In this week's podcast we're revisiting a topic I get asked about a TON: launching!
This episode was originally inspired when a Starship captain asked for ideas and resources for launching a new product line and I wrote a long and thorough answer, and wanted to share that with you. This can apply to how you launch a new business (if you already have an audience), how you launch a new product or how you launch a book.
In today’s episode we are throwing it ALL the way back to the very first episode of this podcast!
I share a little about my goals and dreams for the podcast and my own business journey (up until that point!).
As I said at the time: “I want you to know you're not alone, in whatever it is, that feels like a struggle in your creative business: making money, finding motivation, being consistent. More than anything, I hope you like it. I hope this helps us connect in a new way and help you feel supported, encouraged and part of this great community of amazing makers.”
You guys, I have been self-employed for TEN YEARS, this week! That is really unbelievable to me, because I had no idea what to expect when I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time. I have learned so much, struggled so much, and had weird unexpected successes (like improving my credit score, and earning a lifetime achievement award at Midwest Craftcon?).
Today I want to look back on it with you, and share some reflections that may help you in your own business journey.
I have been running a business full-time, since July 1, 2009. I quit a dayjob in an office, in part because I worked for a state university (an administrative assistant in HR) and the state cut funding, so there was a hiring freeze and a buyout. I applied for buyout and took it (it paid for us to pay off the car, and rent a UHaul to move), because I had grown the business to replace my day job salary most months.
I actually talk more about my business journey in the very first episode of the podcast, and you’re going to hear it again next week! As a celebration of 10 years of self-employment, and to spend more time with my foster kids this summer, I am re-broadcasting older important episodes from the last 5 years of the show. In July you’ll hear some of the oldest episodes that are the most important topics that basically no one has listened to, about launching and fear of success. In August you’ll hear the most-popular episodes ever, most are from about a year ago, and they cover topics like “how to stop seeking approval”, and “the pressure to be perfect”. You don’t have to do anything extra to get these episodes – just tune in each week and you’ll get a new intro from Current Tara, along with a listen at the old musical intro (it was bad!) and Past Tara. Then I’ll be back in September with brand-new episodes!
As I was talking in the Starship about being self-employed for 10 years, Jennie asked me: if you could have a do over, would you change the rate of growth of your business? Would you grow faster/slower/the same?
My answer is always: I wouldn’t change anything because then I wouldn’t be where I am.
Which is kind of an annoying answer, so I really thought about this some more. The thing about my rate of growth is – sure, if I could have scaled to more profit, quicker, especially in the earlier days, that would have been fabulous, I would prefer to skip the years of being really broke and my business just covering the bills. But I would have had other growth-related problems and the fact is, I wasn’t ready to handle those problems until I grew.
One of the truths about business is that your business grows as fast as you do. If you’re expanding your belief in yourself, if you’re setting up systems, if you are confident and assured, you’re going to grow. But if you get stuck, or you leave something undealt with, your business will grow as much as you can until you hit that stuck point. You are always the bottleneck. Whether it’s that you don’t know how to let go and delegate, or you don’t believe in yourself, your business or the mission, or you’re not taking care of yourself, or your running yourself too hard, or you don’t value yourself, whatever it is, it’s the bottleneck.
So, the answer to the question is: Sure, I’d prefer that my business grew faster if that meant that I was growing and developing faster. But I couldn’t skip over learning what I needed to learn. So let’s talk about what I have learned:
Rule #1: Figure out how you make money.
I know this seems obvious – you make a sale, you make money. But do you? What’s the amount of profit on that sale? (I teach this math in the class Pay Yourself, which is only available in the Starship program, you can learn more about it at taraswiger.com/starship)
The next question is – how do you make a sale? What do you do that generates a sale almost every time? Or maybe you do a thing 5x and you make one sale?
This is really the first thing to figure out, before you’ve got your whole marketing plan, before you commit to whatever every day for the next year, test it out: What do I do that results in a sale? How often do I have to do X thing to get one sale?
Start to look at what you want to buy (for yourself or the business) in terms of what you’ll need to do to make enough sales for the profit to afford that thing. This is where all my early growth came from. I would want to do a thing (like a big craft show across the country). How could I afford the trip? I’d have to sell X skeins, so I’d have to Y listings on Etsy, followed by Z emails (emails were the thing that generated sales). And then I would do it.
Now, over time you need to be consistent in doing the things to generate the sales, so you have an idea of what you can regularly make. But to scale up or push yourself out a plateau, challenge yourself to make a certain amount of money is a certain time and hit it.
Again, I want to stress, this is not a long term path to consistent income, but you HAVE to have this knowledge to scale or become consistent with the RIGHT stuff.
Everything is figureoutable.
There is no question I can’t answer. There is no problem I can’t overcome. As long as I think of something as a mystery (or something someone else is just “naturally good at”), it’s always going to be a mystery. The good news: I always figure it out. Always.
Taxes are serious, but not excuses
Don’t be scared, have a plan.
I get soooooo annoyed when people are afraid to make money because they’ll owe taxes. You should HOPE your business owes taxes – that means you were profitable! If you want your business to be sustainable, it’ll be profitable and you will owe taxes. So I’ve always been HAPPY to owe taxes, but I haven’t always had a good plan for PAYING for those taxes. I didn’t plan well, and I owed taxes. But you know what? It’s actually not a huge deal (as long as you file on time and always talk to the IRS). Everyone I’ve ever talked to at the IRS is super friendly and helpful, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to take seriously.
I can trust myself – I am my best business resource.
We make it big and scary. But nothing is as risky as we think. There are always other options if it doesn’t go well. And just like everything is figureoutable, what I know for sure is that I always figure it out. I can trust myself in any situation, I will be ok. I will make a good decision. Often there is no “right” decision, so I just need to trust myself and then COMMIT to whatever I decided.
I am my best resource and that means my #1 job is to keep my business resource (aka, me) in the best condition possible. This isn’t about a size or “clean eating” or anything full of shoulds and shame. This is about feeling what I feel, giving myself permission to feel how I do and need what I need. It’s sleeping enough, drinking enough water, journaling, and asking for help when I need it. It is prioritizing Peak Tara over everything else in my life. Yes, even kids and Jay, because THEY deserve Peak Tara too, they would rather I asked for a night completely alone instead of NOT asking and biting their heads off all night. (I just double-checked with Jay and he confirmed this is fact). Which every new challenge in my life, I have to learn this anew!
I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even most of it. But I am proud of myself for keeping my business thriving and above all, for growing myself and creating something I love. I wish each of you the joy of looking back at what you’ve created, for however long you’ve been working on it, and knowing you still have so much ahead of you. That it is ok that you aren’t where you thought you should be.
Thank you so much for being here and being part of what I’m doing for however long you’ve been here! Whether it’s been for the 13 years of my biz or for the 5 years of my podcast or you just tuned in for the first time! Thanks for listening and have an enthusiastic week!
It’s summer! And that means it is time for summer reading. This may be the time where you’re spending more time than ever with your family and you just need a break with a book!
I get so many questions about how I read so much, what books I recommend, that I wanted to put together a whole resource episode with absolutely everything – my best tips, the tools I use, the sites I read, the books I recommend for your business and for your summer.
Usually I talk about running a business and mindset and once a month I share what I’m reading, but here’s the truth: I’m recording this ahead of time before it’s even June, so I can’t tell you what I read in June. And I’m taking a break from the podcast to spend my summer with my foster kids and with lots of books and the pool. But no fear! You’ll still get episodes every single week, because I planned WAY ahead!
What better way to go into the summer than to talk about what I love best about summer, which is ALSO the number one key to building my business: books! Everything I know about my business I learned through trial and error and experimenting and I figured out what to try and how to experiment from books.
But I know a lot of us struggle with reading more, so today I’m going to help with that! We’ll talk about how to read more, how to find a book you’ll like, and resources of my favorite book lists, (including the best books for your business, mindset and mental health).
Summer and books have been linked in my mind ever since I was a kid and participated in the library reading challenges – did you have these? The library would publish cards like a game board and you’d fill it in with the books you read, and then you’d win prizes. And do you remember “The Pizza Hut Book It!” program? I had to look it up because it was such a huge part of my childhood – winning PIZZA for reading (and getting the fabulous holographic pin) was really the highlight of my year, and also just about the only sport I ever competed in! While I was writing this episode, I went to look it up and Book It! is still around! Their website has tons of good resources – reading trackers, activities – for you and your kids! You can sign up for the Summer Reading Program and get weekly emails with reading suggestions and projects.
I record this it’s late May and I’ve already read more than 75 books in 2019. I often get asked: How do I read so much? A few years ago I put together a guide: How to read 100 books a year.
How to read more
The key to reading more is to read what you like, always have plenty of books on your list and on your shelf and to stop when you want.
The thing so many adults struggle with is to read what you like – give yourself permission to read what feels good, even if it’s not what you think you “should” be reading. Maybe you love YA fantasy, maybe you love romances, maybe you love comics. It really doesn’t matter, reading anything gets yourself into the habit, and you can use that habit to read more of the books that will educate you on what you want to learn (ie. business or psychology).
You also have to have ENOUGH books, so that you can immediately pick up the next one. That means enough on your To Read list and enough in your actual home (or on your Kindle). If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I bring home anywhere from 5-15 books at a time from the library. In the rest of the episode we’ll cover how to find more books for your list, how to keep track of it, and how to find more of what you like.
And finally, you really need to let yourself stop when you want to. Maybe you put the book down for just a few days, or you wait until your more awake, or you just don’t like it and you stop altogether – life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy!
How to find books you’ll like
Did you know your library has a Reader Advisory? They can suggest books, if you know what you like. They also published lists of books that are like other books, or that are on a topic you wanna learn more about!
There’s also a great online resource, through your library, called Books and Authors. (I think your library has to have hooked it up for you to access it. Check your library’s website. You can look up any book and it will tell you other books like it. Even if it’s been years since you really liked a book, if you can identify even one, you can find another!
Another way to find the books that YOU are likely to like is to find reviewers you like and read what they suggest.
on Goodreads (look at reviews of your favorite books, click on the profile of a review you particularly like and then read a few other reviews by them. If you agree and/or you like they’re writing, check out their most recent reviews and you will find some new books you’ll like!). I like Emily May.
Help your kid(s) identify what they like in a story. Start with 3-5 stories they’ve loved (movies, video games) and help them dig into the aspects they liked best. This is a great way to help them find the words to talk about books and stories, too!
Check out nonfiction! If your kid nerds out about ANYTHING (even movies and video games!) there are books about it!
Comics are a great way to get a reticent reader to read!
You can find “graphic novels” which are the collected issues of a storyline of a comic, at your library! Once you know you like a comic, you can start buying it (or the graphic novels) at your local comic shop. And if you don’t have a comic shop, you can get it on your Kindle comics with a Comixology subscription.
A few of my faves that are appropriate for anyone 10+:
Mile Morales: Spiderman – there is a novel, and a comic (esp if you loved Into The Spiderverse)
Ask me on Instagram! I LOVE helping you find books, I not-so-secretly really want to be a librarian (if only I can do it from home?) – tag me on your post, I’m @taraswiger or send me a DM! (Maybe I need a book recommendation podcast? Hmmm.)
How to keep track of it all? Tools I use:
Goodreads – I use it mostly to track books I want to read. It’s great to track books I have read, but the way I use it nearly daily is to add ANY book I’ve heard of that sounds good to my list. I’m not worried this is every going to be too big. I want it to be as big as possible, so I never run out of books that I’m excited about.
Library holds & requests – A few times a week (usually when I’m waiting somewhere or need a break from work), I open up my GoodReads To Read list, open up my library catalog and place a hold on a few books (Holds top out at 15 books and a lot of times this spring I topped it out. I read more than ever, but it stresses me a bit, so I’m keeping it under 10 at a time now). What about books your library doesn’t have? I just discovered the “request book” page on my library site and now I request that the library buy the books I want! This is great for new books that haven’t been released yet – by requesting it you get at the front of the line on the holds (great if a book is going to be on hold to like 20 people). I’ve also requested some quilt books and instead of buying them, my library borrowed them from another library (not one that’s connected in our catalog)
Libby – get ebooks and audiobooks from your library, all from your phone.
Book of the Month Club – if you want new books before they’re released AND you want to own your books, you can’t do better than Book of The Month – you get access to brand-new books, each month. You can skip any month you want. (If you sign up from this link, I get a free book!)
Do you let failure convince you to stop? Is it a sign that you are not going to ever get what you want? Or do you use failure as fuel to push you farther?
When I was reading Abby Wambach’s new book Wolfpack, one of the lessons in it really struck me. She said: Use failure as fuel. She talked about how women so often use any failure as a reason they can’t do something. They feel like everything has to be perfect before they have permission to try something or be something.
The problem is, success is built on failure.
You’ve got to experience failure to get to success.
If you let the first failure stop you from going forward, you won’t have any success.
As I read, I realized: Oh man, I’ve been using recent failures or just small things like not hitting a small goal, NOT as fuel, but as a kind of proof that I can’t do it.
And I know I’m not alone, because so many of you tell me that “Well, I tried that and it didn’t work out, so I’m just not good at it.” or “I guess I can’t have that.”
This is something women struggle with a lot, I know I have. We’ve got that internal fire, we have a mission, the motivation to do amazing things, but so often we are looking for reasons to distrust it, reason to not trust ourselves, proof that we’re not good enough. And failure provides the perfect excuse. The perfect proof.
And I get it, when we go into a project (or anything really) with self-doubt, anything that doesn’t go perfectly seems like proof of what we already believe: “I’m not good enough. I really can’t do this. It’s for other people.”
But that’s just wrong.
Failure is not a sign that there is something wrong with you. Failure is just data. Data on how to get what you want. Maybe you need to grow, maybe you need to work more, maybe you need to try harder. Maybe it’s just gonna take more time. Failure is information about what your goal or your dream will actually require.
So the question is: are you using failure as an excuse to stop doing what you’re doing? Are you using it as proof that you shouldn’t be doing it? That you’re not good enough? Or are you using failure as fuel for the next step?
One of the stories in Abby Wambach’s book was about using failure as fuel. In it, she told the story of how the women’s USA soccer team used a four-man loss as a reminder the need to work harder to win. As fuel for their fire to keep going.
I want you to think about this for a minute. What if failure actually inspired you?
What if it could be the fuel that pushes you forward, what if it could be the inspiration that keeps you going? I know, I know, that’s a major mindset shift from failure as a sign that we’re doing the wrong thing, to failure as a sign that we need to go harder.
But so often, in so many of your own businesses, that’s exactly what failure is. It’s the sign that you needed to work harder, it’s a sign that you need to commit more, it’s a sign that you are capable of so much more than you think.
I want you to think about it like a sports game. I know, I am not the best at sports metaphors. But I do know this: losing one game, does not mean that you lost this season, it does not mean that you lost the championship. In baseball, players are expected to “fail” most at-bats. A GREAT hitter only hits a SMALL amount of the balls that come at him.
Because…FAILURE IS NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS.
I talk about this more in episode 171 – because in order for your business to grow, you need MORE failure, or as I phrase it in that episode get MORE rejection. You need to be told “No” more often, so you can get to yes. You need to not hit your goal, so you get closer to hitting it.
Let’s do this together, let’s reframe how we think about failure, about falling down, about not getting it right.
Let’s remember that this is not the last chance you’ll ever have, that there are more at-bats, there are more games, there are more months.
In fact, you have endless at-bats, you have endless opportunities to work hard or learn more reach that goal in the future. You’re closer now than you’ve ever been!! Don’t quit when you’re minutes away, weeks away, months away from hitting your goal.
I wanna hear how you’ve used failure as fuel or how you’re ready to reframe this. Come tell me on Instagram, I’m @TaraSwiger and you can use the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm.
How do you impact those around you? How does that actually work? And how does it feel for those who love you? Today I’m having a conversation with my husband Jay about impact, confidence and more!
Episode 258, which came out a few weeks ago, has ended up being SO popular – so many of you are sharing it and talking about it and messaging me about it, it’s making me sooo happy. And it tells me that this way of reframing the sacrifices you make for your dreams as a positive, because it is showing other people what’s possible, it’s inspiring them to dream bigger – we all need to hear that.
I was talking to this about Jay, and through the years he’s told me that by following my dreams, well, it’s changed him. So I asked him if he’d come and talk to y’all about it, give you a different perspective, and to give you another boost of permission that YES, you are having an impact (even if it takes 15 years to see the results).