Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

craft business

Asking for it

Yesterday we talked a little about being enough. Part of knowing that you are enough (cool enough, smart enough, enough enough), is accepting help.

All kinds of help

Help with starting, help with growing, help with doing-the-next-thing, help with reaching a new market, help getting to know the people who could help you.

Accept when it's offered

Sometimes, help if freely offered. Someone retweets a link to your awesomeness. Someone tells a friend. Someone writes you an encouraging email.

Ask for it

But often, maybe most of the time when you're first starting out, often you have to ask for help. First, you have to find who can help you. Then, you have to ask them.

This can be scary, because ohmygoodnesswhatiftheysayno? or whatifIsoundlikeadweeb? but it doesn't have to be.

Asking can be an exchange of ease

If someone (even someone you hugely admire) has become a friend, asking for help can be full-of-ease. If you've shared a helpful, useful exchange. If you like them and they like you and you treat each other as equals, you may just be friends.

Asking for help with your business can be as easy as asking your best friend to pick up a bag of ice when she's on her way over.  That never feels weird, right?

Do you have a story of asking for help? I want to hear it in the comments!


PS.  Need a little more details than “become friends”? Yeah, I thought so. Get lots of details next Tuesday, by joining us here.

Secret handshakes and reassurances

You feel like the new girl to class. You're new to twitter or to blogging or to your industry (heck, you may not even know your craft HAS an industry!).

You've found some awesome blogs, podcasts, magazines and books. You are learning and trying and figuring it out.

You are a fangirl. You can NOT imagine talking to (let alone emailing!) your favorite podcaster,  author or any number of cool people.

But you want to grow. You want to be part of it, to feel like you really are a member of the group or the industry or just, you know, not on the outside.

Oh, honey. I get it.
No one wants to feel like we're on the outside, but so often (especially online) we are. We don't know the secret handshake or the inside jokes or what TNNA is.

So here's a little reassurance.

We all feel like we're on the outside.
No one knows the secret handshake (or if they do, they haven't told me yet).
No one has it figured out.

And here's the crazy thing:

There is no “group”, no “insiders”, no “cool kids” (well, ok, most of the crafters I know are cool, but none of them know they are cool).
We are all working away in our studios at things that make us happy.
And we love to share it with others.

So if there's a person you'd like to get to know…
Or a magazine you'd like to pitch to….
Or a blog you'd like to comment on…

You officially have permission.
You are cool enough. You are enough enough.

And if you still feel a little shy or are wondering why your overtures aren't turning into friendships, you may enjoy the class Diane and I are teaching next week. We're going to share our low-stress, no-stalker way of approaching the people you admire. Join us here.


Last week I wrote (and thought) a lot about systems, in preparation for the class with Cairene. (That class is no longer available)

After taking the class, I realized I've been ignoring one HUGE aspect of my systems:

I'm not done yet.

My systems are fallible.
They have holes.
I make mistakes.
Last week I just completely skipped over someone's international order, and I didn't find the mistake for over a week. Fortunately, my people are awesome and she was incredibly understanding.
But I was bummed.

Of course, you know that I'm wonky (I have a whole manifesto!) , but this isn't just personal wonky-ness…this is something specific in my systems I can fix.

There's no real point today,  I just wanted to share that things are still unfinished here. And systems are probably unfinished in your business.

And that's ok.

We're all learning as we go.
And we're all in it together.

If you have something frustratingly unfinished, why don't you share it in the comments and keep me company?

Who You Know – Tara’s story

Last week I shared Diane's story of reaching out to people helped her quit her dayjob (missed it? Watch it here) and today I'm going to share mine.

Well, this isn't about quitting my dayjob, but it IS about how making friends (on the internets!) led to a new income stream (and fulfilled a long-held dream of being a professional photographer).

If you're reading this in a feed reader (or your email), you may need to click through to watch the video)

This is the yarn that is in the photos I sold:
tea yarn

We'd love to hear YOUR stories of how getting to know someone new turned into an awesome opportunity

Share them in the comments!

Who You Know – Diane’s Story

In celebration of our upcoming class about Who You Know, Diane and I are sharing our own stories about how getting to know some awesome people has resulted in biggification.

Check out Diane's story (and my ridiculous responses) here:

If you are completely smitten with Diane, after watching this silliness, you can get to know her better at CraftyPod.com

And if you're interested in getting to know people in your industry, you can check out the class here.

Systems? What systems?

Way back, when I first flirted with the idea of quitting my dayjob, all of my business mentors + friends said things like,

“Make sure you have your systems in order, before you quit. Now's the time to work on that”

And I thought,

“Systems? What systems?”

Systems = the things that you do when X happens.

Building or having or fixing your systems is simply making those things-you-do make more sense for you. To make space for consistency and flow. It's about bringing consiousness to those systems, which lets you run a business and still live a life.

But WHAT systems?

What systems do I already have?
What systems need work?

Enough of this philosophy of systems stuff, it's time for the airing-of-the-systems.

Systems  I like

(I've worked on and have gotten mildly happy with them)

  • Post-sale  (email inviting customer to my newsletter, note in the package)
  • Shipping (weekly printing of labels, packaging everything (including note!))
  • Inventory (keeping enough unddyed wool that I can always be dyeing, dyeing enough wool so that I can always be spinning)
  • Bookkeeping (monthly downloading of Paypal info, organizing it into income + expenses)
  • Analyzing the numbers (monthly checking it all out, making notes on what worked (and didn't!))
  • Communicating with customers (regular newsletters, Yarn-Love Notes)

Systems that still need work:

  • Production (keeping it all flowing, keeping a steady stream of new yarn coming out of my studio)
  • Listing (photographing, writing descriptions)
  • Other writing (articles, etc)
  • Rest (remembering to stop)

What are the systems you're happy with?
What are the systems you need to work on?

Tell me in the comments!

(And if you want to start working on your systems today, join me at 3pm. Get the details here)

In which I prove better systems lead to more time on the beach

Why systems?

Because I want a thriving, smooth, full-of-ease business.
And I want a life. A thriving, exciting, space-to-do-my-thing life.

Isle of Palm, SC

Having systems in place, allowed me to take last weekend off and drive 5 hours to the nearest beach (and the adorable Charleston). I didn't have to worry if things were going to ship late or students were going to get their details for the class they bought.  I could go, knowing that the important stuff was done and the immediate (seeming) stuff could wait.

Systems = Containers

Working on my systems  provide me with containers (this is Cairene's word, and I love it). Containers of time, containers of space, containers for doing all the tasks and processes. This (shipping) goes there (Wednesdays). This (spinning) goes there (afternoons).

I like to think of containers as the baskets I keep my yarn in (I probably got this from Cairene too). I can move them around, I can rearrange the contents, but the basket holds what I need it hold until I'm ready to come back from it. And it keeps my studio from becoming a yarn-covered mess.

When something has a container; a start time, an end time or a ritual to usher it in or out; it has a boundary. It isn't a sprawling never-finished mess of muck. It has a space, a time, and a little container to hold it when I'm done.

I need boundaries to start and stop or I would just be an endless loop of doingdoingdoing while nothing feels done. Without boundaries I would answer emails as soon as they come in and never get anything done. Without boundaries around my writing time, I'd let interruptions keep me from finishing a post.

The boundaries, the containers, the systems, they give me confidence.

Confidence that if I move this container over there, it will still get done.
Confidence that if I take this weekend off, everything won't fall apart.
Confidence that emails will get answered, yarn will get made,  posts will get written, orders will ship.

What kind of containers and boundaries do you have in your business?

Tell me in the comments!

Do you need to work on your systems so that you can (one day or NOW) take time off from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

Why systems?

When I first met Cairene, we were in a business-y group together. It seemed at every other turn the other business folks were talking about their systems…and I was thinking What systems?

Cairene is super smart and she knew what I really didn't get was the WHY of systems. Once she explained it, I was sold.
In the intervening years, I've (over and over and over) realized the bliss of systems and I've worked out my own little formula to explain systems.

Systems allow consistency.

Consistency opens flow.

Angel oakAngel Oak, 400 years old.

Well, yeah, that's lovely, but if you have a to-do list the size of a 400 year old oak tree,  why stop to systematize?

Why take the time to build systems when you're overwhelmed responding to the immediate?

Because of that: the immediate.
There will always be new immediate.

At every stage of business you will have a great big list of immediate things that mustbedonerightnow.

Without systems you won't be able to tell the immediate from the important.

And once you get your systems in place, you'll know the important is getting done, no matter what immediate thing pops up.

In other words, systems ensure you get that important stuff done. And that getting-important-stuff-done turns into consistency.

Consistency allows for flow.

Consistency via systems makes things flow because each action (a sale, packaging orders) has a clear path to completion.
You don't have to think “Oh! A sale! Should I email them? What do I say? What happens next?”
or “I need to let people know I carry X? What do I do? A tweet? An email?”

When you're not thinking through every task every time (because you have a system in place for it!), you get flow.
Flow of growth.
Flow of  sales.
Flow of money.
Flow of successes.

Because your business isn't new each day.

It's cumulative. Each new action comes from past growth.
The more people who find you, the more people they'll tell.
Happy customers today lead to future sales.

Systems allow this consistency to build and build until your business is flowing without every action being an emergency. Or a reaction.


Systems in shipping = consistency in providing an awesome customer experience = flow of  repeat sales and building a reputation for good service.

Systems in production (crafting, making) = consistency of new product = flow of sales

Systems in marketing = consistency of reaching new people = flow of new people (or reminding people to come back) = flow of sales.

Need some systems, consistency and flow in your crafty biz?

Make a plan, reassess it monthly and get consistent with Lift Off.


Excitements! Announcements! New classes!

Today I have a pile of awesomeness to announce.
I have been working double-time to bring the expertise of 2 (!) guest-teachers  for 2 (!) classes that will help you with exactly the things you (and other crafty people) have been asking me.

But before I get to the classes, I wanted to introduce you to something that's been slowly baking in the background:

The CraftyBiz Kitchen

I'm starting with this first, because if you like BOTH of the class I'm about to introduce, then you'll save money by signing up for the Kitchen.

What is it?

In the CraftyBiz Kitchen, we'll bake up some customers for you, we'll test your recipes, we'll come up with some new ones. We'll sit around the table (Twitter) with our cups of coffee and share where we are, what we need and where we hope to go. It's welcoming, low stress and super simple.
The CraftyBiz Kitchen is where we take what we've learned in the class and we apply it to our businesses and then get feedback, suggestions and support from each other.

How it works

Joining the Kitchen gives you, automagically, access to every class I teach. That's at least 2 every month, many with guest experts. But on top of the normal class stuff (the live class, the recording, the summaries), you'll also get the tools to apply what you've learned to your own business. And weekly check-ins on Twitter.

The cool thing? You're not making a long-term commitment. As soon as you're ready to leave the Kitchen, you can.
You can read more about it (and sign up) here.

Systems for your Crafty Biz

July 22, 2010
Guest expert: Cairene MacDonald, of Third Hand Works

Systems are those sneaky things that you don't even realize you need.
Systems make your crafting smoother, your shipping smoother, your time management smoother. They bring ease and support and awareness.

What is it?

This class is a one hour live telechat/interview with Cairene. We'll talk about what systems are, how to build them  (hint: you already have some!), and how to recognize the ones that need tweaking.
You can read all about the class (and sign up for it) here.

It's Who You Know

August 3, 2010
Co-teacher: Diane of Craftypod.com

You've probably noticed by now that the awesome things happen in your business when you connect and get to know people with an audience of your Right People. Magazine articles, local press, or a referral to a boutique owner. We'll teach you how to figure out what you want, who can help you and how to build those relationships without being slimey or awkward.

What is it?

This class is a one hour live class, in which Diane + I will teach and then take your questions. Afterward you'll get a recording, a summary and an invitation to a Twitter Q+A session.

You can read all about the class (and sign up for it) here.

Woo! Brunched!

And now that I've brunched (you remember what a brunch is, right?) two classes + a Kitchen, I'm going to dance!

And I invite you to dance with me in the comments!
What are you dancing to?
What are you learning this summer?

In which I briefly consider networking

This morning, I accompanied my husband (who just started his first business as a financial representative-extraordinaire) to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Now, this isn't normally the sort of thing you bring your spouse to.
But since I also own a business, I decided to go and see what it was all about it (and yeah, provide some moral support).

Networking = Yawn

It was everything you'd expect from the words “chamber of commerce breakfast in a Holiday Inn banquet room.”

Old men.
Really disgusting coffee.

Oh, the people were delightful, even the old men politicians.

And for businesses like Jay's, it makes perfect sense.
He needs to meet people, build relationships, earn trust, get referred as a “great guy” (and he is, so that shouldn't be too hard).

My business needs all those things too

People who like me (and I like them)

But I don't need old-school networking.

I know I'm about 10 years late in extolling the virtues of the internet, but dudes! Do you know what it's saving us from?

Bad coffee! Boring elevator speeches! Smiling and nodding while old men talk tee times (not tea times, which I would have found slightly more interesting)!

I don't do networking events like these because I have Twitter. And Raverly. And the Boutique. And this space right here.
I've built a  business that caters to my personality and strengths (I'm a hermit that needs to nap after lengthy exposure to more than 3 people).

But you might.

Jay can tweet till his eyes fall off (and I finally convinced him to try), but his business success will depend entirely on the local market. So he can't skip the Chamber of Commerce breakfasts (but he'll be alone from here on out!) or the lunches with old dudes or the shaking hands and smiling.

So don't assume, just because you have (and love!) social media, that it does everything you need. Maybe you should brave an early morning meeting just to see how you might do it old-school

And I hereby promise to only have the best coffee when you come by to shake my hand and talk about (anything but) golf.

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