Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: July 2015

Get the support you need: 7 steps to hiring your first person


Over the last few weeks we've been talking about some of the challenges of growing your business and that generated some questions about where you should start, if you need to hire support. We talk about this all the time in the Starship, so I wanted to share what I tell my clients. In this episode, we'll walk through your options, the exact support I get in my business, and the 7 steps to hiring your first help.


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.



Are you afraid of being “big”?


The past couple weeks on the podcast I've been talking about issues that come up when you've been in business for a while and you've started to grow: boundaries and scaling challenges. This is stuff that my students are dealing with, as they grow beyond the “how to get any sales” questions. But I hesitate to talk about these  “advanced” business issues, because I don't want to scare you off, if you're not there yet.

I hear from younger businesses all the time, who get tangled up  trying to solve these issues before they need to. They're worried about boundaries and how many people they'll have to deal with when they “get big.” They worry about scaling up their production, before they sell one thing. They're worried about getting help before they need it.

Do you do this?

Are you afraid of what will happen when you get bigger? Do you stop yourself from taking opportunities or pursuing possibilities because you're not sure how it'll all work? Do you hesitate to dive deeper into marketing, because you worry it'll work TOO well?

If so, I've got one thing to say to you:

Stop it.

Really. Stop it. *

Don't borrow problems you don't have.

Don't worry about what will happen if you “someday” get big.

It's not preparing you. It's not making you ready.

It's getting in your way.

When you start to worry about all that could go wrong if your business grew, you're going to hesitate to put in the hard work on growth activities. You're going to step back from challenging yourself with new goals.

And then you're going to wonder why it never worked out, why you never grew.

I get it.

I really really really do. I worried a lot (I still do!) about what would happen when my business grew. I worried that I was going to owe way too much in taxes. I worried that my thing could grow so big that people would have weird expectations of who I am and what I do.  I worried that I would get mean comments or emails. I worried that I would have to set boundaries and tell people no. I worried that I would make bad decisions, let people down, or totally ruin my life.

But guess what?

This can happen at ANY level of business! It can happen even if you don't have a business! (I have some traditionally-employed friends that could certainly use some stronger boundaries.)

And sure enough, I have experienced all of the above (except the ruined life bit. Haven’t done that). And I survived. In fact, it wasn’t nearly as bad once I got there.

But why bother?

Because you really really want a business, more than you want to live in fear.

You want to create something from your passion + smarts + hard work. You want to build something that is your own. You want freedom, creativity, or fun.

Whatever your reasons are, they are driving you to do this (sometimes scary) thing.

And this is what's cool:

Your business makes you stronger.

In order to keep building and growing, you'll have to face your fears. You'll have to grow past them. You'll have to dig deep and learn that you are more powerful than you thought.

All this growth and fear-wrangling, it makes you stronger everywhere – in business, in life, in relationships. You'll learn skills (like time management and boundary-setting) that you can apply to anything you do.

So don't worry about the challenges your business is going to bring. You don't have to solve all future possibilities right now.

Just solve the problem in front of you. Deal with the issues your business is having right now. (Too few sales? Fix your marketing! Never get enough done? Fix your time management!)

Don't be afraid of growing. Don't hold yourself back.

*If you can't seem to stop worrying about future challenges, look at what you're afraid of and acknowledge it. Don't run from the fears, look at them and work through them.

I'm not a therapist, but here's how I work with fears in my life:

List them.

Look at each one and ask: where did it come from?

Forgive this situation and send it (or the past you that experienced it) lots of love.

Look for ways to make yourself feel safe (without crushing your ambition).

This is an ongoing process, but the more you make it part of the work of growing your business, the less the fears will be able to sneakily sideline you.


5 Steps to Grow Your Business


Last week we talked about the challenges that come along with growth, but you might be wondering “How do I actually grow?”

This week, I'll answer that question. Whatever it is for you, whatever growth means for you, here's the steps to making it happen. These steps are going to repeat again and again through growth, so realize that you won't just do this once, you'll do this at every new level. Listen in to learn the steps!

Links mentioned: 

Please note: Pay Yourself is being retired (it's getting a face lift!), so this is your last chance to get it at its lowest price. You'll also get the updated version when it's released to the world!


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.


Adventures in Business with Designer, Instructor and Author Karen Whooley

Today I'm happy to share the adventures of Starship Captain Karen Whooley. Karen is a nationally recognized crochet and knit designer, author and instructor from the Pacific Northwest.  She wears many other hats, too, including Wife of 25 years, Mom of two teens, Bon Jovi Fan, NFL Football Fanatic, Gym Rat and Italian Cook. You can find Karen on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

For me every day is a little different really.  And only because being a full time maker allows me to set my own hours around my family and other commitments like church life, and teaching.  I am the mom of an 18 year old HS senior and a 16 year old HS junior, so they are pretty self sufficient now. And it helps a lot that my husband works from home full time too so we can tag team if needed for the kids.

But most of the time this is my day:
5AM-5:30AM: Get up (I am asthmatic so I have to get up and do all the stuff I need to do, medication wise, first)
6AM-7:30AM: At the gym working out
8AM-9AM: Breakfast and dressing for the day
9AM-10AM: I am at my desk checking email and social media
10AM-12PM: Work (This could be writing blog posts or patterns, research, meetings or actually knitting or crocheting up a sample or swatch.)
12-12:30PM: Lunch break
12:30-1:30 PM: More email and social media
1:30-4PM: More work, usually crochet/knit or swatching, but many times still writing up patterns or book reviews, too.
4-4:30PM: Last check on email.
4:30-7:00PM: spend time with family and make dinner.
7-10PM: If no evening activities at church or school, I am watching TV with family, usually working on a personal project at the same time. Unless I am under a tight deadline, then I am working. By 9-9:30PM though I am usually reading a bit in bed. I have to be in bed sleeping by 10PM so I can start all over the next day!

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 learned to crochet in 1974 (I was 7 years old) my Nonna told me that she had given me a skill and that I needed to do something with it.  My mom always tells me that becoming a designer and author wasn't quite what she meant!  But that IS what I did with it! In 1998 I started as a crochet designer when I sold my very first pattern to a magazine.  In 2000 I started teaching classes locally at a fabric and craft store and by 2004 I was teaching on the national circuit.  In 2007 I learned to knit and started designing knit patterns in 2010.

Karen with her Nonna, who taught her to crochet when she was a child.
Karen with her Nonna, who taught her to crochet when she was a child.

In 1998 when I started, my kids were 2 years old and 6 months old. I had to work from nap time to nap time during the day.  I would produce about 5-6 patterns a year for magazines, and I started my own pattern line from rejected patterns.  Now I produce countless patterns a year (for example in 2013, I completed 4 books, 2 of which had 96 patterns total each), both for myself and for other publishers.  I have 24 paid stitchers who help me get all the models made every year. At the beginning, I would teach only night time classes so my husband, who worked out of the home at that time, could be with the kids. That was my get-out-of-the-house-and-be-with-adults time!  As they got older I started to travel to events to teach. I started with just once a year when my husband could take vacation in the summer, to now going as many as 5-6 times a year.  I also started teaching online through Craftsy and can reach far more people now, which is amazing in and of itself.  I will still teach local classes from time to time, but they are more of a special appearance now.

What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now, my focus is to get back to my roots again.  My dream when I started was to be my own business as a designer / author / instructor. Designing for magazines and other publishers was to get me the experience, but now I really want to be more me, with a few books and designs done elsewhere.  So I am exploring making more maps (goal setting) that put me on track every quarter to get what I need to do accomplished.  I am also exploring how to “Wrangle My Time” with Tara and creating my marketing plan.  All of this is focusing on getting back to my roots and finding what actually works for me.

One of Karen's books, filled with 96 patterns!
One of Karen's books, filled with 96 patterns!

What's your definition of success in your business?

Success to me in my own business is to create patterns, books and classes that *I* love that also meet the needs, wants and desires of my customers and clients.  It is not losing sight of what my goals for my business are, and to promote the crafts I love in a way that makes others love them, too!

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

Right now, I am working toward getting  a few more things off my plate and I am working on developing some systems to streamline what I do as far as designing, publishing, blogging, etc. so that I can finally sit down and develop the next self published book I have had in my head for more than 2 years now! Getting that book out into the world is my next step to regain my goal of being my own publisher again.

Want to learn from other Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!


Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

EYE Episode 64

As your business scales up, the problems and challenges you encounter scale up as well. Is this a sign you should stop? (Hint: no!) In today's episode, I share a business principle about growth and how you can use it to stay on the right path.


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 learn from your own business


Last week we took a look back at the year so far and I shared my Quarterly Review worksheet.

Now it's time to look forward: What do you want to do in the third quarter of the year? What do you want with the last half of 2015?

In the Starship and Lift Off, we're Map Making this week – picking a destination, mapping out the steps, and distilling it all down to the actual actions we need to take.

I don't just lead others in Quarterly Reviewing and Map Making, I do it myself!

In fact, today I added something new to my quarterly review after reading this: I wrote a Quarterly Report and shared it with my team!*

It took me just about an hour, in a day full of other things. So why'd I spend the time? Because you can't learn from your business unless you pay attention to it. And you can't keep going, without stopping to celebrate what you've got done and the goals you met (more about the importance of celebration in my conversations with Claudine + Sasha).

Learning from your business.

There are a million decisions you have to (get to!) make in your business every day. From how you'll spend your time, to what social network you'll use, to how you'll reply to the customer making an unreasonable request.

And then there are thousands examples of what others have done. There are hundreds of classes and books (I even sell a few!). There are dozens of people who are willing to tell you EXACTLY what you SHOULD do.

But none of it works. Not unless it fits you, your business, your goals, and your personality. Not unless it helps you make a business you're going to love.

So how do you know what to do? How do you make those decisions?

You experiment. You try things.
And then you pay attention to what works. What worked for YOU.
You learn from your own business.

You do something. And then you review: Did that work? Is that getting me closer to my business? or not?

(This is why my classes and book are question-heavy – I'm all about helping you find your own answers)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to build exactly the business you want AND to become an expert in you and your business.

Because, sure, you can learn a lot about what worked for other people, but you won't be able to answer your own questions and lead a life you love, until you become an expert in what works for you, your customers, and your products.

So that’s why I took an hour to write up a report on what went well, what I learned, and what I’m aiming to do in the next quarter. Why don’t you try it?


*In case you don't know, my team = Jess, my Number One + Jay, my husband and producer. Jess edited this email so it's free of typos and Tara-isms (where I write/say one word, but mean an entirely different word). She's the one you get when you fill out the Contact form (however, if you hit reply to this email, you talk directly to me!). Jay makes the podcast transcripts all pretty  (and is re-designing every worksheet for every class) and edits every audio and video lesson and interview, so it's not as rambly as I actually am.

Also on my team: Beauregard, Head of Security (that bark!) and Raylan, Vice President of Snackage.

Oh, and me, CCEO – Chief Creatrix + Exploring Obsessive.

Business Boundaries: How to create boundaries and expectations to keep you sane


This week, we're talking about creating boundaries in your business. As Andi Satterlund said on Twitter: “Finding balance between being friendly and establishing boundaries with your customer base.”

In this episode you'll learn:

  • Your responsibility
  • The importance of culture
  • Your options when someone is inappropriate or breaches your boundaries


Also! I streamed this live on Periscope while recording it! If you'd like to get podcast episodes a whole week early (and watch me on video?), follow me there, TaraSwiger.

Remember to share your response to today's episode on Instagram, with the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm!

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.

What I’m Reading: July 2015

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

  • Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin – This was this quarter’s Starship Book Club pick and I learned so much I recorded a podcast episode about part of it!
  • Eleanor + Park, by Rainbow Rowell – This was my favorite novel of the year (so far). I read it one long Saturday and it had me both giggling and in tears. Eleanor's home life just hit home for me.
  • The Likeness, Tana French – I'm not much a mystery novel reader, but this author was suggested to me after I liked Gone Girl. And I'm so glad because I've loved both books (I read the first one last month). It's not just mystery, it's got a lot of good character development and insights into the human psyche. But, ya know, it's still fun 🙂
  • The Sculptor, by Scott Cloud -I loved this. It's different from the usual, because it's not a series of individual episodes collected together – it's just one cohesive story (like a normal novel, but with visual storytelling!)

What I’m reading

What I read last year

What are you reading?



The usual disclaimery disclaimer applies! 

Corrina Ferguson, knitwear designer and author: An interview


Today I'm delighted to have Corrina Ferguson of Picnic Knits on, to talk with us about her business as a knitwear designer. I've gotten to know Corinna over the past year, as she's been  a member of the Starship. Most recently, she's  the author Warm Days, Cool Knits, published by Interweave, which is full of knitting patterns suited to warmer weather. 

In today's episode we discuss

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.