Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: May 2013

You don’t have to convince anyone


I talk a lot about what the real work in your creative business is: it's your job to follow your enthusiasm, to communicate clearly, to create a path for the customer.

I focus on what your job is, because there's so much that your job is not. It's not your job to change someone's mind. It's not your job to solve all of your people's problems. It's not your job to to make your buyer use the product they bought.
It's not even your job to convince anyone to buy your work.

This is where people get confused about what marketing is. They think it's being convincing, cajoling or self-promotional (as you know, I hate that.) But what if it wasn't?

What if your main job when sharing your work was simply to communicate your passion clearly and with love?

Would that make it easier to talk about your work?
Would that make it something you looked forward to doing?

Good news!
It is this simple.

In fact, forgetting the simplicity, and trying to do something unnatural (self-promotion) or just giving up all together, is why your work languishes in obscurity. Being something that you're not, or using generic words for your work, sounds a warning alarm in your reader. It's an integrity thing: when the words you use don't line up with your passion, enthusiasm, and magic, it feels off or phony. That off-ness silences your true voice while turning off your readers.

So now the question you have to find the answer for is: How do you remember that all you have to do is communicate clearly and enthusiastically, without convincing? How do you start to feel great about sharing your work?

Here's what I've found works:

1. Figure out what words will communicate what makes your work awesome. (Hey, we've got a class for that.)
2. Stop trying to convince anyone. Focus on your Right People, and talk to directly to them.
3. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Try stuff. See what works, try other stuff. See each “failure” as an opportunity to tune into what doesn't work, and permission to try something totally new.
4. Listen in to what your buyers love, and reflect those words back, by using them in your descriptions, pages, and conversations.
5. Keep your eyes on your own work. Don't let other people's success (or marketing) distract you. What works for them might not work for you…and that's perfect. That means you are fantastically unique.

Do you get distracted by convincing or comparing?

What step will you take today to make it easier to share your work?





I don’t know what to say!

Wearing a few hundred bright colors for my #brothersisteradventure.
If I hear one sentiment more than any other, from makers, artists and writers, when we talk about marketing, it is this:

I can't stand to talk about myself!

I just don't know what to say!

Oh, honey, I hear you.
This is the hardest part about taking your art into the world – being brave enough to talk about, doing the work to find the words to communicate all that it means to you.

But here's the hard truth – makers who take the time to figure out how to talk about their work do the best. They make sales, get press, get accepted into that show.

Being able to talk clearly and passionately talk about your work and why you do it is a gift to the world.

It gives your work handles, so that anyone can pick it up and carry it along. It empowers your fans to tell their friends. It gives editors the words to write about you. It becomes retweetable.

The easier your work is to talk about (because you've found the words and communicated them) the more your work will be talked about. I've seen this happen again and again with my students. As soon as they settle down on one description of their work, people take notice.

This is so important and yet so hard to do on our own (we're just too close to it!), so Diane and I created a class where we'll walk you through a process of finding the words and crafting a description. Even better, we're providing you with a community to talk it over with peers, so you can get feedback and ideas on what you're too close to see.

Class begins June 10th (no, we're not holding it again) and you can read more and join here.

The adventures

Good morning, sunrise.

Look up. You are supported.

Hello, ancient tree. #brothersisteradventure

Laurel Falls. #foundwhilehiking #brothersisteradventure

This week the adventure has taken me to Charleston, the Atlantic Ocean, one of the oldest living things in the country, the Appalachian Trail (and waterfalls), Asheville, and geocaching.
But not all adventures are physical. There are the internal explorations: of feeling small, brave, strong; of long conversations, late nights, new roads; of seeing your old town in a new way, of seeing your house as a guest, of becoming a team.

What are you exploring?
What adventures are you having?


What works (for me): How I used automagical emails to double sales

A sign today is going to be awesome? A free soy caramel macchiato & total Flow in workshop prep.

As I've been writing about automagical email series, I've mentioned a few times that I'm such an evangalist because they work so amazingly well for my business. But I try to be careful to not assume that because it works well for me, that it'll work for anyone else. So I've experimented with clients and students and finally feel (after first falling in love with it over a year ago!) really sure that it can work for a wide variety of makers and their people.

As I wrote about those clients and examples, it occurred to me that, in hopes of avoiding comparison, I've been avoiding talking about my own business. I have to be honest, I have a lot of  resistance to telling you how great it works for me. Not because I don't want to be helpful, but because I do not want to give the illusion that everything is awesome and magical and that if you just did one thing your life will change! But it also wouldn't be fair or honest to act like I don't know what works, or that I don't have a favorite tool.

Although there is no secret of success, and you have to explore and experiment to find what will work for your business…there are tools and strategies that have worked for me, that you might want to try.

So before we go further, take a deep breath. Think about what you really love about your business and what you want from it, right now. Keep that firmly in mind as you read through what's worked for me, ok? Don't get distracted by the success (and I do consider it a success) or start dreaming that this will change everything.

What works (for me)

The one thing I've created, that generates more sales than anything else I've ever done, is my automagical series to my Starship Early Boarding list. In the two Boardings since I created it, registrations have doubled.

These emails introduce you to real members of the Starship, and tell their success stories (increased sales, met goals, emergency surgery fundraising, etc) in their own words. I also include messages about who the Starship is for, and examples of what we talk about in our weekly chats.

The series isn't a trick. It isn't magic. But it works because it answers the real questions people really have (Is this for me? Who does this help? How does it work?), and it does it slowly, over time, allowing the reader to think and reflect. And unlike writing regular blog posts, or tweeting, or even my usual weekly newsletter, I don't have to struggle with moments of self-doubt, writer's block, or feeling self-promotional. The email series just happens automatically…so even in my slow, tired, low times, it still provides a service to the people who already want to join. It doesn't convince or cajole or “sell”. It's real and honest and organized, so that I know they have all the information they need and they don't have to wade around their unasked questions, trying to decide.

It works because it's focused on the almost-ready buyer and it honestly answers their questions. 

What questions could you answer for your buyers?
If you're a bit fuzzy about that, let me help. I've compiled lessons on how to be effective, along with worksheets that will walk you through determine what to write and what questions to answer, in the class Creating Automagic Email Series. It's only $39 until Monday.


7 Specific Emails You Can Send to Delight Your Readers

Writing about vulnerability.

Yesterday I was explaining the new class to Jay, and we got to chatting about how the indie wrestling company he works with could use automagical email series to entice fans to come to their shows. As we were talking he said (as he often does), “You have to write about this!”

So, here it is, 7 specific ways you can use an automagical email series. Even though I'm sharing ideas I've recommended to other  clients and students, very few tiny creative businesses are doing this. The ones who do (and thus, provide regular, relevant, interesting content to new subscribers) stand out. They start building deeper relationships because they're the only people connecting on such a regular basis. So try it!


  1. If you hold an event with a roster of people (like a wrestling show or an art retreat), create an autoresponder that introduces your readers to the performers or teachers. In each email, include an interview with one and a bit about their background. At the end of each email, invite the reader to your event or that teacher's specific class.
  2.  When I consulted with a retailer-focused tech start-up, I helped them write a Pilot Program autoresponder for their first users. The emails started by walking users through the steps of getting set up (first do this, now do this) and ended with a questionnaire to collect the kind of feedback my client needed to improve the product.
  3. During a one-on-one session with author Heather, we brainstormed a series for her book launch. In each email, she introduced readers to a different designer featured in the book, with an interview and pictures of their design. After the launch, she can turn this into an autoresponder, so that every new subscriber (who signs up because they're interested in the book) can have the same get-to-know-us experience.
  4.  While consulting with a small dress company, I suggested they use the blog content they've already created – interviews with their customers about their fashion – and turn it into an autoresponder for new newsletters subscribers. The emails will introduce a new customer/fashion icon each week, along with a link to her favorite dress.
  5.  If you sell a physical product, collect the questions you've received from customers. Answer the questions in an autoresponder. Bonus! Once you write this and put it in your autoresponder, you'll never have to rewrite it! People won't ask as often (because you're already answering it!) and when you do get asked the question, you can link to the specific message that holds the answer.
  6. At a craft show, ask enthusiastic customers if you can snap their picture and include it in your newsletter. (Don't be shy! Most people are delighted to be “featured”). Ask them why they bought it or how they plan to do it and write their answers, in their exact words. Start your autoresponder with 1 or 2 from the first show, and add to it after each additional show.
  7. If you wholesale, send your best retailers a few (2 or 3) questions about their shop. Which one of your products sells best? How do they display it? (Ask for pictures of it displayed.) Do their customers prefer one color? What else do they buy it with? Collect their answers, in their own words, and put it in an autoresponder for your wholesale-only email list. Now you're not only reminding your retailers to buy from you, you're giving them ideas about how to best sell your work!


Examples and ideas are well and good, but how will you apply it to your business?

To help you identify who want to write for and what you want to communicate, I created the class includes an Exploration Guide, full of suggestions and questions, so that you can write your first series, in 5 days. Get it here.

Want to know how I use autoresponders? Tomorrow I'm going to share my best sales tool. Subscribe here to make sure you get it.


Every week is an adventure. This week's list was prompted by Ali Edward's suggestionYou can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The bold unfurl carefully. #foundwhilerunning
The peony I've been stalking finally popped! #foundwhilerunning
This one house has dozens of bushes, and it smells divine. #peonylove #foundwhilerunning

Loving peonies

Writing everything I've learned by connecting with readers through email series

Sipping iced coffee with coconut creamer

Matching shoes and skirt

Editing all the ums and ahs, into clarity and zing, turning 20 minute videos into 5 minute videos
Spending the day in my "video studio", aka living room, shooting a Starship-requested class on using automagic email series to connect with readers.


Anticipating my little brother's visit and our week of adventure

Planning a massive house-cleaning in preparation for a week off

Making my first handmade binding


Sewing on my first handmade binding! #soclose


Longing, oddly, to paint. For the first time ever, it just feels like I should be painting.

Hoping to join Flora's class

Bubbling with ideas for my next class with Diane


Join me? 





The Whys + Whats of Automagical Email Series

Yesterday I went on about how effective email lists are for your business, and today I want to talk about the easiest (and least time-consuming way) to use your list: creating an autoresponder.

An autoreponder is a series of emails that are sent, automagically, to subscribers on a schedule you set. The biggest draw of creating a series like this is that you only have to write it ONCE. And everyone will see it, in the order that you want, forever. Unlike a blog, social media or weekly newsletters, everyone is receiving the information in the same order. And you don't have to think about it again!


Although these are pretty simple to create (see the tutorials below), I don't find many of the makers or teachers I work with use them…I'm not quite sure why. We got to talking about this in the Starship, and it sounds like the main block is just figuring out how it would work for you and your business, whether you're a yarn-maker, a designer, or a writer.


Well, I've got some ideas for you! In today's video (the first lesson in the new mini-class), I explain the benefits and the three different ways you can use 'em in your business:

Reading this via email? You might have to click through to see the video.


Tutorials on how to add emails to an autoresponder using:

Want to use autoresponders to connect with your customers? Join me on a 5 day exploration!

automagic email series copy

This video is the first in a series of 4 lessons on using email series in your business. In coming lessons we'll cover, in detail, each of the ways you can use them, along with examples, and try-this-yourself worksheets. Get the exploration here.



Got questions about using or creating series? Ask me!


PS. Unrelated! See that picture in the frame behind me in the video? That's a picture of the Starship, commissioned from Amy. You can get art for your business from her!

PPS.Today's my mother-in-law's birthday and she sometimes reads the blog. Hi Rhonda! Happy Birthday! I'm sorry your gift will be late, but I promise you'll get it Friday! xoxo!




Waiting for validation

S is for Swiger! #foundwhilerunning

There's a job available, in a town I love, that looks to be tailor-made to my experiences in the crafty-business world. I very seriously thought about applying, (even though it'd be a pay cut from what I make now, doing what I love!) so much that I wrote a friend asking for her perspective. Just writing out all the reasons I was even thinking about going back into office life led me to a big revelation. I don't want this job, I don't need any office job.
But what I do miss about job-getting and -having is the validation that comes from being hired. When you work for yourself, there's no on in “authority” to tell you if you're doing the right, wrong, or weird thing. There's no one to choose you, to pick you out of a crowd and tell you are qualified and that all your experience is worth $X.

This leaves the authority in our hands, which can be unsatisfyingly complex. There has yet to be one big moment in my business when I realize that I am right, that I am worthy, that all of my experience has led to this one definition of my role in the world. There have been lots of small moments (signing clients, the book contract, every quarter when the Starship fills up)…but nothing as obvious and life-changing as the just-right job offer can be.

I know I'm not alone in this because earlier today I emailed with a crafter who didn't get picked as a finalist in a design contest she entered. Contests are another way we ask the outside world, and someone with authority to pick us, to tell the world that our work is worthy. Other authorities we hope to get chosen by: retailers, trade shows, judges, galleries, publishers.


Are you waiting to get picked? Are you hoping for the validation of someone in authority?

Why? What will that bring you, in reality? More work, more writing, more making?

Guess what?

You can do that without anyone else's permission. You can create, write, make right now, today.

When everything (in your business) is awful – a partial list

Lovely town with the most lovely Arts Council. I LOVE West Jefferson. Workshop was a delight.

The surprising thing about leading a Starship full of creative entrepreneurs is that every week I get giant reality check. No matter what I think will work for a business, or how well I assume someone is doing during our weekly check-ins I get firsthand stories of what is working, what is not, and what everyone is struggling with. Sometimes, it seems everyone has had an amazing week full of big orders, interviews, and fat accounts. Other weeks, everyone has expensive doctor appointments, sad sales and zero retweets.

In a given week, it can be crushing (or thrilling). I want everyone to be doing well! All the time! But that's just not realistic. In every business, a little rain must fall. This is the power of regularly checking in with the same businesses – I can see the longer thread of their story. It's not just this crappy week, but the whole trajectory of how their business has transformed in the last year or more.

With that in mind, I've learned there are some things you can do in a bad week to both keep your wits about you, and soften up the hard:

  • Take a break from reading how well everyone else is doing. Really, just stop reading it.


  • Look for signs from reality. Is this actually, measurably awful or does it feel awful? (It's totally permitted to feel awful, just don't let it catastrophize into an unreal business emergency.) Is this problem important or urgent? Being a day late for rent is super annoying, but if you're just waiting for a client to pay her invoice, and then you'll have plenty, this is not a huge sign that you suck. Take a deep breath. You're fine.


  • For a real problem, find a quick solution. I'm not a fan of quick-fixes as a long-term plan, but sometimes you need to just get your feet under you. This might be anything from a part-time gig, to a new income stream, to something you've never considered.


  • If you find yourself in this situation regularly, take a day off to look clearly at your entire business model. How do you get paid? What products do you have available? How easy are they to buy? What is the customer path for each product? Is it obvious? Long?* Map it all out, in detail and find the weak spots. Then make a Next Steps list and get to work.



What do you do during a hard time in your business?


*An example: the customer path for the Starship is long – it takes at least a few months of reading my work, having conversations with me on Twitter, and getting my email lessons to feel comfortable enough to sign up for a whole year working together. Knowing this, I switched to only opening it once every 3 months and I devote myself to helping people come closer throughout those 3 months. This greatly changed my money flow, meaning I have to make other changes in my other income streams. If I didn't elucidate this for myself, I could tear everything apart trying to “fix” it.

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