Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: February 2015

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

The snow is so beautiful, but a bit inconvenient. I ordered boots (Chucks just aren't waterproof) last week after the big snow...and they were scheduled to be delivered yesterday. But it was too snowy to deliver my snow-surviving boots. #irony  #taraloves
New business cards, for TaraSwiger.com
People. Cabin fever is a real and dangerous affliction in which your warm cozy house begins to CLOSE IN ON YOU. And your loving dogs are suddenly THE WORST. And snow (your favorite!) is now THE ENEMY.     Or so I've heard. #snowedin
Sooo happy I finished these mittens before today's (supposed) Big Snow. #knitting #knitstagram
Shipping out signed copies of Market Yourself

I am so grateful for…

  • A warm house on snowy days
  • Work I can do anywhere (when you're snowed in and seeing no one but your husband, client calls are life-savers)
  • New business cards + packaging for my books!
  • Looking forward to warm sun and making new friends at CraftCation!
  • Handknit mittens!!

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

How to Choose the Right Tool

how to choose the right tool

There are so many ways to communicate with your people – how do you choose the one that works best for you, your business, and your people? It's easy to just use what you see other people using, which means you're competing in the exact same spaces. Instead, take the time to thoughtfully choose the right communication method and set it up so you can stay consistent and effective.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • The many options for connecting with customers
  • How to choose the right tool for you (with examples!)
  • The tools that work best for my clients
  • The tools you absolutely MUST have

Want to find which tools your customers are using? We'll cover that in my class, Craft Your Marketing.  It's getting ready to re-open: sign up if you want to be notified when it does (and get some help with your marketing tools right now!):

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



How do you find your people?

how do you find your people

The past few weeks we've been learning how to talk to your customer — but talking to her is just one part of the process. To actually SELL your goods, you need to:

  1. Identify the person who will love it and buy it (I call this your Right Person).
  2. Figure out what she cares about and why she buys your product (in the beginning you're guessing; as you get more sales, you'll ask her directly).
  3. Explain how awesome your thing is, in terms she understands.
  4. Go where she already is and talk to her there.

The thing is, the first three are all about you doing the work, alone in your studio/office/kitchen, thinking and working and guessing. You can spend hours, days, months just thinking and guessing about your Right Person. You can even put some stuff in your shop with the descriptions and photos you think will speak to her. You can write blog posts aimed at her.

But that's not enough. It's not enough to stay in your own world and hope that she finds you.

But I can hear you now, you want to know: HOW?! 

It's entirely dependent on what you sell and who you sell it to.

You can show up where your person is in a zillion ways:

  • You can write a post on her favorite blog.
  • Your product can be featured in her favorite magazine, blog, or TV show.
  • Her friend will tell her about your work or forward your email.
  • You'll vend at the craft show she attends.
  • You'll comment on HER blog or be in the forums where she chats.
  • Someone she follows will retweet you, or share your FB post.
  • You'll write an article for her favorite magazine.
  • She'll search for a product, and you'll show up in the search results.
  • You'll meet on social media, in a FB group or Twitter chat.
  • She'll see your ad (on a blog, on Facebook, anywhere).

You see, not every option makes sense for every business (or buyer). If you try to do them all, you'll waste your time. If you try to do everything  at once, you'll be distracted and ineffective.

But if you pick the one that makes the most sense for your business and your Right Person? And you do it consistently, week after week? You are sure to find your buyer and connect with her. You'll learn so much about your person, where she is and what she wants from you. You'll also learn where she isn't and what you're wrong about.

I can't tell you exactly what will work for you.

But all of us can answer a few questions to get started:
Who is going to love and buy what I make? (You gotta know this first!)
When does she buy my thing?
What influences her decisions?
Where does she look for information? (What term does she search for?)

By answering these questions, you'll get an idea of what to try.

And then it's up to you to do it, to actually TRY something and keep trying it, with consistency.

PS. We're going to walk through this entire process+ get specific about what you actually DO in the upcoming class, Craft Your Marketing. Sign up below to be notified when it opens, and in the meantime I'll send you some free marketing goodies to make it easier for you to communicate with your Right People.


ThreeBirdNest (the Etsy “success”) has nothing to do with you.

ThreeBirdNest has nothing to do with you

This week I read an interesting article about how one experienced businesswoman made a heck of a lot of money selling products, on both Etsy and her own e-commerce shop. I was thrilled, because women in e-commerce who are making it aren't featured as much in the national press as tech companies are and I think there are some interesting lessons shared.
I never read internet comments, so I had no idea (but I should have guessed) the firestorm happening in the comment section – angry Etsians crying out that this isn't a “real” Etsy seller. I was unaware of this until I read Abby's great article on how this “success story” is an example of how Etsy has redefined its own goals and mission.

And here's the thing – Etsy has changed how they define “handmade” businesses. They have changed who's allowed to sell. And this is going to change the way the rest of the world defines handmade. (Also, the journalists got it wrong – this woman isn't “knitting socks, scarves, and headbands” – she clearly states she's importing them.)

But as I think about you and I think about this story, I keep coming back to one thing: Etsy is not you. Your business is NOT Etsy. Your business is its own entity. Your business is based on your products and your customers and your work. If you're hoping Etsy is the solution to all of your problems, you're going to be disappointed. It was never going to be. (It is a great solution for setting up a shop quickly. It is not a great way to find new customers.)

The many many commenters that say “I have very few Etsy sales! Etsy is ruining my business!“…well, they are missing it. Etsy is not your business.

Women have been building businesses for all of time without Etsy. If you have not built a business that you want, it has nothing to do with Etsy. You could have used Shopify or WooCommerce or the local farmer's market. Of my many clients + students who are self-employed (ie, the business is paying their bills), 100% don't rely on Etsy exclusively.

You should take the ThreeBirdNest story neither as a measuring stick (I know your inner voice is shouting: “Why haven't YOU done better?”) or as an outrage (“How could she?!”). It is not an example of what's possible in a truly-made-by-hand business. Instead, take it for what it is – the story of how one woman choose to build a business selling + marketing a product. It is an example of what's possible with this particular business model. It is an example of what anyone could do, if this is the kind of business they chose to build. This story in particular tells you what you need to do in order to build that kind of business (professional photographer, model, importing wholesale goods, etc).

But honey, if this is not the business you are trying to build? Forget about it. It has nothing to do with you.

Remember the great Amy Poehler quote: “Good for her! Not for me.”

The trouble comes when you take the results of someone else's business model and you try to compare it to the outcomes of your (very different) business model. An importing business is going to have different results than a handmade jewelry business, which is going to have different results than a pattern-selling business. Different business model = different outcomes. This is why we use three different equations for pricing – you have different costs, time, and expectations.

I agree with the larger point in Abby's post: Etsy is changing its definition of success. The question is: Have you? How do you define success?

Be sure that what you read on the internet, the examples of success, doesn't deter you from your own definition of success. Build the business you want.

What to say when “networking”

What to say when networking

Does it feel awkward when you meet your potential customers? Not sure what to say or how to hand them your business card? I know! It can be weird! Last week a client asked me what she should be doing at conferences and meet-ups filled with her potential clients. She loved my answer so much I decided to share it with you!

In this episode I'll teach you:

  • What exactly to say at an event.
  • When to hand the other person your business card (it's not what you think!).
  • How to follow up and turn the contact into a customer.

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.

Talking about your work shouldn't be scary – it should come easily. Sign up below to learn more about my class, Craft Your Marketing, where you'll learn how to make a marketing plan that fits your personality and your business. Plus, I'll send you some great lessons + tips that you can apply right away to make your next networking opportunity go smoothly!



How do you talk about your work without feeling gross?

How to talk about your work

How do I describe what it is I do? How do I talk about my work? 

This is the question we nearly all have. (If you've figured this out and feel 100% confident talking about your work, send me an e-mail immediately and tell me your secret sauce – vulcan@taraswiger.com).
Even though I've been doing this for 5 years (and have been running my own business for over 8 years!), I struggle with how to talk about my work every day. In every sales page I write, in every conversation I have, and in every byline I submit to a magazine or blog.

I don't know that this question ever goes away, but you certainly can get better at talking about your work. 

For starters, you want to discover what it is that you do that's special.  I often refer to this as your “sparkle,” because it's the thing that catches your customer's eye and attracts them to you. You gotta get crystal-clear on this, so that you're not being general or vague, but truly standing out from everyone else. I've worked with hundreds of makers, and found a very particular sparkle in each of them, so please trust me when I say – you've got it. You've just gotta uncover it. (There are worksheets for this in Market Yourself!)

Then, once you know what makes your thing special, you want to put it into words that resonate with your customers. You want to talk about what your customers care about. This is NOT going to be the things you most care about (usually), but you can find this out with some thinking and digging. (The recent podcast episode walks you through figuring it out for your business.)

And then, you practice. You do it over and over and over. You describe your work and yourself to customers, to strangers, to your dog. You practice.

When I work with a creative who is incapable of talking about what they do and sell, we are always able to solve it (so don't despair!) by focusing on one (or all!) of the above.
Either we:

  • Define what makes them special and who they want to work with.
  • Put it into words that resonate with their ideal customers.
  • Talk about how and where they can practice.

The fact is, feeling weird talking about yourself never goes entirely away, but it can get a heck of a lot easier.

As you review the above list, where do you think you need to focus?


PS. If you have trouble talking about your work, that is exactly what Craft Your Marketing does! This class helps you create a marketing plan and talk to the people who will love your work in their own language. Sign up below to be notified when the class opens, and in the meantime I'll send you some free marketing lessons to help you feel less awkward when you talk about your work!


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

The nightly dinner show. #raylanpup
More from Yarn Haus - wall of yarn, next to a wall of buttons. #lys #yarn
SUCCESS! I gave Mom her birthday gift (Amy Miller's Isabel in #pluckyknitter yarn) and it fits!  This has been my secret project for three months. I can finally show you!! @ She's already got it on to search for Nashville lunch spots for tomorrow. Suggest
Today's "studio" for a live Q&A with #TSLiftOff & #StarshipBiz. And by studio, you understand that I mean corner of my living room that gets ok light. Board filled with the map of my Redwoods 10k, Spocks by @amysnotdeadyet, watercolor by me, #TARDIS swatc
After knitting a long St st cardigan in fingering weight, you better believe I cast on for  a squooshy worsted weight cabley sweater. @theacolman's Brandied Cherries in @pluckyknitter Cozy. #pluckyknitter #babycocktails

I am so grateful for…

  • Possibilities + Idea Enthusiasm
  • Mittens + Shawls
  • Hilarious puppies
  • Delicious food
  • Finishing the sweater!

You might like:

This week I held a live Q+A for Lift Off + Starship students. In it, I answered the most-asked questions about profit math (which we cover in Pay Yourself), how to know when you can trust your sales enough to quit your dayjob, and the only app I use to record my podcast.

You can watch it here:

(To fully understand your break-even points, take Pay Yourself. You find links to everything else I mention here.)

What adventures have you had?

What your customers care about

What your customers care about 2

Your customers don't care about the same things you care about. They don't (necessarily) want to hear about your tools and techniques – they want to know how it benefits them and how your product will fit in their life.

But how do you figure this out? How do you know what matters most to your customers? How do you figure out why they buy?

In this episode we will cover: 

  • How to find the specific details that matter to your customers
  • How your product fits into their life
  • How to learn from your customers so you can become more effective


Got a question you'd like me to answer on the podcast?

Send it to vulcan@taraswiger.com with the subject line “Ask Tara”.

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.

If you think it might be time to focus on what YOUR customers care about, Craft Your Marketing might be just the class you need! We'll talk about crafting a customer path so that you can turn one-time visitors into life-long fans of your work. Sign up below to find out more about it!


What makes a buyer … buy?

what makes a buyer buy

Last week we talked about your motivation. But you know what's awesome? The exact same framework applies to your customers. So let's flip the table and talk about what motivates your buyer to buy. 

If you've taken my Marketing for Crafters course, then you know how you can use Maslow's Hierarchy to figure out your buyer's motivation.
But what about the new research – how can you use that to connect with your customers?

Let's dig in:

Autonomy: People are motivated to take actions so that they will feel like the Captain of their own ship. 
Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • How does my product help the user feel like she's in charge?
  • How does it help her feel one-of-a-kind?
  • What information can you give her to enable her to feel like she's making a great, smart decision?
  • How can you speak to that Inner Captain in your messaging?

Example message for artist who sells paintings: Your house doesn't have to look like everyone else's. You get to decide what you put on the walls. Choose something that communicates who you really are to the world.

How could you apply this to your own business? 


Competence (or Mastery): People are motivated to take actions that will help them feel competent and/or skilled. 
Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • How can I speak to the competence of my customer?
  • What can I provide to make her feel more competent?
  • How can I serve her need for mastery?

Example for a jeweler: Write a series on how to wear your necklaces, or give weekly outfit ideas for what to put with the jewelry – make your reader feel like a master of looking chic (if that's your brand!).

Example for a knitwear designer: Create patterns that increase the knitter's skill. Speak to the desire to be a more skilled knitter.

How could you apply this to your own business? 


Purpose: People are motivated to fulfill a deeper purpose in life; they want to feel connected to something larger than themselves. 

Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • What is the larger purpose behind what I'm doing? How can I invite the buyer to take part in that?
  • How can my product enable the buyer to pursue her own purpose?

Example for anyone: Tap into your own business mission and highlight the aspects your buyer will care about. Share that with them and invite them to join it.

Whether your mission is about sharing love or empowering women or keeping handcraft alive or celebrating the geeky, your best customers are going to want to know about it and they are longing to join in and be a part of it


What's your mission? How can you communicate it? 

Hopefully, as you consider your business and answer these questions, you're beginning to see that, yes, your marketing = talking to real people. People with the same motivation, desires, and enthusiasm as you.

Your job is to communicate the value and provide the information in a framework (speaking to their motivation) that they understand. If you could use a little help with that, sign up for the free marketing e-course below.

Motivation: How to keep yours

Motivation How to Keep Yours

Now that we know how to get stuff done and how to work towards your big projects, how do you keep doing it, day after day? How do you keep doing the work even when it's not fun?



In this episode I'll discuss:

  • The needs that are distracting you (and permission to get them sorted first)
  • The three things your work must have to keep you motivated
  • How to be sure that you don't undermine your motivation

Links mentioned:

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



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