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Month: January 2013

The first step towards a profitable business

First Steps toward a profitable business

When I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time, I had worked for months towards an income goal. But then, life fell apart. In one month, my car caught fire, my husband lost his (only-part-time-anyhow) job, and my house was broken into (yep, everything electronic was stolen. Thank goodness they didn't how valuable my little wooden spinning wheel is!)

Since that inauspicious start, my creativity has been my ticket to paying bills, traveling the country, going to movies and generally living life. In the beginning, I didn't know what to do except: SCRAMBLE. And, to be honest, sometimes it's still a scramble.

But I make it work.
 I take my family to a hotel + fancy dinner + the Chocolate Lounge for Mom's birthday. I take a week off to be in San Diego for my Dad's birthday party. {This was the year both parents turned 50. It was a big deal. But don't mention it to them!} I get stuck overnight in an airport and can afford to get a hotel room at the last minute. I drive 3 hours and get a hotel to visit my husband's grandpa before he dies, then the next week for the funeral…then the next week for Thanksgiving.

These aren't glamorous rolling-in-the-dough stories. But this is real life.
I'm a 30-year-old married French major who likes to eat at Plant at least once a month, and can't bear “office casual”.
I bring home the puppy chow from my ideas and my words and my hands.

And in the nearly 4 years of doing this full-time, I've learned how do it, and do it with some ease.

And so, I think long and hard before I answer a question like the one Laura asked: “How do you create the income of your dreams when creating the products by hand?”

The answer is GINORMOUS.

But it's also kinda small: Profit. 

Everything you sell, every project you work on, and every new “opportunity” you jump on must be profitable for your overall business to be profitable.

But doing that! It involves…math, my dear friends.
And it involves bold honesty. And we tend to avoid the things we're not-so-comfortable with. So I created a class that walks you through all of it. From individual product profit-testing, to the things that keep your whole business paying you. It's the systems I use (and that I've helped other crafters in the Starship use) to launch new products, find new income streams, and pay the bills.

The class is Pay Yourself, and you can register for it here.

But in the meantime, I can begin to answer Laura's question in today's video, with the very first step of profitability: Knowing your numbers.

Once you know your numbers, it's time to Pay Yourself

Got a question? Ask me!
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The Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and this is the view and the finds that made this one special. You can see all my adventures here.

 The view

Fonzie & Pinky
The Fonz + Pinky Tuscadero

Stella's passive-aggressive call for attention. She sneaks up slow until she's crushing my arm and I can't type.
Stella crushing my arm while I try to work

Pounced on love-y supplies for my #monthofloveyarn packages in Target's $1 section.
Love-y wrapping for the Month of Love packages

Valjean & Javert
Valjean + Javert

Planning my next class!
Planning my next class

 

The Finds

 

Yay! Sat down to spin a Dr Who + TARDIS yarn...and got this @amysnotdeadyet card on the mail! #serendipity #drwho

  • Tammie Bennett (my new favorite artist) sketched everyday for 100 days. And then made an adorable video:

 

  • I get a lot of questions from people who haven't started their businesses quite yet. And while I answer every single one, I'm far more interested in talking about all the middle parts. So I'm delighted when I find something I can recommend that covers all those just-launching-your-site steps. Paul Jarvis's new book, Be Awesome at Online Business, is exactly that. From finding a designer to writing your content to preparing for the launch, it's got what you need. This is my new official answer to “Where do I start with a website?

 

  • And if you wanna get started with having a business selling your art or craft, Leonie's got you covered. Her business guide has every single step from pricing to printing your prints to shipping.

 

What did you find this week?

How to create a successful business

How to create a successful business

Before we go much farther with this me-answering-your-questions thing, let's talk about the BIG question.

The one that wakes you up at night, the one that you can't seem to find an easy answer for, the big secret everyone else seems to know:

How do I create a successful business?

I've got TWO answers, one simple and one complex, for this most-asked question.

 

The most important thing is to decide what success means to YOU.

What will success look like in your business? Leave a comment below or tweet it.

Got a question you need answered? Ask me!
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DIY: Destination-setting

DIY: Destination setting
During a conversation about map-making last week, someone asked: I know all of the milemarkers (stuff I want to accomplish), but I don't have one BIG goal in mind. This is just a bunch of stuff that's not exactly tied together. Why do we have to pick a destination?

I love that question, because it perfectly expresses how most of us think about our business. We know what we want to do (release that new product, write that book, do that craft show), but they don't seem big enough to focus all of our focus on. And halfway there (especially when it looks like it's done deal), we move on to thinking about the next thing. Now that you released that product you want to redo your photography. Now that you wrote the book, you've got to edit it. Or you get sidetracked by the other (smaller) 5,000 things you want to do and forget all about your goal until next January.

Setting a destination is both a discipline and a celebration.

It's a discipline to focus in on reaching one goal, to keep on one path. It forces you to organize everything rolling around in your head  into a cohesive plan. It's easy to get sidetracked just chasing all these tiny-dos around our days and weeks, which leads to stumbling towards our goals.

It's a celebration because you acknowledge where you're going. It's easy to skip over what's happening now and start planning for the next thing, but when you know your destination you can take a minute to party when you get there. Yay! This is what I had planned for and now I'm here! I'm awesome!

No one else is going to do it.

When you work for yourself, you don't get raises based on employee evaluations.  You don't have a boss to give you a project or to grant you permission. No one will give you a pat on the back when you do a good job.

This is an adjustment. Up until now, someone else has set the parameters of success. Parents told you what they wanted. Teachers gave you tests. Bosses assigned work.

But now…not only do you have set your own projects (and systems for doing them…and measuring their success), you've also got to assign an end point. Otherwise, you'll never find one. There's no big moment (that I've found) when you think: Ok, I've done everything and am perfectly happy with what I've created here! You're always changing your goals and moving the definition of success. Without parameters and feedback, the work can become a grind. A never-ending list of things to do, with no sign of completion.

You've got to give it to yourself. You've got to assign the goalposts and then do a touchdown dance when you get to them. (And that's the only sports analogy you'll see around here!). You've got to decide what counts as a success and then celebrate it in order to enjoy the work.

What's your next destination?*

What do you want to accomplish by the end of March? And how will you know you're there? How will celebrate reaching it?

*Need help picking a destination? Try the Map Making Guide, or leave a comment and I'll help you brainstorm!

Avoid the post-holiday sales slump

Avoid the post holiday sales slump

Welcome to a brand-new video series!

Each week I'll answer your creative-biz questions in a short video. Subscribe so you don't miss a one.
(Got a question? Ask me!)

Today I answered Ana's question:

How do I avoid the post-holiday sales slump in my online business?


If you can't see the video, click here.

I have four suggestions for keeping your hard-earned holiday momentum rolling through the New Year:

  1. Keep the new people around.
  2. Offer them something new (that goes with what they already bought)
  3. Ask for the share.
  4. Plan for the slump.

 

PS. Like my dress? Me too! It's Megan, from Karina

 

If you love yarn…

This is for you, yarn-lovers!

(If you don't, scroll down for business-y goodness.)

Today begins the 5th Annual Month of Love, over at my yarn company Blonde Chicken Boutique.

To celebrate (and introduce it), I made a video:

To suggest a yarn, head over here.

And if you have a creative business…

I actually started this SIX years ago, but…I kinda forgot all about it last year (oh yeah, I was a little busy writing the book!) The project taught me all kinds of things about marketing, talking directly to your customers and collaborating…but for now, I'll just leave you with a question:

What do you do every year (or month, or week) to collaborate directly with your customers? What could you do?

The Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and these are the view, the finds and the path that made this one special. You can see all my adventures here.

The View

Yay! Jay hung a shelf & now my shawls can be admired! (Not sure what will go on the shelf, this was just silliness)

A new place for shawls!

Yay! Just found my long-lost favorite bobby pin!

My long-lost favorite bobby pin

Three things to remember (this year), from Mary Oliver.

A Mary Oliver poem read New Year's morning

The Finds

  • The BIG FIND of the week was a Scrappy Trip  quilt-along. The best way to view it is the Flickr group, or the Instagram tag #scrappyquiltalong. The pattern is here…and I will be starting it this weekend.
  • If you wanna join me, this is a great guide to how many strips (and thus, fabric) you'll need.
  • And in between this weekend's quilt obsession, I jumped all over the Seafoam edition of Project Life. Can't wait!
  • If you've been wondering how to eat more veggies, whole grains and less meat or cheese, this series is a very good place to start. (You don't have to be fully vegan to want to eat more vegetable-centric meals!)

The Path

  • It was completely delightful to get to meet Maritel. If you missed it, you can catch up on our conversation here.
  • I opened up the Map-Making Guide this morning (yes, I use it to make my quarterly plans!) and was overwhelmed with the desire to update it ALL. So I did! New fonts, new facts (gathered from over a year of helping explorers make their own maps!), and a few edits for great clarity.
  • Finally! I jumped into a “public” Facebook page. Hang out with me here?

 

 

How was your week? What was your view, path or finds?

 

How a dream becomes doable

How a dream becomes doable

Now that you are swimming in beaming goals and dreams for the New Year and the holiday spirit is all packed up and put away…the moment of truth has come. How the heck are you going to make those dreams a reality? How are you going to get it all done? How is your day/week/month really, truly going to change to accommodate all the new plans?

The first step (and I know you know this!) is to break it down into do-able mini-goals. Something you can do or reach in 3 months that is measurable and map-able. The Map-Making Guide is my go-to way to break down a big goal into a bunch of smaller steps, do-able to-dos. (Elise has a great take on the difference between goals + to-dos here)

But even when you've made your whole map, plotted how to get from here to there….it's so tempting to stop. You have your big list, so you're all set! But well, that's not quite it.

You're not actually any closer until the to-do's get done.

And while I'd love to think I can fly down my list of to-do's in an orderly fashion…that never happens.Life gets in the way. Products have to be shipped, problems have to be solved, blog posts have to be written.

The only way to make sure the “extra” stuff get done (that stuff that moves you towards your bigger dreams, that's outside of your day to day work) is to make it a part of your normal day.

For most of the map-makers, this means Giving Your To Dos a Date. In the map-making guide we set lifelines (soft deadlines) for the stuff that has obvious dates associated with it, and then you move everything to a to-do list for the week. In other words, we're taking a big goal and taking it down to the exact week in which you'll take a step to get closer.

But then the question is: how do you get stuff done from the weekly level to the daily level?

I have a few things I do each week so I'm working on both my big goals (the map-made destinations) and the usual work of everyday life. This is what I used to write the book, get new wholesale yarn accounts and create my workshops.First, I set some intentions for the week.

What do I want to happen? What do I wish for?

And under each wish, I write:

How it might happen

My commitment to this wish

How I want to feel (or the qualities associated with this wish.)

Then, I make a big list of my projects (this might include movement towards a destination, or work for a client, or just blog posts), and include the to-dos under them.

 

On that list, I might assign a day of the week, or not.

And finally, I write my to-do list for the day. I make each day's list based on the weekly lists of project, going with what feels good and has my enthusiasm.

 

How do you move your big list of to-dos into your daily life?

PS. Before you plan your week, make sure your to-do list is moving you towards to your big, shiny dreams in a strategic way! Start with a map and then plan your week.

 

New Video Series + 12 Questions with Martiel from CraftyLink

I had a lovely time when Martiel, of SewMantra  asked me 12 (very compelling) questions, live on video, for CraftyLink.

She asked about being the scientist and the guinea pig of your own experiments and why Right People are important. You can watch the whole thing here:

Sigh. Right at the end my power cut out and I lost my connection! 

This is the first in a new series of videos.

Every Wednesday (for at least this month), I'll answer one (or more!) of your questions via video. Got a question about sharing your work, talking to your customers or growing your business in a sustainable way? Ask me in the comments, or privately here.

Trust. Adventure. Explore. Beam. Boldly.

After working through Leonie's yearly workbook and finishing the Captain's Log (a new workbook/journal/stay-on-track-er that we'll be using in the Starship all year), I'm practically glowing with gratitude for 2012 and hope for the coming year. My favorite part is seeing how the disparate pieces fit together to create some overall themes and lessons.

 

2011 was the year of Yes.

Last year I wrote that I had learned (from 2011!) that saying yes even when I'm afraid led to amazingness. I practiced this consciously in 2012, saying yes to: a book party (and my first live-speaking thing…ever!); my first live workshop; following my enthusiasm; feeling good; creating what I longed to create.

Tara Swiger teaching marketing in Seattle

 

2012 was the year of Trust.

The thing with saying Yes? It involves a heckova lot of trust. Trust that you'll figure it out. Trust that it's all going to be ok. Trust that you've done your best, and now you need to let go. Trust that you're enough. Trust that connecting is more fulfilling and profitable than closing up.

Connection is Everything.

 

 

2012 was the year of Enthusiasm.

Saying yes to my enthusiasm is something I learned this year from reading Sarah J. and idea-partnering with Kelly P. I followed my enthusiasm towards Project Life, quilting, embroidery, writing on new topics and finally, finally finding the balance between creativity and work in my daily life.

Mother in law quilt. Finished!

 

2012 was the year of Adventure.

Oh the adventures!
Publishing: writing, writing, writing, thousands and thousands of words every day;  working with Shannon on the cover, title, layout; the endless tiny changes; and then! the release day! The lovely reviews, thrilling book party, guest posts, interviews, giveaways; and then! A royalty check! The magic!

Traveling: San Diego, Charleston, Boston, San Diego (again), Seattle, Asheville, Nashville, Knoxville for dates with a new baby and old friend, the heart-breakingly beautiful Oregon coast, the redwoods, the campfire pancakes.
Hello Redwoods.

Writing: Yes, the book, of course, the book! But I also wrote an three email mini-courses (one of them is free, here), a book read-along guide, a class (and then workbook) on blogging effectively, an all-new Holiday Sanity Guide, the Captain's Log, and the truest, most enthusiastic blog posts in my 10 year blogging life. And for the first time, writing came easy, it was a part of my life and my world and the very way I live in the world. And it's always, always an adventure.

I really am.

 

And with these lessons, with trust and enthusiasm and adventure, I turn towards 2013, the year to…

Explore

hot air balloon

While I have fewer “traditional” explorations scheduled (I'll be traveling much less), the close-to-home approach is giving me a chance to explore deeply. Home, new projects, researching what works for others, experimenting with what works for me…all of it is about exploring. I don't know what exactly it'll mean (yet), but here's what I do know:

  • Last June I sat down at the beach and outlined a whole new class – the title: Explore You. Obviously, now's the time for it.
  • There's so much I don't know, but so much new info I close myself off from, to avoid overwhelm. Explore gives me the frame to learn more, and be open, in a focused, healthy way.
  • I've started listing Things To Explore, and think I'll pick a new one each month.

 

 

Beam

Beam. Explore. The words of 2013. (So far. Life tends to show up with her own ideas.) cc: @leonie_dawson
I don't really get this one yet, but it came to me, strong and true and..Yes, Ok, BEAM. Here's what I know about it so far:

  • It's my job to not just shine my little light, but to make sure it beams.
  • Tractor beam, sunbeam, beaming beacon, a lighthouse beams into the darkness, beaming smiles
  • A light beams when: it's not gunked up with stuff, it is focused in one spot.

 

Join me. What was 2012 the year of? And what will 2013 hold?

 

cross_stitches

 

This is one of the (over 45 pages of) exercises in the Captain's Log. If you'd like to get support (and practical dream-reaching), beam aboard the Starship. It closes to new members tomorrow.