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306: Seasons in your Business

What if you are just not getting things done? What if you just can NOT get things done? Before you start beating yourself up, ask yourself: is this just a season of my life?

I recorded this episode over a year ago, when I was a brand-new mom, but it's so appropriate for what we're ALL going through right now – a completely new season in our life and business. So we're rebroadcasting it (it will come automatically to your podcast app if you've subscribed), in hopes that it will help you feel some peace about where you are right now.


Today we're going to talk about how to identify the season you're in, and what to do about, to be both as productive and GENTLE as possible.

My aim is to guide you to living an enthusiasm-filled life…which includes doing work you love, spending time with people you love, and feeling GOOD while doing it.

I was recently asked the question on Instagram: I feel like I'm in a season of my life when I can't get a lot done. Am I alone? Can you talk about this?

First, let me preface today's episode with some background: two months ago I didn't have any kids. We became foster parents last September and on December 17th a two year old girl came to live with us, for an undetermined amount of time. And let me tell you – one of the first thoughts I had about my business, when my head came above water, several weeks later was: I can't believe I ever talked about how to get stuff done. I had NO IDEA what it was like to have a 2 year old at home. It is insane. Especially when you have no warning and you're a stranger to the 2 year old, and they've gone through some recent trauma. But even if you’ve been with them from day one, it’s bonkers.

So here's the truth: I have no idea what you're going through. Maybe you have 4 kids. Maybe you have a sick partner. Maybe you just lost a parent or loved one. Every situation is different, and my situation and way of dealing with things is built from what I need, from what works for me (and sometimes it doesn't even work for me!). So you'll have to take what applies, leave what doesn’t, and find what will work for you.

In my experience, there are several different seasons in every business, that continue to cycle throughout the life of your business:

  • Idea/inspiration – when you start to dream and get inspired and slurp up Pinterest and blogs and videos
  • Creation/exhalation – if you inhaled a lot of inspiration, you need to let it out via creation. This is where you begin to turn your ideas into action, into real projects or relationships or products
  • Working away at what you started – After the initial super-creative part of the process a LOT of our projects have kind of a boring “keep going” part. It’s not new and exciting, but there’s more to be done. This might also be maintenance mode. As Kurt Vonnegut said,  ‘everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.'
  • Rest – sometimes you’ll go right from creating to new inspiration and new creation but a lot of time your field will just need to lie fallow. You may just need to rest before you get another breath of inspiration. This is the time that you may worry that you’ll never have another idea and that everything is falling apart. But it’s just part of the process. Fill up your well and keep yourself healthy during this phase.

So those are the seasons in your business, but there are also seasons in your LIFE. Seasons where you’re actually not going to be in any season of creation or inspiration because you’re putting your attention on other projects in your life. It may be parenting, or a relationship, or getting well. That’s ok. That’s part of being a human!

If you are in a season of not getting stuff in your business done, you are NOT alone. I didn't work for 4 solid weeks. And now that I am back to “work”, my working hours are a fraction of what they were. Not only that but now the part of my brain that was free to think about strategy and business plans is now thinking about temper tantrum strategies and did she have any green vegetables today and is that a rash?

Now, I could be frustrated about that, or feel hopeless about it, or freak out about it (my income is 80% of how we pay the bills…so it's kinda important.)

But this is only a season of my life. Yes, she'll only be 2 years old for a short season. And because we're doing foster care, she may only be with us for a short season. But above that, the overwhelming NEWNESS of everything is ALSO a short season. We won't be in this everything-is-new-and-requires-decision-making season forever. Even after just a month of being together, so much has become easier. We have routines, we have go-to meals, we have regular activities to do together. I'm not saying parenting every becomes EASY or that I'll ever get back the huge percentage of my brain I used to think about my business, but the season of it being THIS INTENSE is fleeting.

And let me even more honest with you – before this season of being a new mom to a toddler, I went through a season of deep depression where I could not get my normal stuff done. Everything was hard. It started with fogginess, then things got physically hard, then hopelessness, then there was just apathy. (It’s real hard to get things done when you don’t care about anything.)

Even though that season was SO hard and I never want to repeat it, it was a season of healing. I needed to learn the lessons I learned in that season. It was NOT a season of ideas, creation or working. It wasn’t that restful (although I did rest my body a lot.)

Now that I’m more mentally healthy and I’m moving out of the intense brand-new-kid season, I’m in a season of transition, where I’m trying to find my new rhythm, my new normal. As much as I would love to just hop back to work-mode when I can work, I’m finding that I need to learn how to transition from mom-mode to work-mode. So this is a season of figuring-it-out. I’m not quite to creation, as I just transition into figuring out how to work.

And I know many of you are in an especially hard season. Maybe it's depression. Maybe you're taking care of a sick family member or partner. Maybe you've recently experienced loss. These are all seasons where your work is just NOT a priority. And hey, that's ok!

We are trying to build businesses that ENHANCE our lives, that bring enthusiasm and joy and connection to our lives, so those same businesses (and our plans for our business) need to allow for that life to show up and take over sometimes.

Are you in a difficult season right now?

If you're not getting stuff done:

  • Is it a season?
  • Is there a timeline?
  • Are your frustrated because you can’t do what you WANT to do? Keep track of your ideas.
  • Stick with the routines that make you feel like yourself (ie, shower, walk the dogs, get coffee)
  • Recognize the season and give yourself grace.
  • Realize when you’re in the NEXT season, and allow the change to happen.

I hope this has helped you navigate whatever season you’re in!

305: Finding Enthusiasm in Uncertainty

How do you find joy and enthusiasm for anything when everything is turned upside down? That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week. 

As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, my fundamental business belief, what shapes everything I do and how i work with makers and designers, is that your business will thrive and YOU will feel best about it when you follow your enthusiasm. What do I mean by enthusiasm? I like the definition:  intense or eager enjoyment or interest.

You can follow your enthusiasm IN your business, by working on projects you love, letting go of expectations about what you “should” do, working with the kind of clients that you prefer. You can follow your enthusiasm outside of your business by allowing yourself to work on non-business projects and filling up your enthusiasm well with things that seem completely unrelated (for me lately it’s reading, and making bookish videos, which you can find on YouTube. Other times it’s been quilting or knitting). 

But with everything uncertain and stressful and all the change…how do we find any enthusiasm? 

 

I don’t know about your COVID situation, but mine is full of…obligation and responsibility.
Basically, we’re all having to do a lot of things we don’t want to do, or that we’re not prepared to do, or that are just hard. 

On top of that, you have your business – maybe it is doing just fine, maybe it has lost some of it’s sales channels, maybe you’ve lost all your working hours, when you would work on it. 

So does the idea of enthusiasm and joy really have a place in our current situation?

In my experience, yes. 

Not because things aren’t hard or we’re going to pretend everything is great. But because now, more than ever, you need to take care of your best business resource, and your family’s most important resource – your well-being. A key ingredient to your mental and emotional well-being is doing things that are just fun. That you get excited about, that brings you joy, or just interests you. 

But how do you tap into that enthusiasm?

I have a few suggestions. Not all of them are going to work for you, but I want to challenge you to try each of them, until you feel some spark of joy or even interest:

 

 

  • Start with the mental health checklist.
    I shared this in episode 285  You can listen in the that episode for the full list and explanation. The short version is – there are some easy things you can do every day that studies show are the most effective at maintaining mental well-being. Do them daily, even when you feel low or overwhelmed and you’ll feel a bit more human.

    • Wash your hands and face (good advice right now!)
    • Wake up at the same time everyday (really important for managing depression),
    • Take your vitamins and meds
    • Move your body
    • Say No when you need to.  
  • Do a thing that used to bring you a lot of joy, that is completely useless. When I say useless, this isn’t a judgement – I mean anything that doesn’t directly benefit anyone but you. There’s this pressure now (maybe always) to be using this time to very useful – to bake bread, to sew face masks, to educate our children 8 hours a day, to start that project you’ve been meaning to start or finish that project that you never found time for.
    I want to challenge you to do something OTHER than all that, just for the joy of it, for like 20 minutes. This might be video games or reading a novel or sewing or knitting (something not for your business) or painting or baking or yoga or talking on the phone with your friends.
    For me this is reading novels (Check out my YouTube channel for videos on what I’m reading lately) and playing legos and printing my photos.

 

 

  • Play a game.
    Not because your kids want to or to spend “quality” time, but just for the fun of it. It could be video games (I am loving Animal Crossing!), a phone game (Two Dots!), a card game (we’re trying out Uno with the kids) or a board game (we like Catan for the whole family).

 

  • Go outside.
    We got this $10 chairs for the porch and they are the best investment. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, being outside with a blue sky and listening to the birds chirp or watching the squirrels run around is the best thing ever.
    If art relaxes you, get a $5 box of chalk and draw over every surface you have access to for 5 minutes.  
  • Dance Party.
    Blast your favorite music and dance. Alone or together, this is my #1 mood booster, yet I’m always forgetting to do it.
    If dancing isn’t an option or your favorite music isn’t very danceable (Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill), so I highly recommend you look up old music videos from your favorite bands when you were a teenager. This has brought Jay and I HOURS of delight in the last month, and explaining MTV to the kids is….challenging.  
  • Watch YouTube videos or listen to podcasts about things you’ve wanted to learn about.
    Not because “now you have the time”, but because learning is a great way of sparking some enthusiasm for other things you have to do. Learning new things is inspiring, even when it’s hard.  
  • Make time to listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos.
    Not even to learn, just for fun. If you have a favorite show on any platform – make sure you’re making time for it. For me, this is slightly different than watching a TV show, because the podcasts and videos are made by real people – living their real lives right now. It’s not slicked and produced – it’s more like connecting with friends. 

 

This all comes back to mental health.
You’ll notice that all the things I listed aren’t hard, but they are all somewhat challenging. The reason is that studies show that having too much completely passive consuming time is not actually restorative to our wellbeing. Yes, by all means, binge on your favorite shows and movies – but don’t count on that as your only form of rest. (One way that a show or movie can also be inspiring is if you create fan art from it, or go on a deep dive to research it or an aspect of it.) 

This can all be boiled down to one word – PLAY.
When things are hard and there is stress and responsibility, just make sure you have some time to play and be playful every day. 

I want to be clear – there’s no judgement in whatever you’re doing right now to survive. Most days I’m feeling good if I can just follow through with the mental health checklist and do ONE thing off this list. When I was sick for a week, I did absolutely nothing. And that’s ok. You’ll bounce back. Your family will bounce back. 

We will bounce back. 

In the meantime, I hope this helps you find a spark of enthusiasm and joy in your day and that you can carry that through all the other things you have to do. 

 

 

 

304: How to Plan in Uncertainty

Welcome to April and the beginning of a new quarter! This is the time where we usually make plans for the coming three months and review the progress we’ve made so far this year but…everything is weird. How do we do that now?

In the Starship this week, we’re doing Map Making – making a plan for the quarter. You can learn more about the Starship here and/or start making your own map with my book, Map Your Business.

I know, nothing is normal right now. 

You are staying home, no one in your home is ever leaving it, you may not be able to get the supplies you usually do, you may not be selling where you usually do, people are buying less because some people are losing their jobs. 

And yet. 

Now is the perfect time to plan the new quarter. 

I’ve actually talked about planning during uncertainty already – back in episode 254, I gave suggestions for how you can plan when YOUR life is uncertain. Add back in episode 291, I shared how I was planning the New Year while my life is so uncertain (as a foster parent). 

Well, guess what? Now you’re joining me in everything being up in the air and nothing being normal!

It’s really uncomfortable isn’t it? 

One of the things I find myself wanting to do is just wait….wait for it to feel normal. Wait for things to be ok. Wait for everything to be how it was. 

Well, that’s not going to happen.
We may very well need to limit social contact for quite a long while until this is completely past. 

But beyond that, life WILL be different.
Some of the people who lost jobs, won’t get the same ones back.
Some businesses won’t open back up. 

I don’t say any of this to scare you, but so that you can be honest with yourself – things have changed and we don’t when or if what we consider normal is coming back. 

What we can do is move forward with what we do know. 

What we can do is embrace today for being today. We can accept our current reality and find ways to live within that. 

And look, I know, it’s scary. Change is really really hard. And never before have we all been going through change at the SAME TIME. It’s so disorienting! 

Waiting until everything is normal isn’t going to work. 

Accepting where you are right now is the only way forward. Now it may take days or weeks or even a month to really feel ready to accept it. To even understand what the new reality is. It’s certainly taken me a week or two to get used to having two girls home from school every day and feeling out what our schedules are. 

 

But once you’re accepting it and through the fog a bit, it’s time to plan. 

 

So how can we plan when we don’t know what’s coming? 

  1. Look at your goals and dreams again. Get reoriented in where you want to go. Ask yourself which you still care about. Which still matters?
  2. Forget the old way of getting there and look for new ways.
    Maybe you were going to do a craft show – what about finally starting that shopify shop?
    Maybe you were going to grow your email list at a craft show, what about creating a PDF download to drive subscribers?
  3. Focus on systems, not outcomes.
    If you find yourself stressed that people aren’t shopping as much now (although I’m not sure this is true? Surely online shopping is surging) – stop focusing on the outcomes of your goals,and focus instead on setting up the systems of your goals. What technology do you need? How consistent will you be? What do you have to do in order to stay consistent? 
  4. Be Realistic.
    Yes, work on your goals, make a plan, but also really practice accepting the time and energy you have. I know I have about an hour a day, as long as my girls aren’t in school. I wish I could do more in my business, but that’s the extent of the time and energy I have.

    So I’m making a plan for the quarter – I’m looking at the systems and products I want to create, knowing I'll be doing it in about 5 hours a week. I will consider it a success if I use those 5 hours well, to create and publish this podcast, hold the weekly Starship chat and go live in my Facebook group. That’s it. 
  5. Be gentle on yourself.
  6. Along with being realistic, give yourself a break. I HAVE more hours than just naptime – I could get up early or work after bedtime…but I need that rest and recovery. I don’t know about you, but I find myself more on edge, more exhausted, more short-tempered than usual. So don’t make your business and your goals another thing to stress yourself out, another thing you should be doing. 

 

We are going to get through this. THings may not look the same afterwards…but what if that was a good thing? What if you set a goal for the quarter and reached it despite all the chaos? How awesome and grateful would you feel? 

One way or the other time will pass, the virus will pass and there will be shopping and craft shows and retail locations making orders again – will your business be ready for it? 

How to Make Decisions

How  do you decide what to do next? How do you make a decision? My family has a simple question that we ask to make complex decisions and I’m sharing it with you today. 

 I want to talk about how you decide ANYthing in your business (or life) and a quick question I use to make better decisions.
I’m not even going to make you wait, here is the question to ask yourself: Hard now or hard later? 

Over the years of making decisions together, from do we want to get pizza delivered or make dinner, to should we buy a new or used car, to should we rent or buy…my husband and I have realized that making decisions is it’s own skill set. To make decisions together, we need to be on the same page about what matters, what our values are, and where we’re going as a family. 

And there are a lot of ways to make bad decisions! If you just look at the short-term effect of the decision, if you look at what’s gratifying RIGHT NOW, if you make a decision based on a value that’s not really your own…you end up with a not-great result. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter (should we have ordered that pizza), but sometimes your whole future can turn on a few decisions. 

But this is not a marriage advice podcast (maybe I’ll start that next?) this is a handmade business podcast! You make decisions every single day in your business, and I know it is so easy to get stuck wondering “what is the right decision? Does this even matter?”

Here’s what you can do to cut through all the stuckness and get right to what matters: Hard now or hard later? 

What this means is: Is there a way to make this decision that may be hard now, but will make life easier later? Or if I choose the easier path now, will it make more difficult later?  

As an example, let’s look at a decision a lot of us made in our 20s – If I’ve got no money, but I want a pizza or to go out with my friends…should I just get it on a credit card or should I not go out and eat what I have at home? Most of us know that the easier decision is to order a pizza, but we could be paying interest charges on that one pizza for months – it will make the future harder. Or we could make the less fun decision now and have an easier future (with no debt!)

 

A lot of people are raised to (and parts of our culture encourages us to) make the easy decision now and let your future self deal with it. There’s even a  stand up comedian who jokes about making life harder for your Future Self. Screw that guy, let him deal with it! 

So this question – do I want to do the hard thing now or suffer the worse consequences later? 

 

Another way to ask the question is: fun now or fun later? 

Do I want to have short-term fun now, and pay for it later? Or make a hard decision now to make it more fun later? 

Now, this may not be the question you need. When I was talking about this on a Live in my Facebook group, my friend and life coach Joeli made the point that a lot of people in our community have this misunderstanding that life is “supposed” to be hard. That work is “supposed to be” hard. So they make things hard that don’t have to be hard. I totally know what she means because I see it all the time, this mistrust that things can be easy, work can be filled with ease. 

So if that’s you, if you think everything has to be hard, let me flip this question around for you. Next time you make a decision ask yourself: What can I do now to set my Future Self up for success? And how can I make it full of ease and fun? 

 

I used a financial decision as an example, but this can apply to so many thing in your business:

  • Do I want to take the time to schedule my social media for the next two weeks or do I want to have to deal with it every day?
  • Do I want to figure out my numbers and profitability now, or suffer the consequences of selling items at a price that doesn’t actually make sense?
  • Do I want to take the time to identify my market and shape my marketing message or keep trying to do it on the fly and getting more frustrated and disappointed when marketing doesn’t work? 

Do I want to confront this problem now (with a supplier, a customer, a friend) or do I want to leave it alone and have a bigger blow-up later? 

And if you, like me, are still practicing social distancing or quarantine right now, we’re not out of the decision-making loop. Do I want to give my kids another hour of TV and deal with them bouncing off the walls later? Do I want to mindlessly scroll Twitter now and feel unproductive and stressed later? 

Remember, sometimes you need to choose the easy thing. Sometimes you need the rest, sometimes you need to zone out. But the key to building a sustainable business is to give yourself what you need, while still honoring and taking care of your Future Self. 

Global Uncertainty: how to deal


I feel like I have been in intensive training for handling uncertainty and BIG change for the last year. As a foster parent, every 3 or 6 months we’ve had an entire new kid (or sibling set) move in our house. With new parents, new caseworker (who comes to the house weekly), new school, new personality, new food preferences – basically everything you take for granted in your regular life is turned on its head. In this time, I’ve learned some things about handling uncertainty and life changes, today I’ll be sharing them with you.

[Podcast]

Did my description of being a foster parent sound familiar? Everything that was normal and taken for granted, like your daily work and school schedules, the stores you shopped at, when you shopped, who you see and when you see them – everything has been turned on its head as we practice social distancing and for some of us, quarantine. 

I’m hoping that my experience and constant change has taught me some lessons that may help you. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m committed to bringing some hope and light into your life, while so much is hard and stressful. 

For starters, the truth is, the adjustment to the changes are going to be hard and it may take a long while. You are going to feel off-center, unbalanced and wobbly. That’s totally normal for any big change in your life, you feel wobbly as you try to get your equilibrium back and adjust to the change. That may look like swinging back and forth between worry or panic and dismissal “this isn’t even happening”. It may look like having really great days, followed by days when nothing seems right. 

It’s important for you to know: This is part of the process. This is not a sign anything is wrong. 

On top of YOU feeling wobbly, you are surrounded by people who are also feeling off-balance, who are going through their own changes in daily routines. 

So my first recommendation is: give yourself grace. Being mad or upset or judging myself harshly isn’t going to make any of it any easier. 

 

Know that this is part of the process, and give yourself grace. 


The next step is to adjust expectations – with your new schedule you may be more or less productive than you were before. Either one is ok. 

Here’s the real sticking point – you may have MORE TIME to work on your business but LESS HEADSPACE. Maybe it’s because the kids are home or maybe it’s because the news is scary or you’re worried about running out of toilet paper – but you may just have less energy to think. 

That’s OK. We’re giving ourselves grace…but the next part is to actually adjust your expectations. Put LESS on your to do list for the day. Hold yourself to lower standards. Give yourself a break. 

There’s a real reason why you may be having a hard time getting normal stuff done – cognitive load. ANY time you make a change in your routine, your brain has to spend more time thinking about it (because it’s not yet a habit), which creates a cognitive load on your brain. Right now, it’s likely you have a HUGE amount of things that are changed, so your brain is spending quite a lot of its energy just keeping up with the changes. I always remind myself with every new placement: New Tara may not be able to what Old Tara did. 

 

The good news, any new reality will become habitual, will become “normal”, freeing up your brain space to be creative and productive and have ideas again! Of course, you have a choice about this – you can set up routines that stay the same no matter what, routines that keep you out of the flow of news coming at you. 

 

There’s something else to remember about your brain – it is wired to have a negativity bias. That means that it is going to pay MORE attention to threats than to opportunities. That means your brain’s natural inclination is to pay a lot of attention to the scariest thing.  But we can control this by limiting how much time we give it. We can counterbalance the scary stuff by looking around and purposefully noticing what is going right. (You have a smartphone that still works if you are listening to this episode! You have enough food for today!)

Lemme be clear:  I’m not saying to ignore the important information or to go on with your life as usual. You absolutely have a responsibility to limit the spread of the virus to those who are most vulnerable. Follow the guidelines, pay attention to real information and to keep noticing what is good even while you’re taking the actions you need to take (like social isolation, quarantining if positive, getting tested if sick.) If the news you’ve been paying attention to has left you rattled, you can limit yourself to the CDC or WHO websites. They have all the information you need about limiting the spread of the virus, keeping yourself safe, and taking care of your loved ones. You need not need Twitter or Facebook to be a responsible citizen. 

The last suggestion I have is for when you are feeling a bit settled, and bit creative, and not in a stressed state. It is simply: Look for the opportunities to grow. Look, this is shaking up your life but it’s also shaking up the life of EVERYONE. Seriously, when does that happen? That means now is a great time to change the things that haven’t been working for you. It’s a great time to look at where you spend your time, your money, your energy, to look at your long term goals and ask: Is this the direction I want to keep moving. 

If yes, what can you do within today’s limitations to get there? (there is always something)
If not, what do you need to change? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to start doing? 

Maybe you need to let go of your super-high expectations of yourself or others and you need to practice more grace and forgiveness.
Maybe you need to adjust your business goal to suit the life you really want.
Maybe you need to stop letting fear hold you back from doing the scary thing.
Maybe you’re ready to commit to that scary goal and actually get yourself ready to do it.

Whatever it is, you can start to work on it and plan it NOW. 

If one of the things you want to spend your time working on is your business, if you’re going to use this weird time to get right on your profitability, your marketing messages and make a plan for your goals, the Starship is open right now. As a community, the Starship is encouraging each other, inspiring each other, and getting together every week to check in and adapt and grow in this time. If that sounds like what you need, head to TaraSwiger.com/starshipbiz to learn more about it. 

As a reminder, during this weird time, we are going to: 

  1. Give yourself Grace
  2. Change your expectations
  3. Recognize the negativity bias and notice the good
  4. Look for the opportunities for growth. 

 

301: 3 Mistakes to Avoid in your Creative Business

NOTE: I recorded this episode before the world changed pretty dramatically. We'll be talking about how to manage all this in my Facebook group and in upcoming episodes of the podcast. We're in this together. 


Why do you feel stuck? Why isn’t your business growing? It could be one of these mistakes that are common in creative businesses. I want to help you avoid these mistakes, so let’s dive right in. 

I’ve been working with product makers – yarn dyers, bag sewers, jewelry makers – and designers and shop owners for the last decade! I’ve been getting up close and personal with them, in my community, the Starship, since 2011. So I have seen a lot of what holds us back in our business, and what to do in order to move forward with confidence and profit. 

Today I wanna talk about three of the mistakes I see makers and designers make, in their thinking, that holds them back. If you want to avoid the three mistakes most creatives make in running their business, check out my free workshop on the 4 Foundation Method to a Thriving Business, where I explain the mistakes AND teach you how to avoid them (or fix them if you’ve already made them!).

This is not about shaming you. If you recognize yourself in the mistakes I’m about to share, that’s ok. Realizing you’re making a mistake is the first step to fixing it! So there’s no shame about making mistakes, there’s only learning and changing going forward. Ok? Ok! 

Here are the mistakes so many of us make in our thinking:

MISTAKE #1: Waiting for everything to be ready. 

Here’s the quick solution for this: Recognize that everything will NEVER be ready. 

Waiting for things to fall into line, for the timing to be right, for the technology to all work will leave you waiting for the rest of your life. 

One of the first questions I got last week was about how much of my journey I had planned or if I went with the flow. The truth is I had NO idea where my business journey would lead. I could have NEVER imagined the work I do now or the life I have now. There is no way to plan for what your customers are going to want from you in 2 years or 5 years. You can only show up today and listen to your customers and learn. You learn through trial and error over and over again. 

Nothing will every be ready because you’re not going to know any of those things you’ll learn BEFORE you get started. 

And if you’re waiting for your plan to be perfect, you’re going to be too attached to it. If you act when it’s PERFECT, then you’ll think it’s too perfect to change and adapt, and it will absolutely fail if you don't adapt. So you see a “perfect” plan that you wait for, is doomed to fail. 

So just get started today with what you do know and be prepared to fail and learn and try something else. 

MISTAKE #2: Waiting for YOU to be ready.

Guess what? You’re never going to be ready!
And you’ll certainly never FEEL ready!

And that’s ok, you are allowed to do what you want to do even before you feel ready! 

Because, just like your business, you are going to learn from DOING. You are going to be the kind of person who has the business youw ant by DOING what the business you want needs you to do. 

And if you really feel like you’re not good at DOING things, I have news for you! 

You do not need to be BETTER, you need a plan for how to follow-through. You need a plan that’s built from who you actually ARE, not who you wish you WERE. 

This is why I talk about the 4 Tendencies so much (go to episode 122  to learn more about the 4 tendencies) – if you know how you best work, you can make a plan that works FOR YOU. If you need accountability in order to get stuff done, by all means, get accountability! If you need to work from a list, work from a list! 

If you need to listen to the reasons why you need to something, well, that’s part of my teaching style – I will tell you exactly WHY we do things in our business. 

Don’t wait to be ready, decide you’re ready enough, embrace who you are and create a plan that works for you. 

MISTAKE #3: Being afraid of other people’s opinions. 

Oh man, I feel this one, deeply! It’s why I’ve done a few podcasts episodes about exactly this! (episodes 270 + 271 ). Most of us get stuck in this mistake from time to time, whether we’re just starting or we’ve been in business for a decade. 

When makers join my free Facebook group (fb.com/groups/taraswiger )I ask them what’s holding them back, and would you be relieved to know that over a quarter of respondents say something about fear and other people’s approval (or disapproval)? But they’re definitely not alone! 

Just like the other mistakes, this one can be avoided by changing your belief.
First, realize that other people aren’t thinking of you that much. (How often do YOU spend judging other people’s behavior and actions?). 

Very few people are thinking or judging you. 

The next question is: so what? DO you even know for sure that they will disapprove? If so, do you want them to run your life? 

Do you want to stay where you are? Frozen by their (perceived) opinions?
If not, that’s the belief switch: Realize that you are not AFRAID of their opinion, you actually don’t care to live your life by their opinion. 

So there you have it – 3 mistakes you may be making in the way you’re THINKING of your business. The next step is to look at the mistakes you’re making in RUNNING your business. To learn how to avoid (or fix) those mistakes, join my free workshop!

Remember: you can always listen and subscribe in your favorite podcast app! 
iTunes | Spotify

 

3 mistakes to avoid in your business

300th episode! Q+A – your questions with my husband

It's the 300th episode of the podcast! OMG!

Celebrate with me in this episode as my husband and business-encourager asks me YOUR questions. We discuss the very twisty journey that brought me here in my business, how I plan my weeks, and how I order my coffee.

Listen in by pressing the play button below or see our adorableness by watching the video above. 

Questions were asked by Starship Captains Theresa Burich of Serenity Ranch Handmade and Dawn Craig of Fairy Tale Yarn Co.

Help me celebrate by:

  • Leaving a review on your podcast app! (Here it is on Apple Podcasts)
  • Joining the free Facebook group where I'll be going LIVE this week with a celebration!

Explore Your Enthusiasm episode 300

299: Why Instagram Stories

Are you using Instagram Stories in your business? They can be incredibly effective, but they can also be overwhelming and intimidating. Learn more about using Instagram Stories effectively at TaraSwiger.com/podcast299

Are you using Instagram Stories? Is it connecting with your customers and helping you reach your goals? Or are you confused about what to do to make it effective? Today I’m going to answer your questions about WHY you should be using Instagram Stories and HOW to make them work for you!

Today we’re diving into the tool Instagram Stories and how you can use them to connect with your right customers, build trust and make sales.

If you’re reading this podcast, thank you! You may wanna hop up above to the video of this episode as well because the video has a few extra minutes of showing you what exactly I’m talking about! You’ll find it at the top of the post.

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is an extra feature on Instagram, where you can post images or 15 second videos from your day. They expire after 24 hours.

You can shoot them “live” from inside the app, or you can use the photos in your photo library on your phone. You can also share your regular Instagram posts (if viewers click on them they’ll be taken to your post where they can like and comment) and you can share other people’s Instagram posts, which means you can share your customers photos of your work!

Why do Stories?

What is the best way to build trust with potential customers? It’s in-person events. Customers get to talk to you, touch the product, then buy directly from you. The second-best option is live video, it is the most similar to being in-person. The potential customer gets to see how you really talk, see what you’re working on.

This builds relationships and it builds trust. And more trust = more sales.

Stories allow you to show way more than you can in your Instagram grid. Are you packing orders, getting supplies, making products everyday? In Stories, you can show that!

What do you have in common with your customers? You can share that in Stories. For example: reading, relationships, personality type, preferences, etc.

Remember: You get to decide what to share.

How do you use Stories effectively?

What kind of Stories build relationships?

  • Personal
  • Unedited

Use Engagement tools

  • Polls,
  • Questions,
  • Sliders

Use DMs

Use Stories to tell your Marketing Message, and then save it to “Highlights”

You may be thinking – uh, what is my marketing message? What do I talk about? I outline what goes into your effective marketing message in my free workshop “4 Foundations” and we can work together on your Marketing Message inside the Starship Program. To watch the free workshop and learn more about how we can work together go to TaraSwiger.com/foundations

I’d love to hear how you are using Instagram Stories in your business! Come tell me on Instagram. I’m @taraswiger.

I’m going to give you homework right now to put this into practice:
Take a screenshot of your podcast app as you’re listening, then open Instagram Stories, share this photo and tag me @taraswiger and add the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm. This is such a low-stress way to get started, you don’t have to talk to the camera or anything.

While you’re on IG, send a DM and tell me what you learned from this episode!

Thank you so much for listening and I’m wishing you an enthusiastic week!

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.

298: How Instagram creates sales

It can be easy to waste time on social media, especially Instagram. Learn how to use Instagram to make sales in your creative business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast298

Is Instagram worth it? How do you make sales with Instagram? I know! This is one of the ongoing questions my students have about any tool, and Instagram in particular. Today I’m going to explain EXACTLY how you can increase your sales by using Instagram.

Before we dive into Instagram, we are coming right up on episode 300, and I am including YOU in this episode! To participate, head over to my free FB group: fb.com/groups/taraswiger and the info on how to be involved is right there, pinned to the top!

Today’s question comes directly from the FB group: Does Instagram actually make sales for anyone? It seems to be just a waste of time, a bunch of content going into the void.

First of all: yeah, it can DEFINITELY feel like a waste of your time!

The good news is: YOU are in charge of whether it's a waste of time or not. It’s true! You don’t have to wait for Instagram to send you people, or for your right buyer to just stumble upon you.

Instead, make Instagram effective for your business by creating a plan and using it to find, connect with, and build trust with your ideal buyers. You will make sales with Instagram when you talk to, connect with and build trust with your Ideal Buyers.

So how do you connect and build trust on Instagram? 

  1. Identify your Right People.
  2. Talk to your Right People on YOUR profile
  3. Find and connect with your Right People on their profile.

Now let’s get into it deeper.

Identify Your Right People

Who buys your item? Who wants what you sell? These are your Right People. This is who ALL your marketing should be for. This will impact what photos you use, what captions you write, what hashtags you utilize, everything about all of your marketing.

This is a deeper process than just answering a few questions and it is what I do with Captains inside the Starship. So if you want to know more about your people, check out the free workshop at TaraSwiger.com/Foundations and we can work together to identify your Right People.

On Your Profile

If you’re taking the time to post photos on your Instagram, then take the extra time to make it effective at making a connection with your Right Buyer.

How? Captions.

A photo might grab someone’s attention, but captions are how your customers get to know YOU, get to know your brand and what you stand for, and feel connected to you.

Yes, you could just write three words and be done, but if you’re taking the time to post, shouldn’t you take the time to make it worthwhile? Writing a longer post (over 65 words, which is the average), it will take longer, but it will also be more valuable.

The data shows that posts with longer captions generally have higher engagement than those with a shorter caption. Engagement is when your followers interact with your post (comment, like, save or share it). And more engagement leads to more people seeing your post.

Ok, so what do you write? This is where you come back to your RIght Buyer – what is she interested in? What does she need to know about your product or your company? We answer all these questions in the Starship, so you create effective posts.

On Her Profile

How does your customer find you?
Well, she may be searching, she may click on hashtags, but the most direct way for your customer to find you is… you find her.

Stop waiting for your Right Buyer to find your photos, or to find your shop – find her!

How? 

This goes back to the work you did to identify your RIght Buyer – once you have a very clear idea of who she is, you can look at who she follows, what sites she reads, what she’s into. One of the easiest ways is to look at your Actual Customers. See what they’re posting, who they’re following, what hashtags they use.
And… connect with her! Follow your customer on Instagram, comment on her posts, when she asks for a recommendation, give it! You’re not going to be SELLING to her, but you will be CONNECTING with her.

Look at who else they follow and who follows them. If that person seems like your Right Buyer, follow them! And connect.

Does this work? Doesn’t it take a lot of time?

Oh, I know, I hear you moaning now – but Tara! Doesn’t this take a lot of time? Does this work? 

And the answer is yes and yes. It does take time. But you are already scrolling on Instagram. Right? You are already spending time on social media that is not building your business. I’m not asking you to spend MORE time, I’m asking you to spend your time EFFECTIVELY. As in, doing stuff that will make a change.

As for it working, listen. I don’t recommend you do only this. This is one strategy in what should be a full plan for marketing, that includes clear messaging, email marketing, in-person marketing, along with Instagram.

This is not linear. You don’t get a 1:1 result. Or even a 10:1 result. Some posts will connect with people and get 5 new followers. Some will have a strong call to action and hit someone at just the right time and generate 2 or 10 sales. And some will just build a relationship and build trust, so that when you post your newest product, your followers are ready to click over and buy.

How does this actually work?

Well, here’s the thing: I’ve actually said all of this backwards to how your customer will experience it. How it’s going to work is that you are going to go out and connect with your Ideal Buyers on her profile. Leave comments, make recommendations, answer questions. Then, she will move from her profile to yours. You will be building a profile (full of photos and captions) that connect with her so she’ll stick around, maybe click through to your products, maybe follow you. Keep posting, with calls to action that lead her to click, and she’ll click through to your website and buy when she’s ready.

As I was sharing this in the Facebook group, I had someone ask “What about commenting on a post that already has tons of comments? Won’t I just get lost?”

Yes, yes you will. For marketing purposes, don’t bother with accounts that are super big, with dozens of comments. Your comment will mean so much more to someone who doesn’t get very many.

What I’ve noticed is that people have so much resistance to this idea. They don't want to do it because they don’t see immediate results. They don’t want to comment on other people’s posts, but they want people to comment on theirs.

Why? You show people how to interact with you. If you are never in comments, no one else will be. If you never follow anyone or interact, you can’t expect anyone to interact with you.

Yes, you will do work – captions, comments, stories, that won’t get a response.

So what? You’re learning, you’re creating a library of content. You are trial-and-error-ing it. You are getting better at your marketing messaging.

And guess what?

This podcast is built on the very principles you’ll apply to your Instagram. I create content that will delight you. It takes me a LOT of time and energy to create each episode I give it to you for free. I connect with you on social media, you may listen for a month or two years, all the while feeling more trust and connection with me, until you feel ready to join the Starship and work with me.

Are all those episodes I create where you didn’t buy a waste of time and energy?
No, they were building a relationship.

But don’t forget – your posts aren’t building that relationship with ONE person, they are building it with many people who are seeing today, and people who will scroll back and read it a year from now.

If you’ve been listening for a while, and you are curious about learning more to work together, check out how we can work together in my free masterclass – 4 Foundations to a Thriving Handmade Business. You can find it at taraswiger.com/foundations

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.

297: Favorite books of Winter 2020

I explore my enthusiasm by reading… a lot. Learn all about the books I’ve been enjoying over the last month at TaraSwiger.com/podcast297

What is the best book you’ve read lately? In today’s episode, I’m sharing my favorite books of this winter – from December – February.

Every quarter I round-up my most-favorite books and share them here. If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may recognize some of these books, as they were part of my Best Books of 2019. If you like learning about great books and you are NOT subscribed over on YouTube, you are missing out! I share reading vlogs, monthly round-ups, and all kinds of fun bookish stuff in my Monday videos at TaraSwiger.com/YouTube. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.

Stats
I have read 16 books so far, and I will likely finish another 3 before the end of the month. 4 mysteries, 2 giant YA space operas over 600 pages, 3 personal memoir essay-ish things.

All three of the memoirs were great, so I’m going to just quickly tell you, you should read them:

  1. Enough, by Shauna Ahern, who you may know as Gluten-Free Girl. I read her blog years ago, and so I picked this up when I saw it on the New Book shelf at the library. It is totally different and so good. Shauna tells the story of how she began to feel as if she is enough, after a lifetime of living by the girl code (criticizing your body, trying to be smaller), a traumatic childhood and trying to make money on the internet. I think anyone who is a woman or works online should read it.
  2. How We Fight for our Lives by Saeed Jones, is the memoir of a young black gay man growing up in Texas. There is violence, there is sexual content, and there is a really beautiful story of finding himself and figuring out his relationship with his mother.
  3. Thick and Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom, is a series of essays about her experiences being a black woman academic living in the world. It’s about thickness, of body and of thought, and explores beauty and twitter and class mobility. Read it if you like Roxanne Gay or Lindy West’s Shrill.

Now, the fiction books:

Such a Fun Age by Kelly Reid might be my favorite book of the year, ALREADY. A young black woman is babysitting for a white family and has a very racially charged experience in a grocery store. The story unfolds from that tense beginning, but the book itself manages to be fun and compelling and build a momentum that had me up until 3am finishing it. It’s really about white privilege and how “good” white people try to do the right thing while completely ignoring the black person’s agency and selfhood. This book is complex and real and although it sounds like it could be heavy, it’s actually just great fun.

Illuminae, by Amy Kaufman is so weird I can’t believe it’s so good. It’s a kind of YA space opera with horror. I only think it’s YA because the protagonist is a teenage girl, who is saving absolutely everyone. But it’s a little dark and splattery for like, 12 year old Tara. It is really about survival and sacrifice and telling your own story. I’ve read the second book in the trilogy, Gemina, and I liked it almost as much. I’ve got the last book, Obsidio, on my shelf.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has been on my shelf forever, but I had been avoiding it because it’s written in prose. It took me a minute to sink into it, but when I did, man! It beautifully tells the story from the perspective of a young Dominican girl living in Harlem who is figuring out adolescence and her conservative family, while starting to write slam poetry. It is just the most gorgeous and most true book I’ve read about what it means to be a girl when you start to get unwanted male attention… but it’s not even really about that.

Ok, so a few more books I read and loved but am not going to go into detail about:

These were a few really good reading months! I think I got to some deeper books, like the memoirs, because we didn’t have kids for a few of the months (in case you don’t understand how we only sometimes have kids – we’re foster parents).

When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which frankly, goes to buying diapers. I get most of my books at my local library, so check yours out because libraries are amazing. Lots  of my faves came from the Book of the Month Club (referral link).

In a few weeks I have my 300th episode – to learn how you can participate in my celebration, be sure you’ve joined the Facebook group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger

Thanks for listening and have a book-filled enthusiastic week!

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.

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