Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Explore YOUR Business

What to do with all those Pinterest followers?

What do I do with all these Pinterest Followers

Last week during the #omhg chat* Marisa asked a great question:

“What do I do with my nearly 1 million Pinterest followers?”

Yes! I jumped all over it and Marisa and I got to emailing with ideas and suggestions for what she could do with all that possible-traffic. I've come across this question (and some great answers) so often that I know you're probably wondering the same. So here's my 4 tips for doing something great with your Pinterest account:

I forgot to mention it in the video, but I recently read and enjoyed Pinfluence. If you want more ideas and some technical how-tos it's a great book! {Buy it from your local bookseller!}


Do you use Pinterest for your business? How's it working out for you?

I get quite a bit of traffic thanks to Pinterest, but I'm just starting to use the kind of pin-able images on my blog posts (like this, for example). How about you?




Got a question you need answered? Ask me!
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*Next week I'm co-hosting the chat! Come hang out, Thursday 1p-2p!

Trust. Adventure. Explore. Beam. Boldly.

After working through Leonie's yearly workbook and finishing the Captain's Log (a new workbook/journal/stay-on-track-er that we'll be using in the Starship all year), I'm practically glowing with gratitude for 2012 and hope for the coming year. My favorite part is seeing how the disparate pieces fit together to create some overall themes and lessons.


2011 was the year of Yes.

Last year I wrote that I had learned (from 2011!) that saying yes even when I'm afraid led to amazingness. I practiced this consciously in 2012, saying yes to: a book party (and my first live-speaking thing…ever!); my first live workshop; following my enthusiasm; feeling good; creating what I longed to create.

Tara Swiger teaching marketing in Seattle


2012 was the year of Trust.

The thing with saying Yes? It involves a heckova lot of trust. Trust that you'll figure it out. Trust that it's all going to be ok. Trust that you've done your best, and now you need to let go. Trust that you're enough. Trust that connecting is more fulfilling and profitable than closing up.

Connection is Everything.



2012 was the year of Enthusiasm.

Saying yes to my enthusiasm is something I learned this year from reading Sarah J. and idea-partnering with Kelly P. I followed my enthusiasm towards Project Life, quilting, embroidery, writing on new topics and finally, finally finding the balance between creativity and work in my daily life.

Mother in law quilt. Finished!


2012 was the year of Adventure.

Oh the adventures!
Publishing: writing, writing, writing, thousands and thousands of words every day;  working with Shannon on the cover, title, layout; the endless tiny changes; and then! the release day! The lovely reviews, thrilling book party, guest posts, interviews, giveaways; and then! A royalty check! The magic!

Traveling: San Diego, Charleston, Boston, San Diego (again), Seattle, Asheville, Nashville, Knoxville for dates with a new baby and old friend, the heart-breakingly beautiful Oregon coast, the redwoods, the campfire pancakes.
Hello Redwoods.

Writing: Yes, the book, of course, the book! But I also wrote an three email mini-courses (one of them is free, here), a book read-along guide, a class (and then workbook) on blogging effectively, an all-new Holiday Sanity Guide, the Captain's Log, and the truest, most enthusiastic blog posts in my 10 year blogging life. And for the first time, writing came easy, it was a part of my life and my world and the very way I live in the world. And it's always, always an adventure.

I really am.


And with these lessons, with trust and enthusiasm and adventure, I turn towards 2013, the year to…


hot air balloon

While I have fewer “traditional” explorations scheduled (I'll be traveling much less), the close-to-home approach is giving me a chance to explore deeply. Home, new projects, researching what works for others, experimenting with what works for me…all of it is about exploring. I don't know what exactly it'll mean (yet), but here's what I do know:

  • Last June I sat down at the beach and outlined a whole new class – the title: Explore You. Obviously, now's the time for it.
  • There's so much I don't know, but so much new info I close myself off from, to avoid overwhelm. Explore gives me the frame to learn more, and be open, in a focused, healthy way.
  • I've started listing Things To Explore, and think I'll pick a new one each month.




Beam. Explore. The words of 2013. (So far. Life tends to show up with her own ideas.) cc: @leonie_dawson
I don't really get this one yet, but it came to me, strong and true and..Yes, Ok, BEAM. Here's what I know about it so far:

  • It's my job to not just shine my little light, but to make sure it beams.
  • Tractor beam, sunbeam, beaming beacon, a lighthouse beams into the darkness, beaming smiles
  • A light beams when: it's not gunked up with stuff, it is focused in one spot.


Join me. What was 2012 the year of? And what will 2013 hold?




This is one of the (over 45 pages of) exercises in the Captain's Log. If you'd like to get support (and practical dream-reaching), beam aboard the Starship. It closes to new members tomorrow.

My biggest lesson of 2012

Connection is Everything.

For the past few days I've been sharing the lessons we all learned in 2012 with the Early Boarding Party. These lessons came from your emails, Starship chats and what creatives have told me they've learned in the last year. (You can find them here: #1, #2, #3)

They all were true for me too, but my biggest lesson is something not a lot of people mentioned. It's kinda simple (maybe I'm the only person on the planet who didn't realize how important it was?), but without it, everything is harder.

My biggest lesson: Connection is everything.

Connection – really feeling like someone else gets you and really listening to them – drives everything in my business. Sales. Readership. Conversations. Conversion.

But most important of all – it drives me.

Whether I recognize it or not, it pushes me towards some situations (we do what we think will bring more connection) and away from things I fear will bring disconnection (shame, embarrassment, failure). Sometimes this is awesome (I sent that scary email and got a response!) and sometimes it's not (I don't want to be rejected so I'm not going to try the big thing.)

Understanding this (and how important it is to my business) is a direct result of reading all three of Brene Brown‘s books this year. They really confirmed what  the Starship has been teaching me: We (humans) need to feel connected. We seek it out everywhere in our lives. The happiest people have connected to their community both when they have something to celebrate, and when they're disappointed.

But it's that second bit that's so hard. When you're disappointed, it's easy for shame to creep in, for you to believe that it's something wrong with YOU. That you are the only one who can't figure this out, or that it's your lack – of personality/skills/cleverness – that is keeping you from moving forward. My favorite (as in, least-favorite) belief: If only I was a little different (a little better) things would be better in my life. I'd be more comfortable. More people would be drawn to what I do. I would change lives with my words.

When we feel that shame (or the fear of it), we withdraw. Brene's research has shown that we withdraw because we're afraid of other people withdrawing with us. We believe that if they knew, they would pull away. If they knew that we shipped that order late, or that we still haven't gotten into a craft show, or that X (a shop, show, publisher) rejected us, they'd know we weren't worth investing in. So we turn away first. We put on a happy face and hide the things to protect ourselves…all the while drifting further away from the real us, the us that makes our thing special and sparkly.

That's the human component of it, the thing that ALL humans are afraid of that…but then, for us, you have to add in that extra-scary layer: we're in business. We need our buyers to believe in us, at least enough to buy what we sell. We have to look like we have it together enough to deliver what they ordered.

So we hide the vulnerability, the scariness, the I'm-not-doing-this-right fears, because it's inappropriate to share with our community of customers. And the people in our day to day life maybe don't understand. They're not pouring their heart and soul into a product, and then fearing that it'll be rejected.*

*Even if they can't really understand, it's still so important to fill our loved ones in. They can support you more than you think, if you open up and take the time to explain why you're so upset you didn't meet your sales goals. 

Caturday means napping in the middle of the action.You have to show your furry belly to connect. 

What we need is a place where it is appropriate and safe to talk about all this, and where the people we connect with understand. Where it's ok to share that self-doubt. Where it is ok to be honest about your sales numbers, where you know it won't affect your “reputation”. We need a place to talk about the hard stuff because talking about it how is we move through it.
Hiding the doubt, the scary bits and the difficulty keeps you swimming in it. It keeps you in the swirl of your own head, and it confirms your first fears: if people knew this about you, they would feel differently towards you, because you keep creating this persona that has it figured out.

But telling someone and having them respond with compassion confirms that you're not alone. That changes things. You can stop (at least for a moment) the swirl of your own fears, and start to see the hope of what could be. You realize that other (super successful) business ladies have the same fears and made the same mistakes, and they came through it.

When you're not busy hiding, you can get busy building. When you have examples of risk-taking, you get a little confidence to try new things. When someone says “Here's how I talk to shops“, you feel comfortable doing it yourself.


That's what we're all after, right? Building our dreams into something awesome, while feeling awesome about it. Doing what we love, while not feeling like a total outcast freak. Sharing our thing with the world, without the paralyzing fear of being rejected.

I've found  that kind of connection (and have created it for others) inside the Starship.

Where do you find connection?

Do you need more of it in your new year?

A flip through my Holiday planning


I can't tell you how tempted I am by December Daily. I love the idea of having holiday-specific books that can come out with each year's Christmas decorations. But with the weekly Project Life, I don't need a whole other scrapbook, ya know?

So instead, I updated my traditional holiday planning guide (I can't believe we've been using it  for 3 years!) with a scrapbook of recipes and decorations.

At the end of the season I'll have a compendium of what I wanted to do and what I actually do. This way, next year I stand a chance of remembering the decorations I wanted to make or the recipes I wanted to try (and which ones worked…or didn't).

To get started, I added in pictures from last year. When we put up this year's tree I'll add an extra page.

I also made notes of what I want to change or redo this year.


And I couldn't leave out our favorite ornament! (The Yay sticker comes with the kit.)

Of course, there's also business-y pages in the book:

 And the beloved Giant List of Doom:
Don't let that list scare you! The Guide is all about breaking it down into do-able to-dos and getting it done.
You can see that I altered the standard weekly list a bit, by adding a little right hand column that includes the ongoing stuff I want to do each week (blog, read, run)..and I also got smarter about adding stuff to the week, splitting it into work and play.

As the Holiday Sanity kits are filtering out into the rest of the world, I've just loved seeing how everyone uses it to plan the season.

Here's Amy's,

and Rebecca's List of Doom:

Everything you see in the above pictures (except for my own photos!) comes with the kit:



How do you organize this busy time of year?

Do you have your own system or are you using Holiday Sanity?


PS. $5 from every kit goes to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Thanks to your planning genius I was just able to make another donation, right before hitting publish! Woo!


Want more survival tips? Check out the (free) Definitive Guide.

Sign up here to get more on surviving your business adventures, no matter the season.

Feel Good: Quilting

As part of my feel-good experiment, I'm saying yes to the stuff that feels good. One of the biggest challenges (for me) to doing what feels good is LOGIC. I can logic-away all kinds of fun stuff, insisting that I don't have time, I don't have energy, I really should spend my time on finishing those other projects instead of starting a new one. But this month's experiment is saying YES to something I know will feel good, so instead of saying NO to my newest crazy idea, I fully embraced it.

This week's crazy idea was Elise's Quilts by Christmas challenge. After a recent weekend spent quilting with my mom, I wanted to do it again. I was visiting this weekend and my mom has a great quilting set up: a big table to cut on, two sewing machines, plenty of ideas, so this was the perfect storm of inspiration and opportunity. Before I left I sent mom a link and my new quilt was born.

Love LOVE new fabric store. Unfortunately, didn't have black I needed. #quiltsbychristmas

We spent the weekend buying all the supplies, experimenting with the best way to cut triangles (we settled on this one), cutting, sewing, and ironing.
Part of my feel-good experiment: giving in to #quiltsbychristmas Details on the blog.
It felt great to dive into a new project: the endless Pinterest-searching, the fabric-buying, the cutting, sewing, chatting, charting. And you know? None of the logical reasons I had to not start matter at all. I feel refreshed and inspired for my other projects, and knowing that one of my Christmas gifts is halfway done feels fabulous.

What feel-good activity have you been logic-ing away?

The Adventures

This week was quite an adventure. An all-day doctor's appointment, a funeral and burial (my husband's great aunt, beloved by his mother), and (on a happier note!) the Starship opening for new members.


The view

A rainy September calls for apple pancakes with fried apples.

I'm addicted to apples.

Delicious apple pie pancakes, from @isachandra's recipe

Apple pie pancakes, from this recipe.

A good start

A typical work morning: coffee, oatmeal, to-do list and laptop.

Love the view from the library.

The view from the library (my second favorite working spot)

Tonight's dyepot brought to you by the color Leaf. #nofilter

Dyeing hemp laceweight for a wholesale order.

Thanks for all your sweet notes. We really are fine, it was Jay's mom's favorite aunt, so we're spending the day comforting, supporting and hugging her.

In the funeral procession.



The finds

  •  I (finally) collected success stories from Starshippers and have been sharing them with the Early Boarding list. Sign up here to get a dose of inspiration.
  • Kim is making a TV show that teaches SKILLS, not just projects. Support it!
  • Ack! This is so cute I want to crochet all the Doctors!
  • Serendipity! The very day I declare my intention to feel good, Anna posts about her very same experiment!

What was your week like? What were your adventures?

One year ago: What are Right People
Three years ago: Autumnal To Do



It's a little ironic that my next class is about how to blog for your business when I am not, how shall we say, much a blogger.

What a "day off" looks likemy fancy note-taking process

The truth is, most of the work I do is behind the curtain. I spend most of my day working with people, not trying to find new people (which is what a regularly-written blog can do). I answer questions, teach Starship-only classes, send yarn to subscribers. I do my best, I write most helpfully when it's for a specific audience, when I know exactly who needs my answer (this is why I create free mini-courses via email instead of just blogging them).

This is why we created the class.

Because not everyone needs a big flashy blog to create a booming business.

Our new class (which I'm teaching with Diane, because she is a woman who knows how to blog!), is about that, the process of figuring out what you want from your blog, what your people want from it, and then creating a plan for it. Instead of numbers, you focus on reaction – What brings in your best customers? What helps them move towards you (and your products?)

When you pay attention to what your customers want, and what you want to communicate, you may even find you don't need or want a blog.

That's what happened in my crafty business, at Blonde Chicken Boutique.
I realized that even if blog posts got comments, they didn't do anything for sales. My emails helped people buy. My special customer-only emails have an crazy high open rate and an even crazier click-through and buy rate. I realized (after quite a few years of fighting it) that my yarn lovers aren't blog readers. They visit my site, sign up for the emails and then expect to the emails to remind them to buy.

So now I use the blog as a resource. I show off what customers have made and give pattern ideas… but it's less of a blog  and more like an archive of helpfulness. When my retail customers (which represents the largest percentage of my business) ask me what they can make with my yarn, I send them to past posts. Since I don't have an active shop (I sell one yarn a month, to email subscribers only), I don't need to do a lot of showing off of new products, I just email it directly to the people who want to buy it.

This is weird, I know. When all the rest of the world is tell you to blog! And make videos! And tweet! I'm telling you – you have permission to do what works.

It's not particularly glamorous.
But it works (really well).

Your way, the way that works for you and your people, might be something else entirely. You might want to blog daily. Or weekly. Or never.
I want to help you figure that out.
And more than anything, I want you to know that you have permission to use whatever works for you.

Reviewing the year in your business

As the year wraps up, it’s time to review the past year. Now, this can be as painful as doing your taxes or it can be as fun as attending a New Year’s Eve party.

Let’s do it the fun way, yeah?

Making your yearly wrap-up FUN can be as simple as setting some intentions before you get started – what do you want to learn? What information do you need to make the New Year awesome?


I like to know: 

  • What are the best things I did for my business in 2011?
  •  What were my most succesful months?
  •  Where did new business come from?
  •  What risks didn’t pay off?
  •  What was the most painful time (or project) of 2011
    (notice: I didn’t ask what wasn’t successful,because if something was a huge money-maker, but I hated every second of it…I want to avoid it in the future, or find a way to make it more fun)


To answer these questions, I do a quick three-step process:

1.  Gather information

2.  Find the connections

3.  Use what I’ve learned


1. Gather Information


Now, this is the step that you’ll try to avoid, but you’ve gotta just buckle down and do it.

The kind of information you want to gather is:

  • Your business financials, by month (all income and expenses) – I get this by donwloading my Paypal activity by month into  a spreadsheet, then I update the spreadsheet with information from my bank statements (anything that I earned or spent that didn’t go through Paypal). If you use Vianza, these reports are easy to generate!
  • A list of the time-specific marketing you did (what months did you run advertising, attend trade shows, release new lines, etc) – this is easiest to gather if you’ve been writing it down as the year’s progressed, but you can dig through your emails to find the info you need.
  • The metrics that I care about, by month – this is everything that reflects the health of your business that isn’t related to money. For you this might be new accounts (and when you landed them), web traffic (pay attention to spikes, and changes in where the traffic came from), publicity.


To keep it simple, I like to organize the information in  a simple list with each month’s final numbers (income and expense), the marketing in that month, and any other metrics listed under the Month Name. If you spread it out too much, over multiple documents, you won’t be able to see as clearly how one month affected the next.


Now go back through your months and write in anything else that you think of.
Did a trade show one month lead you to hire someone to help you fill the orders? Or did it overwhelm you so much that you sent orders out late?
Did one retailer fail to pay you one time and mess up your cashflow?
Did you get a sales rep in one month and see your orders double the next month.
Is one month’s income made up from just one big order, while another month’s made up of several small orders?


Whew, this is a lot of digging and thinking and it may take you more than one day. Take as long as you need to think over this list and add things as you think of them.

When you're ready for Part 2 of the review process, check it out at Vianza.


I wrote this post for Vianza, but liked it so much I had to share it here! Let me know how your review goes!

Notes from the BOOK: A spoonful of my own medicine.

Notes from the BOOK is a weeklyish peek into how the BOOK is taking shape. Lessons learned, moments of bing, and excerpts.

Last week I wrote this for the book:

“Get clear on YOUR strengths and your product's unique awesomeness before you start thinking about your customers. If you do it the other way around, you'll create something bland and not-you. Your you-ness is the main selling point when you make something by hand, so we're going to do everything we can to make sure we don't dilute it.”


And then I got stuck.

I couldn't write another word.

I outlined my next few points, the rest of the chapter…but I couldn't seem to turn my outline into coherent sentences (even the above sentences are a little murky for me, they're sure to go through a rigorous editing before they end up in the book).


A few days later (3 days of no writing! The world was caving in around me!), I recognized something else lurking, some un-book-related stuckness. I've been feeling a bit drifty about what I want to do next (I know, I know, the BOOK should be project enough). This sense of unease seeped into every other aspect of my work.

I didn't feel like my Work has a Mission. It seemed random, piece-meal and unfocused.

 So I went in search of a Mission.

Many journal pages, and days, later I talked to Jay about it.

His first, uncluttered response: Isn't your Mission to Be Tara?

 Oh, yeah.

 I spent another few days trying to figure out what this meant for my business.
Obviously, it's not a business model. It's not a marketing plan. It might be my personal mission, but how could it lead the business?


Uh, what did I write up there?

The first job, when you're selling something so very YOU, is to get clear on what that YOU is and then make all decisions from that. Your strengths, your vision, your you-ness guides everything (in fact, my whole BOOK is about HOW you make smart marketing decisions based on your you-ness).


The drifty, unfocused feeling came because I lost sight of that.

I've been making decisions based on what I thought I should be doing.

On other people's definitions of my business.

And other people kept thinking I was a consultant.
So I had to set up my site like a consultant.
I had to market and make offers and products like a Consultant.

 Except I'm NOT a consultant. I'm not a person-who-knows-better.
And I'm so totally not a coach (unless it's napping. I could totally be a napping coach).


 I'm Tara.

(my own Tara, not other people's versions of Tara)

An explorer.
A writer.
A sharer.
A big-sister (a smidge more experienced, a little bossy, mostly goofy).
I share that here.
I create tools and spaces for you to do YOUR OWN exploring.

In those tools and spaces, I'm a silly, friendly, encouraging fellow traveler. I share my path and help you figure out yours, all while protecting and respecting YOUR experience.

Knowing that, respecting that and paying attention to that Tara-ness IS a mission.

It is a business model.
It is a marketing plan.
It guides my decisions.
It helps me focus.
It keeps everything coherent and heading the right direction.


And back to the BOOK…

The last week of not-writing, it was my own good sense trying to fight through the what-everyone-else-says clutter to assert itself in my life. To bring me and this place and everything I do in alignment with what I was writing.


(why yes, it is a little frustrating that I didn't recognize it before spending a week gnashing my teeth)


What's your mission? How does it want to assert itself in your business?

Everything is Everything

Let's start with some tunes (hit play while you read!)

This has been a weird month.

Launching the Starship.
Turning 29.
Getting knocked out for a whole work week by the flu.
Going out of town for a week (family stuff!), with only my phone for internet access.

And instead of jumping into my work (my love!) every chance I get, I find myself reading, writing, painting.
I keep burying myself in painting books, rock autobiographies and artist blogs.
I'm taking an online painting class.
I'm listening to podcasts (This American Life, Creative Living).

What I'm not doing is writing about business or planning a class or making endless yards of yarn.
For the first time in….2 years?!

It's not just part of the creative cycle (because I'm doing lots of creative work, it's just not my usual)…it's a total shift in focus.

Yesterday, it really freaked me out.

What's going on? Did I lose the CraftyBiz love?
But I still sat down with a painterly book and just decided to trust myself.
If what I'm craving is paint + words, it must be what I need.

And sure enough, at 1am last night (this morning?) I wasn't sleeping, I was up planning a big Thank You gift (for you!) and my next craftybiz project. I was overflowing with ideas. I was back in the saddle.

As I pondered the shift this morning (as I poured over my new favorite artist's site), I realized: Everything is Everything.

Painting, writing, crafting businesses, making yarn: it's all the same. It's all creativity. Everything needs space and time (and health!) and patience and well-refilling.

Or as Havi says, There is no biggification without destuckification.

I can't build my own business (or help you with yours!) unless I work though my stuff. Whether that's family stuff, writing stuff, getting inspired stuff or just painting my little heart out….everything is everything.
It all comes back to build a stronger business, to create more inspired help for your biz.

What do you need right now?
What's asking for your attention (even if it's not what you're “supposed” to do?) Is it possible that indulging might be just what your business needs?

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