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295: Get out of your own way

If you’re struggling to grow in your creative business, you might be the thing holding yourself back. Learn how to get out of your own way at TaraSwiger.com/podcast295

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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.

Why?

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.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

292: Your Launch Plan: 5 steps to growth

Launches have a TON of moving pieces! Creating a launch plan is the best way to keep track of all the moving pieces. Find out how to create your best launch plan yet at TaraSwiger.com/podcast292

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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!)

Find your entire Launch Plan Resource Guide of the worksheet right here.

 

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

  1. Pick a product to launch and clarify the benefits
  2. Create an authentic offer with a deadline. 
  3. Define your goals and commit to doing what it takes to reach them. 
  4. Go to where you have people. 
  5. 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:

  1. Your email list (unlike social media, you know your subscribers will have the message delivered)
  2. Facebook Group (going Live)
  3. Instagram + Instagram Stories
  4. Facebook Business Page (going Live)
  5. 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: 

  1. Announcing the offer, with the list of benefits, mention the deadline, link directly to the offer page.
  2. 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
  3. 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)

  1. Post the announcement of the offer
  2. Talk about one of the benefits (close up of the product, if applicable)
  3. Share a customer story or testimonial or project
  4. What inspired you (with a focus on how that impacts the buyer)
  5. Benefits + discussion of value

 

Go Live at least twice: 

  1. Announcement! Excitements!
  2. 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. 

Then track the results and tell me about it! DM me on Instagram!

We’ll talk more next week about how to keep sales going after a launch – because it’s not sustainable for you to be doing launches non-stop. 

 

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

How (and why) my business has changed over the years: an inside look

Businesses evolve over time. Over 11 years of owning and running a creative biz, mine has evolved a lot, but the core message has always remained the same. Learn how (and why) my creative business has changed over the years, and get a peak inside how I do thinks at TaraSwiger.com/podcast168/

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I started my first business in 2006. 11 years later, it’s changed a lot on the outside, but the overarching themes and my own Mission have remained surprisingly cohesive.

Today, we’ll look at how the message and intention have remained the same while the delivery has changed.

Sign up here to be notified when the new podcast launches! 

Links & Resources Mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

What this is all about.

Finally cold enough for tights, sweater, shawl. #yayfall

This is not about making more sales.
This is not about making more money.
This is not even about following your passion.

What we're doing here, together, is exploring your business to make it more sustainable, and more in alignment with your values, vision, and self.

But it's not so that you can get more customers, pay your bills or do what you love.
Those are metrics – they help us measure how sustainable and healthy your business is.
But they are not the real why.

This is about personal responsibility.

The real goal, the reason for you to build a sustainable business + to take the time to explore it is because you are responsible for your life + happiness. You are the only one who is going to create the change you desire.  You are the author, the actor, the stage.

When you begin to take responsibility, when you start to follow the threads of your enthusiasm towards a craft, a business, a calling, you grow more confident.

With that confidence, you are able to bring more peace, joy and love into the world.

You start to wonder…if you can start a business+ provide for your family, what else can you do? If you can define success for yourself, and work in a way that works for you, where else can shift your expectations? Where else can you bring integrity and wholeness?

 

This is really about bringing more peace, joy and love to the world.

Making your art brings you joy.
Sharing your art is an expression of love.
Living in alignment with your values (whatever they are: beauty, peace, freedom, self-expression) brings you + your family more joy and peace.

 But how you go about it matters. If you pile on “shoulds”, expectations and other people's values, you'll crush that spark. You'll suck out the joy, the expression of love. You'll miss out on the confidence because you'll never fit in someone else's mold. And when your spark is crushed, your work won't have the same power to move, inspire or change the world.

This is huge, world-changing stuff, but it doesn't have to be a huge production. You don't have to sell* a zillion things to change your life (or someone else's). You don't have to create the perfect, peaceful workday to take joy in your work.

You only have to explore.
Pay attention.
Revisit your expectations.
Define success for yourself.
Make your own map.
Look for ways to integrate your values into what you do, how you talk about it and who you serve.

 

PS. I call the above “exploring” – an active verb – because you'll never be done with it. This is the real work of your art, the real work of changing the world.

 

*You don't have to sell anything to change the world. But this is for the makers I work with, people who are called/inspired to share their work by selling it. If you're not called/inspired, know that you can take personal responsibility in another way.

 

Change takes time

This is Beau's face when I jump up & yell: Dance Break! #boredpuppy

The hardest part about believing that Things Can Change...is that things take time.

It's hard to believe it will ever happen, because, hardly anything important changes all at once.

Things take time.

I'm addicted to setting big crazy goals, splitting them into 3 month maps and then pursuing it like crazy. Each quarter when we map-make in the Starship we also take the time to review the quarter before. The Captains are always amazed by what they've accomplished in 3 months. And also, disappointed at what hasn't changed…yet.

Things take time. 

It takes time to make your first sale.
It takes time to make your 10th sale.
It takes time to build a business that pays any bills.
It takes even more time to figure out what you're doing and how to talk about it.
It takes time to put all the systems in place that introduce people to your work effectively.

Even though you know this, it's still frustrating. You thought it'd be faster. You thought that if you just did x + y, everything would come together and your business would thrive.
You thought if you bought the class, read the book, worked with that one person, things would go faster.

But things take time.

When your goal is something life-changing like quitting your dayjob, or going to your first trade show, or writing your first book, it takes time. It takes time to get to the point where you can even start on it. And then it takes time to prepare to do it. And then it takes time to actually do it.
And sometimes, after all that, it's not what you expected.

This is just a fact of business (and life). It's why I focus so obsessively on exploring what works for you. Because if your business is only about those Big Moments, you're bound to be dissapointed. The Big Moments take time…and then they're rarely what we expected.
It's so much more sustainable (and fun) to make every day full of enthusiasm. To make reaching your goals a daily exploration into what's going well and what you want to change. It makes the time move more quickly, or at least more pleasantly. It helps you shift your focus from what's ahead, to what's happening right in front of you.

 

What are you tired of waiting for?

What can you enjoy a bit of right now, today, without waiting? 

 

 


We explore what's working, make maps and celebrate success inside the Starship, which will open to new cadets next Wednesday. If you're curious about it read this, and then sign up to learn more.

 

 

 

 

You don’t always need to GROW.

dontneedtogrow

Although I'm a fan of (and evangelist for) quarterly map-making (setting a new goal, plotting the course to get there), I don't mean to imply that we'll want to grow every month, end over end, for ever and ever.

Most of us are at the place in our business where we want and need regular growth to get to the point of a sustainable,  reliable business (and income.) And we know that just waiting around for that growth to happen isn't going to work. We have to plan for it, lay out a path, and do the work to move towards the destination. A lot of times, this looks growth.

But even before we get there, before we have that sustainable and nourishing business, every quarter (or month, or day!) isn't about growth or sales or money.

Some are for healing.
Some are for resting.
Some are for immersing in the work.
Some are for learning.
Some are for  flow – finding how we work and operate best.
Some are for finishing and shipping.

Those months aren't just breaks from growth – they are the catalyst of growth. They are the fertilizer and sunshine and rain. They build the foundation, repair the weak spots and replenish your enthusiasm. Even when you're not setting the intention to grow a metric in your business, you are still growing, as a person, a business owner, a maker. 

And when you get that sustainable, reliable business (and income) you may still seek growth – in sales or in another metric, like skill growth, project growth, free-time growth.

As you set your destination for this quarter, or you review the last one, don't be discouraged.

Remember that you're plotting a destination not so that you're always striving, but so that you focus your energy on what you really want, so that you filter out the distractions, so that you find your own path and trust your choices.

 

What's your destination this quarter?