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Month: October 2010

Holiday sanity for all

A friend of mine (a fellow crafty business owner) recently wrote me:

Did you know Etsy is already on WEEK 5 of Holiday Bootcamp?!?!

Oh my.

I'm not even on Week 1 of planning and we have how many weeks left?

And as much as I love Etsy, the thought of a bootcamp? for the holidays?
It makes me want to snuggle under my crocheted blanket and just knit for a bit.

I'm not about to get all drill sargeant on you, but I do think that planning ahead (even if it's just thinking about the qualities you want to have in your holiday season) makes everything more magical.

And I've already admitted, I'm not even a planner!
But for the next month, I'm taking my planning for non-planner approach to the season.

The season of craft shows, gift certificates, gift-giving (and gift-buying and gift-making!), travel, family time and pie!

Ok, so the pie doesn't take a lot of time away from my business, but the others? As much as I adore this season (and I really really do), even if do NOTHING holiday-related in the yarn shop, the holiday smoosh makes it hard to just do the normal businessy stuff.

But this season, I'm applying my questions, my noticings, my metaphors and I'm carving out some space to create Holiday Sanity.
And I'd like to invite you to join me!
For four weeks (or 5 if you sign up by Tuesday!), we're going to take about an hour a week to notice.
To pay attention to what we want, what we hope for and what we want to get rid of.

I couldn't come up with a clever name, so it's simply Holiday Sanity and you can find out more about it here.

Planning for non-planners

Confession: I'm not a planner.

There, I said it.

I love to implement ideas as soon as I have them.
I like to focus on the part of my business  that I'm most excited about, at that moment.

I run two businesses, teach classes monthly, email tips for craftybiz weekly and write daily.
And yet. I'm not a planner.
I write, teach, email as inspiration strikes.

This is my dirty secret.

Because  this is not what I recommend.
Operating ONLY in this way ensures that I forget all about things like holidays, or anniversaries, or opportunities to do something really cool.

Luckily, it's possible to both ride the wave of inspiration and to plan a bit.
It's all about the Cycle of Creativity.

When I'm on a high, when I'm feeling the momentum of creativity pushing towards more creativity and action, I ride it. I do it.

But when that fades and I'm feeling fallow, I can take the time (and energy) to stop and look around.

Where am I now?

Where do I hope to be? What deadlines (real and imagined) are looming?

I was doing a bit of this planning today (because, yes, the combination of a yarn flurry last week and the flu has landed me squarely in the restive part of the cycle) and I thought I'd share some of the process.

Most of this is done in my journal and all of it comes organicially. I try to let myself write and write, without editing and without worry about What It All Means.

An assortment of non-planning questions

What's coming up? Dates, classes, holidays, themes, money needs? What does the next week  look like, as it is, right now?
The next month?
What would I like to have the next week look like? What about the next month?
(this includes: personal and business, emotional and financial)
Is there something that's been on the back burner that's ready to move forward?

Now. What does it all Mean?

What fits together? What doesn't fit? What can be moved around? What can be put aside?

In other words: what are the connections? The patterns?

And then, if I'm still in the mood

What small steps will take me from Here to There?
Don't be afraid to list Every. Single. Step.

(for example, one of my plans is to take over 100 skeins of handspun to Seattle. How many skeins a week is that? How many a day?)

And the amazing thing?

This planning, it is usually the impetus that moves me from fallow to creative, from empty to full of ideas.

This morning I was achey and tired and mope and now, 1101 words (thanks to 750words) into answering these questions, I am full to bursting with plans and inspirations and plots.

In fact, I came up with a don't-be-overwhelmed-by-the-holidays plan for myself that  I think I'll invite you to play with in the next week or so!
To make sure you get the invitation, sign up for here.

Are you a Planner? How do you do it?

Recovery Mode: a partial list

Yesterday I brunched a new shop.
And a new way-of-selling yarn.

Wait, you do know what I mean by brunch, right?

And after all the brunching, all I wanted to do was nap. And eat lunch (sadly, I've yet to figure out how to incorporate a real brunch into my brunching process).

Today is recovery-mode.
Answering emails, sharing videos of sheep-shearing, drinking as much hot chocolate as I need.

I planned for recovery-mode because I remembered (finally!) about the Cycle of Creativity and that after that much work I simply must stop.

Since today is Friday and you're probably going into your own mini-recovery weekend, I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways of recovering. The list is always changing, and I'm always looking for new things to add, so share your recoverings in the comments!

  • Or mini-apple cobbler. Remind me to share my made-up recipe next week, ok? It's DIVINE!
  • Watching too many hours of TV on DVD (usually from the library), right now it's Lost, rewatching it from the start so I can (finally!) watch the last season.
  • Knitting or crocheting. Right now it's crocheted fingerless gloves out of Mercedes' new (secret!) sock yarn. I got it early by being in this club, which you should totally join.
  • Reading. Last night it was All Marketers are Liars, by Seth Godin. But then I had some vivid dreams of trying to figure out my story, so I think I'm laying off it for a while. Next up: Delivery Happiness.
  • Writing. When the mood strikes me. No pressure, no big points, just like this list.
  • Cleaning. I know. Who cleans for fun?
    A woman who has let the whole house do what it will for a solid week while she took over 600 photographs of yarn. While her husband was sick in bed with the flu. Cleaning is downright relaxing, when I remember it makes the house feel more like a naptastic cocoon.

That's it (for now).

How do you recover?

Experimentation: Do I have to keep doing what I’ve been doing?

I've sold my yarn, online, for over 4 years.

When I started, Etsy was the easiest way to get started. I didn't have to know any html, all I had to do was take pictures, write a description and there it was. Available.

And as the years passed, this method worked great.

As I focused more on making it my full-time income, I made myself a little schedule. I'd make yarn all week, photograph it on Saturday mornings, edit them by Sunday and list a yarn a day for the rest of the week.

I kept this schedule for…years. Up until this summer.

I  didn't have enough yarn to keep listing. I was getting big wholesale orders and sending it off to yarn shops. I was preparing for craft shows and wanted to bring enough ( I was afraid of it selling online before I got to the show!)

Suddenly, no matter how much yarn I made, I felt bad that I wasn't offering more online.

And when I packaged packages, I was rushed. Throw in a card, slap a label and get it out the door, so I can go back to yarn-making, writing and teaching.  To keep from getting behind on sending out orders, I made a schedule for this too.  Packing Day was once a week (Wednesdays) and I'd print all labels, package all orders and go to the Post Office. Soon I was corralling my husband into doing most of the shipping.

And I was in the throes of this slapdash packaging one day, when I realized: I dread this day. I dread all the admin here.

So I sat down with my journal and asked,

Why?

What about it don't I like?
I don't like that I feel guilty. Guilty that I should be making these packages prettier. Guilty that I'm not giving it my best. Guilty that I should be better.

What could make me feel better at this?

If I did it less often. If I could do a whole month's worth at once.
If I didn't feel so behind.
If I didn't worry that I should have saved this yarn for a shop or a show or something.

What would that look like?

If my yarn-selling could be anything, as unprobably as it may seem, what would it look like?

And there it was, all at once, the solution:
I would offer yarn only once a month.
For one week.
At the end of that week, I'd pack it all up and send it out.

The unsold yarn would also get packed up, either to a shop or for the next show.
And then I'd get back to spinning, three weeks of full-on spinning with no photography, no labeling, no shop-maintaining.

But that's scary

I was immediately beset with monsters.
This is the most ridiculous idea ever!
You're always saying you should make it easy to give you money! This makes it hard!
People won't buy it!
Customers will be disappointed!
Everyone will think you're a slacker!

So I talked to the monsters.

And I talked to my supporters.
My friends. My family. My mindmelders (like, a mastermind group that channels Spock).

And we (my monsters and I) decided it would be ok to try it as an experiment.

Only an experiment.

My online shop closed 3 weeks ago as the first part of the experiment.
The second part of the experiment starts today, the one-week-only Yarn Party.

We'll see.

I have no idea (yet) if this was a fantastic or a ridiculous idea.
Either way, I promise to report back.

Until then…

Let's talk about other ways we could experiment.
What things do you dislike doing? Is there a way to stop doing it?
Share your thoughts in the comments.

Danielle is crafting a (whitehot) business

This is the fourth in a series of  interviews with smart people who are crafting a business. Part friendly chat, part case-study, all helpfulness!
If you know someone I should interview (even you!)
let me know.

Today I’m talking to Danielle of WhiteHotTruth. While her business isn't crafty in the make-a-craft-sense, it is entirely handmade, built from scratch and filled to the brim her brightly shining Daneille-ness.
I was delighted to ask Danielle a few questions after devouring her Fire Starter Sessions book. That book (and the thinking and scribbling it provoked) directly led to this site and my favoritist, love-filled  part of my own business.

You combine the visual + the verbal beautifully in your notecards and in your truisms: how did you develop your sense of design?

It gets down to this: strip it down. I haven't always been a champion of simplicity, but I got there, because I got clear that it's all about the message, baby. And judging from your next question (I peeked ahead) you get that too!

Your eye, your style, the layout of everything from notecards to FireStarter Sessions to your website all reflect and highlight the meaning, the message.
And at the same time, it reinforces your brand. Do you think of it as branding? Or something else?

Whenever someone asks me about ‘how I built my brand' I giggle inside. So, nope, I don't think of it as branding…but it is. Confusing? My quick definition of a brand is a persona. Some personas are manufactured for appeal, some personas are a reflection of someone's authentic self. The latter is more sustainable, and fun.

I've got a message, and I focus on being straightforward about it…usually in Helvetica and black & white.

The exercise I found most powerful in the FireStarter Sessions was figuring out what I wanted to feel and then work on bringing those feelings into my work in whatever way I can. It sparks all sorts of crazy ideas and new directions.
How did you discover this method of decision-making?

So glad that worked for you because it's the focus of my next book. It's been a long journey to finally getting to the heart of it: that everything we do is in order the generate a desired feeling. The short answer about how I got there: take years of faking it to make it, too many new age self help books, a heaping does of passion, meditation, and consistent courage, et voila! Conclusion: the best life strategy is to get clear on exactly how you want to feel and set about creating those feelings in every area of your life. Feels…good.

What do you want to feel more of right now?

I always want to feel more innovative, affluent, connected, and…divinely feminine.

You recently wrote that doing what you say your going to do is the secret to success.
How do you make sure you aren't promising things you can't do? How do you set boundaries to respect your capacity?

I say ‘no, thank you' about 80% of the time. I work with some A+ people, so I can focus on what I do best. I pay attention to when I feel inspired, or heavy – and I try not to let heavy get on my to do list. Inspiration is a very simple, but powerful formula.

Thanks Danielle!

If you enjoyed this interview, let Danielle know! She’s @daniellelaporte on Twitter.
My favorite bits of Danielle-wisdom:
  • “Strip it down.”
  • “Inspiration is a very simple, but powerful formula.”
What could you strip down today?

Coffeeshop Clarity

I'm sitting in the coffeeshop.
(Really, right now, this isn't a metaphor)

The barista, the who actually gets what I do, comes up and starts talking to me about work. His wife is a knitter.

I see the guy next to us keeps looking up, interested.

When the barista walks away, John introduces himself. His wife wants to start selling her self-designed handbags…where should she start?

We talk for nearly an hour, I point him towards some resources. I walk him through the steps.
We both turn back to our laptops feeling excited, exhilarated, happy to have made a connection.

And I started writing this, not sure where it was leading.

But I know that this experience, this moment of helping someone, of bringing hope and independence and direction is My Truth.

It is what I love.
It is what I love to do.
It is clarity, purpose, truth.

And I wanted to remember it.
For when I feel uncertain.
And I get wobbly.
And I wonder why in the world did I take this on?

I want to remember this moment. And all those little moments I have with my clients and in my classes and just anyone who asks for help.

I bet we all have these moments, these perfect distillations of why I do this clarity. A moment where everything feels on and right and clear.

Remembering these moments and sharing them can be a powerful motivation to keep going.

So I'd like to know: what was your most recent moment?

The hard and soft of Money

I've been thinking about money. And making it.

Not just because I'm teaching a class about it, but because my IdeaStormers have been asking about it (which is why I'm teaching a class about it).

The not-yet-in-business people want to know how do you  pick something, how do you know that it will make money?

The owners of baby-businesses want to know how they make more of it, enough to quit their job or just cover their overhead.

The thriving-crafty-businesses want to know how to balance the different things they offer and what new stream they should jump into.

And no one is asking me “But how can I be ok with money?”
We're not talking about theories or practices or internal stuff.
Havi makes the distinction between  the in-the-soft stuff (feelings, emotions, stuckness) and in-the-hard stuff (actions, ideas, strategies).

The in-the-soft stuff is super important.

Even though I am not teaching the dealing-with-your-money-stuck stuff, I want to pause and tell you that this is a vital step.
You just won't be able to take the next step until you acknowledge the stuff that's keeping you from that step.
The in-the-soft stuff is what moves you from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

But before you can do it, you have to know it.

And that's where this class comes in.

Because we can't move on to dealing with the deeper stuff of crafting a business (and a life), until we all know the basics.

The you can make money as a crafter in these ways, along with  and here's how you can make it sustainable stuff.

Basic doesn't mean beginner.
Basic means at the base.
The very foundation of building a crafty business.

All of the Right Price and Right People isn't going to get you anywhere if you don't know how your business will make money. If you don't know the options available even after you have an established business.

I am crazy excited about this class, but I'm even more excited for the what will come from the class. New businesses, new inspirations, new streams of income for crafters.

The class is tomorrow, but even if you can't make the live call, you'll still get a recording + all the materials. You can sign up right here.

If you feel like you know what to do…

but need some in-the-soft help? Here's what I do:

What helps you in-the-soft?
What do you want to know for in-the-hard action?

Practice

This morning, I don't feel like writing.

My nose is runny, my throat is dry and my inbox is overflowing.

But I know that if I don't write now, I won't.

Oh sure, I'll write emails, a newsletter, maybe even a blog post. But I'll miss the practice.

The daily putting-words-together that makes my day better, makes my words flow, makes my to-do list easier to navigate.

I love the word “practice”. Yes, it's a verb, but after years of answering the question “How many hours did you practice your viola?” I don't much care TO practice.

But the noun! To have A practice. A daily doing.
I don't have a ritual or even a plan. I have a practice.

I have a writing practice.
I have a yoga practice.
I have (quite a few) business practices.

A practice lets me suspend judgment.
It's not the final draft.
It doesn't have to be perfect or even non-sucky.

It can be horrible and wrong and achey and still be just fine, because it's only my practice.

But I'm starting to learn, that it can be private, it can be mine, even if I get some help with it.

This week my writing practice is much improved, much easier thanks to Amna's brilliant writing workshop.

My yoga practice began with Havi's Non-Sucky Yoga Kit. Until I got that DVD, I'd never done a lick of yoga. I've still never been to a proper class.
And yet, I have a nice, growing, streeeetching practice.

What are you practicing?
Who's helping you with it?

You make money doing…what?

It’s the first question I get when I tell strangers that I’m a full-time fiber artist:

You can make money doing that?

Yep. And I’m the “breadwinner” for our family (ugh, I hate that phrase!).

My yarny business pays the rent.
And the electricity.
It brings home the puppy chow.
It send me to New York City and Seattle and our family to weekends at the beach.

But how?

It’s another phrase I don’t love: multiple streams of income.

I make money several ways with my yarn: teaching, writing, photography, selling it in a multitude of settings.

I combine that with my Super Secret Process of Making Money Right Now.

I've said this before.

It's possible to make money making what you love.
Possible (if you want!) to make enough to quit your dayjob.

It's a combination of Right Pricing and Right People and Trying Stuff.

But is that enough?

Have I really told you everything I know about Making Rent?

I've told you all about the marketing part, but what about the what-to-offer part?
I've went on and on about making it easy to give you money, but have I really told you all the ways to make money?

Let's talk about money, baby.

Let's talk about all the different ways your crafty biz can make money.
Let's talk about what to do when rent is due in 2 days and what am I going to do?
Let's talk about getting out of that rushlastminutedoom space and into something more sustainable.

Let's talk about next Tuesday, at 3p, for around 2 hours.
Join me (and get all the gory details), right here.

And if you questions on how to do it….

Ask me in the comments!
I'll be answering your questions for the next week, on the blog!

You’re making it hard for me to give you money…

One issue that keeps coming up in my one-on-one work with crafters is that it's not crystal-clear how someone will give them money.

If your site visitors don't know HOW to give you money, then they probably won't!

Here's a quick list of ways you are making it hard for me (or anyone!) to give you money:

  • It's not clear what you do, or that you take money to do that thing
  • You have an Etsy or Artfire shop, but I can't find it on your website (or your blogger blog). If I have to scroll down to find it, it's too hard to find.
  • You sell in ways other than Etsy, but I can't find that information.
  • I'm not sure WHY I would buy from you. What are the benefits? What makes your thing different than Joe's thing?
  • I don't know who you are. If your About page describes a faceless business, I'm not going to get that thrill of buying from a real, live person.
  • You only have an Etsy or Artfire shop, so I don't know how to find more about you. I can't get to know you via Twitter or a blog or an About page.
  • You list your prices in your country's currency. What is it going to cost me, a self-involved American?

This is only a partial list!

Do you have examples of what businesses do that makes it hard to buy from?

Share it in the comments!