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Why systems?

When I first met Cairene, we were in a business-y group together. It seemed at every other turn the other business folks were talking about their systems…and I was thinking What systems?

Cairene is super smart and she knew what I really didn't get was the WHY of systems. Once she explained it, I was sold.
In the intervening years, I've (over and over and over) realized the bliss of systems and I've worked out my own little formula to explain systems.

Systems allow consistency.

Consistency opens flow.

Angel oakAngel Oak, 400 years old.

Well, yeah, that's lovely, but if you have a to-do list the size of a 400 year old oak tree,  why stop to systematize?

Why take the time to build systems when you're overwhelmed responding to the immediate?

Because of that: the immediate.
There will always be new immediate.

At every stage of business you will have a great big list of immediate things that mustbedonerightnow.

Without systems you won't be able to tell the immediate from the important.

And once you get your systems in place, you'll know the important is getting done, no matter what immediate thing pops up.

In other words, systems ensure you get that important stuff done. And that getting-important-stuff-done turns into consistency.

Consistency allows for flow.

Consistency via systems makes things flow because each action (a sale, packaging orders) has a clear path to completion.
You don't have to think “Oh! A sale! Should I email them? What do I say? What happens next?”
or “I need to let people know I carry X? What do I do? A tweet? An email?”

When you're not thinking through every task every time (because you have a system in place for it!), you get flow.
Flow of growth.
Flow of  sales.
Flow of money.
Flow of successes.

Because your business isn't new each day.

It's cumulative. Each new action comes from past growth.
The more people who find you, the more people they'll tell.
Happy customers today lead to future sales.

Systems allow this consistency to build and build until your business is flowing without every action being an emergency. Or a reaction.

Examples!

Systems in shipping = consistency in providing an awesome customer experience = flow of  repeat sales and building a reputation for good service.

Systems in production (crafting, making) = consistency of new product = flow of sales

Systems in marketing = consistency of reaching new people = flow of new people (or reminding people to come back) = flow of sales.

Need some systems, consistency and flow in your crafty biz?

Make a plan, reassess it monthly and get consistent with Lift Off.

 

Excitements! Announcements! New classes!

Today I have a pile of awesomeness to announce.
I have been working double-time to bring the expertise of 2 (!) guest-teachers  for 2 (!) classes that will help you with exactly the things you (and other crafty people) have been asking me.

But before I get to the classes, I wanted to introduce you to something that's been slowly baking in the background:

The CraftyBiz Kitchen

I'm starting with this first, because if you like BOTH of the class I'm about to introduce, then you'll save money by signing up for the Kitchen.

What is it?

In the CraftyBiz Kitchen, we'll bake up some customers for you, we'll test your recipes, we'll come up with some new ones. We'll sit around the table (Twitter) with our cups of coffee and share where we are, what we need and where we hope to go. It's welcoming, low stress and super simple.
The CraftyBiz Kitchen is where we take what we've learned in the class and we apply it to our businesses and then get feedback, suggestions and support from each other.

How it works

Joining the Kitchen gives you, automagically, access to every class I teach. That's at least 2 every month, many with guest experts. But on top of the normal class stuff (the live class, the recording, the summaries), you'll also get the tools to apply what you've learned to your own business. And weekly check-ins on Twitter.

The cool thing? You're not making a long-term commitment. As soon as you're ready to leave the Kitchen, you can.
You can read more about it (and sign up) here.

Systems for your Crafty Biz

July 22, 2010
Guest expert: Cairene MacDonald, of Third Hand Works

Systems are those sneaky things that you don't even realize you need.
Systems make your crafting smoother, your shipping smoother, your time management smoother. They bring ease and support and awareness.

What is it?

This class is a one hour live telechat/interview with Cairene. We'll talk about what systems are, how to build them  (hint: you already have some!), and how to recognize the ones that need tweaking.
You can read all about the class (and sign up for it) here.

It's Who You Know

August 3, 2010
Co-teacher: Diane of Craftypod.com

You've probably noticed by now that the awesome things happen in your business when you connect and get to know people with an audience of your Right People. Magazine articles, local press, or a referral to a boutique owner. We'll teach you how to figure out what you want, who can help you and how to build those relationships without being slimey or awkward.

What is it?

This class is a one hour live class, in which Diane + I will teach and then take your questions. Afterward you'll get a recording, a summary and an invitation to a Twitter Q+A session.

You can read all about the class (and sign up for it) here.

Woo! Brunched!

And now that I've brunched (you remember what a brunch is, right?) two classes + a Kitchen, I'm going to dance!

And I invite you to dance with me in the comments!
What are you dancing to?
What are you learning this summer?

In which I briefly consider networking

This morning, I accompanied my husband (who just started his first business as a financial representative-extraordinaire) to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Now, this isn't normally the sort of thing you bring your spouse to.
But since I also own a business, I decided to go and see what it was all about it (and yeah, provide some moral support).

Networking = Yawn

It was everything you'd expect from the words “chamber of commerce breakfast in a Holiday Inn banquet room.”

Boring.
Old men.
Politicians.
Really disgusting coffee.

Oh, the people were delightful, even the old men politicians.

And for businesses like Jay's, it makes perfect sense.
He needs to meet people, build relationships, earn trust, get referred as a “great guy” (and he is, so that shouldn't be too hard).

My business needs all those things too

Trust
Relationships
People who like me (and I like them)

But I don't need old-school networking.

I know I'm about 10 years late in extolling the virtues of the internet, but dudes! Do you know what it's saving us from?

Bad coffee! Boring elevator speeches! Smiling and nodding while old men talk tee times (not tea times, which I would have found slightly more interesting)!

I don't do networking events like these because I have Twitter. And Raverly. And the Boutique. And this space right here.
I've built a  business that caters to my personality and strengths (I'm a hermit that needs to nap after lengthy exposure to more than 3 people).

But you might.

Jay can tweet till his eyes fall off (and I finally convinced him to try), but his business success will depend entirely on the local market. So he can't skip the Chamber of Commerce breakfasts (but he'll be alone from here on out!) or the lunches with old dudes or the shaking hands and smiling.

So don't assume, just because you have (and love!) social media, that it does everything you need. Maybe you should brave an early morning meeting just to see how you might do it old-school

And I hereby promise to only have the best coffee when you come by to shake my hand and talk about (anything but) golf.

Do you have to choose between money or creativity?

I read this post last week which claims you have to choose between being creative or making money.

I'm not going to argue with that article, because I think the author makes some good points (go, read it!), especially when it comes to applying good business sense to your creative business. But I do want to share my own opinion on the Money V. Creativity issue.

I believe it is completely possible (and desirable) to make money while staying true to your own creative vision. I  think that giving up your own taste to serve the “market”, will result in mediocre, middle-of-the-road, could-find-this-anywhere work.

Your vision, your creativity and your taste is vital to making your product and your business a success.

Here's how to create + make money:
  1. Make something no one else does.

  2. Become obsessive over making it only and truly yours.
    Infuse every aspect of it with you-ness. Your colors, your textures, your style, your beliefs.

    It should be so amazingly, undeniably yours that your people know it when they see it.

  3. Find and talk to your Right People

    Your completely-you item is NOT going to appeal to everyone.
    In fact, you'll probably turn a lot of people off.
    Put zombies on everything and you'll turn off Evangelicals. Put Jesus on the cross on your bracelets and you won't sell to the Jewish community. Make handspun, eco-friendly yarn and people who knit with $2 acrylic won't spend the money.
    But that's ok! Because there are a LOT of people who love what you love. THOSE are your Right People. Those are the people you should find, talk to, and work for. Fellow-zombie lovers, fellow Jesus-lovers, fellow yarn-obsessed.
    (and, yeah, you can learn a lot more about turning on and tuning in to your Right People in my upcoming class)
  4. Listen to the Right People

    This is very different from listening to “the market”.
    This is listening to the feedback you get from the people who love and adore what you do.
    This is cultivating relationships and joining a community and then providing solutions for that community.
    Solutions like  zombie coffee mugs or cross necklaces or summer yarn.

Skip any of the above steps and you're going to either not make money or sacrificing your own style for “the market”.

What do you think? Do I have it all wrong?
Let me know in the comments!

PS. This is a super-simplified answer to a pretty complex issue of building a sustainable business. But it's a place to start thinking.
For all the gory details of finding and loving your Right People, register for the class.

How Right People changed My Business

Yesterday we talked about what Right People are and how they can change your business.
Today I'd like to share what happened to Blonde Chicken Boutique when I started applying the concept of Right People to my work.

It started by Havi saying

Everyone has Right People

and

Your Right People are Right if they love what you do. That's the only requirement.

And I wondered, what would this look like if I really believed it?

If these people love what I make, then I should make something truly ME.

Instead of worrying about the trends or what other yarnies were doing, I started focusing on yarn that I really love. Textures, colors, styles.  My love of my work grew and I created a line of yarns that really went together. I began to develop a look for Blonde Chicken Boutique.

If there are people who love what I make, then I should be talking to THEM.

Instead of spending money reaching tons of new people, I turned to my current people. How can I serve them better?
For starters, I ask them. I create products they want (the Learn To Knit Kit was inspired by people who loved my yarn but didn't knit) and I keep them up-to-date (with a customers-only newsletter + a bi-weekly Yarn-Love Note)

My Right People love my thing, so why worry with those who don't?

When I realized I don't have to appeal to everyone or make everyone happy, I can focus on doing what I do best and serving the people who are already happy.

My happy, delighted Right People are the best advertising I could ever want.

If I make it easy for them to share my stuff, they can spread the more to more Right People.

The more I thought about Right People,  I realized I was actually thinking about Marketing.

But instead of asking “How do I tell people about my thing” (like many crafters do)
or “How do I tell my target market of 30 year old college graduates who make $40,000/year who knit about my thing” (like marketers do),
I'm asking “Who are my Right People already? What do they love? What could I do make them happier.

This changed every part of my marketing.

The result?

My time is spent working with people I love, instead stressing over finding more people. My people are happy and tell their friends. My sales (both online, in person at craft shows and to yarn shops) have greatly increased. But best of all, I'm doing what I actually love.

A totally unexpected, non-yarny result?

When I started really listening to my people (not just my customers, but all those people who I liked and liked me, including other crafters, my online friends, other business owners), I realized they wanted something else.
They were asking me business-y questions; about marketing, about sales, about crafting a business AND a life.

So I started offering classes, and one on one consulting.
Every single one of my classes (including next week's class on Right People) have been sparked by specific questions I've been asked. I always answer the asker, but when the answer becomes huge,  I know I have a class.

The best part?
I genuinely love teaching. I love talking about business. I love love love brainstorming for other people's thing.
And the love is so obvious that last night Jay said, “Wow, I can see how happy this makes you. And it's so perfect for you!” (my bossyness is well-documented in our marriage).

Following my Right People? Led me to bliss.

How has serving your Right People  led you in new directions?

If you'd like to work with your adoring fans + find your Right People, check out the class! Registrations close next Tuesday!

Embrace your Right People (and the money will follow)

“Your Right Price will be right for your Right People”

I said this in the Pricing class and a few people piped up to ask , “But who are these Right People? How do I find them?

We'll talk about the how to find the Right People and how to make them happy in this class, but before you register for that, let's answer the basic question:

Who are Right People and why do I care?

I first heard the term from Havi, when she said:

Your Right People need whatever it is you have in whatever form you give it.

I read that and thought, yeah, ok.

But then I started to explore it (and talked to Havi about it in more depth).

As I experimented, it reframed and transformed every area of my business.

Today I'll talk about about how recognizing and hanging out with your Right People can rock your business and tomorrow I'll share what changed for me.

Let's start with a definition, from Havi:

Right People = anyone you like and appreciate who likes and appreciates you.

My definition, as it relates to our crafty pursuits:

Right People = the people who love and adore your thing, the way you do it and you.

Your right people is anyone who really loves what you make.

This includes:

  • customers
  • friends
  • cheerleaders
  • mentors
  • partners

Not all of your Right People are going to buy from you, but even those that don't will sing your praises to new Right People.

Without a focus your Right People your business may be:

  • Unfocused: Which way should I go next? What should I make?
  • Uncertain: Will this sell?  Where should I advertise?
  • Insecure: Will people like it? Is it worthless? Will anyone ever buy?

Focusing on your Right People can reverse all that.

When you're talking to your Right People, you can be yourself.

Because that spark of YOU is what spoke to the people in the first place, it's why they are here, checking out your thing.

When you talk to your Right People, you know what to do next.

They'll tell you what they want either directly (I want yellow!) or indirectly (yellow sells out quickly).

When you share your thing with the Right People, you'll make sales.

They will feel a sense of kinship or a recognition of awesomeness and it will *click*. Yes, this is for me.

It's not about manipulation, convincing or cajoling.
In fact, it's the opposite! When you speak to your Right People, you don't have to persuade them that your thing is right, they will feel it.

Sound awesome?

Learn how to do it in my class on Befriending your Right People.  We'll cover the specific how tos of finding your Right People, talking to them, learning from them and keeping them blissfully happy.

Happy Anniversary!

Today's my anniversary!

I have been self-employed, making handspun yarn, full-time for one year!

Instead of writing about, let me tell you what it's like:

But most importantly?

I want to say,  THANK YOU!

Without you and your support at the Boutique, I wouldn't be able to pay the bills.
Without your delightful emails, I wouldn't love what I do.
Without your encouragement and sympathy during hard times, I wouldn't be able to go back to the wheel each day.

Thanks for making this last year awesome.

Here's to many more fabulous, yarny, colorful adventures!

PS. If you have questions about this self-employment thing, ask 'em during the Twitter chat today (3p ET, but you can use #asktheChicken to ask them anytime) or on the free Q+A.

The Joy in Quitting

I'll just say it: I'm a fan of quitting.

If I don't enjoy a book, I quit reading it.
If I don't like a movie, I quit watching it.
(even when I'm supposed to love it, like Fear + Loathing in Las Vegas)
If I'm frustrated with a knitting project, I quit working on it.
If an idea doesn't keep it's spark, I quit trying to make it work.
And if my work is satisfying and full-of-life and challenging, I quit.

One year ago today was my very last day of working for The Man.

I quit because I wanted to.
I quit because I knew I was ready to work for myself.
I quit because it was time for something new.
I quit because I had for 3 years on weekends and evenings building Blonde Chicken Boutique into something wonderful.

But is that a  good reason to quit?

My dayjob wasn't bad. Compared to the really freakishly horrendous jobs I've had in my life (McDonald's for 2 years! Opening mail for Accounts Payable in a windowless basement office!), it was a cakewalk. Lovely coworkers, a reasonable + kind boss, sometimes challenging work.

I didn't quit because of what the job was.

I quit because of what the job wasn't.

It wasn't exciting. It wasn't challenging me daily. It wasn't…
It wasn't my life.

And I wasn't prepared, at 27, to resign myself to just living my life on the weekends.
I want my life to be lived daily, from 9-5, heck, from 8-11 (yeah, I like to sleep all the other hours).

And so I quit.

In the quitting, I gained a lot.
Sure, the hours are mine.
But so is the responsibility. And the momentum. And the hard.
Hard work, hard stress, hard relationships, hard mistakes, hard decisions.

But all that hard, it reminds me that  I am living.

And that's what quitting gives me: Life. My life.

Hard and complicated.
Peaceful.
Exciting.
Challenging.
Life-giving.

What does quitting give you?

PS. This last year hasn't been easy or glamorous, to ask me what it's really been like, join me in a free Q+A tomorrow. Get the details here.

Enough Money to Quit the Dayjob

“I make a perfectly adequate living at my day job, it's at an income level that I have a hard time imagining I could bring in as a full-time artist.”

Last week a passionate and smart reader  emailed this.
It's a question I get a lot (in fact, it's one of the first question I got in the last free Q+A), so I thought I'd share my answer here.

The question is really asking, “How can I ever replace my current income with my crafty business? Is this even possible?”

My answer: Yes. But let's be realistic:

You current income is the result of lots of hard work.
Right now, you're a professional. Something that took years and years of work to accomplish. Years of education and skill-building.
You put in the hours before your reached your present income level.

This is true of ANY career, including self-employment
It took learning + time + practice + ladder-climbing to get where you are, it will take the same in a new business.

You poured hours of time into studying and learning and interning into your current career, you will need to do the same for a career in handmade work.

Yes, you can start selling your crafts quickly.
But NO, you can't replace your professional-level salary quickly.

But it's not the same.
Because the kind of work and studying that got you into your current income level isn't the same kind of work that will help you grow your business.

And this is good news!

Succeeding in your business does NOT require an MBA.
Learning about growing your crafty business does NOT necessitate formal school or lots of classes or an endless unpaid internship.

It will require curiosity, passion and a pile of self-directed researching.
Unlike a “traditional” career, self-employment does not have one clear path from newbie to professional.

The trick (and the delight) is that you make your own path.
You discover what works for you, what doesn't.
What your customers want, what they don't.
And you can do this as quickly or as slowly (perhaps while you're still in that dayjob) as you want!

But! Do you really need to replace your salary?
The original question assumes that you HAVE to replace your salary before you quit your dayjob and I want to throw some doubt on that.
Do you really have to?
Could you reduce your expenses?
Could you have several smaller streams of income?
Would you be willing to trade some of your luxuries in order to live your passion?

This is just the jumping off point of thinking about it, I haven't even gotten into the HOW of making it all work!  If  you are delighted at the idea of quitting your dajob, join me on a free Q+A call this Thursday. July 1st is my anniversary of quitting and to celebrate, I'm answering your questions. Just sign up here to get the details.

Fun. Everyday.

I think I need to have more fun.

Sure, I like my job (it is Plan A).
I love my family.
I adore my dog (warning: that's a really cute video of my dog snorgling the cat).

But I'm sort of…serious. Hard-working. Disciplined.
And these are all admirable qualities.

But not always fun.

So I'm on a mission (not a mission from God, just a regular ol' mission).
A mission to have more fun.
A mission to have fun everyday.

In this spirit, I'm laughing at myself.
I'm having great conversations.
I'm spending more time IdeaStorming (yes, it's work, but it's so fun).

And I'm celebrating.

Because 1 year ago, on July 1st, I started this adventure of full-time fiber artist and pink-haired entrepreneur.

I'm celebrating by doing what I love: talking to people.
Talking to YOU.

On July 1st, I'm going to hold a little party and you are invited!

Join me for a live Q+A session on the phone (sign up here to get the call details)  and on Twitter (use tag #askthechicken to ask your questions).

But what else is fun?

What do you do for fun? Share it in the comments, or on Twitter by using #funeveryday.
If you want to see what I'm doing for fun, check out #funeveryday and add your own fun!

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