Craft a successful business. Do what matters. Get the free resources:

Explore YOUR Business

The business tools I use

Writing about the tools I use in my business for tomorrow's post. What do you use?

As you know, my mission  is to help  you build the business that best suits YOU. All of my classes, books and adventures are built to help you discover what's true in your business and what will work for you

This means that although I write about the journey of my own business exploration, I don't do a lot of recommending, or telling you specifics of what I do. It's not that I don't want to share, it's that I don't want you to get distracted by what I use instead of figuring out what works for you.

That said…I love reading these kinds of posts. And there are a few questions that I end up answering via email and Sessions, so I'd like to put all the answers in one place. (This was inspired by Elise's Baby FAQs. If you have a new baby, you should read this).

Keep in mindthis is what works for me, with my specific business. I work with many creatives who use an entirely different set of tools.
(You can ask them directly, inside the Starship – which opens tomorrow. Sign up here if you're curious.)

My website.

My domains are registered with NameCheap. Nathan does my hosting + WordPress pampering. My entire website is built on WordPress. I love it and tell everyone to use it. (Even my mom can use it easily for her site.)

Design

I built my first few websites on my own, with a combination of free WP themes + a couple of edited images (BCB is all me, baby). If you can add some text to an image with Gimp or Photoshop, I highly recommend DIY-ing it until your business can afford to hire a designer. Why? Because you'll want to know how to do absolutely everything in your business.

Even so, there are many  things to keep in mind to make your site as effective as possible. Be ready to tweak it endlessly and make it better and better. I go over the necessary parts in detail in Market Yourself, so if you want more, check out Chapter 4.

That said, at some point, you are going to want your site to match the awesomeness of what you sell. And unless you sell website design, you probably can't do it on your own. Once your business has started to make a profit and pay you, then think about hiring a designer.

The one thing I wish I would have understood earlier?
There's a vast difference between a “website” and a “visual brand”. Getting a website designed does not mean that your company has a visual brand. So if you're totally graphically-thinking-impaired (as I am) – you probably want someone to create a visual brand for you, before you worry about website design (you can always implement their branding into your existing website.)

Right now I'm working with Jessika to create a visual brand and I love her. The main thing is to find someone who's aesthetic truly matches your own and who gets you AND your community. Jessika totally nailed my visual branding in the very first try.
(You're going to see it soon!)

Shopping carts and buy buttons

For the past 3 years I've used a combination of PayPal buttons + E-junkie buttons (with my own button images.) Paypal is quick and easy. E-Junkie is also super-quick and has the added benefit of sending an automatic email with the info you need when you join a class or buy a download. (But it does cost at least $5/mo.)

Next month I've moving everything to WooCommerce, which will also let me send you an automatic download and will have the added benefit of everything being in one place. (This has been the biggest failing of this website so far – there's not a very clear “this is what I sell” space. You can find it all linked here, but that hasn't been effective at communicating it. How do I know? I answer the question “How can I work with you?” weekly.)

However, if you have a product-based business, I suggest you go with something that “manages” your shop for you and is super-easy to add items to. I recommend most brand-new-to-online-selling folks use Etsy. After you get the hang of that and you build up your own audience (through your own site and newsletter), then move over to your own shop, with Big Cartel or one of the other options. There are many, and I haven't tried any of them, so I recommend asking other makers. (We have a thread on this in the Starship.)

Newsletter software.

You know I heartily believe everyone should be communicating with their biggest fans via email (I talk a bit more about it in this podcast). And that autoresponders are the easiest way to get everyone on the same (ready-to-buy) page. I love Mailchimp for managing all of this. I've been with them for 5 (!) years and couldn't be happier. A few of my students found it overwhelming, so they went with TinyLetter which is much simpler.

 

Social media management.

Even though I have a Number One (a virtual assistant), I do ALL of my own writing. That includes the blog, newsletter, and everything I post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Everything you see online is actually me.

I think it's important to get that out of the way, because there seems to be an assumption that people get assistants to deal with social media. And to me, this makes no sense. Social media might be the first place you meet me (either because someone you follow retweets me or tweets directly to something I made), so why would I want that first impression to be anything but personal?

That said, it makes sense to make sure that what I write actually gets seen by my followers, so I use Hootsuite to schedule some Twitter + Facebook posts. It's very simple (and free) and I like that it allows me to share a zillion things as soon as I find them (which is often all at once), without overwhelming you, the reader. It also allows me to share a new blog post a few times a day, whether I'm online right then or not.

Even when I'm posting in “real time”, I don't hang out afterwards to have conversations. Instead, I log on to reply and have conversations when I have the time throughout the day (taking a break from other work, standing in line, etc). This time-shifted conversation is exaclty why I like Twitter! Although some conversations do happen in real time, I don't think anything's lost by time-shifting it.
What is gained is a lot more productive time and keeping my focus. While I love having conversations and connecting (love it!), I can't let it take over the equally-important creation time. To keep it reasonable, I often work with a Pomodoro timer (and go to social media on 5 minute “breaks”) and I have Nanny for Chrome installed. (But I very rarely trigger it.)

E-courses

There is SO much software out there for e-course development…and I actually use a lot of it!
The easiest way to hold an e-course is to load your content into an autoresponder in Mailchimp and when the person buys, send them an email with the sign-up page for the email list. I've used E-junkie to automatically send this email immediately. This is how my Automagical Emails class works.
That'll work for an independent study class, but what if you're holding the class “live” and you want everyone to discuss things? For a fixed-time class with automatic course delivery (you load it in and it goes out on your schedule), I really like Ruzuku. I used it for the last live Pay Yourself and for Explore You and the students really seemed to like it.
Now, that works for a specific timeline of the class, but for an ongoing community (like the Starship), I use Ning – which provides both the forum we use for conversation + a live chat space. You can also use a private Facebook group for this, but I find it a little more difficult to track the conversations and I don't like that things aren't archived and easy to search for. There are multiple WP plugins you can use to create a forum + community on your own site, but I haven't found one that works as intuitively (for the user) as Ning.

 I'd love to hear if you have a favorite?

 

Planning.

Here's the system I use to plan everything from my big years-long goals to my daily to-dos:

At the beginning of each year (and again at my birthday in June), I think through all the high-level stuff, using the Chart Your Stars Guide (available only in the Solo Mission or Starship). I set big goals and try to list all the little things I wanna do.

Each quarter, I use the Star Chart to pick a Destination. This is my Big Focus for the next three months. I use the Map Making Guide to break it down into all the Mile Markers and tiny To Dos. (I also review the last quarter so that I can learn from what did and didn't go well.)
(This is also when I create a content calendar and start filling it in.)

Each month I review where I am and what I need to do to get to my Destination (I send these reassessment questions out to the Solo Mission Starship). I use it to figure out what I need to get done this month. (Often I've already set deadlines while Map Making, so this is already mainly figured out for me.)

Each week, I make a Master List of everything I wanna get done this week. I double-check to make sure there are actions moving me towards my Destination + all the little stuff that has to be done week in and week out. (Blog posts, email ketchup, shipping books)

Each day, I check my weekly list and pick things from it to do today. I write a new To Do list everyday. I try to keep it reasonable (what I could really get done that day), but I find I actually get more done when I have more listed. (When I have few things listed, my brain thinks: Oh, you have 8 hours to do 3 tasks! You should read quilting blogs for a while!) I do star the things that HAVE to be done today and there's NO guilt if other things don't get done.

The actual TOOLS I use to do all of the above:

 

Writing.

 Every (workday) morning, I write, at least 750 words, using 750words.com and a Pomodor timer, while listening to Spotify (usually this playlist). Sometimes I use this time to write blog posts (like this) or email lessons, it's often on a bigger, less immediate project. Sometimes I just write out any problem-solving/thinking I need to do. (But I wouldn't call this a journal or free-writing, as I almost always write with an audience in mind, even if the audience is myself.) If I want to keep what I wrote, I copy it into an Evernote note.

Two to three days a week I have a second writing time, after my Morning Writing. While Morning Writing is dedicated to the writing I might skip once the day gets started (writing for the new book, thinking through a deeper subject, anything that doesn't feel immediate), the second writing chunk is usually devoted to my current projects – my “work” (blog posts, email lessons, class material.) I make the distinction in order to not let the everyday writing edge writing about whatever I'm enthusiastic about, whether it fits into my content calendar or not.

 

Email

I use Gmail for everything. When I have a pile of emails that I don't need to deal with right now (but I will need them in the future) or when my inbox just gets overwhelming, I use the Email Game to sort through them and boomerang messages back to me in the future.

That's basically it, I have no special email skillz. I try to close my inbox when I'm not directly writing or replying, and I set aside time once or twice a day to check it (I get no pings or alerts when an email arrives) for questions from customers. Twice a week I go through and answer everything (or delete it, or boomerang it). I spend a long time crafting useful answers to everyone who writes, so it's important that this both gets my attention and that it doesn't take over my life.

Jess, my Number One.

You already know that I do all my own writing and “showing up” in the online world, so what does Jess do? She makes everything better and she makes sure everything works right.

  • Every week she loads the Explore Notes I write (and the weekly Starship Lesson) into Mailchimp, editing it as she lays it out.
  • When I'm creating a new class, she edits (for clarity and grammar) my written lessons, she turns my questions into a pretty worksheet, she takes notes on the video lessons for a transcript, she uploads PDFs and text to the class space.
  • When I sell anything, she double checks that the buyer signs up for what they need to sign up for (especially important if it's an email-delivered product, like Solo Mission + Starship).
  • She updates autoresponders (like this) with updated info.
  • She notes absolutely all of our systems, so that I don't reinvent it every time (which has made me a zillion times more efficient).
  • When I write a really hard or important post (like this) or guest posts (like this), she'll edit it and give me feedback on where I'm overexplaining or glossing over something important.

(I wrote a bit about this when I hired her.)

In other words, whenever you interact with me, via reading my writing or emailing me your question or taking a class, you're interacting with me. And I have time to write long, thorough (free) answers to 5-10 non-clients every week, while writing 2 email lessons (one for free here, one for Starship members) and 2-3 blog posts each week, creating a new class every quarter, traveling + teaching around the country every few months – because Jess is doing all of the other not-writing stuff. Since hiring her, every area of my business has increased: my own output, my reader stats, and my sales.

How? I'm now focused 100% on doing what only I can do, and she makes sure my work looks (and reads) its best*. (I don't actually work any less hours now than I did before, I just spend my hours on more effective work.)

*She didn't edit this blog post, so all typos are my own fault.

 

Hardware

I recently got a Chromebook and I LOVE it for writing + traveling. It's super-light and I can fit it in my purse. I do 90% of my work on it. When I want to edit docs or videos, I use my very 4 year old Toshiba laptop. I take all photos with my iPhone 4s.

 

 Phew! That's a lot of tools + systems! 

Now it's your turn – what business tools and systems do you use?

If you write about them on your blog, leave the link in the comments!

 

 

The usual disclaimer applies! 

 

How to have a profitable business, Step 1

The first step to a profitable business


When I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time, I had worked for months towards an income goal. But then, life fell apart. In one month, my car caught fire, my husband lost his (only-part-time-anyhow) job, and my house was broken into (yep, everything electronic was stolen. Thank goodness they didn't know how valuable my little wooden spinning wheel is!)

Since that inauspicious start, my creativity has been my ticket to paying bills, traveling the country, going to movies and generally living life. In the beginning, I didn't know what to do except: SCRAMBLE. And, to be honest, sometimes it's still a scramble.

But I make it work.
 I take my family to a hotel + fancy dinner + the Chocolate Lounge for Mom's birthday. I take a week off to be in San Diego after teaching at TNNA. I get stuck overnight in an airport and can afford to get a hotel room at the last minute. I drive 3 hours and get a hotel to visit my husband's grandpa before he dies, then the next week for the funeral…then the next week for Thanksgiving.

These aren't glamorous rolling-in-the-dough stories. But this is real life.
I'm a 31-year-old married French major who likes to watch movies in a sofa cinema and can't bear “office casual”.
I bring home the puppy chow from my ideas and my words and my hands.

And in the nearly 5 years of doing this full-time, I've learned how do it, and do it with some ease.

And so, I think long and hard before I answer a question like the one Laura asked: “How do you create the income of your dreams when creating the products by hand?”

The answer is GINORMOUS.

But it's also kinda small: Profit. 

Everything you sell, every project you work on, and every opportunity you jump on must be profitable for your overall business to be profitable.

But doing that! It involves…math, my dear friends.
And it involves bold honesty. We tend to avoid the things we're not-so-comfortable with, so I created a class that walks you through all of it. From individual product profit-testing, to the things that keep your whole business paying you. It's the systems I use (and that I've helped other crafters in the Starship use) to launch new products, find new income streams, and pay the bills.

In the meantime, I can begin to answer Laura's question, with the very first step of profitability: Knowing your numbers.

Watch the below video to learn about your numbers and what they teach you:

(I made this video last year. Pay Yourself  has newer, better quality videos – watch a sample here.)

 

Once you know your numbers, it's time to learn from them + to  Pay Yourself

 

 

 

Do you have a business? Or do you have a hobby?

Do you have a business, or do you have a hobby?

What does Bar Rescue have to do with your crafty business? 

Watch the below video to find out, along with the three things that distinguishes a creative hobby from a creative business.

Can't see the video? Click through to watch it.

 

Do you have a business or do you have a hobby?


The difference:

  • Do you have a bigger vision?
  • Are you eager and willing to do the work of a business?
  • Are you in it for the long haul?

 

If not, that's fine! Enjoy your hobby!

If you're not sure if you want a business, check out this post on Fresh Stitches: Do you really want a business? 

 

But most of the people who write me DO have businesses!
I bet you do, too. As Alex Franzen likes to say, you are not confused. You know what you want, you see your bigger vision.

So why do you doubt it? Why do you question? 

Is it that you need accountability to stick with the hard bits (and encouragement that you are not alone)? If so, check out the Starship.
Or is it that you need to make your plan more do-able and less vague?

Or maybe it's a question of confidence (hint: you don't have to wait) or believing it's possible (it is!) or knowing how to spread the word?

So how about you?

Do you have a business? Or do you have a hobby?

 

 

 

 

 

How to do the right thing, every time

The worst quilting assistant ever. He lays on the notebook but refuses to take notes.

A regular question I hear from clients + Captains, whether they're just starting up or are fully  self-employed is surprisingly simple (and utterly frustrating) :

What's the right thing to do next? How do I know if I'm doing on the RIGHT things?

This gets to the heart of what frustrates me about working for myself. There's no one tell me what to do next. There's no one to tell me if I should be doing that. Or if I'm wasting my time.

In your business, not only do you have to decide what to do in any given moment, but you also have to determine afterwards if that was a valuable use of your time and energy. Whether it's how to market your newest pattern or what project you should start next – you're in a constant question flow: What now? Was that right? How can it be more effective next time?

(This is why we're so drawn to business “experts” and their Do Exactly This classes. We just want to know that we're doing the right thing, at the right time, and that all of work is not for nothing.)

But the fact is, only you can decide what the right thing is, in your unique situation, every day.

You can systematize this process so it isn't so hard, in order to spend less time stressing and more time making. The system/flow that I teach is simple + powerful:

Explore.
Decide.
Reassess.

When you reassess, you're not judging the results, you're only gathering information. You're looking to see that you current calendar and to-do list is filled with Next Right Thing.
How do you know if something is the Next Right Thing?

The Right Things:
Matter in the long-term.
Bring you closer to a goal you truly care about.
Create an experience you enjoy.
Generate the feelings you want to have.

What's on your list that doesn't fit the above requirements?

(Hint: Most things that you do simply because you “should” aren't “Right Things.”)

 

rightthingeverytime

 

 

Get the help you need (and stop wasting your money)

Crepe myrtle (& tiny moon) #foundwhilerunning

Without quite meaning to, I've been writing a little series on exploring the support your business needs (this is just one area you might want to explore.)

Now that you know what you need, and you've explored your options of getting your partner's support, it's time to branch out  and get support from the whole wide world.

Instead of thinking about all the options out there, focus in on your needs.

When you thought about what you needed, what where the tasks that came to mind? (Take a moment to write them out!)

Now, for each item on your list, who would be the best person to help you with that?

 

Some of your options for support:

  • Teacher
  • Mentor
  • Assistant
  • Professionals (lawyer, accountant)
  • Community of peers (other businesses)
  • Community of Right People (your buyers and supporters)
  • Real-world community
  • Family

 

Go on and take notes on your list!

The next step is to find the specific person you need. 

If, for example, you are new to sharing your thing with the rest of the world, you might just want to read a book about that. But if you've read a few books and your problem is actually DOING it, perhaps you need the accountability of other explorers. If you need ideas for your newest product – don't ask a teacher or other businesses – go right to your community of buyers and talk to them about what they love, use and need.
The trick here is to remember what you need specifically – the actual tasks or barriers you currently struggle with – and then to seek out what will help you overcome (or accomplish) it.

Even though this is simple, are you doing it?

Or are you taking every class that's offered, and buying random books? Do you have lots of general knowledge, but no idea what to do for your specific situation?  I know – it's tempting to download and stockpile it (without using it) because you don't want to miss out! I'm guilty of this too! But this gather-everything-and-then-sort-it-out method is why you feel overwhelmed. It's why you still feel unsupported.

Don't get me wrong, I totally believe in investing in your business (and your business education). I wouldn't offer books, classes and support if I didn't know it was helpful. But it's helpful for the people who have the specific need. The best investments I've ever made  have been those that filled a need I had right then, or that related to a new adventure I was embarking on. 

So what do YOU need? Where can you find it?

 

cross_stitches

 

 

During this exploration of my own relationship to support, I made two big changes to my business, which I'll be sharing with you Thursday (you can subscribe so you don't miss it.)

 

 

How to know what you want

Dinner was here.

Last week we talked about asking your spouse for support (and wow, did we talk about it! Thank you so much for sharing your stories on Twitter and via email! ). One of the things I heard over and over was that Step #1: Identify what you need and want is actually really hard to do. And I totally agree!

So, before you get the support you need (from anyone!), you have to know what you need…but if you don't know what you need…what do you do? Are you just stuck support-less and alone?

Um, yes. If you don't figure out what you need and ask for it clearly, you won't get what you need. Even from yourself!

(I know this sounds drastic, but think about it for a minute. If you don't know that you're hungry…do you remember to eat? If you don't know that your kid is cranky because they're tired, you don't know to give them a nap. Knowing what you need is central to communicating clearly in any area of life, business, or the universe.)

Now that we've established that this is pretty much the foundation of everything, let's talk about how you figure out what you need.

You explore. 

You pay attention to what you feel. You notice the cues. You experiment with doing it one way, and then another.

This sounds simple (and really, it is) but it requires that you look up from the everyday tasks of running your business (and life). It's too easy to get caught up with the Must Dos and ignore what all the Doing is actually accomplishing. Exploring (especially if it's new to you) might take a while of practiced effort to become the default. But soon, it's part of your daily life and you integrate the things you've learned from your explorations.

When you start exploring things, when you start noticing what you need and what's working, your relationship to your business (and maybe your spouse, kids and friends) changes. Instead of just powering (or flailing) through every day, you begin to see the big picture. You being to listen in to the lessons your business wants to teach you. Suddenly, you and your business are on the same team, and you're in sync with what it (and you) need.

To explore support

  1. Notice what feels really hard. Whether it's getting dinner on the table or your newest product launched – what feels just ridiculously undoable? What's the thing stressing you most right now?
  2. Pay attention the next time you do this thing – are you making it harder than it has to be? Is there a simpler way?
  3. Ask yourself – Do I have to do this? Do I have to do this? Can anyone do it? 
  4. If someone else can do it (or a part of it) – identify who this person might be
  5. Ask them for help! (Use the suggestions here.)

 

A little more about exploring

We've been talking about exploring your business for years. We've covered a lot of the elements (trusting yourself, permission, confidence, experiments) and we've explored a lot of individual areas of your business (blogging, profit, marketing, pricing, people). But in the past year, I felt something was lacking.  I want to explore EVERYTHING. I want you to, at any time, be able to explore ANYTHING. I want to create an apply-it-to-anything system for exploring in an easy-to-integrate way.

 That's the beauty of exploring! You can explore anything. You can do it whenever and to whatever. You can explore your shipping system, your blog-writing, your photography, your customer intake process. Whatever isn't working (or is just a total mystery to you) – you can explore! Without waiting for anyone to teach a class on it – you can learn what works for YOU and that's so much more effective than learning what someone else does!

Let's do it! Let's Explore YOUR biggest problem!

After more than a year of planning and writing and practicing on the Starship, I've finally done it – I collected the best bits of explorations and put them together into a system for you to use to explore anything! I'll share my favorite Exploration Tools, tips and tricks for changing the relationship you have with your business. You'll have a chance to ask me any of your questions, meet fellow explorers and become more adventurous in a gentle, loving environment.

You can join this exploration right here!

Change takes time

This is Beau's face when I jump up & yell: Dance Break! #boredpuppy

The hardest part about believing that Things Can Change...is that things take time.

It's hard to believe it will ever happen, because, hardly anything important changes all at once.

Things take time.

I'm addicted to setting big crazy goals, splitting them into 3 month maps and then pursuing it like crazy. Each quarter when we map-make in the Starship we also take the time to review the quarter before. The Captains are always amazed by what they've accomplished in 3 months. And also, disappointed at what hasn't changed…yet.

Things take time. 

It takes time to make your first sale.
It takes time to make your 10th sale.
It takes time to build a business that pays any bills.
It takes even more time to figure out what you're doing and how to talk about it.
It takes time to put all the systems in place that introduce people to your work effectively.

Even though you know this, it's still frustrating. You thought it'd be faster. You thought that if you just did x + y, everything would come together and your business would thrive.
You thought if you bought the class, read the book, worked with that one person, things would go faster.

But things take time.

When your goal is something life-changing like quitting your dayjob, or going to your first trade show, or writing your first book, it takes time. It takes time to get to the point where you can even start on it. And then it takes time to prepare to do it. And then it takes time to actually do it.
And sometimes, after all that, it's not what you expected.

This is just a fact of business (and life). It's why I focus so obsessively on exploring what works for you. Because if your business is only about those Big Moments, you're bound to be dissapointed. The Big Moments take time…and then they're rarely what we expected.
It's so much more sustainable (and fun) to make every day full of enthusiasm. To make reaching your goals a daily exploration into what's going well and what you want to change. It makes the time move more quickly, or at least more pleasantly. It helps you shift your focus from what's ahead, to what's happening right in front of you.

 

What are you tired of waiting for?

What can you enjoy a bit of right now, today, without waiting? 

 

 


We explore what's working, make maps and celebrate success inside the Starship, which will open to new cadets next Wednesday. If you're curious about it read this, and then sign up to learn more.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in business, with Karen of One Girl Circus

Today I'm delighted to have Karen, a One Girl Circus, maker, designer and Starship Captain, share her smartness with us. You can find her latest pattern, the Goodship Dress, here. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram, for a sneak peek at what she's sewing.  

Karen

You're a full-time maker, teacher, and designer, which sounds like you get to spend all day sewing with beautiful fabrics…what's a typical work day actually like for you?

As your readers doubtless know by now, there is no “typical day” which suits me just fine! My schedule and work location depend on the projects I'm working on, and the materials I need to complete them.

The days I teach Art are the most predictable.  In the morning, while my girlie is getting ready for school, I gather my supplies for the preschool-4th grade classes and pack them into the car.  Once at school, I am fully immersed in facilitating creativity, connecting with kids, and connecting kids to their work and each other.

Studio Days are when I get to play with fabric and sewing patterns.  I spend the day (and night, sometimes) making, making, making. I'm either developing designs, or sewing custom garments from client requests.  Either way, there is fitting and tweaking involved, even if I use my own patterns to begin with, because my clients are paying for something completely individual.

Computer Days are spent entirely in Adobe Creative Cloud.  Once I have designed a garment, or get a spec from a client, I get to work on the digitizing of the pattern, grading into different sizes, and technical writing / technical illustration of instructions for construction and line drawings for packaging. Sometimes I work on the packaging itself (for print or digital delivery).

 

collage_dress2one of the dresses Karen made for a client, a fabric designer

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?

I'm still learning how to “make a living” as a maker.  It's the Making that makes me happy, so as long as I have ideas, I have work.  I teach sewing classes and private lessons at fabric shops and at LilacPop Studio. I make custom garments and show samples for fabric designers.  I also make custom garments for special occasions, for fashion shows, and for sensitive people, because I have a soft spot for sensory-troubled folks of all ages. I make sewing patterns happen for designers with big ideas, and I do technical illustrations.  I'm not a “graphic designer” but I do put together packaging and layouts for print as well.

Goodship dress, by One Girl CircusKaren's pattern, the Goodship Dress

What's surprised you most about what full-time making?

I am a person who thrives on variety. I guess I'm surprised at the many ways I can earn money while helping dreams come true for other people. I'm most surprised at how happy it makes me to support the dreams and businesses of my clients.  I feel like a sewing fairy godmother.

 

What new thing are you exploring (in your business)?

I'm exploring the cyclical nature of my work, and working on getting ahead of the shifts, instead of working like crazy to catch up. (planning ahead for my clients' big shows, etc.)

Pack in COLLAGEAnother project for the Collage fabric launch

What's your definition of success for your business? 

My definition of success in all of my life is the same.  Was I generous?  Was I competent? Was I kind?  Did I do my best work?  If the answer to all of those is Yes, then my business is successful, and feeds itself.  I am grateful that my largest source of income is referral-based.

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

I'm working toward paying attention to the joy I find in my work, and sharing that part of it.  I used to think of all my “jobs” as separate, but I really work along one theme: “making your favorite clothes or teaching you how”  Every bit of my work falls under this theme, even the technical illustration.  Your clothes are an extension of your personality, and are a second skin. They can protect you from the elements, and attract connection.  Clothing can be an expression of how you feel, and how you want to be.  I will continue working toward creating the happiness that comes from feeling beautiful, unique and comfortable.

 

Thanks Karen!

I love Karen's focus on paying attention to what's working. What's working for you, right now? 

 

 

 

 

Creating a path of connection

connectionpath

If you're listening in to your people, and you're fully showing up to connect with them, the next step is to make it easy for them to connect with you. While it's true that having a host of option (blog, email, social media) gives your reader a lot of choices…it also triggers the paradox of choice. With too many equal options, people are more likely to choose nothing than to choose something. Not to mention, having too many equal options makes it hard for you to keep up with it all, which is oten “solved” by putting the same information everywhere, punishing those you follow you in more than one place, killing real connection.

It's your job to create the path.

If you want to connect with readers and buyers, and help them find your work and make the decision to invest it, then you need to make it as easy as possible for them. You do this by suggesting what to do next, at every step. You do this by creating a path for the reader/buyer to follow.

This pathway of connection includes absolutely every way you interact with people who may or may not be your right people – your blog, email newsletter, social media, guest posts, sales pages, and (once they cross over into Right People territory and pay for something), your connection pathway continues through your products, classes, clubs, retreats.

Today we'll talk a bit about creating a pathway of connection for your reader (before they buy, before they decide if they are one of your Right People), and tomorrow we'll talk a bit about creating a path for your buyer.

Every path is different.

I can't tell you what your path should look like. It's going to be based on what works for you and on what your People use and read (I talk about choosing your tools in detail in Chapter 5 of the book.) But as you plot your path for your customers, here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • The first steps on your path are the easiest to do – reading one blog post, replying to one tweet. This is where the person very first becomes aware that you and your work exist. Next steps on the path require more commitment and more information.

 

  • Honor this commitment your readers are making and the trust their putting in you. Honor it by giving them what they've signed up for. Respect the deeper commitment by matching it – create deeper content, invite them to specials, give them first sneak peek.

 

  • Keep in mind who you're writing for. A guest post is going to be seen by people who don't know anything about you. A tweet may be read by new followers and old friends. An email to your newsletter list is read by people who have committed to hearing from you regularly, and who probably have already decided they like you and your work. Write for the specific audience.

 

  • The farther people walk down the path, the closer they are coming to you. Since such a small percentage of people who read your blog or follow you on Twitter actually take the time to reply to you, treasure each response and give it your time and attention. In replying (or starting a conversation) this person is saying: Hey, I want to connect with you more, I want this to be a two-sided relationship. This is the best! These relationships are the bedrock of your business, so do whatever you have to do to make time for them.

 

  • Make it easy for the reader to move down the path. Once you know the steps on your path, lay them out in order for your readers. Suggest the reader of your guest post visit your blog, tell your twitter followers about your newest post, ask your blog readers to subscribe, create an autoresponder to introduce new subscribers to your work , invite your subscribers to your newest product or service. It's up to you to explain the path to interested readers, so don't wait around for them to find it.(You do know I send special weekly lessons to explorers, right?)
  • At the end of this path is a relationship, an equal exchange. This might be a sale (in which you exchange money for a product) or it might be a collaboration or even a real friendship. As you build your path and invite readers to the next step, remember this! Begin with the end in mind, and ask yourself if you want to say or do what you're doing, if there was a true friend on the other end.

 

Let's take a breather for a minute and acknowledge something. This is kind of scary. If you feel anxious or shy about talking about your Art, then it might be exceedingly uncomfortable to imagine this path, to imagine that you're going to have more and deeper conversations. I think this is why so many people just  default to  “I listed this” tweets or boring blog posts. It's much easier to be boring and impersonal.

But there's a huge upside – it's much easier to invite real fans into your work. It's much easier to talk to people who want to buy what you sell. And the only way to know they truly want it, is to give your fans a way to connect with it and you. I tell clients to look at their newsletter sign-up as a chance for the fans to speak up and say: I'm here! I want to know more!  It's a service.
And here's more good news – when your future customer is connecting to you in new ways, when you're respecting their commitment and fulfilling it with your best work, you'll see that you are both getting something out of the relationship. They're not just giving you money for your art – they are enjoying the relationship. They are delighting in knowing you.

This pathway of connection comes up pretty often in Flight Plan sessions – if you're feeling scrambly about launching your book or writing your newsletter, it's likely that your pathway isn't clear (to you or your people).  Finding time to make your art and connect is often as simple as clarifying your connection path and making it obvious to readers.

May 2014 update: You can now learn how to build your Customer Path!

How to decide if you should buy a class or book

How to decide if you should buy a class or a book

I've spent the last 24 hours thinking and talking about how to know if something is right for you, where you are, with the business you have. You see, yesterday I opened the Starship to new members, and I've welcomed in three new members and heard from quite a few more. Our conversations have me reflecting on how I make these decisions in my own business, and how anyone knows that anything is the “right” for them. I have a few questions I ask myself before buying, whether it's a $25 guide or a $500 year-long adventure.

Do I know and like the person?

Does this person show up regularly and with integrity? Especially in a class, the way I feel about the person is going to impact my ability to learn. If you don't like who the teacher is, as a person, you're not going to trust the information they have and will spend time second-guessing everything. You learn better from someone you deeply trust. Also, if this is going to take longer than an hour, you want to like the person's voice and style, and look forward to spending time with them. (This is why it's so easy to buy anything Sarah or Diane makes – I want to hang out with them as much as possible.)

 Does it provide the structure that I need?

For me, this means something more than a simple PDF download. I learn best if the information is chunked up and delivered in pieces, and has some kind of accountability built in. The entire reason I joined Up & Running is that I needed a training plan and accountability on the regular.
But of course, not everyone learns in the same way, so this is something I've tested endlessly in the Starship. Sure, I've got great info on profitability or finding your customers, but how can I share that information in a way that results in real changes for the captains? The last 2 years have taught me that the best results come from apply-it-to-your-own business worksheets, regular emails that move you through the material, and then weekly and monthly check-ins with other explorers who are doing the same. It's a combination of question-asking and accountability-providing. This not only teaches information, it also keeps the regular movement of your business from where it is to where you want it to go. It makes big goals more reach-able and dreams more do-able

Does it fit with my immediate goals?

Is this thing aimed at what I'm working on right now? Even if the class has fantastic information, if it's not information I can use right now, I resist it.
Why? Because otherwise it will be a distraction from what I'm working on and I'll be frustrated that I can't put what I learned to work right away. (This is why we spend the first week of each quarter in the Starship setting individual goals and mapping out a path – so that you spend your time in the Starship working on your goals and avoid distraction.)

Does it fit in my long-term vision?

Is this going to help me build the kind of business I want to own next year and the year after that? Is this going to distract me by thinking about something short-term?
And the really hard question: Is this going to help me become the kind of person I want to be? Or encourage me to focus on being someone else.

This question is so hard to answer, but vital. There are super-compelling classes, books, and adventures that look fantastic. But if they don't promote my core values, or encourage me to be me, then I know they're not for me. Of course, the first step is to know what you value and define them, so that you can spot them (or their lack) in an offering. The values I look for in a class or book are exploration (trying and experimenting vs. certainty that THIS is the one true way), personal responsibility, sustainability (valuing the long-term over the short-term, conserving resources), and self-knowledge.  This reflects my business ethics and ensures I spend my time in integrity.

 

What do you ask yourself before you buy a class or book?

1 2 3 4 8