Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

craft business

Questions, answered: Right People Edition

This is a regular-ish thing, where I answer your questions about a class. I hope it help you decides if the class is right for you (and if it's not, I hope the questions/answers spark something for ya.)

We're talking about the  Right People class, which begins at 3p, today!

Would people other than crafty business people benefit from this class (because I would really like to take a class about Right People), or is it solely geared toward people with businesses selling crafts?

-Jenny Ryan, AKA Cranky Fibro Girl

Jenny, I think this class will benefit and whole bunch of different businesses (and business models). The concept that there is a specific kind of person who will like your thing certainly isn't new (but marketers call it “target markets”, bleh) and we'll cover a bunch of different ways of wooing and loving those people.

Why the focus on crafty businesses? Because that's what I know. That's what I can be really specific about, from personal experience.
I've managed a paint-your-own-pottery studio, worked in or owned 3 different yarn shops and, of course, created and grew Blonde Chicken Boutique.  Oh, and I studied for an MBA.
This gives me a both-sides-of-the-counter view into the craft world.

The awesome thing about business and marketing is that these lessons aren't just applicable to one area.
Good sense is good sense. It can be applied (with a few tweaks to accommodate your own business model) in a zillion different ways.

I'm based in the UK and wanted to know whether it would work for me to call in via skype? Do you know?


Yep! It should be just fine! How it works is this: you pay and you get a phone number to call. That number is just a plain (US-based) phone number, you can call it from any kind of phone you want!

Ready for Right People Loving?

If your not in the class yet, you can register here.
Even if you can't make the call this afternoon, you'll get a recording of everything.

PS. Just so you know, you can ask me a question any time without fear that I'll make it public. These askers got their answer privately and then agreed to let me post their questions!

Do you have to choose between money or creativity?

I read this post last week which claims you have to choose between being creative or making money.

I'm not going to argue with that article, because I think the author makes some good points (go, read it!), especially when it comes to applying good business sense to your creative business. But I do want to share my own opinion on the Money V. Creativity issue.

I believe it is completely possible (and desirable) to make money while staying true to your own creative vision. I  think that giving up your own taste to serve the “market”, will result in mediocre, middle-of-the-road, could-find-this-anywhere work.

Your vision, your creativity and your taste is vital to making your product and your business a success.

Here's how to create + make money:
  1. Make something no one else does.

  2. Become obsessive over making it only and truly yours.
    Infuse every aspect of it with you-ness. Your colors, your textures, your style, your beliefs.

    It should be so amazingly, undeniably yours that your people know it when they see it.

  3. Find and talk to your Right People

    Your completely-you item is NOT going to appeal to everyone.
    In fact, you'll probably turn a lot of people off.
    Put zombies on everything and you'll turn off Evangelicals. Put Jesus on the cross on your bracelets and you won't sell to the Jewish community. Make handspun, eco-friendly yarn and people who knit with $2 acrylic won't spend the money.
    But that's ok! Because there are a LOT of people who love what you love. THOSE are your Right People. Those are the people you should find, talk to, and work for. Fellow-zombie lovers, fellow Jesus-lovers, fellow yarn-obsessed.
    (and, yeah, you can learn a lot more about turning on and tuning in to your Right People in my upcoming class)
  4. Listen to the Right People

    This is very different from listening to “the market”.
    This is listening to the feedback you get from the people who love and adore what you do.
    This is cultivating relationships and joining a community and then providing solutions for that community.
    Solutions like  zombie coffee mugs or cross necklaces or summer yarn.

Skip any of the above steps and you're going to either not make money or sacrificing your own style for “the market”.

What do you think? Do I have it all wrong?
Let me know in the comments!

PS. This is a super-simplified answer to a pretty complex issue of building a sustainable business. But it's a place to start thinking.
For all the gory details of finding and loving your Right People, register for the class.

How Right People changed My Business

Yesterday we talked about what Right People are and how they can change your business.
Today I'd like to share what happened to Blonde Chicken Boutique when I started applying the concept of Right People to my work.

It started by Havi saying

Everyone has Right People


Your Right People are Right if they love what you do. That's the only requirement.

And I wondered, what would this look like if I really believed it?

If these people love what I make, then I should make something truly ME.

Instead of worrying about the trends or what other yarnies were doing, I started focusing on yarn that I really love. Textures, colors, styles.  My love of my work grew and I created a line of yarns that really went together. I began to develop a look for Blonde Chicken Boutique.

If there are people who love what I make, then I should be talking to THEM.

Instead of spending money reaching tons of new people, I turned to my current people. How can I serve them better?
For starters, I ask them. I create products they want (the Learn To Knit Kit was inspired by people who loved my yarn but didn't knit) and I keep them up-to-date (with a customers-only newsletter + a bi-weekly Yarn-Love Note)

My Right People love my thing, so why worry with those who don't?

When I realized I don't have to appeal to everyone or make everyone happy, I can focus on doing what I do best and serving the people who are already happy.

My happy, delighted Right People are the best advertising I could ever want.

If I make it easy for them to share my stuff, they can spread the more to more Right People.

The more I thought about Right People,  I realized I was actually thinking about Marketing.

But instead of asking “How do I tell people about my thing” (like many crafters do)
or “How do I tell my target market of 30 year old college graduates who make $40,000/year who knit about my thing” (like marketers do),
I'm asking “Who are my Right People already? What do they love? What could I do make them happier.

This changed every part of my marketing.

The result?

My time is spent working with people I love, instead stressing over finding more people. My people are happy and tell their friends. My sales (both online, in person at craft shows and to yarn shops) have greatly increased. But best of all, I'm doing what I actually love.

A totally unexpected, non-yarny result?

When I started really listening to my people (not just my customers, but all those people who I liked and liked me, including other crafters, my online friends, other business owners), I realized they wanted something else.
They were asking me business-y questions; about marketing, about sales, about crafting a business AND a life.

So I started offering classes, and one on one consulting.
Every single one of my classes (including next week's class on Right People) have been sparked by specific questions I've been asked. I always answer the asker, but when the answer becomes huge,  I know I have a class.

The best part?
I genuinely love teaching. I love talking about business. I love love love brainstorming for other people's thing.
And the love is so obvious that last night Jay said, “Wow, I can see how happy this makes you. And it's so perfect for you!” (my bossyness is well-documented in our marriage).

Following my Right People? Led me to bliss.

How has serving your Right People  led you in new directions?

If you'd like to work with your adoring fans + find your Right People, check out the class! Registrations close next Tuesday!

Embrace your Right People (and the money will follow)

“Your Right Price will be right for your Right People”

I said this in the Pricing class and a few people piped up to ask , “But who are these Right People? How do I find them?

We'll talk about the how to find the Right People and how to make them happy in this class, but before you register for that, let's answer the basic question:

Who are Right People and why do I care?

I first heard the term from Havi, when she said:

Your Right People need whatever it is you have in whatever form you give it.

I read that and thought, yeah, ok.

But then I started to explore it (and talked to Havi about it in more depth).

As I experimented, it reframed and transformed every area of my business.

Today I'll talk about about how recognizing and hanging out with your Right People can rock your business and tomorrow I'll share what changed for me.

Let's start with a definition, from Havi:

Right People = anyone you like and appreciate who likes and appreciates you.

My definition, as it relates to our crafty pursuits:

Right People = the people who love and adore your thing, the way you do it and you.

Your right people is anyone who really loves what you make.

This includes:

  • customers
  • friends
  • cheerleaders
  • mentors
  • partners

Not all of your Right People are going to buy from you, but even those that don't will sing your praises to new Right People.

Without a focus your Right People your business may be:

  • Unfocused: Which way should I go next? What should I make?
  • Uncertain: Will this sell?  Where should I advertise?
  • Insecure: Will people like it? Is it worthless? Will anyone ever buy?

Focusing on your Right People can reverse all that.

When you're talking to your Right People, you can be yourself.

Because that spark of YOU is what spoke to the people in the first place, it's why they are here, checking out your thing.

When you talk to your Right People, you know what to do next.

They'll tell you what they want either directly (I want yellow!) or indirectly (yellow sells out quickly).

When you share your thing with the Right People, you'll make sales.

They will feel a sense of kinship or a recognition of awesomeness and it will *click*. Yes, this is for me.

It's not about manipulation, convincing or cajoling.
In fact, it's the opposite! When you speak to your Right People, you don't have to persuade them that your thing is right, they will feel it.

Sound awesome?

Learn how to do it in my class on Befriending your Right People.  We'll cover the specific how tos of finding your Right People, talking to them, learning from them and keeping them blissfully happy.

The Joy in Quitting

I'll just say it: I'm a fan of quitting.

If I don't enjoy a book, I quit reading it.
If I don't like a movie, I quit watching it.
(even when I'm supposed to love it, like Fear + Loathing in Las Vegas)
If I'm frustrated with a knitting project, I quit working on it.
If an idea doesn't keep it's spark, I quit trying to make it work.
And if my work is satisfying and full-of-life and challenging, I quit.

One year ago today was my very last day of working for The Man.

I quit because I wanted to.
I quit because I knew I was ready to work for myself.
I quit because it was time for something new.
I quit because I had for 3 years on weekends and evenings building Blonde Chicken Boutique into something wonderful.

But is that a  good reason to quit?

My dayjob wasn't bad. Compared to the really freakishly horrendous jobs I've had in my life (McDonald's for 2 years! Opening mail for Accounts Payable in a windowless basement office!), it was a cakewalk. Lovely coworkers, a reasonable + kind boss, sometimes challenging work.

I didn't quit because of what the job was.

I quit because of what the job wasn't.

It wasn't exciting. It wasn't challenging me daily. It wasn't…
It wasn't my life.

And I wasn't prepared, at 27, to resign myself to just living my life on the weekends.
I want my life to be lived daily, from 9-5, heck, from 8-11 (yeah, I like to sleep all the other hours).

And so I quit.

In the quitting, I gained a lot.
Sure, the hours are mine.
But so is the responsibility. And the momentum. And the hard.
Hard work, hard stress, hard relationships, hard mistakes, hard decisions.

But all that hard, it reminds me that  I am living.

And that's what quitting gives me: Life. My life.

Hard and complicated.

What does quitting give you?

PS. This last year hasn't been easy or glamorous, to ask me what it's really been like, join me in a free Q+A tomorrow. Get the details here.

Pricing Handmade Goodness

My last post, on the Power Of Pricing, got me thinking. I recieved the best feedback (both in the comments and via email) and what I’m noticing is that a lot of makers are having trouble figuring out HOW to find that Right Price.

Well, I think it's time we figure it out!

After listening and noticing and reading Twitter, Etsy forums and the email you've sent me, it seems many (most?) sellers-of-handmade-goodness are either doubting their business (the economy is bad!) or wondering “how in the heck can this pay my bills?”

And this is bumming me out.
Because it's not the economy. And it's not what you're making.

It’s what you are (or aren't) charging.

If your price isn't right, then it doesn't matter how much you sell, you won't make enough.
Enough to sustain you.
Enough to quit your job.
Enough to grow your business.

But pricing your handmade goods isn't alchemy.
It is totally figure-out-able with formulas and thinking and plotting.

But formulas and plotting aren't one-size-fits-all.
Everyone's handmade-thing has its own needs and costs.

With that in mind, I'm putting together a class that will cover the basics (math, formulas, strategies) and will answer your specific questions. Yep, 1 hour of class-like teaching, followed by a as-long-as-it-takes Q+A.

And if you can't make the live call? You can send in your questions via email or Twitter and I'll answer them on the call, then send you the mp3.
And if you're just NOT into audio? You can get a written summary, along with worksheets AND your questions answered during a live Twitter Q+A session.

But here's the thing! I'm doing this quick, because I want to donate $5 of ever registration to Havi's fun-brewing (she's building an in-person teaching space) and she needs to have a floor in that space by June 7th.

Oh, and to thank you, Havi's giving everyone a copy of her excellent Copywriting Magic class! (It's an mp3 recording, which I'll email to you!)

Want more details about the class? Click right here

Have questions? Leave them in the comments.

5½ Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs

I participated in my first craft show last weekend, the Crafting Patch Market in Charlotte, NC. I was very nervous beforehand and stayed up way too late to get every last skein of yarn labeled. It all paid off in a lovely day (no hint of Hurricane Hannah) filled with fantastic people and a real sense of community. Despite being well-prepared by reading everything I could about doing a craft fair, there were still a few things that surprised me:

  1. A festival provides indispensable feedback on your marketing plan. Online buyers see & buy without disclosing what prompted the purchase. Did they seek me out? Did they stumble upon me? At this festival, several knitters came specifically to see me (thanks to my posting on forums, the blog, etc). Others registered recognition when they read my label. The feeling was indescribable. People recognized Blonde Chicken Boutique as a brand. The thought still makes me all sparkle-y.
  2. Instant feedback is a drug that I'm afraid I may be addicted to. Sending out yarn to my lovely online customers, feels a bit like sending my squishy friends into the ether. They may show up on Flickr or Ravelry, but mostly I release them into the wild with hopes that they find a good set of needles (or at least a comfy stash to marinate in). Watching a real, live, chatty, interesting person walk away with my yarn is ridiculously satisfying.
  3. Describing a product is entirely different in person. The long, descriptive prose that is so necessary to sell a tactile item online isn't necessary in person. The customer has the squishy soft item in their hand and can clearly see the colors. This may seem obvious, but after writing web copy for so long, I had to remember it while writing the labels. I also had to scale back on the descriptive talk with most customers. Some people want to know all about the farm where the sheep who grew that wool was raised, but some don't.
  4. Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilerating. After years of waitressing, followed by 2 years managing a retail studio, I was expecting the usual exhaustion of a day filled with smiling at people and describing the product. I was shocked by how different this experience was. Yes, I was tired, but I was exhilarated. Selling someone apple pie is NOTHING like sharing a passion for creating!
  5. You don't have to (and probably can't) fake enthusiasm. For the first time in my customer service experience, I didn't need to tell myself “be nice”. The fiber artists came in, chatted and I was overwhelmed with happy, smiling words. I nearly hugged someone (everyone). It was ridiculous (but I didn't hug anyone other than my husband, so don't be afraid to come by my next booth!) Describing my process, demonstrating the wheel, chatting fiber, it was all so FUN!
5 ½ . I want to do it again! Ok, this isn't so shocking, because I've already agreed to do National Alpaca Farm Day at Silver Thunder Alpacas and have been accepted by Craft Attack. But I am surprised at how much I'm looking forward to the events. I am shocked at how much the experience has cemented that live, in-person selling needs to be a part of my overall business plan.

So if you're thinking about doing a craft show, I strongly encourage you try one. Find an inexpensive option (like a small one, or share a booth) and go after it! You may find it shockingly fun!

Edited a year later, to add:

Thanks to my continued great experiences at craft shows, I got a lot of questions about how to make it work. If you want to try this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better,
check it out!

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