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Month: September 2014

Adventures in Business with Writer Alicia de los Reyes

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and writer, Alicia de los Reyes. Alicia is a writer and teacher in Seattle, where she lives with her husband and her cat. Alicia likes to write fiction and nonfiction, especially fun writing guides. 

You can read some things she has written here. She also likes running and hiking, eating cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, and reading Gothic novels.

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a writer. But what's a normal day for you really like?

I'm not a full-time writer yet, but I try to live and work like one. So, most mornings, I get up at 6:30 and write from 7-9. Then, I do some marketing/blogging/guest posting/pitching/querying/submitting for another hour. Three hours of work doesn't sound like much, but I'm usually pretty wiped by then. I go for a run, take a break, and get ready for my other job, tutoring. 

There are so many ways to make a living as a writer – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Alicia's bookI do it by tutoring and teaching SAT prep classes in the afternoon and evening — so, right now, by not writing, though sometimes I get to tutor kids who want to write, which is fun. My writing income comes from my ebooks: a guide to writing chick lit now called DIY Chick Lit (formerly The Chick Lit Cookbook) and a guide to taking yourself on a writing retreat, called, creatively, DIY Writing Retreat — coming soon. I also submit my work to lots of journals, and sometimes it gets published, which is very exciting. Eventually, I hope to get a book deal for my narrative nonfiction book about hanging out with evangelical Christians for a year, and for my novel about a missing woman's family.

A year ago, I was a teaching assistant at the University of New Hampshire, where I was earning my MFA in writing. That was probably the ideal writing lifestyle for most: write for 10-20 hours each week, teach for 20 hours each week. But grad school doesn't last forever, alas. Before that, I wrote infrequently in my free time while I worked full-time at various places.

The biggest change is that now I have a cat supervisor (her name is Mitzi).

I don't think I've found the perfect way to write and work at the same time, but tutoring lets me have a lot of free time and a break from writing that I think is necessary for me.

What new thing are you exploring now?

I'm always working on lots of projects. I'm exploring how my “platform,” a word that I can't stand and don't really understand, can help me get published and find readers. An agent I pitched a book to told me thought the project was great, but that I didn't have a platform. That stung! So I'm trying to increase my web presence in a way that feels good to me, basically by blogging. I was inspired by {fellow Starship Captain} D.N. Frost for how professional everything looks on her website & social media accounts.

 

What's your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success is related to several things. One is productivity: am I writing? Am I generating pages? I think this one is the most important to me — I sometimes think, if I end up with a drawer of beautiful writing, that will be enough. The writing is the most important part.

Another is financial: I have a number of sales I want to reach and a monthly income I want to make. I would love to write full-time and spend my free time making crafts and hanging out with my friends. Right now, my free time is pretty limited. Not a lot of crafts.

I also measure it in readers, using markers like getting published, tracking visits to my site, and reviews of my books. It's good to have a few different measures, because I'm usually happy about one or two of them, but rarely all three at once.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

I'm working towards increasing my web presence. I've been blogging regularly, tweeting, and reaching out to other writers and bloggers to share my work. I'm usually shy about telling people what I've been working on, but I'm forcing myself to get over it.

 

 

Are you a writer in need of accountability and support as you build your platform? Check out the Starship and join Alicia (and D!).

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

Reading while knitting...with a book stitch marker. (Marker from @mistydot's #drwho kit, yarn from @cephalopodyarns)   #knitting #booksofinstagram
Saying goodbye (for the season) to the rose bush I've been stalking. Rose seems indifferent to me, frost.    #foundwhilerunning    Song of the Run: Fancy by Izzy Azalea

Ahh! @kpwerker's book arrived and I can't put it down! I'm not even through the Introduction and already there's Buffy & "you're not alone" (my fave message!) & I'm pretty sure a Princess Bride reference. #mostlydead    (It's also undeniably delightful to
My next-up project bowl. All the details in the newest episode of #handmadepodcast, brand new at http://HandmadePodcast.com
It is a very bright day, and we glow. #bristolrhythm

 

I am so grateful for…

  • The opportunity to see a few of our favorite bands in person at Bristol Rhythm and Roots – Jeff Tweedy, Sturgill Simpson and St Paul and the Broken Bones.
  • One of the best performances I've ever seen: St Paul and the Broken Bones. Seriously amazing.
  • A humblingly, surprisingly awesome Starship boarding.
  • The sparks of a new opportunity, and the bravery to pursue it.
  • My running playlist

The Finds:

I’m reading:

  • Kim's Make it Mignty Ugly. LOVE it.
  • This great post on…a shoe by Elise. This is exactly how I think about pieces of my wardrobe (my shoes, my purse, a few dresses) – the part of my life they've experienced and clothed me for.

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

What works (and what doesn’t): Lessons from 4 years aboard the Starship

What Works (And What Doesn't)

In four years of leading the Starship, I have had an inside look at dozens of creative businesses. I've seen what works (and what keeps them stuck).  I've watched captains grow their business until they could quit their day job, captains start their business from scratch, and captains totally change directions. I've noticed some things are true of all the captains who have met their goals, and I'd like to share them with you today.

In today's episode I'll share: 

  • What the most successful captains have in common
  • What stops businesses (and people) from growing
  • What it really takes to be a successful knitwear designer (Since the Starship is about 30% knitwear designers, I've learned a lot by watching what works for them.)

The Starship is an online community for makers, artists and writers with a library full of classes, a forum to ask and answer questions, and a weekly live chat with me, where everyone checks in on what's going well, what they're working on, and how we can help.  It is open this week (it closes on Oct 1); join here.

 

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Want to beam aboard the Starship or sign up to learn when it's open? Click here!

 

Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Ana Campos

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and full time fiber artist, Ana Campos. Ana grew up in Brazil, surrounded by beautiful colors and a ridiculous amount of books. She now combines hues and stories in her bookishly inspired hand-dyed yarn and knitting patterns. You can find more of her work here.

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time artist. But what's a normal day for you really like?

 

In some ways, the best part of being a full-time maker is that there isn't necessarily a normal day. The flexibility in schedule is great, so I can choose to do something completely out of the ordinary without giving anyone notice (as long as it doesn't conflict with my deadlines). On the other hand, the workload fluctuates a lot, so it can often mean working late into the night and on weekends. My time is taken up by a lot of things: dyeing yarn, working on knitting designs, book keeping, trunk shows, teaching classes, going to meetings, marketing, social media, product photography, customer service, and other odds and ends. The specifics of each day vary based on upcoming deadlines and priorities.

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

When I started my business, I was selling hand-knit goods. Since then, the focus has shifted to my line of hand-dyed yarn and knitting patterns. This means my customer base has shifted a lot – from people who buy finished knits, to people who are knitters themselves. What started as a strictly retail business is now a combination of wholesale and retail, and teaching is a big component of my business, too.

A skein of Ana's hand dyed yarn

What new thing are you exploring now?

My business is constantly evolving. For the last two years, vending at craft shows was a very significant part of my income, but the physical and emotional toll of the fall and holiday season was tough. I spent more than one Christmas morning nursing a bad cold, curled up on the couch with a thick blanket and a massive box of tissues. This year, I am exploring a different diversification of income streams to see if I can lessen my involvement in craft shows. My family will definitely appreciate having me be healthier and more present for the holidays.

A shawl design from Ana

What's your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success is being able to pay my bills and have a bit left over to maybe go to the movies and have dinner out a couple of times a month. I definitely won't be buying yachts anytime soon! Success is something that a lot of us in the handmade business struggle with – if we make enough to be able to take a vacation, there is this perception that we are “making too much.” But people working “regular jobs” are expected to be able to take time off and perhaps travel a bit. I don't understand why there is an overall expectation that makers shouldn't be able to have the same luxuries that other professions have, but that is something I hope to combat as I move forward.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

My new big thing is hosting my very first knitting retreat in May 2015. Community has become such an important of my life, both in business and personally. A year ago, I never would have imagined going in this direction, but I'm so excited!

Ana's sock design in progress

If you'd like to read more about Ana's story of quitting her full-time job (it happened aboard the Starship!) and those of her fellow Captains, sign up for the Starship Early Boarding Pass! I'll send you some more success stories of Starship members, along with notifications when the Starship opens – and closes –  to new members.

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

Yay! Fall! #yayfall
For the first time in years I knit an actual swatch. In 2 different needles. I even washed and blocked it! For my #bluesandcardigan out of Flannel Plucky Primo. #plucktember
Yay! I am holding @mercedesknits's book in my hands and it is GREAT! Happy birthday, friend and congrats on a job well done!  I am so thrilled to have been able to see the amazing stuff you've made over the years! Love you!
A VERY good Saturday morning. #taralovesmornings   (More on my (crazy) #greatbooksproject on the FB page. Link in profile. Join me?)
I so love this mossy little bridge over a tiny creek, in the middle of a totally normal neighborhood. #foundwhilerunning in #easttennessee    #taralovesmornings
My knitting matches the nebula in Wrath of Khan. #geekySaturday

I am so grateful for…

  • Getting to play a small part in the successes of Starship Captains (and getting to share their celebrations!)
  • Hours spent reading + my new reading project.
  • New obsessions.

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

Your Family + Your Business {PODCAST}

Your family and your business

Does your family support you in your  business? Or distract you from it? Are you frustrated about finding the time and energy to get your work done?
In this episode we're talking about your family + your business and how to get them on your side, so that they will support, encourage, and provide the help you might need to pursue your dream. We'll cover how to figure out what you want, how to ask for it, and what to do when you're just not getting it.

Links:

 

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

 

 

Boundaries for Business Health

Get your FREE worksheet to help you establish healthy boundaries for your family + your business. Set aside regular working time, make time for family, and find balance in your work life! More information at TaraSwiger.com.

How do you have enough time to grow your creative business and still eat, sleep, take care of your family, and, ya know, live life? 
Every week I talk to Starship Captains with four kids and Captains with full-time jobs and Captains (like me) with only a pet to disturb us…and everything in between. And every single one of us struggles with this having enough time thing (at least occasionally).

Like almost everything we talk about around here, there's not an easy answer. But there is one way to make this a whole lot easier and less hectic:

Set boundaries.

Set boundaries around your working time, and stick with them.
Set boundaries around your not-working time, and stick with them.
What the boundaries are don't matter. (You could work for one hour a day or one day a week or 120 hours a month. You can work in the mornings, evenings, weekends, full moons. Whatever works for you and your family.)

What matters is that you consciously choose boundaries and that you communicate them (more on how to communicate in tomorrow's podcast).

You don't know when to start, so you struggle to get started. (Oh, I'll just do this first).
If you don't know when you are going to be working, you may feel guilty every moment that you're not working. (I could be working now!)
And when you do work, if you don't know when you're going to stop, the work can just drag on forever. (I don't know when I'll get back to this! I should do it now!)
When they don't know when you're going to stop, your family (anyone around you who wants to spend time with you) is going to be less understanding, because they want to know when they can go back to hassling you. (She's always working!)

(If you feel like I'm describing your life, trust me, you are not alone. This is informed by many other makers who have the same experience).

So you see, knowing when you're going to work and for how long, allows you to know:

  • When to start (no procrastinating!)
  • When to stop (no dragging it out!)
  • When others can engage with you (with no guilt!)
  • That you're going to get your stuff done at a specific time, so you can stop obsessing about it right now. (In theory. I've yet to meet a maker who can stop obsessing full stop, but this certainly helps.)

Remember: The boundaries can be WHATEVER. They don't have to be a specific time, they could simply be: One hour today, and I quit at the end of the hour. No blogs/social media/phone in that hour.
I've found that most people do best setting up their plan for the upcoming week (instead of waiting to figure out when you're going to work each day), and the more ritualized you make it (I always start writing after my first cup of coffee or I sew for one hour after the kids go to bed), the less of an internal struggle it is.

What are your boundaries?

Do you need to set new ones? Download the FREE worksheet below to help you do just that!

 

 

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

Jason Isbell! At the prettiest theater.
The sock is enjoying a warm evening at a college soccer game. #gobucs
My #greatbookproject is getting serious. I can't seem to stop the obsession, so I'm going with it. Some kind of read along via FB page - details to come.
The light today was fantastic. I can feel summer creeping away. #yayfall #foundwhilerunning #taralovesmornings
Went through my entire stash tonight (it's tiny) & I have a few to give away/trade. Pictured here: 80% of my sock yarn. (Stay tuned, I'm just tired of some of these!)

I am so grateful for…

  • Yarn!
  • Libraries and my favorite librarian!
  • Pesto!
  • Real, honest conversations with loved ones.

 

The Finds:

I’m obsessing over:

  • My Great Books Project is coming together. Making an official announcement about it today over at the Facebook page (where the majority of the project will unfold). In order to see updates, it's not just enough to “like” the page, you also need to “follow” it (to get notifications), or just be sure to like/comment/share on my posts. SpaceCadet Stephanie explains it well here.
  • Yahaira's awesome BlueSand Cardigan. I spent the last week trying to get it out of my mind, but I finally gave in and got some Plucky to knit it up. (I‘m still looking for a pale gray if you have a suggestion!)
  • All that project-obsession got me thinking about my stash, so I cleaned it all out (it fits on two tiny shelves in one of those cube-y shelves, in a closet) and gave a few skeins away (there's still one left here). Now my Ravelry stash reflects my actual stash and order reigns once again.
  •  Allyson's Midwestern Knits project!  (I'm a Midwesterner, after all.)

I’m eating: 

  • Pesto Cauliflower with breaded tofu, from Isa Does It. I loved it, Jay said, Meh. (It helps if you're as addicted to cruciferous vegetables as I am. I would eat roast cauliflower in every meal. Or broccoli. Or brussel sprouts! YUM!)
  • Nachos, with (vegan) Chorizo, refried beans, our home-grown tomatoes, and the nacho cheez sauce from Bake + Destroy.

In case you missed it: 

  • This week we talked about money and enoughness and how to get going without any, on the blog, podcast, and email lesson. I got a lot of “thank you SO MUCH!” messages and a higher-than-usual amount of unsubscribes. Did you love it? Hate it? I'd love to know! (By the way, I don't plan on changing anything based on unsubs – I think they're a good metric of my success: I'm talking directly to my right people + the others aren't interested. Which is a good thing.)
  • The newest episode of the Handmade Podcast came out! I announced the only place to buy my yarn, if you've been hoping to snag it.

What adventures have you had?

How to start a business if you don’t have any money {PODCAST}

How to start a business if you don't have any money

This week, with the re-release of Pricing 101, we're talking about money. Today let's talk about that perennial question: How can you start (and grow) a business with very little money? What are your options when you can't spend money on advertising or staff?

In this episode of Explore Your Enthusiasm, we'll talk about:

  • How I started my yarn business with no money
  • How you can start (and grow) a business with very little investment
  • What to do if you're on the edge

 Get Pricing 101 free with Pay Yourself!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

 

 

How to make more money (with math)

How to make more money (with math)

One of the most-asked about topics in my inbox is money: what to charge, how to make more, how to thrive.

Last week in my free Q+A, Beth asked:

“How do I increase my rate of pay? How do I make more for every hour I work?”

The simple answer is: You change your numbers. Usually, you change your prices. Or it might be that you need to change your expenses. Or you change your efficiency.
You see, there's no easy answer I can give you…but it's very simple to find your own answer.

Do the Math

 

The math will show you how much your item costs, how much you can charge for it, and how many you need to sell in order to be profitable and in order to make what you want to make.

Instead, I talk to many makers who have set their prices randomly. They change their prices willy-nilly. They base it on other people, “the market,” or what a stranger said to them one time. They exclaim, “I couldn't charge a fair price for all this!” They feel frustrated and confused, because they're just guessing.

So stop guessing. Do the math.

The math is not that hard, and I've collected all of it for you in one place: Pricing 101. I've totally refreshed this popular class with 2 recorded audio lessons: the first with 3 equations for finding your right price and the second on how to actually get the price you deserve.

The class is only available in two places: As a bonus to Pay Yourself, and in the Starship Library.
Why? Because knowing the right price isn't enough. You absolutely need to set your price…but then you need to test it in the real world of your business. You need to know your Break-Even point, your production capacity, and your monetary goals. And that's what you'll do in Pay Yourself.

So grab Pricing 101 (2 hour-long audio lessons + transcripts + apply-it-yourself worksheets) with Pay Yourself right here.

 

 

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