Craft a thriving business. Do what matters. Crush Distractions. Get the Kit:

Month: September 2012

The Adventures

Each week is an adventure. And each week I take a minute to acknowledge it, right here.

Let's try something new this week, inspired by Ali.

This week, I am…

Trucks of pumpkins = my new favorite thing.

Delighting over pumpkin trucks.

Still thinking about last night's dinner: roasted tomatoes & garlic, blended up into pasta sauce. Simple+perfect.
Roasting tomatoes and garlic for the easiest pasta sauce (blend up with a bit of salt and fresh basil.)

3 hours in & nearly all my list is marked off! #reasonstotakeeveryFridayoff

Marking things off my list.

Just realized I have a date with my favorite new mama tomorrow...and I didn't have any baked goods. Pumpkinish Spice Cupcakes to the rescue.

Perfecting a Pumpkin Spice cupcake.

On either side of me. Time for bed?

Snuggling Andre + Beau.

After a year of near-veganism, I think I finally figured it out. (the secret: buy way more veggies than you think, or else you'll order a pizza on Wed night)

Reveling in the farmer's market bounty.

My first cup from new pour over (also, first cup made at home in years)

Sipping coffee from my new  pour-over coffeemaker. Pumpkin Spice Lattes at home? Yes!

And…
Anticipating Gone Girl (it finally came in at the library, I'm waiting for the weekend)

Sending this to everyone. ( #14 is our mantra.)

Winding endless skeins (625 yards each!) of hemp laceweight for a wholesale order (in Norway!)

Collecting success stories from Starship Captains. It is amazing what people have done in even 3 months inside. It's really making my week, every week.

Connecting in new and interesting ways. From videos with Kim to planning with Cairene to editing with Diane. It feels good to get out of my own head + notebook and see the world with someone else.

Exploring a new way of working. As I let go of old projects, I get to explore how I want it to be, with how I want to feel, and what I want to create. Every project, old and new, is up for renewal. It's both terrifying and thrilling.

 

 

 

What adventures did you have this week?

Share them here: comments.

 

Follow your bliss? Or make what they want?

It's all well and good to talk about bringing more of yourself into your business (and we'll be talking about it tons in today's workshop), but what about the other side of the equation? What about what your people want? How do you balance the two day after day? How do you decide what to make? What you love? Or what sells like hotcakes? We're always talking about this in the Starship, so I invited artist (and Starship member) Amy Crook to share her thoughts with us: 

 

When I go to galleries, the pieces I really connect with are often abstracts. Online, it's usually adorably clever fan art. Sometimes I'm fascinated by technique or quite humanly envious of talent, skill, and “I wish I'd thought of that”-ness. Sometimes I just want to stand and stare at the piece for a while, especially with in-person art.

When I'm making art, I'm often inspired by my own materials and techniques. I want to play, to try this or that and see how it comes out. I want to create a piece of art that gives the same sense of connection to the viewer as those pieces I see in the gallery.

Or I want to draw something clever and adorable that connects with the fannish awww (different from fannish awe) in my audience. I want my characters to be recognizable but still a cute parody, and for the concept to be clever and original.

 

But what I'm really hoping for, sometimes, is that pull of DO WANT in my audience.

The problems arise when these two things come into conflict. When the art that makes my soul sing and my fingers fly, my brush swoop and heart soar, is art no one seems to want to take into their home and love and keep (naming it George: totally optional). When the idea that makes me grin like a loon goes over like a lead balloon with my audience.

When I put up what I think people want, or what I would want, and the crickets chirp and dollars totally fail to roll in.

The problem is, no matter how much pure inspiration goes into a piece, I'm not the “create for yourself” sort. Perhaps it's a flaw in my character, but I want someone else to appreciate my art, otherwise, what is really the point? I could imagine my art all by myself without ever having to lift a brush or pen, and save a lot of time and effort to put into accountancy or something.

The other problem shows up when the art that people want more of isn't something I want to make again and again, as an artist. If it's something that I've lost interest in, or was just trying as a one-off and don't want to pursue. Or worse, if it's something that I didn't actually like that much, but went ahead and shared because I needed to post something and sometimes someone still likes the ones that are too orange or too busy or too squidgy for me.

It's easy to say “be true to yourself” when you're not worried about making next months rent (spoiler: freelancers are always worried about this). Nothing about this issue is black and white, except maybe some of the art.

So how do you balance the things people want with the things you want to create? Does inspiration dry up or move on when a series or style gets no love or no sales? Or do you keep on trucking through the wastelands of commercially unviable creations, trying to find your way out the other side without giving up on the ideas that excite you?

I don't really have answers here, just questions. Thinky thoughts. Quandaries. What do *you* think?

 

 

(All of the images in the post are Amy's art. Click through to see details or buy it.)

3 steps to embracing your multitudes (for when you want to do and be more)

Making a collage for blog post on being more than one thing.

During the last week, my inbox and Twitter stream has been full of your stories about being  More Than One Thing. Although there are a zillion ways to be more than one thing, and a million ways of working it out in your business, it seems that most everyone's stories fit into one of three patterns:

 

  1. You wear a lot of hats. As a maker-seller, you design the product, make the product, do the bookkeeping, manage the marketing, and label each and everything. This is less about your you-ness and more about scheduling, being productive and making a map.  Whether you sell scarves or apps, being a small business owner is all about juggling the myriad responsibilities and priorities.
  2. You have so many interests, but your public “persona” doesn't reflect your gorgeous ginormousness. You might sell sewing patterns, but you also knit and do puppetry. Oh, and you love Battlestar Gallactica and vegan cupcakes. You feel the pressure to “just do one thing” in order to seem more “professional”…but it's starting to wear you down. While you want to  bring your unique you-ness into your business, you struggle with knowing what you want to make part of your public persona. (This is the thing I have the hardest time with.)
  3. You are known for making and selling one thing…but it feels limiting. You want to introduce a new product or line, but you're not sure how it fits in the other stuff you've been doing.

Do you recognize yourself in one of these?

(or maybe all three?)

The good news: it's normal.
As your business grows, you grow. As a maker, your creativity wants new-ness and excitement, and after a while, doing and making just one thing gets boring (and stifling). Feeling the chafe of wanting to be more than what you have been, to bring more of yourself into your business is a sign that you're that building a more sustainable business.

It's worth the initial struggle. When you create different streams of income, you've got a stronger business. When you're more you, you find new customers. When you try new things, your creativity is reinvigorated.  Both Kim and I have stories of resisting and then, finally, embracing our multitidues and finding  greater success, greater connection, more fulfilling work.

So where do you start? If you recognize yourself in one of the scenarios above…what do you do next?

It's a process.

It takes time to first just get comfortable, and then to get strategic about how to resolve it.
In my experience, the process can be something like:

1. Identify the multitudes.
Go through the above three scenarios and list out all the ways this is true for you.

2. Find something to start with.
Take a look at your list and notice: which one wants to be shared? Which part of you feels stifled right now?

3. Experiment.
Try incorporating just a smidge more of you in your next blog post, newsletter or even product description. And then take note, what happens? For real scientific proof (especially useful if this feels scary), conduct a real experiment.

What are your multitudes? What do you want to experiment with?

 

 

Kim and I are sharing real-world strategies for broadening your business by embracing your multitudes in tomorrow's workshop. We'll cover hire-me pages, juggling multiple income streams and managing multiple projects (we'll cover scenario #2 + #3.) If you're struggling with the “too many hats” problem, we create personalized solutions each week, inside the Starship.

The Adventures

The view

Knitting the TARDIS shawl with the Doctor.
The best thing about having a dog is that, no matter how bad I feel, I'm forced to go outside and watch for bunnies.

On rainy days I survive on soy lattes & colorful accessories.
The cats are bonding over squirrels. (I think. I can't be sure because they refuse to admit their friendship)

A stack of photos, a pile of ticket stubs and one happy Sunday afternoon to put it all together. #projectlife
Packing up monthly yarn mail! (still a few spots left - http://www.blondechicken.com/ )

Knitting with the Doctor :: bunny-spotting :: cheering color :: bonding cats :: project life-ing :: packing up Monthly Yarn Mail ::

The Finds

My new class (live next week!) with Kim, is the most exciting thing this week. The class has generated great conversations on Twitter & in my inbox. Join More Than One Thing here.

Can we just agree I'm going to love everything Cairene writes? Her series on why it takes longer than you thought is spot on.

This week's jam is PYT and (my secret shame!) MmmBop. Go on, you know you want to!

Blogsy is my new favorite app; I finished this post on my iPad while waiting.

 

And just in case…

I've been getting a really stunning amount of interview/writing requests lately. If you blog or think or wonder about crafty businesses and you'd like to ask me questions (or ask me to write about it), get in touch, right here.

 

The Best + Worst advice for your business

Today Kim wrote about some of the worst advice she ever got, and it shocked me, because it's strikingly similar to what I considered to be some of the best advice I ever got.

A business advisor told me: Become an expert, and then share that expertise.

This is when I was only dreaming about making yarn full time, and I took her advice immediately to heart. I knew that what would matter to my yarn-buying customers is my expertise about eco-friendly yarn sources. So I started researching, writing, and just generally sharing what I was learning. And that landed me in my first magazine and my photos in a eco-focused knitting book, which gave me the confidence to pitch my first paid writing gig. And all that strengthened my business to the point where I could quit my dayjob and make yarn full-time. When I started getting questions about how I quit my dayjob, I realized people saw me as an expert in that, so I did lots more research (I was already obsessively reading every business book published in the last 3 decades) and started share that. Three years, and conversations with hundreds of creative businesses later, I wrote a book.

 

So, for me, this was great advice.

It gave me focus. It gave me a goal. And it gave me an effective content marketing plan (I always knew what to write about and what oppurtunities to pursue).
New fibery goodies

But a funny (unintended) thing happened.

I focused so tight, I narrowed myself. I put so much work into exploring my One Thing, that I cut off other things. I assumed that yarn people (or, business people) only wanted to hear about the one thing…so I filtered everything through that One Thing…to the death of the wholeness, of my complicated-ness.

It's that steely focus that made me SO terrified to start writing and talking about business, even when I really wanted to. It's that cold pragmatism that makes me so shy to share my utter geekiness. And it's that unyielding narrowness that made it hard, and yet so so necessary to write about the you-ness in your business.

I'm just starting to break free from self-imposed exile, and in doing so, I'm seeing that this isn't based on good business sense, it's fear. Fear to be myself, even among the people who love me best. Fear of boring you, annoying you, or just being misunderstood.

dogwood on bobbin

But I know I'm not alone in this. Every month I have a conversation with a crafter that says “I've really been thinking about doing x…but is that too far out there? Too unexpected?” The designer that wants to build software. Or the writer who wants to do puppetry videos.

I'm still figuring this out, but Kim is one of my heroes. She built an enviable career around crochet and editing, and then chucked it. And yet, her worst fears didn't come true. She still thrived. She still worked. She still got to pursue her passions.
And I look at other heroes, the artist who brings her fangirl-ness into her work. And I look at my own history. I thought, when I started talking about business to my yarn customers, that they would be bored…but I couldn't ignore my enthusiasm and followed it into a whole new career that I adore.

And you're not alone either.
If you're nodding along, if you've got passions, interests and just ideas that don't fit in with what you're doing now, let's talk about that! Join me + Kim next Tuesday (just one week!) while we discuss all this. We'll talk about how to build a business that can contain your multitudes, and how to handle all the sticky situations that come up (talking to your uncle at Christmas, or introducing something new to your customers). We've got adivce, stories, and answers and ideas for your specific situation. Join us right here.

Why it’s called the Starship

More than any other question I get, people are always asking: why do you call it the Starship?
If you met me in real life, you wouldn't guess that my business cards call me a Starship Captain. I don't speak Klingon. I've never been to a Star Trek (or Star Wars) convention. I might geek out over seeing the actual chair, but it was a low-level squee. The non-geek friend with me didn't even notice.

But I captain a Starship because I am an explorer. And so are you.

When I was creating the Starship, I kept asking the first members: What is this space? What's it like for us to all be together in the same place, but each going on our own adventures?
I thought of The Kitchen. The Craft Room. The Bounce House. And all of those are fun, but they don't really express that we are on a mission. They sound more like places where you hang out and chat and bake bread.
But we are on a mission  to seek out new answers, to try new things, to experiment. We are, every last one of us, in the process of crafting a life, and a business that fits into that life.
And even though you might do it at home on your couch in your pjs. It's not a sleepy, cozy, solitary endevour.
It can be safe. And it can be wild. It can be ease-filled and it can be exciting.
But if you are truly pursuing the unknown, creating something that didn't exist yesterday, blazing your own trail towards self-expression and sustainability…it ain't easy.
It's an adventure.
For me, and for lots of the Starship-ers, this is the best adventure of our lives (so far). It's a daily challenge and it's also a daily reward. It's frustrating and it's liberating.
Sometimes it's downright boring, but then we catch a new wave of inspiration and everything is changing and it's all exciting and overwhelming and totally unknown again.
So that's why it's called the Starship.

Because we are adventurers.*

We're exploring the unknown and recording what you find (and turning it into our business).
We're in a space full of support and camaraderie and everything we need for our adventure. A Starship.
*It's more fun if you sing We are adventurers.

If you're an adventurer (or you'd like to feel a little more supported in your business), check out the Starship. It only opens once a quarter!

 

 

The middle of the ride

When you first got on this ride (and started your business), you had enthusiasm. You had books. You read stuff and made a list (maybe even a map) and figured out where to go next.

The destination was clear: Selling My Thing.
So you figured out how to get there, and you did it! You sold a thing! Hoorah!

But then you realized the destination had shifted. It wasn't just enough to have a place to sell your thing, you also needed great pictures, compelling descriptions. No wait, that's not enough either, now you need to keep doing that, every week. And so now the destination isn't just to sell one of your things, the destination is to keep going with this, to keep it going even when you don't feel like it.
Oh! You need something outside of just your own whims to get things done…you need a whole system of getting your thing made and sold…it's….It's a business.

And so you read more books and tried more stuff.
You've figured out how to keep making things, photographing them, listing them.
You've met some of your clients. You've had conversations.

Now you have a business…but now you're destination-less. It's  not a place that you can point to on the map and be  all done with it.
It's ongoing.
It's iterative.
It's everyday.

You have to live with not having a destination.
You are realizing more and more each day that the plan is now to build something you love, something that's sustainable and that you like doing and find out all the ways you can keep it healthy and fresh and full of enthusiasm.
But when you turn to books, there just aren't any books for where you are. And they wouldn't help anyhow because all your questions are so specific to you and your business.

This is a place of journey-ing, of realizing that your business is this ongoing thing and you kind of won't ever have it “figured out”. This iskind of a lonely place. It's definitely a difficult place.

I know because I've been there. When I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time, I came smack up against that on-my-own-ness, and it took me months to realize that I didn't need to power through, I needed to surround myself with others doing the same. And not just in an occasional Twitter conversation, but on a regular, business-specific basis.

And I know it's not just me, because last week I talked to all kinds of people (gym owners, jewelry-makers, vegan coaches) and real explorers (mountain climbers!), and everywhere it's the same. You feel like their questions are too specific, and that you're all alone.

What you need in this place isn't more books, it isn't more articles about 10 ways to make more sales, what you need is provisions for the journey. You need to embrace that you are no longer a person starting a business, you are a business explorer, one who will now live and learn and experiment in the wilds of business-land.

And every explorer knows, you can't do it alone.
You need a team who helps you explore, who shares ideas and who just keeps you from calling off the whole expedition when something goes wrong.
You also need to feel like you can ask your questions, your strangely specific questions about your incredibly unique business, and get the feedback from people who know it, and know you, and know what's worked for them.

That's why I built the Starship. Because all around me, from my classes and my twitter stream, were smart + clever businesses. But they felt discouraged and alone. They wanted regular encouragement. So I built a space for  them (and you) that  combines straight-up business advice in monthly classes with the accountability and encouragement of weekly live chats. It's for the middle of the journey, for when things feel like they're taking too much time, for when you're past needing the books, and you need daily movement. You can come aboard here.

But whether you come aboard or not, I want you to know that the middle is ok, it's normal, it's to be expected. It's not unusual to feel lonely or lost or destination-less. It's not unusual to be frustrated you can't find books about where you're at. Find encouragement in others who are going through the same thing. Seek out stories of the middle, and examples of people living in the middle. And maybe listen to this song.

 

Things take time

If you're having a rough day.
And feeling impatient.
And so ready for your thing to be done, successful, or over.
If you just don't feel like doing anything.
Or your inbox is overwhelming you.

Remember: Things Take Time.

It takes time to build the business of your dreams.
It takes to explore your own world, and learn what really works for you.
It takes time to get to know your Right People.
It takes time to build that safety net, declare that freedom, and prepare for the adventure.

Things take time.

And just beause you're not there yet,
Or you can't see when you will be,
Or it just takes more than you have.

It doesn't mean anything is wrong.

You're in the middle.
You're in between starting, and feeling some kind of completion.
You're in the middle of enthusiasm for the new thing, and pride in the finished thing.

And that's ok, because it's not just you.

Things take time for the overnight-success, for the in-business-10-years, for the started-last-nights.
Things take time for the maker with 1 sale, 100 sales and 10000 sales.
Things take time for the newly launched and the much-refurbished.

Things will take time for you,
even though you push,
even though you fight,
even though you really thought you could get there faster.

The only thing to do, when you feel like it's just taking too much time, is to reassess.

Are you clear on your destination (hint: make it shorter + closer + doable)?
Have you created a map to take  you there?

Do you do at least one thing every day that will bring you closer? 

Forget the long to-do lists, the inbox, the somedays, and just pick ONE thing that moves you closer.

And then another one tomorrow.

And although things take time, you'll get there. 

 

The adventures

This week has definitely been an adventure. A travel-cross-country, get stranded in an airport, totally exhausted kind of adventure. But! I loved it! And it inspired me to add a new section to this here weekly round-up of Adventures: The Lessons. Scroll down to see 'em!

 

The view

Seattle skyline from Bainbridge Ferry :: Teaching an EtsyRAIN workshop :: Knitting the TARDIS shawl with a DALEK :: Captain Kirk's actual chair :: At the baseball game :: first Pumpkin Spice of the season, as I waited for my much-delayed flight

The lessons

Captain Kirk's chair isn't that impressive in real life (kind of a peel-y vinyl), reminding me again that the symbol is the thing, and the value we bring to objects.

Support is all around. Again and again during the trip, I'd worry about something (like which busses to take to get to my workshop, without getting sweaty) only to have support show up (within an hour, three different people texted, unprompted and offered to drive me.) This happened so many times I lost count. Note to self: Keep your eyes open, the help you need is within reach.

Setting goals is powerful. I've had a dream/wish in mind all summer, but didn't know how to make it happen. Way back in June, I wrote that I wanted the Starship to my full-time focus  by September. But it seemed impossible, so I didn't make any plans for it…and then a series of random events made it possible to extricate myself from long-term client projects (happy on all sides) and dedicate myself full-time to the Starship this month. Magical. Also, freaky.

The finds

  • Breezy – A life-saving app! I had to print worksheets for the workshop (and couldn't print them ahead of time or they'd get all squished in my luggage), and Breezy lets you send any document to any local, public printer (like, Kinkos!) right from your phone or iPad.
  • I like what Cairene is saying here about commitment leading to magic. I've been learning this lesson over and over again lately, and I'm so glad she wrote it.
  • This is a pretty impressive handknit sweater for a baseball fan. I'm kinda tempted. Recognize the pattern?
  • Marlo! We had lunch after my workshop and she is just…well, it's hard to talk about her without sounding cliched. Smart! Great! Hilarious! Also, so so in tune with what crafters need to know. Since I don't work one-on-one with clients anymore (unless you're already in the Starship), I'm referring everyone to her.

And that's it for my Adventures this week – what were yours?

 


Another lesson  learned? I love talking to you. So now, for this month only, every one boarding the Starship gets a free jam session. We'll talk about your questions, your dreams and your plans, so you enter the Starship prepared to get exactly what you need. Offer ends (and the Starship closes to new members) on 9/14.

How to experiment: Reports + New Experiments

Looks like home.

Last month, I launched an experiment (and some of you joined me!). While doing the experiment is fun in itself, the real power lies at the end, where we determine if the experiment worked the way we thought it would.

To analyze your experiment, start with the thesis. Did you prove it true? Or not? You might find that you didn't measure what you needed to measure to really learn what you wanted to learn. Or you might learn that while you started the experiment with one plan, the territory changed it into something else.

The important thing in this analyzing step is that ALL DATA IS GOOD DATA. It's not our job to judge the results, just to report in on them, explore them, and then use this experiment to make our next.
I want to really stress this: even if you didn't finish your experiment or complete it the way you thought, you still gathered data. You still got results. Whatever the results, you now know something you didn't know last month. And that is very good news.

My experiment results.

The thesis: blogging everyday would help me explore both my relationship with blogging and my connection with the community.
Results: Happiness! The blogging reminded me that what we appreciate appreciates. The more I write, the more I have to write. As for the community aspect, I was completely delighted by the explorers that joined me! I loved reading about your experiments and it definitely made me feel more connected through our shared vulnerability. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

And now for the next experiment.

Before I introduce my next experiment, take a moment to think about yours.
What did you learn from this experiment?
Does that give you an idea of what else you might try?
Do you want to experiment with something similar to gather more data or switch to something totally different?
A word of warning: it's easy to fall into the habit of just trying the same thing again and again and hoping to learn more every time. But that's why we put parameters on the experiment: to push you to come to some conclusions about one thing and move on to the next. So even if you stick in the same arena (say, blogging everyday), be sure to change your thesis and your parameters to reflect what you learned this time.

My next experiment

Now that I have proof that what I focus on flourishes, I want to turn my focused, daily attention to something else: the Starship. It's my most favorite thing to work on and for months I've been shifting my business so that I can focus on it exclusively. Sorta unexpectedly, that happened this month, and the Starship is now 98% of what I do (I cut waaay back on individual clients).

I couldn't be more thrilled. But I've also learned that when your favorite thing goes from part-time to full-time, it's easy to lose enthusiasm and get bogged down in the quotidien. To keep the Starship my favorite, and make it even more fun to be in, I'm going to do one thing every day: I'm asking myself the question “What can I do to make the Starship more awesome (inside or outside)?
Some days the answer might be to brainstorm, some days the answer might be to implement. Some days the answer might be to work on upcoming classes. But everyday will see me asking the question and working through an answer.

Thesis: Asking myself one question each morning will lead to bigger and better ideas, clearer priorities, and maintain my enthusiasm for my favorite project.
Parameters: Every day, I'll start the day with the question, and then I'll write and brainstorm an answer. The experiment ends October 1st.
Support system: I already write every morning, so this will just fit in there. I'll use my journal or 750words.com. I'll be implementing the ideas as I go through my weekly system of communicating with the Starship Captains and with the Early Boarding List. Oh! And I'll ask the current captains for their help in coming up with ideas.

(Sneak peek: I started this yesterday, on my flight home, and the answer  was: Come up with ways to make a new captain feel welcome + special. So I wrote a list of 10 things and I picked one. This month all new captains will be invited to talk to me one on one about their business and their goals. I am so excited about this! It sounds like so much fun, but I never even thought about it before!  Today the answer was: Reward people who buy the Starship in one fell swoop. So I've lowered the single-payment price to $450, for just this week*. I'll report back next week on how this question is changing other things, but for now I just had to tell you: it is so much fun and giving me ideas I never had before!)

Now how about you?

What's your experiment for this week?
Share your thesis and parameters in the comments.

 

 

*If you want to find out about the special things I'm offering new captains, be sure to sign up here. And remember, the Starship is only open for one week, so all the other ways I awesome-ize the Starship will only be for members, and not available publicly.