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An Adventurous Life

The Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and this is the view and the finds that made this one special. You can see all my adventures here.

 The view

Fonzie & Pinky
The Fonz + Pinky Tuscadero

Stella's passive-aggressive call for attention. She sneaks up slow until she's crushing my arm and I can't type.
Stella crushing my arm while I try to work

Pounced on love-y supplies for my #monthofloveyarn packages in Target's $1 section.
Love-y wrapping for the Month of Love packages

Valjean & Javert
Valjean + Javert

Planning my next class!
Planning my next class

 

The Finds

 

Yay! Sat down to spin a Dr Who + TARDIS yarn...and got this @amysnotdeadyet card on the mail! #serendipity #drwho

  • Tammie Bennett (my new favorite artist) sketched everyday for 100 days. And then made an adorable video:

 

  • I get a lot of questions from people who haven't started their businesses quite yet. And while I answer every single one, I'm far more interested in talking about all the middle parts. So I'm delighted when I find something I can recommend that covers all those just-launching-your-site steps. Paul Jarvis's new book, Be Awesome at Online Business, is exactly that. From finding a designer to writing your content to preparing for the launch, it's got what you need. This is my new official answer to “Where do I start with a website?

 

  • And if you wanna get started with having a business selling your art or craft, Leonie's got you covered. Her business guide has every single step from pricing to printing your prints to shipping.

 

What did you find this week?

The Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and this is round-up of the view, the links and the inspiration that made it special. You can see all the adventures here.

The View

Reason to love this town #324: this is the view. Everywhere. #nofilter
The lovely Johnson City
Finished!
The finished tree
Spinning this month's Yarn Mail by Christmas tree-light.
Yarn Mail by Christmas-tree-light
This is happening. (Both get on back of couch behind me) #snorgling
Back-of-the-couch snorgling
Everything is better by Christmas tree light. #quiltsbychristmas
Sewing by Christmas tree light
Love the reactions to this hat. #amusementorpity
This hat gets the best reactions…because it's a Happy Hat!

The Finds

  • “Yarnover Truck is your local yarn store on wheels, implementing the food truck business model and applying it to a mobile yarn store.” How cool is that? Support these clever entrepreneurs right here.

 

  • It's official. We're a total trend. This morning NPR did a story about what we're doing here: young (ish) entrepreneurs with no outside funding, who are succeeding thanks to….the internet! Read or listen here.

 

 

 

  • Planning your New Year in your creative business? Tammie has a list of 10 things people + spaces that can help you with that!

 

 What were your adventures this week?

2 years ago: Sabbatical 
3 years ago: My real-life yarn shop
4 years ago: Seattle recap

 

Funerals, travel, and holidays: how to make your business more sustainable, from the hard times out.

How to build a sustainable business from the hard times out

As some of you know, I was out of town last week for a funeral. My husband's grandpa died. And it was hard, beautiful, and…exhausting. When we got back into town, I couldn't think clearly enough to work.

Funerals, deaths, and heck, even the holiday season is stressful enough without also having to think about your business, and your bills.

I'm blessed that I was prepared: the Holiday Sanity Kits continued to sell, the payment plans on the Starship came in on time, new people found my site and signed up for emails and got their How to Explore lessons, my bills got paid – because it's all automated and mobile-ready. The Starship, which can't be automated (the live chats, weekly emails, forum answers all require my time and attention), still sailed on – because I have systems for communicating, organizing, and responding on the go.

As I came back to work yesterday to deal with my swelling inbox, I thought about all that had happened in my business without me even looking at it. The people who got to know me because of what I've created here. The people who started pursuing Holiday Sanity. Not because I did anything special, but because I'm working very hard to build a business that can survive life.

It's easy to say that funerals and travel (and busy holiday seasons) are unusual. To assume this is something rare. That the this is just a bump in your otherwise stable business. That dealing with that kind of rush of orders (or personal life) is just something you have to survive for a few months.

But the fact is, this IS your business and your life.

Messy, sad, busy, exciting, exhausting, time off for recovery or traveling and handling whatever comes up.
Sitting down to write, standing in line at the Post Office, answering emails.
Your business is built in the quiet, focused, planned times.

But it's not really a  business until it survives through the messy, busy, scattered times.

How your business behaves in the hard times is a sign of its overall health.

 

If you can't take an afternoon off to bake cookies, or you're buried under holiday orders – this is a sign that your biz needs to get healthier. Instead of looking at this crazy time as something to get through, approach it as a time of training and information-gathering.

In these crazy times, your business is telling you what it needs. It might be automation, scaled up production or shipping efficiency  This is what your business needs to not only thrive when you're busy, but to grow into what you want it to be.

Instead of powering through the hard times (and holiday season!), learn from them. Take notes, make lists, experiment.

What is your business (and life) telling you it needs right now?

 

Need to take an extended leave from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

Want more survival tips? Check out the (free) Definitive Guide.

Sign up here to get more on surviving your business adventures, no matter the season.

 


Holiday Sanity, from Tara Swiger

 

The Holiday Sanity Kit gives you the space, questions, and system for learning from your busy holiday season. Make plans, get to work…and then reassess what actually worked and what didn't.
Grab yours here.

Everything is Everything

Let's start with some tunes (hit play while you read!)

This has been a weird month.

Launching the Starship.
Turning 29.
Getting knocked out for a whole work week by the flu.
Going out of town for a week (family stuff!), with only my phone for internet access.

And instead of jumping into my work (my love!) every chance I get, I find myself reading, writing, painting.
I keep burying myself in painting books, rock autobiographies and artist blogs.
I'm taking an online painting class.
I'm listening to podcasts (This American Life, Creative Living).

What I'm not doing is writing about business or planning a class or making endless yards of yarn.
For the first time in….2 years?!

It's not just part of the creative cycle (because I'm doing lots of creative work, it's just not my usual)…it's a total shift in focus.

Yesterday, it really freaked me out.

What's going on? Did I lose the CraftyBiz love?
But I still sat down with a painterly book and just decided to trust myself.
If what I'm craving is paint + words, it must be what I need.

And sure enough, at 1am last night (this morning?) I wasn't sleeping, I was up planning a big Thank You gift (for you!) and my next craftybiz project. I was overflowing with ideas. I was back in the saddle.

As I pondered the shift this morning (as I poured over my new favorite artist's site), I realized: Everything is Everything.

Painting, writing, crafting businesses, making yarn: it's all the same. It's all creativity. Everything needs space and time (and health!) and patience and well-refilling.

Or as Havi says, There is no biggification without destuckification.

I can't build my own business (or help you with yours!) unless I work though my stuff. Whether that's family stuff, writing stuff, getting inspired stuff or just painting my little heart out….everything is everything.
It all comes back to build a stronger business, to create more inspired help for your biz.

What do you need right now?
What's asking for your attention (even if it's not what you're “supposed” to do?) Is it possible that indulging might be just what your business needs?

I fell overboard..

I built a beautiful Starship.
I was in love with it and excited and could not wait to tell everyone about it.

I had grand plans for a fabulous online-birthday party for myself. I was going to announce a really great gift (for you!) and then spend all the next week writing about what the Starship is like on the inside.

And then I fell off the edge of my world.

I took 2 days off for my birthday (fun! yay!) and then I got ridiculously sick.
Flu-sick. Fever-sick. Can't-get-out-of-bed sick.

For over a week.

And the worst part was: I had no energy. No will.
I had NO desire to write, to help, to celebrate the Starship.
No desire to do anything.

And I'm still not back yet.

I'm still stuffy and fluffy-headed.
Still sleepy and foggy.

I still don't have my excitement back.
I know it's part of the cycle.
I remember that.
The Starship help me remembers that.

But I miss it.
I miss being excited about the Starship.
I miss feeling like myself.

I just wanted to crawl out of my nest of blankets and tell you that if you fell overboard, or if you're tired, or if you're just not excited right now: It's ok.

Give yourself a break.
Rest, drink water, take your time.

It will come back.
And when it does, I'll see you here.

 

 

PS. I am feeling well enough (and the stirrings of excitement) about our FIRST call in the Starship, Wednesday at 3pm EST.
In case you missed the excitements over the Starship, you may want to beam up before the call.

Rob + Sam are crafting a (photography) business

This is the third in a series of  interviews with smart people who are crafting a business. Part friendly chat, part case-study, all helpfulness!
If you know someone I should interview (even you!)
let me know.

Today I'm talking to my friend Rob, who has the dubious honor of being the first of these interviewees that I knew pre-Blonde Chicken Boutique. In the 6 years I've known him, he married the gorgeous Sam (who I taught to knit!), made an adorable baby (see below) + grew a photographry business.

How'd you get started in photography?

I have liked photography as far back as I can remember. I always like learning a new skill, even if I don't pursue it beyond learning the basics, and both my grandfathers were amateur photographers.

My father is a bit of a photographer, and so when my sister was old enough to start learning photography she took his camera. And he eventually bought a newer, slightly nicer camera. Once I was old enough to start really experimenting with photography I took over that camera. No doubt, in a few years my son will have his eyes on my camera.

For me, it was the first form of art where what I produced matched or approached what I had imagined. My drawings, and later my prints and sculptures, rarely end how I hoped when I started.

What led you to start the business?

I never planned on photography as business.

Photographers become known for their style and themes, and I had a hard time imagining my path to success would be a nationwide fame for documenting my parents' back yard.

My mother is a ceramic artist, and we went to a lot of craft shows.  In my mind, craft show photography and gallery photography were my two choices.
Service photography, I hadn't thought about.  Later I would consider
journalism, portraiture, studio, and event photography, but that all
came after my first professional work.

How it really began…

One day, I go over to my friend Westen's house.  Right after I arrive,
I overhear her mother say,

“It's ok, Rob will take care of it.”
“Hey Westen, what am I going to take care of?”
“Rob, you might be a little annoyed.”
“Why don't you tell me while I make a sandwich.”

A delicious sandwichis very calming, so I started making a sandwich.

“You're going to be my wedding photographer.”
“Westen… there are normally steps, like, ‘Hey Rob, guess what, I'm
engaged' and then maybe a ‘Hey Rob, can you do my wedding photography?' and so I feel like me overhearing you already telling people I'm the photographer is kind of doing it wrong.”
“But that's not what I did.  So now you're my photographer.”
“Okay then.”

And from then on I was a professional wedding photographer.

How has your business changed through the years?

What's changed the most, and continues to change, is the amount of not-photography that my wife and I do as part of the business.

We had a very unique business model for our location when we started.  Sam
was my just girlfriend at the time of the first wedding, but I realized I was in over my head, and needed a partner to help me through.  So we always shoot a wedding with two photographers.  Not a photographer and an assistant, but two full photographers.

And does that make you different from most wedding photographers?

When we moved to Madison, what made us unique in Dayton (2 photographers)  made us part of a regular subset of wedding photographers: husband and wife teams.  So
as I started to realize how much more competition we had, I wondered
what would make us stand out now.

What makes us stand out from photographers in the sames groups?  It's our experience, and how we share it with the customer.  As we learn from each wedding, we are able to share with our customers what we've learned about making the day go smoothly.

We share so much information with our customers, starting right at our
first meeting.  We make sure that we're the right fit for the customer.  As much as we would like everyone to hire us, we have a specific service we offer, and it's not right for everyone.  It's better to make sure you really are the customer's ideal, than to have a large base of unsatisfied customers.

We start fishing out what the customers' are looking for, and giving back to them a sense of how we will be able to meet their needs.  There's a balance that every artist who offers a service has to strike, between flexibility and sticking to who you are.  There are services we will never offer, because that's not who we are, and there services we will do by request only.

Right away we make ourselves clear on who we are, and what we can do for you.  But then we start asking questions about the plan for the whole of the day,  and that's when we really start sharing our non-photography part of the business.  Often our questions are met with “I don't know” and “We haven't talked about that” or “I didn't even know that happened.”

Sam and I have coached couples through cutting the cake.  We've trained ushers.  We've been the phone line from the girls getting ready to the guys getting ready.  I often teach the guys how cuff-links work.  For eight hours, we work with the couple, we work with the videographer, we work with the mc, we work with the officiant.  We become part of the day.  And that knowledge and involvement, grows a little with every wedding.

What has changed about the way you look at your craft, now that it's also a business?

Photography really appeals to me, not in spite of being a business,
but because of being a business.

I am able to earn part of my living capturing moments.

Especially with weddings, Sam and I are able to share scenes from a day to audiences who have personal connection to the images.  The bride and groom get to see what the other was up before the ceremony.  Family get to see pictures of three or four generations of relatives all interacting.  Invited guests who were unable to attend can watch the story of the day.  We, as photographers, effect how the day will be remembered in the years to come, and that's an amazing feeling.

Isn't that delightful?

You can find more about Rob + Sam (along with even more of their gorgeous photos at their website or hang out with them on their Facebook page.

My favorite bits of Rob-wisdom:

  • “There's a balance that every artist who offers a service has to strike, between flexibility and sticking to who you are.  There are services we will never offer, because that's not who we are.”
  • “It's better to make sure you are their ideal, than to have a large base of unsatisfied customers.”
  • “A delicious sandwich is very calming.”

You see? It's all about Right People!

Finding your People starts with paying attention to what you do + don't want to do and making sure you don't take on any clients that expect something else from you.

How do YOU make sure you are working with only your Right People?
Tell us  in the comments!

Funday #2 – Dollywood Edition

Mondays = Fundays, the day I recap my success (and failures) with my #funeveryday project.
Here’s the how it works:
I try one fun thing everyday (and so do you).
tweet it (and so do you) with the tag #funeveryday.
Each Monday (no! FUNday!), I round ‘em up: What did I try? What did YOU try? What will I do next week?

The fun that was funny

(that's a Dr. Suess thing we say to refer to real, actual fun):

Dollywood!

At Dollywood
On Tuesday I went with my family to best amusement park ever!
You know how sometimes, the excitement leading up to the day is better than the day?
Not true here! The whole day was fabulous: the family got along, the rids were fun, the lines were short, the pizza (at Mellow Mushroom) afterwards was gluten-free.

Celebrating my own Independence (from The Man) Day
The free Q+A was a lot of fun and I got some great questions.
I (finally) wrote about the joy of quitting. And that helped me remember to quit a few other things I'm not loving.

Live Music!
Completely unexpectedly, on a day that had gone ridiculously wrong (internet connection went down right before the Yarn Camp chat, etc), I stumbled into some live music. I was waiting for Jay to get off work (at Scratch) when a group of kids started playing.

Fun for the Future

The Big Crafty
This Sunday I'm peddling handmade yarn at the biggest craft show in the area! Super excited to meet local yarn-lovers and to be a part of the fabulous Asheville arts scene.  Come see me at The Big Crafty!

Something else?
I'm drawing a blank here…I need some fun-spiration!

How are you going to have a little fun everyday this week?

The Joy in Quitting

I'll just say it: I'm a fan of quitting.

If I don't enjoy a book, I quit reading it.
If I don't like a movie, I quit watching it.
(even when I'm supposed to love it, like Fear + Loathing in Las Vegas)
If I'm frustrated with a knitting project, I quit working on it.
If an idea doesn't keep it's spark, I quit trying to make it work.
And if my work is satisfying and full-of-life and challenging, I quit.

One year ago today was my very last day of working for The Man.

I quit because I wanted to.
I quit because I knew I was ready to work for myself.
I quit because it was time for something new.
I quit because I had for 3 years on weekends and evenings building Blonde Chicken Boutique into something wonderful.

But is that a  good reason to quit?

My dayjob wasn't bad. Compared to the really freakishly horrendous jobs I've had in my life (McDonald's for 2 years! Opening mail for Accounts Payable in a windowless basement office!), it was a cakewalk. Lovely coworkers, a reasonable + kind boss, sometimes challenging work.

I didn't quit because of what the job was.

I quit because of what the job wasn't.

It wasn't exciting. It wasn't challenging me daily. It wasn't…
It wasn't my life.

And I wasn't prepared, at 27, to resign myself to just living my life on the weekends.
I want my life to be lived daily, from 9-5, heck, from 8-11 (yeah, I like to sleep all the other hours).

And so I quit.

In the quitting, I gained a lot.
Sure, the hours are mine.
But so is the responsibility. And the momentum. And the hard.
Hard work, hard stress, hard relationships, hard mistakes, hard decisions.

But all that hard, it reminds me that  I am living.

And that's what quitting gives me: Life. My life.

Hard and complicated.
Peaceful.
Exciting.
Challenging.
Life-giving.

What does quitting give you?

PS. This last year hasn't been easy or glamorous, to ask me what it's really been like, join me in a free Q+A tomorrow. Get the details here.

Enough Money to Quit the Dayjob

“I make a perfectly adequate living at my day job, it's at an income level that I have a hard time imagining I could bring in as a full-time artist.”

Last week a passionate and smart reader  emailed this.
It's a question I get a lot (in fact, it's one of the first question I got in the last free Q+A), so I thought I'd share my answer here.

The question is really asking, “How can I ever replace my current income with my crafty business? Is this even possible?”

My answer: Yes. But let's be realistic:

You current income is the result of lots of hard work.
Right now, you're a professional. Something that took years and years of work to accomplish. Years of education and skill-building.
You put in the hours before your reached your present income level.

This is true of ANY career, including self-employment
It took learning + time + practice + ladder-climbing to get where you are, it will take the same in a new business.

You poured hours of time into studying and learning and interning into your current career, you will need to do the same for a career in handmade work.

Yes, you can start selling your crafts quickly.
But NO, you can't replace your professional-level salary quickly.

But it's not the same.
Because the kind of work and studying that got you into your current income level isn't the same kind of work that will help you grow your business.

And this is good news!

Succeeding in your business does NOT require an MBA.
Learning about growing your crafty business does NOT necessitate formal school or lots of classes or an endless unpaid internship.

It will require curiosity, passion and a pile of self-directed researching.
Unlike a “traditional” career, self-employment does not have one clear path from newbie to professional.

The trick (and the delight) is that you make your own path.
You discover what works for you, what doesn't.
What your customers want, what they don't.
And you can do this as quickly or as slowly (perhaps while you're still in that dayjob) as you want!

But! Do you really need to replace your salary?
The original question assumes that you HAVE to replace your salary before you quit your dayjob and I want to throw some doubt on that.
Do you really have to?
Could you reduce your expenses?
Could you have several smaller streams of income?
Would you be willing to trade some of your luxuries in order to live your passion?

This is just the jumping off point of thinking about it, I haven't even gotten into the HOW of making it all work!  If  you are delighted at the idea of quitting your dajob, join me on a free Q+A call this Thursday. July 1st is my anniversary of quitting and to celebrate, I'm answering your questions. Just sign up here to get the details.

Heavy Honesty

Last night, my house was broken into and anything we had of value was stolen: TV, Xbox360 (my husband's birthday gift), most of our DVDs, our old gaming systems (the Nintendos of our childhood) and my husband's great-grandma's acoustic guitar.

The door & frame were busted (replaced already, by our fabulous landlady). Our medicine cabinet was trashed (several glass bottles broken, but since we have no prescriptions, nothing was taken). We don't have renter's insurance, so unless we find the stuff at a pawn shop, it's really all gone.

We're safe. Our pets are safe (amazingly, since the door was busted and standing open when we got home). I was wearing the only valuable jewelry I have (my wedding ring!) & the laptop was in the car. The yarn, fiber and wheel is safe.

For this, I am so grateful, I can scarcely breathe.

Despite the new door and a night snuggled at mom's, we don't feel quite right.

The house feels much less home-y.

It's not the stuff they took; it's the comfort, the security, the feeling of snuggling on my couch with a cup of tea alone at night that we miss.

I considered not writing this, but then I remembered the responses I got when I quit my dayjob. The cheers, the emails, the loveliness of sharing that big decision.

But since then, since July, there have a been a lot of little not-so fun things that I haven't shared. Jay lost his job, our car exploded, and now our house was broken into.

I want to share this for the same reason I shared the story of quitting my dayjob:  it's honest and it's real.

These trials, just like the triumphs, are the stuff that Blonde Chicken Boutique is made from.

Blonde Chicken Boutique (and my life) is fun and colorful and sometimes a grand adventure. And sometimes it's hard and icky and entirely unpleasant.

And you, all of you who are part of BCB as a customer, commenter or silent friend, my relationship with you allows me to be honest, to share the good and the bad, the hard and the soft, the colorful and the dark.

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