etsy and on my blog.

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What new thing are you exploring now?

I guess you could say what I’m exploring now is “What gives me juice?”.  What that is is drawing.  Drawing makes me happy. Right now I’m assembling my 60 cartoons to fit into a book format as well as into a tarot deck.  Because I have never made my own book before (self-published) I’m freaking out a bit about doing it – change is always scary for me. I’m sure once I figure it all out I’ll laugh at why I was so nervous about the entire venture. Also the wheels are turning on a possible online class that would embrace creativity and spirituality. I’m thinking in this might happen later

What’s your definition of success in your business?

Doing what I love, inspiring people and making a decent income from following my bliss is my definition of success. Also success for me would be to have my business in my home in a quiet place near the ocean away from the big cities.  In my world I don’t need a ton of money however that would be fine too!

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What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

My next destination is completing the inspiring book of cartoons, tarot deck, postcards to be available in the fall – just in time for the Christmas buying season.  Since it’s the summer now things are a bit quiet so I can focus on getting the cartoons into a marketable format.  Also I’m working towards having a landing page for my two websites – my business site (http://www.purplejuice.ca) and my blog (http://www.violette.ca) are too confusing for me and everyone else. I want to blend the two into one place but for now I want to create a landing page where you can click on the services and it will take you there immediately.

 

Adventures in Business, with Vanessa Laven

Vanessa Laven

Today I’m sharing an adventure with Starship Captain Vanessa Laven. Vanessa writes at Mixed Martial Arts and Craft about kicking cancer’s butt with grace and flair + makes  plushie body parts over at Survival Organs

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a full-time entrepreneur. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

A normal day starts on my house chores as I figure out what needs to be blogged about and what items need to be made for my shop. This is assuming I’m also not working through a headache or migraine. I get them so frequently that I only let myself sleep them off if they’re at a pain level of 8 or 9 out of 10. Anything less than that and I have to suck it up and push through. If I wasn’t that hard on myself, nothing would get done – either biz wise or in my personal life. Oh and as a cancer survivor, I also have doctor’s appointments and support group meetings to juggle and I have to see if I’m physically feeling up for a martial arts class. While my doctor’s appointments aren’t every week any more, they do take up most of my day so I need to account for that. Often I end up working after dinner or on the weekends.

There are so many ways to make a living as a biz owner – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed?

I’m doing it by taking my time! One step at a time and I keep track of what’s working and what isn’t. Since this is a new path that I’m finally strong enough to go down, I’m writing down where I want to be, what that looks like and how I can get it. I do this by keeping track of my expenses, making notes on what my customers respond to (or don’t) and generally what does success look like, feel like, act like? Trying to capture what my dreams are, using all of my senses, has helped make them more concrete and achievable.

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What new thing are you exploring now?

I’m currently exploring new organs for my shop, new expressions for their faces and writing more about how to take life one stitch at a time! I’m also exploring how to teach people that they are their own guru.

What’s your definition of success in your business?

For me, success is more about how many people reach out and let me know how I’ve helped them. During chemotherapy, there were almost no personal blogs that I could find talking about the day to day aspects of cancer. I found lots of clinical websites but I wanted to hear from a cancer survivor’s mouth directly. I’ve taken it upon myself to do just that. But it’s more than just about reaching cancer survivors. I want to help people who feel ready to make a lasting change in their life. With Survival Organs, I’m reaching out to people who need a good laugh or a reason to find something humorous in their life.

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

My next major project is to finish the first round of edits to my surviving cancer and chemo guide! It’s huge, it’s a scary task but it’s something that needs to get done. When I really think about doing it, I get really scared and I want to avoid it but then I remember how lost I felt when I was sick. I’ve held on to that feeling as a reason to conquer my fear and give birth to this book because there’s another person just like me who needs this. I’ve never written a book before, much less published one, so it’s a whole new set of skills for me to explore. I love that I’m now charting unknown personal territory!
Vanessa's little thyroid soft toy

Thanks so much for sharing your workday and adventure with us, Vanessa!

 

Vanessa’s a Captain in the Starship. You can meet more Captains + learn if it’s right for your adventure when you sign up for the free mini-course here. 

 

 

Adventures in Business with Gabrielle Krake

Gabrielle Krake

Gabrielle Krake

Today I’m talking with Gabrielle Krake, a Starship Captain and the owner & designer of Bee Wise Goods 

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a full-time maker, or to own their own shop. But what’s a normal day for you really like?
Well I often joke if I can shower, brush my hair and teeth and eat at least one salad then I’m doing great! As far as making things, I get to make inventory on Mon – Wed when I’m not in my shops. I have to get super motivated, usually by some unknowable spark of creativity and then I make my things in assembly line mode, cranking out 10-20 of one item and then I move to another. I personally make over 25 handmade items and 16 sewing patterns (I only have to print these and package them, but I have several I would like to develop but do not have the 30-40 hours it takes to draft one, right now). On Thursdays I’m back in my shops and have to catch up on spreadsheets, accounting and merchandising. On Fridays and Saturdays I work for my daughter in her bakery and we start at 6am making her goodies, displaying them and selling all day. Sunday is an “off” day for me but I usually make something fun or watch movies all day. Oh and jammed in all the cracks between business tasks I have four kids that we homeschool (three have graduated but still live at home) make meals, and clean my house (it’s really only clean and tidy when we’re sleeping). We have chickens and dogs, a cat, and chinchillas.
There are moments when I want to throw in the towel and just read books and go to coffee like my friends, but I know deep down I would be bored in about a week of that and start another business, haha!
Bee Wise Goods

Bee Wise Goods

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?
In all honesty I started my business because when the economy collapsed in 2008, my husband’s income was cut in half (at least). I had started a blog and was posting crafty ideas and tutorials so when we realized we were going to need extra money I decided to start making reusable grocery bags and do repairs to bring in money. Over the course of the next few years we had made and sold thousands of products in a very unconventional way, at the time – through a blog and my website that I did myself. There were very little resources to promote tiny enterprises like ours but Etsy and PayPal played the biggest online role and getting my things into stores was the second component to not starving.
The business was a huge miracle in many ways, we were able to barely keep our house and each other but all other peripheral luxuries and necessities were culled. It made life simpler in ways that we adopted permanently.
Three years ago I realized I was giving away much of my income in rents, commissions, wholesale orders and co-op hours so we opened our own shop in 2011, added another one in 2012 and now a bakery in 2013. (The shops are all connected, we’re slowly taking over a 1951 strip mall.) There are days when I daydream about not working so hard but then I see that the legacy we’re leaving for our 4 kids is priceless. Even if they do not emulate us by being business owners, they have a very realistic view of finances, they understand options and they know they have choices about how to make money.
Gabrielle's family bakery

Gabrielle’s family bakery

What new thing are you exploring now?
I am in the process of inventing the creative magazine called Makers Unwound. It will start with a local focus and depending on how it goes we can expand regionally and beyond.
What’s your definition of success in your business?
The joy I feel, the relationships we have developed and the legacy of income choices we have given our kids is true SUCCESS for me.
Dolls from Gabrielle's product line

Dolls from Gabrielle’s product line

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?
I want to start taking a backseat in operations. Two of my kids are slowly becoming equipped with the skills to allow me to make inventory, create art and work on the magazine. Accounting, spreadsheets and invoices takes up about 15-20 hours per week that I can begin to have back for creative purposes. We are planning on expanding the bakery and offering more products.
Gabrielle's studio

Gabrielle’s studio

 

 

Adventures in publishing and editing, with Alicia + Kelly

Today I’m happy to be talking to author Alicia de los Reyes and her editor and publisher, Kelly Rizzetta.

We talked about

  • the self-publishing options,
  • the importance of an editor for improving your framework
  • how they collaborated together
  • their best marketing tactic (not what you’d think).


(If you’re reading this via email, click through to see the video! If you’d like to get posts via email, click here.)

 

Alicia de los Reyes is a writer and teacher  in Seattle, WA. She recently published an ebook called The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day, and she’s now blogging about her experience using that guide to write a brand-new novel here. Kelly Rizzetta is the editor-in-chief of New Jersey-based KMR Publishing, which produced The Chick Lit Cookbook.

 

If you’re an author, whether self-published or traditionally published, I’ve put together a list of resources for you! If you’d like to work together to create a marketing plan for your book, I can help you with that!

 

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Adventures in Fiction Writing with SJ Pajonas

sj pajonasI made the mistake of reading SJ Pajonas’ new novel, Released, during my flight last Saturday. Sitting in between two strangers, 2 hours into a 4 hour flight, I started bawling my eyes out. And snuffling. And generally being the kind of person you avoid sitting next to. But despite the personal embarrassment (or perhaps because of it), I heartily recommend SJ’s Nogiku series. It’s funny, action-packed and so full of real dialogue that I cried on a crowded plane. So yeah, I LOVE it.

I’m delighted that SJ agreed to answer some of my questions about the writing + marketing of her novels.

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a novelist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

I’m a stay-at-home mom, so typically, my day is: get up at 5am so I have 1.5 to 2 hours of time to write or get other writing-related work done before my kids get up, get kids to school, either run errands or write while they’re at school (they’re not at school all day yet), then the rest of my day is completely normal. I can sometimes get in a few hundred words here and there when they’re home but it’s difficult. When I need a long stretch of time for working, I save it for the weekend when my husband can cover for me.

I’ve found that getting things done (like writing so proficiently and getting it all published) is about having daily (or weekly) habits and practices to keep working on your project. So tell us about your writing rituals – what do you do to get in the flow for writing?

You know all that time in the previous question when I’m taking care of the kids and the house? I’m brainstorming that whole time. I brainstorm while loading and unloading the dishwasher, while I’m making dinner, while I’m sitting and waiting for school to be dismissed, etc. Because when I actually have the time to sit down and write, I want to get words on the page immediately. I honestly don’t have the time to stare at a blank page in front of me! I also do a lot of writing on my phone in Evernote. If I’m working in the kitchen and I have a great idea for some dialogue that I just know I’ll forget before I get up at 5am the next morning, I open Evernote and write it all down quickly. I have a folder for each book and I just keep adding notes when I have the chance. This way I always have material when I sit down to write.

What’s your favorite apps or tools? What do you use to write, edit, etc?

My favorite app for writing is definitely Scrivener. It’s a $45 application from Literature & Latte and I would say the best money I’ve ever spent. You can use it to organize your work or novel like a file system, and it allows you to write in snippets and then move them around.* If you do this in Word, you have to highlight, copy, cut, and paste, and it’s annoyingly clunky. Once you’re done with a novel, you can export to a range of formats for ebooks. Since I self-publish, it’s all I use. Calibre is another piece of helpful software. Sometimes I export a book from Scrivener to HTML format, I tweak the HTML and then use Calibre to convert it to ebook formats. And Evernote is the other software I can’t live without. I can access it on all my devices so I keep a lot in it from notes about each book to information and links I gather on self-publishing to recipes for those dinners that fuel me!

*Tara’s note: I agree! I used Scrivener to write my book!

As you’ve self-published books, I have loved watching your marketing unfold (which is so rare!). What is the most effective thing you’ve done to share the book with more people?

Thank you! There are several things I’ve done that I think work for books in general. I give away a lot of copies in the hopes that they garner reviews. I make a lot of multimedia items to promote the book like teaser images that I post on my blog, twitter, and Goodreads, and I had a book trailer made. I have a presence on most of the social media networks where I am, most importantly, MYSELF. I don’t try to project that I’m an expert in anything or give advice that I know nothing about. If you find me online, I’m usually talking about random things from my life or sharing tidbits of information that have been coming my way. I keep the ranting to a minimum and I usually reply if you want to chat. I do let people know when I’m excited about my work because I hope that, if you know me, you’ll be excited too.

released

 What’s your most-favorite (enjoyable) thing you’ve done to share your work?

I really enjoy making the teaser images that I reveal in the weeks before a book is published. I love choosing an iconic image and pairing it with a quote from the books. I find them really exciting probably because I come from a film background. I love that pairing of images and words. It works for me everytime.

What resources did you find helpful in learning how to share your work?

I’ve been self-publishing for about six months now (from the time I decided to self-publish which was last June 2013) but I spent a few ramp-up months before my first book was published watching other authors publish as well. I’m the quiet scientist in the corner. I sit and observe what other people are doing first, determine what is or is not working for them, and then write it down for use later. To get started, I went to Hugh Howey’s blog and searched for “self-publishing” because I had read his books and knew he was a self-publishing advocate. I read all of his posts and they led me to the Kindle Boards and from there I just gathered information when I could. I haven’t read any books specifically on self-publishing though a lot of my author friends recommend Write, Publish, Repeat which was written by authors who also have a very helpful podcast. I plan on reading it soon as well to see if there’s anything I’m missing!

 What are you exploring now?

I’m trying my best right now to have a more balanced life. Sometimes marketing my books can take over my life! And really the best marketing for current books is to put more books on the shelves. Very few writers can make a career on just one book. So I’m working on a schedule to publish four books plus short stories over the next two years. It’s big for me, to plan so far ahead. I know that something can happen in the next week or month to send that schedule into a tailspin but I’m going to try it anyway. In writing, I’m exploring writing outside of my genre. I like writing science fiction and I’m going to continue writing in the Nogiku world that I’ve built and love, but I also want to write contemporary romance. I’ve been working on a book for a year that I’ll be publishing in the late Spring. It’s an adult contemporary romance called FACE TIME and it’s different from what I’ve already published. I want to continue writing ideas and taking risks with my work and exploring stories outside of my norm is how I’ll do that.

What’s your definition of success in your writing business?

Success has been hard for me to define! And it has changed over the course of the last six months. At first, my definition relied on sales. Was I selling books? How many? And how much money was I making to offset my initial costs? But sometime in the past month, my definition has changed and now my idea of success is just publishing more books. Each book I work on and move it towards publication is another success. The ultimate goal is to have a dedicated audience for my work and with each book published, I gain more readers. Success and its definition will probably change over time for me as new doors are opened and I’m able to do more with my work. For now, writing and gaining my audience is my primary goal.

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

So I have this set of long-term goals for the next two years concerning what I’d like to publish but the next stop on the self-publishing road trip is to publish my contemporary romance, FACE TIME. There are several steps to get there including: a reveal of the cover online, teaser images, designing a paperback layout of the book, possibly make a book trailer, a companion website, and several other things. But I also have a writing journey that runs parallel to self-publishing, and after I’m done with revisions on FACE TIME, I will be starting revisions of the Nogiku Series Book 3. There’s lots to be done! And I’m looking forward to it all.

Thanks for having me, Tara!

Thanks for sharing so much! I’ve learned tons! 

Disclaimer-y Disclaimer: SJ is a Twitter friend and she sent me an advanced copy of both of her books, but PEOPLE, after reading the first one, I would have gladly paid for all subsequent books. Buy your copy of Released here. Now. For more from SJ, check her site here, her blog tour schedule here, and befriend her on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

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