Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

craft business

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.

Bravery outside the safe space

Ok, time for another un-awesome truth.

Yay! New pink shoes thanks to my shoe-fairy @lindsaydrake.

You know how I'm teaching 4 workshops in the next few days? Yeah, I'm nervous.

Although I teach all the time, I don't often hold in-person workshops. On top of that, the Western North Carolina Art Councils are not my typical audience. Usually, when you come to one of my classes (in person or online) you already know me. You come because you've been reading this blog, or my book, or you get my emails. You have an idea of what you're getting – a fast-talking, pink-haired, enthusiastic book nerd with a few too many pop culture references.

That's because, like I'm always encouraging you to do, I fill my business with my Right People, and I focus all my energy on serving them. That means I am pretty much always surrounded by people who both get me and like me. But at these workshops, students aren't coming because they know me, they're coming because they're HIA members and they want to learn the subject matter.

This tiny shift is monumental.
It means that, for the first time in a long time, I'm not already totally comfortable. I'm hesitant being my weird self. And the truth is, I debated with myself: is it better to focus solely on the self-selected Right People…or go outside my already-defined comfort zone and serve not-yet-my-Right People.

But even though I still have no idea how it will go, or if I'll fail miserably, I am confident that this is the right thing to do. I know I need to wade out into unknown waters and try something new. Even if I bomb, I need to show myself that I can take the flawed, enthusiastic self and be fully ME in front of perfect strangers. I need to trust that what holds true with us, here, in the safe spaces I've built (on the blog, email, Twitter, and the Starship), will hold true in the Outside World. That openness, bravery, and exploration work for me all the time, and that business help that centers on defining your ideal business speaks to everyone.

Oh, I still stand by my assertion that you should focus your marketing energy on your Right People, 100% of the time. You don't need to try to make yourself uncomfortable and scared. Life provides enough moments to be brave. But if an opportunity comes up for you to meet a whole new audience? One that you just don't know about yet? Take it. Try it.

What Brave New Thing have you done lately? Let's celebrate our bravery in the comments!

PS. Also, thanks to a tip from Alex, I'm using science to calm myself. I'm not nervous, I'm vibrating with anticipation! I'm not sweaty, I'm enthusiastic!

Creating a path of connection


If you're listening in to your people, and you're fully showing up to connect with them, the next step is to make it easy for them to connect with you. While it's true that having a host of option (blog, email, social media) gives your reader a lot of choices…it also triggers the paradox of choice. With too many equal options, people are more likely to choose nothing than to choose something. Not to mention, having too many equal options makes it hard for you to keep up with it all, which is oten “solved” by putting the same information everywhere, punishing those you follow you in more than one place, killing real connection.

It's your job to create the path.

If you want to connect with readers and buyers, and help them find your work and make the decision to invest it, then you need to make it as easy as possible for them. You do this by suggesting what to do next, at every step. You do this by creating a path for the reader/buyer to follow.

This pathway of connection includes absolutely every way you interact with people who may or may not be your right people – your blog, email newsletter, social media, guest posts, sales pages, and (once they cross over into Right People territory and pay for something), your connection pathway continues through your products, classes, clubs, retreats.

Today we'll talk a bit about creating a pathway of connection for your reader (before they buy, before they decide if they are one of your Right People), and tomorrow we'll talk a bit about creating a path for your buyer.

Every path is different.

I can't tell you what your path should look like. It's going to be based on what works for you and on what your People use and read (I talk about choosing your tools in detail in Chapter 5 of the book.) But as you plot your path for your customers, here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • The first steps on your path are the easiest to do – reading one blog post, replying to one tweet. This is where the person very first becomes aware that you and your work exist. Next steps on the path require more commitment and more information.


  • Honor this commitment your readers are making and the trust their putting in you. Honor it by giving them what they've signed up for. Respect the deeper commitment by matching it – create deeper content, invite them to specials, give them first sneak peek.


  • Keep in mind who you're writing for. A guest post is going to be seen by people who don't know anything about you. A tweet may be read by new followers and old friends. An email to your newsletter list is read by people who have committed to hearing from you regularly, and who probably have already decided they like you and your work. Write for the specific audience.


  • The farther people walk down the path, the closer they are coming to you. Since such a small percentage of people who read your blog or follow you on Twitter actually take the time to reply to you, treasure each response and give it your time and attention. In replying (or starting a conversation) this person is saying: Hey, I want to connect with you more, I want this to be a two-sided relationship. This is the best! These relationships are the bedrock of your business, so do whatever you have to do to make time for them.


  • Make it easy for the reader to move down the path. Once you know the steps on your path, lay them out in order for your readers. Suggest the reader of your guest post visit your blog, tell your twitter followers about your newest post, ask your blog readers to subscribe, create an autoresponder to introduce new subscribers to your work , invite your subscribers to your newest product or service. It's up to you to explain the path to interested readers, so don't wait around for them to find it.(You do know I send special weekly lessons to explorers, right?)
  • At the end of this path is a relationship, an equal exchange. This might be a sale (in which you exchange money for a product) or it might be a collaboration or even a real friendship. As you build your path and invite readers to the next step, remember this! Begin with the end in mind, and ask yourself if you want to say or do what you're doing, if there was a true friend on the other end.


Let's take a breather for a minute and acknowledge something. This is kind of scary. If you feel anxious or shy about talking about your Art, then it might be exceedingly uncomfortable to imagine this path, to imagine that you're going to have more and deeper conversations. I think this is why so many people just  default to  “I listed this” tweets or boring blog posts. It's much easier to be boring and impersonal.

But there's a huge upside – it's much easier to invite real fans into your work. It's much easier to talk to people who want to buy what you sell. And the only way to know they truly want it, is to give your fans a way to connect with it and you. I tell clients to look at their newsletter sign-up as a chance for the fans to speak up and say: I'm here! I want to know more!  It's a service.
And here's more good news – when your future customer is connecting to you in new ways, when you're respecting their commitment and fulfilling it with your best work, you'll see that you are both getting something out of the relationship. They're not just giving you money for your art – they are enjoying the relationship. They are delighting in knowing you.

If you're feeling scrambly about launching your book or writing your newsletter, it's likely that your pathway isn't clear (to you or your people).  Finding time to make your art and connect is often as simple as clarifying your connection path and making it obvious to readers.

May 2014 update: You can now learn how to build your Customer Path!

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!


Avoid the post-holiday sales slump

Avoid the post holiday sales slump

Welcome to a brand-new video series!

Each week I'll answer your creative-biz questions in a short video. Subscribe so you don't miss a one.
(Got a question? Ask me!)

Today I answered Ana's question:

How do I avoid the post-holiday sales slump in my online business?

If you can't see the video, click here.

I have four suggestions for keeping your hard-earned holiday momentum rolling through the New Year:

  1. Keep the new people around.
  2. Offer them something new (that goes with what they already bought)
  3. Ask for the share.
  4. Plan for the slump.


PS. Like my dress? Me too! It's Megan, from Karina


Trust. Adventure. Explore. Beam. Boldly.

After working through Leonie's yearly workbook and finishing the Captain's Log (a new workbook/journal/stay-on-track-er that we'll be using in the Starship all year), I'm practically glowing with gratitude for 2012 and hope for the coming year. My favorite part is seeing how the disparate pieces fit together to create some overall themes and lessons.


2011 was the year of Yes.

Last year I wrote that I had learned (from 2011!) that saying yes even when I'm afraid led to amazingness. I practiced this consciously in 2012, saying yes to: a book party (and my first live-speaking thing…ever!); my first live workshop; following my enthusiasm; feeling good; creating what I longed to create.

Tara Swiger teaching marketing in Seattle


2012 was the year of Trust.

The thing with saying Yes? It involves a heckova lot of trust. Trust that you'll figure it out. Trust that it's all going to be ok. Trust that you've done your best, and now you need to let go. Trust that you're enough. Trust that connecting is more fulfilling and profitable than closing up.

Connection is Everything.



2012 was the year of Enthusiasm.

Saying yes to my enthusiasm is something I learned this year from reading Sarah J. and idea-partnering with Kelly P. I followed my enthusiasm towards Project Life, quilting, embroidery, writing on new topics and finally, finally finding the balance between creativity and work in my daily life.

Mother in law quilt. Finished!


2012 was the year of Adventure.

Oh the adventures!
Publishing: writing, writing, writing, thousands and thousands of words every day;  working with Shannon on the cover, title, layout; the endless tiny changes; and then! the release day! The lovely reviews, thrilling book party, guest posts, interviews, giveaways; and then! A royalty check! The magic!

Traveling: San Diego, Charleston, Boston, San Diego (again), Seattle, Asheville, Nashville, Knoxville for dates with a new baby and old friend, the heart-breakingly beautiful Oregon coast, the redwoods, the campfire pancakes.
Hello Redwoods.

Writing: Yes, the book, of course, the book! But I also wrote an three email mini-courses (one of them is free, here), a book read-along guide, a class (and then workbook) on blogging effectively, an all-new Holiday Sanity Guide, the Captain's Log, and the truest, most enthusiastic blog posts in my 10 year blogging life. And for the first time, writing came easy, it was a part of my life and my world and the very way I live in the world. And it's always, always an adventure.

I really am.


And with these lessons, with trust and enthusiasm and adventure, I turn towards 2013, the year to…


hot air balloon

While I have fewer “traditional” explorations scheduled (I'll be traveling much less), the close-to-home approach is giving me a chance to explore deeply. Home, new projects, researching what works for others, experimenting with what works for me…all of it is about exploring. I don't know what exactly it'll mean (yet), but here's what I do know:

  • Last June I sat down at the beach and outlined a whole new class – the title: Explore You. Obviously, now's the time for it.
  • There's so much I don't know, but so much new info I close myself off from, to avoid overwhelm. Explore gives me the frame to learn more, and be open, in a focused, healthy way.
  • I've started listing Things To Explore, and think I'll pick a new one each month.




Beam. Explore. The words of 2013. (So far. Life tends to show up with her own ideas.) cc: @leonie_dawson
I don't really get this one yet, but it came to me, strong and true and..Yes, Ok, BEAM. Here's what I know about it so far:

  • It's my job to not just shine my little light, but to make sure it beams.
  • Tractor beam, sunbeam, beaming beacon, a lighthouse beams into the darkness, beaming smiles
  • A light beams when: it's not gunked up with stuff, it is focused in one spot.


Join me. What was 2012 the year of? And what will 2013 hold?




This is one of the (over 45 pages of) exercises in the Captain's Log. If you'd like to get support (and practical dream-reaching), beam aboard the Starship. It closes to new members tomorrow.

How to survive the holidays as a Biz Lady

“For the busy Biz Lady, the holiday season is a time of joy (Peppermint mochas! Decorations! Candle light!) and stress (Holiday orders! The post office!). Sanity can be hard to hold on to between filling orders, fulfilling family obligations and standing in the dreaded post office line.

But sanity and profit are possible. It starts with knowing yourself, your business and what you want from the season and then setting expectations (and plans) for yourself and your community.”

Read the rest of my post on DesignSponge.


And if you've read that post, you might like

If this is your first time here

Hi! So nice to have you! Get to know me and say hello here. Don't miss the free mini-lesson How To Be An Explorer of your Biz. And, well, start at the Start Here page if you'd like more!

Want more survival tips? Check out the (free) Definitive Guide.

Sign up here to get more on surviving your business adventures, no matter the season.


The Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and this is round-up of the view, the links and the inspiration that made it special. You can see all the adventures here.

The View

Reason to love this town #324: this is the view. Everywhere. #nofilter
The lovely Johnson City
The finished tree
Spinning this month's Yarn Mail by Christmas tree-light.
Yarn Mail by Christmas-tree-light
This is happening. (Both get on back of couch behind me) #snorgling
Back-of-the-couch snorgling
Everything is better by Christmas tree light. #quiltsbychristmas
Sewing by Christmas tree light
Love the reactions to this hat. #amusementorpity
This hat gets the best reactions…because it's a Happy Hat!

The Finds

  • “Yarnover Truck is your local yarn store on wheels, implementing the food truck business model and applying it to a mobile yarn store.” How cool is that? Support these clever entrepreneurs right here.


  • It's official. We're a total trend. This morning NPR did a story about what we're doing here: young (ish) entrepreneurs with no outside funding, who are succeeding thanks to….the internet! Read or listen here.




  • Planning your New Year in your creative business? Tammie has a list of 10 things people + spaces that can help you with that!


 What were your adventures this week?

2 years ago: Sabbatical 
3 years ago: My real-life yarn shop
4 years ago: Seattle recap


My biggest lesson of 2012

Connection is Everything.

For the past few days I've been sharing the lessons we all learned in 2012 with the Early Boarding Party. These lessons came from your emails, Starship chats and what creatives have told me they've learned in the last year. (You can find them here: #1, #2, #3)

They all were true for me too, but my biggest lesson is something not a lot of people mentioned. It's kinda simple (maybe I'm the only person on the planet who didn't realize how important it was?), but without it, everything is harder.

My biggest lesson: Connection is everything.

Connection – really feeling like someone else gets you and really listening to them – drives everything in my business. Sales. Readership. Conversations. Conversion.

But most important of all – it drives me.

Whether I recognize it or not, it pushes me towards some situations (we do what we think will bring more connection) and away from things I fear will bring disconnection (shame, embarrassment, failure). Sometimes this is awesome (I sent that scary email and got a response!) and sometimes it's not (I don't want to be rejected so I'm not going to try the big thing.)

Understanding this (and how important it is to my business) is a direct result of reading all three of Brene Brown‘s books this year. They really confirmed what  the Starship has been teaching me: We (humans) need to feel connected. We seek it out everywhere in our lives. The happiest people have connected to their community both when they have something to celebrate, and when they're disappointed.

But it's that second bit that's so hard. When you're disappointed, it's easy for shame to creep in, for you to believe that it's something wrong with YOU. That you are the only one who can't figure this out, or that it's your lack – of personality/skills/cleverness – that is keeping you from moving forward. My favorite (as in, least-favorite) belief: If only I was a little different (a little better) things would be better in my life. I'd be more comfortable. More people would be drawn to what I do. I would change lives with my words.

When we feel that shame (or the fear of it), we withdraw. Brene's research has shown that we withdraw because we're afraid of other people withdrawing with us. We believe that if they knew, they would pull away. If they knew that we shipped that order late, or that we still haven't gotten into a craft show, or that X (a shop, show, publisher) rejected us, they'd know we weren't worth investing in. So we turn away first. We put on a happy face and hide the things to protect ourselves…all the while drifting further away from the real us, the us that makes our thing special and sparkly.

That's the human component of it, the thing that ALL humans are afraid of that…but then, for us, you have to add in that extra-scary layer: we're in business. We need our buyers to believe in us, at least enough to buy what we sell. We have to look like we have it together enough to deliver what they ordered.

So we hide the vulnerability, the scariness, the I'm-not-doing-this-right fears, because it's inappropriate to share with our community of customers. And the people in our day to day life maybe don't understand. They're not pouring their heart and soul into a product, and then fearing that it'll be rejected.*

*Even if they can't really understand, it's still so important to fill our loved ones in. They can support you more than you think, if you open up and take the time to explain why you're so upset you didn't meet your sales goals. 

Caturday means napping in the middle of the action.You have to show your furry belly to connect. 

What we need is a place where it is appropriate and safe to talk about all this, and where the people we connect with understand. Where it's ok to share that self-doubt. Where it is ok to be honest about your sales numbers, where you know it won't affect your “reputation”. We need a place to talk about the hard stuff because talking about it how is we move through it.
Hiding the doubt, the scary bits and the difficulty keeps you swimming in it. It keeps you in the swirl of your own head, and it confirms your first fears: if people knew this about you, they would feel differently towards you, because you keep creating this persona that has it figured out.

But telling someone and having them respond with compassion confirms that you're not alone. That changes things. You can stop (at least for a moment) the swirl of your own fears, and start to see the hope of what could be. You realize that other (super successful) business ladies have the same fears and made the same mistakes, and they came through it.

When you're not busy hiding, you can get busy building. When you have examples of risk-taking, you get a little confidence to try new things. When someone says “Here's how I talk to shops“, you feel comfortable doing it yourself.


That's what we're all after, right? Building our dreams into something awesome, while feeling awesome about it. Doing what we love, while not feeling like a total outcast freak. Sharing our thing with the world, without the paralyzing fear of being rejected.

I've found  that kind of connection (and have created it for others) inside the Starship.

Where do you find connection?

Do you need more of it in your new year?

New site! New stuff! And the chance to get your questions answered!


After months of working with the talented Kyla, my new site is here! (If you're reading somewhere else, click through to see it.)
I thought long and hard about how to make everything easier for you, so you can find what you're looking for and the kind of help (or inspiration) you need.

I'd like to tell you a little about what's new (and share the little details that thrill me), but if you don't care to gush over tiny embroidered stitches skip on down to What's Next section, where I offer to answer your questions for free.


What's new

My Instagram and Pinterest accounts are now linked in the sidebar, with sweet little icons. I take a photo nearly everyday and I love the conversations that happen on Instagram. If you're a book nerd, that's where you'll find my near-weekly photos of the stack of books I'm reading. Even though I've been on Pinterest foreeever, I recently started using it with YOU in mind. I've created boards of inspiring (business) adventurers, tips + tools for Holiday Sanity, real-life travel adventures. Kyla and I used this board to visualize my redesign.

Everything I write about falls into three main categories and now you can find just what you want to read quickly and easily! There's business smartness for you to apply to what you do, stories from other creatives (including a lot of videos…and more coming soon!), and posts that are more about life than business.

Fun fact: The section of other people's stories is called We Are Adventurers in honor of this ridiculously enthusiastic song.

Under that are the Tools that I've made for explorers, incuding the Map-Making Guide and the Starship, and the collection of books that make you even more stunning.

Fun fact: the little embroidery stitches you see around the sidebar…those are my actual stitches!

Kyla waved her magic wand over what I sent her!

The Start Here page is brand new! I've been writing online for 10 years and in this space for 2 1/2 years, and the Start Here page helps you figure out where to…start.

Press + Praise. This makes me blush! Lovely people have interviewed me, invited me to write for them, and said delightful things about our time together. If you wanna know what to experience from our time together, the sweethearts on this page sum it up.

What's next

As the year wraps up, I'm compiling the lessons I've learned from YOU and the hundreds of conversations we've had this year. What's worked in your businesses, what hasn't and what has you frustrated. I'll be sharing those lessons in a (free) email series with the Early Boarding Party this week. You can sign up here to get it.

I'm taking those lessons, and using them to shape the Starship in the new year. In other words, you don't just learn what works for other people, you get to experience it in the very structure of the Starship. So you won't have to try to remember it all yourself, all year long. You can beam aboard the Starship now and start putting those lessons to work for you right away.

Your questions – I want them!

In the New Year (and maybe before then, because I'm just so excited about it!), I'll be answering your questions via video, every month (every week?). You can ask anonymously, or join me on video to talk it through. To get your question answered, just ask me!

1 2 3 4 5 6 9