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Month: January 2011

When your Thing is a Bake Sale

(you know, your thing, the thing you make and want to sell)

It's easy to talk about.
It's FUN to talk about.

You can't help but give out tasty samples.
You can't  help but snack on the goodness yourself.

You are SO proud of what you've made.

You tell everyone + don't worry that you might be annoying.
You don't even think about rejection, connection, buzzwords; you're just in the flow of being excited about your thing.

New ways of telling people come easily.
Maybe it's not easy to do the work, but the idea, the energy the whole process flows.

Your thing is darn tasty and you can not keep it to yourself.
You know the people who want a taste of it and you're ready to share it with them.

That's when your thing and your business is a bake sale.

Joy.
Ease.
Flow

The truth is, your business, your thing isn't always a bake sale.
Sometimes you feel stuck or stuttery or shy.
You lose the fun, the joy, the ohmygoodness, youmusttasteTHIS immediacy of sharing it.

I'm actually in that shy+stuck place now and have been for the last few weeks.

So I'm going back to the basics.
The foundation of making my thing easy to talk about (by me and my fans).
The system of making sure the word is spreading even when I'm not spreading it (fancypants call this a marketing plan).
Reconnecting to the fun, to the bake-sale-joy of sharing my handmade goodness.

I'm doing it personally and I'm sharing my system in the new class:

Because this share-your-thing thing isn't just for newbies.
Yeah, figuring this stuff out is ultra-important when you first get started.
But it's ALSO helpful once you've been going and feel stuck or tired or suddenly shy.

I'll be talking about the in-the-soft stuff (the be-ok-with-doing-it stuff) here on the blog and the in-the-hard stuff (do-this-next steps to actually DO it) in the class.

No matter what part of the journey you join me for, I'd love to know what your stuff-that-keeps-you-from-DOING-it, questions and fears are. Please share your concerns or ask your questions privately here or by leaving a comment below.

Good Shtuff – Extraordinary Hibernation Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish look at what I’m reading and thinking about. This week, we're celebrating extraordinary hibernation.

  • It's National Hibernation Week. Havi said so.

Which makes SO much sense;  I've barely been able to come out of my blanket fort, even though I have this incredibly awesome thing to brunch.
But now that I have permission to hibernate? Everything is ease-y-er.
So go on, nap. You know you want to!

As she says,

I will speak to your brilliance, your depth, your beauty, because that’s what I see and know to be true.

Amen!

What is keeping you from sharing your thing?

You know, your thing.

The thing that makes you happy and smiley and think oh my goodness, if I could do this for money….ooooh!

Your thing lights you up.
Your thing bubbles up out of you at parties and coffeshops and anytime it can.

But even though you love it. And you would love to sell it.

You're just not selling enough of it.
Enough to warrant all this time.
Enought to warrant your full-on obsession.
Enough to reach your goals.

Your goals might be:  paying one bill with your earnings, getting national media coverage, accepted to your first craft show, quitting your dayjob.

Here's what I know:

The problem is NOT your thing.
The problem is NOT you.

The problem is that people do not know about your thing.

And that can be fixed.
You can share your thing with people!
And then they will know!
And there will be much rejoicing!

Except…you know that already.
And you're still not sharing it.
Or you are, but it's not working.

You worry you seem spammy.
You hate feeling the rejection.
You just don't know how to get the right people to know, without being gross.

Right?

How do I know?

Because I've been there. In fact, I'm there a LOT of the time. Yes, still.

And I know because you told me. I asked and you said that you were afraid of rejection and overwhelmed with all you've been told you “should” do.

It just sucks the joy right out of it doesn't it?

Well, I'm on a mission to bring the fun, the excitement, the wooo back into the process of sharing your thing.

I'm starting with the upcoming class: Secrets of Bake Sale Fun: Marketing that's Sticky, Not Icky.

In it we'll start with the basics of sharing your thing with joy and glee and then we'll build a personalized plan for reaching out and bringing the right people in.

It starts in just a week and you can read more about it here.

And if the class isn't for you?
I still completely adore you and we'll be talking a lot more about bringing joy back into your thing right here on the blog.

Finding our place in this space

Daily Photo 14: Unusually large selection of duct tapeWho knew the world contained this variety of duct tapes?

I've been thinking a lot about community.
And culture.
And what makes a space a space.

Havi talks (brilliantly) about culture.
And Diane has been talking about (financial) sustainability in our crafty world.

And the range of answers in her comments has me wondering: what is our online, bloggy, crafty world?

There are craft bloggers and podcasters (like Diane) that don't sell what they craft.
There are crafters who don't blog or podcast but want to sell what they craft.
And crafters who sell what they make, but don't blog or Twitter or even get online.

And then there's me.

I starting blogging (oh Diaryland!) 10 years ago (and no, you can't read what I wrote then) and have been writing something online ever since.
But it's not really humor.
It's not really tutorials.
It's not really essays on the craft world.
It's not really…anything.

Over at Blonde Chicken Boutique, I write about my yarn. How I make it, what inspires it, what to do with it.

Here, I talk about having a crafty business. What that's like, what I've learned, how you might do it.

I'm part of the community, but I'm not interacting in the same way.
And this works for me.
It's built a business and friendships and allowed me to do what I really adore (talking to other crafty business-lovers).

But is that allowed?

Several of my newest clients are brand-new to the whole online-craft-world and they're wondering if they should do it all: blog, tweet, podcast, sell their craft.

My answer is always the same: do what suits you.

If you like writing (as I do), write.
If you like photography, Flickr.
I you like getting to know strangers with similar interests, tweet.

I'm not sure where I fit into the greater craft blog world and that's ok.
It's ok if you don't know where you are either.
And it's really ok if you don't blog or tweet or sell your thing.

You are welcome here all the same.

(Remember, there are no secret handshakes.)

Finding what works for you is the first step to making sure you spend your time on doing what WORKS for you.
What brings clients.
What fulfills your needs.
What makes your business hum with fun and profit.

I'm working on a class that will answer your specific questions on using social media (blogs, twitter, etc) to sell your thing (it's not quite ready to announce yet, but you can sneak a peek here), but before I announce it, I just wanted to remember:

It's ok to be where you are. It's ok to NOT use social media.
It's ok to use it however you've been using it.

Really. You can't do it wrong.

The only thing that's wrong?

If  it isn't working for you.
If you're not getting what you want and need.
If it's wasting your time and frustrating you.

And that's what my class will be about: ignoring the shoulds and finding what works for you, in a non-icky, totally full-of-ease way.

I'm curious: what do you know works for you?

Good Shtuff: doodling, sipping and crushing

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish look at what I’m reading and thinking about. This week, it’s all about finding the ease.

Doodling

Lynda Barry says some beautiful things about doing things by hand in this great interview.

Handwriting, for example, is a very complicated thing. It moves through time with no delete button in the same way we do.

Sipping

Marissa wrote a beautiful mini-festo about choosing sipping over domination. I am practically allergic to any form of violence, so I very much appreciated this:

I don’t want to feed an ethos of power struggle, scarcity or battling.

Not even metaphorically. Words matter.

It reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago, when I decided instead of “crush it” I'd make my goal succulence.
Irony: that year I was featured in the NYT best-seller, Crush It. Yes.

Month of Love

I can't believe I'm already at the 4th Annual Month of Love, my yearly attempt to spin yarn inspired by couples. It's my most favorite yarn-y thing I do and the feedback is amazing.
This year it's reminding me to do more of what makes me feel like this.  Connected, creative, easy.

What are you reading and thinking about this week?

Right People and communities: some quick thoughts

picplz_uploadThis photo has nothing to do with anything, I just thought you should know that it really IS this snowy.

In our CraftyBiz Kitchen chat this week, someone asked a gorgeous question:

How do I get involved in my community if they're not online?

This is brilliant, because most everything that I talk about in the Right People class, assumes you're reaching a community online.
But you might not be.

If you're selling online, then the community you build will be online.
(Of course you can have an in-person community to, but it's much easier to just link to your shop online than in the middle of a conversation)

If that community is NOT already online, then you should probably pursue different methods of distribution: wholesaling or consigning to shops or craft shows or something else.

The method of your distribution (how the people get your thing) will determine the community you join and build.

If you open a yarn shop, hold knitting nights, classes and attend the knitting groups that already exist.
If you sell to retail locations, become a part of their community: attend wholesale shows, take them out to lunch, talk to them.
If you sell locally, meet your customers where they are: classes, community centers, book clubs, golf courses.

The one caveat: if you sell crafty things, you will NOT find your Right People at a crafting group. If they make the craft, they probably won't buy the craft, right?

In other words?
Go where your people are.
And then talk to them.
Be uniquely, crazily, obsessively you….
And that's it.

Everything I've ever said about Right People will be applicable to any community of people, if you first get really clear on who they are and where they are.

And when you start thinking about building the community (not just getting involved in what that already exists), read this great post by Tara (uh, not me!) on the 3 pillars of community building.

Where's your community of Right People?

Should you do free?

Should I give away free patterns or products or services or tutorials?

This is a question many people (those who have been steeped in the crafty community but yet to open a crafty business) ask me.

My answer is different for everybody, but this great post and Free + Sustainability + Community by Diane at CraftyPod reminded me that I've wanted to talk about it for a while.

The short answer:

Free is fine. But what do you hope to accomplish with Free?

Is there another way to reach that goal, one that's more sustainable for you and that sets up the right relationship between you and your people?

(Right Relationship = the relationship you hope to have with them long-term. For my yarny people, it's a yarn-buying relationship. For my craftybiz people, it's a more personal relationship: we work together to craft their businesses.)

The long answer

Free is fine.

But before you start giving stuff away, think about your Right People, think about your Right Relationship.

How can you build that sustainably over time?

What can you give them that will build the Right Relationship?

Realize this: if you give it away now, you won't be able to charge for it later.

When free is great:

  • When  it's a prize for getting the interaction of your Right People (ex. 50% off when I spin a yarn that you suggested).
  • When it's in exchange for information you need (ex. a survey, or a sign-up to your list).
  • When it's building the relationship through building your expertise, your cleverness or whatever it is that highlights your YOUNESS.
  • When it's a taste of your awesomeness (ex. I send mini-skeins (5 yards) to regular customers if they want to try a new yarn) that entices them to pay for the full awesomeness.

When does free work for your CraftyBiz?

PS. We'll be talking a LOT more about baking Right Relationships in the Starship.

3 reasons your crafty business dreams aren’t coming true

Day 5 photo: working at library
I've been thinking (and plotting!) a lot for my own crafty business this week and I've been talking to others about what they want (and what they aren't getting) with theirs.

And I'm sad to say that lots of us aren't getting everything we want from our business.
We have this sinking feeling that it should be more.
That we should be more.

First of all, you're doing the best you can.
You shouldn't be different or better or work harder.

There are just some (pretty simple to move) obstacles in your way that you're not seeing.

1. You don't know what you want.

Yeah, you may have a general overview (quit my dayjob! Be happy! Spend my time crafting!), but you don't know specifically what you want. How much do you want to make a year? A month? A week? How much time do you spend crafting? How much time writing, photographing, bookkeeping, shipping? What would your day look like if your CraftyBiz was wildly succesful?

The truth is: we can't get what we want until we know what we want.

2. You don't prioritize.

Once you have a clear vision of what you want from your business, what comes first? Growing a list? Creating new products? Creating content? Fixing your pricing?

3. You don't have support and accountability.

Even the most driven amongst us (and I was raised by two Marines, so yeah, I'm a bit obsessively driven), can't keep up the sort of sustained, long-term work (and play!) in a vacuum. Especially in the beginning, when you're not getting any feedback from customers (because you don't have them yet!) or your community (because you haven't found them yet!).

From the outside, this problem shows itself as lack of focus, or lack of commitment, but the more CraftyBiz-ers I talk to, the more I'm convinced that beating yourself up is NOT the answer.

A much saner (and sustainable!) solution is to find a support network.

People to who will check in (kindly!) with you.
People who will give you honest (gentle) feedback.
People who will brainstorm awesome ideas with you.

The good news

You can fix this!

  • You can spend the time figuring out what you want with your notebook + a few hours.
  • You can list your prioritize in a few minutes of focused attention.
    (That is, if you know what you want (see #1!) and the business basics of how to get there.
    You can learn that via classes or through reading everything you can get your hands on and trial and error.)
  • You can form your own accountability circle on Twitter, Facebook or just your email buddies.

Or.

You can join the CraftyBiz Kitchen.
We'll spend the first class working on our goals + dreams + plans + getting specific about what we want.
We spend one-on-one IdeaStorming sessions prioritizing the what-to-do-next after we've had classes that cover the how-to-do-it.
We have accountability and brainstorming and a general fun time during the chats.

Either way, don't let these things get in between you and what you want.
Don't let your business feel like a weight when it could feel like a joy.

Ask for help.
Seek answers.

And no matter what, don't treat yourself like a Marine drill sergeant would, ok?

——

Ah yes, I keep forgetting to say: the CraftyBiz Kitchen closes next Wednesday, 1/12, because that's the day of our first class and I don't want anyone to miss it.
Please get all the details and sign up here.

52 books in 2010

In 2010, I made a goal to read 52 books.
3: The first books of the new yearfirst books of 2011

No wait, come back! This isn't another round-up of my year kind of post, I promise! I'm just going to talk about the best books, ok?

Even though that's 1 book a week, the actual reading didn't turn out like that at all. Many weeks I read no books and many weeks I read 2 or 3 books. I finished the 52nd book the week before Christmas and…haven't finished another book since then.

I had very few rules.

I couldn't count a cookbook (or knitting book) unless I actually cooked a recipe (or knit a project) out of it (unless it was a mostly-words book, like Gluten Free Girl).
I am always allowed to quit reading, at any point. No guilt.

Instead of talking about every book or just listing them (you can see the entire list here), I want to share the surprises.

Oh, and I'm linking to their GoodReads page because I did not buy them (99% of the books were checked out from my library), so it seems disingenuous to tell you to buy them.

However, if you're like my friend Jamie and want to own every book you read, I strongly suggest using IndieBound to find an independent bookstore to buy them from. If you don't have a bookstore near you, you can buy from my favorite, Malaprops.

Now, for the books!

The books I did not expect to like

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

It's Young Adult fiction! It's set in an apolyptic future! Not usually my thing. But so good.

It was Kim's review that convinced me to check it out and she was right! I finished the first book in 5 hours one night (yes, I stayed up until 3 am finishing it), it was that great.

Finding your Own North Star by Martha Beck.

I didn't really know anything about Martha Beck other than she was in Oprah's magazine. That was enough to convince me her stuff would be too cheesy or woo-woo for me.
Plus, I sorta already HAVE my North Star. I'm already doing what I love.

But when Eileen and Brianna both rave about the smartness of Martha, I knew I had to give it a shot. And this book was great. I learned all kind of skills for dealing with my own stuff and helping my CraftyBizzers deal with theirs.

The Happiness Project

I only picked it up after loving Bluebird by Ariel Gore (which I read just because I love Ariel Gore), because I like to put together my own little series around a theme (why yes, I am a geek).
I'm not really into improve-your-life programs. I'm all about improving my life, but not through traditional, do-this-next-steps. I thought that was what this book is.

But it's totally not. Gretchen puts together a plan to research and learn more about her own happiness and in doing so shares helpful information without being preachy.

Most proud of myself for (finally) reading:

Jane Eyre

Seriously! How have I not read this before? Sweeping, epic, beautiful.
And I still can't get over what a contemporary role model Jane is.

Did not like as much as everyone said I would:

Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Wayyy too violent for my sensitive self. I've experienced enough violence in the real world that I try to avoid it in my own imagination.
The action was gripping and I couldn't put it down until I finished.
But I've been haunted by the violent imagery every since. Really wish I had never read it.

Dune

zzzzzz.
Couldn't finish it. Could barely keep reading.
So full of science-y description.

But it's a sci-fi classic so I tried REALLY hard to read it and like it.
But I just couldn't.

Best business book

Book Yourself Solid

I loved Trust Agents and The Art of Non-Conformity (I read both of these guys blogs (Chris and Chris) every week and their books have the same friendly, helpful voice), but Book Yourself Solid had the most new-to-me, detailed, do-this-next helpfulness.

If you can get past the constant Book Yourself Solid phrase. You've been warned: the author says “Book Yourself Solid” several times a chapter.

And you?

What was the best book you read last year?
I'm trying to read 60 books this year, and I need a few more for my list!

Thematic

I'm not one for resolutions.

FxCam_1293394796820

In the past, I've picked words to guide me through the year, to sum up my goals.

But this year, the year ahead feels sprawling. Too huge and unknown and exciting to slap a word or two on it.
Instead of picking a word or goal for the entire year, I'm picking a goal for each quarter (more about this in today's SparklePointer).

But for the whole year?
I'm repeating something from last year: allowing a theme to come to me.

The difference between a theme and resolutions?

Resolutions, goals, visions = action, grasping, finish lines

Themes are just there. They define a period time, whether we want them to or not.

For me, picking a theme means bringing awareness to something. To notice when I need it, to notice when I'm blessed with it.

And the best themes aren't picked. They picked me.

An example

In 2010, during an exercise with Havi, the word PEACE came to me.
And I was annoyed. I am not a person who seeks peace. I seek adventure and challenges and struggle.

Oh. Yeah.

That is why I needed peace.
For the rough times. For the struggles. For the challenges. For the adventures.

And 2010 brought me plenty of opportunities to look for peace, to find it unexpectedly, to cultivate peace in an unpeaceful time.

This year

Despite avoiding it, despite wanting something more sparkly or exciting, I got SAFETY.

Oh, blah. How boring!
And so expected after the recent unpleasantness.

But that's the word.

But what does it DO?

Knowing the word is like having a study guide. I know what I need to pay attention to, even though I have no idea what's coming.

To get a handle on it I start by writing about the qualities that SAFETY includes. What does it mean for ME?

And then, I just pay attention.

I notice the word.
I notice when I feel the feeling (or feel the distinct LACK of it).

In confusing, uncertain or hard times, I ask myself:

  • “How can I bring the qualities of Safety into this situation?”
  • “Where is Safety here?”
  • “What small thing can I do to make this feel more safe?”

This isn't about fear.

Or playing it safe.
Or avoiding risks.

This is about building a safe space, within myself, to act from.

To brunch with.
Like a comfy house in the Shire that you set out from to go on great adventures. Its presence (no matter how far away) comforts you on the cold nights.
Or, for a different geeky metaphor, it's a space station. It's DS9 and my adventures happen with the Away Team, who stays safe as long as they're in contact with the station.

Does your new year have a theme?

Better yet, does it have a geeky metaphor? Tell me about it in the comments!