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:
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.
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.
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!
Now that you’ve worked on your fear, what about your other beliefs that are holding you back? What do you need to believe in order to move towards your goals?
Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about what’s holding you back.
We’ve talked about how a lot of you say what’s holding you back is… YOU. Fear is at the heart of a lot of it. Another aspect of what’s holding you back is what you believe – about yourself, your business, and how the world works. This is your mindset, the set of beliefs that form your frame that you look at the world through.
Now, before you think, “yeah, yeah, I gotta have the right mindset. But what I really need is 5 steps to grow my Instagram!”…let’s take a minute, just like 10 minutes, to go deeper on this.
If your mindset and your beliefs are holding you back, it won’t matter how many tactics and tricks you learn for Instagram or Etsy or craft shows. It won’t matter because YOU will keep holding YOU back.
We’re going to talk about a few different ways your beliefs can hold you back. The first one is your mindset – what you believe you are capable of and how the world works. Over the years you’ve heard me talk about the research in the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. As a researcher she looked across areas – school, business, sports – and found that people think of themselves and their challenges in one of two ways – with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
Fixed mindset = believing that you are the way you are and you’re not going to change. Growth mindset = believing that you can grow and improve and learn to reach your challenges.
You’ve probably heard this before. And you’ve probably decided, I wanna have a growth mindset.
But this is actually WAY harder than a one time decision and it comes up again and again.
Here’s what I’ve noticed in the last few years of thinking about this and talking with makers about it:
You probably have different mindsets in different areas.
You might have a very growth mindset when it comes to your relationship (We can figure it out!) but a very fixed mindset when it comes to your finances (we’ll never figure it out!)
Time and experiences can change your mindset.
I’ve found that the more you become experienced in an area, the easier it is to become fixed in the belief that you’ve learned everything and figured it out. This is when you start to say “That won’t work for me.” “I tried that, it never works.”
Those are actually the two phrases that are red alarms when I’m talking to a business owner. I know that they’re coming at it from a fixed mindset and there’s not much I can help them with unless they shift their mindset from “I already know what I know” to “I can learn and keep trying”
But I’m guilty of this too! I started out my business with a growth mindset – I knew there was so much I didn’t know and I knew I could learn it.
Over time, I learned more, and my mindset became more fixed. I think I know what works, what doesn’t and what is worth my time. My challenge, all the time, is to try new things with the mindset of: I can learn how this works for me. I do this through trying new tools (TikTok!), trying new strategies (webinars) and even trying new business models.
So when we’re talking about how you’re in your way – the question is: Do you believe you can grow or change? What areas feel really “fixed” or stuck? What areas do you feel really open to learning?
Another aspect of your belief that affects your business is your expectations and flexibility – what do you expect will happen? In what timeline? Or else…what?
I am so surprised when people tell me that they’re quitting their business because it didn’t reach a really outsize goal in a short time frame.
It makes me wonder: did you really want a business (which is doing the work every day forever) or did you just want that goal (probably money)?
I’m going to say this really clearly – having a business is doing the work day in and day out, whether you reach one particular goal or not. It is learning, changing, experimenting and being flexible. If you don’t want to do that, you don’t want a business.
And hey – that’s ok!
If you want a for-sure amount of money for your amount of work, you’re going to need to get a job where you are paid a specific amount of money for a specific amount of work.
Owning a business is not like a job. AT ALL.
So what are your expectations of your business?
As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, I don’t believe in lowering your expectations – I believe in setting big goals and working hard towards them. But I believe in expecting your business to behave as a business – to need tending and changing and flexibility. And to adjust your expectations as you learn more about what your business is.
Having the wrong expectations of your business can hold you back from appreciating it for what it is and for putting in the work you’ll need to, to reach your goals.
Belief in yourself
So this last point is a little bit about growth mindset, but it’s also about confidence. The most important belief you hold in your business is your belief about yourself. The number one indicator of what your business will do is what you think is possible.
Yes, YOUR belief in what you think YOU can do is going to shape how far or fast your business goes.
Why? Because if you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. If you don’t think it’s possible, you won’t do the work.
Wait, what about realistic expectations? Yeah, you need to expect your business to act like a business. But how big you dream and what you think YOU are capable of is going to determine how hard you work at making it happen. So EXPECT that your business is going to have ups and downs, that it will take work and growth and challenge you. But BELIEVE that you can do it. You are capable. You can learn.
Here’s what I can tell you for sure: if you believe that you aren’t capable enough to make this happen, it won’t. NOT because you aren’t capable, but because you won’t do the work. You won’t put in the time to learn and grow.
This isn’t some “believe it and it will happen” stuff… this is the hard fact that if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.
And listen, maintaining that belief is NOT easy. I shifted how my business works about six months ago and I believe it is absolutely the right thing and that it is absolutely going to allow my business to grow more than it would have… but it’s taking some time to see that change, as dollar bills. It is taking me learning and growing in a bunch of ways. If that belief wavers, I’m going to stop moving forward. I’m going to stop midway and try something else, which will kill my momentum and confuse customers and cost me money and sales.
But if I maintain the belief and keep moving forward (while being flexible), I’m going to see results because I believe in what I have to share is valuable, it transforms businesses and I want it to help as many people as possible.
Maintaining belief in yourself and your business direction is not going to be easy. But giving up or stopping halfway isn’t a better option. It may be easier to stop or to try something else, but when you do that too often, you start to feel scattered and confused and unfocused.
And hey, that’s where a LOT of makers are today. They have tried so many different directions, so many different marketing strategies, that they’re all turned around and confused. If that’s you, I’ve got a workshop that will help focus you. You can find it at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.
I hope this series about what’s standing in your own way and how to move past these blocks have helped you reach your goals! Next week I’m sharing my quarterly round-up of favorite books and in 4 weeks we’ll have the 300th episode SPECTACULAR. It’s going to involve YOU and YOUR questions, so be sure you’ve joined our private FB group to get all the details and be involved, at FB.com/groups/taraswiger
Are you getting in the way of your handmade business moving forward? Yeah, it’s time to get out of your own way.
Lately we’ve been doing a series on how to make your 2020 goals come true. In episodes 292 and 293, I gave you lots of applicable, step-by-step advice on how to increase sales, so be sure to head over to TaraSwiger.com/launch if you missed that.
But as I said in those episodes, only a small percentage of people will follow through with the action plan.
Well, for some listeners, what I shared just isn’t applicable. Maybe you don’t have a business.
Maybe you are just starting and you don’t have any products yet.
For some listeners, growth isn’t their primary goal in 2020. Maybe you have more demand than you can supply. Or perhaps your work day has gone wonky, and what you want to work on this year is working LESS or taking more time off or stopping work at a certain time.
We’re not always in a place of growth.
Or maybe you’re like I was in 2019, where your life has been upended and your main goal is to just HOLD ON and try to figure out a new way to move forward (or even stay in the same place) with totally new circumstances. Last year my own focus wasn’t the growth of my business, it was the growth of my family.
Wherever you are is perfect.
But what about those listeners who DO have products, who have a way to sell them, and who have the goal to increase their sales in 2020?
Why don’t they follow through?
We hit on some of the reasons last week (in episode 294) – you may feel unfocused, feel like you don’t have enough time, or feel overwhelmed and stuck in self-doubt.
In other words, you’re not moving forward because YOU are holding yourself back.
Last week I gave you some homework – to write down HOW you were holding yourself back and WHY you might have done that.
(If you skipped the homework you can hit pause now and write it down, or even record it as a voice memo to yourself!)
Why are you doing this? Well, without hearing your answers, I can make a guess, because this is what stops me: Fear.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear that I won’t be safe.
Fear that everyone will realize I have no idea what I’m doing and they (you) will think it’s all a scam and everyone will hate me (and I’ll be broke and alone).
Fear that I’ll get it wrong, that people will see me get it wrong and then will all leave and my business will fall apart (and I’ll be broke and alone).
That’s kind of intense, right?
But that’s why this fear is so good at holding us back – we never look directly at it, so it just bubbles up underneath the surface and we feel a kind of uneasiness or nervousness or self-doubt. We don’t feel “quite right” so we don’t step forward.
What do you do about it?
Good news: We’ve already done the first step! The first step is to bring it to conscious awareness so we can SEE the fear, so it stops running the show from the background.
Then, we need to acknowledge it for what it is. It isn’t that WE suck. It isn’t that we need to do more or learn more or get more confident.
Fear holding you back is a NATURAL part of growth and exploration. Your fear is your sweet little brain trying to keep you safe. That’s it’s whole job! It’s saying “Hey there, I don’t know about that, I need to keep you alive so BACK AWAY FROM THE UNKNOWN.”
If you’ve experienced trauma (whether it was one-time acute trauma or ongoing trauma like an unsafe childhood), your brain is a SPECIALIST in spotting danger (maybe where there isn’t any!) and keeping you safe. This may be why you experience something that SEEMS simple (like talking to strangers in your craft booth, or posting a personal post on Instagram) as terrifying and flight-fight-freeze inducing.
Understanding and accepting this about yourself and your sweet little (confused) brain is vital to you moving forward. It shifts your focus from “pushing forward” to “gently finding a way forward.” Because when you push? Your fear pushes back. When you gently find a way to feel safe while doing the thing?” Your fear settles down.
Your fear just wants to be noticed and heard.
So we’ve identified it, we’ve recognized that it’s trying to keep us safe, but how do we hear it without letting it run the show?
Let it have it’s say – let your fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen.
Tim Ferris calls this “fear-setting”, it’s like the opposite of goal-setting, but is important if you’re going to move forward with a goal. Marie Forleo has a version of this exercise in her book Everything is Figureoutable. In other words, this works. So try it.
Pull out a piece of paper and answer: What am I afraid of actually happening?
What is the absolute worst case scenario if that fear comes true?
And then what else horrible will happen?
And now that you’ve listened to your Fear, you’ve let it really unspool its dark fantasy, it’s time to apply some reality to your fear.
If that happened, the absolute worst case scenario… what would you do?
How could you come back from it?
What skills, abilities and experiences do you have that you could use?
When I’ve done this with Starship Captains, we always take a deep breath and feel a little shaken and a little relieved. It is SCARY to think of all that can go wrong! But I bet you noticed that your worst case scenario is actually kinda… figureoutable? There’s very little you’re going to do in your business that’s going to shake the core of what you value. Your Etsy shop isn’t going to kill your loved ones. Your email newsletter isn’t going to push your friends away. Unless you’re becoming a skydiving instructor, your business is unlikely to cause you bodily harm.
So, how do you feel? Deep breath! Do you feel a little more able to move forward?
(If not, did you do this in your head, or in writing? When you just think it, your brain often distracts you with other stuff and you don’t really go all the way. Write it down.)
Now, listen. This is not a one-time thing. If it were, I would be fearless and unwavering since the first time I did this back in 2006!
Instead, this allows us to take the NEXT STEP. Which is all we need for now.
But it is very likely the fear is going to jump back up when we come to the next unknown thing.
Elizabeth Gilbert says (in her book Big Magic, which is great) that we may not ever be able to get Fear out of the car, on our journey. But we CAN stop Fear from driving the car or grabbing the steering wheel or pumping the breaks. We can ride with Fear next us. We can acknowledge the work it’s trying to do (keep us safe), appreciate that, and still choose to not let it run the show. (This is a lot like driving with a screaming toddler in the backseat.)
Sooo, bad news! You’re going to have to do this a lot. I need to acknowledge and listen to my Fear every time I set a new goal. Every time I start a new project. Sometimes I have to do it before a speaking gig, when my nerves get bad! I had to do it when I became a foster mom! Every time I level up or my business levels up, I have to do it again.
But here’s what I hope you take from this podcast episode – YOU are holding yourself back, because your brain is trying to keep you ALIVE. YOU are a smart, capable, adorable human who is capable of so much more than you think, if you find a way to gently move past your stuck places. You don’t need to feel (or be) fearless to take the next step. You will build confidence through ACTION.
I am wishing you so much peace and courage this week.
What is keeping you from achieving a profitable, sustainable business that you feel confident in? What is keeping you from working towards your goals every week?
We’ve been working on reaching your sales goal, all month. To hear episodes about increasing and sustaining your sales, tune in to episodes 292 & 293. After those episodes, I debated over what to cover next and then I realized: what’s keeping you from your goal is different for everyone. You have your own roadblock, so let’s talk about and work through it!
One of the questions I ask everyone when they join my free FB group (are you a member yet?) is, “When it comes to your business being profitable AND doable, what do you think is standing in your way?”
So today that’s what we’re going to talk about: the things that are standing in your way. And next week, we’ll talk more about how to get out of your own way.
It’s my hope that hearing what’s holding others back will help you recognize what’s holding you back, what is standing in your way.
So what is holding MOST handmade business back?
The answers I get most often:
Focus – I just can’t seem to work on what matters, I keep getting distracted!
Time – I don’t have enough time or I’m not using my time effectively (focus!)
Self-doubt or confidence – I doubt myself and so don’t act. If I were more confident I would act
Fear – most people who write this answer don’t give any more details… so I have to guess – are you afraid of failure? Afraid of poverty? Afraid of embarrassment?
Many people answer: ME, I am holding myself back. This feels like the REAL answer to all of these other answers – YOU feel self-doubt or fear. YOU want more confidence. I think this answer is the most truthful answer.
As you read those different answers, which one resonates the most? Which sounds like your internal dialogue?
And here’s the more important question: what are you doing about it?
Most people tell me they are working on marketing – social media, email list, or something systematic.
But… that’s not what’s standing in your way. Not a single person has told me KNOWLEDGE or INFORMATION was standing in their way.
If you know that something else is standing in your way, why aren’t you working on that?
I think the reason it’s that it’s much easier to learn something than it is to change ourselves; it’s easier to listen to another episode than to inquire within.
So what is holding YOU back?
Hit pause, ask yourself this and write down your answer. Write as long as our takes for you to process it.
Now, how are you feeling?
You may be feeling AMAZING because you got some clarity and you’re ready to change.
But you may be feeling pretty bad, because OMG, WHY CAN’T I JUST GET OVER IT.
But I have really really good news.
None of this is holding you back.
Bear with me. I know it FEELS like you need less fear, more confidence, more time, more focus to move forward but what if I told you you’re only going to feel less fear and more confidence and you’re going to find the time only AFTER you do the thing?
What if the way to move past what’s holding you back is to let go of it? To let go of the idea that you need to fix it or fix yourself?
What if you were perfectly suited to build your business, as you were?
What if you were ready to move forward on the next project or with the next client, exactly as you are?
I know, I know, you want ACTION ITEMS. You want to DO something.
So I’m going to give you episodes and resources for each of these issues, so you can get some actionable steps.
But. I can tell you, after working with hundreds of makers, designers and artists, you are going to move beyond what’s holding you back only after you believe you will.
Now, belief isn’t the ONLY thing that’s going to build your business.
But without it, you won’t actually take any of the actions that will make a difference.
So, if you’re ready to start believing you CAN move past the fear and time and focus, I’ve got some recommendations for episodes that address each of these in detail.
The best way to get focused is to be CLEAR on what you need to focus on. This is why we set goals and then create plans. So you can wake up each day, knowing what you need to do to move forward. My best resource for this is Map Your Business, which you can find at TaraSwiger.com/map
If distraction is your problem, I’ve got a whole kit of resources for you at TaraSwiger.com/distraction – it’ll help you crush marketing distractions and internet distractions!
Over the years I have written and shared a lot about how to manage your time, get more done and create a productive workday. My absolute best strategies are all in the class Get More Done. I created it at the CreativeLive studio, so it is 5+ hours of professional-quality video lessons, with dozens of worksheets, all at the most affordable price (last time I checked it was $29). Get it here.
Self-doubt or confidence:
I have a LOT of episodes about this, as well. I also created a BizConfidence free course that I’ll be sharing again later this year.
In the meantime, check out these episodes:
Episode 93 – the difference between arrogance and confidence
If you were thinking, oh man, I am what is holding me back, I have a little homework for you.
Next week we’re going to go more into how you can stop holding yourself back, and in the meantime, I want you to journal a bit. It doesn’t have to be a special notebook or anything official, just get any scrap of paper and set a timer for 10 minutes and answer the question: What am I doing to stand in my own way? Why?
Now, no matter what you wrote on the paper, I want you to practice holding it in kindness and gentleness. Look at it (and you) the way I would, with a lot of love and acceptance, and I’d say “Hey, it’s ok. You’re doing the best you can. It is soooo good that you’re acknowledging whatever this is. Let’s work on it a bit next week.”
How do you keep sales going? When you don’t have anything new? When you’re not launching? What can you do to stay consistent?
Today we are diving in to making more consistent sales!
Recently Starship Captain Brenda asked: “I just launched a pattern last week and had a good amount of sales, but now what?”
I’m going to share with you what I told her.
This is the second episode in a series about reaching your 2020 goal of increased sales. You can listen to the first, which was about launching and find the Massive Launch Resource Kit at taraswiger.com/launch
Ok, let’s get into it: what do you do to keep sales going?
The answer is simple: Send another email.
Yes, if you send 3-5 emails during your launch and now it’s over, get right back into it! Send an email! Post on Instagram! Use the momentum to establish a consistency you might not have had before.
I know you're worried your people won’t want to hear from you too much – YOU ARE WRONG.
They want to hear from you even when you’re not launching. If they stuck with you through the launch, they are VERY interested. In fact, they are closer to buying now than they ever were before.
(If not, they would have unsubscribed or stop opening… in which case they won’t see your messages anyhow!)
Always always remember: you are talking to people who WANT to hear from you.
So what should you send?
Well, if you’ve just held a launch that made more sales than usual, then your products are landing in the hands of your customers – which is what you should feature!
If you’re a knitwear designer or yarn maker, you can see your customer projects on Ravelry. If not (or if no one is sharing them yet), you can ASK them to share, better yet, INCENTIVIZE them to.
Yep, offer them something for sharing. Maybe it’s free shipping code for the next 5 people who post a photo with your hashtag or you host a giveaway and everyone who posts a photo and tags it gets entered to win. Now, it’s not ethical to give anything in exchange for a REVIEW. I’m not saying to incentivize reviews, rather incentivize word-of-mouth – people sharing their product on their own social media, while tagging you and using your hashtag.
Then comment on every single one of those posts and ask the share-er if they give you permission to share it on your account!
Then you’ll have customer images and stories to post!
Be sure you also collecting customer feedback when it’s sent directly to you – via DM or email. Have a template that you send in response to nice emails. Mine says something like “Thank you so much, this made my day! Would you mind if I shared this on my social media or website? I will tag you or link to you when I quote you!” (Now, the testimonials for MY business might be private (eg, if someone shares their sales numbers, they may not want to do that publicly), so I also offer to post it anonymously, but most of you sell something people are happy to talk about publicly.
Almost every time I’ve shared this strategy with a Starship Captain, the maker or designer has been SO nervous to start asking their customers if they can quote them. They are certain their customers will not agree or be upset, but you know what? In every single case their customers have been THRILLED and really flattered. People LOVE to talk about what they love!
This has held true for product makers and service providers – tech editors, yarn shops, jewelry designers, glass artists, knitwear designers, home decor brands, life coaches, knitwear designers – your customers WANT to see you succeed and share their great experience with you!
So that is going to provide a new category of content. Every time you share a customer photo or quote, be sure you link to how to get the thing.
Another strategy that it’s easy to forget is to focus attention on your older, great products. If you followed the directions for a great launch, then you know that it takes some time and effort to really highlight what’s great and valuable about a product. Of course you should do this when you have a new product, but you should ALSO give this attention and love to your older products!
A few years ago I helped a knitwear designer increase her sales when she took a break from publishing new designs with this strategy. She was working on a book, so she couldn’t also be designing and selling individual patterns. She went through her back catalog, chose some customer projects to highlight, wrote up what customers loved about it and her inspiration and highlighted one older pattern in each email and scheduled them to go out once every two weeks for six months. She was surprised that very few of her email subscribers even knew that she had these older patterns (she kept getting comments like “I love the new design!”) and she was even more surprised that her overall sales increased, while she wasn’t actually working in her business at all.
That increase in sales happened for a few reasons:
She was being more consistent, her readers started to look forward to her emails
Every time she sent an email about a “new” pattern, it reminded people to go on and buy the pattern they were considering last month.
The consistency and large back-catalog communicated trust and reliability, which built her brand’s perceived value (a.k.a. people are willing to spend more money when they trust you)
Nowadays I would also add in schedule Instagram posts highlighting the same patterns she was featuring in her emails.
Even though you may not be a designer, please think through how you can apply this to your own business! You could feature older products, or the craft shows that you’ve done, or the retail shops you’re in, or your bestsellers.
Note what worked – do more of it.
This may sound really obvious, but take a minute to think – do you really keep track of what’s working, really working (not just how you feel about it) and then purposefully re-use it?
You can use the same strategies.
The same photos.
The same captions.
The same sales emails.
The same schedule.
Will people notice?
Not really. I used to use the same exact emails to launch the Starship every 3 months, with only a few updates…and they worked as well the 2nd year as they did the first year. Why? Because new people were seeing them every time. New people are coming to you, they don’t know what they used to do.
And if it’s the same people, they haven’t opened and read and looked at and MEMORIZED every single thing you’ve done. So try it!
You can also do more of what worked by looking at WHY it worked. Do pictures of your face do better? Take more! Are captions that are long or short do better? Do that!
You can see all of this on whatever platform you’re using – your email stats, your Instagram “insights” (you have to have a “Business” account to see them, and you should definitely upgrade in order to have access to that!).
Use those stats to shape what you’ll do next.
Above all, the way to keep sales going is to keep TRYING new things (and old things!), to not give up when you have a dry month. To not get discouraged when you need to step back or take a break or something goes wrong.
At the heart of this philosophy is to take responsibility – to realize YOU have a job to do to increase sales. Etsy isn’t going to do it, Instagram isn’t going to do it – YOU have to figure it out by learning and trying and iterating.
It is very easy to say, well, sales are down because of… the election, or Brexit, or Ravelry made a change. But there are businesses who thrive in every condition, in every change. Giving up and blaming outside circumstances is not the way to grow. Taking responsibility for what you can control (and letting go of what you can’t) is the way to reach your goal.
If you implement any of these strategies, let me know, I’m @TaraSwiger on IG. Be sure you come join our Facebook Group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger so you can chat about it with other makers and artists committed to their business in 2020.
Thank you for listening and have an enthusiastic week.
You’ve put in the work to develop and create something new, something totally awesome. It may be a new design, a new line, or just a new colorway. You want your people to know about this thing, but you don’t want to feel sales-y or weird…so how do you announce your thing to the world in a way you can feel good about?
In this episode I teach you EXACTLY how to create your next launch (and I've created a Kit with all the resources you need!)
I’ve talked about launching in the past, in fact, back in episode 162, I created a checklist. To make it easy for you to find everything, I’ve gathered it all up in one place! Get the Launching Resource Guide at TaraSwiger.com/launch You’ll get the links to every episode about launches, along with the PDF schedule I created for episode 162 and you’ll get the Launch Plan I’ve created for you in today’s episode.
Before we dive into what you’re going to do, your first step is to get the right mindset. A launch is making the most of your product. It’s highlighting or featuring your product. It’s putting all your time and energy behind ONE item, so that you can really highlight the benefits of that one thing.
“But, Tara, I want to increase my sales of everything. “
Yes, and focusing on the benefits of one of your items, and giving it all the attention it deserves WILL increase sales of other things. I know this for sure, the knitwear designers I’ve worked with will launch one new pattern, but see an uptick in sales of their other patterns.
So you see that over time, as you launch new items and add more back catalog, every launch can bring in more sales.
Before we get into the steps, I want to be clear – you can launch brand-new products, or you can “launch” older items that you’ve had in your shop forever. Theses steps can be used to highlight or feature anything – the point is putting as much love and attention and time in order to market it effectively.
Every launch is going to go better if you have some channels where you’ve been consistently connecting with your ideal buyer.
That might be Instagram, YouTube, a business Facebook page, your blog, your email list – if you don’t have at least SOME people gathered someplace where they will see your message, you can’t expect to make sales – you don’t have anyone to sell TO.
Launching regularly is going to be a way to get content and consistency in those communities, so if you haven’t been showing up consistently, this Launch plan can help you start to show up consistently, but adjust your expectations accordingly – if you haven’t already been connnecting, you won’t make a sale as quickly.
(If you have no idea where or how to connect with your ideal buyer (or who that even is), head over to the Resources for this episode, and I’ll like a free workshop that will teach you more about this concept.)
Here’s your launch plan
Pick a product to launch and clarify the benefits
Create an authentic offer with a deadline.
Define your goals and commit to doing what it takes to reach them.
Go to where you have people.
Keep notes and keep experimenting.
Let’s go through this step-by-step:
Pick a product and clarify the benefits.
What are you going to launch? What does your buyer love about it? What does your need to know before she can decide? What makes it valuable? List the physical attributes (features) – how does that translate into benefits (what it means for the customer)
(I have episodes that dive deeper into these questions, they’ll be linked up in the Resource Guide at TaraSwiger.com/launch )
Think about communicating the answers both in visuals (pictures and videos) and in words – write it up like you will share it with your audience.
Don’t skip this step – really write out the answer to these questions and take as much time as it needs to clearly communicate this. This will save you tons of time later (You won’t be sitting down to Instagram thinking “What the heck do I want to say?”)
Create an authentic offer with a deadline.
So here’s the thing – you might not have naturally-occuring deadlines, but your launch is going to go better if it has a start date and end date, and if buyers have a reason to buy NOW and not later.
But this doesn’t mean you just make up a deadline or you lie about what the real deadline is. Don’t say it won’t be available later if it will be. That’s what I mean by authentic.
What I mean by offer is – what are you selling right now?
Your product + right now special = your offer.
Most people jump right to a sale or discount, “Oh, I’ll give 10% off until Friday, that’s my offer.”
Sure, you can do that, but that’s not sustainable and if you discount regularly, people will expect it and wait for it. (Think about those big box craft store 40% off coupons – do you ever buy anything full price from Micheals when you know you could wait for the 40% off coupons?)
Spend a little more time to come up with something more interesting, something with a naturally end point.
If you’re launching a brand-new product for the first time ever, your offer is simply: Get the newest thing first! You don’t need to add on anything to that offer. But when you’re launching something that has been sitting in your shop, try an offer!
Here’s a few suggestions:
A knitalong or group event for your pattern (or book or kit) at X date, so your deadline is the start of that (or the shipping deadline, if you’ve got to ship yarn)
A brand-new product that you’re offering exclusively to your list (or followers) first – the deadline is when it’s no longer exclusive (and then you launch it to others for a week or two)
Make a limited number – when the spots (or products) are gone, they’re gone.
Customize it for free for the next X buyers. (Put their name on it, or sign it!)
Give it a bonus, for a limited time (a free mini-product for next 20 purchases, a Resource Guide (aka, PDF), a free 15min consultation with you, to make the most of their product, an entry into a giveaway you’re holding with another brand). How do you know what will work best? Test it!
Can you skip this step and just focus on highlighting one of your normal products, nothing special, without a deadline?
Absolutely! In fact, that’s just good marketing – in between launches with deadlines you can just focus on a product at a time for 2-4 weeks! But try some special offers, once a quarter or so, to experiment with what works!
Before you’re done, write out the offer and deadline, as you’ll explain it to your customer. If this is new, it can feel awkward to communicate, so you’ll want to clear on your words before you start posting about it. (Avoid over-explaining yourself)
Define your goals + commit to them
Why are you doing this? What do you want?
It is really easy to get excited about a launch and half-way through just feel tired of it all.
Having a clear vision of why you’re doing this and what it’s bringing to your business can keep you going when you get sick of talking about the same thing.
Take time to think about WHY you want to do this.
What do you hope to learn? How will this impact your business? Why does that matter?
What is the deeper reason of why you want to grow your business?
How long will this launch period last?
Are you willing to go all in and commit?
Committing to a goal means that you’re going to do the work to make it happen, and then you let it go. Go all in on the work, the planning, the implementation, the experimenting and trying things and showing up, and let go of the results. Y’all tell me you’re afraid of committing to goals because you’re afraid of failure, or letting yourself down. But committing to a goal doesn’t mean you can NOT FAIL, it means that you are willing to keep working when it doesn’t happen right away. You’re not going to give up. But you gotta let go of “what if it fails”. So what? You’ll still be loved, you’ll still have a business, you’ll still be worthy, but now you’ll ALSO have all this data of what works and what you need to do in order to see real results.
Show up where your people are.
Now it’s time for what you probably think of as launching – the actual marketing!
The good news is that you already have a ton of the thinking done. Now it’s just time to plan it, schedule it and implement it.
First: Identify your channels. Where are your people?
I’m going to talk about marketing channels here (reaching OUT to people), but before you do that, you’ll want to make sure that offer is on your website, explained clearly, highlighting the benefits and sharing social proof when you have it. (Do you have happy customers? Pictures of people using your product? Use that on your offer page. This may be a sales page, or this may link to where they buy (Ravelry, Etsy, etc), but you need it all in one place.
When it comes to sharing the message, define where exactly you’ll post (don’t leave this for later, write it all out so you can schedule ahead of time, if possible.
My preference for where you spend your energy:
Your email list (unlike social media, you know your subscribers will have the message delivered)
Facebook Group (going Live)
Instagram + Instagram Stories
Facebook Business Page (going Live)
Anything else – post on YouTube, mention it on your podcast, share it with specific people or groups.
Got your list of where you’ll show up? Next is to decide WHEN and how often and then plan it.
I’m going to assume you trust me and you really want to go all in, so instead of telling you how to think about it, I’m going to treat you like you’re one of my Starship Captains and I’m going to tell you exactly what to do, ok?
(This is what we do in the monthly Group Coaching – this is directly from a recent coaching session)
In your launch week:
Send 3 emails:
Announcing the offer, with the list of benefits, mention the deadline, link directly to the offer page.
Share a customer photo, testimonial (or a test-knitter’s project and feedback, if you’re a designer). If you don’t have a customer story or testimonial to share, talk about your inspiration, with an eye to the benefits for the buyer. Include a direct link to the product and explain the deadline clearly
Warning! Deadline is today! Grab it here (keep this short, include a direct link to buy it.
Post on Instagram daily (or sub in your FB biz page – better yet hook them up so an IG post goes right to your FB page)
Post the announcement of the offer
Talk about one of the benefits (close up of the product, if applicable)
Share a customer story or testimonial or project
What inspired you (with a focus on how that impacts the buyer)
Benefits + discussion of value
Go Live at least twice:
Warning! Offer is ending!
If you’re launch is more than a week (10-14 days is a good length for most of my customers), add in an email between 2 + 3, where you talk about your inspiration or the benefits, and keep posting on IG daily (or each weekday) – share your process, your studio, your experience. When people buy or start to receive their thing, share every one of their posts and if they’re not posting it (yet) thank them on Instagram Stories.
So that’s your plan!
You may not have all the channels I’ve listed here – don’t let that stop you! Take you what you do have and apply this to your channels. Like I said at the beginning, if you haven’t been consistent or more than 100+ people on any platform, you can still absolutely follow these steps, but expect it to increase your connection, not necessarily make sales.
Next up. you’ll need to actually WRITE the content and take the photos for the platforms YOU have, and schedule it when you can (using your email software, or an app like Buffer or Later for Facebook and Instagram) and add the live elements to your calendar.
Your launch is going to be less stressful if you know what to post, when, and it’s all in one doc.
Not sure what to write and include? This is the kind of thing we work on the Starship. For more on that, check out the Launch Resource Kit – I’ll share the free podcast episodes that are related, and I’ve linked up to the Masterclass where you can learn how I can work with you to help you develop your most effective launch.
Show up, take notes and keep experimenting.
The magic of this Launch Plan is that it gives you specific tasks to do that will then give you data about what works in your business, but the only way to get those benefits is to TRACK what is working.
After you’ve got it all planned and written, use the spreadsheet included in the Launch Resource Guide to track the outcomes of the actions you’re taking.
As a culture we talk a lot about planning the year for about 2 seconds on December 31st and January 1st, but the fact is, when you’re building a business or following a dream, you are planning and implementing a plan all the time! Today I’m going to share how I planned my New Year, warts and all.
Welcome to the New Year! Over the years I have written (and recorded) a lot about New Year and seasonal planning, so this year I decided to share exactly what I’m doing, with a bit of my feelings and experience as I do it, so you know you’re not alone.
You can get access to ALL of my episodes about planning your New Year AND a new worksheet, at TaraSwiger.com/2020Goals. Download it now!
It started in early December…
Inside the Starship, we read the book Everything is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo, as a part of our Q4 Book Club. This book is packed with encouragement and tough love for moving forward on your big dream, no matter how unreachable it feels.
I really committed to not just reading it, but also working through the exercises. It helped me get clear on what’s held me back from setting a bigger goal (like, really big) and work through that. The book is so uplifting and encouraging, I think this helped me shed a bit of self-doubt that has held me back in the last 2 years.
Actually, let’s chat about self-doubt holding me back. I talked about this a bit in episode 252, if you’d like to hear more about how I worked through it then. The thing is – I had a major depressive episode in 2018 and it rattled me.
Even after I came out of it, I had this lingering fear that I wasn’t going to be able to follow through on anything, that I shouldn’t commit to anything because I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Soon after that, we became licensed to foster parent, and since I had never been a parent before, and I had no idea what to expect, I also became convinced that I would no longer be able to follow through on things, because kids.
The thing that’s so insidious about this self-doubt is that it presented as LOGIC. Like, it’s totally reasonable to expect that I’ll be able to do less as a parent, than before… but what level of “less”? I didn’t know, so I assumed the worst. I assumed that the kids would be some kind of hurricane that completely exhausted my ability to adult, let along to show up to students, captains and partners.
Now, I can see how a lot of that was just catastrophizing – I didn’t know what to expect, either about recurring depression or parenting, so I just assumed the worst. I needed to tap back into Confident Tara in order to dream big and create a plan and follow through, because you must believe it’s possible before you’ll actually do the work.
I’m sharing this because in the middle of it, it felt very real, very logical, and TRUE.
If you are feeling tons of self-doubt or battered by life, give yourself some grace. It is ok. You don’t have to dream BIG right now. You don’t have to be on top of everything. Get inspired a confident again, by listening to my podcast and/or by reading Marie Forleo’s book (she also has a great YouTube show!)
Where I plan
Ok, before I go any further, I wanna talk about WHERE I actually do this planning – both where I write it and where I sit physically to do it. The thing is, you need to find what works for you, but I know we all love to hear about these kind of details.
I always plan my year (and do quarterly maps and monthly planning) in one notebook. That way I can keep a whole year in one place and go back to it, without having to search around.
This year I’m using a Happy Notes so that I can add pages and different kinds of paper to it. In the past I've used a big Moleskine.
I typically do the review at a coffee shop, next to a fireplace, with a fancy latte in a mug. Last year I had a brand-new toddler at this time of year, so I didn’t do any planning until late January, and then I did it during naptime under a blanket on my couch.
Review the last year
I start by reviewing the last year, because it is VERY inspiring to remember all of the good of the last year and to get grounded in where I am in my business right now.
I use my own book Map Your Business to do this! It starts with several pages of worksheets to get really clear where you are right now.
Now, it’s easy to use this as a chance to beat yourself up.
Maybe you didn’t hit your goals last year. Maybe you didn’t do ANYTHING last year. Maybe you are looking at where you are right now, thinking there is NO WAY you can get to your goal.
Hey, that’s ok. Deep breath.
You are exactly where you need to be.
You are capable of more than you’ve done before.
You are further ahead than you’ve ever been before! You have learned so much this year! (even if it’s not what you wanted to learn!)
This is why Map Your Business really focuses on the lessons you’ve learned and what you want to take from last year into this year.
There’s also a section on releasing all your regrets. We all have them. It’s ok, you can let go of them and move forward.
Dreaming the next year
Ok, so once I've let go of my regrets and I’ve looked at what lessons I want to bring forward into the next year, it’s time to think about the upcoming year.
I like to start with FEELINGS. There are several worksheets in Map Your Business that you help narrow in on this – the things you value, the qualities you want in your life and in your business.
How do I want to feel this year? What could help me feel that way?
For me, I want to feel strong, confident, loving.
Strong – capable, calm, resilient
Confident – capable, trust myself, move forward on scary stuff
Loving – with my family, with everyone in foster care, with myself
What could make me feel this way? (I’m still making my list!)
I use Map Your Business to dive into the specifics of what I want to create, in every area of my business. So at this point, I already have in mind my sales goal, but there’s a lot more to my life than just sales.
For example: Jay and I need to trade his 20 year old car in for a newer one that we can put kids into.
We want to pay off debt.
I want to have more than enough money saved up to pay my taxes quarterly.
Map Your Business has you list out EVERYTHING you want to accomplish, then zoom in on 3-5.
I also love the idea i got from Leonie to list 100 things I want to do in the year. There are so many things I want to do that aren’t really GOALS, but things I do want to do and remember to do. So I make a big list that I keep adding to, of allllll I could possibly do.
After I have a goal, it’s time to make a plan.
Here’s where allllll the uncertainty in my life comes into play. I have NO idea what my home will be like in a year. Will we have 2 kids? Will they be 6 months old or 5 years old? A new placement or an adoptive placement? Daily therapy or no appointments?
There are so many variables that it’s easy to think there’s no way I can plan. But that’s NOT TRUE!
What I can do is make a plan for what needs to be done and chunk it down into what I need to do next. In Map Your Business we do this in three month chunks. But if you’re life has a lot of uncertainty, you can still make this “quarterly” plan… and accept that something might interrupt and it’ll take longer than expected.
Here’s what it looks like with my goal.
My goal is a sales goal, that is twice what I’ve sold before (keep in mind sales is NOT profit, we go into this in my free Masterclass).
My first step in breaking it down is to chunk it into halves or quarters of the year.
If you’re increasing your sales, it’s not likely to happen in a smooth progression. For example, if you’re goal is to make 36,000 in sales this year (I picked a number it’d be easy to do the math for!), you’re not going to make 3,000 every month, you’ll likely start where you are now (maybe a little lower because January tends to be slower than December in most industries), and then increase as the year goes on. You’ll also want to look at you are already doing – craft shows? A big Black Friday deal? New wholesale customers in the spring?
So maybe you’ll make 13,000 in the first half and 23,000 in the second half of the year.
You can then break that into quarters:
If you don’t break it up and take into account industry trends, marketing plans, and natural growth, you’re going to feel very frustrated and far from your goal. If you thought you needed to make $3,000/mo and you just make $1,5000 in January, you’re going to feel SO FAR away, when in reality you may be right on schedule to grow.
(Just to be clear my goal is quite a bit bigger than this, but I wanted to use numbers that are more in line with the goal a lot of you have set).
After I split my goal up like this in quarters I then looked at months. I looked at what I have planned – travel, events, vacations. Map Your Business has a page where you can list out what’s happening in each month, so you can see when you’re likely to have time and energy for your business.
Once you have the goal for your quarter, you do the most important step: forget all the other quarters.
I just focus on the sales goal for this quarter.
And I ask myself: What can I do to reach this goal?
For my business and my audience (you!), this is a lot more about systems than one-time tasks – I put systems in place to share my work with more people as the year goes on. And because of foster parenting, I make sure the system doesn’t need ME to keep running. I want to spend my time and energy working with Starship Captains and writing/recording podcast episodes and videos.
So my to-do list for a sales goal is related to implementing, testing and tweaking systems. I have a specific list of things to implement and variables to test. I have joined a program that includes a community where I can get these questions answered.
Now, because there’s so many unknowns in my life – so many events and appointments that come with a new placement that I don’t even know about yet – I just do what’s in front of me. I make a plan that would probably fill 2-3 months as they are RIGHT NOW, but I know that I’ll need to be flexible. If it takes longer to get a placement, I’ll go faster. If I get a complicated case, it’ll probably go slower.
So that’s it for planning! The next step is to make sure the list of current projects stay front of mind – so I typically use my map to make a list and add it to my planner and I create projects with tasks and deadlines inside Asana. I talk about both of these things in a lot more detail in episode 287 + episode 288, so if you want to more about tracking daily and weekly tasks, go listen to those!
So the problem with resolutions, I’m sure you already know, is that they don’t work.
Think about it- have you ever met someone who said “I made a resolution and reached it!” No, because the way we set resolutions, the words we use aren’t reachable.
In a 2018 survey, one-third (31%) of Americans who made New Year’s Resolutions last year say they didn't stick to any of their resolutions. A plurality (38%) say they stuck to “some” of their resolutions.
Even the language used in the survey was “stuck to” resolutions. How do you know if you stuck to something or not?
Let’s look at the most-popular resolution : “exercise more,” with 59%, “eat healthier” (54%), “save money” (51%), “lose weight” (48%), “reduce stress”.
These are impossible to succeed at because they’re vague and confusing. Without a starting place (how much are you exercising now?) and a measurable goal (what is “more”), you can't make it happen because you don’t know what to do.
But the reason we set them each year? We WANT to make a change. The resolution starts to define that change.
At their best, a resolution provides an aim. A way to orient yourself. A destination.
So it’s not the resolutions that don’t work, it’s the way we do it. We may think about it on January 1 and write it down and then… nothing.
Instead, if you really want something to change or transform, you need a few more steps to the process:
Define what you want.
Commit yourself to it
Create a do-able plan
Define what you want
Make it measurable.
Even choosing a word or how you want to feel is better than your typical resolution – they are specific.
I want to read more vs I want to feel curious about the world. I could feel that way by going to museums, reading, watching documentaries, meeting new people.
As you define what you want this year, check that it’s measurable. Be specific about how you want to feel. What else could make you feel that way?
Ex. Exercising more. Maybe you want to feel strong. What makes you feel strong? For me, it’s lifting weights, it’s being emotionally steady mom, getting through hard times.
One of my fave mugs says “strong as a foster mother”…that’s a way to feel strong.
Commit yourself to it
Here’s the thing: you can’t do anything unless you decide you are going to.
That may sound obvious, but be honest – how many times have you set a goal, but then not really believed it was possible and kinda backpedaled away from it?
I know, you don’t want to fail.
But you won’t succeed until you go all in.
I know, maybe you haven’t done it before but you can do it this year.
You are farther along.
You know more.
You have tried and failed and survived more.
Go all in.
Create a do-able plan
So just the phrase “grow my business” is meaningless, but if you got specific in Step 1, maybe you decided you want to hit a specific sales goal… and you committed yourself to it, the next step is to get super-specific. What do you need to do? By when?
I’ve got a whole workbook for this, it’s called Map Your Business. In it I walk you through getting clear on your big vision, setting a specific goal and then building a plan for it AND following up on how it’s going.
You know what you need to do, so break it down into specific projects and tasks and then add them to your calendar. (Go back and listen to episode 287 and episode 288 if you need more on that!)
Ahhh, I know! This is the hardest part.
This involves having a time to work, having clear boundaries around it, then actually focusing on what you need to get done.
For a lot of us, this also requires some outside accountability. Someone else saying “hey, you were going to do that.”
Needing outside accountability is NOT a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you don’t have discipline or whatever. It just means that you operate best when someone else is relying on you.
If you have a hard time following through, you are NOT alone! When we talked about this in my Facebook group, over 90% of your fellow makers and artists said they struggle with this!
You can get help, and learn my methodology for helping you follow through, in the free Masterclass. Just head to taraswiger.com/2020goals and get the worksheets and resources for creating your New Year, and I’ll send you an invite to the Masterclass!
Are you stuck between two really great ideas? Wondering if you have to choose or if you should just do them both at the same time? How could you choose between them?
Today I’m going to help you answer one of the BIGGEST questions I get about creating do-able plans for your next goals: Do I have to pick just one and how the heck do I do that?!
In my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. For the last two weeks we’ve talked about how to stay on top of those To Dos, so they actually get done.
But this week we’re going to back up and answer the question: How do you even pick the next goal? Especially when you have several projects that all look like good options?
This question came up in the monthly coaching call inside the Starship Program (learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz) and it’s one I know we all deal with. So let’s break it down – do you need to pick just ONE goal? And if so, how can you decide?
I get this question ALL the time, because my Map Making process involves making a really detailed plan for ONE goal at a time. So the short answer is yes, in order to make a detailed plan and get it accomplished, you need just one goal.
Can you work on more than one goal at a time?
Well, it depends.
What’s your time frame?
Over the course of a year, you’re going to be reaching a lot of different goals.
Over the course of a week, you will get distracted if you focus on too many at once.
This is why I set the timeline in the Map Making process for three months. That’s a good amount of time to set a goal, work on it, adjust your path, and learn quite a bit about what the project requires. It’s a short enough time frame that you won’t forget what you’re working towards and you won’t get bogged down in doing the same thing, and still a long enough time frame that you can see some real progress.
It also depends on the kind of goal you have.
There are income or sales goals.
There are habit goals.
There are KPI goals.
There are award goals.
For example, most makers I talk to want to get more consistent with their social media. That is something you can do while you’re working on a sales goal. I’d encourage you to make the goal more measurable, like “I want to post on Instagram 5x/week”. You’re going to do that alongside a lot of other stuff.
And still, I recommend you let that be your ONLY goal for at least the first month as you get used to it.
Why focus on just one at a time:
You’ll be focused (this is one of the main benefits of setting ANY goal)
You’ll know what to do next and how to prioritize
You’ll see faster progress
You’ll learn faster and can change it up
The sense of accomplishment will keep you going.
If you want to learn more about setting the right-sized goal, check out episodes 191 on stretch goals and episode 91 on why you’re afraid of big goals.
So you want to narrow it down, but you’ve got two really great ideas.
Perhaps you’re debating, as one of my Starship Captains did: Should I focus on increasing my online sales or my wholesale sales?
Or: Should I focus on my email list or Instagram? Should I self-publish a book, or sell more patterns to magazines?
First, some good news.
Any goal is good.
Anything you commit yourself to, make progress on, and learn from, is going to improve your business and your life. You’re going to be in a better place in 3 months than if you didn’t pick anything.
So take some of the pressure off, ok?
Now, when it comes to choosing a goal, I like to ask Captains two questions:
Questions to ask to choose the next right project:
What is closer to money?
Where is your enthusiasm?
What is closer to money?
This is one of my favorite questions, because it’s gonna get you fast results: What is the project you can work on that is closest to making money?
For example, if you have products in your shop, selling one of them is the absolute fastest way to make money. If you have customers, having them buy again is closer to money than finding new buyers. Self-publishing your finished pattern is a lot closer to money than pitching it to publishers.
You feel me?
However, lemme warn you that you can not build your whole business doing just what’s closest to money, because it will wear you out and not necessarily take you the direction you want to go. You want to balance choosing quick-money options with long-term right-direction goals.
But I’m really disappointed at how many people say they have a business but NEVER do the thing that will make money – instead they focus on metrics that look good – like more instagram followers or more prestigious partnerships.
If it’s been a while since you focused on SELLING your thing directly to the people who want to buy it, then I’m going to suggest you pick whichever project is closer to money
Where is your enthusiasm?
Here’s the thing: most people who tell me they can’t decide between a few options, it’s because they are piling up the SHOULDS.
Well, I SHOULD do this. A REAL business would do this. I don’t have as big an Instagram following as that person, so I should improve that.
No, no, NO.
Our aim isn’t to build A business, it’s to build YOUR dream business.
Which goal is aligned with what you’re most enthusiastic about?
Are you LOVING working with your newest retail shops?
Are you throwing confetti every time you get a response to your newsletter?
Yeah, you might not be enthusiastic about the WORK involved in your goal, but are you enthusiastic about the end goal? Or some part of the process?
Then go with that.
You are going to have the MOST progress and grow the fastest by looking at what you’re genuinely enthusiastic about,and following it.
It might not be strategic but all of my best moves have been following my enthusiasm.
I did plan to start a podcast, but I started it in one week and it’s been one of the best things for my business.
I did not plan to start a Facebook group right before Thanksgiving, but it’s been an amazing place to be – I LOVE meeting and approving new people who apply.
I did not plan to create a worksheet for this podcast episode, but you know what? I’m feeling it!
If you go with your enthusiasm, you’re going to be more likely to follow through.
So that’s how I decide on a project – commit to following through on ONE aim in the next three months and then ask yourself – what is closest to money? What am I most enthusiastic about? Drop all the shoulds, and go full speed to what you want.
How do you keep track of all the moving parts in a recurring or upcoming projects? What if you’re waiting on other people to do their part before you can do your part? I do this with project management apps, so today we’re going to make it a bit less overwhelming and how to pick the software that will help you.
This week I’m answering the question that occurs after you make a map – how the heck do I keep track of all the moving parts?
You see, in my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. But after you have that big list of what you need to do and the order you need to do them in, then what? How do you make sure you don’t forget the stuff that comes LATER?
And that’s where a lot of us get stuck. So for the month of December on the podcast, we’re having a series on planning – the actual figuring out what to do each day and week.
I started tracking to-dos digitally in my business, (especially recurring projects like marketing and this podcast), when I hired my first virtual assistant (VA). The easiest way for me to communicate what I did for each project, and to make sure we didn’t miss a single step, was to put it all in a checklist. What I learned right away is that having it down on a checklist made every single task so much faster to do, not just for my VA, but for me too!
There’s a whole book about this – The Checklist Manifesto. Basically, knowing exactly what to do next saves you time, it saves you energy thinking of what’s next, and it saves you mistakes.
We started out using Evernote, but soon we moved to Asana. Evernote was great at having a checklist, but it didn’t make any reminders or prompt us to do the next step.
If you’ve got ANYONE else in your business, even if they’re just super part-time (my VA started at 2 hours a week!), you definitely need some way to communicate tasks, deadlines and checklists. It’s going to give you peace of mind when you can SEE that they’ve done each part of the task, (and you will save time by not having to talk about every single thing, every single time).
Now, if you don’t have anyone else in your team, you can still use project management software to keep YOU on top of things.
Do YOU need digital planning tools?
Here’s how to decide:
First, know your projects.
I have Starship Captains start by listing ALL of their projects – onetime things they’re working on, recurring projects, the steps to their social media posts, anything they do or plan to do in a month.
Then you can split it down into “repeating” and “one-time”.
How many things do you have to hand back and forth to someone else?
Second, ask yourself – how do you keep track of the repeating tasks now?
Maybe you have a paper system that works great (I put my first marketing plan on a post it and just kept the post it on my computer screen).
Or maybe you’re forgetting half of every repeating task, or it’s taking you twice as long to remember – in which case, a checklist would be SUPER helpful. You could do the checklist manually or digitally – whichever you’re more likely to see.
Third, how do you keep track of next steps for one-time projects? Is that working for you? Would you prefer to be reminded of deadlines or next steps?
Captains use project management software to keep track of production, including wholesale orders and show prep. (If you’re in the Starship Community you can ask about how exactly they organize it all!)
But WHAT tool do you need?
If you’re current tools aren’t working for you, then let’s look at some digital options.
Now, before we go any further, I really want to stress one point – NOTHING WORKS UNLESS YOU USE IT.
Sometimes we get all wrapped up in finding the “perfect” tool or the one other successful biz owners use, but none of that matters. What matters is if YOU use it or not. The tool that will work best for you is the one you regularly use, put information into, and actually look at.
There are so many options for To Do list apps, I’m not even going to get into all the specific options. What you need to know is that a checklist app like ToDoist is different from a note-keeping app that has checklists like Evernote or GoogleKeep, which is different from task management software.
I’ve used Evernote and I currently use GoogleKeep to keep track of notes on the fly and checklists related to my personal life. I like that I can save documents, links, checklists, everything in one place. This was great when I was starting – my VA and I created a folder in Evernote for Standard Operating Procedures (we called it the Flight Manual) for everything – from checklists to launch plans, to project mapping.
But project management software takes it to the next level by letting you create TASKS. You can give those tasks deadlines, you can create a checklist under the task, and you can set the task to repeat!
This is really great if you:
Have a project that needs to be done in the exact same way every week or month (like my podcast!)
Have a project that is waiting for other people (knitwear designers who use editors, test knitters, etc.)
Have a project that needs to be paced out (you need to do step 1 by this date, step 2 by this date, so step 3 can get done by a big deadline.)
Using a system for these things:
Keeps you on a schedule
Takes it off your mind so you’re not trying to remember all the steps before you’d done the next step
Prepares you to scale up and do more and bring people on who can do parts of it
Helps you visually SEE all you do, which makes you feel accomplished and proud
Where to start with digital planning?
I recommend most people start with the steps I mentioned earlier – listing the projects you have. And then, making checklists first. Use something like GoogleKeep or Evernote and keep all your checklists together.
Once you start to see that you want something to reoccur or repeat, you want to assign just part of the checklist to someone else, then put those checklists into tasks and projects inside a project management program.
How I do it
Now, I’ve filled this episode with tips for you to figure out what will best help you and with steps for you to follow, I know you will still ask what I use and what I do, so I’ll share my process with you, in hopes that it will inspire you to get going, and not worry about being perfect!
I’ve been using Asana for years. It’s totally free and it has all the bells and whistles I need. The initial set-up took a bit of time, and I had to train myself and anyone who works with me to actually USE it regularly, but I’ve been building tasks in it one at a time, and it is a lifesaver.
For my weekly projects like this podcast or my weekly emails or blog posts:
I think through the task and add every single tiny step to the task (like a checklist)
I run through DOING the task once using the checklist and I add anything I forgot
I set the task to repeat
I’ve learned through the years that if a task has more than one person who’s working on it, I CAN assign subtasks to different people, but it’s easiest to just create separate tasks for each person and then put them in the order they need to be done. For example, I write and record this podcast episode, that’s a task. Jay has a task to edit it. Holly has a task, once it’s been edited and uploaded to take all the pieces – the transcript, the recording, the video, any links and put it all in the blog post. That’s one tasks with quite a long checklist, because the blog post has a lot of moving parts, and she can’t do any of them until we’ve done our part.
Now, even if I didn’t have Holly, I would still use this task, to remind MYSELF of what all the steps are.
And what’s great about this is now I can hire anyone to do the task. I have to teach them the software involved, but the task even gives me a checklist of what software is involved in all the steps. It was much MUCH harder to start working with people when I had no checklists.
Now, when I have a new project, like I started a Facebook group recently (join us! It’s free: fb.com/groups/taraswiger) – I put that in Asana too. Often I’ll talk out the project with Holly or Joeli inside Asana, then I’ll start to put the task list together. Then I keep adding ideas as I have them, then I assign it to people and pace out the due dates so the final project is done when I want it done.
The Facebook group is actually a great example, because I’m the only one that worked on it, and yet I still created tasks to mark off as I went because I was learning from a few different sources and wanted to keep all my ideas in one place and then be sure I actually DID them.
So that’s how I use project management software in my business to both plan and be sure I follow through on my plans.
I’d love to know what apps and tools YOU use and how you plan… and guess what? You can come tell me in the group! Come over to facebook.com/groups/taraswiger to join makers who are growing in confidence AND in profit, just like you! The group is limited to those who have a creative business, so if that is you, please come join us!
And remember to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing how you can choose between all the projects you’re excited to create in 2020.