Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: April 2015

How to have more time {Podcast}


How can you have more time to do the stuff you want to do (and all the stuff you have to do?) That's what we're going to talk about in today's episode.

Build a system that works for you, and have more time for work AND fun with my newest class, Wrangle Your TIme.


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.



5 Lessons in 4 Days


Last month I spent 4 days with over 500 makers, crafters, and artists, at Craftcation. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been surrounded by so many of my people. It was a fantastic experience and I left feeling completely refreshed and inspired. It’s taken me a few weeks to recover and crystalize the lessons I learned while I was there. These lessons come straight from other businesses just like yours, so I hope they inspire you as much as they did me!

1. You are not alone.

Everyone who is doing this (building a business from what they love), feels the same way: they doubt their ability, they doubt their sanity, they don't know which of the 100000s of things to start with. So! Your self-doubt and overwhelm is NOT a sign that you shouldn’t be doing this, or that you’re failing. It’s a totally normal part of the process.


2. It's all about the head game.

Guess what’s true about all the people who have seemed to have “made it”?

  1. They are worried about the same things (see #1 above).
  2. They have figured out a way to take action despite self-doubt and overwhelm.

The difference between the successes and the people who have quit in frustration? They mastered their own doubt. They figured out how to keep themselves motivated. They figured out how to get the most effective work done in even the tiniest pockets of time. They stick to their own definition of success instead of getting wrapped up in what other people are doing. 

That’s really it. They’re not super special. They don’t possess some secret knowledge (except how to not let their own doubt derail them). Really.


3. It's good to know how other people describe your work … within reason.

I had two peers tell me, at completely different times, that when they get an email from someone struggling with the emotional stuff of running a business (self-doubt, motivation, getting distracted), they recommend my work. This is so very flattering (and a bit surprising), but I guess it makes sense: what we talk about here is not just “do this”, but “this is how you'll actually get up the nerve/motivation/time to do this”.

Although I know what I write about, I had no idea how others (who aren't students) perceived it and hearing from them taught me a lot about both my messaging and my actual skills. (I DO like talking about feelings…and most other small-business-teacher-types do NOT.) This was an awesome reminder to keep focusing on what I'm good at, what I'm enthusiastic about, and what actually helps my people.

The caveat, of course, is to not let yourself get distracted by what other people think. I also learned someone had misrepresented my work to others (years ago), and it was VERY easy for me to spiral into “OMG! Everyone hates me!”…but the fact is, my peers' opinions of my work matters NOT AT ALL. What matters more is what my customers experience and if my work makes their life better or not. If the people I'm writing for get it, and my work improves their life … that's where to put my attention.


4. People are looking for realness.

I can't believe how many conversations I had with teachers, students, and strangers stating that what they appreciated about Craftcation was the experience of seeing everyone else (even rockstars of our world) as real, normal people. The teachers were honest, the panelists got real, and that's what makes talking to other makers (at all stages of the journey) so valuable – hearing that you're not alone. But the only way we get to have this experience is to actually, ya know, BE REAL. That means admitting when you messed up, owning up to your successes and not hiding behind a “I got it all figured out” facade.

No, you shouldn't email your customers when you're upset, but don't be afraid to be real with them, when you get the chance. Don't pretend like you know it all. (You don't. No one does). If you show up as yourself, your relationships (with customers and peers) will be a zillion times more real and nourishing. You'll learn things you didn't know you didn't know. And you'll have more fun.

(I got a lot of comments from podcast listeners saying some form of: “Oh my gosh! You’re so real and humble!” Um, of course I am! I had to figure out how to get good coffee each morning, just like everyone else. Caffeine addiction: The great equalizer.)


5. Other people are doing this. Use that fact as motivation.

There are hundreds (thousands?) of makers who are doing this. Mothers. Fathers. Cat Owners. Painters. Bakers. Bloggers. Quilters.

When you doubt if this is even possible, look to those who have done it, not as an excuse to beat yourself up, but as a reminder that YOU CAN DO THIS. This is do-able. If that person figured out how to do it, you can too. It's all learnable.

Remember Lesson #2?  Using real life examples as motivation and encouragement is part of winning the head game. It's how you keep moving forward even when you don't feel like it. It's how you convince yourself THIS. IS. POSSIBLE.


Because here's the biggest lesson: If you don't believe it's possible, you won't do it.

I know, that could be on a motivational poster in Barney's office , but it's so so true. If you think “there's no way to make money at this“, you won't find a way to make money. If you believe “She figured this out, so there must be a way, I'm going to keep going” … well, you stand a chance.

If you're feeling like you just don't have time for everything you need to do for your business, let's fix that. Learn how to get stuff done, in a way that works for you (no matter how much or little time you have), in Wrangle Your Time. Registration is now open, and closes on Sunday. Class starts next Monday!

What I’ve learned from 52 weeks of podcasting


Yay! This is the 52nd episode of my weekly podcast … Explore Your Enthusiasm is one year old! (Tomorrow's exactly one year from the first episode.)

In this episode I share:

  • 3 lessons that I've learned from podcasting, that you can apply to your own creative business
  • What podcasting has done for my business
  • What's coming up next (including big news!)

Top 10 episodes (by downloads) in the first year:

  1. Episode 1: the beginning!
  2. How to Get Stuff Done, Part 1
  3. How to use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest in your Creative Business
  4. Marketing for Introverts
  5. Navigating an art career, with Claudine Hellmuth
  6. Turn Readers into Buyers: Craft a Customer Path
  7. Reviewing 2014
  8. How to launch anything
  9. How to get stuff done, part 2
  10. What your customers care about

Want to watch the bonus Ask Tara  episodes? Subscribe via YouTube here. 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



My secret to “balance”


If you follow me on Instagram, then you might have seen this last week:
17119208052_92961b33ac_o“In the 2 days since my Big Spring Adventures (#craftcation15 followed by a week in SoCal with bro, followed by 5 days with out-of-town friends) have ended, I've been in deep #introvertrecovery. Snuggling, reading, baking, finishing my taxes, staring at the wall” 

My real-life friends tell me that based on my Instagram account, my life looks either incredibly lazy (reading, snuggling dogs, etc) or incredibly adventurous (travel, conferences, etc). The truth is, it's both, depending on what day it is.

But the REAL truth is, 99% of the time, it's neither.

99% of the time I'm neither laying in bed, nor meeting cool people, nor reading at the ocean.
My days are spent working. Coffee cup in hand, journal at my side, computer screen open…working. Right now, as I write this, there's a dog at my feet, and he's super photogenic, but it's hardly glamorous.

This is my idea of “balance” – there's intense fun, intense rest, intense work.

There are moments, even weeks, of awesome travel and companionship and in-person teaching. There are moments of complete Introvert Recovery (usually on weekends), doing absolutely nothing but reading and staring at the wall. (True fact: during Craftcation I went to my room for at least an hour midday and just laid down and stared at the ceiling.)

But most of the time, there's just normal, work-filled workdays. Writing podcasts, newsletters, and classes. Talking to clients and Captains. Leading the Starship chat, answering the forum questions, and replying to emails.

That's my balance. Without any one of these things, I couldn't do the other. If my life was all travel and in-person teaching, I'd get burnt out. If it was all lazing around and staring at the wall or dogs, I'd be broke. And if it was ALL normal workday (with no travel or teaching), I'd be bored.

But at no one moment is everything in balance. Instead, I'm balancing it over time (I hope).

I (and you!) don't have to have it all balanced 100% of the time. Some weeks you're going to spend more time on work, some weeks you'll spend more time with your family. Some seasons of life are for growth, while others are for rest and recovery. It's all cyclical.

Remember this, when you look at anyone's Instagram feed. For every beach photo, there's hours on a plane. For every dog napping photo there's hours of staring at a screen. (Tweet this!)

Remember this, when you worry you're not “in balance” –  when you work hard on a new project, or when you need take an afternoon off to rest.

Where are you in your own balance right now? Do you need more of fun, rest or work?
In my upcoming class, Get More Done, you'll create your own balanced day, week or month, so that you can get more done. Learn more here.

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

I promise #craftcation15 isn't all beaches and sunrises, but waking up to this is the first (& the most photogenic) example of the awesomeness.    PS. Remember! #StarshipBiz closes today at 9p PDT. An online community full of smarties like fellow Craftcat
This is the moment Baby Mari realizes how ridiculous I am. (Look at her face!) @j_fetz recognized years ago.

One last beach-y photo now that I've landed in rainy (but warm!) Tennessee. Had to pull over for these flowers next to the beach. #taralovesadventure
Friday Night Party Night in the Swiger house
Delighted to find everything is blooming! #foundwhilerunning

I am so grateful for…

  •  SPRING! Tulips! Flowering trees! YAY!
  • Getting back to work after weeks of adventuring
  • Finishing taxes! So glad it's all done.

The Finds:

I’m reading:

In case you missed it: 

  • I'm all about getting real with what's possible in your handmade business. So in the next few months I'll be sharing real stories, YOUR real stories of what you've done and what that means. Please share your numbers here (no matter how small or weird, your numbers are going to encourage someone. I promise.) Totally anonymous. More info on the project here and in this podcast episode.

What adventures have you had?



You’re invited to get real {Podcast}

The real numbers project

What do other makers actually…make? How long did it take them to make a profit? What works?

Over the last several years I've talked to hundreds of makers and gotten an inside look at what works for them, what they're really making, and how they're making it all work. I've shared their stories with interviews and in lessons learned…but as great as those are, they still don't dig deep enough to the real numbers – traffic, sales, reality.

In this episode, I tell you how I want to share the real numbers with you and how you can help. It's all anonymous and it's all for a good reason – to get real about what works in small crafty businesses. Share your numbers here.

For more information on this project …

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



The Real Numbers Project

Real Numbers Project

Confession: I'm obsessed with reading income reports.

It was Abby who first introduced me to the idea when we met for coffee (she pointed me towards Pinch of Yum's) and a few months later she started doing quarterly reports. Since then I've found them from all kinds of businesses. Some are impressive, some are informative, but all of them are educational. Instead of talking about “success” and “growth”, they show you the real facts on the ground. I've considered sharing my own, but that wouldn’t be very helpful to you, because your business is totally different than mine. (You sell a product you make by hand, right? I sell words and education. Our models are different, so the numbers are different.)

But there's something here, right? Something that could serve you and inform you and help you feel not-so-alone … if we could find income reports that actually relate to what you do and that are relatable in their scale.

So let’s do it together.

I’m going to do a series on Real Numbers of (creative) Entrepreneurs – with real numbers and data, from real businesses. In order to do this, I need to collect the numbers – YOUR numbers. But I want this to be totally honest and easy, so it'll be completely anonymous. All you have to do is fill this out. There's no spot for your email address or your name, so no one will know it's you.

And then, I'm going to share it with you here, in the newsletter and on the blog. Not as statistics, but as individual case studies. I'm going to show you what other makers, just like you, are doing – how they're doing it, what works for them and what doesn't. It's my hope that seeing this broad array of ways-of-making-it-work will help you feel not-so-alone, and  help you stop comparing yourself to all those super “successful” businesses that are in a totally different place than you.

But this only works if you share your numbers (no matter how tiny they are). There is nothing to be embarrassed about here – your numbers won't be shamed or judged – they will serve as inspiration and encouragement for your fellow makers.

To make this happen, I need your help.

Fill this out in the next 48 hours: http://goo.gl/forms/pZmH1xP4bg

Don’t know your numbers? You need to. Seriously, for your business to grow, you need to know the very basics of your income and expenses. It’s not hard, and you can start with this advice. Pay Yourself walks you through this math.

And keep your eyes peeled for the Real Numbers series – it'll be coming your way, soon.

For more information on this project …

PS – Got creative business-y friends? Share it! 

What do creatives REALLY make? How long does it take? @TaraSwiger is collecting real numbers. Add yours here: http://goo.gl/forms/pZmH1xP4bg

{Click to tweet}


When everything is awful

When everything is awful

Let's be honest: Sometimes, everything is awful. (On the other hand, sometimes everything is awesome and you find yourself singing this song.) When things are awful, it helps if you have a list ready to go, to help you get through it (without giving up). In this episode I'll share the list of things I do when everything is awful and the tricks that work best for my clients.

How to listen to the podcast:

  • 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.



What I’m Reading: April 2015

What I'm Reading April 2015

 I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list in the comments and find all the posts here.


 What I read


  • Zero to One, by Peter Theil – This is a book about how to create something from scratch (through the lens of a venture funded tech start-up). Even though you probably don't have investors to please, the book is filled with smart advice for how to think of your tiny business and the mindset that's required to make something completely new (to go from 0 to 1).
  • The Saga series, by Brian Vaughn –  So good. I read a lot of comics and I don't know why I don't talk about them here, but I love this one. Also, the new Thor is fantastic and Hawkeye has beautiful art (and one of the best female characters in I've read anywhere, in a while).
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel – Oh man. This is one of the best memoirs I've read. Ever.
  • Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby – Funny! I was obsessed with I Love Lucy as a kid (I've read all of Lucy's biographies and watched all the episodes multiple times, thanks to my local library), so this book was right up my alley. I notice that in months where I have a LOT of work (I wrote 6 weeks worth of class content and 4 weeks worth of blog content in 2.5 weeks in March!), I tend to stick with fiction. Non-fiction (especially about business!) gives me so many ideas and sparks so many new projects, that I have to avoid it if I'm going to follow-through on months that are already packed.

What I’m reading

Find of the month: Love Gilmore Girls and reading? Olive made an awesome Rory Gilmore Reading List! LOVE!

What are you reading?


PS. What I was reading last year.




The usual disclaimery disclaimer applies! 




The key to your business success

The key to your business success

Every successful creative entrepreneur I work with has one thing in common. It sounds almost ridiculous, but science backs me up. What matters most to your business growth (and success, however you define that) is … your mindset. Do you believe you can grow or change? Or do you believe everything is stuck?

In this episode you'll learn:

  • The science behind why it matters
  • The two mindsets you can have (and which one gets better results)
  • How it affects your growth and success (and how to get yours right)

How to listen to the podcast:

  • 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.