Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

craft business

Feel Good Experiment – Review + Renew

Even though October is long over, I've been holding off on reporting back on October's experiment…because I love it too much and don't want it to stop! And then I remembered: I'm in charge of my experiment! It can go on as long as I want! And just like that, the Feel Good Experiment became a 3 month study in awesomeness. Through the end of December, I'm focusing my scientist microscope on what feels great and how that effects my business (and life).

But before Month 1 of the experiment gets too far in the past, let's look at what worked and what surprised me.


It was the best time and the worst time for this experiment. We had two deaths in the family, plus a road trip to visit grandpa before he passed away. Lots of hard stuff, emotions, crying. But feeling good and cozy is exactly what we (not just me!) needed this month. Without the daily reminder of the experiment, I might have slipped into head-down, just-work mode to catch up at work, and just-be-sad mode at home. But the Feel Good Experiment reminded to look around and identify something that would, well, feel good.

The expected good things:

 Homemade Pumpkin Spice Soy Chai

 Following the Enthusiasm. This led to quilting, Project Life, and lots of baking. I'll talk more about this soon.

 Music. My Happy Sparkly Pandora + Spotify playlists are vital.

Reading – especially Quiet and Daring Greatly.

Permission + Attention. Ah, permission. It's the simplest thing: just allowing yourself to want what you want. But it manages to escape me entirely when I'm working. I like to think it's because I get so into the flow, but I have to admit that sometimes it's just because I zone out while clicking. But this month, I tried. When I was tired, I rested. When I was hungry, I ate.  Giving myself permission to feel good meant paying attention to what felt good (and what didn't) and then trying something else, even if was outside my scheduled workday.


Holiday Sanity. Creating it, writing the Stay Sane course, and now, chatting with the students is everything I had hoped. I'm also smitten with the cute stickers I created.

Writing, using Sarah's prompt: What is most true right now?

Connection: I built in SO MUCH of this into my month, since part of my hypothesis was: “Connecting with people always feels better than disconnecting (even when it’s scary).”  I had appointments to chat live with Brooke, Sarah, Melissa, Rebecca, Amy, Steph and Anna…and it was so invigorating (and felt so good!) that I'm building more one-on-one time into the Starship.

The unexpected good things:

Saying goodbye is never easy, but Jay's family made it a beautiful, holy experience. I was honored to be a part.

Fitness. Who knew? Paying attention to my phsyical body and challenging it was the big surprise this month. I don't know what came over me, but now I'm training for a 5k in the new year. This is so far outside my personal comfort zone (or my life experience) that I never would have expected it.

What's next:

Just listing out everything here is a great reminder to revisit it. But I'd also like to add on an extra reminder, so that I don't forget n to pay attention to what feels good. Each morning, when I start my day (whether it's a workday or not), I'm going to answer the question in my journal: What do I want to feel today? What would feel good?

What about you?

Did you join me in your own Feel Good Experiment?
How'd it go?
What to join me now? Here's a primer on creating an experiment, and here's my hypothesis at the beginning of this experiment.
If so, what are some of the good-feeling stuff you wanna try?


Leave a comment to join in!

(Want to publicly express your Feel Good Experiment? Pin the buttons in this post on Pinterest, or put 'em in your sidebar, and link it back to this post.)

Making the imaginary real

Do you ever get really excited about something and then…not do it?

I'm not talking about when long projects drag on. I'm talking about when you get so excited about something, that you can't stop thinking about it while you wash the dishes or walk the dog or drink your first cup of coffee.

And then you sit down to work and…
You check your email.
You write that guest post.
You answer a few questions and schedule a few tweets.

But you're still! so excited! about the project!
But…you're not working on it?

That happens to me too.
In fact, it's happening to me right now.

I'm working on a Holiday Sanity Playbook (it's based on this annual, beloved class). And it's the most excited I've been about anything in a long time. It's going to come with stickers. And ribbon. In your mailbox (if you're into that.)

I'm not working on it right now.
I'm writing this, because I realized I was doing everything else, instead of working on it.

And I know you do the same thing, too.
You have a fabulous idea for a new line, a new business card, a new story.
But instead, you answer questions, pack orders, make another thing.

It's not that you're procrastinating work…it's that you're savoring the perfect thing.
You see, while my idea is still in my mind – it's perfect. It's lovely, exciting, delicious and…imaginary. Imaginary things are perfect because the real world hasn't spoiled them. My imaginary Prince Charming didn't leave his socks around the house. My imaginary home never smelled like onions and garlic after I made dinner (it smelled like chocolate chip cookies and chai lattes). And my imaginary Playbook is clever, hilarious, colorful and gives each reader exactly what they need.
But no one can enjoy my imaginary life, so I have to make it real. I marry the guy with the socks because he's hilarious and adorable. I rent the tiny house because it has great light. And I make the real life product because it will help real people, not just imaginary ones.

In the process of bringing it into the world, it'll lose some of its luster.
I won't find the right word.
I'll argue for far too long with Photoshop.
I'll discover I printed something upside down.

But it will exist. And a real chocolate chip cookie tastes far better than an imaginary one.
Just acknowledging this: that I love it so much I want it to perfect helps. Just noticing that I am putting it off because I love it so much helps.
In fact, I think I'm ready to work on it!

What are you imagining today? What tasty thing wants you to whip it up and put it in the (metaphorical) oven.
Why haven't you? What are you afraid of getting not-quite-right?

The Adventures

This week was quite an adventure. An all-day doctor's appointment, a funeral and burial (my husband's great aunt, beloved by his mother), and (on a happier note!) the Starship opening for new members.


The view

A rainy September calls for apple pancakes with fried apples.

I'm addicted to apples.

Delicious apple pie pancakes, from @isachandra's recipe

Apple pie pancakes, from this recipe.

A good start

A typical work morning: coffee, oatmeal, to-do list and laptop.

Love the view from the library.

The view from the library (my second favorite working spot)

Tonight's dyepot brought to you by the color Leaf. #nofilter

Dyeing hemp laceweight for a wholesale order.

Thanks for all your sweet notes. We really are fine, it was Jay's mom's favorite aunt, so we're spending the day comforting, supporting and hugging her.

In the funeral procession.



The finds

  •  I (finally) collected success stories from Starshippers and have been sharing them with the Early Boarding list. Sign up here to get a dose of inspiration.
  • Kim is making a TV show that teaches SKILLS, not just projects. Support it!
  • Ack! This is so cute I want to crochet all the Doctors!
  • Serendipity! The very day I declare my intention to feel good, Anna posts about her very same experiment!

What was your week like? What were your adventures?

One year ago: What are Right People
Three years ago: Autumnal To Do


Follow your bliss? Or make what they want?

It's all well and good to talk about bringing more of yourself into your business (and we'll be talking about it tons in today's workshop), but what about the other side of the equation? What about what your people want? How do you balance the two day after day? How do you decide what to make? What you love? Or what sells like hotcakes? We're always talking about this in the Starship, so I invited artist (and Starship member) Amy Crook to share her thoughts with us: 


When I go to galleries, the pieces I really connect with are often abstracts. Online, it's usually adorably clever fan art. Sometimes I'm fascinated by technique or quite humanly envious of talent, skill, and “I wish I'd thought of that”-ness. Sometimes I just want to stand and stare at the piece for a while, especially with in-person art.

When I'm making art, I'm often inspired by my own materials and techniques. I want to play, to try this or that and see how it comes out. I want to create a piece of art that gives the same sense of connection to the viewer as those pieces I see in the gallery.

Or I want to draw something clever and adorable that connects with the fannish awww (different from fannish awe) in my audience. I want my characters to be recognizable but still a cute parody, and for the concept to be clever and original.


But what I'm really hoping for, sometimes, is that pull of DO WANT in my audience.

The problems arise when these two things come into conflict. When the art that makes my soul sing and my fingers fly, my brush swoop and heart soar, is art no one seems to want to take into their home and love and keep (naming it George: totally optional). When the idea that makes me grin like a loon goes over like a lead balloon with my audience.

When I put up what I think people want, or what I would want, and the crickets chirp and dollars totally fail to roll in.

The problem is, no matter how much pure inspiration goes into a piece, I'm not the “create for yourself” sort. Perhaps it's a flaw in my character, but I want someone else to appreciate my art, otherwise, what is really the point? I could imagine my art all by myself without ever having to lift a brush or pen, and save a lot of time and effort to put into accountancy or something.

The other problem shows up when the art that people want more of isn't something I want to make again and again, as an artist. If it's something that I've lost interest in, or was just trying as a one-off and don't want to pursue. Or worse, if it's something that I didn't actually like that much, but went ahead and shared because I needed to post something and sometimes someone still likes the ones that are too orange or too busy or too squidgy for me.

It's easy to say “be true to yourself” when you're not worried about making next months rent (spoiler: freelancers are always worried about this). Nothing about this issue is black and white, except maybe some of the art.

So how do you balance the things people want with the things you want to create? Does inspiration dry up or move on when a series or style gets no love or no sales? Or do you keep on trucking through the wastelands of commercially unviable creations, trying to find your way out the other side without giving up on the ideas that excite you?

I don't really have answers here, just questions. Thinky thoughts. Quandaries. What do *you* think?



(All of the images in the post are Amy's art. Click through to see details or buy it.)

Do you want fries with that?

Using Product as a marketing tool.

This month, we're talking about the difference between self-promotion and marketing. Marketing is made up of 4 aspects: Place, Price, Product and Promotion. Last we talked about using Place to market your work and today we'll look at how 2 makers used Product to reach a new market.

Cthulhu necklace
Collaborative Cthulhu necklace


Amy makes art.
Shannon makes laser-cut jewelry.


They met in the Starship and got to know each other while chatting in the Holodeck (our Starship-only chat room). When Shannon visited San Fransisco and stayed with Amy (a side effect of the Starship: you've always got a couch to crash on), they got to see each other's work up close. And they realized that their target markets (or Right People) aren't that different.

Shannon makes jewelry that geeks (math and science geeks) like, and Amy makes art that geeks (horror and sci-fi geeks) like.

They collaborated.

They talked, they asked the Starship questions, they sketched different ideas.
When they decided on what to make, Amy created the art and Shannon took those files and turned them into the right sort of files for the laser cutting software. They figured out the costs (and paid them up front) and now they each sell the work in their shops.

spider necklace
Collaborative spider necklace

This collaboration is a really great example of reaching a new market by creating a new product. Amy now has a high-end jewelry to offer her card-buyers. Shannon now has geeky/gothy jewelry with a slightly different aesthetic to offer her current customers.


The trick of creating a new product is to look at your existing customers.

What do you offer them? What do they use it for? What else might they like?
(Bonus points: what could you give them to help them use your main product?)

You want to be careful not to create something for an entirely different kind of customer. For example, If you sell geek-themed wall hangings, you might not want to make cutesy, Disney-themed baby blankets. (But baby blankets that go with your wall hangings = perfect!).

The mistake I see a lot of crafters make is to branch out into products for other crafters. This makes sense if you already sell something to crafters (patterns, yarn, supplies), but not if you sell the finished work to non-crafters. Remember, the girl who buys your jewelry probably doesn't make jewelry…so what else would she like?

Whether you choose to collaborate to create a new product or just come up with something yourself – what kind of new product might introduce you to a new market?

Here are a few ideas from the makers I've worked with:

  • A knitter who sells scarves can make custom-ordered blankets
  • A fine artist can sell cards
  • A knitwear designer can teach classes
  • A lotion-maker can make soaps
  • A jeweler can create a line of men's jewelry
  • A purse-maker can create wallets, or big beach bags
  • A yarn shop can create their own kits with yarn + patterns
  • A yarn-maker can carry someone else's handmade kitting needles
  • A glass artist who makes beads can make holiday ornaments
  • An embroiderer who makes wall hangings can create embroidered jewelry

How about you? What new kind of product could you make?

Where ARE you?

Last week we talked about the difference between self-promotion and marketing. Marketing is made up of 4 aspects: Place, Price, Product and Promotion. In my next few posts, we're going to have examples of how you can use each one to share your work with more people.

The following example is an amalgamation of the work I've done with several fabulous knitwear designers.
If it sounds like you, that's a sign that your worries are normal!


Went to Lambikin's Hideaway yesterday for some needles


Lindsay creates knitting patterns. She has an online shop on her site and sells through Ravelry. She has a well-read, well-liked blog (she's writing about the kind of things her Right People – knitters – want to read about).

But her sales have plateaued. She wants to reach a bigger audience and is thinking about doing some sort of promotion (buying an ad in a knitting magazine, offering 2 patterns for the price of 3)…and she wonders – is this the best way?

The problem with this plan:

Holding a sale is not a good match for her objective (reaching a broader audience) because who will she tell about her sale? Her current audience! A sale might generate more purchases from your current audience, but unless you pair it with something else, isn't going to introduce you to many new people.

While buying an ad on Ravelry might increase her Ravelry sales, buying an ad in a magazine is going to reach a lot of people who don't shop online, and who shop mainly in their local yarn shop.

And there, buried in her problem, is a hint for the solution.

She can reach a broader audience by focusing on Place instead of Promotion.

She can make her patterns available to more people by being in more places.

What are some of the places she could offer her patterns?

  • She can offer a wholesale line of patterns to yarn shops.
  • She can submit patterns to print magazines (the magazine pays you and their subscriber base becomes familiar with you and your work).
  • She can vend at knitting and stitching shows, fill her booth with samples of her work and sell printed versions of her patterns.
  • She can hold a trunk show at her local yarn shop (or even a regular boutique!) with samples of her work in a variety of sizes, so knitters can try on a pattern before they commit to making it.

Long weekend of dyeing + spinning ahead of me. Seeking fibery inspiration in pages

Where else could this designer put her patterns to reach her people?

Have you thought of how Place is a marketing tool you can use? Where else can your products show up?


Don't know where your people are looking for your product?
Let's research that during an Exploration.

Self-Promotion vs. Marketing

I'm allergic to the term “self-promotion.”

Lots of crafters call it that, getting their work in front of other people, and it's not just a malapropism; it's dangerous! It  distracts you from what you should be doing.

To apologize for spilling the garlic sauce, Beau is making this face:

Beau begs you to stop calling it self-promotion.

Self-promotion sounds gross. In fact, just promoting yourself, telling everyone how great you are, is kinda gross. No one wants to be around the girl who can't stop talking about how great she can sing. (You know the girl.)

But calling it self-promotion is dangerous.

If “promotion” is the only way you're thinking of marketing, you're avoiding it. And that's dangerous, because you're probably avoiding all the other aspects of marketing, too.

(Or you're the other kind of creative, that just accepts the gross aspect of self-promotion and fills your twitter stream with “just listed [link to shop]”…but I'm pretty sure that's not you.)

Marketing, however, is the process of communicating with your people, about your product, your business and how it can help them.

Promotion is only (a small) part of the marketing equation.

It might help to know that traditional marketing (as defined in my past-life, MBA marketing classes), Promotion is just one of the 4 P's of Marketing.
In other words, it's only a quarter, of all the marketing you do for your business. In creative businesses, I have a theory that it's even less than 1/4, but we'll get into that in a bit.

The 4 P's of Marketing is a framework for thinking about your marketing mix (all the things you do to communicate with your people). Inherent in the concept of a marketing mix is the belief that Promotion isn't everything; that your focus should not only be on telling people about your work.

The other P's:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place

Product – It all starts with what you're selling – Is it something people want? If so, what about it do people want? Is that clear? Is it remarkable? Is there a new product you can add (or delete) from your line to reach a new market?

Price – We already know that pricing is not a benefit…but it is a tool for marketing. Not just special pricing (a sale or discount), but the overall pricing strategy: Do you have a range of prices? Do your prices appeal to one market over another? What does your price say about the quality of your product?

Place – Where your product is sold directly effects the market it reaches. Is your product where it's people can find it? If you only have an online store, do you know your Right People shop online? When you pick a craft show, do you make sure your people will be there? How do you pick a shop to carry your goods? Where does news of your business show up? Is that really where your buyers are?

See, there's lots of marketing to do that doesn't involve promotion. In my next few posts, I'm going to share stories of how specific businesses can market (and grow) using the other Ps.

What Ps do you use in your marketing mix?

Is there one you want to explore?



A manifesto. A philosophy. A question.

Lo, these many weeks, I have been digging into what we're doing here.
What I believe. What  my mission is.

What I believe about you.


And here it is, all at once:

The gist: I don't want to create ANYTHING that makes you doubt yourself.
Instead of telling you WHAT to do in your craftybiz, let's dig into your particular smartness and look at how you can apply THAT.

But I'm still figuring it out: How can I best do that?

What do you think?

I fell overboard..

I built a beautiful Starship.
I was in love with it and excited and could not wait to tell everyone about it.

I had grand plans for a fabulous online-birthday party for myself. I was going to announce a really great gift (for you!) and then spend all the next week writing about what the Starship is like on the inside.

And then I fell off the edge of my world.

I took 2 days off for my birthday (fun! yay!) and then I got ridiculously sick.
Flu-sick. Fever-sick. Can't-get-out-of-bed sick.

For over a week.

And the worst part was: I had no energy. No will.
I had NO desire to write, to help, to celebrate the Starship.
No desire to do anything.

And I'm still not back yet.

I'm still stuffy and fluffy-headed.
Still sleepy and foggy.

I still don't have my excitement back.
I know it's part of the cycle.
I remember that.
The Starship help me remembers that.

But I miss it.
I miss being excited about the Starship.
I miss feeling like myself.

I just wanted to crawl out of my nest of blankets and tell you that if you fell overboard, or if you're tired, or if you're just not excited right now: It's ok.

Give yourself a break.
Rest, drink water, take your time.

It will come back.
And when it does, I'll see you here.



PS. I am feeling well enough (and the stirrings of excitement) about our FIRST call in the Starship, Wednesday at 3pm EST.
In case you missed the excitements over the Starship, you may want to beam up before the call.

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