Welcome to April and the beginning of a new quarter! This is the time where we usually make plans for the coming three months and review the progress we’ve made so far this year but…everything is weird. How do we do that now?
In the Starship this week, we’re doing Map Making – making a plan for the quarter. You can learn more about the Starship here and/or start making your own map with my book, Map Your Business.
I know, nothing is normal right now.
You are staying home, no one in your home is ever leaving it, you may not be able to get the supplies you usually do, you may not be selling where you usually do, people are buying less because some people are losing their jobs.
Now is the perfect time to plan the new quarter.
I’ve actually talked about planning during uncertainty already – back in episode 254, I gave suggestions for how you can plan when YOUR life is uncertain. Add back in episode 291, I shared how I was planning the New Year while my life is so uncertain (as a foster parent).
Well, guess what? Now you’re joining me in everything being up in the air and nothing being normal!
It’s really uncomfortable isn’t it?
One of the things I find myself wanting to do is just wait….wait for it to feel normal. Wait for things to be ok. Wait for everything to be how it was.
Well, that’s not going to happen. We may very well need to limit social contact for quite a long while until this is completely past.
But beyond that, life WILL be different. Some of the people who lost jobs, won’t get the same ones back. Some businesses won’t open back up.
I don’t say any of this to scare you, but so that you can be honest with yourself – things have changed and we don’t when or if what we consider normal is coming back.
What we can do is move forward with what we do know.
What we can do is embrace today for being today. We can accept our current reality and find ways to live within that.
And look, I know, it’s scary. Change is really really hard. And never before have we all been going through change at the SAME TIME. It’s so disorienting!
Waiting until everything is normal isn’t going to work.
Accepting where you are right now is the only way forward. Now it may take days or weeks or even a month to really feel ready to accept it. To even understand what the new reality is. It’s certainly taken me a week or two to get used to having two girls home from school every day and feeling out what our schedules are.
But once you’re accepting it and through the fog a bit, it’s time to plan.
So how can we plan when we don’t know what’s coming?
Look at your goals and dreams again. Get reoriented in where you want to go. Ask yourself which you still care about. Which still matters?
Forget the old way of getting there and look for new ways.
Maybe you were going to do a craft show – what about finally starting that shopify shop?
Maybe you were going to grow your email list at a craft show, what about creating a PDF download to drive subscribers?
Focus on systems, not outcomes. If you find yourself stressed that people aren’t shopping as much now (although I’m not sure this is true? Surely online shopping is surging) – stop focusing on the outcomes of your goals,and focus instead on setting up the systems of your goals. What technology do you need? How consistent will you be? What do you have to do in order to stay consistent?
Yes, work on your goals, make a plan, but also really practice accepting the time and energy you have. I know I have about an hour a day, as long as my girls aren’t in school. I wish I could do more in my business, but that’s the extent of the time and energy I have. So I’m making a plan for the quarter – I’m looking at the systems and products I want to create, knowing I'll be doing it in about 5 hours a week. I will consider it a success if I use those 5 hours well, to create and publish this podcast, hold the weekly Starship chat and go live in my Facebook group. That’s it.
Be gentle on yourself.
Along with being realistic, give yourself a break. I HAVE more hours than just naptime – I could get up early or work after bedtime…but I need that rest and recovery. I don’t know about you, but I find myself more on edge, more exhausted, more short-tempered than usual. So don’t make your business and your goals another thing to stress yourself out, another thing you should be doing.
We are going to get through this. THings may not look the same afterwards…but what if that was a good thing? What if you set a goal for the quarter and reached it despite all the chaos? How awesome and grateful would you feel?
One way or the other time will pass, the virus will pass and there will be shopping and craft shows and retail locations making orders again – will your business be ready for it?
Are you using Instagram Stories? Is it connecting with your customers and helping you reach your goals? Or are you confused about what to do to make it effective? Today I’m going to answer your questions about WHY you should be using Instagram Stories and HOW to make them work for you!
Today we’re diving into the tool Instagram Stories and how you can use them to connect with your right customers, build trust and make sales.
If you’re reading this podcast, thank you! You may wanna hop up above to the video of this episode as well because the video has a few extra minutes of showing you what exactly I’m talking about! You’ll find it at the top of the post.
What is Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories is an extra feature on Instagram, where you can post images or 15 second videos from your day. They expire after 24 hours.
You can shoot them “live” from inside the app, or you can use the photos in your photo library on your phone. You can also share your regular Instagram posts (if viewers click on them they’ll be taken to your post where they can like and comment) and you can share other people’s Instagram posts, which means you can share your customers photos of your work!
Why do Stories?
What is the best way to build trust with potential customers? It’s in-person events. Customers get to talk to you, touch the product, then buy directly from you. The second-best option is live video, it is the most similar to being in-person. The potential customer gets to see how you really talk, see what you’re working on.
This builds relationships and it builds trust. And more trust = more sales.
Stories allow you to show way more than you can in your Instagram grid. Are you packing orders, getting supplies, making products everyday? In Stories, you can show that!
What do you have in common with your customers? You can share that in Stories. For example: reading, relationships, personality type, preferences, etc.
Remember: You get to decide what to share.
How do you use Stories effectively?
What kind of Stories build relationships?
Use Engagement tools
Use Stories to tell your Marketing Message, and then save it to “Highlights”
You may be thinking – uh, what is my marketing message? What do I talk about? I outline what goes into your effective marketing message in my free workshop “4 Foundations” and we can work together on your Marketing Message inside the Starship Program. To watch the free workshop and learn more about how we can work together go to TaraSwiger.com/foundations
I’d love to hear how you are using Instagram Stories in your business! Come tell me on Instagram. I’m @taraswiger.
I’m going to give you homework right now to put this into practice:
Take a screenshot of your podcast app as you’re listening, then open Instagram Stories, share this photo and tag me @taraswiger and add the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm. This is such a low-stress way to get started, you don’t have to talk to the camera or anything.
While you’re on IG, send a DM and tell me what you learned from this episode!
Thank you so much for listening and I’m wishing you an enthusiastic week!
Is Instagram worth it? How do you make sales with Instagram? I know! This is one of the ongoing questions my students have about any tool, and Instagram in particular. Today I’m going to explain EXACTLY how you can increase your sales by using Instagram.
Before we dive into Instagram, we are coming right up on episode 300, and I am including YOU in this episode! To participate, head over to my free FB group: fb.com/groups/taraswiger and the info on how to be involved is right there, pinned to the top!
Today’s question comes directly from the FB group: Does Instagram actually make sales for anyone? It seems to be just a waste of time, a bunch of content going into the void.
First of all: yeah, it can DEFINITELY feel like a waste of your time!
The good news is: YOU are in charge of whether it's a waste of time or not. It’s true! You don’t have to wait for Instagram to send you people, or for your right buyer to just stumble upon you.
Instead, make Instagram effective for your business by creating a plan and using it to find, connect with, and build trust with your ideal buyers. You will make sales with Instagram when you talk to, connect with and build trust with your Ideal Buyers.
So how do you connect and build trust on Instagram?
Identify your Right People.
Talk to your Right People on YOUR profile
Find and connect with your Right People on their profile.
Now let’s get into it deeper.
Identify Your Right People
Who buys your item? Who wants what you sell? These are your Right People. This is who ALL your marketing should be for. This will impact what photos you use, what captions you write, what hashtags you utilize, everything about all of your marketing.
This is a deeper process than just answering a few questions and it is what I do with Captains inside the Starship. So if you want to know more about your people, check out the free workshop at TaraSwiger.com/Foundations and we can work together to identify your Right People.
On Your Profile
If you’re taking the time to post photos on your Instagram, then take the extra time to make it effective at making a connection with your Right Buyer.
A photo might grab someone’s attention, but captions are how your customers get to know YOU, get to know your brand and what you stand for, and feel connected to you.
Yes, you could just write three words and be done, but if you’re taking the time to post, shouldn’t you take the time to make it worthwhile? Writing a longer post (over 65 words, which is the average), it will take longer, but it will also be more valuable.
The data shows that posts with longer captions generally have higher engagement than those with a shorter caption. Engagement is when your followers interact with your post (comment, like, save or share it). And more engagement leads to more people seeing your post.
Ok, so what do you write? This is where you come back to your RIght Buyer – what is she interested in? What does she need to know about your product or your company? We answer all these questions in the Starship, so you create effective posts.
On Her Profile
How does your customer find you?
Well, she may be searching, she may click on hashtags, but the most direct way for your customer to find you is… you find her.
Stop waiting for your Right Buyer to find your photos, or to find your shop – find her!
This goes back to the work you did to identify your RIght Buyer – once you have a very clear idea of who she is, you can look at who she follows, what sites she reads, what she’s into. One of the easiest ways is to look at your Actual Customers. See what they’re posting, who they’re following, what hashtags they use.
And… connect with her! Follow your customer on Instagram, comment on her posts, when she asks for a recommendation, give it! You’re not going to be SELLING to her, but you will be CONNECTING with her.
Look at who else they follow and who follows them. If that person seems like your Right Buyer, follow them! And connect.
Does this work? Doesn’t it take a lot of time?
Oh, I know, I hear you moaning now – but Tara! Doesn’t this take a lot of time? Does this work?
And the answer is yes and yes. It does take time. But you are already scrolling on Instagram. Right? You are already spending time on social media that is not building your business. I’m not asking you to spend MORE time, I’m asking you to spend your time EFFECTIVELY. As in, doing stuff that will make a change.
As for it working, listen. I don’t recommend you do only this. This is one strategy in what should be a full plan for marketing, that includes clear messaging, email marketing, in-person marketing, along with Instagram.
This is not linear. You don’t get a 1:1 result. Or even a 10:1 result. Some posts will connect with people and get 5 new followers. Some will have a strong call to action and hit someone at just the right time and generate 2 or 10 sales. And some will just build a relationship and build trust, so that when you post your newest product, your followers are ready to click over and buy.
How does this actually work?
Well, here’s the thing: I’ve actually said all of this backwards to how your customer will experience it. How it’s going to work is that you are going to go out and connect with your Ideal Buyers on her profile. Leave comments, make recommendations, answer questions. Then, she will move from her profile to yours. You will be building a profile (full of photos and captions) that connect with her so she’ll stick around, maybe click through to your products, maybe follow you. Keep posting, with calls to action that lead her to click, and she’ll click through to your website and buy when she’s ready.
As I was sharing this in the Facebook group, I had someone ask “What about commenting on a post that already has tons of comments? Won’t I just get lost?”
Yes, yes you will. For marketing purposes, don’t bother with accounts that are super big, with dozens of comments. Your comment will mean so much more to someone who doesn’t get very many.
What I’ve noticed is that people have so much resistance to this idea. They don't want to do it because they don’t see immediate results. They don’t want to comment on other people’s posts, but they want people to comment on theirs.
Why? You show people how to interact with you. If you are never in comments, no one else will be. If you never follow anyone or interact, you can’t expect anyone to interact with you.
Yes, you will do work – captions, comments, stories, that won’t get a response.
So what? You’re learning, you’re creating a library of content. You are trial-and-error-ing it. You are getting better at your marketing messaging.
And guess what?
This podcast is built on the very principles you’ll apply to your Instagram. I create content that will delight you. It takes me a LOT of time and energy to create each episode I give it to you for free. I connect with you on social media, you may listen for a month or two years, all the while feeling more trust and connection with me, until you feel ready to join the Starship and work with me.
Are all those episodes I create where you didn’t buy a waste of time and energy?
No, they were building a relationship.
But don’t forget – your posts aren’t building that relationship with ONE person, they are building it with many people who are seeing today, and people who will scroll back and read it a year from now.
If you’ve been listening for a while, and you are curious about learning more to work together, check out how we can work together in my free masterclass – 4 Foundations to a Thriving Handmade Business. You can find it at taraswiger.com/foundations
What is the best book you’ve read lately? In today’s episode, I’m sharing my favorite books of this winter – from December – February.
Every quarter I round-up my most-favorite books and share them here. If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may recognize some of these books, as they were part of my Best Books of 2019. If you like learning about great books and you are NOT subscribed over on YouTube, you are missing out! I share reading vlogs, monthly round-ups, and all kinds of fun bookish stuff in my Monday videos at TaraSwiger.com/YouTube. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.
Stats I have read 16 books so far, and I will likely finish another 3 before the end of the month. 4 mysteries, 2 giant YA space operas over 600 pages, 3 personal memoir essay-ish things.
All three of the memoirs were great, so I’m going to just quickly tell you, you should read them:
Enough, by Shauna Ahern, who you may know as Gluten-Free Girl. I read her blog years ago, and so I picked this up when I saw it on the New Book shelf at the library. It is totally different and so good. Shauna tells the story of how she began to feel as if she is enough, after a lifetime of living by the girl code (criticizing your body, trying to be smaller), a traumatic childhood and trying to make money on the internet. I think anyone who is a woman or works online should read it.
How We Fight for our Lives by Saeed Jones, is the memoir of a young black gay man growing up in Texas. There is violence, there is sexual content, and there is a really beautiful story of finding himself and figuring out his relationship with his mother.
Thick and Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom, is a series of essays about her experiences being a black woman academic living in the world. It’s about thickness, of body and of thought, and explores beauty and twitter and class mobility. Read it if you like Roxanne Gay or Lindy West’s Shrill.
Now, the fiction books:
Such a Fun Age by Kelly Reid might be my favorite book of the year, ALREADY. A young black woman is babysitting for a white family and has a very racially charged experience in a grocery store. The story unfolds from that tense beginning, but the book itself manages to be fun and compelling and build a momentum that had me up until 3am finishing it. It’s really about white privilege and how “good” white people try to do the right thing while completely ignoring the black person’s agency and selfhood. This book is complex and real and although it sounds like it could be heavy, it’s actually just great fun.
Illuminae, by Amy Kaufman is so weird I can’t believe it’s so good. It’s a kind of YA space opera with horror. I only think it’s YA because the protagonist is a teenage girl, who is saving absolutely everyone. But it’s a little dark and splattery for like, 12 year old Tara. It is really about survival and sacrifice and telling your own story. I’ve read the second book in the trilogy, Gemina, and I liked it almost as much. I’ve got the last book, Obsidio, on my shelf.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has been on my shelf forever, but I had been avoiding it because it’s written in prose. It took me a minute to sink into it, but when I did, man! It beautifully tells the story from the perspective of a young Dominican girl living in Harlem who is figuring out adolescence and her conservative family, while starting to write slam poetry. It is just the most gorgeous and most true book I’ve read about what it means to be a girl when you start to get unwanted male attention… but it’s not even really about that.
Ok, so a few more books I read and loved but am not going to go into detail about:
These were a few really good reading months! I think I got to some deeper books, like the memoirs, because we didn’t have kids for a few of the months (in case you don’t understand how we only sometimes have kids – we’re foster parents).
When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which frankly, goes to buying diapers. I get most of my books at my local library, so check yours out because libraries are amazing. Lots of my faves came from the Book of the Month Club (referral link).
In a few weeks I have my 300th episode – to learn how you can participate in my celebration, be sure you’ve joined the Facebook group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger
Thanks for listening and have a book-filled enthusiastic week!
Now that you’ve worked on your fear, what about your other beliefs that are holding you back? What do you need to believe in order to move towards your goals?
Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about what’s holding you back.
We’ve talked about how a lot of you say what’s holding you back is… YOU. Fear is at the heart of a lot of it. Another aspect of what’s holding you back is what you believe – about yourself, your business, and how the world works. This is your mindset, the set of beliefs that form your frame that you look at the world through.
Now, before you think, “yeah, yeah, I gotta have the right mindset. But what I really need is 5 steps to grow my Instagram!”…let’s take a minute, just like 10 minutes, to go deeper on this.
If your mindset and your beliefs are holding you back, it won’t matter how many tactics and tricks you learn for Instagram or Etsy or craft shows. It won’t matter because YOU will keep holding YOU back.
We’re going to talk about a few different ways your beliefs can hold you back. The first one is your mindset – what you believe you are capable of and how the world works. Over the years you’ve heard me talk about the research in the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. As a researcher she looked across areas – school, business, sports – and found that people think of themselves and their challenges in one of two ways – with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
Fixed mindset = believing that you are the way you are and you’re not going to change. Growth mindset = believing that you can grow and improve and learn to reach your challenges.
You’ve probably heard this before. And you’ve probably decided, I wanna have a growth mindset.
But this is actually WAY harder than a one time decision and it comes up again and again.
Here’s what I’ve noticed in the last few years of thinking about this and talking with makers about it:
You probably have different mindsets in different areas.
You might have a very growth mindset when it comes to your relationship (We can figure it out!) but a very fixed mindset when it comes to your finances (we’ll never figure it out!)
Time and experiences can change your mindset.
I’ve found that the more you become experienced in an area, the easier it is to become fixed in the belief that you’ve learned everything and figured it out. This is when you start to say “That won’t work for me.” “I tried that, it never works.”
Those are actually the two phrases that are red alarms when I’m talking to a business owner. I know that they’re coming at it from a fixed mindset and there’s not much I can help them with unless they shift their mindset from “I already know what I know” to “I can learn and keep trying”
But I’m guilty of this too! I started out my business with a growth mindset – I knew there was so much I didn’t know and I knew I could learn it.
Over time, I learned more, and my mindset became more fixed. I think I know what works, what doesn’t and what is worth my time. My challenge, all the time, is to try new things with the mindset of: I can learn how this works for me. I do this through trying new tools (TikTok!), trying new strategies (webinars) and even trying new business models.
So when we’re talking about how you’re in your way – the question is: Do you believe you can grow or change? What areas feel really “fixed” or stuck? What areas do you feel really open to learning?
Another aspect of your belief that affects your business is your expectations and flexibility – what do you expect will happen? In what timeline? Or else…what?
I am so surprised when people tell me that they’re quitting their business because it didn’t reach a really outsize goal in a short time frame.
It makes me wonder: did you really want a business (which is doing the work every day forever) or did you just want that goal (probably money)?
I’m going to say this really clearly – having a business is doing the work day in and day out, whether you reach one particular goal or not. It is learning, changing, experimenting and being flexible. If you don’t want to do that, you don’t want a business.
And hey – that’s ok!
If you want a for-sure amount of money for your amount of work, you’re going to need to get a job where you are paid a specific amount of money for a specific amount of work.
Owning a business is not like a job. AT ALL.
So what are your expectations of your business?
As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, I don’t believe in lowering your expectations – I believe in setting big goals and working hard towards them. But I believe in expecting your business to behave as a business – to need tending and changing and flexibility. And to adjust your expectations as you learn more about what your business is.
Having the wrong expectations of your business can hold you back from appreciating it for what it is and for putting in the work you’ll need to, to reach your goals.
Belief in yourself
So this last point is a little bit about growth mindset, but it’s also about confidence. The most important belief you hold in your business is your belief about yourself. The number one indicator of what your business will do is what you think is possible.
Yes, YOUR belief in what you think YOU can do is going to shape how far or fast your business goes.
Why? Because if you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. If you don’t think it’s possible, you won’t do the work.
Wait, what about realistic expectations? Yeah, you need to expect your business to act like a business. But how big you dream and what you think YOU are capable of is going to determine how hard you work at making it happen. So EXPECT that your business is going to have ups and downs, that it will take work and growth and challenge you. But BELIEVE that you can do it. You are capable. You can learn.
Here’s what I can tell you for sure: if you believe that you aren’t capable enough to make this happen, it won’t. NOT because you aren’t capable, but because you won’t do the work. You won’t put in the time to learn and grow.
This isn’t some “believe it and it will happen” stuff… this is the hard fact that if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.
And listen, maintaining that belief is NOT easy. I shifted how my business works about six months ago and I believe it is absolutely the right thing and that it is absolutely going to allow my business to grow more than it would have… but it’s taking some time to see that change, as dollar bills. It is taking me learning and growing in a bunch of ways. If that belief wavers, I’m going to stop moving forward. I’m going to stop midway and try something else, which will kill my momentum and confuse customers and cost me money and sales.
But if I maintain the belief and keep moving forward (while being flexible), I’m going to see results because I believe in what I have to share is valuable, it transforms businesses and I want it to help as many people as possible.
Maintaining belief in yourself and your business direction is not going to be easy. But giving up or stopping halfway isn’t a better option. It may be easier to stop or to try something else, but when you do that too often, you start to feel scattered and confused and unfocused.
And hey, that’s where a LOT of makers are today. They have tried so many different directions, so many different marketing strategies, that they’re all turned around and confused. If that’s you, I’ve got a workshop that will help focus you. You can find it at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.
I hope this series about what’s standing in your own way and how to move past these blocks have helped you reach your goals! Next week I’m sharing my quarterly round-up of favorite books and in 4 weeks we’ll have the 300th episode SPECTACULAR. It’s going to involve YOU and YOUR questions, so be sure you’ve joined our private FB group to get all the details and be involved, at FB.com/groups/taraswiger
Are you getting in the way of your handmade business moving forward? Yeah, it’s time to get out of your own way.
Lately we’ve been doing a series on how to make your 2020 goals come true. In episodes 292 and 293, I gave you lots of applicable, step-by-step advice on how to increase sales, so be sure to head over to TaraSwiger.com/launch if you missed that.
But as I said in those episodes, only a small percentage of people will follow through with the action plan.
Well, for some listeners, what I shared just isn’t applicable. Maybe you don’t have a business.
Maybe you are just starting and you don’t have any products yet.
For some listeners, growth isn’t their primary goal in 2020. Maybe you have more demand than you can supply. Or perhaps your work day has gone wonky, and what you want to work on this year is working LESS or taking more time off or stopping work at a certain time.
We’re not always in a place of growth.
Or maybe you’re like I was in 2019, where your life has been upended and your main goal is to just HOLD ON and try to figure out a new way to move forward (or even stay in the same place) with totally new circumstances. Last year my own focus wasn’t the growth of my business, it was the growth of my family.
Wherever you are is perfect.
But what about those listeners who DO have products, who have a way to sell them, and who have the goal to increase their sales in 2020?
Why don’t they follow through?
We hit on some of the reasons last week (in episode 294) – you may feel unfocused, feel like you don’t have enough time, or feel overwhelmed and stuck in self-doubt.
In other words, you’re not moving forward because YOU are holding yourself back.
Last week I gave you some homework – to write down HOW you were holding yourself back and WHY you might have done that.
(If you skipped the homework you can hit pause now and write it down, or even record it as a voice memo to yourself!)
Why are you doing this? Well, without hearing your answers, I can make a guess, because this is what stops me: Fear.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear that I won’t be safe.
Fear that everyone will realize I have no idea what I’m doing and they (you) will think it’s all a scam and everyone will hate me (and I’ll be broke and alone).
Fear that I’ll get it wrong, that people will see me get it wrong and then will all leave and my business will fall apart (and I’ll be broke and alone).
That’s kind of intense, right?
But that’s why this fear is so good at holding us back – we never look directly at it, so it just bubbles up underneath the surface and we feel a kind of uneasiness or nervousness or self-doubt. We don’t feel “quite right” so we don’t step forward.
What do you do about it?
Good news: We’ve already done the first step! The first step is to bring it to conscious awareness so we can SEE the fear, so it stops running the show from the background.
Then, we need to acknowledge it for what it is. It isn’t that WE suck. It isn’t that we need to do more or learn more or get more confident.
Fear holding you back is a NATURAL part of growth and exploration. Your fear is your sweet little brain trying to keep you safe. That’s it’s whole job! It’s saying “Hey there, I don’t know about that, I need to keep you alive so BACK AWAY FROM THE UNKNOWN.”
If you’ve experienced trauma (whether it was one-time acute trauma or ongoing trauma like an unsafe childhood), your brain is a SPECIALIST in spotting danger (maybe where there isn’t any!) and keeping you safe. This may be why you experience something that SEEMS simple (like talking to strangers in your craft booth, or posting a personal post on Instagram) as terrifying and flight-fight-freeze inducing.
Understanding and accepting this about yourself and your sweet little (confused) brain is vital to you moving forward. It shifts your focus from “pushing forward” to “gently finding a way forward.” Because when you push? Your fear pushes back. When you gently find a way to feel safe while doing the thing?” Your fear settles down.
Your fear just wants to be noticed and heard.
So we’ve identified it, we’ve recognized that it’s trying to keep us safe, but how do we hear it without letting it run the show?
Let it have it’s say – let your fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen.
Tim Ferris calls this “fear-setting”, it’s like the opposite of goal-setting, but is important if you’re going to move forward with a goal. Marie Forleo has a version of this exercise in her book Everything is Figureoutable. In other words, this works. So try it.
Pull out a piece of paper and answer: What am I afraid of actually happening?
What is the absolute worst case scenario if that fear comes true?
And then what else horrible will happen?
And now that you’ve listened to your Fear, you’ve let it really unspool its dark fantasy, it’s time to apply some reality to your fear.
If that happened, the absolute worst case scenario… what would you do?
How could you come back from it?
What skills, abilities and experiences do you have that you could use?
When I’ve done this with Starship Captains, we always take a deep breath and feel a little shaken and a little relieved. It is SCARY to think of all that can go wrong! But I bet you noticed that your worst case scenario is actually kinda… figureoutable? There’s very little you’re going to do in your business that’s going to shake the core of what you value. Your Etsy shop isn’t going to kill your loved ones. Your email newsletter isn’t going to push your friends away. Unless you’re becoming a skydiving instructor, your business is unlikely to cause you bodily harm.
So, how do you feel? Deep breath! Do you feel a little more able to move forward?
(If not, did you do this in your head, or in writing? When you just think it, your brain often distracts you with other stuff and you don’t really go all the way. Write it down.)
Now, listen. This is not a one-time thing. If it were, I would be fearless and unwavering since the first time I did this back in 2006!
Instead, this allows us to take the NEXT STEP. Which is all we need for now.
But it is very likely the fear is going to jump back up when we come to the next unknown thing.
Elizabeth Gilbert says (in her book Big Magic, which is great) that we may not ever be able to get Fear out of the car, on our journey. But we CAN stop Fear from driving the car or grabbing the steering wheel or pumping the breaks. We can ride with Fear next us. We can acknowledge the work it’s trying to do (keep us safe), appreciate that, and still choose to not let it run the show. (This is a lot like driving with a screaming toddler in the backseat.)
Sooo, bad news! You’re going to have to do this a lot. I need to acknowledge and listen to my Fear every time I set a new goal. Every time I start a new project. Sometimes I have to do it before a speaking gig, when my nerves get bad! I had to do it when I became a foster mom! Every time I level up or my business levels up, I have to do it again.
But here’s what I hope you take from this podcast episode – YOU are holding yourself back, because your brain is trying to keep you ALIVE. YOU are a smart, capable, adorable human who is capable of so much more than you think, if you find a way to gently move past your stuck places. You don’t need to feel (or be) fearless to take the next step. You will build confidence through ACTION.
I am wishing you so much peace and courage this week.
What is keeping you from achieving a profitable, sustainable business that you feel confident in? What is keeping you from working towards your goals every week?
We’ve been working on reaching your sales goal, all month. To hear episodes about increasing and sustaining your sales, tune in to episodes 292 & 293. After those episodes, I debated over what to cover next and then I realized: what’s keeping you from your goal is different for everyone. You have your own roadblock, so let’s talk about and work through it!
One of the questions I ask everyone when they join my free FB group (are you a member yet?) is, “When it comes to your business being profitable AND doable, what do you think is standing in your way?”
So today that’s what we’re going to talk about: the things that are standing in your way. And next week, we’ll talk more about how to get out of your own way.
It’s my hope that hearing what’s holding others back will help you recognize what’s holding you back, what is standing in your way.
So what is holding MOST handmade business back?
The answers I get most often:
Focus – I just can’t seem to work on what matters, I keep getting distracted!
Time – I don’t have enough time or I’m not using my time effectively (focus!)
Self-doubt or confidence – I doubt myself and so don’t act. If I were more confident I would act
Fear – most people who write this answer don’t give any more details… so I have to guess – are you afraid of failure? Afraid of poverty? Afraid of embarrassment?
Many people answer: ME, I am holding myself back. This feels like the REAL answer to all of these other answers – YOU feel self-doubt or fear. YOU want more confidence. I think this answer is the most truthful answer.
As you read those different answers, which one resonates the most? Which sounds like your internal dialogue?
And here’s the more important question: what are you doing about it?
Most people tell me they are working on marketing – social media, email list, or something systematic.
But… that’s not what’s standing in your way. Not a single person has told me KNOWLEDGE or INFORMATION was standing in their way.
If you know that something else is standing in your way, why aren’t you working on that?
I think the reason it’s that it’s much easier to learn something than it is to change ourselves; it’s easier to listen to another episode than to inquire within.
So what is holding YOU back?
Hit pause, ask yourself this and write down your answer. Write as long as our takes for you to process it.
Now, how are you feeling?
You may be feeling AMAZING because you got some clarity and you’re ready to change.
But you may be feeling pretty bad, because OMG, WHY CAN’T I JUST GET OVER IT.
But I have really really good news.
None of this is holding you back.
Bear with me. I know it FEELS like you need less fear, more confidence, more time, more focus to move forward but what if I told you you’re only going to feel less fear and more confidence and you’re going to find the time only AFTER you do the thing?
What if the way to move past what’s holding you back is to let go of it? To let go of the idea that you need to fix it or fix yourself?
What if you were perfectly suited to build your business, as you were?
What if you were ready to move forward on the next project or with the next client, exactly as you are?
I know, I know, you want ACTION ITEMS. You want to DO something.
So I’m going to give you episodes and resources for each of these issues, so you can get some actionable steps.
But. I can tell you, after working with hundreds of makers, designers and artists, you are going to move beyond what’s holding you back only after you believe you will.
Now, belief isn’t the ONLY thing that’s going to build your business.
But without it, you won’t actually take any of the actions that will make a difference.
So, if you’re ready to start believing you CAN move past the fear and time and focus, I’ve got some recommendations for episodes that address each of these in detail.
The best way to get focused is to be CLEAR on what you need to focus on. This is why we set goals and then create plans. So you can wake up each day, knowing what you need to do to move forward. My best resource for this is Map Your Business, which you can find at TaraSwiger.com/map
If distraction is your problem, I’ve got a whole kit of resources for you at TaraSwiger.com/distraction – it’ll help you crush marketing distractions and internet distractions!
Over the years I have written and shared a lot about how to manage your time, get more done and create a productive workday. My absolute best strategies are all in the class Get More Done. I created it at the CreativeLive studio, so it is 5+ hours of professional-quality video lessons, with dozens of worksheets, all at the most affordable price (last time I checked it was $29). Get it here.
Self-doubt or confidence:
I have a LOT of episodes about this, as well. I also created a BizConfidence free course that I’ll be sharing again later this year.
In the meantime, check out these episodes:
Episode 93 – the difference between arrogance and confidence
If you were thinking, oh man, I am what is holding me back, I have a little homework for you.
Next week we’re going to go more into how you can stop holding yourself back, and in the meantime, I want you to journal a bit. It doesn’t have to be a special notebook or anything official, just get any scrap of paper and set a timer for 10 minutes and answer the question: What am I doing to stand in my own way? Why?
Now, no matter what you wrote on the paper, I want you to practice holding it in kindness and gentleness. Look at it (and you) the way I would, with a lot of love and acceptance, and I’d say “Hey, it’s ok. You’re doing the best you can. It is soooo good that you’re acknowledging whatever this is. Let’s work on it a bit next week.”
How do you keep sales going? When you don’t have anything new? When you’re not launching? What can you do to stay consistent?
Today we are diving in to making more consistent sales!
Recently Starship Captain Brenda asked: “I just launched a pattern last week and had a good amount of sales, but now what?”
I’m going to share with you what I told her.
This is the second episode in a series about reaching your 2020 goal of increased sales. You can listen to the first, which was about launching and find the Massive Launch Resource Kit at taraswiger.com/launch
Ok, let’s get into it: what do you do to keep sales going?
The answer is simple: Send another email.
Yes, if you send 3-5 emails during your launch and now it’s over, get right back into it! Send an email! Post on Instagram! Use the momentum to establish a consistency you might not have had before.
I know you're worried your people won’t want to hear from you too much – YOU ARE WRONG.
They want to hear from you even when you’re not launching. If they stuck with you through the launch, they are VERY interested. In fact, they are closer to buying now than they ever were before.
(If not, they would have unsubscribed or stop opening… in which case they won’t see your messages anyhow!)
Always always remember: you are talking to people who WANT to hear from you.
So what should you send?
Well, if you’ve just held a launch that made more sales than usual, then your products are landing in the hands of your customers – which is what you should feature!
If you’re a knitwear designer or yarn maker, you can see your customer projects on Ravelry. If not (or if no one is sharing them yet), you can ASK them to share, better yet, INCENTIVIZE them to.
Yep, offer them something for sharing. Maybe it’s free shipping code for the next 5 people who post a photo with your hashtag or you host a giveaway and everyone who posts a photo and tags it gets entered to win. Now, it’s not ethical to give anything in exchange for a REVIEW. I’m not saying to incentivize reviews, rather incentivize word-of-mouth – people sharing their product on their own social media, while tagging you and using your hashtag.
Then comment on every single one of those posts and ask the share-er if they give you permission to share it on your account!
Then you’ll have customer images and stories to post!
Be sure you also collecting customer feedback when it’s sent directly to you – via DM or email. Have a template that you send in response to nice emails. Mine says something like “Thank you so much, this made my day! Would you mind if I shared this on my social media or website? I will tag you or link to you when I quote you!” (Now, the testimonials for MY business might be private (eg, if someone shares their sales numbers, they may not want to do that publicly), so I also offer to post it anonymously, but most of you sell something people are happy to talk about publicly.
Almost every time I’ve shared this strategy with a Starship Captain, the maker or designer has been SO nervous to start asking their customers if they can quote them. They are certain their customers will not agree or be upset, but you know what? In every single case their customers have been THRILLED and really flattered. People LOVE to talk about what they love!
This has held true for product makers and service providers – tech editors, yarn shops, jewelry designers, glass artists, knitwear designers, home decor brands, life coaches, knitwear designers – your customers WANT to see you succeed and share their great experience with you!
So that is going to provide a new category of content. Every time you share a customer photo or quote, be sure you link to how to get the thing.
Another strategy that it’s easy to forget is to focus attention on your older, great products. If you followed the directions for a great launch, then you know that it takes some time and effort to really highlight what’s great and valuable about a product. Of course you should do this when you have a new product, but you should ALSO give this attention and love to your older products!
A few years ago I helped a knitwear designer increase her sales when she took a break from publishing new designs with this strategy. She was working on a book, so she couldn’t also be designing and selling individual patterns. She went through her back catalog, chose some customer projects to highlight, wrote up what customers loved about it and her inspiration and highlighted one older pattern in each email and scheduled them to go out once every two weeks for six months. She was surprised that very few of her email subscribers even knew that she had these older patterns (she kept getting comments like “I love the new design!”) and she was even more surprised that her overall sales increased, while she wasn’t actually working in her business at all.
That increase in sales happened for a few reasons:
She was being more consistent, her readers started to look forward to her emails
Every time she sent an email about a “new” pattern, it reminded people to go on and buy the pattern they were considering last month.
The consistency and large back-catalog communicated trust and reliability, which built her brand’s perceived value (a.k.a. people are willing to spend more money when they trust you)
Nowadays I would also add in schedule Instagram posts highlighting the same patterns she was featuring in her emails.
Even though you may not be a designer, please think through how you can apply this to your own business! You could feature older products, or the craft shows that you’ve done, or the retail shops you’re in, or your bestsellers.
Note what worked – do more of it.
This may sound really obvious, but take a minute to think – do you really keep track of what’s working, really working (not just how you feel about it) and then purposefully re-use it?
You can use the same strategies.
The same photos.
The same captions.
The same sales emails.
The same schedule.
Will people notice?
Not really. I used to use the same exact emails to launch the Starship every 3 months, with only a few updates…and they worked as well the 2nd year as they did the first year. Why? Because new people were seeing them every time. New people are coming to you, they don’t know what they used to do.
And if it’s the same people, they haven’t opened and read and looked at and MEMORIZED every single thing you’ve done. So try it!
You can also do more of what worked by looking at WHY it worked. Do pictures of your face do better? Take more! Are captions that are long or short do better? Do that!
You can see all of this on whatever platform you’re using – your email stats, your Instagram “insights” (you have to have a “Business” account to see them, and you should definitely upgrade in order to have access to that!).
Use those stats to shape what you’ll do next.
Above all, the way to keep sales going is to keep TRYING new things (and old things!), to not give up when you have a dry month. To not get discouraged when you need to step back or take a break or something goes wrong.
At the heart of this philosophy is to take responsibility – to realize YOU have a job to do to increase sales. Etsy isn’t going to do it, Instagram isn’t going to do it – YOU have to figure it out by learning and trying and iterating.
It is very easy to say, well, sales are down because of… the election, or Brexit, or Ravelry made a change. But there are businesses who thrive in every condition, in every change. Giving up and blaming outside circumstances is not the way to grow. Taking responsibility for what you can control (and letting go of what you can’t) is the way to reach your goal.
If you implement any of these strategies, let me know, I’m @TaraSwiger on IG. Be sure you come join our Facebook Group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger so you can chat about it with other makers and artists committed to their business in 2020.
Thank you for listening and have an enthusiastic week.
You’ve put in the work to develop and create something new, something totally awesome. It may be a new design, a new line, or just a new colorway. You want your people to know about this thing, but you don’t want to feel sales-y or weird…so how do you announce your thing to the world in a way you can feel good about?
In this episode I teach you EXACTLY how to create your next launch (and I've created a Kit with all the resources you need!)
I’ve talked about launching in the past, in fact, back in episode 162, I created a checklist. To make it easy for you to find everything, I’ve gathered it all up in one place! Get the Launching Resource Guide at TaraSwiger.com/launch You’ll get the links to every episode about launches, along with the PDF schedule I created for episode 162 and you’ll get the Launch Plan I’ve created for you in today’s episode.
Before we dive into what you’re going to do, your first step is to get the right mindset. A launch is making the most of your product. It’s highlighting or featuring your product. It’s putting all your time and energy behind ONE item, so that you can really highlight the benefits of that one thing.
“But, Tara, I want to increase my sales of everything. “
Yes, and focusing on the benefits of one of your items, and giving it all the attention it deserves WILL increase sales of other things. I know this for sure, the knitwear designers I’ve worked with will launch one new pattern, but see an uptick in sales of their other patterns.
So you see that over time, as you launch new items and add more back catalog, every launch can bring in more sales.
Before we get into the steps, I want to be clear – you can launch brand-new products, or you can “launch” older items that you’ve had in your shop forever. Theses steps can be used to highlight or feature anything – the point is putting as much love and attention and time in order to market it effectively.
Every launch is going to go better if you have some channels where you’ve been consistently connecting with your ideal buyer.
That might be Instagram, YouTube, a business Facebook page, your blog, your email list – if you don’t have at least SOME people gathered someplace where they will see your message, you can’t expect to make sales – you don’t have anyone to sell TO.
Launching regularly is going to be a way to get content and consistency in those communities, so if you haven’t been showing up consistently, this Launch plan can help you start to show up consistently, but adjust your expectations accordingly – if you haven’t already been connnecting, you won’t make a sale as quickly.
(If you have no idea where or how to connect with your ideal buyer (or who that even is), head over to the Resources for this episode, and I’ll like a free workshop that will teach you more about this concept.)
Here’s your launch plan
Pick a product to launch and clarify the benefits
Create an authentic offer with a deadline.
Define your goals and commit to doing what it takes to reach them.
Go to where you have people.
Keep notes and keep experimenting.
Let’s go through this step-by-step:
Pick a product and clarify the benefits.
What are you going to launch? What does your buyer love about it? What does your need to know before she can decide? What makes it valuable? List the physical attributes (features) – how does that translate into benefits (what it means for the customer)
(I have episodes that dive deeper into these questions, they’ll be linked up in the Resource Guide at TaraSwiger.com/launch )
Think about communicating the answers both in visuals (pictures and videos) and in words – write it up like you will share it with your audience.
Don’t skip this step – really write out the answer to these questions and take as much time as it needs to clearly communicate this. This will save you tons of time later (You won’t be sitting down to Instagram thinking “What the heck do I want to say?”)
Create an authentic offer with a deadline.
So here’s the thing – you might not have naturally-occuring deadlines, but your launch is going to go better if it has a start date and end date, and if buyers have a reason to buy NOW and not later.
But this doesn’t mean you just make up a deadline or you lie about what the real deadline is. Don’t say it won’t be available later if it will be. That’s what I mean by authentic.
What I mean by offer is – what are you selling right now?
Your product + right now special = your offer.
Most people jump right to a sale or discount, “Oh, I’ll give 10% off until Friday, that’s my offer.”
Sure, you can do that, but that’s not sustainable and if you discount regularly, people will expect it and wait for it. (Think about those big box craft store 40% off coupons – do you ever buy anything full price from Micheals when you know you could wait for the 40% off coupons?)
Spend a little more time to come up with something more interesting, something with a naturally end point.
If you’re launching a brand-new product for the first time ever, your offer is simply: Get the newest thing first! You don’t need to add on anything to that offer. But when you’re launching something that has been sitting in your shop, try an offer!
Here’s a few suggestions:
A knitalong or group event for your pattern (or book or kit) at X date, so your deadline is the start of that (or the shipping deadline, if you’ve got to ship yarn)
A brand-new product that you’re offering exclusively to your list (or followers) first – the deadline is when it’s no longer exclusive (and then you launch it to others for a week or two)
Make a limited number – when the spots (or products) are gone, they’re gone.
Customize it for free for the next X buyers. (Put their name on it, or sign it!)
Give it a bonus, for a limited time (a free mini-product for next 20 purchases, a Resource Guide (aka, PDF), a free 15min consultation with you, to make the most of their product, an entry into a giveaway you’re holding with another brand). How do you know what will work best? Test it!
Can you skip this step and just focus on highlighting one of your normal products, nothing special, without a deadline?
Absolutely! In fact, that’s just good marketing – in between launches with deadlines you can just focus on a product at a time for 2-4 weeks! But try some special offers, once a quarter or so, to experiment with what works!
Before you’re done, write out the offer and deadline, as you’ll explain it to your customer. If this is new, it can feel awkward to communicate, so you’ll want to clear on your words before you start posting about it. (Avoid over-explaining yourself)
Define your goals + commit to them
Why are you doing this? What do you want?
It is really easy to get excited about a launch and half-way through just feel tired of it all.
Having a clear vision of why you’re doing this and what it’s bringing to your business can keep you going when you get sick of talking about the same thing.
Take time to think about WHY you want to do this.
What do you hope to learn? How will this impact your business? Why does that matter?
What is the deeper reason of why you want to grow your business?
How long will this launch period last?
Are you willing to go all in and commit?
Committing to a goal means that you’re going to do the work to make it happen, and then you let it go. Go all in on the work, the planning, the implementation, the experimenting and trying things and showing up, and let go of the results. Y’all tell me you’re afraid of committing to goals because you’re afraid of failure, or letting yourself down. But committing to a goal doesn’t mean you can NOT FAIL, it means that you are willing to keep working when it doesn’t happen right away. You’re not going to give up. But you gotta let go of “what if it fails”. So what? You’ll still be loved, you’ll still have a business, you’ll still be worthy, but now you’ll ALSO have all this data of what works and what you need to do in order to see real results.
Show up where your people are.
Now it’s time for what you probably think of as launching – the actual marketing!
The good news is that you already have a ton of the thinking done. Now it’s just time to plan it, schedule it and implement it.
First: Identify your channels. Where are your people?
I’m going to talk about marketing channels here (reaching OUT to people), but before you do that, you’ll want to make sure that offer is on your website, explained clearly, highlighting the benefits and sharing social proof when you have it. (Do you have happy customers? Pictures of people using your product? Use that on your offer page. This may be a sales page, or this may link to where they buy (Ravelry, Etsy, etc), but you need it all in one place.
When it comes to sharing the message, define where exactly you’ll post (don’t leave this for later, write it all out so you can schedule ahead of time, if possible.
My preference for where you spend your energy:
Your email list (unlike social media, you know your subscribers will have the message delivered)
Facebook Group (going Live)
Instagram + Instagram Stories
Facebook Business Page (going Live)
Anything else – post on YouTube, mention it on your podcast, share it with specific people or groups.
Got your list of where you’ll show up? Next is to decide WHEN and how often and then plan it.
I’m going to assume you trust me and you really want to go all in, so instead of telling you how to think about it, I’m going to treat you like you’re one of my Starship Captains and I’m going to tell you exactly what to do, ok?
(This is what we do in the monthly Group Coaching – this is directly from a recent coaching session)
In your launch week:
Send 3 emails:
Announcing the offer, with the list of benefits, mention the deadline, link directly to the offer page.
Share a customer photo, testimonial (or a test-knitter’s project and feedback, if you’re a designer). If you don’t have a customer story or testimonial to share, talk about your inspiration, with an eye to the benefits for the buyer. Include a direct link to the product and explain the deadline clearly
Warning! Deadline is today! Grab it here (keep this short, include a direct link to buy it.
Post on Instagram daily (or sub in your FB biz page – better yet hook them up so an IG post goes right to your FB page)
Post the announcement of the offer
Talk about one of the benefits (close up of the product, if applicable)
Share a customer story or testimonial or project
What inspired you (with a focus on how that impacts the buyer)
Benefits + discussion of value
Go Live at least twice:
Warning! Offer is ending!
If you’re launch is more than a week (10-14 days is a good length for most of my customers), add in an email between 2 + 3, where you talk about your inspiration or the benefits, and keep posting on IG daily (or each weekday) – share your process, your studio, your experience. When people buy or start to receive their thing, share every one of their posts and if they’re not posting it (yet) thank them on Instagram Stories.
So that’s your plan!
You may not have all the channels I’ve listed here – don’t let that stop you! Take you what you do have and apply this to your channels. Like I said at the beginning, if you haven’t been consistent or more than 100+ people on any platform, you can still absolutely follow these steps, but expect it to increase your connection, not necessarily make sales.
Next up. you’ll need to actually WRITE the content and take the photos for the platforms YOU have, and schedule it when you can (using your email software, or an app like Buffer or Later for Facebook and Instagram) and add the live elements to your calendar.
Your launch is going to be less stressful if you know what to post, when, and it’s all in one doc.
Not sure what to write and include? This is the kind of thing we work on the Starship. For more on that, check out the Launch Resource Kit – I’ll share the free podcast episodes that are related, and I’ve linked up to the Masterclass where you can learn how I can work with you to help you develop your most effective launch.
Show up, take notes and keep experimenting.
The magic of this Launch Plan is that it gives you specific tasks to do that will then give you data about what works in your business, but the only way to get those benefits is to TRACK what is working.
After you’ve got it all planned and written, use the spreadsheet included in the Launch Resource Guide to track the outcomes of the actions you’re taking.
As a culture we talk a lot about planning the year for about 2 seconds on December 31st and January 1st, but the fact is, when you’re building a business or following a dream, you are planning and implementing a plan all the time! Today I’m going to share how I planned my New Year, warts and all.
Welcome to the New Year! Over the years I have written (and recorded) a lot about New Year and seasonal planning, so this year I decided to share exactly what I’m doing, with a bit of my feelings and experience as I do it, so you know you’re not alone.
You can get access to ALL of my episodes about planning your New Year AND a new worksheet, at TaraSwiger.com/2020Goals. Download it now!
It started in early December…
Inside the Starship, we read the book Everything is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo, as a part of our Q4 Book Club. This book is packed with encouragement and tough love for moving forward on your big dream, no matter how unreachable it feels.
I really committed to not just reading it, but also working through the exercises. It helped me get clear on what’s held me back from setting a bigger goal (like, really big) and work through that. The book is so uplifting and encouraging, I think this helped me shed a bit of self-doubt that has held me back in the last 2 years.
Actually, let’s chat about self-doubt holding me back. I talked about this a bit in episode 252, if you’d like to hear more about how I worked through it then. The thing is – I had a major depressive episode in 2018 and it rattled me.
Even after I came out of it, I had this lingering fear that I wasn’t going to be able to follow through on anything, that I shouldn’t commit to anything because I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Soon after that, we became licensed to foster parent, and since I had never been a parent before, and I had no idea what to expect, I also became convinced that I would no longer be able to follow through on things, because kids.
The thing that’s so insidious about this self-doubt is that it presented as LOGIC. Like, it’s totally reasonable to expect that I’ll be able to do less as a parent, than before… but what level of “less”? I didn’t know, so I assumed the worst. I assumed that the kids would be some kind of hurricane that completely exhausted my ability to adult, let along to show up to students, captains and partners.
Now, I can see how a lot of that was just catastrophizing – I didn’t know what to expect, either about recurring depression or parenting, so I just assumed the worst. I needed to tap back into Confident Tara in order to dream big and create a plan and follow through, because you must believe it’s possible before you’ll actually do the work.
I’m sharing this because in the middle of it, it felt very real, very logical, and TRUE.
If you are feeling tons of self-doubt or battered by life, give yourself some grace. It is ok. You don’t have to dream BIG right now. You don’t have to be on top of everything. Get inspired a confident again, by listening to my podcast and/or by reading Marie Forleo’s book (she also has a great YouTube show!)
Where I plan
Ok, before I go any further, I wanna talk about WHERE I actually do this planning – both where I write it and where I sit physically to do it. The thing is, you need to find what works for you, but I know we all love to hear about these kind of details.
I always plan my year (and do quarterly maps and monthly planning) in one notebook. That way I can keep a whole year in one place and go back to it, without having to search around.
This year I’m using a Happy Notes so that I can add pages and different kinds of paper to it. In the past I've used a big Moleskine.
I typically do the review at a coffee shop, next to a fireplace, with a fancy latte in a mug. Last year I had a brand-new toddler at this time of year, so I didn’t do any planning until late January, and then I did it during naptime under a blanket on my couch.
Review the last year
I start by reviewing the last year, because it is VERY inspiring to remember all of the good of the last year and to get grounded in where I am in my business right now.
I use my own book Map Your Business to do this! It starts with several pages of worksheets to get really clear where you are right now.
Now, it’s easy to use this as a chance to beat yourself up.
Maybe you didn’t hit your goals last year. Maybe you didn’t do ANYTHING last year. Maybe you are looking at where you are right now, thinking there is NO WAY you can get to your goal.
Hey, that’s ok. Deep breath.
You are exactly where you need to be.
You are capable of more than you’ve done before.
You are further ahead than you’ve ever been before! You have learned so much this year! (even if it’s not what you wanted to learn!)
This is why Map Your Business really focuses on the lessons you’ve learned and what you want to take from last year into this year.
There’s also a section on releasing all your regrets. We all have them. It’s ok, you can let go of them and move forward.
Dreaming the next year
Ok, so once I've let go of my regrets and I’ve looked at what lessons I want to bring forward into the next year, it’s time to think about the upcoming year.
I like to start with FEELINGS. There are several worksheets in Map Your Business that you help narrow in on this – the things you value, the qualities you want in your life and in your business.
How do I want to feel this year? What could help me feel that way?
For me, I want to feel strong, confident, loving.
Strong – capable, calm, resilient
Confident – capable, trust myself, move forward on scary stuff
Loving – with my family, with everyone in foster care, with myself
What could make me feel this way? (I’m still making my list!)
I use Map Your Business to dive into the specifics of what I want to create, in every area of my business. So at this point, I already have in mind my sales goal, but there’s a lot more to my life than just sales.
For example: Jay and I need to trade his 20 year old car in for a newer one that we can put kids into.
We want to pay off debt.
I want to have more than enough money saved up to pay my taxes quarterly.
Map Your Business has you list out EVERYTHING you want to accomplish, then zoom in on 3-5.
I also love the idea i got from Leonie to list 100 things I want to do in the year. There are so many things I want to do that aren’t really GOALS, but things I do want to do and remember to do. So I make a big list that I keep adding to, of allllll I could possibly do.
After I have a goal, it’s time to make a plan.
Here’s where allllll the uncertainty in my life comes into play. I have NO idea what my home will be like in a year. Will we have 2 kids? Will they be 6 months old or 5 years old? A new placement or an adoptive placement? Daily therapy or no appointments?
There are so many variables that it’s easy to think there’s no way I can plan. But that’s NOT TRUE!
What I can do is make a plan for what needs to be done and chunk it down into what I need to do next. In Map Your Business we do this in three month chunks. But if you’re life has a lot of uncertainty, you can still make this “quarterly” plan… and accept that something might interrupt and it’ll take longer than expected.
Here’s what it looks like with my goal.
My goal is a sales goal, that is twice what I’ve sold before (keep in mind sales is NOT profit, we go into this in my free Masterclass).
My first step in breaking it down is to chunk it into halves or quarters of the year.
If you’re increasing your sales, it’s not likely to happen in a smooth progression. For example, if you’re goal is to make 36,000 in sales this year (I picked a number it’d be easy to do the math for!), you’re not going to make 3,000 every month, you’ll likely start where you are now (maybe a little lower because January tends to be slower than December in most industries), and then increase as the year goes on. You’ll also want to look at you are already doing – craft shows? A big Black Friday deal? New wholesale customers in the spring?
So maybe you’ll make 13,000 in the first half and 23,000 in the second half of the year.
You can then break that into quarters:
If you don’t break it up and take into account industry trends, marketing plans, and natural growth, you’re going to feel very frustrated and far from your goal. If you thought you needed to make $3,000/mo and you just make $1,5000 in January, you’re going to feel SO FAR away, when in reality you may be right on schedule to grow.
(Just to be clear my goal is quite a bit bigger than this, but I wanted to use numbers that are more in line with the goal a lot of you have set).
After I split my goal up like this in quarters I then looked at months. I looked at what I have planned – travel, events, vacations. Map Your Business has a page where you can list out what’s happening in each month, so you can see when you’re likely to have time and energy for your business.
Once you have the goal for your quarter, you do the most important step: forget all the other quarters.
I just focus on the sales goal for this quarter.
And I ask myself: What can I do to reach this goal?
For my business and my audience (you!), this is a lot more about systems than one-time tasks – I put systems in place to share my work with more people as the year goes on. And because of foster parenting, I make sure the system doesn’t need ME to keep running. I want to spend my time and energy working with Starship Captains and writing/recording podcast episodes and videos.
So my to-do list for a sales goal is related to implementing, testing and tweaking systems. I have a specific list of things to implement and variables to test. I have joined a program that includes a community where I can get these questions answered.
Now, because there’s so many unknowns in my life – so many events and appointments that come with a new placement that I don’t even know about yet – I just do what’s in front of me. I make a plan that would probably fill 2-3 months as they are RIGHT NOW, but I know that I’ll need to be flexible. If it takes longer to get a placement, I’ll go faster. If I get a complicated case, it’ll probably go slower.
So that’s it for planning! The next step is to make sure the list of current projects stay front of mind – so I typically use my map to make a list and add it to my planner and I create projects with tasks and deadlines inside Asana. I talk about both of these things in a lot more detail in episode 287 + episode 288, so if you want to more about tracking daily and weekly tasks, go listen to those!