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Be a professional

Be a Professional

Last week I read several great posts about professionalism in our craft world. Abby wrote about the changes to the professional organization CHA to include bloggers and in reply Kim wrote about the importance of being a professional in this industry. It might seem unrelated, but I found Diane's post answering if it's “worth it” to write a craft book and Abby's post about what fabric designers earn really seem to me to be even more proof of the importance of treating this, your career as a craftsperson, as a professional. Let's discuss what this means for you.

First, there's an important distinction in this conversation about bloggers and the trade organizations, between Professional Bloggers and Professionals Who Blog.

  • Professional Bloggers make their money from their blog, they sell the eyeballs (views) of their blog to advertisers.
  • Professionals who Blog make their money from either a service or product that they sell, and their blog is one part of the Customer Path for their buyers – it helps them connect in a deeper way with the people who buy what they sell.

I work exclusively with people who sell something (whether they blog or not!); my people sell their writing to magazines, their dresses to buyers, their yarn to knitters.

Now, these people (you!) don't always think of themselves as “professionals.” In fact, many of you came to your business first as a hobby and then started selling some stuff and that's where you are now. Some people don't care to go beyond this, and it's a fun hobby and gives them some extra spending money. That's perfectly fine. I work with people who very much want to go beyond this – makers who want to build their craft into a sustainable business that supports their creativity. In other words, they want to have a career in this field. They want to become a professional.

I've found, by working with people as they make this transition from hobby to career, that there is a moment where it happens. But it's not where you might expect it. The moment is not when they make their first or fiftieth sale. It's not when they make a certain dollar amount. It's not when their work is featured in a magazine.

This moment happens the instant their thinking changes. When they go from “I make some stuff” to “I'm building a business.” From “I hope this works” to “I'm going to make this work.” From “I‘d like to be as awesome as XX {Insert current rock star in their craft}” to “I specifically want to make $XX and spend X amount of time and focus my energy on X project.

The moment you flip from hobbyist to Professional is the moment that you decide to. The moment you commit to doing the work, to making the plan, to learning what you don't yet know.

If you've made this flip, you know it. It might be the first time you made a map, or held an experiment, or just committed: “I'm actually going to do this.
If you feel fuzzy and you're one of the hundred of people who email me asking “Could this be a  business?! Can I do this?!“, that's OK! Spend some time thinking about your life and what you want from it and go with your gut (not with what looks awesome).

Once you've made this flip, it changes your decision-making process. Instead of wanting to write books or design fabric because it seems professional, you'll need to research what that will actually mean for you and your goals. (That's why I love posts like Abby's and Diane's that draw back the curtain.) Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, a Professional gets clear on what she really wants and then pursues a path that will get her there.

I'm absolutely fascinated by what happens after the flip. The systems you build, the decisions you make, the work you have to do. That's why I make tools and classes for the post-flip journey (which lasts the rest of your life). I'm working on a new thing to support those immediately post-flip, who are ready to go from “I have a shop” to “I have a business.” I'm opening it first to email subscribers on Nov 20th (and everyone who joins early will get a free Holiday Sanity class!) and then to the whole world on December 2nd. It will begin January 1. If it sounds interesting, sign up here to be the first to find out (and have lots of pre-holiday time to think about it).

How to Experiment (and scare yourself)

how to experiment

Confession: during this session of the Effective Blog class, I've been following along with the students and doing the homework myself. You see, I'm kinda ambivalent to blogging, but I love experimenting. But how I feel about blogging is old stuff. It's not new or based on the current reality. I need to experiment, to see if everything is true or not. The other day in class, Diane mentioned that she likes to do 30-day experiments to see if something works or not. That, combined with this post from Elise, combined with the excellent stuff I learned during our live discussion, inspired me to get started now.

So I'm doing a public 30 day experiment, right here. And I'd like you to join me.

I didn't plan on saying anything about it, but I'd like to have some company. And experimenting is better when we do it  together. I'd love for you to join in with me, to hold your own experiment!

Before we get in to it, let's talk about what makes a good experiment (you can find full How to Experiment instructions on page 100 of the book.)

How to Experiment

1. Set a thesis. What do you want this experiment to do for you? What do you think will happen?

2. Set the parameters. How long is this experiment? What will it entail? (You are so much more likely to stick with something if it has a clear end date. You'll also get better results if you plan a time to stop and reassess.)

3. Put the support system in place to hold it. What will you need in time, space and energy to do the experiment? How can you set up your day, week and life to make that possible?(Hint: if you're not writing every day now, something will have to change for you to be able to do that next week. Time, space, tools, etc.)

4. Review the results. What worked? What didn't? At the end of the experiment, make notes about the results, how you felt, and what you learned. Use it to set up your next experiment!

You can use this to experiment with anything (going vegan, trying a new marketing channel, increasing sales, etc). The really important thing here is to experiment with things that you expect a clear result from in the time allotted.

For our experiment, we're going to start today, and stop on 9/3. That's not very long, so pick something do-able for that long, and set your goal small. Very small. Even smaller than that. Got one? Ok!

Here's mine:

1. Thesis: blogging every weekday until 9/3 will increase my connection with the community or readers and explorers. How will I know that happened? People will join me in creating their own experiment, and even more people (let's say, twice as many) will join me for the next group experiment in September. (This will probably also result in more emails, Twitter conversation, etc, but I'm not measuring those.) This all serves my Big Goal for more connection (via vulnerability) in my life + work.*

2. Parameters: The experiment ends 9/3. It includes sharing something publicly here, in this space, every weekday. Something useful, entertaining or inspiring. At least once a week I'll hit “publish” on a post I'm a little afraid of.**

3. Support systems in place: Time to write every morning, creating a list of possible topics to carry me through the whole month, scheduling the ones I feel inspired to write. (In other words, my classic non-planning planning.) I'll talk more about the tools I use later.

*This goal isn't that business-y, because I'm plenty busy with current clients. But what I've learned through building the Starship is that there's an amazing private, deep community there, and I'd like to supplement that with a broader, more public community outside the Starship, so that everyone can experience at least a bit of the magic of exploring with others. In order to do create that, I have to stop doing all my stuff in the privacy of one-on-one and Starship work, and start bringing it here. That's the reason for this experiment!

**This week, that post would be this, right here!

That's my experiment. Would you like to join me with your own?

You can experiment on absolutely anything! (Blogging regularly, blogging about different topics, using Twitter, FB, Instagram or whatever in a new way…the possibilities are endless!)

To join in, just leave a comment with your experiment (including thesis, parameters, etc), and we can check with each other using #experimentFTW on Twitter or Instagram. Prefer to keep it private? Email me! On 9/3 we'll be back here with a new experiment!