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You’re invited to Get More Done! Live + Free on CreativeLIVE

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I’ll be honest with you, ALL I can think about this week is “Getting More Done”, both the class I’m about to teach with CreativeLIVE AND the act of getting more done. If you follow me on Periscope, then you know I’ve been asking you: What keeps you from getting more done?

I’ve taken all the responses (and all the questions my readers have sent me for the past 5 years!) and put together a solution, that will work for YOU, whether you’ve got 30 minutes a week or 30 hours a week to work on your creative business.

Along with the questions I’ll answer in the class (like “How do I balance admin time and studio time?,“ “How can I build my business with SUPER limited time?”, “How do I decide what’s important and impactful for my business?“), I’ve also been asked some questions I’d like to answer NOW.

How does this work?

Go here and click “RSVP”. You’ll get both the bonus Holiday Sales Calculator worksheet right away (along with bonuses from Tara Gentile, Abby Glassenberg, Lisa Jacobs, and Megan Auman), so you’ll be ready to start class Wednesday morning. At 9am PST (Noon EST) on Wednesday, August 19th, class will begin! You’ll get a reminder email to log on and when you do you’ll see me teaching, in real time! There’s a chat room for you to ask your questions (the hosts will be lobbing your questions at me on the regular) and a hashtag (#CraftWeek2015) so you can connect with your fellow students.

What’s the schedule of the class?

Note: Times are in PST!

9:00-10:30AM What do you NEED to get done?

10:45-12:00PM What’s in your way?

12:45-2:15PM Find the Time (no matter how little you have

2:30-4:00PM Make Your Plan

 

Who is this class for?

This class is aimed at makers who sell their work and want to get more (of what matters) DONE each day.

This class is for you if…

  • You struggle to find time to work on your creative business.
  • You’re frustrated with trying to balance all the aspects of your business: making, marketing and admin.
  • You have a list of things you really want to do, but find yourself NOT doing them.
  • You don’t know where to find the time to work on exciting new projects (like a new product, book, marketing plan)
  • You’re a curious explorer. You’d love for this to be a fascinating adventure, not a boring slog. You’re ready to learn + move forward, not judge or guilt-ify the past.

 

What’s up with the Holiday Sales Bootcamp?

My class, Get More Done, is part of a weeklong series of classes aimed at making your crafty shop ROCK the holiday summer.

On Monday, Tara Gentile will cover pricing and value.

On Tuesday, Abby Glassenberg will teach you how to write and send an effective email newsletter.

On Wednesday, I’ll help you get more productive.

On Thursday, Lisa Jacobs will improve your copywriting (ie, your product descriptions!)

On Friday, Megan Auman will walk you through putting together your marketing plan!

By the end of it, you’ll be ready to have a fantastic holiday season in your shop!

 

What if I can’t watch live?

Watching live is free, but you can purchase anytime access. You can get my class here for $79 (the price will go up after class, so jump on it!) or you can buy the entire 5 day bootcamp. Each Day’s page tells you what we’ll cover on that day, so you can pick the one that’s right for you.

Whether you can watch live or not, you may want to purchase the class to get some amazing bonuses:

  • Anytime access to the videos (so you can revisit it again and again!)
  • Full workbook to guide you through making your OWN system of getting things done
  • Resource Guide with links to my favorite apps + tools
  • $50 off Lift Off

 

I’m bummed I missed the Wrangle Your Time class, where can I get it?

Well, you’re in luck! While you can’t take Wrangle Your Time  as a stand-alone class (it is in the library of both the Starship and Lift Off) – it is ALL covered in this class! In fact, this class digs even deeper and gives more tips and software recommendation.

 

I don’t have a business yet, I just have ideas.

Ready for some tough love?

If you are still just “playing around” with “some ideas”, but you really REALLY want a business (and not a hobby) – step away from the internet. Stop taking classes, stop reading books, and stop looking at what other people are doing. Go into your creation cave and create your best work. Make 5-10 of them (whether this is products, designs, artwork, whatever). Ask yourself if you enjoy this enough to make 50 more. Then, take some pictures and make it available for sale (either online or in a craft show).

THEN, you are ready to start thinking about becoming effective with your time.

In other words, this class is going to be most useful to you if you know what you make and it’s available for people to buy, somewhere. If you’re not sure how to move from Idea to Business, check out Kari Chapin’s class on getting started.

 

What’s Periscope?

Periscope is a live-video streaming app. Even if YOU have no desire in sharing live videos, you can join (just download the app!) and follow me, so you get notified of any of my live videos. There’s a chat room, so you’re not just watching, you’re also talking to me! Periscopes only stay online for 24 hours, so if you miss watching live, you miss it!

I’ve been using Periscope to answer quick questions about your small business, help viewers prioritize their week (or celebrate what they’ve accomplished) and share behind-the-scenes of my own projects (I’ve been announcing new projects and inviting participation on Periscope before I do anywhere else). While I’m traveling, I’m shooting live videos of any cool place I visit (coffee + yarn shops + dinners with other makers!)

I interact HEAVILY with the chat room, so Periscope is the best way to get some personal interaction. (You can always book a 1:1 session here and get my personal attention for a full hour. They’re VERY limited and book up quick, so if you’ve been thinking about getting personal help, grab it here, then hang out on Periscope in the meantime!)

 

Don’t forget to register to watch the class free: http://taraswiger.com/time

Got a question?

Ask on Twitter (I’m @taraswiger) or Facebook and I’ll answer (in between traveling). Hope to see you in the class!

 

 

My exact system for getting everything done

howigeteverythingdone

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a massive post  about how I got things done, which quickly became the second most popular post of the year (this is the most popular post). But a lot has changed during the last year. I got a new planner, I tried new apps, I hired another team member, (more about how to do that in last week’s podcast!) and started using project management software.

In preparation of my class on putting together your own system for Getting More Done, I wanted to share an update to my own system, along with alllllll the gory details of what I use and why.

I’m going to break this up the same way we’ll build your own system – by looking at the three parts vital to a system.

Those three pieces are:

  1. Setting aside a specific time to work.
  2. Keeping track of what you need to do.
  3. Doing the work that matters.

Now, before you dive in, please remember that my business is probably really different from yours. YOU need to build your own system, one that works for your business and your life. I’m going to help you do that in this class.

My time to work

I work M-F (never on the weekends.) When I’m not working, I try not to even check my email, unless we’re in the middle of the Starship launch and I know I’ll be getting time-sensitive questions.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I usually work from the coffee shop, from around 10am-4pm. If I get started late, I work later. On Fridays, I often stop a bit early (2pm or so) and go start my weekend. These days are my time for writing – these weekly blog posts, guest posts, podcast episodes, new classes, magazine articles, a new book – and replying to emails and the Starship forums. On Wednesday at 2p, we have the weekly Starship chat.

On Tuesday and Thursday, I usually work from home, so that I can do all the things I need quiet for – client sessions, podcast recording, class recording, interviews. I usually work from around 11am – 5pm (which is when Jay’s out of the house, working at the comic shop). I used to try to start earlier…but we’ve got a tiny apartment, and I can’t really get away from him, so I just enjoy our morning together. I let these days feel slightly less work-y – I stay in my PJs, I tend to put only 2-3 things on my list: hour-long client sessions on the phone wipe me out, and if I have 2 sessions…that’s  all the thinking I have in me for the day; recording podcasts (and broadcasting and answering follow-up questions on Periscope) takes around 2-3 hours.

As you can see, I don’t work 40 hours a week. I’ve learned, through 6 years of self-employment, that I don’t have 8 hours a day of uninterrupted focus in me (I don’t know anyone who does – in most office jobs you spend a chunk of the day talking to your coworkers, futzing about online, and walking around getting more coffee. Or was that just me?).

But here’s the important factor: When I’m working, I’m working. I don’t open my personal Facebook. I don’t scroll through Instagram. I absolutely don’t visit Pinterest or Amazon or play any games. This is my time for work, and I might get distracted replying to a customer email, or researching something, but I try to limit myself to truly work. In that way, my non-work time is 100% NOT work. I play games, read blogs, and endlessly scroll through Instagram and Pinterest in that not-working time.

If I find myself incredibly distracted and I haven’t gotten my 3 Most Important Things done for the day…I change something. I either stand up and walk around, change locations or just stop working for the day. There’s no point in forcing myself to sit at the computer if I’m not getting work done.

Knowing what to do

All of the working time in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re spending that time on! I keep track of things a few different ways.

Whenever I start any new project, I break it down into  it’s individual to-dos. This includes every piece of content, every image, everything. I put these in Asana and assign the tasks to the appropriate team member and give it a due date. Some projects, like launching a new class, have a lot of pieces. Some, like writing my book proposal, have just a few tasks that are all “Write X chunk.”

But new projects are just a tiny slice of what we do week in and week out. Most of what the team does repeats weekly or quarterly. So we have Asana projects that repeat!

An example: the podcast episodes

  • I write it and share the transcript with Jess
  • I record the episode + upload it to Libsyn
  • I write the blog post that includes the description of the episode + schedule it
  • (If it’s an interview, Jay edits it and uploads the edited audio to Libsyn)
  • Jess edits the transcript
  • Jay lays the transcript out
  • Jess links it on the Transcript Page
  • Jay makes the image for the blog post
  • Jess edits the blog post and pastes the MP3 link into the player software.
  • She schedules (using CoSchedule) the social media posts about it, using what I’ve written.

That was actually more complicated for me to write out than it is in Asana. We figured out the steps, put them in Asana, and now everyone’s tasks repeat each week on the same day. Repeating tasks cover 90% of what the team works on: podcasts, blog posts, the quarterly Starship boarding, regular review, editing and updating content regularly. I am responsible for setting the direction we’re going, conceiving and planning new projects, and writing and creating everything with my name on it. Jess serves as Project Manager for most projects, as she’s the final editor and scheduler..so if any piece is missing, she checks in with the appropriate person. Jay’s the producer – he makes the graphics consistent, PDFs pretty, and the audio/video edited.

When it comes time for me to start work, 99% of what I need to do is waiting for me in Asana, with the date I’m going to work on it. However, I do a few things to make everything more do-able for me. (As far as I know Jess and Jay just work directly out of Asana and go through their list and check it off. Because I’ve got to prioritize for the whole team, I need to do a bit more thinking before I dive into work.)

Each Monday, before I start work, I open up my planner (I use Elise’s Get To Workbook) and write down everything I need and want to get done this week. I’ll look at Asana and add anything from there. I split it up by project, so I understand all the pieces of each product that need be done THIS week. Yes, most of it is in Asana, but I like having it organized in front of me, in my handwriting, so that I don’t have to keep going online to check. The writing process also helps me remember anything I might have forgotten and really embeds this week’s priorities in my head.

Doing the Work that Matters:

Once I’m tracking all the things that need to happen in my business, and I know what I need to do THIS week, I identify the three most important things I need to get done this week. This ensures that the most important things always gets done, even if something comes up (I get sick, a system melts down, whatever). It also gives me a filter for the week – I can always ask myself if I’m moving forward on the most important things. (I make sure that my goal for the quarter is always reflected in this step!)

Once I have it all done, it’s simple to figure out what to do each day. At the beginning of every work session, I write down everything I wanna do during that session, and then I pick out the 3 Most Important Things. I start FIRST on these things, then work on the other stuff.

Yes, I am writing down each task a few times (it’s in Asana, it’s in my weekly list, it’s in that day’s list)..but I’m not going for efficiency but effectiveness. The more I write it down, the more important I’ve made it, and the more likely I am to do it on the appropriate day or week. When I talk to my students about their to do list, the biggest complaint I hear is that they don’t get it done because they never look at it. I’ve set up my system so I’m looking at the most relevant part of my list (what I need to do NEXT) every day.

The other part is actually getting it done, and my system for just buckling down and working changes with the day. As I mentioned above, I’m sure to only be working when I work (no TV going, no podcast listening, no for-fun internet browsing) and when I’m done working I STOP (even if it’s far before my usual quitting time, if I get finished with that days’ tasks, I stop work!).

That helps a LOT – knowing that I only need to focus (I only GET to focus on work!) for a very specific amount of time. But if I find myself distracted (or just avoid-y), there are a few things I try:

  • Close all tabs and turn off all notifications. I have 99% of the notifications on my phone turned off, but if I’m really distracted, I put it in airplane mode and close ANY open tab.
  • Get up and walk around, get water or coffee and stretch. This is like a reset button and it’s the quickest way of interrupting a not-productive use of time.
  • Start my favorite playlist. (I write best to bouncy beats)
  • Start a pomodoro timer and commit to working on a MIT until it rings. If I’m working on something really stressful or I’m having a bad day, I promise myself that if I do at least ONE pomodoro session, I’m allowed to be done for the day. I usually get in the flow and don’t want to stop then, but if I’m not, I stop and close up for the day. It’s important not to try to trick myself, or else I’ll never believe it next time, and I’ll start taking breaks in my workday.

(I have a theory that your productive self is like a puppy, or a toddler. You can’t expect her to show up every day and work endlessly, without any fun. But you can ask her to focus for at least 20 minutes, with a break for fun. If you lie to her and never let her have a break, she’ll revolt and will never show up when you need her. Taking physical breaks (dancing, listening to music, drinking something tasty) can reset her for another work session, but you can’t just push her.)

 

And that’s it! That’s how I get stuff done, from the project-planning down to the every-day habits that keep me productive!

I’ll be guiding you through creating your own best system for getting more done, no matter how much time you have, or what you make, in my upcoming class. It’s free to watch live, just sign up here!

 

Are you afraid of being “big”?

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

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

Do you do this?

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

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

Stop it.

Really. Stop it. *

Don’t borrow problems you don’t have.

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

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

It’s getting in your way.

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

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

I get it.

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

But guess what?

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

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

But why bother?

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

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

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

And this is what’s cool:

Your business makes you stronger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

List them.

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

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

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

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

 

Adventures in Business with Designer, Instructor and Author Karen Whooley

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

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

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

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

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

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

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

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

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

What new thing are you exploring now?

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

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

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

What’s your definition of success in your business?

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

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

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

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

 

How to learn from your own business

learnfromyourbusiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning from your business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The process of introspection, implementation and growth

 The Starship is Now OpenThe Starship is now boarding!

You can read all about it here, but I wanted to give you a bit of a backstage pass into why the Starship is built the way it is.

The Starship only opens once a quarter*, in order to make sure everyone gets started from the same place (and to ensure that I have time to get to know everyone and their business).

*To keep it small + personal (so you can connect, collaborate and befriend each other) only 12 new Captains will beam up this quarter (to join the 70 who are already aboard). After that, boarding closes until October!

The Starship is a place for weekly accountability, monthly review and anytime-you-want-it question-asking…but I’ve learned over the last 5 years (!) that it’s not enough to have resources, you have to know where and how you want to use them. Unless you start with a plan and intention, all the resources can overwhelm you.

Over the years, I’ve built in plan-making, intention-setting rituals + resources, into the schedule of the Starship, so that you will use it to grow and improve your business.

Here’s the process of intention-setting and implementation: 

1. Get oriented in the Starship.

With a quick email series, you’ll learn how to navigate the resources available to you. You’ll also learn how to make a Clear Ask, so that you get the help you need (Captains have told me that they now use this in all their communication!)

2. Get oriented in your own business.

It’s vital to know where your business is, right now. (Not just where you want it to be, or where you think it “should” be). You’ll do this by Charting Your Stars. You’ll take a week-long course that helps you find your North Star, make your own Star Map for navigating your dreams, and set Destinations that actually matter to you.

This is the first step to ensuring you move forward, in the direction you really want to go (and it’s exclusive to the Starship and Lift Off).

3. Make each dream do-able.

On July 6th, the entire Starship makes a Map, using this guide. With a 6 day e-course and a dedicated forum, you’ll identify your next Destination (for the next 3 months) and break it down into do-able To Dos. This is where everything you dream about doing becomes practical.

If you’ve never set and reached a goal in your business, this process will change your life.

4. Learn how you best work.

After you’ve got your do-able To Dos … you actually have to do them. Through forum posts and weekly check-ins you’ll identify how you best get work done, and we’ll help un-stick you when you get stuck.

5. Learn what you don’t know. 

Whether your goal requires you to improve your profitability, create an effective marketing plan, or become more effective with your time, The Starship Library has you covered. You’ll have immediate access to over a dozen classes (find the full list here) AND you can sign up for Lift Off (for free!) and build the foundations of your business over the next 6 months

6. Stay on track.

Every month we look back and review your adventure so far in a super-quick Reassessment Log. You can see where you swerved and what you learned. We’re there to cheer on every mile marker you reach!

 

Grace says: “Every year I go through the entire process of Chart Your Stars and Map Making, cover to cover. The insight into what is right for me is undeniable and incredible. So helpful in fact that every month I go back through them and touch up the areas that need to be redefined – a big part of running a successful business is constantly checking in and making sure I’m staying true to my mission and myself!”

After 3 months, every quarter, we start the cycle again with Map Making and review – so that you’re always moving forward, always identifying the next Destination and going after it with the freshest information on your very own business. (This way we avoid the I forgot about my New Year’s Resolutions! problem.)

You don’t need another thing to remember. 

Have you ever bought an online class and then didn’t know what to do or how to navigate the space or what happened when? I hate that! So I’ve built the entire process to come to you easily + simply.

That’s why Starship Captains don’t have to remember ANY of this. Everything I mentioned just comes to you. You don’t have to remember to check a website, or log in, or anything. Every Wednesday I send an email with a mini-lesson, reminders about what we’re doing (the Map Making, the classes), and an invitation to the weekly chat. So if you take a week (or month!) away, you have a chance to jump back in, every week.

What’s new

Every quarter we add something new to the Starship, based on member’s suggestions. Last quarter I created my most-thorough marketing class (Craft Your Marketing, which you’ll only find in the Library!) and Wrangle Your Time.

This quarter we’re adding

  • Accountability Partners – want someone to check in with you via email, phone, video, Twitter or something else? You tell us your preferences and we’ll hand-match you to an accountability partner.
  • Live Q+As – once every three months, I’ll answer all of your questions, via a live video! (Yep, there’s a recording!)
  • Every worksheet, video, and audio lesson has been newly edited! This means a more seamless experience for you!
  • A new, seamless payment plan with smaller monthly payments. (Details here)
  • A brand-new option: Warp Drive! If you want one-on-ones with me, you can get that with a Warp Drive Starship membership. And if you don’t need them, there’s now an option without the one-on-ones.

 

Any questions?

Read all the details here, then send me an email (tara@taraswiger.com) if you’ve got any questions!

PS. Every class, workbook, and Guide I’ve mentioned comes FREE with your Starship membership. You’ll get access to absolutely everything I do (including exclusive access to one-on-one sessions).

5 Lessons I learned from your Income Reports

whativelearnedfromyourincomereports copy

Over the last two weeks, I’ve shared the Real Numbers, via Income Reports, of other makers just like you. (Find Income Reports of Knitwear Designers here and Handmakers here.) This whole project has opened a lot of conversations and has taught me a lot. Today I’m distilling it all into 5 lessons.

So here’s what I learned from looking at the numbers, feelings, and reflections of over a hundred makers and designers:

1. MANY many businesses (ie, people who specifically marked it as a “business” and not a “hobby”) had no idea what their numbers are, in a single month.
I got many messages from makers who wanted to fill it out, but they couldn’t. They didn’t know where to start in gathering their numbers, or maybe even what the terms meant. This bummed me out, because you can’t fix what you don’t measure. There’s no way of knowing if what you’re doing is working unless you’ve got a way to measure it.

(I share the very beginnings of how to track your numbers in this video.)

 

2. Many makers don’t know what they want.  
When I asked in the survey “How do you feel after answering these questions?” the responses ranged from “Depressed” to “Scared” to “Excited!” That’s perfectly normal. I feel all of the above, just about every week. That’s just part of being an entrepreneur and building something completely new.

But what stood out for me were the number of respondents who said they didn’t know how to feel about it. Is it good? Bad? They didn’t know what their numbers meant for their business health. That makes sense, because numbers don’t mean anything on their own.

For example, let’s say you made $20 yesterday. That might be an awesome day if you sell $5 products, or if you don’t make daily sales. It might be a miserable day if you sell $500 products, or if you want to make $2,000 a week.

If you don’t know what you want from your business, you won’t have any context for what a specific number means. Remember: No one number has meaning without context.

Solution: Put them in context! Get clear on what it is you want from your business by defining success.

 

3. Many makers feel disappointed and overwhelmed.
What’s interesting is that disappointment and overwhelm aren’t correlated to the income numbers. We all feel it at one time or another. But it did seem to be correlated with how much the respondent understood cause and effect in their business. In other words, if a maker is measuring other numbers (conversion, email subscribers, etc.), they are less likely to be overwhelmed. Why? Because they know what they can do. They recognize that they have options, and that they can experiment. I’ve seen this to be true, time and again. Just understanding the variables that affect your sales, and how you can experiment with those variables to increase sales, can keep you from feeling so hopeless about your business.

 

4. When you focus in on what matters in your business, everything else becomes obvious.
Several of your fellow readers wrote me to say, “After doing these numbers I realized that I’ve been wasting my time worrying about X” (X = all the things that have nothing to do with the 4 important business foundations. All the things you think you “should” do).

 

5. You are not alone.
Whether you don’t know what your numbers are, you don’t know what you want out of your business, or you just feel overwhelmed with figuring it all out – you’re really, really not alone. There are hundreds of other makers who feel just like you.

Good news: this confusion and overwhelm can be overcome by focusing in on what you want and building a business based on that. You don’t have to feel like this forever. I’ve worked with dozens of makers who feel a zillion times better about their business. In fact, I created a program to help you do exactly that, and it’s open now (come on inside here).

 

What did you learn from the Income Reports?

 

 

Free webinar: You’re invited!

FreeWebinar

 

This Thursday, at 1pm (EDT), I’m going to do something brand new: I’m holding a live webinar (online video class)…for free! Usually these online workshops start at $99, but this one is entirely free.

Edited: Now that the webinar has happened, you can get the recording by signing up here: eepurl.com/blqLl1

In this hour long workshop, you’ll learn:

  • How to avoid overwhelm in your creative business
  • The only 4 things that need your focus in your business
  • How to build the foundations of your business, no matter how new (or old!) it is.

You see, I talk to creatives every day who are just completely overwhelmed. They don’t know if they should do X or Y. They don’t know where to spend their time and energy. They don’t know what will make a difference.

And this breaks my heart. Because I know what leads to growth in a small business: Focused, consistent action. But you can’t take focused consistent action until you decide what action to take, and then really commit your focus to it. But if you’re overwhelmed and unsure, you’re hesitant to really commit to one action. So you do a whole bunch of stuff, all over the place, and then feel frustrated that you don’t see results from anything.

If this is what you’re struggling with, please join me for this webinar, on June 4th. To join in (and ask me any of your questions!), sign up for the recording here. 

Feel free to tell your friends, if you think they’d like it:

5 Income Reports from Handmade Businesses

realnumbersfromahandmadebusiness

Last week I shared the income reports from knitwear designers and this week I’ve gathered up the data from makers who sell a product. These numbers were self-reported in my Real Numbers Project Survey, which was completely anonymous. Please remember, before you dive into the numbers, stop to think about what you can learn from the numbers.

This batch of reports has a much bigger range in income AND in lessons from the numbers.

First, let’s look at an overview:

Gross sales (before expenses) per month:

  • 15% businesses with $0
  • 25%  businesses under $300 (there were several people who said they considered this a “hobby”, and I’ve taken them out of the results)
  • 31% business between $300 – $1000
  • 21% businesses between $1000 – $10,000
  • 8% businesses over $10,000

Next, we’ll look at some real numbers, from the youngest, the oldest (and most profitable!) and two that represent the middle. After the reports, I’ll share the findings I found most interesting.

 

Youngest business:

What do you make or sell?
branded stationery and gifts

How do you sell it?
online to customers, wholesale or consignment

How long?
7 months

Do you consider this a business or a hobby?
business

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
12 months

What was your gross income last month?
$0

How much were your expenses last month?
$500

What was your net revenue?
$-500

Was last month a normal month?
Normal – I’m working on a full launch over the summer and into the fall.

What aren’t the numbers telling me?
That presently the focus is on getting the branding right, the product line more established. We are working on building “trust equity” with our audience before we start any kind of focus on sales and we understand things take time.

What else do you measure month-to-month?
social media followers

Do you focus more on a metric other than money?
Trust and loyalty. We are working on building and sustaining an audience that is loyal to our values and the brand’s values.

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
Etsy

What kind of marketing do you do?
Social media via Hootsuite

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
It’s fine, and exactly where it was expected to be.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
To be a thought leading brand within the “tribe” that is our audience.

How do you feel about that?
Confident. Much of our research has been about understanding the needs and aspirations of the group.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
Felt fine, nothing particularly surprising…

Is there something in particular you think helped move your business forward?
Building trust with the core audience.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
Overselling, maybe? In other words, overdoing social media selling … Otherwise, nothing yet.

 

Example of Average Biz #1:

What do you make or sell?
pottery

How do you sell it?
online to customers – wholesale or consignment
in person at events – farmer’s markets, craft shows, etc.

How long?
2 years

Do you consider this a business or a hobby?
business

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
1 year

What was your gross income last month?
$309.10

How much were your expenses last month?
$360.37

What was your net revenue?
-$51.27

Was last month a normal month?
Higher than usual for not having a craft show in the month … being almost exclusively Etsy sales (almost all custom orders).  Lower than the average month that has a craft show.

What aren’t the numbers telling me?
$290.00 of the expenses was prepaying for 2 large craft shows much later in the year which are very well attended … my first time participating in such large shows. So my expenses that actually relate to the last month are actually only $70.37.

What else do you measure month-to-month?
Total number of individual sales

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
craft shows

What kind of marketing do you do?
Facebook and Instagram several times per week.

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
It is growing at a slow but steady pace.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
This year is a test.  My goal is to make enough with my pottery business to take one day per week off from my day job next year, growing that to 2 days in a few years until eventually I can work just a couple of days per week at a day job and focus on growing my business.

How do you feel about that?
Some days I feel that it is too slow, and that in order to grow the business, I need to be taking time off work now … but I need to make sure the market is there before I can take the jump.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
Nothing really surprised me as I have been thinking about these things from my reading and listening to podcasts (thank you Tara Swiger).

Anything else you want to tell me or your fellow creatives about your numbers or how you feel about them?
For most people who participate in craft shows, I don’t think looking at one month individually is a very accurate depiction of profit vs expenses because it seems that all of the craft shows for the year have to be paid for in a period of about 2-3 months – and usually before any of them actually start.  I only do about 6 craft shows or so per year, and 5 of them need to be paid for in the March – May window, even though the first one doesn’t start until mid-April.  I am tracking my numbers over the period of 1 year to see if I reach my “magic number” by the end of the year  (so far, I’m almost – but not quite – on track to reach it).

Is there something in particular you think helped move your business forward?
Plain and simply dedicating more time to my small business. Since December or January, I have made a conscious effort to do “something” each day for my business … whether that be making new products, advertising, listing on Etsy, working on packaging or branding, etc. This is done every evening and on weekends as I still  have a day job.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
Facebook does not work very well for me as I do not have many followers so far. With each show that I do, my audience grows, but only a handful at a time.

 

Example of Average Biz #2:

What do you make or sell?
fabric purses & wallets

How do you sell it?
online to customers
events

How long?
8 years

Do you consider this a business or a hobby?
business

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
8 years

What was your gross income last month?
$1522

How much were your expenses last month?
$389

What was your net revenue?
$1133

What did you do with the profit, if there was any?
pay the rent & other living expenses

Was last month a normal month?
Last month was the highest non-holiday month I’ve ever had.

What else do you measure month-to-month?
total number of individual sales

Do you focus more on a metric other than money?
Looking at where I was last year, two years & five years & ten years ago and seeing how far I’ve come.

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
people searching for my products on Etsy

What kind of marketing do you do?
Twitter, newsletter, Facebook, word of mouth, some yearly craft shows.

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
I’m very discouraged that I make so little income for all the time and work I do.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
I want for my business to pay for all of my expenses.

How do you feel about that?
I’ve seen improved sales these past weeks and I’m continuing to improve and expand my product line & improve as a seamstress, so I think that it’s realistic.  However I often have days, weeks & months where it does not seem or feel realistic at all.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
It felt good to talk realistically. I rarely (pretty much never) talk realistically about numbers with anyone, since the few times I have people have said discouraging things to me like “I should consider living in a homeless shelter.”

Is there something in particular you think helped move your business forward?
Re-branding my business last year from using recycled fabrics to using new fabrics.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
Blog features and giveaways, don’t think this led to any sales, really.


Highest Net
(Note, this is ALSO the longest-in-business):

What do you make or sell?
Waldorf toys

How do you sell it?
online to customers, wholesale or consignment

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
21 years

What was your gross income last month?
$50,000

How much were your expenses last month?
$30,000

What was your net revenue?
$20,000

What did you do with the profit, if there was any?
We reinvest in inventory.

Was last month a normal month?
That’s the monthly average.

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
stores/wholesale

What kind of marketing do you do?
blog, email, FB, IG

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
We need more sales.

*****

Isn’t that interesting?

 

What’s even more fascinating is the broad range of reactions people have to their income and where they want to go. I asked, “How do you feel about your goal?” and this a sampling of responses:

“Looks like it will happen, I’m optimistic!” -a business that had $6 profit

‘I’m pretty confident that I can get there. I’m still figuring out what sells best, where my sweet spot is for the profit margin, and how to build my customer base.” – a business that had -$160 profit

“It is a little scary to put this is writing. I’m worried about judgement by others….and my own judgement of my progress towards my goal.” – a business with over $900 in profit

“Excited? Scared? It’s always a bit scary when you change direction…”  – a business with $1076 in profit

 

What I hope you see here is that the happiness or contentedness of the answerer aren’t correlated with the income (or “success”) of the person’s business. Instead, they are related to that person’s goal and where they think they “should” be by now. People making $0/month and $1000/month both wrote that they felt doubt and worry. People making $0 and $15,000 both felt excited and encouraged. You see, it’s not the numbers that matter, it’s what you choose to do with what you can learn from the numbers.

 

Another important piece to note is how (un)comfortable people are in looking at their real numbers. When I asked how people felt after answering the questions, they said:

“I don’t like to think too deep about my business – it’s scary and it makes it feel very real. I don’t like to answer in depth questions, I like to just go with the flow and be surprised by the results. That way I can never be disappointed. But it’s not the best strategy.” -business with $0 in sales

“Good! Nothing surprised me, but it’s always good to have to answer these questions. It makes me think. It makes me make sure that’s really how I feel, what I want, etc. And it helps me get crisper on my goals and why they are my goals.”

“I feel fine, but only because Starship had helped reign in my focus, helped me recognize where I am right now and what I need to do to get where I want to be.” – business with over $500 in sales

“It’s great to reflect on this topic. Its something I hadn’t given enough thought to in the past. Writing it down here made me realise how much I want this to work.“  -business with $1,000 in sales

“I always feel a little bad about not being great at business when i think about the money, but since I took your Pay Yourself e-course winter 2014 I have really tackled this money issue head on and made big changes to help push me toward financial sustainability.” -business with $1,009 in sales

 

I also noticed that of the business owners who made more than $1,000/month, NONE of them were suprised by the numbers – in fact, they all had the numbers easy to gather, while businesses who made less than $300 had to spend more time gathering the numbers, and many of them were unsure of their exact expenses, or the answers to some of the marketing questions. One way of looking at this is that people who don’t make very much per month don’t feel pressured to keep up with it. But I’ve learned by working with students long-term that the very act of getting on top of your profit margin increases your sales. When you know your expenses, you’re sure to price right. And when you know what you made in one month, you can make changes (and measure the results!) to increase your sales next month.

Or as one Starship Captain said in the survey (who had a net profit of $6,129 in March):  “Keeping close track of my sales vs. expenses has helped me streamline my process and keep me profitable. It’s also allowed me to plan for realistic growth.”

 

If you don’t know your numbers, I strongly recommend that you take a moment now and do the math.
You can use Pay Yourself to learn how to do the math, and to identify the profit margin of your products and your business’s break even point.

It’s my hope that this Real Number Project has given you a dose of reality and encouragement. I’ve heard from so many of you that you’ve loved it, and that thrills me! Please remember not to compare yourself, but to learn what you can, and then get back to doing your own work.

If you feel overwhelmed by all you could do to improve your numbers, let’s cut through the overwhelm.  I’ll be sharing (free!) resources about the only things you need to worry about (so you can ignore everything else!), with everyone who’s interested in Lift Off – a program that guides you through building the foundations (including profitability) in your business.

5 Income Reports for Knit/Crochet Designers

RealNumbersblogpost

You know I love Income Reports, right? I love reading what’s actually happening in a small business, and I love that people will just share these numbers with us!
Now, not everyone wants to put their income on their website, nor does it make sense for them to! But this means that there are lots of income reports from businesses-who-sell-business-advice but not a lot from other makers.

I set out to remedy that a few weeks ago, and launched the Real Numbers Project. Over 50 (!) of your fellow makers submitted their numbers, and now it’s time to take a look at the results!

I’ve thought long and hard about how to share this info with you, so that it’s as useful to you as possible. I decided to split the responses into two categories: designers (those who sell patterns) + finished-goods makers. There were other businesses who submitted their numbers (thanks!) but not enough to (yet!) put together a comprehensive look at the numbers.

This week I’m sharing the Income Reports of Designers (all of them happen to be knitwear/crochet designers) and next week I’ll send Income Reports of finished-goods makers.

A few things to remember: These numbers represent a TINY slice of possible designers. These are the people who either read my blog, or were sent here by a friend, so I can tell you that they are overwhelmingly women, ages 30-60, who have a college degree or higher, who are VERY comfortable online. That means these numbers don’t represent the many makers who make a living primarily offline.

I chose to share information from the youngest business, the highest and the lowest numbers that were shared with me, along with a few that represented the majority of respondents (both in sales numbers and time in business.) Based on the emails and comments I received, those with the truly lowest numbers (those who are making no money from their business) chose not to fill out the survey. So you should assume that many people make $0. In other words, these numbers aren’t a representative sample of everyone trying to make it as a knitwear designer, they are representative of the people who are making some money as knitwear designers.

Now, before you start reading the numbers, I want you to be aware of two things as you read:

  • How do you feel? (Be aware of the Comparison Game, jealousy or disbelief!)
  • What can you learn from this business?

Let’s jump in:

The Youngest Business

What do you sell?
Knitting patterns
How long have you been in business?
8 months

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
3.5 months

What was your gross income from your business last month?
$174.00

How much were your expenses last month?
$150.21

What was your net income?
$23.79

Was the last month normal?
Slightly higher

What else aren’t the numbers telling us?
I am still purchasing educational materials to learn more skills.

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
Hopeless, although I suspect I might be selling more than others who have only been going a few months.

{Tara’s note: Do you see how this maker feels hopeless even though she has an actual profit, after just 3 months of focus? This is totally normal! Use this as a reminder to catch yourself when you start to lose perspective!}

What else do you measure month-to-month?
I track email subscribers, social media followers and number of individual sales.

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
Hard to say. Promoting helps I think but I’m trying so many things I’m not entirely sure which is having the most effect.

If you care about something more than sales, what is that specific number?
Email subscribers to my newsletter is important – 463 signed up since Jan.

What kind of marketing do you do? How do you spread the word about your work?
Instagram, Facebook, (automatically sends Instagram to Twitter), blog, podcast, new Ravelry group.

Is there something in particular that you feel helped your business move forward?
The gradual shift towards believing I could do it. I’ve been a stay at home mum for over a decade so part of it has been readjusting my beliefs that I’m “working,” not just avoiding housework. I’m not there yet! It’s also a major career change from my job before kids so I am working hard at convincing myself that I can actually do this.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
It might be too early to say yet. I am doing a scattergun approach to marketing – sort of – and will narrow things down as I figure out what works and what I actually like doing.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
I want to be able to earn a reasonable income from home so I have flexibility for my children. I would love for my job to encompass more than just designing, I’m working at writing, too, and hope to get work from that. I’d like variety. I’m giving myself a few years to see how this works out.

How do you feel about that?
I feel slightly frustrated that I’m at the beginning, yet that’s also exciting. My biggest challenge is time management. And juggling my existing full time job as a mother! I’ve just hired a cleaner to come once a week. I have got to start making some money! I’m desperately needing to produce more patterns both to get a bigger portfolio and also to learn more. I’m also still finding my style so I’m expecting it’ll be a while before I get any real traction.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
I’m feeling such a mixture of feelings. My suspicion is that lots of new designers are slower to earn money – but maybe I’m deluded about that?! So a part of me is pleased that I’m earning anything at all. But on the other hand I wonder if it appears I’m doing better than I am so I feel a bit of a fraud. I have a deep feeling that I can do this but I need time. The day to day chugging along is becoming more familiar – although a little voice is telling me I might be putting in lots of effort for a pipedream – that only a few people make money in this business. Confused much?!

 

A typical responder (about half the responses were similar)

What do you sell?
knitting patterns

How do you sell it?
Ravelry

How long have you been in business?
5 years

How long have you been dedicated to working on it as a business?
about 4 years (but only on evenings and weekends)

What was your gross income from your business last month?
$200

How much were your expenses last month?
$2

{Tara’s note: This made me wonder if they counted Paypal fees, website hosting, or anything else?}

What was your net income?
$198

Was the last month normal?
About average. Summer is worse and Nov / Dec is better.

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
I don’t think I earn enough for the hours I put in..

What else do you measure month-to-month?
Total NUMBER of individual sales

Do you focus more on a metric other than money?
Fun. Knitting, designing and selling make me happy. I love seeing people knit my patterns. The cash I make allows me to spend on expensive yarn guilt free.

What kind of marketing do you do? How do you spread the word about your work?
Facebook, Ravelry groups, Pinterest. I don’t do much marketing other than being present on social media and engaging with customers. I get a lot of word of mouth recommendations that way.

Is there something in particular that you feel helped your business move forward?
Being brave enough to submit to magazines. The income is more reliable and I reach more potential customers in a different marketplace.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
Blogging. I feel uncomfortable and I don’t enjoy it enough to make time to do it regularly. I’m much happy chattering on Facebook and posting tutorials on my website.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
I want to retire early (in about 20 years time). I have pensions which will provide the bulk of my income but I would like knitting pattern sales to provide a reliable income for treats.
In the meantime I want it to keep me in yarn & patterns.

What was it like answering these questions?
I did Pay Yourself so I understand where I am and I’m OK about it.

Anything else you want to tell me or other creatives about your numbers or your feelings about them?
I don’t ever expect knitting to provide a living wage. I treat this like a business but it’s really a hobby that pays.

{This is super important to note! She’s clear about the kind of business she wants, and what she expects from it!}

The Lowest Net (but look at the gross and the reason why!)

What do you sell?
PDF patterns, some kits, tools, supplies

How long have you been in business?
4 years

What was your gross income from your business last month?
$5,823.27

How much were your expenses last month?
$6,601.32

What was your net income?
$-778.05

Was the last month normal?
Pretty normal for a March for me, up 20% from last year which is my goal for this year most every month.

What else aren’t the numbers telling us?
I made a downpayment last month on a new website – a huge investment for me. It’s going to eat all my income for the next few months (actually – it will cost the entire 20% increase in my gross projected for this year) but it will pay off for years to come. I’m very excited about taking this step!

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
Awesome! I’m actually making a living at this!

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
my newsletter subscribers and regular customers

What kind of marketing do you do? How do you spread the word about your work?
Almost entirely by newsletter. I have almost 7500 subscribers and that’s increasing by about 300 every month. I use Facebook to chat with customers and Twitter to chat with colleagues. My YouTube videos also drive a lot of traffic.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
In four years I want my average gross monthly revenue to be $10,000.

How do you feel about that?
Like it’s pretty doable. Last year my goal was to double my sales and I did that. If I can increase 20% a year for the next four years I’ll be there – and I’m on track for that so far this year.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
I feel so PROUD that I have a thriving and growing business that brings such satisfaction to so many people!

{YAY!}

Anything else you want to tell me or other creatives about your numbers or your feelings about them?
Don’t rely on anyone else to bring you business. My shop is self hosted and I don’t rely on Facebook or anyone else’s algorithms. I built my customers one by one. That seems really slow when you’re starting – but it’s pretty incredible how those single customers add up.

 

A typical responder (the other half of middle responses were similar)

What do you sell?
Knowledge: Patterns, Authorship, Workshops, Consulting

How long have you been in business?
3 + years

What was your gross income from your business last month?
$1,616

How much were your expenses last month?
$353

What was your net income?
$1,260

Was the last month normal?
Average gross sales are about $2,200

What else aren’t the numbers telling us?
I am overly cautious with investment in the business. Don’t spend what I don’t have. My main commodity is TIME.

How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
I’m happy to have turned a profit from day one, but still struggle with getting enough for capital investments and bigger risks

What else do you measure month-to-month?

  • Website traffic
  • Email subscribers
  • Social media followers

Do you focus on something other than money? What’s that number?
Engagement numbers—mailing list, social media
300 email subscribers—want 1,000 by end of year

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
Mentions online, my own blog posts and newsletters

What kind of marketing do you do? How do you spread the word about your work?
email newsletter, blog, social media (Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), trade shows, teaching, publishing projects

Is there something in particular that you feel helped your business move forward?
Networking with other small business owners and not being afraid to let my petticoats show.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
Trying to work with folks that don’t understand the maker market—big box marketing. Folks whose heart is in Marketing with a capital M and not Making with a capital M.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
To be able to support my monetary, social, and emotional obligations to my family while working as a freelancer in a small town with very few other opportunities in my field (or any field). I’d like to double my business income over the next two years and keep my expenses to about a quarter of my income.

How do you feel about that?
Like it’s pretty doable. Last year my goal was to double my sales and I did that. If I can increase 20% a year for the next four years I’ll be there – and I’m on track for that so far this year.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
That I really do have a plan!

{YAY!}

Anything else you want to tell me or other creatives about your numbers or your feelings about them?
I feel very lucky to be able to pursue my goals.  

 

The Highest Numbers:

What do you do?
I’m a knitwear designer, instructor, author and run a craft website.

What do you sell?
Patterns, yarn-based products

How long have you been in business?
7 years

What was your gross income from your business last month?
$14,500

How much were your expenses last month?
$5,800

What was your net income?
$8,666

Was the last month normal?
There are higher and lower months, but this is a pretty normal month.

What else aren’t the numbers telling us?
It’s incredibly hard to make a living selling $5 patterns. This number includes income from books (which have been written over a number of years), classes as well as product sold on my site, including a subscription-based product.
How do YOU feel about the money in your business?
I’m pleased.

What else do you measure month-to-month?
Social media followers + email subscribers

Where do you think most of your sales come from?
My website

Do you focus more on a metric other than money?
Yes, I definitely care far more about the spare time/flexibility I have, because my life is more important than cash :)

What kind of marketing do you do? How do you spread the word about your work?
Only organic tweeting/blogging/stuff. Very little paid advertising (prolly $40 total in Rav ads)

Is there something in particular that you feel helped your business move forward?
My Craftsy class was a huge leap forward, mostly in terms of street cred. Having a subscription-based service has also helped tremendously in terms of providing a more steady/reliable income.

Was there anything that you’ve tried that just did NOT work for you?
More complicated patterns are NOT what my customers are interested in. Giving away a free pattern also didn’t work well, because I find that folks looking for a free pattern are looking for free and don’t convert into buying patterns.

What’s your goal for your business, big picture? Where do you want it to be?
It’s my happiness. I want to keep a flexible schedule and have a job that’s intellectually interesting.

What was it like answering these questions? How do you feel?
I usually ask myself these same questions :)

Anything else you want to tell me or other creatives about your numbers or your feelings about them?
Having a business takes a long time to build. I’ve talked to lots of people in this industry, and no one is making a living because they ‘had a lucky break’. Luck may play into one pattern release, but a successful business is the result of hard work and persistence.

**

So, what did you learn? Did this give you ideas (or clarity) for your own business?

Remember, there is no good or bad, it’s all just data. There’s what you want and what you don’t want.
But you have to have your own data. If you don’t know your numbers, Pay Yourself will walk you through figuring it all out.

Above all, I hope this showed you that you can build whatever kind of business you want, as long as you know what it is and you’re ready to commit to the work it’ll take.

PS. A GIANT thank you to those who shared their numbers so generously. As I hope you can see, your numbers provide both reality and encouragement to others who are struggling.

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