Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Explore YOUR Business

Handmade Marketplace – book giveaway!

I have one copy of Handmade Marketplace to give away,
read to the bottom to learn how to win.

(photo from karichapin.com)

Oh, I can not tell you HOW excited I am about this book!

I was honored to be interviewed for it, to serve as part of the “Creative Collective” – the group of makers who contributed bits of our own experiences.

That was crazy exciting, but then I got the book in my hands.

And oh, I'm far beyond excited to be included in it, I'm thrilled that this book exists.
I'm thrilled I have something to recommend, as a complete resource, when someone asks “How do I start a crafty biz?”

It has everything a crafter needs to know/think about/plan for in selling their crafts. Craft shows, marketing, making their thing, wholesale, everything!

I have read a loooot of business books.
Most of them are geared to big businesses.
A few are aimed at truly tiny businesses (my favorite: The Boss of You)
Even fewer are about craft businesses (and the best, by Barbara Brabec are over 20 years old)

But this is the first book  for us.
Crafters who blog. And podcast. And sell online.

Obviously my review is wildly biased because the book is filled with people I adore (Kari! Kim! Diane!)…but my mom (who is totally out of the online-craft-world loop) called me last night to say “I can NOT put this book down! It's teaching me SO much!”

Thanks to the kind people at Storey, I have one book to give away to a commenter!

To enter: leave a comment with your business question and I'll choose one commenter randomly and announce the winner next Friday!

PS. I met the author (and everyone else mentioned in this post) on Twitter. Being a part of this book is just one of the fabulous side-effects of loving Twitter.

I’m not an expert


I don't think I am know I'm not.
In fact, even thinking that anyone expects me to be one freaks me out.

And yet.
People ask me questions.
I answer them.

But in my answering, I'm just saying this is what works for me.
Not I know the only right way.

I've been thinking about this expert-thing since reading this post about not being an expert. And while working on my Twitter class.

I am not an expert

I wasn't sure how to announce the class, because I keep getting hung up on I'm not an expert!

Morover, I think Twitter Experts are the problem!

They overwhelm us with information on what we should be doing.
Or they have all these rules that makes Twitter not-fun and frankly, sort-of-icky.

So why teach a class on Twitter?

Becaue,  in every one of my other classes for crafty businesses, someone (or several someones!) ask about Twitter.

How can I use it without being icky?
What's the right way?
Won't I seem spammy if I talk about my business?
What if no one is following me?
Am I doing it wrong?

And Oh! do I have answers. Lots of don't-be-icky, but-still-grow-your-business and have-lots-of-fun answers.

Not because I'm an expert.

But because I love Twitter.
I love making new friends.
I love getting to know people better.
I love sharing my business in a non-icky way.
I love the opportunities it provides (magazine articles, interviews in books!)

So, despite not being an expert, I'm going to answer your questions about taking the ick out of Twitter while rocking it and having a great time and not-being-at-all-sales-y in a week-long class, next week. You can read more about it here.

Baking = Writing

Sure, it's National Craft Month, but I really spend most of my time on two non-crafty “crafts”:


I love both, but sometimes combining them feels like…work.
I always want to avoid sales-y, ick-y business writing and sometimes even the NAME of a business sales-y thing grosses me out.

Like “launches”. Long ago, I started calling them “brunches”.
Because isn't brunching the most relaxing thing ever? No stress! No waiting! Just piles of tastiness and conversation!

Last week I was getting ready to write something business-y (for the brunch of my Twitter class) and I got stuck. On the word.

Sales Page.

A totally icky word for what is a pretty simple thing: a description of what you are offering.

But as much as I love writing and I love sharing my thing, I always put off writing sales pages.
It just sounds painful and icky and sales-y, you know?

So let's metaphor-mouse it (that's a Havi thing):

Current relationship (sales page =?)
-“persuasive writing” assignments in school
+sharing my thing
+putting words to an idea
-certain technique that I'm not doing and therefore “LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE” (ugh, I hate that saying)
-should should should

Reminds me Of..
writing that is a “should” – school assignments, homework, wondering if I'm doing it “right”

My ideal metaphor (X=?)
+putting words to ideas
+sharing what I love
+not scary
+no “right” way
+extra doses of me-ness

What happens when…
What happens when there aren't any expectations of what I *should* be doing? What does that look like?

That feels like I'm dancing around in my kitchen, as an adult (ie, not a kid doing homework), putting my favorite ingredients together, confident in my skill.


When sales page = homework:
I feel:
like a kid
worried of getting in trouble
trying to please…the big kids? the experts?

When sales page = my baking
I feel:
like an adult
responsible to myself
I want to share all the tasty goodness!

Sales Page = Baking!

Do We Have Metaphor?
For me, baking=sharing, fun, having a party, inviting everyone, woo!
Baking for someone is a lot more fun than trying to sell them something (ick!)


Is there a word you don't like? Would finding a better metaphor make it more enjoyable?

My creative Mission

Reading this post, by Diane (of CraftyPod) on Make+Meaning about Creative Missions, sparked all sorts of crafty, hopey, changey thoughts.

She says

even the most compelling hobby, when it becomes your paycheck, can start to look an awful lot like work.

And I can tell you, this is SO true.

Which is why, each year I look at what I want my business to DO. Not just pay my bills (although that's a goal), but what I want it to do in my life and in the life of others and (this may be a little grand) what it's doing in the world.

  • What does it change?
  • How does it improve the people who interact with it, impact the environment, support the crafty world?

Reading the article, I was reminded that my business has a few Missions:

  1. Promote sustainable fibers, especially that of small farmers – through using only sustainable fiber in my own work, through explaining those choices to the crafty world in a non-judgey way, through bringing attention to environmental issues around fiber and providing information on making eco-friendly decisions (whether with my yarn or anyone elses
  2. Supporting the indie-yarn community – through A Novel Yarn, through providing information, through sharing what I've learned, through being available to answer questions one on one.
  3. Experimentation – with yarn-making, with business-growing, with class-teaching. My mission is to try new things, learn, synthesize and share the results.  This is really the heart of everything I do.

This is always something I'm working on and working with. The deeper I go on this creative mission, the more the mission changes, the more details I get, the more ideas are sparked, the more my life becomes authentic and the more I live what I truly love.

What is your Creative Mission? Are you still working on it?

Teaching Your Craft

I'm super honored to be interviewed by the fabulous Diane of CraftyPod about teaching crafts (and specifically, knitting). We had a great conversation about the experience of teaching and how to get started teaching.

If you've wanted to start teaching your craft, listen to the conversation here.

Diane mentions that my Learn to Knit kit taught her to knit (squee!), you can find the kits here. Even if you know how to knit, these kits are a great way to teach a family member and avoid frustration that comes from not knowing how to describe when-the-loop-does-this-you-do-this.

Have you taught your craft?
Anything you'd add to our conversation?

7 Reasons You Get a No

Looking over yarnies' (this is what I call super-small indie-yarn-makers) websites today, trying to find just the right ones for A Novel Yarn (my real-life yarn shop), is frustrating.

I love handmade yarn and I love yarnies.
I want to help them all.
I want to see them all succeed.
I do NOT want to say No.

But the most frustrating part is – the yarnies left me no other option.
Based on what they've given me, I can't say yes.

Why am I saying No?

There are 7 mistakes yarnies (and all sorts of crafters) are making, so I turned on my recorder and ranted a bit.

You can download it here: 7 Reasons I Say No
(right click and Save As…to save to your own computer)

The first step to getting your goods onto a shelf in a shop?

Stop doing these 7 things!

The second step:

Figure out what to do, how to do it and how to ROCK it in this Wednesday's class,
How to Rock the Shop.

But do you make any money?

While getting ready for tomorrow's How to Rock a Craft Show class, I surveyed a bunch of crafters and asked them for their craft show questions.

The most-oft asked question:

Do you make any money at it? How much?
Did it REALLY help you quit your dayjob?

To answer this, I think it's best to look at hard numbers.

What percent of last year's income came from craft shows?
Could I have quit my dayjob without that income?

To figure it out, I added up all my sales both online and off of yarn + fiber + lessons.
Then I added up my craft show sales.
I divided my craft show sales by my total sales to get the percentage.
(Note to the more-math-minded…did I do this right?)

I got .48

48% of my sales came from craft shows.

I did the same math for 2008: 42%.

Considering I only did 2 shows in each year, I think that's pretty significant!

To get a really clear picture, I looked at the months around the craft shows. In the month preceding Urban Craft Uprising, I had 1/5 of my normal online sales. In the month following UCU, I traveled  extensively (and didn't reopen my Etsy shop) so I made about 1/10 of my normal online sales.

So while doing the show  made up for those two months, it's clear that the percentage would have been different had I kept my online sales going and didn't do the show.

In other words, I sacrificed sales before and after the show to make one big chunk of income in 2 days.
Had I not done the shows, my online sales might have made up for it.

But another consideration is that I prepared for the show during July, the slowest month for yarn sales (both in my shop and throughout the industry).
I probably would have low online sales even if I hadn't done the show.

Is there no clear answer?

I've left one thing out of the equation: post-show sales.

And those blow everything out of the water.

The people I meet at craft shows become online customers at an incredibly high rate.

It's a little hard to track, since I don't have any way of knowing how many hundreds of people I talk to at a show.
But I do know when they come online, because I recognize their names or see it in their address.

And I do know that many become repeat customers, buying yarn every month for years after the show, because they become my friends. On Twitter, in the blog comments, in my inbox.

Post-show sales come as quickly as the night after an event, when people I met that day log-on to my online shop.
Post-show sales come from people who sign up for my newsletter and buy something after getting that first newsletter.
Or the fifth.
Post-show sales come from someone at the show blogging about what they bought.

In other words, it grows.
By meeting people, talking to them about yarn, sharing my passion.

This is the aspect that makes the answer to today's question an unequivocal

It's worth it, for the people.
It's worth it, for the marketing.
And it's worth it (as I wrote yesterday), for the fun.

If you want to learn HOW to get those fabulous post-show sales, check out the class How to Rock a Craft Show.

If you have any questions, ask them in the comments!

Growing with Craft Shows


Craft Shows have been a part of BCB since I first knew I wanted to quit my dayjob. I got to talking about it last week with some other crafters on Twitter.

It got me  thinking back to my first craft show and thought I remembered that I wrote a post after that first show.

Sure enough, I wrote of the most popular posts on this site, 5 1/2  Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs.
I reread it and I'm delighted by my exuberance.
That feeling hasn't faded in the last 2 years of doing shows; in fact, it's only grown stronger (and has grown into selling at my own shop).

As I prepared for my second show (which was much bigger than the first), I wrote another post about preparing for craft shows.  In it, I link to a lot of great basic resources.

It's funny to reread that post, because while I cover all the steps in preparation, I certainly don't go into the details (like, how do you figure out how much to bring?). And the details are what people always ask me about!

Exactly 1 year and 1 day after that last post, I wrote about the Pain of Craft Shows. In it, I share all the agony (and exhilaration) that goes into pouring yourself into a show.
I think it's the closest I've ever gotten to the WHY I do craft shows. I say:

I do craft shows because it’s the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. They get my yarn.
It’s a place to be me: handknit clothes, stripey knee-socks, pink-haired, yarn-making me.

And when I get home, back to my solitary studio, back to my online conversations, that afternoon of pure me-ness stays with me, buoying me, refreshing me.

Sounds fabulous, eh?

In talking to others about craft shows, I've been asked a lot of questions.
Specific questions.
Questions I don't answer in the above posts, questions I couldn't answer in a zillion posts.
To answer the questions and to help everyone branch out into this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you've been thinking about doing craft shows or you've been wanting to them better, check it out!

If you have questions about craft shows, leave them in the comments!

In which I gush about how much I love you…

Last week I listened to the BEST podcast I've ever heard about sharing-your-crafty-thing. It was Sister Diane's CraftyPod show about Engagement Marketing.

If you sell your crafty thing (patterns, yarns, purses, whatever!) you really need to listen to this.

What's Engagement Marketing?

Diane gives a great definition and explains why you'd want to use it, but I can't resist putting it in my own words.
It's sharing your thing by connecting. By making relationships, by talking to your customers one-by-one. It's what we (you and I) do here on the blog in the comments. It's chatting on Twitter. It's leaving comments on Flickr.

Ignore the word Marketing.

Because it's so much more than that.
(and I don't like the word marketing)

It's not just sharing my passion with you, even though that's always fun.

In all of this connecting, sharing, chatting; I've gotten to know you.
You share your yarn-ideas with me, you help me crochet, you review my class.
You challenge me, encourage me and inspire me.

For that, I thank you.

Enough with the gushing.

If this all sounds like utopian love-fest, it sort of is.
It makes my working life so much better, that I get to share it with such fabulously brilliant people.

But it's also REAL. And useful.
Useful in sharing my thing and useful in making my business sustainable.

And it's accessible to anyone. Really!

Want some of this gushy-ness?

To feel this good and gushy about the people involved in your business, start by listening to Diane's podcast.

And if after you've listened, you're looking for some concrete ways of applying it, check out my Share Your Thing class (which is now available for homestudy).


Helping Yarnies Share Your Thing

My work A Novel Yarn (you know, my real-life yarn store!) has put me into contact with hundreds of independant yarnies.
I've read their blogs, poured over their online shops, signed up for newsletters.
I have observed.

And all this observing (combined with my own yarnie-experiences) taught me a few things:

  1. Everyone really has their own style of yarny-ness
  2. That own-style-thing means that everyone has something different to offer
  3. A lot of yarnies aren't highlighting their own, unique, awesomeness on their website, blog, twitter…in other words, on their public face
  4. Many of these yarnies have scattershot marketing, if any at all.

These problems are so overwhelmingly universal (with a few exceptions like ColorBOMB) in the handmade world – this is so NOT limited to yarnies.

And this is a shame,  because there are so many awesome makers of awesome things that are toiling in virtual obscurity because they don't know how to share their thing.

All this observing has ignited a passion inside me.
What was once just a vague thought (I'd really like to somehow, someday  help other handmade businesses) has turned into a solid plan.

I want to help handmade businesses reach their right people in a non-icky, super simple way.

I don't have all the answers, but I've studied a lot and I've done a LOT of trial & error (& error & error).

I've put together systems that have worked really well for me (newspaper & magazine articles, showing up in books, etc) and that can be applied to ANY crafty business.

And as part of my Sharing-It Pledge, I'm ready to share this aspect of my business in a 3-week online class.

You can read all about the class here and the subjects we'll cover, but the short version is this:

  • You want to share your thing with the world
  • You have something unique to offer
  • Together we'll discover the best places for you to share your thing, a system for doing it consistently AND ways to highlight your you-ness.

If this seems like something you might like, you can learn more and register for it here.

Have any questions or comments? Leave them below!

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