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Do the Thing in 2010

You know, the thing, the thing that's really really wanting to be done.

For me, at the end of 2008, that was getting out of the office-world and more fully into the yarny, business-y, running my own ship-world.

And I did it. And the year was so hard.

But I did it!

And after listening to the call free Q+A call I did earlier this week (you can get it here), I realize so many of you have a thing to do in 2010 and aren't sure where to start. Or you have lots of questions about how I did it, because you're not sure it'll work for you.

And the truth is, I don't know if it'll work for you. So there's no point in giving you a bunch of do-this-and-this advice.

The best I can do is suggest that you ask yourself some questions and you figure out what th the Thing is for you and how best to get there for you.

Maybe your thing isn't quitting your dayjob, but pretty much whatever your thing is, you need someplace to start. And a resolution to do the thing probably isn't enough.

With that in mind, I humbly offer a list of questions to ask yourself before you do the Thing.

These are the questions I started asking as I started on the journey to quitting my dayjob.

Let me know if you use the questions and please please pass them on to anyone who has a thing to do in 2010.

Good Asking and Happy New Year!

PS. Download the Questions to Ask pdf by clicking here.

PPS. Wondering how to get more customers, to get more sales, so you actually make what you need to make to quit your dayjob? That, my friend, is Sharing Your Thing & I'm teaching a class about it next week! Read more here.

Sharing It

Last January, I sat down to think about the upcoming year.

I'm not one for resolutions or promises or big change-your-life sort of goals.
But I do like to figure out what I want out of the next year.

First on my list for 2009 was to quit my day job. But that goal had a lot of mini-goals that I wanted to happen before I quit:

  • get some press coverage
  • make enough, by selling yarn, to replace my dayjob salary for 3 months in a row
  • create new, not-strictly handspun yarn-related products

As I look back on 2009, despite all the other icky stuff this year brought, I'm really proud of myself for accomplishing those goals.

But what about YOU?

But my goal was two-fold: I want to crush it and share it. (I wrote about that here).

And while I've shared as much as I could as I was going through the process, I now have the time (and presence of mind) to share even more, with more details.

This year, it's not a goal or a resolution or anything, but I am commiting to sharing it in 2010.

Since making my own goals public and then sharing the process, I've gotten a steady stream of emailed questions. I know there are more people who are NOT asking and I want to share as much as I can!

I have lots of ideas for really in-depth ways to share it (and by “it”, I mean the whole quit-your-dayjob, do-what-you-love, make-a-biz-from-your-craftyness thing) but I wanted to get started right away.

Let's talk!

Next Monday (12/28), at 2pm EST, let's take a break from the holiday-craziness and just chat about business stuff.

I'll give you a toll-free number (and access code) to call and you can call in and ask questions  about anything business-y.  Even if you don't have questions or you're shy and don't like to speak up (that's me!), call in to hear other people's answers!

If you can't make it at that time, I'll send you the recording (as long as you've registered for the call).

To get the phone number & the recording, just sign up here.

I look forward to talking to you!

PS. I'm not selling ANYthing! They'll be no sales pitch or anything on this call, I just want to answer the questions you have!

The Pain of Craft Shows

I want to tell you all about Craft Attack, but my camera's not cooperating and I can't extract my pictures from it, so that will have to wait.

Instead, let's talk about the doing of a craft show.

It's a lot of work.

More than you think. Maybe more than you would sign up for if you really knew that ahead of time.

There's the actual making of wares, on top of keeping a steady stream of new yarn into the shop.

There's the packing and the planning (extra tags, a sign-up sheet for the newsletter, and on and on).

There's the setting up (tent, tables, lifting, carrying – always UPhill!)

There's the actual 6-8 hour show. The work of talking to people about what you do, why you do it and yes, why that yarn costs that much.
The standing for 8 hours without sitting. The lack of food (I hate to eat when I'm working a show, my stomach's usually too tense and I hate to talk with a mouth-full of food). The excess caffeine. The blasted heat.

Then there's the packing back up. Maybe driving (or flying!) back home. And the unpacking.

And finally, there's the aftermath. Credit cards to run, emails to answer, names to add to the newsletter list, packages to locate (every time I've done a craft show, something has gone wrong with my normal shipping. EVERY time.)

So why do it? Why inflict the pain upon myself (and loved ones)?

Because it's fun.

Sure, it's stressful, but it's the good kind of stress. The push-yourself-farther stress. The make-more-yarn-than-you-thought-possible stress. The talk-to-lots-of-people-despite-being-painfully-shy stress.

It's the chance to hang out with other people who do what I do. Who make and sell what they love. Who are clever, funny and so good at what they do. Who don't ask “Why?” but instead, “How?”

And oh! The customers! People see my yarn in person! And squeeze it! And talk to me about it! And then take it home and love it!

While writing this it dawned on me: 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.

To answer your 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!

Fighting the Someday Syndrome & Learning to Knit

Today I'm interviewed on the Someday Syndrome, which is a website dedicated to helping you move past the “somedays” we all have. It's a short interview and I talk a bit about the pity party I had for myself before I started selling yarn.

If you've come here from the Someday Syndrome: Welcome!

If you're not a knitter, but you think you might like to someday start, why don't you sign up for my free Maybe-knitter Mini-course?

Maybe-Knitters FREE Mini-Course

You'll get 5 little tips on finding a local knitting group or teacher, the resources that I used to teach myself to knit and an early-bird discount when my Learn to Knit kit goes on sale.

Craft Show Preparation: When yarn ATTACKs


The yarn, fiber and wooly goodness is taking over my house! I've been getting ready for CRAFT ATTACK, a craft show held in Charlotte, NC, this weekend. It's only second craft show and I am overwhelmed and overexcited and swirling around trying to get ready in time. My mom and I are leaving Friday to take the scenic route, through Boone and Blowing Rock (3 yarn stores, right near a great coffee shop).
I met a few of the CRAFT ATTACK organizers at my last craft show and have since been Twittering with them. They've planned an excellent show that will have over 80 vendors in the lovely Independance park.
Since this is is just my second show, I'm still learning about preparation. Here's how I've been getting ready:

  1. Stock – trying to make as much as possible! What looks like “a lot” in my apartment, looks pitiful in the booth! I make a schedule a few weeks out and plan for how many skeins I need to spin a day that I WON'T list in my Etsy shop. Then I stick with my schedule (or try to!)
    As I work on creating, I add the “show stock” to my inventory list, just so I can know what I'm bringing, what sells and what doesn't. This is also an excellent way of figuring out what the “value” is of what you're selling. If you don't bring $2000 worth of stock, you certainly can't expect to make that much! I find this helps me have a much more realistic view of what I could potentially expect from a show.
  2. Labels – When adding those items to your inventory, this is a fantastic time to label them! I believe EVERY item should be clearly priced, so customers don't feel shy about asking the price. I print out my labels, on recycled paper and make little hangtag ‘books”. I fit 3 tags/sheet of paper and then fold them in half. The front has my logo, the back has my “story” and the inside left is printed with info about the fiber (so I have different labels for local wool, banana fiber, etc – each explains what makes these fibers eco-friendly). I then handwrite the yarn’s info on the inside right (name, yardage, weight, etc). It’s a much easier process when I do it once a week…instead of waiting until the night before the show!
  3. Displays – there are lots of great examples of displays on this flickr group . You want depth, height and movement. I use baskets on tables, a 3 tiered basket thing (it’s about 5 ft tall) and a hanging sweater thing (made for folded sweaters hanging in your closet). I also have lots of clear glass jars (like at candy stores) with a pop of bright fiber. People like to feel up yarn, so I try not to pile anything up (or else they can’t get to what’s at the bottom).For my sign, I sewed a simple rectangle that folds over a dowel (or can be used as a table cloth), the bottom half is the actual “sign”. I cut out and sewed on my name (in the font from my logo) with my logo next to it (overlapping rings) in both fabric and handstitched yarn (ok, so far the yarn hasn't worked so well, so I'm still experimenting). It’s super bright and I love it! Pictures to come after this weekend.Oh, and tablecloths! Cover each table all the way to the ground so that you can store stuff under them! As for the tables themselves, I like a rectangle table for the back of the booth (with business cards, newsletter sign-up and my cashbox on it) and a round table near the front of the booth.Because so few people have actually seen yarn being created, I bring my wheel and spin. This is really a major part of the “display”, so I have to make sure I have room with it (and that I bring plenty of fiber to spin. It draws people in, and I can talk and spin at the same time (I have a little explanation I do about how the wheel works, if they look interested and start asking questions). But once they start to look at the yarn, I stand up to talk to them. If your craft is small and fiddly (I’m thinking earrings), you’ll probably turn people off by being focused on something they can’t see. Knitting and crochet is similar…is it interesting or do you look bored? It’s a fine line!
  4. Marketing – I bring so many business cards I think I'll never give them all out. And yet I do. Bring all you have! And pens! I also have my newsletter signup sheet on a clipboard. The wind was really blowing it around last time, so I tied a length of yarn around the whole thing with solved the problem perfectly! I offer 10% off to anyone who signs up and if you’re already on my list (and you tell me that!) you get 10% off. This time I'll have a little bowl full of giveaways (and something to hand kids who try to touch everything else) – felted baubles, tiny bits of yarn, etc) and stickers. I'm still trying to figure out a way to tag the little free balls of yarn, so that they remind the customer of my business, but they're too round to tie a business card to. I don't want to put them in a little bag, because then you can't feel them! Any suggestions?Also be prepared to answer the “Can you make this in ***” question. Know how long it would take you and how you’ll handle payment for a custom order. If you don’t want to do custom, come up with a nice way of saying no, so you’re not taken by surprise in the moment.
  5. Packing the car – Obviously you need your stock, your tent, table, display units and cashbox. As for what else, this is the most comprehensive list I've ever found!

When planning for the show, I found the following articles to be super helpful

What do you do to get ready for a show?
Will you be at CRAFT ATTACK? If so, let me know!

If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better, check out my How to Rock The Craft Show class!

5½ Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs

I participated in my first craft show last weekend, the Crafting Patch Market in Charlotte, NC. I was very nervous beforehand and stayed up way too late to get every last skein of yarn labeled. It all paid off in a lovely day (no hint of Hurricane Hannah) filled with fantastic people and a real sense of community. Despite being well-prepared by reading everything I could about doing a craft fair, there were still a few things that surprised me:

  1. A festival provides indispensable feedback on your marketing plan. Online buyers see & buy without disclosing what prompted the purchase. Did they seek me out? Did they stumble upon me? At this festival, several knitters came specifically to see me (thanks to my posting on forums, the blog, etc). Others registered recognition when they read my label. The feeling was indescribable. People recognized Blonde Chicken Boutique as a brand. The thought still makes me all sparkle-y.
  2. Instant feedback is a drug that I'm afraid I may be addicted to. Sending out yarn to my lovely online customers, feels a bit like sending my squishy friends into the ether. They may show up on Flickr or Ravelry, but mostly I release them into the wild with hopes that they find a good set of needles (or at least a comfy stash to marinate in). Watching a real, live, chatty, interesting person walk away with my yarn is ridiculously satisfying.
  3. Describing a product is entirely different in person. The long, descriptive prose that is so necessary to sell a tactile item online isn't necessary in person. The customer has the squishy soft item in their hand and can clearly see the colors. This may seem obvious, but after writing web copy for so long, I had to remember it while writing the labels. I also had to scale back on the descriptive talk with most customers. Some people want to know all about the farm where the sheep who grew that wool was raised, but some don't.
  4. Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilerating. After years of waitressing, followed by 2 years managing a retail studio, I was expecting the usual exhaustion of a day filled with smiling at people and describing the product. I was shocked by how different this experience was. Yes, I was tired, but I was exhilarated. Selling someone apple pie is NOTHING like sharing a passion for creating!
  5. You don't have to (and probably can't) fake enthusiasm. For the first time in my customer service experience, I didn't need to tell myself “be nice”. The fiber artists came in, chatted and I was overwhelmed with happy, smiling words. I nearly hugged someone (everyone). It was ridiculous (but I didn't hug anyone other than my husband, so don't be afraid to come by my next booth!) Describing my process, demonstrating the wheel, chatting fiber, it was all so FUN!
5 ½ . I want to do it again! Ok, this isn't so shocking, because I've already agreed to do National Alpaca Farm Day at Silver Thunder Alpacas and have been accepted by Craft Attack. But I am surprised at how much I'm looking forward to the events. I am shocked at how much the experience has cemented that live, in-person selling needs to be a part of my overall business plan.

So if you're thinking about doing a craft show, I strongly encourage you try one. Find an inexpensive option (like a small one, or share a booth) and go after it! You may find it shockingly fun!


Edited a year later, to add:

Thanks to my continued great experiences at craft shows, I got a lot of questions about how to make it work. If you want to try 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!

Target Markets (+ stuff)


Miscellany

  • A (brand new) local knitting group met last Saturday, in Jonesborough (that's us up there, I'm the one on the far right). I considered not posting the photo, but I figured I'm swallowing my self-consciousness and saying Hello! That's me!
  • My Storque article is up: all about defining your Target Market.
  • Come chat about the target marketing in this thread.
  • Sara (of Etsy) has asked me to write an article about the weekly Fiber Friday threads, if you've taken part in the past, leave a comment about why you like it, what you've learned, etc.

Free Yarn

When I started to write this post, I had sold 95 items, now it's 97!
I am so very near 100 items, a number that I want to celebrate! So, to show my appreciation, the 100th item sold will be FREE, with NO shipping!
It doesn't matter how many you buy, if you purchase the 100th, I'll adjust your invoice and the 100th be
free and the entire order will have no shipping!

If you want to know if your item will be the 100th, just take a look at the shop, on the far right:

This prize is a big sloppy Thank You! kiss to my wonderfully supportive, slightly yarn-addicted customers! To ensure that you get the free yarn and shipping, leave me a note in the “Message to Seller” part of the transaction.

Have a great Wednesday!
(edited because I had a LOT of exclamation points)

Photography

When admiring the photography of my yarn-photo heroes, I often wonder how they do it. I'm not so interested in the cameras and settings (I don't plan on buying a new one for quite some time), but want to know about when and where. Lolly has written a great post about making a lightbox and although I don't have one, I appreciate her generosity. In the same spirit, I'll share my “photo studio”.
It's located in the 2nd bedroom, in “the office”, in one corner. My “studio” is straightforward: a sheet, on a chair. When not in use, the sheet gets folded up (to avoid the inevitable snuggling by the pup and cats) and the chair goes back to being a chair.

I photograph a week's worth of products all at once, after I've spent the previous week making it. I love this schedule because it gives me free time to create during the week, with a deadline of when at least 5 skeins need to be dyed, spun and dried. During the photo shoot, I try to take at least 3 photos of each of the following “poses”:
Swirl:
Hot stuff

Pile:
Vegan delight

Nub:
Grass - Bananiere

side view of swirl:
Fire in the Sky - side

long view of skein
Plum tweed

I take pictures on the weekend, usually 1 or 2 in the afternoon on Saturday (if I have my act together that week) or Sunday (after spending the morning spinning to finish the last bit). The room has high windows that face West and at that time of day the sun is just coming through them, but not directly onto the chair. The best days are sunny, but if it's overcast, I take the pictures in my living room (which has East AND West facing windows and the light is more diffuse).
After taking the photos, I transfer them to my computer, crop the best 5 or 6 in Photoshop (I do NO other alteration of the picture color or clarity: just cropping for size!) and save in a ‘ready to list' folder.

If you have any photo tricks or questions, please comment!

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