Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

kim werker

Kim Werker is enthusiastic about Ugly: an interview

Kim Werker interview on Explore Your Enthusiasm

I am super squealingly excited about today's podcast: it's a snippet of a conversation with my good friend and the all-around awesome person, Kim Werker. We talk about the great advice she got as a freshman and the spiral that brought her where she is now, as an author, editor, teacher and maker.

This was recorded at Craftcation, by the fantastic Mike of MB Studio Services (if you're in SoCal, hire him to produce your podcast!).

You find more Kim Werker on Instagram, her website, on Craftsy, and in her book, which I adore. 

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.


Be a professional

Be a Professional

Last week I read several great posts about professionalism in our craft world. Abby wrote about the changes to the professional organization CHA to include bloggers and in reply Kim wrote about the importance of being a professional in this industry. It might seem unrelated, but I found Diane's post answering if it's “worth it” to write a craft book and Abby's post about what fabric designers earn really seem to me to be even more proof of the importance of treating this, your career as a craftsperson, as a professional. Let's discuss what this means for you.

First, there's an important distinction in this conversation about bloggers and the trade organizations, between Professional Bloggers and Professionals Who Blog.

  • Professional Bloggers make their money from their blog, they sell the eyeballs (views) of their blog to advertisers.
  • Professionals who Blog make their money from either a service or product that they sell, and their blog is one part of the Customer Path for their buyers – it helps them connect in a deeper way with the people who buy what they sell.

I work exclusively with people who sell something (whether they blog or not!); my people sell their writing to magazines, their dresses to buyers, their yarn to knitters.

Now, these people (you!) don't always think of themselves as “professionals.” In fact, many of you came to your business first as a hobby and then started selling some stuff and that's where you are now. Some people don't care to go beyond this, and it's a fun hobby and gives them some extra spending money. That's perfectly fine. I work with people who very much want to go beyond this – makers who want to build their craft into a sustainable business that supports their creativity. In other words, they want to have a career in this field. They want to become a professional.

I've found, by working with people as they make this transition from hobby to career, that there is a moment where it happens. But it's not where you might expect it. The moment is not when they make their first or fiftieth sale. It's not when they make a certain dollar amount. It's not when their work is featured in a magazine.

This moment happens the instant their thinking changes. When they go from “I make some stuff” to “I'm building a business.” From “I hope this works” to “I'm going to make this work.” From “I‘d like to be as awesome as XX {Insert current rock star in their craft}” to “I specifically want to make $XX and spend X amount of time and focus my energy on X project.

The moment you flip from hobbyist to Professional is the moment that you decide to. The moment you commit to doing the work, to making the plan, to learning what you don't yet know.

If you've made this flip, you know it. It might be the first time you made a map, or held an experiment, or just committed: “I'm actually going to do this.
If you feel fuzzy and you're one of the hundred of people who email me asking “Could this be a  business?! Can I do this?!“, that's OK! Spend some time thinking about your life and what you want from it and go with your gut (not with what looks awesome).

Once you've made this flip, it changes your decision-making process. Instead of wanting to write books or design fabric because it seems professional, you'll need to research what that will actually mean for you and your goals. (That's why I love posts like Abby's and Diane's that draw back the curtain.) Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, a Professional gets clear on what she really wants and then pursues a path that will get her there.

I'm absolutely fascinated by what happens after the flip. The systems you build, the decisions you make, the work you have to do. That's why I make tools and classes for the post-flip journey (which lasts the rest of your life). I'm working on a new thing to support those immediately post-flip, who are ready to go from “I have a shop” to “I have a business.” I'm opening it first to email subscribers on Nov 20th (and everyone who joins early will get a free Holiday Sanity class!) and then to the whole world on December 2nd. It will begin January 1. If it sounds interesting, sign up here to be the first to find out (and have lots of pre-holiday time to think about it).

What I’m Reading: September 2014

follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list in the comments and find all the posts here.
What I'm reading in September.


What I read

  • The Know-It-All, by A.J. Jacobs. A fact-filled recounting of the author's read-through of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Read it (and put his other books on my list) at the recommendation of Elise.
  • Deep Thoughts from a Hollywood Blonde, by Jennie Garth. Don't judge. I grew up on summers full of 90210 and can't resist a biography…especially by a fellow blonde.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (still reading it, actually).

Umm…and that's it. Apparently my reading time takes a dive in the summer with all the road trips and my increased crafting. (Baseball season = crafting season).

What I’m reading

Still obsessed with…

got obsessed with the idea of reading the Great Books – you know, the books that have formed the foundation of our culture, that teach us something about ourselves…those books that everyone else read in high school and college that I missed. You can see my list of 101 Great Books here (some of which I’ve read, thank goodness!).

But now – what the heck should I do with this list now? Read through it in a year? Read one a month? Where would you begin? Some of readers said that if I started a Great Books read-along, they'd join in. What about you? Is this something you’d want to read on the blog (once a month) or follow along on Facebook?


3 steps to embracing your multitudes (for when you want to do and be more)

Making a collage for blog post on being more than one thing.

During the last week, my inbox and Twitter stream has been full of your stories about being  More Than One Thing. Although there are a zillion ways to be more than one thing, and a million ways of working it out in your business, it seems that most everyone's stories fit into one of three patterns:


  1. You wear a lot of hats. As a maker-seller, you design the product, make the product, do the bookkeeping, manage the marketing, and label each and everything. This is less about your you-ness and more about scheduling, being productive and making a map.  Whether you sell scarves or apps, being a small business owner is all about juggling the myriad responsibilities and priorities.
  2. You have so many interests, but your public “persona” doesn't reflect your gorgeous ginormousness. You might sell sewing patterns, but you also knit and do puppetry. Oh, and you love Battlestar Gallactica and vegan cupcakes. You feel the pressure to “just do one thing” in order to seem more “professional”…but it's starting to wear you down. While you want to  bring your unique you-ness into your business, you struggle with knowing what you want to make part of your public persona. (This is the thing I have the hardest time with.)
  3. You are known for making and selling one thing…but it feels limiting. You want to introduce a new product or line, but you're not sure how it fits in the other stuff you've been doing.

Do you recognize yourself in one of these?

(or maybe all three?)

The good news: it's normal.
As your business grows, you grow. As a maker, your creativity wants new-ness and excitement, and after a while, doing and making just one thing gets boring (and stifling). Feeling the chafe of wanting to be more than what you have been, to bring more of yourself into your business is a sign that you're that building a more sustainable business.

It's worth the initial struggle. When you create different streams of income, you've got a stronger business. When you're more you, you find new customers. When you try new things, your creativity is reinvigorated.  Both Kim and I have stories of resisting and then, finally, embracing our multitidues and finding  greater success, greater connection, more fulfilling work.

So where do you start? If you recognize yourself in one of the scenarios above…what do you do next?

It's a process.

It takes time to first just get comfortable, and then to get strategic about how to resolve it.
In my experience, the process can be something like:

1. Identify the multitudes.
Go through the above three scenarios and list out all the ways this is true for you.

2. Find something to start with.
Take a look at your list and notice: which one wants to be shared? Which part of you feels stifled right now?

3. Experiment.
Try incorporating just a smidge more of you in your next blog post, newsletter or even product description. And then take note, what happens? For real scientific proof (especially useful if this feels scary), conduct a real experiment.

What are your multitudes? What do you want to experiment with?



Kim and I are sharing real-world strategies for broadening your business by embracing your multitudes in tomorrow's workshop. We'll cover hire-me pages, juggling multiple income streams and managing multiple projects (we'll cover scenario #2 + #3.) If you're struggling with the “too many hats” problem, we create personalized solutions each week, inside the Starship.

The Best + Worst advice for your business

Today Kim wrote about some of the worst advice she ever got, and it shocked me, because it's strikingly similar to what I considered to be some of the best advice I ever got.

A business advisor told me: Become an expert, and then share that expertise.

This is when I was only dreaming about making yarn full time, and I took her advice immediately to heart. I knew that what would matter to my yarn-buying customers is my expertise about eco-friendly yarn sources. So I started researching, writing, and just generally sharing what I was learning. And that landed me in my first magazine and my photos in a eco-focused knitting book, which gave me the confidence to pitch my first paid writing gig. And all that strengthened my business to the point where I could quit my dayjob and make yarn full-time. When I started getting questions about how I quit my dayjob, I realized people saw me as an expert in that, so I did lots more research (I was already obsessively reading every business book published in the last 3 decades) and started share that. Three years, and conversations with hundreds of creative businesses later, I wrote a book.


So, for me, this was great advice.

It gave me focus. It gave me a goal. And it gave me an effective content marketing plan (I always knew what to write about and what oppurtunities to pursue).
New fibery goodies

But a funny (unintended) thing happened.

I focused so tight, I narrowed myself. I put so much work into exploring my One Thing, that I cut off other things. I assumed that yarn people (or, business people) only wanted to hear about the one thing…so I filtered everything through that One Thing…to the death of the wholeness, of my complicated-ness.

It's that steely focus that made me SO terrified to start writing and talking about business, even when I really wanted to. It's that cold pragmatism that makes me so shy to share my utter geekiness. And it's that unyielding narrowness that made it hard, and yet so so necessary to write about the you-ness in your business.

I'm just starting to break free from self-imposed exile, and in doing so, I'm seeing that this isn't based on good business sense, it's fear. Fear to be myself, even among the people who love me best. Fear of boring you, annoying you, or just being misunderstood.

dogwood on bobbin

But I know I'm not alone in this. Every month I have a conversation with a crafter that says “I've really been thinking about doing x…but is that too far out there? Too unexpected?” The designer that wants to build software. Or the writer who wants to do puppetry videos.

I'm still figuring this out, but Kim is one of my heroes. She built an enviable career around crochet and editing, and then chucked it. And yet, her worst fears didn't come true. She still thrived. She still worked. She still got to pursue her passions.
And I look at other heroes, the artist who brings her fangirl-ness into her work. And I look at my own history. I thought, when I started talking about business to my yarn customers, that they would be bored…but I couldn't ignore my enthusiasm and followed it into a whole new career that I adore.

And you're not alone either.
If you're nodding along, if you've got passions, interests and just ideas that don't fit in with what you're doing now, let's talk about that! Join me + Kim next Tuesday (just one week!) while we discuss all this. We'll talk about how to build a business that can contain your multitudes, and how to handle all the sticky situations that come up (talking to your uncle at Christmas, or introducing something new to your customers). We've got adivce, stories, and answers and ideas for your specific situation. Join us right here.