Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change


280: Biz lessons from (foster) parenting

Parenting and business can feel like they’re worlds apart, but luckily there are transferable lessons! Learn more about the business lessons I’ve learned from one year of foster parenting at TaraSwiger.com/podcast280

So hey, I became a parent this year! I parented 5 kids in 12 months, not concurrently but consecutively. And in this year of parenthood, I have learned a LOT about myself, my worldview, my marriage AND my business.

Today I want to share what parenting has taught me about business.

This episode is ultra-vulnerable, because I usually talk about stuff that I know quite a bit about, that I’ve researched and experienced. Well, parenting is not really my expertise. And I’m gonna be honest – I wanted to be a parent for SO LONG that when it DID happen, but in a very nontraditional way, I still feel a little bit of imposter syndrome.

I am NOT a parent the way most parents are. I did not give birth or get pregnant. I also didn’t lose pregnancies or go through massive infertility treatments. And I haven’t adopted a child. So right now, I don’t actually, legally, HAVE kids. I temporarily have kids, but as you can imagine, the day to day of parenting feels very very real. Heck, it IS real.

I am having the experience of parenting even if I’m not legally a parent yet.

So, as you can tell, I feel kinda nervous about talking about this, but I know that we ALL have things we’re inexperienced about, and learning THROUGH the inexperience is how we improve.

Now before we go farther, let me just say to all my sisters who are feeling pain around not being a parent yet, and really really wanting to – you might wanna skip this episode. I know that in the past I found all KINDS of things triggered my grief, and I would HATE when a business teacher would talk about kids as if we all just had kids, no problem, no struggle.

That said, I encourage EVERYONE to consider foster care as a way of pouring your time and energy and resources and privileges into someone’s life. Someone very cute. So if you don’t have kids yet, and you’re even considering foster care a little bit, stay tuned and check out my videos about the process of becoming a foster parent.

And of course if you are a parent, through traditional or nontraditional methods, stay tuned because I think you’re going to enjoy noticing how business and parenting overlap in so many ways.

Work on your STUFF

The first BIG lesson of having a business or being a parent is this: If you don’t deal with your stuff now, you’re going to have to deal with it later.

Both parenting and business serve as a magnifying glass for all the STUFF you need to work through to move forward.

What do I mean by stuff? Whether it’s mental health stuff like anxiety, depression, eating disorders or it’s stuff from your own childhood or past relationships, both business and kids are going to bring it up again.

I have long said that business is one of the best therapists, because it is ALL going to come up. As you set goals, level up, move forward, you are going to come up against your own feelings of inadequacy, worthiness, confidence, mindset. If you don’t work through it, release it, or in some way transform your stuff, it’s going to KEEP coming up. You’ll end up self-sabotaging or getting stuck or feeling horrible instead of happy.

And oooh boy, if this is true of business, it is doubly true of becoming a parent.

Every bit of unhealed trauma, grief, and fear from your childhood comes and smacks you in the face when you’re taking care of tiny children. (Or is that just me?)

I got a head start on working through my stuff and develop a support system for it, while building my business. I had to work through stuff about being worthy, about mindset, about clear communication in order to grow through my  business.

That has made me able to move through it quicker (than I used to) when it came to kids. But for my husband, he struggled. He’s had to develop ways to calm down, to recharge, to release stuff, to confront himself and forgive himself…while in the middle of parenting toddlers.

So really this first lesson is: work on your stuff. Now or later, you’re going to need to. If you had kids first, hopefully you’ve learned to identify some of this stuff and you’ve already started the process.

(And PS, business and kids aren’t the ONLY ways to work on your issues, they’ve just the two biggest triggers for what I’ve needed to work on! Relationships are another big trigger for people – whether friendships or romantic relationships.)

The next lesson is about TIME

Oh my gosh, I never felt like I had so little thinking time in my LIFE!

It has forced me to get very clear on when and how I work best – what I need to be most productive.

What I’ve learned is that I need dedicated focused time in order to do most of what I do.

And Introvert Recovery cannot be skipped – the longer I spend surrounded by kids and NOT working, the more I need to recover before I can be productive. This is counter-intuitive and VERY annoying, but I’ve found it to be true, so now I just try to build it in when I can.

My other “hack” around this is to squeeze all appointments into same day and have days that I never schedule anything kid-related (of course DCS does not really respect my boundaries, but when possible, I stand up for them.) It all comes down to the fact that time management is so much more crucial now that I have kids, so I’ve had to get better at it.


Dealing with toddlers requires clear communication.
Dealing with DCS and birth parents and other adults in your kids life requires clear communication.

And guess what? Your business, especially your marketing messaging requires clear communication!

One of the keys to clearly communicating is to always ask yourself: What is the goal of this communication?

What is the goal of this foster care meeting? What is the goal of this outburst? What is the goal of this Instagram post or email or item description?

You’re always trying to communicate something to someone.

By getting clear on what the goal is and who the intended audience is, then you can shape your message around that.

And yes, I am encouraging you to take a minute and think through what you’re about to say, so that it’s clear to everyone what your goal is.

If we’ve ever been in a conversation together, you know that I am not going to let you go until I know that we have met the goal. This has been so useful in working with birth parents and DCS.

For example, in a meeting with a social worker and some family members, I could tell that the worker was focused on just saying what she wanted to say (in industry-speak) and that family members didn’t understand the seriousness or what’s at stake. So I stopped the worker, over and over to ask: “So you’re saying….” and kept rewording it until I could tell family got it.
When we walked away, my husband said, “You were great. You probably really annoyed the social worker, but at least we know we got everyone on the same page.”

I credit my decade-plus experience of writing marketing messaging (and a stubborn streak that wants to make everyone feel included) to this skill, but it’s developed over time.

If you have been negotiating with toddlers, for a few years, I bet you have worked on your communication skills. (Simplicity! Clear requests!)

If you have been in a relationship for longer than a minute, you have worked on your communication skills.

The thing is, you can bring that INTO your business! Those skills translate!

ALL these skill translate!

Whether your life has inspired you to get good at working on your stuff, at time management, or at communication, you can now take those skills into your business!

Often we feel like we don’t know enough or we’re not good enough to create thriving businesses, to be profitable, to charge what we’re worth.

But you know what?

You are! You have the skills you need!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

What your customers care about

What your customers care about 2

Your customers don't care about the same things you care about. They don't (necessarily) want to hear about your tools and techniques – they want to know how it benefits them and how your product will fit in their life.

But how do you figure this out? How do you know what matters most to your customers? How do you figure out why they buy?

In this episode we will cover: 

  • How to find the specific details that matter to your customers
  • How your product fits into their life
  • How to learn from your customers so you can become more effective


Got a question you'd like me to answer on the podcast?

Send it to vulcan@taraswiger.com with the subject line “Ask Tara”.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

If you think it might be time to focus on what YOUR customers care about, Craft Your Marketing might be just the class you need! We'll talk about crafting a customer path so that you can turn one-time visitors into life-long fans of your work. Sign up below to find out more about it!


Get your family (+ spouse) to support your business

Beach pup. #adventure

Yesterday we talked about getting more support for your adventure. The first challenge many new explorers experience is…their family. Getting support, encouragement, or even just surviving a hailstorm of questions and doubt. It can make you feel like your family is the last place to get support, but, honey, having at least one person who knows you sooo well, and believes in you can do wonders for your confidence (and thus, business).
Today, let's talk about you can bring your family on board with your adventure, and specifically, how you can ask your partner for more support. *

Your family is a double-edged phaser. They can be an area of support…and a reason you need outside support. Getting your partner behind your business idea is the thing that just about every new business mentions to me – How do I get them to respect this? How do I get them to see this as a real thing? And a bigger one: How do I get them to respect the money side of thing? (Hey, I wrote about that here!)
The answers to these questions are as unique as the situation. In most cases, you've got to have a series of conversations. In some instances, for some partners, you need hard proof and Spock-like answers. (I have a list of answers here, regarding the Starship, but I really need to create a book full of Spock-like answers for every aspect of your business, don't you think?)

But no matter who your partner is or what you need, you can find a way to talk to them.
Your job is to figure out:

1. What kind of support you need. Do you need them to take the kids for…how many hours? Do you need them to make dinner? Do you need them to get behind you by investing money in it?

2. What their brain will understand (this is probably easier to know the longer you're with someone – if you haven't figured this out yet, I promise it'll help every aspect of your relationship!). Some people need charts and graphs. Some people (like my Jay) don't want too many details, but want to know you have a plan. Others have extensive experience with “big” business and won't understand that the rules are different for a one-gal-show. Yet others will have no experience with anyone they know being self-employed and the whole thing will seem like a ginormous risk. Others (like me!) have self-employed people everywhere, thus they see it as a normal career path.

Knowing what they need to know (and their own risk-tolerance) and presenting your request to them in a way they understand will make everything go smoother.


3. How you can ask for what you need + deliver what they need in a way that respects you both.

Here's the truth – your relationship has an agreement in place. You might never have spoken it, but you've come to embody it through the years. The agreement might be about who does the dishes or who provides child care or who “deserves” a break when they get home from work. Every relationship has an agreement, no matter how progressive and feminist you both are (your agreement might be that there's no gender-based roles! That's an agreement too!).

When you start to ask for what you need, what you might be asking for is a change in the underlying agreement of your partnership. This can be scary for both partners.  You can sidestep some of the fear and conflict if you first notice what your current agreement is and acknowledge it together. And then, start talking about changing it.
You see, if you just rush in with all these changes, without acknowledging that you are fundamentally changing the foundation of your relationship,well, you're really shaking up the world of your partner, which can lead to a response that's defensive or aggressive.
It's not that they don't want to support you, it's that you're asking for more than you think. You're asking for a total shift.


So! Your job here is to acknowledge the current agreement (together!) and start talking about a new agreement that would suit your new goals.

Of course, it's possible that your current agreement suits your business growth just fine and no roles are changing. But just recognizing the underlying agreement will go a long way to understanding every kind of support you need.

The final step – start talking! Ask them how you can explain this in a way they'll understand. Let them know how important this is to you. Ask for the kind of support you need. And ask, over and over. In every moment, when you need support, ask for it. Be specific.

Say: I really just need you to listen and reaffirm that this does suck, I don't want any advice for fixing it.
Say: I really need help finding solutions to this.
Say: I need a hug.
Say: I need to spend another hour finishing this project. Could you please do X, even though I usually do?

Don't wait for them to notice what you need! Ask for it! 


And above all,  assume the best.

If you have a healthy, loving relationship, assume that your partner is trying their best.  Assume that any mistakes are not malicious. Assume that a miscommunication is just that, not a sign of DOOM. Assume that if you ask, clearly and without blame, they will step up.*

Assuming the best of people tends to bring out the best in them.

Although this is a little outside of what we usually talk about it here, I think it's important to address. Because you are not alone. If your partner seems unnaturally (for them!) dismissive, or unwilling to give you the support you need, you're not alone. I hear this from women all the time. And it's ok. It's not a sign that you've partnered with a total jerk*. There's hope for working this out and shifting even the longest-held roles. And it's ok to ask for what you need.


All of the above applies to asking the rest of your family, with the added step of figuring out who you can truly ask for support, and what relationship will not support a direct request. (It's ok that you have some relationships with your parents, siblings, in-laws that are not built for this kind of mutual support.) Once you have recognized that this a relationship that can provide the support you need, remember to ask for it in a way that the other person will understand and appreciate. And keep asking for it. And, of course, assume the best.



How do you get support from your family and partner?

What have you learned to be the best way to approach them?


*I am not a relationship expert! I have a happy 9 year marriage (after a childhood surrounded by unhealthy, abusive partnerships), and have spent my life surreptitiously studying what makes happy, supportive relationships last…and performing experiments in my own marriage and that of my clients.
This is all assuming you're in a healthy, non-abusive relationship. If you are with someone who doesn't respect YOU and your smarts, creativity and general awesomeness, that's something else entirely.



I don’t know what to say!

Wearing a few hundred bright colors for my #brothersisteradventure.
If I hear one sentiment more than any other, from makers, artists and writers, when we talk about marketing, it is this:

I can't stand to talk about myself!

I just don't know what to say!

Oh, honey, I hear you.
This is the hardest part about taking your art into the world – being brave enough to talk about, doing the work to find the words to communicate all that it means to you.

But here's the hard truth – makers who take the time to figure out how to talk about their work do the best. They make sales, get press, get accepted into that show.

Being able to talk clearly and passionately talk about your work and why you do it is a gift to the world.

It gives your work handles, so that anyone can pick it up and carry it along. It empowers your fans to tell their friends. It gives editors the words to write about you. It becomes retweetable.

The easier your work is to talk about (because you've found the words and communicated them) the more your work will be talked about. I've seen this happen again and again with my students. As soon as they settle down on one description of their work, people take notice.

This is so important and yet so hard to do on our own (we're just too close to it!), so Diane and I created a class where we'll walk you through a process of finding the words and crafting a description. Even better, we're providing you with a community to talk it over with peers, so you can get feedback and ideas on what you're too close to see.

Class begins June 10th (no, we're not holding it again) and you can read more and join here.