Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change


The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share this week's adventures – the view, the gratitude and the news on Fridays. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

Your Daily Adorbs. #catagram #taralovesmorningsEvery once in a while Johnson City looks downright adorable. (From last night's after dinner walk in the new park)
Jay's birthday cake: the absolutely most peanut buttery thing ever. Peanut Butter Pie, 4 ingredients. Recipe on the blog today. #whatveganseat
My favorite running weather: sun-dappled.    (Today I accidentally ran 5k, at a pace 1:10 faster than usual, thanks to my playlist.).   #foundwhilerunning
Today's @creativelive class with @craftypod inspired me to REALLY dig out the old t-shirts. This was in the VERY back, at the VERY top of the storage space.  This #quilting project now involves climbing and lifting.    Totally worth it. I now have shirts

After three days of trimming, interfacing & cutting I'm finally laying it out! I have just a few spots to fill in and then I'm ready to piece!   (Thanks to @craftypod'd class!)

I am so grateful for…

    • Diane fantastic t-shirt quilting class. It finally got our long-saved t-shirts out of storage and into an actual quilt! It was so nice to go through the stack together and remember all of our adventures.
    • Lovely morning runs.
    • The sweet, uplifting emails I get from podcast listeners. Apparently you're taking me to bed, and listening to it before you fall asleep or when you first wake up. I LOVE it.
    • AMAZING students. One crocheted her class notes:

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m eating: 

  • Peanut Butter Pie! 

As per your request, here's the recipe:

Mix 1 cup peanut butter, 1 package Tofutti Cream Cheese (or real cream cheese if you like), a half cup of soy whip (or cool whip), and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Whip until it's light a fluffy and fill a graham cracker crust. You can eat it right away, or pop it in the freezer for an hour or two, if you want an ice cream pie. I like it just off freezing, where it's cold, but soft.

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?



Marketing for Crafters

How to Market your Crafts, on CreativeLIVE with Tara Swiger

Eep! It's nearly here and I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!


This week I'm teaching a FREE three-day class on all aspects of marketing your handmade business. From your Right People, to clarifying your message, to crafting a Customer Path that effectively connects with your people, to deciding what (of the hundreds) of tools to use, to crafting a plan you'll actually stick with…we're going to cover it all, in detail. And best yet: We're going to apply it to your business, exactly where you are right now.

Awesome, right?

In the last few weeks I've gotten a few questions more than once, so in case you have them too, I wanted to share them with you. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments, and I'll get to them as fast as I can (while flying across the country!)

How does this work?

Go here and click “RSVP”. You'll get both the syllabus and the workbook right away, so you'll be ready to start class Thursday morning. At 9am PST (Noon EST) on Thursday, July 17th, class will begin! You'll get a reminder email to log on and when you do you'll see me teaching, in real time! There's a chat room for you to ask your questions (the hosts will be lobbing your questions at me on the regular) and a hashtag (#swigerlive) so you can connect with your fellow students. Each morning you'll get a reminder email so you don't miss anything!

What's the schedule?

July 17, 2014
Goal for today: You will end class with the language you can use to talk directly to your customer (and you'll know exactly who that customer is)

9:00am – What Marketing is (and isn’t)
10:30 – 10:45 – break
10:45 – 12:00 – Crafting Your Message: Spot Your Sparkle
12:00 – 12:45 – lunch
12:45 – 2:15 – Your Right People (who they are, where to find them)
2:15 – 2:30 – break
2:30 – 4:00 –  Translate your message into your Right People's language.


July 18, 2014
Goal for the day: You will understand how customers find you, fall in love with you, and buy from you – so that you can take focused, results-driven action.

9:00 – 10:30 – How to build (and improve) your Home Base
10:30 – 10:45 – break
10:45 – 12:00 –  Hi! How people find you.
12:00 – 12:45 – lunch
12:45-2:15 – Come Closer! Enticing a buyer into your world
2:15 – 2:30 – break
2:30 – 4:00 – Buy! That magic moment (and what comes next)


July 19th, 2014
Goal for the day: Create a concrete plan that aligns with your goals, and learn how to filter out everything that doesn't.

9:00-10:30 -The power of knowing what you want.
10:30 – 10:45 – break
10:45 – 12:00 – Choose your tools: from Instagram to craft shows
12:00 – 12:45 – lunch
12:45 – 2:15 – How to hold an experiment (and learn what really works for you)
2:15 – 2:30 – break
2:30 – 4:00 – Make your own map: Create a do-able plan to get things done.

Keep in mind the times are approximate. Each segment might go over or under a smidge.(You can download this with a description of each segment here)

What if I can't watch live?

Watching live is free, but you can purchase anytime access. You can get the whole class here for $59 (the price will go up after class, so jump on it!) or you can buy each day separately (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). Each Day's page tells you what we'll cover on that day, so you can pick the one that's right for you.

Whether you can watch live or not, you may want to purchase the class to get some amazing bonuses: 

  • Anytime access to the videos (so you can refresh yourself!)
  • Free access to Craft an Effective Blog
  • Free access to Automagical Email Series
  • $100 off the Solo Mission

Should I  take this class if I bought the book?

YES. Although I'll hit on some book bits in Day 1 (specifically, Right People and Your Message), I've updated it all based on the last two years of working with designers, makers, and artists. I now know more about what really works in businesses just like yours, since I wrote the book over 2 years ago. Also: Day 1's first segment is entirely new material (not taught in any class), and Day 2 and Day 3 aren't in the book anywhere.

Should I take this class if I took the Customer Path class?

YES! We'll cover the Customer Path in Day 2, but we'll also hit on the big piece we couldn't get to: How to build an effective Home Base (so your Customer Path leads people to someplace great). Plus, Day 1 and Day 3 will be totally new to you.

I'm bummed I missed the Customer Path class, where can I get it?

Well, you're in luck! The Customer Path material is no longer available anywhere other than the Starship or in this class! (Day 2, Segment 2-4).

I don't have a business yet, I just have ideas.

Ready for some tough love? If you are still just “playing around” with “some ideas”, but you really REALLY want a business (and not a hobby) – step away from the internet. Stop taking classes, stop reading books, and stop looking at what other people are doing. Go into your creation cave and create your best work. Make 5-10 of them (whether this is products, designs, artwork, whatever). Ask yourself if you enjoy this enough to make 50 more. Then, take some pictures and make it available for sale (either online or in a craft show).
THEN, you are ready to start thinking about marketing your work.
In other words, this class is going to be most useful to you if you know what you make and it's available for people to buy, somewhere. If you're not sure how to move from Idea to Business, check out Kari Chapin's class on getting started.


Got a question? Ask and I'll answer (in between traveling). Hope to see you in the class! 

Know what to say

Know what say in your marketing, on TaraSwiger.com
Last week we talked about the struggle to know what to DO with your marketing, so today let's handle it's twin: what to SAY when marketing your business.

Do you remember when you first joined Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and you wondered: What do I write? What do I put on here? If you're using the tools for your personal life, it's simple – you share what you want to share, with the people you want to share it with.

But if you're using social media as a tool for your business, the issue requires a bit more thought and planning. You'll still say what you want…but what DO you want to say? What do you want these specific people (your followers) to know about your work or about you? What do they need to know? 

Everything you share online builds a relationship with the reader and it establishes who you are, as a business and a human (in the same way that everything you say in real life to someone builds a relationship and communicates who you are.)
It's easy to get stuck in a swirl over this (what should I saaaaay?) or to avoid the question all together and just default to the easiest thing (tweeting your Etsy listings with no personality). It bums me out when I see creatives with amazing work doing either, because it's not too hard find the solution.

Start with these two questions:

  • What is my message and how do I communicate that here?
  • Where is this reader on my Customer Path and what would she need to know to move forward (closer to buying or connecting)?

What is my message?

You'll learn exactly how to craft your message (and convert it to all possible situations)  in my book, but you can start by asking yourself:

  • What do I stand for?
  • What do I provide to my customer? (ie, it's more than art or jewlery – it's beauty, belonging, joy, etc)

Now, how can you communicate that on this particular tool? What would you share to bring more of that quality into your reader's lives?

Where is the reader on my Customer Path?

You see, what you say depends on who you're saying it to. Is she following you on Twitter because she wants to remember to buy in the future? Does she love your writing and want to keep up to date? Or is she just discovering you via someone else's retweet?
This might seem overwhelming, but it helps to put it in a framework: everyone who is reading, following, “liking” you on your blog, newsletter, social media is connecting with you – and over time, they're coming closer and closer. In other words, they're on a Customer Path.
What you say moves them down the path, and the more you understand their needs at each point at the path, the easier time you'll have figuring out what to say.

If you want to know what to say, and feel confident it's effective in connecting with potential customers, join me to Craft Your Customer Path. Registration closes Friday!

What are you saying? What are you communicating in your marketing?


Let’s explore profit

let's explore profit

Money. Profit. Pricing.

These are some of the hardest things to talk about in our businesses (and lives!), for a many reasons: because of our culture and its messages, because we might use it as a measure of our self-worth (and thus, it becomes a tool of self-doubt), and  because it is so easy to get lost in the Comparison Game.

This is exactly why we should explore it. Not just explore the ideas of profitability or making money – but explore your actual, real-life numbers, no matter what they are.

You see, in my work with creatives I find two things that routinely get in the way of their doing what they want to do:

  1. They don't have a plan, they don't know exactly where they want to go. (Which is why I created this.)
  2. They don't know where they are, they don't know their actual numbers. (Which is why I created this.)

If you want to go somewhere else, you have to know where you are right now.
If you want to make more money, you need to know what your money is doing right now. You need to know your expenses, your profit margin, your minimum break-even point and your most profitable products.
With this knowledge, you can grow, build, and expand. You can spend your time on what works and stop doing what doesn't.

But this doesn't have to be hard or stressful or self-flagellating. We can pull out these numbers, run a little math, and then learn the lessons. We can explore instead of hoping, comparing, or grasping.

If you'd like to join me in this exploration, it's time to learn how to Pay Yourself.




Image by Lacey Atkinson

The Boston Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the finds on Fridays (usually) and you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

I spent last week teaching and exploring in Boston, and even though it's not Friday, I wanted to share a few of my adventures while it's still fresh.

I am so grateful for…

The people who made my time lovely, inspiring, and well worth it:

  • The students in my Wednesday workshop. They were funny and honest and brave and helped me remember that we all feel like we haven't made it yet.
  • The entire staff of Gathere Here, especially Virginia – for making it happen -and Maggie for charging my phone and letting me feel like a normal knitter for an hour.
  • Ana, for dreaming up this trip and picking a topic so many people really did want and for taking a whole day to tour me around Salem.
  • Abby, for driving to meet me for coffee and having a fabulous conversation about money, reality, and her vision. Her blog is an awesome resource of big-issue-thinking for crafters – read it!
  • Guido, for taking me on a dog walking tour of Cambridge. There is nothing as inspiring as someone truly passionate and Guido is – about his neighborhood, the fiber community, and his adorable dog. Also, he gave the best food recommendation of my trip.
  • The staff of Veggie Galaxy, for the free milkshake, and for being an excellent example of how to use twitter for your business.
  • Jess, who kept everything running while I was away. I never could have taught three workshops the week after the largest Starship Boarding if it weren't for her flexibility, organization and encouragement!


What adventures did you have last week?


Your brain on words

A sign today is going to be awesome? A free soy caramel macchiato & total Flow in workshop prep.

I know it's hard to talk about your work.
But I also know (and I bet you do too) that the thing that makes it hardest is…you.
You worry about how you sound. You worry that you're talking too much.
You worry that you're awkward or aggressive or too quiet.

Part of the reason it's so hard is because it's all so verbal. And the minute you start picking words or stringing them together, The Monitor shows up. This isn't just your emotions or self-esteem, there's an actual part of your brain that judges what you say and do. This is super helpful when you need to make a decision, but troublesome when you have to speak extemporaneously or write freely.

But there is good news. You can turn the Monitor off. The best jazz players and comedians have learned to do just that. You can circumvent words + judgement all together and work with another part of your brain.

That's what Diane and I  had in mind when we started talking about a visual process that could make it easier for makers to talk about their work. Instead of judging and thinking and arguing with yourself, we want you to skip right into the images that stir you. We jump past the thinking and go right to the seeing. (You can join us in Monitor-silencing this Monday right here.)

For a visual-thinking person, using images to spark words make perfect sense. But it's not the only one. When I started thinking about it, I have all kinds of tricks for turning off the Monitor…

Working in the same place with the same little rituals.
Zooming way out of the screen I'm writing on, so that I can't read as I write.
Writing to just one person.

How do you do it? What are your tricks for turning off The Monitor?

PS. The last chance to join the class is this Monday. If you'd like a reminder, sign up here.

You don’t have to convince anyone


I talk a lot about what the real work in your creative business is: it's your job to follow your enthusiasm, to communicate clearly, to create a path for the customer.

I focus on what your job is, because there's so much that your job is not. It's not your job to change someone's mind. It's not your job to solve all of your people's problems. It's not your job to to make your buyer use the product they bought.
It's not even your job to convince anyone to buy your work.

This is where people get confused about what marketing is. They think it's being convincing, cajoling or self-promotional (as you know, I hate that.) But what if it wasn't?

What if your main job when sharing your work was simply to communicate your passion clearly and with love?

Would that make it easier to talk about your work?
Would that make it something you looked forward to doing?

Good news!
It is this simple.

In fact, forgetting the simplicity, and trying to do something unnatural (self-promotion) or just giving up all together, is why your work languishes in obscurity. Being something that you're not, or using generic words for your work, sounds a warning alarm in your reader. It's an integrity thing: when the words you use don't line up with your passion, enthusiasm, and magic, it feels off or phony. That off-ness silences your true voice while turning off your readers.

So now the question you have to find the answer for is: How do you remember that all you have to do is communicate clearly and enthusiastically, without convincing? How do you start to feel great about sharing your work?

Here's what I've found works:

1. Figure out what words will communicate what makes your work awesome. (Hey, we've got a class for that.)
2. Stop trying to convince anyone. Focus on your Right People, and talk to directly to them.
3. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Try stuff. See what works, try other stuff. See each “failure” as an opportunity to tune into what doesn't work, and permission to try something totally new.
4. Listen in to what your buyers love, and reflect those words back, by using them in your descriptions, pages, and conversations.
5. Keep your eyes on your own work. Don't let other people's success (or marketing) distract you. What works for them might not work for you…and that's perfect. That means you are fantastically unique.

Do you get distracted by convincing or comparing?

What step will you take today to make it easier to share your work?





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?

The first step towards a profitable business

First Steps toward 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 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 for my Dad's birthday party. {This was the year both parents turned 50. It was a big deal. But don't mention it to them!} 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 30-year-old married French major who likes to eat at Plant at least once a month, 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 4 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 new “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. And 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.

The class is Pay Yourself, and you can register for it here.

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

Once you know your numbers, it's time to Pay Yourself

Got a question? Ask me!
Like these videos? Subscribe and I'll beam 'em to your inbox each week!


The Adventures

Welcome to a new little weekly thing, wherein I practice noticing the week's good and gathering it one place. Each Friday I share pictures (from Instagram), my favorite links (I usually tweet them), and whatever else I think you’ll like. This is totally inspired by Colleen and Elise.

This week was all about getting ready for next week's class. Not just because it's a lot of work, but because this is very rare for me. If you look around this site, you'll notice that there's not a lot going on publicly. I don't have one-on-one consulting open to the public, I no longer do small classes, and I don't have many products for sale. There's the book and Map-Making Guide (each around $25) and then…the Starship. Which is a one year, $500 investment. If you wanted to get my take on something, or just learn from one class, there's not a lot of opportunity for that. Monday's class is only the second one I've offered all year. But I do teach classes monthly, I answer people's questions daily, and I brainstorm and problem-solve  live for over 30 craftybusinesses every week…inside the Starship or with my long-time clients.

So this, this 8 day, $50 class, which comes with lessons and one-on-one conversations and question-answering – it's all the awesomeness of the Starship, but in a tiny, easy to digest bite. That's great for you, but it's challenging for me. Its a bit vulnerable to put out a class that might or might not fill up. To dive into something short-term so fully and boldly. To risk and to pursue, without getting a big commitment in return. It's an opening up (and it's kinda uncomfortable).


This opening is a fractal. Both a sign and cause for openings all over the place this week.  I took part in my first on-air broadcast. In it, I spoke honestly about the wretchedly overwhelming year that came after I quit my dayjob.  I encountered (gently, and quietly) a personal pain I've been avoiding for a long time. I cleared up and automated my finances, so that I'm making measurable movement towards my goals. I created (and found a sponsor for) a live event in Seattle.* I got my first royalty check.

Here's what all that opening looked like:


Goodness from the Farmer's Market :: Sliced peaches for this cobbler:: Knitting with my Starship Captain inspiration :: a homemade vegan coconut mocha frappuccinno to power the live video chat :: celebrating with Your Sister's Sister in the sofa cinema


The places + finds

  • The video chat! I learned SO much from the smarties who shared their stories. You can watch the whole thing at the bottom of this page.
  • Wanna get your own royalty check? My publisher is teaching a class called Get Published. Check it!
  • I wrote about Speaking your Customer's Language over at Rena Tom
  • Yesterday was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! My favorite favorite vegan treat is this sandwich. YUM.
  • In my work with Vianza, I discovered and fell in love with the packaging vegan body goods from LOVE + TOAST. Then, yesterday, I stumbled on them at my grocery store and scored some shampoo. Today my hair smells (and feels) fabulous.


*Details of the Seattle event coming soon, but for now mark your PacNW calendars for September 1 at Noon.


A friendly reminder: If you want to craft a blog that works for your specific business, today's the last day to register for Crafting an Effective Blog. Don't dawdle!

1 2 3