How do you keep going when everything is GOOD? Or FINE?
What if you met your goal, so you're not feeling super motivated? Or you've gotten excited about a new project? How do you keep your consistency on what's already going well?
Today's question comes from a Starship Captain who asked, “How do you stay focused on the parts of your business that are already going well, when you've got a new project you're excited about?”
I'm going to answer her question in a minute, but first I wanted to tell you that the Starship is what makes this podcast possible. I don't take advertisers and I don't spend a lot of time on this podcast selling my stuff because of the Starship. Also – the Starship gives me almost all of the topics I cover here – either the questions and conversations come up naturally, or I ask the Starship once a month: what do you want me to cover?
If you want to ask your questions and get them answered, the Starship is going to open next week! It has changed up a bit, so if you’d like to be the first to hear about the changes, sign up at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz!
Now let’s get to the question, when everything is great, how do you keep going?
How to keep going:
You can systematize and streamline everything (so you have more time to focus on fun stuff!) by…
We talk a lot about this in the course on Taking a Break, we guide you through each step. The course is now only available in the Starship community, you can find out more about that when it opens, by signing up at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz
Decide on the results and the effective minimum dose.
What do you really want to accomplish in the area that you’re not focusing on? What is the minimum you want from it? Being really clear and decisive on what you’re willing to accept from the area of your business but doesn’t have a lot of focus, is so important to your own peace of mind. It’s fine that not every area of your business is your main focus at a given time, but we often beat ourselves up later, once we see the results. So determine the results you’ll be ok with, and don’t fret if things decrease while you’re working on the new thing.
When you know the results that you want, experiment with what is the minimum effective dose of effort required. Answer the question: What do I need to do to get those results? It’s entirely possible you’re doing a lot of things you don’t need to do, to get the exact same results you’re getting. We often talk about doing more and trying more and adding more, but it can be even more effective to reduce what you’re doing, to do less.
The great news is, identifying the results you want and the minimum effective dose that it takes to get those results is SO helpful when you go through a period of time when you can’t work as much on your business – maybe your kids are home from school, maybe a parent is sick, maybe you’re about to have a baby. But knowing what it takes for your business to survive at the level it needs to survive can give you a lot of peace of mind and clarity when you need to step away from your business… or when you just want to go in a new direction or try a brand new thing.
Even if you've been doing it for years, if you feel yourself start to slip, get accountability.
You can do this casually with a friend, or you can do this more officially inside a group like the Starship where we have weekly accountability check ends and accountability partners. But often, when people aren’t doing what they want to do, the easiest solution is just to build in some accountability. Get someone who is expecting them to do what they want to do, someone outside their own brain, who won’t accept any excuses.
I talked more about this is episode 73, how accountability can help you reach your goals
And about how accountability can help you be more productive in episode 122.
I want to end by giving you permission to follow your enthusiasm!
It will lead you in exciting new places and new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to let yourself out of your box and into something new!
What's your brand? Is worrying about it going to increase your sales? What is translating marketing on Instagram into sales?
Today we're going to talk about the difference between branding, marketing and sales, as it's related to your small business.
A few weeks ago we talked about increasing sales through marketing on Instagram and then I was talking with a Captain about being sure they were spending their time on SALES, not just on Branding. It got me thinking, there's an important distinction between Branding and Marketing and Sales, and we don't talk about it a lot. In a big a business, these three things are clearly separate, there are different people in each department. But in your small business, you're doing it all. And in different businesses, they have different weights, ….
The vibe of your business. Your brand is the answer to the question: “How do people think about your business? How does your business makes people feel?” When they see it, they know it's yours, because it's your branding. It's the visuals, the tone of voice, the kind of media you use, and how you show up.
This is super important in a business that sells commodity – in other words, the same thing as similar businesses.
For example, a comic shop sells the exact same comics and uses the exact same distributor as every other comic shop. So the branding is EXTREMELY important to help it stand out. For a shop, the branding is going to be how the shop makes you feel – the customer service, the vibe of the shop, the events and activities going on. Everything from the staff you hire, to the comics you highlight, to the way you treat customers – that's all going into the way your customers feel about you.
Now, before we dive into this, I want to be clear about something. In all areas of your business, you're going to be authentic and honest. Just because you THINK about something and decide something, doesn't make it inauthentic. I think makers get confused about this because they think: I'm going to be myself and any amount of being strategic isn't authentically myself. No no no. The goal of effectively branding your small business is to find the brand that flows authentically from you. But to also be aware of it and intentional with it.
So you're not just providing amazing customer service in your shop because it's what's your brand about it, you're doing it genuinely and authentically.
If you (or a branding expert you hire) try to push a brand that isn't who you really are, it's going to fall apart. For example, the knitwear designer Frenchie behind Aroha Knits – her business has this very beautiful, elegant, styled in natural materials and soft colors brand, and when she talks in her videos, you can feel it's all very authentic. But if I tried to pull that off? If it would be fake and be So. Much. Work. I just can't be airy and elegant and styled. My branding is bright colors and being honest and being my goofy self.
While that's authentically me, I have to actually remind myself of that, especially when I compare myself to others or I feel like maybe I should be X or Y.
A few more examples: If you're in a direct selling company, like doTERRA, the company brand stands for something already. But you have to build your own brand – not with a fancy website or anything, but through how you treat every customer, through how you sample people, invite them to learn more. If your brand is aligned with the bigger brand, and if you use the bigger brand to give you focus, you'll do better. Your brand of education and support is going to be what builds trust and creates a community.
A yarn dyer is creating a brand with every skein of yarn she dyes – the colors she uses, the yarn she uses, all of it. What also impacts your brand: the label, the shops or shows where you choose to sell, what you focus on about your yarn (is it the material? Fun? Community?)
A few things to remember about Branding:
If you're making your thing and putting it out there, you're going to have a brand. You don't have to “make” one, they occur naturally. Your brand is going to come from your IG, your products, photography, way you write your descriptions.
Since you're going to have a brand anyhow, spend a little time thinking about it. The questions I ask in my marketing classes guide you through this. You can get access to my marketing class that goes into Instagram and email in the Starship, which opens in a few weeks. Sign up to learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz.
Branding is really important in a business that sells commodities, and if you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Be consistent. Choose some colors, your tone of voice, and stick with it.
Brands (and businesses) evolve and change, that's ok.
Marketing is communicating with your customers. It includes your brand (what do people think of when they think of you), but marketing is the ongoing communication of both that brand + feeling, and of the products you have. Marketing is everything that creates, keeps, and satisfies the customer.
Branding is the feeling, marketing is what you DO that creates that feeling.
Marketing is alllll the things you're doing in your business. It's putting things on sale, it's photography, it's what you post and how you say what you say. We talk a lot about marketing, but after we talk about sales, I'll give you a few examples where people get confused about if they need to focus on marketing or sales.
Sales are: HOW YOU MAKE MONEY. It's the final step in the relationship that starts with marketing, contains your brand, all of that should lead to people making the sales.
It's where you say: Click here to buy this. Here's how you can get this. Would you like to join?
You can have the best branding and marketing in the world, but if you don't follow through and focus on sales – nothing. It won't matter. This is ESPECIALLY important in the online world. All your marketing might never be seen, until you focus on sales and you get in front of people.
For a crafter this includes:
Sell to retail shops (you close the sale to them and they close sales to many consumers)
I feel like I've been in an intensive training school for sales since joining doTERRA. Their branding is perfect. They already have marketing figured out. The products are amazing and pure and there's research projects that back it all up. In order to share the oils, I have to focus not on marketing (which is where I've spent a lot of my time in my other businesses) or in product creation, but in sales. How do I talk about these in a way that communicates clearly? How do I educate people so that they understand how they'd use them (because I don't want you to buy something you won't use?)
These are the questions you ask yourself to improve your selling –
Do people know this exists?
What do they need to understand or know before they will want to buy?
Am I making it clear how to buy? (So many people skip this part!)
Understanding these questions has made me better at sales in every area of my business – from the Starship, to book sales, to classes.
I want to reiterate what I said earlier – you're going to do ALL of this with authenticity. People have such stereotypes about “sales”, that they think you have to leave your integrity behind. Of course not! Sales is a natural outgrowth of your brand and marketing. If you make it NOT a natural outgrowth, you're going to be really bad at it.
As I said before, just because you're thinking about it and getting better at it, doesn't make it inauthentic.
If you feel like it does, or you are thinking “I don't want to do sales”, then honey, you don't want to have a business. A business is sales.
So let's look at some examples of where people get confused about which of the three they need to focus on:
If you have started an online shop and you haven't gotten sales or traffic, my #1 recommendation is that you focus on making sales, before you worry with anything else. Get your products in front of people – go do a craft show, do a local farmer's market, approach local shops or galleries. Spend all your time on sales, and in the in-between times, post to Instagram, or start to build your online marketing. But I see a lot of makers spend hours and hours on their online marketing, which takes MUCH longer to turn into sales. So when they don't have sales after 2 or 6 or 12 months, they stop their business and say, “people didn't want what I sold”. Nope, it's that people didn't know what you sold.
The social media world has confused us by thinking a big following = a steady business. Nope. Steady sales = a steady business.
Now, if you've GOT a big social media following, you can absolutely start a business and start making sales, but my friends and students who have done this tell me that they're shocked by how SMALL percentage of their audience actually buys their thing.
If you are making some sales and you're getting real customer feedback, absolutely build an online following, but realize that a small following that actually buys is 100x better than a big audience that doesn't.
I'm pretty passionate about this topic, because I've seen so many business owners spin their wheels online instead of going out there and making sales. I have 2 businesses that earn over six figures a year, and you can see on my Instagram, I don't have a huge audience. This podcast isn't in the top 10 or even 50 on iTunes. I don't even have 5,000 email subscribers.
So why do people focus more on marketing than sales?
Sales is scary. You can be rejected. When you focus on marketing, you're just “putting it out there” and people can either opt in or not opt in. That feels much less risky.
When you focus on sales, you're giving people the opportunity to say yes OR NO. And we're afraid of hearing no.
But as my mentor told me in the first few months of my doTerra business: You have to get a lot more comfortable being rejected. Ha! Yes! Also, ouch.
So how do you know what you need to work on?
Almost always you can spend more time on sales.
If you've been building piecemeal over the last few years, take a step back and look at your branding. Does your site and Instagram and tone “match” your products? Does it make sense? If you threw your product (and tag) in a pile with others, would people know which is yours? It may be time to think through what you want your brand to be and how you're communicating that.
Everything is marketing. If you are posting online regularly, updating your shop, putting labels on your products, you're marketing. Like we talked about in episode 217, focus on your right people and on communicating clearly.
If you'd like to work on all three and get my feedback on your branding, marketing and sales, join the Starship! It opens in a few weeks and you can learn more about it by signing up at the bottom of today's show notes or at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz.
I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.
How do you translate passion into sales? Today I’m answering a question from an Instagram friend!
On Instagram, I asked for your questions and IMDCreates asks, “I am scared to ask but here goes I am a crocheter and I am proud of what I do but it doesn't seem to translate into sales how can I change this for my business?”
Sales don’t just happen, sales are a result of clear communication.
Sales happen because the person who wants what you sell, clearly understands (because you communicated it) what is special about your work and how it will serve her needs.
Remember, there are a bunch of needs: need for self-expression, need for belonging.
How do you clearly communicate?
First, understand that this is a lifelong process. You are going to get better and better at each of these steps with time, the main thing is to start working at it now, and keep paying attention as you go.
This takes time and thought the first time you do it, which is why I’ve put this in classes, so you can dedicate a few weeks to figuring this out.
Identify who is the person your work is for. Where/how does she use it? What stage of her life is she in? What is she wanting to do? (Express herself? Feel great? Be funny?)
Talk only to her – in your Instagram posts, in your shop descriptions, in whatever you do.
Get clear about how your work serves her need. In my book Market Yourself there are a lot of worksheets to help you figure out – what makes your work special, how to communicate that, and how to speak in the language of your customer. You want to be sure that you’re talking about what she cares about (ex. she doesn’t care about what stitch you use, she wants to know why you made that decision, what that stitch does for her.)
Keep her coming back. Email list. Keep communicating
Now, I mentioned that this is a lot of steps and that it takes time. I walk you through all this, along with how to translate it into email lists and Instagram, in the class Elevate your Business, which will now come with your Starship membership – you’ll be guided through:
Identifying your goal
Making a plan
Tracking your numbers and profitability
Figuring out your marketing and how to use the tools effectively
Now that you've reviewed the year so far, you have probably recognized some things that did not turn out as planned. How do you feel? Do you feel horrible about that? Crushed? How do you handle it when things don't turn out as planned?
They happen. I've heard from a lot of you that you actually skip doing your monthly or quarterly review, because you know you didn't hit your goal and you don't wanna acknowledge it.
But here's the thing: You have to acknowledge where you are in order to move forward. You have to come face to face with both disappointments and triumphs so that you can make an effective plan for what's next. I lead all new Starship Captains through Chart Your Stars before we make a plan or take classes because getting oriented in where you REALLY ARE is the most important step. Nothing can move forward until you know you're starting from.
In the spirit of acknowledging those goals-that-don't come true, the disappointments and how hard it is, I'll share a story in my own life, that's been unfolding over the last 3 years. As many of you longtime listeners know, 3 years ago, Jay quit his office day job to work part-time in my business and part-time in the local comic shop, that we intended to buy. We were both super excited – I was proud because this meant that my biz went from being around 70% of our income to 100% of our income. I think this is especially meaningful to me, because SO MANY people assume that my husband has been supporting me financially throughout my business. He has been supporting me emotionally, but my biz income has always been 60% or more of our annual income. This is my own thing I need to work on – I need to not care what people think and the stupid assumptions they make. But, ya know, it felt good to answer the “and what does your husband do?” question with “he works in my business”.
He was excited, because this allowed him to learn the comic shop business, while getting to know the people who would be his customers and build relationships.
But, after 2 1/2 years…it didn't work out. The owner didn't give us what we needed for the banks, when we needed it and it became clear (to me) that he wasn't ready to sell. After 6 intense months of it almost happening, but with lots waiting and hoping, it was official – we weren't going to be buying the shop. This was September 2017.
That was a huge disappointment. And Jay needed to take time to just grieve that (it helps that we know we did everything possible and by the end of the process, we just wanted it to be over). And it totally changed our lives because Jay stopped working 6 days a week at the comic shop and was suddenly home….all the time.
We decided he should wait a minute before getting another job. He could do more in my business, he could travel with me, we'd have such a freer life if he wasn't tied down by hours. It would give him a chance to think about how we could still reach the dream of owning a shop, but without buying THIS shop. And we'd already been living off my income, so nothing there changed. We did have a good time – he went to San Francisco with me in October, then we spent a week with my parents in Oregon. We had a great holiday season without the stress of juggling schedules. (All of our parents require a road trip to visit, so now we could!).
But when it came to just daily work time, I have to be honest. It was really really hard. I need either total silence or coffee shop white noise and Jay is…chatty. And loving. He took such good care of me and our home during those months, but it felt like I was always balancing work with family, even in hours that we both agreed should be about work. My daily routines really slid, and here's the thing – even if Jay said nothing to me all day, it just felt different with him here all day.
But we didn't get much time to get used to that, because in February a friend with a sick kid asked Jay for help with his shop…and Jay stepped in. At first a little, and then a lot. I've talked about it a lot on Essential Enthusiasm podcast (you do listen to that, right?), but Jay is an Obliger. And around April, after months of bouncing between my business and his friend who needed help, he told me: I feel I'm constantly doing what people are obliging me to do and NOT what I need to be doing to move forward on my goal (I know you obligers feel him on that). What he wanted was to feel like he was moving forward on the future comic shop and the biggest thing that would make that possible is MONEY. So although he can support me in tangible ways that will lead to my business growing, he can't directly do things in my business that makes money.
No one can. I get a lot of help, I hire people to do things like edit videos and put together podcast posts, but what that does is free up my time and focus to do the stuff that directly money. For Jay to feel like he's working on his dream, he needs to see the direct result.
Here's another factor: I was having some…not-great-mental health months. One of the lies my anxiety tells me is that I will never feel like myself again. And that by not feeling like myself, my whole business will fall apart. And when my business is 100% of our income? Our whole life will fall apart. I definitely wouldn't say I felt pressured…I loved that my biz was supporting us. But when it came to thinking about growth… I definitely felt a kind of existential dread and that dread took away all of my creativity. I couldn't see all these amazing ways to grow or improve my business, because I was wrapped in “OMG WHAT IF IT ALL FAILS”.
So he decided to get a day job. So that he can contribute directly to our family's dreams. And this isn't going to make any sense for the international listeners, but I just have to tell you, that the health insurance was a deciding factor. Although my insurance is ¼ of Jay’s monthly pay, it’s still less than we were paying before, out of pocket.
I realize for most people, getting a job that has insurance, that pays pretty well for our area, for a person with a BA in history, is ONLY GOOD NEWS. It is such a blessing.
But I'll admit my biz ego was a little disappointed, because this is NOT the direction I thought we were moving. I thought we both would never have traditional employment again. We were going to own a retail shop!
And yet, I have to admit, it's been great. In just the two weeks he's been working, I have gotten so much done! OMG! I am alone for 8 hours every day, which is just so restorative. And even though his job won't be contributing to our bills (we're using it pay off debt + save for the future), it loosened something in my head, it relieved some pressure I didn't know I was feeling and I have been SO much more able to be creative about the next direction in my business. I’ve had SO MUCH clarity in the last 2 weeks, it's just unbelievable.
So, that is our tale of not reaching our goal and things not going as planned. I wanted to share it with you, because I think it's our tendency to look at everyone else and assume they are where they want to be. Or that things are going pretty easily. Or that if they've hit one big goal (like a six figure business), everything else just comes easily. I also wanted to talk about it, because a lot of people dream of quitting day jobs, or even retiring their spouse and I gotta tell you – it's not always fun, easy or fulfilling for both people. Life changes, and what you want changes. Your mission isn't to hit some certain milestone, it's to create a LIFE that you like, and maybe a business (or maybe not!) that supports that life.
My brother, who works at a tech startup in San Diego told me one time (when I was making about $40,000/year and he was making $60,000), “I don't know why you are so concerned that you do work that is what you want to do with your time. You know you could just get a job that pays enough for you to do the stuff you want with your non-work time.” At first I thought, ugh no, that sounds horrible, but then I realized – in our online biz world we romanticize loving what you're doing with every minute. But even in a business you LOVE you're going to do things you don't like. And as you build that dream? You're going to do a lot of things you don't like. You're going to work hard, you may need to do other work to pay the bills or to finance your art.
By the way, I reminded by brother that I didn't get a BA in computer security like he did, mine is in French Lit. I'm pretty unemployable, and spending time grinding away while making not-much was a long term investment into the business I have today that pays me well, doing what I care passionately about. But that's not the right answer for everyone, in every situation.
To sum up, when things don't go as planned, remember:
Acknowledging what isn't going the way you wanted, helps you get oriented to where you are now. You have to start any plan from where you are.
You are not alone. It's not supposed to be different (it's easy to think “I should already be passed this” “I shouldn't have these struggles” but you’re not the only one who does).
Take time to grieve and to flop about. Try things to see if they work for you.
Notice what's not working for you (like Jay did) and know you can always make a different choice. Sometimes that choice might look like something you didn't think you'd do. That's ok, if it's the right next thing for you.
If something you dreamed of just isn't working for you. That's ok too. You're allowed to change your mind. I thought having my biz employ both of us and having Jay around all the time would be great. I was wrong. Keep changing your dreams as you change.
Don't give up. All of this is just details. Identify the BIG THING you care about, the ONE THING that matters to you and organize everything around that. As long as that is still what you want, let go of all the details and focus in on it.
To help you set goals from this place of focusing on what REALLY matters, I'm sharing a worksheet called “Creating Do-Able Goals”. You'll find it in the form below, just put your email in the box and we'll send it right to you!
When you fill out this worksheet – tell me! Share it on Instagram with the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm, so I can cheer you on!
What if you don't need a goal to do what you need to do? Let's talk about what a goal is good at, and not good at, and get you ready for the rest of the year!
Welcome to the second half of 2018. This is the perfect time to look at the goals you set in January and be real with yourself. Are you truly working on them? Have you made progress? What do you need in order to work on them?
Today we're going to talk about what to do AFTER you set a goal…and we're going talk about some advanced-level stuff – maybe you don't need a goal at all.
A few weeks ago a Starship Captain said, “You know, I can't really think of a goal. I feel like my business is going in the right direction, if I just keep doing the work I know to do.”
YES! That is what it's all about!
See, a goal is not the POINT, a goal is just a tool to help you get what you want.
A goal should:
Inspire you to kickstart work you haven't done before (or get more consistent with the work)
Clarify the direction you want to go, so all your actions can line up to what you actually want
Make it obvious what you need to do and what you need to commit to, to make it happen.
This is why not reaching your goal is sometimes just as productive as reaching it. You can learn from a goal you don't reach. Maybe you learned that your timeline or expectations were wrong. Maybe you learn you don't actually want that goal. Maybe you learn you need a different business model, or you need to work on totally different projects.
The GOAL of a goal is to bring you that clarity, to help you learn the lessons in your business.
I wrote a whole book about, and lead people through the process, of setting a goal and breaking it down into a plan because I've found that having a set goal, and then working towards it, is the fastest way to learn from your business.
Setting a goal AND creating the plan makes you:
Get specific about what you need to do
Organize your time so you can do the stuff
Try stuff you might otherwise put off
Create systems so you can be consistent in all aspects: making, marketing, photography, shipping, etc
For MANY of the makers and artists and essential oil educators that I work with, setting a goal and then breaking it down into a doable plan is the first time they've gotten serious about their business. It's the first time they've really looked at what they even want, and what they're willing to do to get there.
Without a goal it's easy to just keep reading articles, researching, wondering why people aren't buying, and then go read another article. With a goal, you have to take action (or you realize you haven't been taking action!).
And here's the cool thing about all this – after a goal gets you taking action, getting organized, creating systems for getting things done…you don't always need a goal to keep going.
In fact, the system itself can keep you reaching your next goals.
In his book How to Fail at Anything, Scott Adams, writes that systems are better than goals. Systems of action, applied overtime, bring about better results that one of goals. When you don't reach a goal, you feel bummed, but when you're working a system – every day that you do the work, you can feel great and accomplished.
What's a system?
Posting on Instagram is a system. My podcast, with it's transcript and free downloads and blog posts and youtube videos and audio version on iTunes – that is a system. I don't have a goal to put out a podcast, I have a system that gets it out consistently
Now, I disagree with Scott, because I think he doesn't address a major issue in accomplishing anything – activation energy. Activation energy is the energy that it takes to START something. What I've found in working with hundreds of women in creating the business they want is that a big, exciting, motivating goal can help you over the hump of activation energy. It can inspire you to spend that energy and move forward powerfully and quickly. A system isn't that inspiring 🙂
But after you're over the activation energy, a system is what you need in order to keep moving forward. A system about when you work, what you work on, how things get done.
Today I'd like you to look at where you wanna go in your business and your goals for the rest of the year – where would a system help make it easier?
I made a worksheet last year about staying consistent that will help you spot these places for systems. You can get that worksheet here:
I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.
This week I answered questions from my Instagram followers!
collekecreations How do you feel/like blogging as a business model? So writing blog posts and having a shop added to your site with your handmade products? Thanks Tara 😊
devotedquilter I understand the difference between features and benefits when I'm talking about my quilt patterns, but I have trouble applying it. For example, I include the finished size of the quilt and the techniques used to make it, but those are both features. Other than when a design makes good use of fabric scraps or comes together quickly, I can't think of benefits to include. Do you have any suggestions for how I can think differently about my designs to see the benefits for potential buyers?
christmastreegifts I know this isn’t a question for most crafters, but… How do you keep control of sales if you don’t want to scale your business and hire or outsource help? As in.. How do you not get so many sales you can’t handle it?
bcastiel Hi Tara! For an Etsy shop, do you think it's better to have a low shipping cost that just equates to the postage, or a higher one that includes labor costs, packaging costs etc? Or should you offer free shipping, as an incentive?
francescaabram Hi Tara, I'd like advice on what to do when business takes a slump due to factors outside of your control e.g. Brexit, consumer confidence? 🤷🏻♀️Thanks!