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Month: June 2010

The Joy in Quitting

I'll just say it: I'm a fan of quitting.

If I don't enjoy a book, I quit reading it.
If I don't like a movie, I quit watching it.
(even when I'm supposed to love it, like Fear + Loathing in Las Vegas)
If I'm frustrated with a knitting project, I quit working on it.
If an idea doesn't keep it's spark, I quit trying to make it work.
And if my work is satisfying and full-of-life and challenging, I quit.

One year ago today was my very last day of working for The Man.

I quit because I wanted to.
I quit because I knew I was ready to work for myself.
I quit because it was time for something new.
I quit because I had for 3 years on weekends and evenings building Blonde Chicken Boutique into something wonderful.

But is that a  good reason to quit?

My dayjob wasn't bad. Compared to the really freakishly horrendous jobs I've had in my life (McDonald's for 2 years! Opening mail for Accounts Payable in a windowless basement office!), it was a cakewalk. Lovely coworkers, a reasonable + kind boss, sometimes challenging work.

I didn't quit because of what the job was.

I quit because of what the job wasn't.

It wasn't exciting. It wasn't challenging me daily. It wasn't…
It wasn't my life.

And I wasn't prepared, at 27, to resign myself to just living my life on the weekends.
I want my life to be lived daily, from 9-5, heck, from 8-11 (yeah, I like to sleep all the other hours).

And so I quit.

In the quitting, I gained a lot.
Sure, the hours are mine.
But so is the responsibility. And the momentum. And the hard.
Hard work, hard stress, hard relationships, hard mistakes, hard decisions.

But all that hard, it reminds me that  I am living.

And that's what quitting gives me: Life. My life.

Hard and complicated.
Peaceful.
Exciting.
Challenging.
Life-giving.

What does quitting give you?

PS. This last year hasn't been easy or glamorous, to ask me what it's really been like, join me in a free Q+A tomorrow. Get the details here.

Enough Money to Quit the Dayjob

“I make a perfectly adequate living at my day job, it's at an income level that I have a hard time imagining I could bring in as a full-time artist.”

Last week a passionate and smart reader  emailed this.
It's a question I get a lot (in fact, it's one of the first question I got in the last free Q+A), so I thought I'd share my answer here.

The question is really asking, “How can I ever replace my current income with my crafty business? Is this even possible?”

My answer: Yes. But let's be realistic:

You current income is the result of lots of hard work.
Right now, you're a professional. Something that took years and years of work to accomplish. Years of education and skill-building.
You put in the hours before your reached your present income level.

This is true of ANY career, including self-employment
It took learning + time + practice + ladder-climbing to get where you are, it will take the same in a new business.

You poured hours of time into studying and learning and interning into your current career, you will need to do the same for a career in handmade work.

Yes, you can start selling your crafts quickly.
But NO, you can't replace your professional-level salary quickly.

But it's not the same.
Because the kind of work and studying that got you into your current income level isn't the same kind of work that will help you grow your business.

And this is good news!

Succeeding in your business does NOT require an MBA.
Learning about growing your crafty business does NOT necessitate formal school or lots of classes or an endless unpaid internship.

It will require curiosity, passion and a pile of self-directed researching.
Unlike a “traditional” career, self-employment does not have one clear path from newbie to professional.

The trick (and the delight) is that you make your own path.
You discover what works for you, what doesn't.
What your customers want, what they don't.
And you can do this as quickly or as slowly (perhaps while you're still in that dayjob) as you want!

But! Do you really need to replace your salary?
The original question assumes that you HAVE to replace your salary before you quit your dayjob and I want to throw some doubt on that.
Do you really have to?
Could you reduce your expenses?
Could you have several smaller streams of income?
Would you be willing to trade some of your luxuries in order to live your passion?

This is just the jumping off point of thinking about it, I haven't even gotten into the HOW of making it all work!  If  you are delighted at the idea of quitting your dajob, join me on a free Q+A call this Thursday. July 1st is my anniversary of quitting and to celebrate, I'm answering your questions. Just sign up here to get the details.

FunDay

Last week I said I wanted to have more fun but I never specified how I was going to measure this. And I am all about the metrics. I adore projects with deadlines and indexes and goalposts.

So this Fun Everyday thing needs some structure (it's fun structure! I promise!).

Here's the plan:
I try one fun thing everyday (and so do you).
I tweet it (and so do you) with the tag #funeveryday.
Each Monday (no! FUNday!), I round 'em up: What did I try? What did YOU try? What will I do next week?
Maybe, just maybe, we turn Mondays into FUNdays. (too cheesy?)

The fun that was funny
(that's a Dr. Suess thing we say that mean real, actual fun):

Connecting with crafty businesses.
The emails have been FABULOUS (from this project). Wonderfully inspiring, delightfully eye-opening, fantastically challenging.

Helping, just for fun.
Two of my friends were trying new things this week and I jumped at the chance to help where I could.  Amazingly energizing, this giving-of-myself thing. Even though I spent an hour on the phone, just giving helpfulness, I got off feeling bubbly and energized.

Collaborating with superstars.
This week I reached out to 3 of my favorite super-smart people and asked them to co-teach some classes for my crafty people. The response has been delcious. I'm currently in the (virtual) test-kitchen with them, brewing up some awesomesauce. Expect announcements soon-ish.

Watching Sheep.
This is exactly as awesome as it sounds. Soothing. Amusing.
What made it even better is that I live-streamed it.
Yeah, sheep in real-time.  I see this becoming a regular occurrence.

See for yourself by watching these videos.

Fun for the Future

Dollywood.
Yes. With the whole family. This Tuesday. I am hoping this is fabulously wonderful and not draingingly hot and miserable. Think happy, Dolly thoughts for me ok?

A Dolly marathon?
This just occured to me: I may need to watch every Dolly movie in order to prepare myself for the awesomeness of Dollywood. Nine to Five, Steel Magnolias…what else?

Celebrating my 1 year quit-iversary.
This Thursday, July 1st, is my anniversary of my first day of self-employment! Woo! Celebrating with a totally free Q+A. You ask any question you have…about anything and I'll attempt to answer (or point you to a resource). Sign up to get the call details here.

What did you do for fun last week? What fun thing do you have planned for this week?

Don't miss a single FunDay by subscribing (it's free! it's easy! it's downright fun!)

Fun. Everyday.

I think I need to have more fun.

Sure, I like my job (it is Plan A).
I love my family.
I adore my dog (warning: that's a really cute video of my dog snorgling the cat).

But I'm sort of…serious. Hard-working. Disciplined.
And these are all admirable qualities.

But not always fun.

So I'm on a mission (not a mission from God, just a regular ol' mission).
A mission to have more fun.
A mission to have fun everyday.

In this spirit, I'm laughing at myself.
I'm having great conversations.
I'm spending more time IdeaStorming (yes, it's work, but it's so fun).

And I'm celebrating.

Because 1 year ago, on July 1st, I started this adventure of full-time fiber artist and pink-haired entrepreneur.

I'm celebrating by doing what I love: talking to people.
Talking to YOU.

On July 1st, I'm going to hold a little party and you are invited!

Join me for a live Q+A session on the phone (sign up here to get the call details)  and on Twitter (use tag #askthechicken to ask your questions).

But what else is fun?

What do you do for fun? Share it in the comments, or on Twitter by using #funeveryday.
If you want to see what I'm doing for fun, check out #funeveryday and add your own fun!

Plan A 2.0

You know about Plan Bs. Those what-to-do-if-this-doesn’t-work plans.
Plan B is really popular. Everyone tells you to have one. All the world is talking about Plan B.

That’s fine, but it’s not for me. Like I said during the last Q+A, I don’t have one. Plan A is too awesome to give up on.

But what about after?
After you have Plan A (quit dayjob, rock crafty business, live happily)?

I’m curious…do most people keep doing Plan A happily…or do they find a new Plan A?

I’m thinking about this after a conversation with a friend who I thought was happy with her Plan A. And because I recently launched my own new Plan A (helping your crafty business) while simultanesouly still crazy in love with my old Plan A (sharing handmade yarn + teaching yarny stuff).

My dear friend is my ONLY friend the only person that I know (our age) that is doing what she went to college for. She started our freshman year saying she was going to be  a Psych major, get her Masters, then work with kids as a counselor. 10 years later, she’s doing that (and it didn’t take her 10 years!).

But I just got an email about a new thing she’s starting (Crossfit certification, she wants to teach it to kids) and she said “Finally! A plan!”.

And I laughed out loud.

Because out of everyone I know? Everyone!  I thought she HAD the plan. I mean, she completed the plan.
While the rest of us (with degrees in French Lit , Psych, History, Anthropology, Journalism) are doing, well, not that, she was. We are coming up with new plans and new paths, but I thought she had it figured out.

But her note was a reminder: no one has it figured out.
And of course, if you’re over 24, you probably know this.

But sometimes? It’s good to have a reminder.

To remember: the people who are doing the plan, the plan they wanted, maybe the plan you want. Those people? They don’t have it figured out either.

And when you do enact that plan (quit your dayjob, start that crafty business, have those kids, marry that stud)…well, then you’re ready to come up with a new plan. A new challenge. A new direction.

At least, this is how I think it works. For now.

(Right after I wrote the first draft of this post, I read this great post by Cairene about feeling in sync. Maybe that's the issue, we need to keep re-syncing?)

Have you moved to another Plan A? What happened to your first Plan A?

PS. July 1st is the one year anniversary of me quitting my dayjob! Celebrate with me by joining me on a free Q+A call. You ask the Qs (about anything you want) and I’ll fake the As. Sound like fun? Sign up here for the call details.

How to Craft a Brand

Now that I know I need to charge more for my work, how do I actually get it?

In my recent Pricing class, and in our #pricing chat on Twitter, this was THE most popular question.

The Twitter answer

Make sure your brand and your price tag match.

The longer version

If your item is $300 but your pictures are blurry or your descriptions are unclear or your title has a spelling error? Not gonna happen.

Wait, a BRAND?

When I say brand, I mean, simply, the style of your work. The vibe, the feel, the visuals, the words.
I don't mean a fake veneer of salesy grossness (ew!).

Ideally, your brand reflects true essence of what you are already doing. That's your brand.
And you want to make it consistent, to avoid confusing your people.

But before you can do that, you'll need to be (trying to get) clear on what your brand IS.
What colors, words, feelings, emotions do you want to have associated with your work?
Do you want your work to feel like a spring day dancing amongst flowers?
Like a day at the beach?
Or like a city pulsing with people?

Remember: This isn't a one time thing, it's an always-evolving, always-discovering process. So it's ok if you draw a blank at first.

Find the Brand

I find it helps to try a few different things to generate that clarity.  I'll list them, but just choose one or two that works for you:

  • Write a letter to your business, ask it what it wants to feel like, write what comes up
  • Talk to a friend about your work and ask them what imagery comes up
  • Look around your house/wardrobe. What colors are you drawn to? What mood do you create in your house?
  • Where are your favorite places? Quiet library? Serene beach? Busy nightclub? How can you bring that vibe into your words + images?
Crafting It

Once you find that vibe, look at what you're doing.
Twitter, blog, labels, email, craft show booth….everything!
Does it match?
Does your work online and in person communicate that vibe and feeling?

If not, what's different? Could it be that the brand you already have is MORE you than what you came up with in the above exercises?
Or because you thought you should?

Do I have to?

No.
Some people create a consistent brand without even trying, because they let their own vision shine through in everything they do. They eschew tradition and shoulds and anything that gets in their way of doing their own thing.

If you are one of those people and you know that you are being as genuine as possible in all your work? Then no, you definitely don't need to try to manufacture consistent branding. You already have it.

However, if you feel a bit distant from your work, or from your ideal pricing, experiment!

How do you imagine your brand? Share it in the comments (that's where you'll find my answer)

 

Embrace the Wonky

What does wonky have to do crafting a business and a life?

While dreaming + planning for this site, I was searching for something, some short phrase the describe what the essence of this thing is.  I knew the site would encompass….everything.
Everything about building and crafting a business (life). But how to sum up my…my manifesto? My truth? What is most truly me?

Wonky.

The word I get teased for using in my knitting lessons and classes. My description for anything imperfect, wobbly or not-quite-right (yet still delightful).

I began to journal about wonky. Why I use the word, why I embrace it, why we shouldn’t be afraid to be a little wonky.

Ah, but not just wonky. Unapologetically wonky.  I don’t just acknowledge that yeah, we’re all a little wonky, I think it’s imperative to embrace it, to love our wonky bits, to be who we are without apologizing.

All that writing became my Unapologetically Wonky manifesto. It’s a synthesizing of everything I’ve been learning through the growth of my business.
About sovereignty.
About truth.
About connection.
About creativity.

From Havi. From Kelly. From Danielle.
From Diane. From Kim. From Rachel-Marie.

Unapologetically wonky is a way of being that influences my teaching and creating.
Embracing the imperfections in my student’s work and helping them accept it as a natural part of learning.
Avoiding holding up any one standard of awesomeness.
Recognizing that yeah, I fall. Offering a hand for anyone who feels a bit wonky.
Teaching through modeling. Creating through connecting (colors, people, ideas, information).

It’s this idea, this embracing of the wonky that informs my work: what I teach,  how I teach, who I teach.

It’s what  draws my right people.
People who feel a bit wonky. Whether it’s their knitting, their selling, their aversion to feeling salesy, or their isolation as they craft their business.

And that’s what wonky is about.
Connecting.
Creating.
Sharing.
Despite  imperfections, despite hesitations, despite being wobbly (and sometimes falling).

If you need a bit more wonky in your inbox, get it by clicking here.

Milking Goats, Falling Down and Offering a Hand

An hour ago, I was milking a goat.

This is not a metaphor, like brunching.

I was actually, truly milking a goat.
Here’s proof:

I’m farm-sitting for a friend and that means goat-milking, egg collecting and sheep wrangling.

It also means chasing down runaway kids (young goats, not human children), chasing off errant dogs and trying to convince the goat not to kick the bucket of milk.

Today was my second successful milking and just as I finished up, let Emily off the stand and went to reach for the door of the barn, I slipped.

It was a truly I-Love-Lucy slip with booted feet in the air, back flat on the barn floor and head cracked against the milking stand. We will not go into detail what I was covered with. Let’s just call it “mud”.

I laid there stunned. And promptly started crying.
I was covered in “mud”, hot and sweaty and my head hurt.
I wondered if my husband heard and would come running and help me up.

I laid there for a few moments, snuffling and waiting. Then I realized that I had the milk bucket in my hand and that it had not spilled. I also knew that Jay hadn’t heard me and that I was on my own.

Although I couldn’t stop crying, I could stand up.

I stood slowly up, gathered my breath and stopped crying.

I hadn’t spilt the milk. Nothing was broken. Even “mud” washes off.

As I filtered the milk and cleaned off, I thought about that moment on the barn floor. What was I waiting for? Why the crying?

Did I really think someone was going to swoop in, pick me up and finish my farm chores?

I’m 28. I work for myself, in the business I built.
I clean my house, pay my bills, do my own taxes (shudder).

But sometimes, I still think someone is going to swoop in, clean off the “mud” and make things less messy and more easy.

And this is the point in the story where someone more adult than me would say that we need to stop waiting around for someone to save us and we need to learn to save ourselves.

To pick ourselves up, gather our breath and go wash off.

But that’s not my point. We have enough moments, both real and metaphorical, in our businesses where we pick ourselves up.
Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone else reach out a hand.

I'd rather offer you a hand than tell you to stop yer cryin' and pick yourself up.

The past few weeks I have been enjoying  corresponding with a few crafty business friends. We’ve been providing each other with ideas and reassurances and ideastorming and just…companionship. It’s been lovely.

The ability to ask that one question you’ve been wondering about…or hearing that this isn’t a silly idea…or to get help with the steps to get from here to there;  it’s all this that provides the support you need when you feel like you’ve fallen down in the goat barn.

The conversations have been so invigorating and so inspiring that I want to have more of them. I’d like to have them with you.

What’s going on in your business?
What questions do you have?
What do you just need a sounding board for?

Let’s talk about it.

I’m thinking a few paragraphs via email may be all it takes to get you up out of that barn. What do you think?

If you could use a hand or you've wondered what to do next, fill out this contact form with your question, your concern, your struggle and I’ll reply within a week with suggested resources, ideas or whatever you need.

I know this is…well, completely bizarre.
But there’s no trick. No hook. I’m just wanting to connect with more crafty businesses and to learn how I can best help you.

If you enjoy  tales of farm antics applied to business advice, make sure you subscribe and catch every pratfall.

Brunch? Don’t you mean Launch?

You may have noticed that I called the birth day of this site a brunch.

Not a launch.
In fact, I never “launch” anything (except my life, last year), it's always a brunch.

Why?

I'm a list-maker.
A little-detail-seer.
An let's-figure-this-out big sister.

I'm a look before you leap person.
Well, no, that's not-quite-right because I never do leap.

Not even into the pool.
I walk slowly to the edge, sit down, dangle my feet in and sloooowly lower my legs in.
Or better yet, find the steps and walk in.

Yes, much better than leaping.

And the word “launch”, it reminds me of standing on a high dive (or ack! any size dive!), getting ready to launch myself into the water.

Um, no thanks.

It also makes me think of rocket launches.

Which are beautiful and amazing.
But are also loud and rumbly.

It's in the cockpit, smoke billowing, your seat rumbling, your teeth chattering, your very bones and marrow and soul rattling while they build a huge fire under you.

Incredibly powerful, but also incredibly risky.

A launch can be glorious and amazing.
Or it can end in a mess of fire and tears and pain.
Either way, there are a lot of expectations and stress and will I live or die thinking.

Uh, no thanks.

When I was working on my very first not-just-yarn product, the Learn to Knit kit, I read a lot about launching a product (by far the best resource is this book, but it is sort of overwhelming).

And I thought a lot about launching.

LaunchLaunchLaunch.

One day, writing about it to some business-y friends, I mistyped it as Brunch. Maybe I was hungry or maybe I was tapping into some Freudian-slip smartness.

Either way, I loved it.

A brunch!

I would brunch the Learn to Knit kit!

No fire, no expectation, no bone-rattling moment of ohmygoodness.

A nice, leisurely brunch with coffee and pancakes and omelets and orange juice.

Mmm, brunch.

Where launching makes me think of disasters and high dives, brunch reminds me of being a kid, on the back of my dad's Harley.

He'd wake me up super-early on a Sunday. I'd suit up in a too-big-for-me leather jacket and a just-right helmet (safety first!) and we'd ride.

High up into the mountains, past lemon and avocado groves. Oh, I hate avocados, but I am smitten with the groves: dark, shiny leaves on perfectly round trees in lines curving around the mountain.

We'd get to the top of one mountain and there, out of nowhere, was a diner.

We had pancakes, coffee, eggs, orange juice. Brunch. With dad, both of us dressed in our leather jackets and jeans and boots.

Or he'd make brunch, at home. Sausage, eggs, salsa, sourdough toast, orange juice and the most amazing potatoes I've ever tasted. I have never found (nor made!) potatoes like Dad's brunch potatoes.

So when it comes to introducing something new  to the world, do I want to thrust it into the world with expectations and fire and smoke and bone-rattling excitement?

Or do I want to take it for a ride, get comfortable with a cup of coffee and some potatoes and enjoy brunch with it?

Yeah, I want to brunch with it.

How about you? Do you brunch? Or launch?

PS. I've been calling it a brunch for over a year, but I finally got around to explaining it thanks to this great post by Marissa on launching, on Productive Flourishing. It reminded me that there are lots of ways of launching and brunching.

Questions, Answered

The Pricing class is today!

Before it starts, I wanted to answer some questions ya'll have asked me about it.

I can't make the call!

Totally ok! Everyone, whether they make the live call or not will get a recording of the call on Tuesday morning. If you buy the Fancy Pants Version, you'll also get a written summary of the entire call.

Will you hold this class again?

Probably not.
For one thing, it's less exciting the second time. Part of what I love about these live classes is the energy on the phone and the challenge of being prepared to answer everyone's questions. A second class just doesn't have that same appeal.

But I am likely to talk to pricing again. This class has triggered a lot of questions that are tangential to pricing:

  • How do I pay myself?
  • How do I organize my time?
  • Do you track your hours? How?

So, yes, I will be covering all these issues in a future class, or maybe a series of classes. I'm brainstorming/plotting a sort of bi-weekly class where we call in for a lesson, then go off and work on what learned about, followed by another call (or Twitter check-in) where we share what we learned. I'm thinking this sort of structure would allow us to really dive into all the tangential questions that come up. (If you're interested in that, shoot me an email, or leave a comment with your ideas)

Where did you learn about pricing?

Mostly, experience.  1 year in a scrapbook store, 2 years managing a paint-your-own pottery studio, 2 years in yarn shops (in all of these jobs I worked directly with the customers and hear their reactions to prices). 4 years of selling my handmade stuff and nearly a year of doing it as my family's main source of income.
The second source is conversations. Conversations at craft shows, at fiber festivals, over coffee and on Twitter. With crafters, shop owners, gallery owners and some very smart retired crafters.

But I've also read a looot. I have an extensive bibliography for the class. My students will receive it as a fancy PDF with an explanation of what I love from each resource.

But what about all of you who have more time than money? And want to read and sysnthesize and experiment? For you, I want to share the bibliography and I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions:

Books:

(linked to their IndieBound page, buy indie!)

The Boss of You
Handmade Marketplace
Crafting for Dollars

Online:

Etsy's  series on the Art of Pricing.
Havi's The Art and Science of Pricing .

Any more questions about the class?

Leave them in the comments and I'll answer them until the class starts at 3p ET.

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