Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

crafty business

To Blog or Not to Blog…is that the question?

“Is it absolutely necessary to blog, or can I find my Right People without one? I have never been a blog reader myself; I've found most of my favorite shops via Twitter, and the idea of blogging kind of gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies”



“But I don't like blogging! Do I have to blog? If I don't, how will I get the word out?”


A few months ago, two Starship captains posted the above questions.

So we started to have the conversation: To Blog, Or Not to Blog?

Another mindmap, this time for my upcoming class with @sisterdiane

As I was thinking it through, I emailed Diane, she of all Blogging Knowledge (seriously, that woman knows how to make an addictable blog!) and  we started talking about it. Is there some way we can help people answer this question? For their own business and their own strengths?

We started compiling all our thoughts on it; the stuff she's learned through helping people tune-up their crafty blogs, what I've learned exploring crafters' businesses.

And what we came to realize is that To Blog Or Not To Blog is not the question. 


The question is: How do you make  a blog (or ANY marketing) work for you, your goals and your people

Where's the balance between what you  want to say and what your people want to read? 



As we answered this question, we found we shared a little system. A system that anyone can apply to any business, to make their blog (or their emails, or their twitter stream) balanced and in congruence with the rest of their business.

We'll be sharing this system (along with lots of worksheets to make sure you apply it to you) in our new class. You can read more and register here.


A different perspective of my hand #febphotoaday

PS. Don't miss Diane's experience (and myth-busting) as a Lucky Blogger.

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.

Experiment: stop explaining

spring road

In case you didn't notice, I talk about experimentation a lot.

My entire CraftyBiz philosophy can be summed as:

“Experiment to find what works for you and your biz and then do it.”

But yesterday Kate asked me about the natural extension of doing your own thing:

When what works for me is very much not what ‘everyone else' thinks should work for me.

I started to reply about ways to convince the person.
Ways to show them “yeah, that's right, I'm a rebel and I'm ROCKING it.

But then I remembered:

I've yet to convince anyone else that this was a good idea (whatever “this” might be: self-employment, working weird hours, gluten-free baking) if they weren't already willing to trust me.

An example.

M and I are great friends.

But sometimes she doesn't get me or my work. And when I tell her I'm now doing x (taking a sabbatical from selling, dyeing my hair blue, etc) and she starts listing all the reasons I should NOT DO IT OR ELSE I WILL DIIIIEEEE…I get defensive.

I try to explain.
I have thought this through, thoroughly!
I'm a responsible adult!
I have my reasons!
And soon I find myself thinking “You HAVE to understand“.

But, wait. Does she?


Will it change what I do (or what works for me) if she doesn't understand?

What do I need from her?

Support? Flexibility? Encouragement?

I decide what I need (internally!) and then ask her for it.

“Hey, M, I've decided to start work at 3pm from here on out. I need you to not call me from 3-10 because I'll be at work, like if I was working in an office, ok? Thanks!”

When it comes to you, you get to decide.

It's as simple as that.

The people in your life don't have to understand the why or the how.
Trying to convince them with your well-reasoned argument (I LOVE a well-reasoned argument) usually won't help things.

And I mean the things that really are YOURS to decide (examples: what time you start work or the way you do your work or if you wear pjs and a tiara all day).

But for all the you-stuff (which is most everything IN your business), it's yours to decide.

Without explanation.
Without apologies.
With piles of fun and experimentation and an open heart.


This single fact has changed so many conversations. And has released me from so much responsibility (I have to explain!) and so many arguments (Why won't you understand?!).

Try it. Experiment.

Let me know how it goes.

Bake Sale Jitters: I don’t want to be annoying!

Bake Sale Jitters is a regularish look at the stuff that keep our business from being as much fun as a bake sale. If you have something that's giving YOU the jitters, let me know.

Along with fear of rejection (we'll get to that tomorrow!), the biggest thing y'all tell me about Sharing Your Thing is that you don't want to be annoying.

And of course you don't! Who does?
(Other than 10 year old boys. They seem to thrive on annoying. If you doubt it, lemme send you one of my little brothers.)

First, acknowledgment.

Being annoying is one of the least pleasant things ever.

(I was a very talkative 12 year old. I know this feeling-annoying-thing intimately.)

And being surrounded, as we are, by annoying marketing, it's sometimes hard to see how we can share our thing without grossing people out.

Even after all this time, I still have little moments of Oh no! What if that's totally annoying?

(Top Secret: I just had that feeling, right before sending my tweet about how Tuesday is the last day to sign up for my Bake Sale Fun class.  That's when I decided I should write this.)

It doesn't have to be annoying

First, remember this: Sharing a message isn't, on its own, annoying.
It's the way you share it.

Just think of the friend who calls to tell you that gas is $.20 cheaper down the street. She shared a message. Was it annoying?

Now, if that same message was tweeted 20 times in an hour by the gas station, you'd be annoyed.

But sometimes it is

Let's figure out what annoys YOU about marketing*, especially as we see it on Twitter, Facebook and via email.

*Marketing (in this context) = the sharing of a message that the sender hopes will lead to action (sale, info, etc) .

This is what annoys me:

  • Unwanted
  • Interrupts the conversation
  • Repetitive

Your list of Annoying Things may be totally different. It'll help if you make up a little list right now and keep it in mind.

Go on, make your list, I'll wait.

Ok, now. This? The above list? Is NOT the only way to share your message.

Be unannoying

One of the easiest ways is to pretend that it's Opposite Day.

If you were one of the slimy people sending a message on Opposite Day, what would your message look like?

Mine would be:

  • Wanted
  • Timely
  • Interesting
  • Connect-y (meaning it deepens our already existing connection)

Notice that the first thing on the list is Wanted.

This is HUGE.

If people WANT the thing you're selling, than they will be THRILLED to hear about it. They are waiting to hear about it. They are on the edge of their seats excited.

So if you only ever talk to those people, in a way that respects them and your own human-ness (don't act like a robot or sales-machine), you won't even come close to annoying.

Take your own list and flip it.

What would your Opposite Day super-awesome messages look like?

I know! We so totally just scratched the surface here. We'll talk more about the specifics (where and how) to share your thing in a non-annoying way in the new course. Registration closes tomorrow.

What is keeping you from sharing your thing?

You know, your thing.

The thing that makes you happy and smiley and think oh my goodness, if I could do this for money….ooooh!

Your thing lights you up.
Your thing bubbles up out of you at parties and coffeshops and anytime it can.

But even though you love it. And you would love to sell it.

You're just not selling enough of it.
Enough to warrant all this time.
Enought to warrant your full-on obsession.
Enough to reach your goals.

Your goals might be:  paying one bill with your earnings, getting national media coverage, accepted to your first craft show, quitting your dayjob.

Here's what I know:

The problem is NOT your thing.
The problem is NOT you.

The problem is that people do not know about your thing.

And that can be fixed.
You can share your thing with people!
And then they will know!
And there will be much rejoicing!

Except…you know that already.
And you're still not sharing it.
Or you are, but it's not working.

You worry you seem spammy.
You hate feeling the rejection.
You just don't know how to get the right people to know, without being gross.


How do I know?

Because I've been there. In fact, I'm there a LOT of the time. Yes, still.

And I know because you told me. I asked and you said that you were afraid of rejection and overwhelmed with all you've been told you “should” do.

It just sucks the joy right out of it doesn't it?

Well, I'm on a mission to bring the fun, the excitement, the wooo back into the process of sharing your thing.

I'm starting with the upcoming class: Secrets of Bake Sale Fun: Marketing that's Sticky, Not Icky.

In it we'll start with the basics of sharing your thing with joy and glee and then we'll build a personalized plan for reaching out and bringing the right people in.

It starts in just a week and you can read more about it here.

And if the class isn't for you?
I still completely adore you and we'll be talking a lot more about bringing joy back into your thing right here on the blog.

Throwing a party inside the CraftyBiz Kitchen

Let's get right to the point: The CraftyBiz Kitchen is now open.
You can join us here.

I tried to keep that page short and to the point, but there is so much that I'm excited about that I just had to share some of it here.
Let's do Q+A, shall we?

What's the CraftyBiz Kitchen?

When it started, in July 2010, it was simply a subscription to my CraftyBiz classes. Every class came with recordings, worksheets and post-class chats. As more people joined and started asking for different features, I decided to close it to new members on September 1, so we could experiment together.
Over the next 3 months, I added some things, tried other things and asked the Kitcheners what they wanted at every turn.

They voted and what we have now is something we all really love:

  • 2 hours of classes/month (most of them private, a few classes will be available to the public for $30-$70)
  • 30 minute one-on-one session with me, via Google chat. We talk about your business, prioritize for the next month or just brainstorm product ideas (like Zombie Jesus. Yes)
  • Weekly chats, in a private (online) room and on Twitter

The best part?

You pay each month and can leave at any time.
Or, if you'd prefer, you can pay for 3 months at once.

(Once you've been in it for 3 months, you have the option of buying a 6 month membership, at the request of some very eager Kitcheners!)

What classes?

This is the part I am most! excited! about!

The CraftyBiz Kitchen allows me to know who, exactly,will be in the classes, so I can shape the content and discussion to benefit you, the individual business crafter.
I've started to work on the outline of the first quarter and am delighted that as I was mapping everything out,  it turns out that each step could happen in a real kitchen, as you're planning a party. So that's the metaphor we're going with (but we're also going to spend some time coming up with a metaphor YOU like, for YOUR biz (if you're into that sorta thing)).

For starters, everyone who joins will get Right Price + Right People in mid-December, so we're all on the same page when we start in January.

Build your own Kitchen: Building the “home base” for your business, the fist step in creating a thoroughly-you business. We'll look at all the different spokes of your business + learn how to make them cohesively you. This step makes it easier for your Right People to recognize you when they find you.

Stocking the Shelves: Does your online presence (website, etsy shop, etc) answer all of your Right People's questions? Is it easy to navigate? Easy to understand? Before we invite people over, we need to make sure we've got what they need.


Planning a Party: We all want more sales, but before you invite the people, let's plan for what kind of party you're throwing. In other words, what your Unique Selling Point? What's the thing that makes your thing awesome?

Putting together the invitation list: In this class, we'll dig into who YOUR Right People are. Who do you hope shows up? What do they want from you?

Who has it helped?

Here are some CBKers who agreed to share their story.

Kristine says, “I launched my crafty business in 2010, and the help that Tara gave in form of classes, one-on-one, and chats was invaluable to getting off the ground.  I'd highly recommend that if 2011 will be the year of something new for YOU, consider investing in yourself and join the CraftyBiz Kitchen!”
Joyce started her business after our first IdeaStorming and has since started teaching, succeeded at her first craft show and totally rocked it.
(Also, she sends me emails after classes that say hilarious things like this:

“I got so much from the most recent class!!! SO incredibly informative and helpful! I dub thee Tara Awesomepants! “

There are lots more stories and sillyness, but everything you share in the CBK stays in the CBK. Privacy and mystery and ridiculous passwords. Yes.

But here's the thing: none of this is the CraftyBiz Kitchen.
It's all them. Their hard work. Their application of what we've talked about. Their curiosity and experiments and willingness to try.
I'm just delighted I get to hang out with them while they work on it!

Is this for me?

It depends.
If you're wondering if this is for where you are in your business, the answer is “Probably yes.” I'm working on baking layers (like a cake!) into each of the topics we cover. The general concepts are great for someone just starting their business, but the specifics of how YOU  implement them will help even the most advanced crafty business.
For newbies, you'll be building your business as we learn.
For established businesses, you'll be tweaking and improving as we learn.
For everyone in between, it'll be a combination of new-to-you-stuff and oh-I-should-really-look-again-at-that stuff.
Everyone will have the support of me (via one-on-one time) and other crafters (via chat) to ask questions, dig deeper and explore all the gooey layers.

(Side Note: The layers thing is something I am terribly excited about. I plan on playing with the concept (and maybe even actual cake layers) a lot during my sabbatical. You've been warned.)

If you're wondering if this kind of thing is right for you, the answer is “maybe“.

Before you decide, it might help to ask yourself these questions (this is what I ask myself before I buy anything):

  • How do I intend to use this, actually implement it, to improve my business?
  • Do I have time to listen to the classes and join in chats (about 4 hours a month)?
  • Do I enjoy the other things by this person (blog, other classes, etc)? Would I like hanging out with her on a regular basis?

But is this for ME?

Still not sure? Send me an email: vulcan@taraswiger.com

And you know what?

If this isn't for you? Or it isn't for you right now? That's totally cool. I still adore you and your businessy dream and can't wait to hang out with you in the comments.

One step forward

Last week I sent this as an email to my SparklePointer people. I got so many responses saying “This was exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you!“, that I've decided to share it here. I hope you find it encouraging!


While we've been talking about holiday planning, I've gotten several messages from you saying you're not there yet….but you really hope to make 2011 the year you start your business, or grow it into income-generating support.

I love these messages because it tells me that you are right on the cusp of the Doing.

Wait, let's back up.
In my experience with crafty businesses (or, really, any business), there's often a looong period of time where you consider selling what you make. In this stage you may even take some “steps” like signing up for etsy, listing a few things with hastily taken photos, or starting a blog (or maybe a whole string of un-updated blogs).
You think. You dream.

This is an important stage. But this is not a business.

The next stage is Plotting.
It's different for different people. For me, it involved a crazy amount of research (mostly business books) and writing down every idea I had. For others, it involves sending emails to people who might help (like me!). Or reading the Etsy forums. Or finding some blogs.
The difference between this stage and the first?


At this point, you know, that you WILL do this sell-what-you-make thing. You will.
You may not know how. Or when. But something has shifted.
It's real.
But it's still not a business.

This plotting may eventually lead to Doing.
This is the stage where you make it happen.

If you hang out in the plotting stage too long, doubt will creep in.
Is it real?
Is it possible?

Stay in this doubt too long and you slip back into the Thinking stage.
Everything seems too hard. Too confusing. Too out-of-your-range.

So how do you move from Plotting to Doing?
By making one decision.
A decision to commit.
When you turn that Surety in your heart into something tangible.

The decision can be anything.
But it must involve investing in your business (investing = risking time or money or your comfort on something that will yield returns).
It can be signing up for a class.
It can be DOING what you learned from a blog post, a class, a friend.
It can be getting one-on-one help + gentle accountability.

Anything that you can look at when doubt seeps in and say “No, this isn't just a dream, I AM doing it.

(Note: Afraid of moving to Doing too soon? Think you need more Plotting before you commit? Be reassured: you will ALWAYS be plotting.  You never stop Plotting. I've been Doing my yarn biz for 4 years and I'm still Plotting and changing and experimenting. )

While the new year, the year of you moving from Plotting to Doing is still over a month away, I wanted to get you thinking about this. Wanted to remind you that you don't have to stay the Thinking or Plotting stage.

You can move forward.

I want you to move forward in the way that is right for you, whether you use my classes or blog or one-on-one help or not.

If you do think that what you need to move forward is focus and prioritization, I'm now scheduling personal helpfulness through January. If you'd like more information about how I can help you get some clarity with the next stage (or just help you from slipping back), let me know here (you can tell me a bit about your biz, real or imagined or just send a blank note) and I'll send you the information.

If this isn't what will help you move forward, then I'd like to encourage you to find what will work.

And remember: experimentation is a good thing.
Try one small thing. Try another.
It's only business 🙂

Wishing you a weekend full of thinking, plotting and doing,

Planning for non-planners

Confession: I'm not a planner.

There, I said it.

I love to implement ideas as soon as I have them.
I like to focus on the part of my business  that I'm most excited about, at that moment.

I run two businesses, teach classes monthly, email tips for craftybiz weekly and write daily.
And yet. I'm not a planner.
I write, teach, email as inspiration strikes.

This is my dirty secret.

Because  this is not what I recommend.
Operating ONLY in this way ensures that I forget all about things like holidays, or anniversaries, or opportunities to do something really cool.

Luckily, it's possible to both ride the wave of inspiration and to plan a bit.
It's all about the Cycle of Creativity.

When I'm on a high, when I'm feeling the momentum of creativity pushing towards more creativity and action, I ride it. I do it.

But when that fades and I'm feeling fallow, I can take the time (and energy) to stop and look around.

Where am I now?

Where do I hope to be? What deadlines (real and imagined) are looming?

I was doing a bit of this planning today (because, yes, the combination of a yarn flurry last week and the flu has landed me squarely in the restive part of the cycle) and I thought I'd share some of the process.

Most of this is done in my journal and all of it comes organicially. I try to let myself write and write, without editing and without worry about What It All Means.

An assortment of non-planning questions

What's coming up? Dates, classes, holidays, themes, money needs? What does the next week  look like, as it is, right now?
The next month?
What would I like to have the next week look like? What about the next month?
(this includes: personal and business, emotional and financial)
Is there something that's been on the back burner that's ready to move forward?

Now. What does it all Mean?

What fits together? What doesn't fit? What can be moved around? What can be put aside?

In other words: what are the connections? The patterns?

And then, if I'm still in the mood

What small steps will take me from Here to There?
Don't be afraid to list Every. Single. Step.

(for example, one of my plans is to take over 100 skeins of handspun to Seattle. How many skeins a week is that? How many a day?)

And the amazing thing?

This planning, it is usually the impetus that moves me from fallow to creative, from empty to full of ideas.

This morning I was achey and tired and mope and now, 1101 words (thanks to 750words) into answering these questions, I am full to bursting with plans and inspirations and plots.

In fact, I came up with a don't-be-overwhelmed-by-the-holidays plan for myself that  I think I'll invite you to play with in the next week or so!
To make sure you get the invitation, sign up for here.

Are you a Planner? How do you do it?

You’re making it hard for me to give you money…

One issue that keeps coming up in my one-on-one work with crafters is that it's not crystal-clear how someone will give them money.

If your site visitors don't know HOW to give you money, then they probably won't!

Here's a quick list of ways you are making it hard for me (or anyone!) to give you money:

  • It's not clear what you do, or that you take money to do that thing
  • You have an Etsy or Artfire shop, but I can't find it on your website (or your blogger blog). If I have to scroll down to find it, it's too hard to find.
  • You sell in ways other than Etsy, but I can't find that information.
  • I'm not sure WHY I would buy from you. What are the benefits? What makes your thing different than Joe's thing?
  • I don't know who you are. If your About page describes a faceless business, I'm not going to get that thrill of buying from a real, live person.
  • You only have an Etsy or Artfire shop, so I don't know how to find more about you. I can't get to know you via Twitter or a blog or an About page.
  • You list your prices in your country's currency. What is it going to cost me, a self-involved American?

This is only a partial list!

Do you have examples of what businesses do that makes it hard to buy from?

Share it in the comments!

A cushion for the meh

I've been thinking a lot about craft shows and picking a good one and the inevitable meh show. It can be so disappointing when things don't go as well as you like and it so easy to slip into self-doubt. To keep myself from spiraling too far into the meh, I'm compiling a list of things to remind/encourage myself next time.

What's a meh show?

Any show that doesn't thrill you.

Maybe your expectations were high (and unmet).
Maybe your location wasn't great.
Maybe there were too many people selling the same thing.
Maybe the crowd wasn't in the mood to shop.

It seems like there's not a lot you can do.

And it's easy to see all the ways you can't turn the show around.
You can't change your place, you can't get rid of the competition and you can't convince an unbuying public to want to buy.

So what can you do?

You can institute an insurance policy. A few small things that will make sure the meh doesn't turn into a total waste of time.

Here's what I do:

Pick carefully. Think about what your Right People are looking for…will they be likely to find it at this show? Will they even hear about the show?

Invite your people. Tell them in your newsletter, on Twitter, on your blog. Email them personally. Offer them something (free gift, % off) when the show up and mention they heard about the show from you.

Collect new people. Other vendors, curious lookers, shoppers, non-shoppers. An email list is the simplest way to do this, but you can use anything that both helps you collect the information and then put it to use later. (I go into detail on the whole post-show-sales subject in this class, if you'd like to know more.)

Stay open to other opportunities. Selling your thing is great, but it's not the only benefit of the show. You may make contacts in the media (leading to a future profile or writing opportunity?). You may meet shop owners (wholesale opportunity?). You will definitely meet other vendors (collaboration opportunity?).

Schedule something fun. Plan to meet-up with the locals. Visit the tourist destinations (even if that just means cupcakes + yarn).  Stay the night with a friend. Eat new food.

And despite all this…

It sucks when things don't go well. And you may doubt yourself, doubt your thing and doubt the whole doing a craft show thing.

And that's ok.

You totally don't need to see the positive, or keep your chin up, or learn from your mistakes, or any of those other encouraging things people will say.

Go on. Look at the meh. Accept the meh. Maybe pout or sleep or write a blog post about the meh.

In the meantime, I'm here to gently remind you that the meh isn't all there is.
That there will life and sales and awesome shows after the meh.

In the comments

Putting our thing out there, into the big world can be scary. In the comments we don't give advice or “you should…”; we give encouragement and share our own experiences.  I wrote this post for future-me but if it helped you, I'd love to know.

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