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Plan A 2.0

You know about Plan Bs. Those what-to-do-if-this-doesn’t-work plans.
Plan B is really popular. Everyone tells you to have one. All the world is talking about Plan B.

That’s fine, but it’s not for me. Like I said during the last Q+A, I don’t have one. Plan A is too awesome to give up on.

But what about after?
After you have Plan A (quit dayjob, rock crafty business, live happily)?

I’m curious…do most people keep doing Plan A happily…or do they find a new Plan A?

I’m thinking about this after a conversation with a friend who I thought was happy with her Plan A. And because I recently launched my own new Plan A (helping your crafty business) while simultanesouly still crazy in love with my old Plan A (sharing handmade yarn + teaching yarny stuff).

My dear friend is my ONLY friend the only person that I know (our age) that is doing what she went to college for. She started our freshman year saying she was going to be  a Psych major, get her Masters, then work with kids as a counselor. 10 years later, she’s doing that (and it didn’t take her 10 years!).

But I just got an email about a new thing she’s starting (Crossfit certification, she wants to teach it to kids) and she said “Finally! A plan!”.

And I laughed out loud.

Because out of everyone I know? Everyone!  I thought she HAD the plan. I mean, she completed the plan.
While the rest of us (with degrees in French Lit , Psych, History, Anthropology, Journalism) are doing, well, not that, she was. We are coming up with new plans and new paths, but I thought she had it figured out.

But her note was a reminder: no one has it figured out.
And of course, if you’re over 24, you probably know this.

But sometimes? It’s good to have a reminder.

To remember: the people who are doing the plan, the plan they wanted, maybe the plan you want. Those people? They don’t have it figured out either.

And when you do enact that plan (quit your dayjob, start that crafty business, have those kids, marry that stud)…well, then you’re ready to come up with a new plan. A new challenge. A new direction.

At least, this is how I think it works. For now.

(Right after I wrote the first draft of this post, I read this great post by Cairene about feeling in sync. Maybe that's the issue, we need to keep re-syncing?)

Have you moved to another Plan A? What happened to your first Plan A?

PS. July 1st is the one year anniversary of me quitting my dayjob! Celebrate with me by joining me on a free Q+A call. You ask the Qs (about anything you want) and I’ll fake the As. Sound like fun? Sign up here for the call details.

How to Craft a Brand

Now that I know I need to charge more for my work, how do I actually get it?

In my recent Pricing class, and in our #pricing chat on Twitter, this was THE most popular question.

The Twitter answer

Make sure your brand and your price tag match.

The longer version

If your item is $300 but your pictures are blurry or your descriptions are unclear or your title has a spelling error? Not gonna happen.

Wait, a BRAND?

When I say brand, I mean, simply, the style of your work. The vibe, the feel, the visuals, the words.
I don't mean a fake veneer of salesy grossness (ew!).

Ideally, your brand reflects true essence of what you are already doing. That's your brand.
And you want to make it consistent, to avoid confusing your people.

But before you can do that, you'll need to be (trying to get) clear on what your brand IS.
What colors, words, feelings, emotions do you want to have associated with your work?
Do you want your work to feel like a spring day dancing amongst flowers?
Like a day at the beach?
Or like a city pulsing with people?

Remember: This isn't a one time thing, it's an always-evolving, always-discovering process. So it's ok if you draw a blank at first.

Find the Brand

I find it helps to try a few different things to generate that clarity.  I'll list them, but just choose one or two that works for you:

  • Write a letter to your business, ask it what it wants to feel like, write what comes up
  • Talk to a friend about your work and ask them what imagery comes up
  • Look around your house/wardrobe. What colors are you drawn to? What mood do you create in your house?
  • Where are your favorite places? Quiet library? Serene beach? Busy nightclub? How can you bring that vibe into your words + images?
Crafting It

Once you find that vibe, look at what you're doing.
Twitter, blog, labels, email, craft show booth….everything!
Does it match?
Does your work online and in person communicate that vibe and feeling?

If not, what's different? Could it be that the brand you already have is MORE you than what you came up with in the above exercises?
Or because you thought you should?

Do I have to?

No.
Some people create a consistent brand without even trying, because they let their own vision shine through in everything they do. They eschew tradition and shoulds and anything that gets in their way of doing their own thing.

If you are one of those people and you know that you are being as genuine as possible in all your work? Then no, you definitely don't need to try to manufacture consistent branding. You already have it.

However, if you feel a bit distant from your work, or from your ideal pricing, experiment!

How do you imagine your brand? Share it in the comments (that's where you'll find my answer)

 

Milking Goats, Falling Down and Offering a Hand

An hour ago, I was milking a goat.

This is not a metaphor, like brunching.

I was actually, truly milking a goat.
Here’s proof:

I’m farm-sitting for a friend and that means goat-milking, egg collecting and sheep wrangling.

It also means chasing down runaway kids (young goats, not human children), chasing off errant dogs and trying to convince the goat not to kick the bucket of milk.

Today was my second successful milking and just as I finished up, let Emily off the stand and went to reach for the door of the barn, I slipped.

It was a truly I-Love-Lucy slip with booted feet in the air, back flat on the barn floor and head cracked against the milking stand. We will not go into detail what I was covered with. Let’s just call it “mud”.

I laid there stunned. And promptly started crying.
I was covered in “mud”, hot and sweaty and my head hurt.
I wondered if my husband heard and would come running and help me up.

I laid there for a few moments, snuffling and waiting. Then I realized that I had the milk bucket in my hand and that it had not spilled. I also knew that Jay hadn’t heard me and that I was on my own.

Although I couldn’t stop crying, I could stand up.

I stood slowly up, gathered my breath and stopped crying.

I hadn’t spilt the milk. Nothing was broken. Even “mud” washes off.

As I filtered the milk and cleaned off, I thought about that moment on the barn floor. What was I waiting for? Why the crying?

Did I really think someone was going to swoop in, pick me up and finish my farm chores?

I’m 28. I work for myself, in the business I built.
I clean my house, pay my bills, do my own taxes (shudder).

But sometimes, I still think someone is going to swoop in, clean off the “mud” and make things less messy and more easy.

And this is the point in the story where someone more adult than me would say that we need to stop waiting around for someone to save us and we need to learn to save ourselves.

To pick ourselves up, gather our breath and go wash off.

But that’s not my point. We have enough moments, both real and metaphorical, in our businesses where we pick ourselves up.
Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone else reach out a hand.

I'd rather offer you a hand than tell you to stop yer cryin' and pick yourself up.

The past few weeks I have been enjoying  corresponding with a few crafty business friends. We’ve been providing each other with ideas and reassurances and ideastorming and just…companionship. It’s been lovely.

The ability to ask that one question you’ve been wondering about…or hearing that this isn’t a silly idea…or to get help with the steps to get from here to there;  it’s all this that provides the support you need when you feel like you’ve fallen down in the goat barn.

The conversations have been so invigorating and so inspiring that I want to have more of them. I’d like to have them with you.

What’s going on in your business?
What questions do you have?
What do you just need a sounding board for?

Let’s talk about it.

I’m thinking a few paragraphs via email may be all it takes to get you up out of that barn. What do you think?

If you could use a hand or you've wondered what to do next, fill out this contact form with your question, your concern, your struggle and I’ll reply within a week with suggested resources, ideas or whatever you need.

I know this is…well, completely bizarre.
But there’s no trick. No hook. I’m just wanting to connect with more crafty businesses and to learn how I can best help you.

If you enjoy  tales of farm antics applied to business advice, make sure you subscribe and catch every pratfall.

Brunch? Don’t you mean Launch?

You may have noticed that I called the birth day of this site a brunch.

Not a launch.
In fact, I never “launch” anything (except my life, last year), it's always a brunch.

Why?

I'm a list-maker.
A little-detail-seer.
An let's-figure-this-out big sister.

I'm a look before you leap person.
Well, no, that's not-quite-right because I never do leap.

Not even into the pool.
I walk slowly to the edge, sit down, dangle my feet in and sloooowly lower my legs in.
Or better yet, find the steps and walk in.

Yes, much better than leaping.

And the word “launch”, it reminds me of standing on a high dive (or ack! any size dive!), getting ready to launch myself into the water.

Um, no thanks.

It also makes me think of rocket launches.

Which are beautiful and amazing.
But are also loud and rumbly.

It's in the cockpit, smoke billowing, your seat rumbling, your teeth chattering, your very bones and marrow and soul rattling while they build a huge fire under you.

Incredibly powerful, but also incredibly risky.

A launch can be glorious and amazing.
Or it can end in a mess of fire and tears and pain.
Either way, there are a lot of expectations and stress and will I live or die thinking.

Uh, no thanks.

When I was working on my very first not-just-yarn product, the Learn to Knit kit, I read a lot about launching a product (by far the best resource is this book, but it is sort of overwhelming).

And I thought a lot about launching.

LaunchLaunchLaunch.

One day, writing about it to some business-y friends, I mistyped it as Brunch. Maybe I was hungry or maybe I was tapping into some Freudian-slip smartness.

Either way, I loved it.

A brunch!

I would brunch the Learn to Knit kit!

No fire, no expectation, no bone-rattling moment of ohmygoodness.

A nice, leisurely brunch with coffee and pancakes and omelets and orange juice.

Mmm, brunch.

Where launching makes me think of disasters and high dives, brunch reminds me of being a kid, on the back of my dad's Harley.

He'd wake me up super-early on a Sunday. I'd suit up in a too-big-for-me leather jacket and a just-right helmet (safety first!) and we'd ride.

High up into the mountains, past lemon and avocado groves. Oh, I hate avocados, but I am smitten with the groves: dark, shiny leaves on perfectly round trees in lines curving around the mountain.

We'd get to the top of one mountain and there, out of nowhere, was a diner.

We had pancakes, coffee, eggs, orange juice. Brunch. With dad, both of us dressed in our leather jackets and jeans and boots.

Or he'd make brunch, at home. Sausage, eggs, salsa, sourdough toast, orange juice and the most amazing potatoes I've ever tasted. I have never found (nor made!) potatoes like Dad's brunch potatoes.

So when it comes to introducing something new  to the world, do I want to thrust it into the world with expectations and fire and smoke and bone-rattling excitement?

Or do I want to take it for a ride, get comfortable with a cup of coffee and some potatoes and enjoy brunch with it?

Yeah, I want to brunch with it.

How about you? Do you brunch? Or launch?

PS. I've been calling it a brunch for over a year, but I finally got around to explaining it thanks to this great post by Marissa on launching, on Productive Flourishing. It reminded me that there are lots of ways of launching and brunching.

The Power of Pricing

Last weekend, I did a really fabulous local craft show (the Lavender Festival) and once again, I learned the power of having the right price. I spent two full days meeting lovely knitters, crocheters, and wanna-be-crafters. I noticed them pick up my yarns, check out the price tag and I watched their reaction. This is maybe the hardest part of selling in person: watching and hearing reactions. Will they be negative? Positive? Indifferent? This tension can throw a normally-sane business-gal into a tizzy. It can cast doubts on all the math you did to figure out that price.

Because your price is not just a number. It represents value.

The value you place on your work and skill and passion. And the value your customers place on what they hold in their hands.

What I’ve learned through 4 years of selling my yarn in person is that the right number on the price tag is just the first step.

The  clincher is how I feel about that number.

Do I apologize for it? Do I hem and haw? Do I trip myself up trying to explain that it’s ohmygoodness it’s made by hand from local wool and really rare and and and

Or am I confident? Am I proud of my work?
Do I truly believe I deserve to make what I put on its price tag?

My confidence my belief in my work is communicated to the customer and allows them to feel accept the price. My comfort with being paid for my skill and time, gives them comfort as they reach for their wallet.

This comfort may not come naturally, but it can be learned. And if you’re going to sell (online or in person), it’s vital that you learn it.

The combination of the Right Price (one that pays you fairly and reflects the quality of the work) and the Right Person (someone who loves your work and is happy to pay for it) turns the sale into an easy, fun experience for everyone.

Oh, and at the festival this weekend? I heard not a single word about prices. Every Right Person snatched up what they wanted and whipped out their wallet with glee. I had a great time, they had a great time and we all ended up with what we needed.

 

Is that the experience you have selling your work? If not, why do you think that is?

PS. Not sure what your Right Price is? Wish you just had a simple formula and some ideas for becoming comfortable with it? Learn how to figure it out in Pricing 101, a bonus class in Pay Yourself. 

Clarity, now.

Last week, I made a change: I turned my bricks+mortar yarn shop into a mobile, traveling yarn road show.

Before I made the decision, it felt huge.
And so important.
Important to me.
Important to my family.
Important to my customers.

I struggled with it, internally, before I could tell anyone else.
It wasn't the decision that was hard to make (that was actually super simple), it was the telling. The making public.

I was, well, afraid of the reaction.
Would they be disappointed? mad? annoyed?

And through all this wondering, I realized:

None of that matters.

While I certainly value my community, their (whoever they are) reaction can't make the decision.

It is my business, my life and my decision.
I can't let other's (percieved) opinions decide.
I have to decide.

I know what is best for my business, for my community, for my personal work of making handmade, eco-friendly yarn, for my life.

But, before I could announce it, I had to get really (really!) clear with the why and the how. I had to know that it was right. I had to be strong in my decision.

Once I got there, it wasn't so hard to announce it.
So I made the announcement.

And I was shocked.
Everyone is happy.

My family.
My community.
My customers.

Why the big difference between what I thought the reaction would be and what it actually was?

Because I came to it from a place of certainty and peace, I can pass that along.

The after-school special lesson?
If I choose love.
If I choose honesty.
If I choose openness. With myself. With others.

If I do that, I can share it.
Love, honesty, openness, peace.

Getting tangled in the but what will they think, keeps us all tangled together.
Clarity in my work can bring clarity to my community.

Whew!

Something very odd went very wrong with my website this week.
Something about Domain Name Servers pointing to the wrong thing. My host (HostDime) had superquick customer service that helped me fix it, but it took another 48 hours to “resolve”, so even though you may have been able to see it, I got nothing but a sad 401 message for a few days.

The timing couldn't have been worse, as I just announced a BIG  decision (and change) with my yarn shop, A Novel Yarn.  I had hoped to talk more about that decision here, in this space, this whole week.

I worried that the decision, coupled with my broken website would look…wrong. Like something was wrong. Like I was absent. Like I had just left.

And then, I realized (again and again).
What's a big deal to me and in my business is not a big deal to my customers. Or my friends.

What seem disasterous to me and in my business barely registers for you (if you even notice at all).

What seems like IS a gigantic decision to me is just mildly interesting for the “public”.

And this is good to remember, for the future:

  • It's probably not ALWAYS going to be a big deal
  • It's probably not disastrous
  • It is probably not going to rock their world as much as it rocks yours.

Or, the Twitter version (which I tweeted as a self-reminder during the decision-making:

Unless you have the nuclear launch codes, this will probably NOT result in DOOM doom DOOM!

Handmade Marketplace – book giveaway!

I have one copy of Handmade Marketplace to give away,
read to the bottom to learn how to win.

(photo from karichapin.com)

Oh, I can not tell you HOW excited I am about this book!

I was honored to be interviewed for it, to serve as part of the “Creative Collective” – the group of makers who contributed bits of our own experiences.

That was crazy exciting, but then I got the book in my hands.

And oh, I'm far beyond excited to be included in it, I'm thrilled that this book exists.
I'm thrilled I have something to recommend, as a complete resource, when someone asks “How do I start a crafty biz?”

It has everything a crafter needs to know/think about/plan for in selling their crafts. Craft shows, marketing, making their thing, wholesale, everything!

I have read a loooot of business books.
Most of them are geared to big businesses.
A few are aimed at truly tiny businesses (my favorite: The Boss of You)
Even fewer are about craft businesses (and the best, by Barbara Brabec are over 20 years old)

But this is the first book  for us.
Crafters who blog. And podcast. And sell online.

Obviously my review is wildly biased because the book is filled with people I adore (Kari! Kim! Diane!)…but my mom (who is totally out of the online-craft-world loop) called me last night to say “I can NOT put this book down! It's teaching me SO much!”

Thanks to the kind people at Storey, I have one book to give away to a commenter!

To enter: leave a comment with your business question and I'll choose one commenter randomly and announce the winner next Friday!

PS. I met the author (and everyone else mentioned in this post) on Twitter. Being a part of this book is just one of the fabulous side-effects of loving Twitter.

I’m not an expert

Really.

I don't think I am know I'm not.
In fact, even thinking that anyone expects me to be one freaks me out.

And yet.
People ask me questions.
I answer them.

But in my answering, I'm just saying this is what works for me.
Not I know the only right way.

I've been thinking about this expert-thing since reading this post about not being an expert. And while working on my Twitter class.

I am not an expert

I wasn't sure how to announce the class, because I keep getting hung up on I'm not an expert!

Morover, I think Twitter Experts are the problem!

They overwhelm us with information on what we should be doing.
Or they have all these rules that makes Twitter not-fun and frankly, sort-of-icky.

So why teach a class on Twitter?

Becaue,  in every one of my other classes for crafty businesses, someone (or several someones!) ask about Twitter.

How can I use it without being icky?
What's the right way?
Won't I seem spammy if I talk about my business?
What if no one is following me?
Am I doing it wrong?

And Oh! do I have answers. Lots of don't-be-icky, but-still-grow-your-business and have-lots-of-fun answers.

Not because I'm an expert.

But because I love Twitter.
I love making new friends.
I love getting to know people better.
I love sharing my business in a non-icky way.
I love the opportunities it provides (magazine articles, interviews in books!)

So, despite not being an expert, I'm going to answer your questions about taking the ick out of Twitter while rocking it and having a great time and not-being-at-all-sales-y in a week-long class, next week. You can read more about it here.

Baking = Writing

Sure, it's National Craft Month, but I really spend most of my time on two non-crafty “crafts”:

Writing.
Business.

I love both, but sometimes combining them feels like…work.
I always want to avoid sales-y, ick-y business writing and sometimes even the NAME of a business sales-y thing grosses me out.

Like “launches”. Long ago, I started calling them “brunches”.
Because isn't brunching the most relaxing thing ever? No stress! No waiting! Just piles of tastiness and conversation!

Last week I was getting ready to write something business-y (for the brunch of my Twitter class) and I got stuck. On the word.

Sales Page.

A totally icky word for what is a pretty simple thing: a description of what you are offering.

But as much as I love writing and I love sharing my thing, I always put off writing sales pages.
It just sounds painful and icky and sales-y, you know?

So let's metaphor-mouse it (that's a Havi thing):

Current relationship (sales page =?)
-icky
-salesy
-convincing
-“persuasive writing” assignments in school
-explanatory
+sharing my thing
+putting words to an idea
-static
-work
-“should”
-certain technique that I'm not doing and therefore “LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE” (ugh, I hate that saying)
-sticky
-should should should

Reminds me Of..
writing that is a “should” – school assignments, homework, wondering if I'm doing it “right”

My ideal metaphor (X=?)
+ease
+fun
+putting words to ideas
+sharing what I love
+confidence
+not scary
+no “right” way
+extra doses of me-ness

What happens when…
What happens when there aren't any expectations of what I *should* be doing? What does that look like?

That feels like I'm dancing around in my kitchen, as an adult (ie, not a kid doing homework), putting my favorite ingredients together, confident in my skill.

*bing*

When sales page = homework:
I feel:
like a kid
worried of getting in trouble
trying to please…the big kids? the experts?

When sales page = my baking
I feel:
like an adult
responsible to myself
confident
free
I want to share all the tasty goodness!

Sales Page = Baking!

Do We Have Metaphor?
Yes!
For me, baking=sharing, fun, having a party, inviting everyone, woo!
Baking for someone is a lot more fun than trying to sell them something (ick!)

—–

Is there a word you don't like? Would finding a better metaphor make it more enjoyable?

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