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284: You have more than enough time

If you run a creative business (or even if you have a full life) time management is critical, because the secret is you always have time for the things that are important to you (you just don’t have time for the things that aren’t). Learn more about finding time for the things that matter to you and your biz at TaraSwiger.com/podcast284

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You have more than enough time. Yeah, I know, it feels like you don’t have any time. But today we’re going to talk about why you believe that and how you can change it.

Today we’re going right into tough love territory

I know it feels like there's never enough time. With kids and work and starting your business, it can all be super-overwhelming. Since becoming a parent, I have learned that it can be shockingly hard to even find time to take a shower. I get that.

You believe you don’t have time because it FEELS like you don’t…

  • You don’t have time to work on your business.
  • You don’t have time to invest in learning how to make your business profitable.
  • You don’t have time for marketing.

You believe you don’t have time because:

  1. You haven't already made time for it.
  2. You have never done anything like building a business before – so how could you possibly have time for it?
  3. You may not know anyone who is doing it. In fact, everyone around you is probably saying they don't have time to do anything.

But are you them? Do you spend your time in EXACTLY the same way?
Surely you know people who tell you they don’t have time to cook, but maybe you always do find time. Or you have friends who don’t have time to read, but you do find time.

You are not them and that is why you can find the time, even if they can’t.

You’re right, you want to be realistic and honest with yourself.

But let’s also be honest with yourself about the reality:
You KNOW you don't have more time than anyone else. You KNOW don't have time to waste.
Your belief that you don’t have enough time is distracting you from seeing the time you do have, and using it effectively.

Is it true that no one, in your exact situation, has never found the time to build their business?  No, of course not. We both can think of dozens of examples of women who have.

And hey, kids aren't the only thing that make you busy. When I started my business, I worked 40+ hours per week at two jobs, I managed a paint-your-own-pottery studio and worked at the local yarn shop.

When I built my business, I worked as a barista 40 hours a week AND as an office temp 40 hours a week.

And when my business grew to the point I quit my job, I was working 40 hours a week AND taking MBA classes during the evenings.

But, I can hear you, Tara, you didn’t have children back then!

Are you a mom with toddlers? So was Susan of Freshly Picked when she started her baby shoe empire.

Are you a homeschooling mom? So is Katie of Yarn Love and she’s built a six figure yarn business while homeschooling her five kids.

Yes, if you give time to this, to learning and growing, you will be balancing a lot. But balancing a growing business and your life (whether it's a dayjob or kids or whatever) isn't too hard. Having your entire money situation tied to one single employer is to hard.

Wasting the time you spend on your business doing the WRONG things in your business is hard and painful.

But here’s the thing: YOU are in the BEST position to find the time for this. Yes, YOU. Why? Because you are a creative. That means you’re a great problem solver, you can hold lots of stuff in your head at once. You are willing and open to learn (you’re listening to this podcast right now). YOU want more for your business and your life.

That is the PERFECT person who will FIND the time to grow their business. That is the person who will find the time to learn and build healthy foundations.

And hey, maybe you don’t feel like that person. Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve lived up to that potential, and that’s why you are SURE you don’t have enough time to work a program dedicated to growing your business.

But there’s another way to look at it: You don't need more time, you need more focus. You need more follow-through. You didn’t do it before, not because you didn’t have the time, but because you didn’t have the follow-through.

But what if you committed to following through? What if you found resources that helped you follow-through, that took into account your personality and provided the accountability and support you needed?

Could you do it then?

What if you knew that you could learn a few new tools and it would shift how time worked for you and how capable you are of following through?

Here’s a way to shift time:

List all the steps in any project on paper (don’t keep it in your head)
Break it down. Then break it down even more than that.
PICK ONE PRIORITY.  Each week, each day, each hour. JUST ONE.

If you did this, how would impact your year? Your family over the next five years?

What would you be teaching the people around you about what was possible for them? About how they could approach time?

If you don’t change this belief that you don’t have enough time for learning and being effective, how will that impact those around you? How will you see that play out in the next year or five years or decades?

What’s going to happen if you don’t change?

Things are going to stay the same.

You will hear your kids and your friends adopt this belief. They will think they don’t have time to invest in themselves, to follow their dreams, to put in the effort to improve and get better – whether it’s related to business, to practicing the violin, to putting in effort to learn a new art form or medicine or whatever they’re into.

Do you want to keep operating like this, or are you ready to make the time for growing your business, for learning and improving?

If you’re ready to let go of the belief then come tell me over on Instagram and then join me to learn more about the foundations of your business at TaraSwiger.com/foundations

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.

283: How to make time to APPLY what you learn

It’s not enough to just read the book to buy the course, you have to actually apply what you learn to your business. Learn my best advice for actually applying learning to your business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast283

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You have just read a great business book, or attended a workshop or joined an online class… but how do you get your investment out of it? How do you APPLY what you’ve learned? How do you make sure that it makes a difference in your business and your life?

Today I’m answering a question a Starship Captain recently asked after she read a great book – how do I APPLY this to my business?

You see, I’ve thought a LOT about how to make business education and information applicable. I’ve built it into my courses and program, so that as you work through the Starship Program, you are prompted to work WITH it in real time. We do this through apply-it-to-YOUR-biz worksheets, weekly accountability, chunking the content into pieces, and pacing it so that you work on it in an order that makes sense.

You can learn about how I structure it and WHAT you need to apply to your business in my free masterclass, the Four Foundation Method. Join me at TaraSwiger.com/foundations 

Go Slow

One of the mistakes we ALL make is that we get excited and we rush through collecting information and data. I am a big believer that you can absorb a lot more than you think, and you’ll have access to it when you need it again, so I’m never afraid of forgetting something I learned in a book (this may be a quirk of my own brain. If you need to do something else to cement in your brain, like taking notes, you should do that!).

But remembering a fact is very different than using a fact to create real change. When you want to create a transformation in your business, you’ve got to pay deeper attention than just a quick read. You need to stop and think. You need to take notes or put action steps in your planner.

This is going to seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to make use of a book or a class is to actually DO the exercises. I know, right? But I know you skip the exercises at the end of the chapter, just like I do! That’s fine if you’re reading a book just for general knowledge or to get an overview of the topic… but if you picked the book up because you want something to change in your business, you need to actually think and work through it. Don’t just speed through.

Dedicate the time it deserves.

Set aside the time

Ok, ok, so you’re going to go slow, you’re going to do the exercises or homework… but who has time for that?

Well, if it’s important to you, if it’s a priority, you do.

We’re going to talk about this more next week on the podcast, but if this is a priority, you need to set aside the time.

You probably know this, but be honest – when you pick up a business book or buy a course do you first stop and ask yourself when you are going to apply it? Probably not, but then we get annoyed when it doesn’t get read and we don’t see a change in our business.

This is a good time to tell you – nothing will make a difference in your business unless you commit to taking action and taking time for it. I was recently told that if the Starship comes with a guarantee that everyone will make a living from your craft, this person would absolutely join.

Well, yeah.

But honey, I can’t guarantee that you will make a living from your craft, because I can’t guarantee YOU will do the work, or that you will even open the lessons and read them, let alone do the homework, let alone make the changes you’ll need to make to have a profitable business.

No one can guarantee your success except for YOU.

Allow for failure (and experimentation)

Here’s the thing: when you try new stuff, it’s not always going to get the results you want. You are going to try things and they’ll fail. This has to be built into how you think about business or you’ll never move forward. If you’re waiting for the perfect piece of advice… you’re going to wait for a long time.

I used to call this the special-snowflake syndrome, but that phrase got politicized, so now I’m calling it the Unique Paradox. This is when every student tells me their business is unique and this doesn’t apply to them. But hon, if every business is unique, then there is no point in you learning any business advice. You know that there are foundations you can apply to your business, foundations that work whether you have a product-based business, a service-based business, whether you sell $4 PDFs or $100 earrings… right?

But you won’t always know exactly how to apply it to work for you, so you’re going to need to open to experimentation, to try, to fail, to try something new.

Often when you apply a new concept to your business, you need to build in time to reassess – is it the concept or the application that’s not working? Can I try it in a different way?

And hey, this is why I build in monthly reassessment into the Starship. Because you have GOT to stop and check in, to see if you’re headed towards your goals or away from them. You’ve got to learn the lessons your business is trying to teach you.

Ask yourself (over and over) : How can I make use of this? What part of this is applicable to MY business, today?

Yes, there are going to be parts of every book or course that don’t pertain to you right now. Maybe it’s something that you will need in the future. Maybe it’s something you’ve already figured out. The key to making it applicable now, is to ignore that and look at what you really can use.

I know this can be hard sometimes. When I first started my first business (making handspun yarn and selling it on Etsy) all the advice I could find about selling in an online shop was for coaches, yoga teachers, skeezy guys selling “internet marketing.” NONE of it applied to my business, but I started to look at the basics of what they were saying – know your goals, know your customers, know your product, know your numbers… and I started implementing that in my business and it worked!

But what I learned as I quit my dayjob and talked to more and more makers about our businesses is that not everyone has an easy time seeing the foundational concepts and breaking it down into do-able action. That is a strength that seems obvious and easy to me, but it isn’t everyone else’s strength. So I started helping makers improve their marketing, finding the direction for their business (and life!) and get more profitable.

But I want you to know – if it’s hard for you to translate concepts from another industry-language or from old-school business terms, that’s ok! There’s nothing wrong with you! You don’t need an MBA to have a successful business. You can work with someone that can help you translate! This is exactly what I do in my Foundations Masterclass (which is totally free) and what I try to do each week here on the podcast.

So if you’re having a hard time applying general business knowledge to YOUR direct business, I have a homework assignment, go sign up for one of the spots in my upcoming Foundations Masterclass at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.

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.

265: 10 years of self-employment: What I’ve learned

"Your business grows as fast as you do." -Tara Swiger Learn more at TaraSwiger.com/podcast265

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You guys, I have been self-employed for TEN YEARS, this week! That is really unbelievable to me, because I had no idea what to expect when I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time. I have learned so much, struggled so much, and had weird unexpected successes (like improving my credit score, and earning a lifetime achievement award at Midwest Craftcon?).

Today I want to look back on it with you, and share some reflections that may help you in your own business journey.

I have been running a business full-time, since July 1, 2009. I quit a dayjob in an office, in part because I worked for a state university (an administrative assistant in HR) and the state cut funding, so there was a hiring freeze and a buyout. I applied for buyout and took it (it paid for us to pay off the car, and rent a UHaul to move), because I had grown the business to replace my day job salary most months.

I actually talk more about my business journey in the very first episode of the podcast, and you’re going to hear it again next week! As a celebration of 10 years of self-employment, and to spend more time with my foster kids this summer, I am re-broadcasting older important episodes from the last 5 years of the show. In July you’ll hear some of the oldest episodes that are the most important topics that basically no one has listened to, about launching and fear of success. In August you’ll hear the most-popular episodes ever, most are from about a year ago, and they cover topics like “how to stop seeking approval”, and “the pressure to be perfect”. You don’t have to do anything extra to get these episodes – just tune in each week  and you’ll get a new intro from Current Tara, along with a listen at the old musical intro (it was bad!) and Past Tara. Then I’ll be back in September with brand-new episodes!

As I was talking in the Starship about being self-employed for 10 years, Jennie asked me: if you could have a do over, would you change the rate of growth of your business? Would you grow faster/slower/the same? 

My answer is always: I wouldn’t change anything because then I wouldn’t be where I am. 

Which is kind of an annoying answer, so I really thought about this some more. The thing about my rate of growth is – sure, if I could have scaled to more profit, quicker, especially in the earlier days, that would have been fabulous, I would prefer to skip the years of being really broke and my business just covering the bills. But I would have had other growth-related problems and the fact is, I wasn’t ready to handle those problems until I grew.

One of the truths about business is that your business grows as fast as you do. If you’re expanding your belief in yourself, if you’re setting up systems, if you are confident and assured, you’re going to grow. But if you get stuck, or you leave something undealt with, your business will grow as much as you can until you hit that stuck point. You are always the bottleneck. Whether it’s that you don’t know how to let go and delegate, or you don’t believe in yourself, your business or the mission, or you’re not taking care of yourself, or your running yourself too hard, or you don’t value yourself, whatever it is, it’s the bottleneck.

So, the answer to the question is: Sure, I’d prefer that my business grew faster if that meant that I was growing and developing faster. But I couldn’t skip over learning what I needed to learn. So let’s talk about what I have learned:

Rule #1: Figure out how you make money.

I know this seems obvious – you make a sale, you make money. But do you? What’s the amount of profit on that sale? (I teach this math in the class Pay Yourself, which is only available in the Starship program, you can learn more about it at taraswiger.com/starship)

The next question is – how do you make a sale? What do you do that generates a sale almost every time? Or maybe you do a thing 5x and you make one sale?

This is really the first thing to figure out, before you’ve got your whole marketing plan, before you commit to whatever every day for the next year, test it out: What do I do that results in a sale? How often do I have to do X thing to get one sale?

Start to look at what you want to buy (for yourself or the business) in terms of what you’ll need to do to make enough sales for the profit to afford that thing. This is where all my early growth came from. I would want to do a thing (like a big craft show across the country). How could I afford the trip? I’d have to sell X skeins, so I’d have to Y listings on Etsy, followed by Z emails (emails were the thing that generated sales). And then I would do it.

Now, over time you need to be consistent in doing the things to generate the sales, so you have an idea of what you can regularly make. But to scale up or push yourself out a plateau, challenge yourself to make a certain amount of money is a certain time and hit it.

Again, I want to stress, this is not a long term path to consistent income, but you HAVE to have this knowledge to scale or become consistent with the RIGHT stuff.

Everything is figureoutable.

There is no question I can’t answer. There is no problem I can’t overcome. As long as I think of something as a mystery (or something someone else is just “naturally good at”), it’s always going to be a mystery. The good news: I always figure it out. Always.

Taxes are serious, but not excuses

Don’t be scared, have a plan.
I get soooooo annoyed when people are afraid to make money because they’ll owe taxes. You should HOPE your business owes taxes – that means you were profitable! If you want your business to be sustainable, it’ll be profitable and you will owe taxes. So I’ve always been HAPPY to owe taxes, but I haven’t always had a good plan for PAYING for those taxes. I didn’t plan well, and I owed taxes. But you know what? It’s actually not a huge deal (as long as you file on time and always talk to the IRS). Everyone I’ve ever talked to at the IRS is super friendly and helpful, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to take seriously.

I can trust myself – I am my best business resource.

We make it big and scary. But nothing is as risky as we think. There are always other options if it doesn’t go well. And just like everything is figureoutable, what I know for sure is that I always figure it out. I can trust myself in any situation, I will be ok. I will make a good decision. Often there is no “right” decision, so I just need to trust myself and then COMMIT to whatever I decided.

I am my best resource and that means my #1 job is to keep my business resource (aka, me) in the best condition possible. This isn’t about a size or “clean eating” or anything full of shoulds and shame. This is about feeling what I feel, giving myself permission to feel how I do and need what I need. It’s sleeping enough, drinking enough water, journaling, and asking for help when I need it. It is prioritizing Peak Tara over everything else in my life. Yes, even kids and Jay, because THEY deserve Peak Tara too, they would rather I asked for a night completely alone instead of NOT asking and biting their heads off all night. (I just double-checked with Jay and he confirmed this is fact). Which every new challenge in my life, I have to learn this anew!

I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even most of it. But I am proud of myself for keeping my business thriving and above all, for growing myself and creating something I love. I wish each of you the joy of looking back at what you’ve created, for however long you’ve been working on it, and knowing you still have so much ahead of you. That it is ok that you aren’t where you thought you should be.

Thank you so much for being here and being part of what I’m doing for however long you’ve been here! Whether it’s been for the 13 years of my biz or for the 5 years of my podcast or you just tuned in for the first time! Thanks for listening and have an enthusiastic 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.

Teaching Your Craft

I'm super honored to be interviewed by the fabulous Diane of CraftyPod about teaching crafts (and specifically, knitting). We had a great conversation about the experience of teaching and how to get started teaching.

If you've wanted to start teaching your craft, listen to the conversation here.

Diane mentions that my Learn to Knit kit taught her to knit (squee!), you can find the kits here. Even if you know how to knit, these kits are a great way to teach a family member and avoid frustration that comes from not knowing how to describe when-the-loop-does-this-you-do-this.

Have you taught your craft?
Anything you'd add to our conversation?

Path to Yarn – Learning to Knit

This week I’m celebrating the launching into my new life by sharing the path that led me here. Follow along all week!

Yesterday the crafty-ness started at home. Today, I got to college and learn to knit!

I went to a beautiful little University, 8 hours away from home, deep in southeast Tennessee. After a freshman year filled with what-should-I-major-in? torture, I decided on French Literature.

I absolutely loved books and I love language, and I had taken 4 years of French in High School, so it just made sense.  I imagined myself as a French professor, at a small college (perhaps the one I attended), spending my days teaching a few dedicated students the joys of Prevert's poetry, while reading and writing and always learning.

And it wasn't until I was a Teacher's Assistant my senior year, that I ever doubted the plan. During my first day to teach the class, I stood up….and was blank. All those faces staring at me! I started shaking and blushing and stammering (in English!)

While I denied it at first, I knew: I was terrified of standing in front of people – how did I think I was going to be a professor? I didn't really acknowledge that teaching WASN'T for me until a year after graduation, when I started to apply to grad schools.

By this time, I was deep into knitting and dyeing and business-stuff, so moving on from French Lit was a little easier.

But wait, let's go back to college!

All along, I did little crafty things. Making dinners for my roomates, scrapbooking, handwriting letters to my best friend.

But my senior year, I stumbled into the craft section of the bookstore. This was in 2004, when big, gorgeous knitting books were just starting to hit the shelves.

I bought Knitting Pretty, got really hideous mauve acrylic yarn and some metal needles. When I got home, me and my roomate Lindsay sat on my bed and tried to decipher the instructions.

We would read slowly, look at the pictures, look at the yarn in our hands.

Casting on was a breeze (backwards loop cast-on) but the knitting, not so much.

We were completely stuck at the “pull loop on right needle through loop on left needle”. What? Pull what through what? The pictures showed the yarn wrapping around the right needle and in the next picture – bam! The new stitch is made!

Eventually we got it and I knit maybe 50 rows on that scarf before it went in a bag and I focused on gradutation, moving back to Ohio, and planning my wedding.

Tomorrow, I get married (to Jay) & get obsessed (with yarn)!

PS. Don’t forget: I’m answering any and all questions on Twitter, today at pm EST. Just put #AskTheChicken in your tweet (at any time) and I’ll answer at 3! You can follow along and see all the questions and answers here.

PPS. The sale! Don’t forget there’s a yarn sale with discounts for both new and returning customers! Grab your yarn right here: http://blondechicken.etsy.com